This summer I got the opportunity to study abroad in Germany. Apart from learning about the language and culture and doing *fun* things, I visited significant historical sites and memorials, mostly centered around the Nazi Era and World War II. German history in that time period is dark. The seeds of hatred and fear for people of different races, religions, sexualities, and disabilities were sown early. The hatred and fear only escalated until they exploded in the horror of the Holocaust. With the exception of a few people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the majority of Christians in Germany during that period were either silent or supported the Nazi government.
While World War II ended in 1945, I feel that the events of those years are still extremely relevant. I hope that we can learn from the poor example set by the Germans of that era so that we will know better than to let a spirit of hatred and fear for people who are different from us reside in our hearts, in our churches, and in our society. I am concerned that white supremacy groups in the United States are more vocal now. We are hearing so much rhetoric against immigrants, especially Muslims, and acts of anti-Semitism have increased. Christ’s love doesn’t move through hatred or fear. We as Christians should show with our actions that every single human on this planet is worthy of respect and love.
I was horrified and sickened when I visited the Dachau concentration camp, and that night I struggled to sleep. The memorial sign at the camp says, “May the example of those who were exterminated here...help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.” That message has stayed with me. I want to be like Jesus, who shared love and truth with whoever came his way. And I hope the church will be a place with open arms, defending peace and respecting all people.