April 22, 2024

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The Origin Of Hitler’s Final Solution: Why The ‘Wannsee Conference’ Is A Stark Warning For Christians

Wannsee Conference

Have you heard of the Wannsee Conference? Most have not. I am ashamed to admit I was unfamiliar with it until a couple of years ago when I read an article detailing its significance in All Israel News. Watching Biden retreat from our only Democratic Middle East ally, Israel, reminded me of the Wannsee Conference, so I went looking for, and have included several quotes from, that 2022 story, “Speaker at Wannsee Conference Urges Christians Must Do More to Combat Resurgent Tide of Antisemitism.”

You could say Wannsee was the birthplace of Hitler’s Third Reich, at least the ideology behind it. The attendees predate Hitler’s raging speeches, invasions, and iron fist control of Germany. The Wannsee attendees laid the groundwork for the fate of the Jews. Wannsee was most certainly the origin of Hitler’s Final Solution.

If this generation, or any, wants to prohibit another Holocaust of the magnitude of WWII, we must be more informed about what led to the murder of 6 million Jews. More than informed, we must be more vocal. We face new tests and new temptations from a modern collection of Jew-haters, more defiant and more open than Wannsee.

This modern group is armed with more than a Ministry of Propaganda; they have the internet.

We must condemn Antisemitism wherever it exists, and that includes the internet, Congress, Parliament, the halls of Higher Education, and, regrettably, within our religious institutions. Understanding lessons from Wannsee should be a requirement for ministry leadership, certainly for any pastor’s ordination.

In the WWII years, religious institutions were primarily churches. Parachurch organizations and Christian NGOs were not as numerous. Their explosion in modern times means our task of exposing and defeating Antisemitism is much larger. While I could not find a reliable source to cite, I am convinced that in 2024, we have more Christian organizations and non-church-affiliated ministries than churches. With all the marginally Christian online “ministries,” that’s certainly true.

The Wannsee Conference was held on January 20, 1942. We are 82 years and a few months removed from that fateful and reprehensible gathering, but its effects linger, and it appears a second sprouting of its seeds is occurring. It would not be that much of a leap to compare Wannsee to the World Economic Forum, but that’s another article.

First, here is a little history, in case you’re as grossly underinformed about Wannsee as I was.

The Wannsee Conference had 15 attendees. Over half of the fifteen held doctorates. Most had also studied law. All fifteen were professing Christians; all but four were protestants. These were not unreligious, underprivileged, or uneducated men. These were scientists, lawyers, judges, doctors, and academics. Because of their presence at Wannsee, all played their part in the extermination of the Jews, whether directly or indirectly. 

One attendee, Martin Heidegger, is widely recognized as the greatest German philosopher of the 20th century. He is counted among the main exponents of Existentialism and Phenomenology. He is also frequently cited as the father of modern hermeneutics, the system of interpreting meanings.

In Heidegger’s context, Hermeneutics was a methodology for interpreting the meanings of anything: any scholarly writing, book, ancient text, historical reference, or personal experience. Biblical Hermeneutics is exclusively applied to discerning the meaning of Scripture, as taken from Paul’s admonition to Timothy that he “rightly divide the word of truth…” (2 Timothy 2:15). 

Despite his pedigree as a pioneering philosopher–or perhaps because of it–Heidegger was an enthusiastic member of the Nazi party. When you think deeply, without the benefit of biblical insight or godly wisdom, you filter thought through a humanistic lens. In participating at Wannsee, Heidegger rationalized Nazism as the ultimate application of his philosophical ideals. In so doing, he betrayed his Jewish colleagues and students and, after the war, never expressed remorse for what he did.

Humanism is a system of education and mode of inquiry tracing its origins to Greek and Roman thought, but it became widely applied in the Renaissance. It emphasizes man as the measure of all things: Man’s wisdom, experience, understanding, and interpretation are paramount.

Taken to its ultimate conclusion, Humanism leads to genocide. From a humanistic viewpoint, it is logical and necessary to exterminate any person or people group who might infect or cause the larger group to decline, decay, or impede their evolutionary progress.

It is Darwinian evolutionary thought in practical application. Remember, Origin of the Species was not the entire title of Darwin’s book. The full title was On Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. “…Favoured Races…?” Yes, that is exactly as racist as it sounds.

Darwin believed, like his cousin Francis Galton, the founder of Eugenics, that evolution applied to humans as well as animals. He fully endorsed the idea of purging the human gene pool of any specimens deemed unfit. The Wannsee group merely implemented Darwin’s teachings.

Scientists, lawyers, judges, doctors, theologians, and academics all played their part in the extermination of the Jews. Of the “Wannsee Fifteen,” as they came to be known, none registered so much as a word of protest at the time. A couple were rumored to have recanted later, but no proof exists. 

In his book Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas notes that thousands of pastors sided with Hitler, but thousands more were silent. Which is the greater crime – openly endorsing horror or trying to straddle the fence between good and evil? Both produce the same result – evil triumphs in consent or silence.

As Humanism and Relativism have produced fruit in modern society, many Christians tried to live in the muddy middle, not colluding but also not condemning the hate, abortion, racism, and despicable actions produced by these philosophies. Antisemitism is only the most recent.

If today’s Churches take a similar course as the German Christians, we can expect a similar result for the Jews and ourselves. Hamas, the most recent face of evil, has been very clear that their purging will not stop at the sea. They chant: “Death to Israel! Death to America!”

We highlight – and we should – the stories of Christians who stood against the Nazis—like the early priests sent off to death camps or Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller. Jewish children are still told these stories. Many Christians who stood against evil are memorialized in “The Garden of The Righteous” at Yad Vashem in Israel. When I visited the garden, I saw those names: Corrie Ten Boom, Oskar Schindler, and many others.

Other stories stand in striking contrast. I’ve read this story in several places and heard various retellings. It’s a story of how indifference leads you to ignore evil even as it happens so close you can hear it. This is Dr. Irwin Lutzer’s recounting of a lady living in Germany and attending a church near the train tracks:

I lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. We heard stories of what was happening to Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it…A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning, we would hear the whistle in the distance and the wheels coming over the tracks. 

We became disturbed when we heard the cries coming from the train as it passed by. We realized that it was carrying Jews like cattle in the cars. Week after week, the whistle would blow. We dreaded hearing the sound of those wheels because we knew that we would hear the cries of the Jews enroute to a death camp. Their screams tormented us. 

We knew the time the train was coming, and when we heard the whistle blow, we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang louder, and soon, we heard them no more. Although years have passed, I still hear the train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me. Forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.

Winston Churchill, in his famous Iron Curtain speech, said, “If we fail [at confronting these threats], then the whole world, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

We stand at such a precipice in the United States. While stating for the record that we support Israel, behind the scenes, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken undermine that public support at every opportunity. 

Biden has said the quiet part out loud several times, suggesting that he chided Netanyahu, “We’re going to have a come-to-Jesus talk.” I hold him responsible as President, but quite candidly, I think he’s merely regurgitating what he remembers of what his handlers tell him to say. Blinken, Harris, and the other White House mouthpieces are not senile; they have no excuse.

Where does that leave us? Facing despair or facing opportunity. As the Church, we are under the same command to love Israel (Isa. 66:10), pray for her peace (Ps. 122:6), stand for the defenseless when it is within our power (Prov 3:27), and be the voice of God as recorded in the Bible at every chance (Eph. 6:19). 

We are not without opportunity, but we are without much time. Be bold. Be strong. Be wise. Be watchmen. 

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