By: Dr. Jerry Bergman
In college I had an opportunity to earn six of my history credits by signing up for a three-month European Study Tour.
Besides listening to lectures as we traveled from city to city in the train, a paper on some aspect of the tour was required. I decided to interview persons to answer the question as to why Christianity had lost most of its adherents after the war.
For example, post-war church attendance has shrunk to under 30 percent in Germany. In most every major city we visited, I was able to make contacts with persons I knew from my correspondence.
From them I was able to enjoy a personal tour of the city and visits to pubs where I could interview people involved in WWII, mostly local citizens.
One very useful interview was with a man in the Netherlands. He related that, between May 10th and 14th of 1940, the German Luftwaffe leveled the beautiful historical city of Rotterdam, making it clear that every Dutch city would be obliterated unless the country unconditionally surrendered.
Over 1,150 people were killed and 85,000 more were left homeless. If the Dutch command did not surrender, Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (Upper Command of the Air Force) threatened next to destroy Utrecht, the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands.
The Dutch surrendered in the afternoon of May 14th and signed the capitulation early the next morning.
Even though my interview occurred over 20 years after the war, the anger in his voice was striking.
He lost his family, his home, most of his friends and, although he found refuge, saw firsthand the brutal treatment meted out to the Dutch people.
Netherlands was a neutral country during both WWI and WWII, but they were treated as if they were Germany’s enemy.
My informant lost his Jewish boss who lived in the same apartment building that he did. His apartment was raided at 2 AM, and he and his entire family were taken away, never to be seen again.
Those arrested had no warning of the arrest, thus they could not flee and were unprepared to resist. Ironically, my informant, although a blond-haired, blue-eyed man, worked for a Jewish company and therefore was interrogated.
His mother was Dutch, his father, German. They lived not far from the German border and had relatives in Germany.
During a visit to a cousin in Germany during the war, he visited several German Lutheran churches, explaining to me, “the pastors prayed for victory in the war, eulogizing the Nazi troops who were killed by enemy soldiers, in this case Dutch and Americans.
On the wall of one church I visited was a sign which stated in German ‘In honor of the Brave soldiers killed by the enemy fighting for their country, Germany.’
From my perspective they were the enemy, killing us Dutch. One pastor explained, ‘We clergy try to stay out of politics, but Germany had a right to defend itself from its enemies.
The Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War One, was signed on June 28, 1919. The terms required that Germany pay enormous financial reparations (132 billion gold marks, equivalent to US $442 billion), disarm, lose much of our territory, and give up all of our overseas colonies.’
When I asked about the Jews, the pastor responded with Nazi propaganda, ‘it was because of them that we lost the war. We Germans are the superior race, and the Jews have robbed us blind.’”
One of the few churches that openly opposed the Nazi war was the Confessing Church, which was Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s church. WWII was the deadliest military conflict in history.
From 70–85 million people perished. Deaths directly caused by the war (including military and civilian fatalities) were close to 56 million, with an additional 28 million deaths from war-related disease and famine.
Civilian deaths totaled 55 million. Military deaths from all causes totaled 25 million, including the deaths of about 5 million prisoners of war.
All of the nations involved in both sides of the European Theater were Christian but ignored the teachings of the person they claimed to follow who preached, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you, to be children of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:43).
Jesus told his disciple Peter, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt. 26:52-53). “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt. 5:9).
My conclusion from my interviews was that a major reason for the population’s abandonment of Christianity was disillusionment with the churches because they did almost nothing to prevent and oppose the Nazi carnage.
The tragedy was, they abandoned Christianity not because of its Christian teachings, but because the churches had abandoned Jesus’ teachings.
Eric Metaxas in his new best-selling book Letter to the American Church (with 1,883 reviews on Amazon), warns of haunting parallels between the compliant Nazi Germany churches and our churches today.
Echoing Bonhoeffer’s prophetic call, Metaxas exhorts his fellow Christians to learn from the face of evil in Germany. Germany, too, suffered greatly.
In total, 72 German cities were destroyed by the allies and German military casualties were 5.3 million plus 500,000 civilians killed in the Allied strategic bombing.
Lastly, 300,000 Aryan Germans and 12 million non-Germans were systematically murdered due to the German Darwinian eugenic programs to ‘purify’ the Aryan race.
The Nazi priority was to exterminate inferior races. I document in my latest book that if they had accepted the Bible teaching that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, thus only one human race exists, there would likely never have been a WWII.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,800 publications in 12 languages and 60 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries.