Beyond Redemption_Part 3_Were the War Criminals Repentant?

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Pastor Henry Gerecke (LCMS)

Pastor Henry Gerecke (LCMS)

After Gerecke had been selected to give Nazi war criminals spiritual counsel he decided to hold church services for them and to personally counsel those who were willing.

Mission at Nuremberg

In all, Gerecke worked with thirteen of the defendants.

Gerecke was “in charge” to determine if the men were truly repentant for their crimes and whether or not he would allow them to return to their Lutheran faith. Once Gerecke determined that that they were repentant he allowed them to partake of the Lord’s Supper as a sign of their repentance.

Gerecke’s attitude is reflected in what he believed about the former SS Lieutenant Colonel who served as his chapel organist. Gerecke believed that by the end of the trial he had brought the man back to faith and he noted “The simple Gospel of the Cross had changed his heart.”

Whatever else we might conclude about the possibility of redemption for Nazi war criminals it is clear that Pastor Gerecke believed it possible and the organist would have been Gercke’s Exhibit A.

Some of the defendants at Nuremberg guarded by American Military Police. My father was a MP stationed in near by Cologne at the time of the trial.

Some of the defendants at Nuremberg guarded by American Military Police. My father was a MP stationed in near by Cologne at the time of the trial.

Here is sampling of what happened with some of the defendants Gerecke ministered too.

–Karl Donitz-head of the German Navy after Raeder, received 10 years in prison.

Donitz believed Gerecke could help him after Gerecke told him they would simply deal with the Word of God in relation to the hearts of men rather than a political debate. In other words Gerecke stuck to the gospel and that opened the door for him to speak with Donitz.  Donitz responded with repentance according to Gerecke.

–Hans Fritzsche headed the news division of the ministry of propaganda under Joseph Goebbels. Fritzsche was acquitted.

Gerecke believed Fritzsche to be repentant. Most of the defendants believed they all would receive the death penalty from the vindictive allies. However, the allies (the western ones anyway) wanted justice to be served above all else and if there was not enough evidence to convict Fritzsche then an acquittal was appropriate.

I think that given the attitudes of the time it must have been a hard decision for the judges to make and it would have been easier to convict Fritsche and give him a light sentence like the one Donitz received.

–Herman Goering was the highest ranking Nazi to be tried. Goring was head of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and was Hitler’s designated successor almost to the end when he fell out of favor. Goring’s sentence was death by hanging but he committed suicide the night before the execution. Gerecke was one of the first to get into Goring’s cell the night he killed himself.

Gerecke never believed Goring repentant and refused him communion. In the book Goring comes across as extremely personable especially to Gerecke whom he loved to chat with.

Gerecke suspected Goring of game playing perhaps hoping for an acquittal or light sentence. Goring also comes across as delusional in the book. He is shocked that he is not treated with the respect he thought he was due.

Gerecke also ministered to the defendants families if they let him), Gerecke ministered to Mrs. Goring and their young daughter. Gerecke took the example of Jesus seriously as he would minister to any sinner who wished him too.

Herman Goring, death by cyanide capsule.

Herman Goring, death by cyanide capsule.

–Alfred Jodl was the General who was Chief of Operations for the German Wehrmacht. In his capacity as Chief of Operations he was the second highest ranking general after Keitel and Hitler’s closet military advisor. Jodl’s reputation was that of a sycophant and a yes man never standing up to Hitler’s often ludicrous military decisions.

His sentence was death by hanging.

Jodl had pled “not guilty” and said, “For what I have done or had to do, I have a pure conscience before God, before history and my people.” His not guilty plea speaks of his lack of repentance and a sense of false assurance.

Jodl would have used the “I was only following orders” defense offered by many of the Nazis.

— Ernst Kaltenbrunner was a  high-ranking SS officer who had responsibility for the death camps.

Kaltenbrunner was an unrepentant psychopath and had no use for Gerecke. There is a whole chapter in the book detailing his crimes and frankly it is as appalling as a visit to Auschwitz-Buchenwald.

Kaltenbrunner was a Nazi to the nth degree apparently without any conscience what-so-ever. In my opinion he received justice in this life (death by hanging) and would receive justice in the life to come for his lack of repentance.

–Wilhelm Keitel was head of the German Army and like Jodl a chief military advisor to Hitler and like Jodl considered to be a yes man by many other generals in the Wehrmacht.

Keitel was a bit of surprise at Nuremberg. At first he refused to admit any guilt like Jodl but at the end made no excuse for what he was responsible. Gerecke believed him to be repentant and Keitel faced the gallows with some dignity and military bearing.

–Konstantin von Neurath was minister of foreign affairs for Hitler. He received fifteen years in prison for his crimes.

Von Neurath was initially unresponsive to Gerecke but Neurath’s family thanked Gerecke for helping him “get right with God.” Neurath was one of the five Catholics so it is apparent that both Gerecke and O’Connor ministered to him at some point during the trial.

–Erich Raeder was head of the German Navy prior to Donitz. He received life imprisonment for his role as Hitler’s naval advisor up until 1943.

Raeder was skeptical about certain Christian tenets and Gerecke at first considered him an intellectual skeptic regarding Christianity but later believed Raeder was more suspicious of the American Army than he was of Christianity.

Raeder became an ardent Bible reader and one of Gerecke’s best students. Gerecke believed Raeder returned to the Lutheran faith.

Although Raeder received a life sentence he was released from prison in 1955 due to poor health.

–Joachim von Ribbentrop was another minister of foreign affairs. His sentence was death by hanging.

Von Ribbentrop was unrepentant at the start of Gerecke’s ministry. His wife was even more adamant in her opposition to Christianity. Both were ardent Nazis.

Later after reading the Bible and the Lutheran Catechism von Ribbentrop became penitent and right before the end of the trial he asked to take communion which he did indicating that Gerecke believed him to be repentant.

–Alfred Rosenberg was a racial theory ideologist and minister of the eastern occupied territories. As the minister for the eastern conquered territories he was responsible for the death of perhaps millions. His sentence was death by hanging.

Rosenberg told Gerecke he had no use for his childhood faith but added he believed in God, but not Christ.

This was a reflection of Gottglaubige or “believers in God.” Certain Nazis didn’t want to be Christians but also wanted to distinguish themselves from atheists.

Although this appears to be an odd attitude it does reflect the attitude of many within our own culture. They want to believe in “God” as they chose to define him but want nothing to do with the Christ of the Bible even though they may call themselves “Christian.”

NYT

–Fritz Sauckel was the planner of the Nazi slave labor program which killed hundreds of thousands. His was the Reich’s Labor Minister and his sentence was death by hanging.

Saukel initially pled “not guilty” and said, “I declare myself in the sense of the Indictment, before God and the world and particularly before my people, not guilty.” Saukel was considered an “old guard hard line Nazi.”

Sauckel became the first to work seriously with Gerecke. He saw himself as a person who did no wrong against God or man even though he was responsible for the slave labor that killed many.

Sauckel seemed eager to repent but Gerecke saw through it telling him, “you don’t want to go through the motions, you want to let the motions of God’s Holy Spirit go through you.”

According to Gerecke Sauckel did eventually repent crying out so loud that every guard on his floor heard him say “Gott sei mor gnadig, ein Sunder,” God, be merciful to me a sinner. Sauckel then helped with other men including Speer, Fritzsche and Schirach all of whom Gerecke believed returned to faith.

–Dr. Hjalmar Schacht was a banker and industrialist. He was acquitted.

He objected to being tried with the likes of Goering and Kaltenbrunner and because of that association believed he was unfit for communion. He told Gerecke that once he was declared a free man he would take his wife back to church and partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Gerecke did not render an opinion as to Schacht’s repentance. What is interesting to me is Schlacht’s sense of self-righteousness in being associated with “worse” sinners like Goring and Kaltenbrunner.

Schlacht played the game that many of us play by comparing ourselves to other sinners rather than comparing ourselves to the sinless Son of God.

Gerecke was asked later if the men who he thought repented did so simply because they would meet their deaths on the end of the rope.

Gerecke replied, “My only answer is that I have been a preacher for a long time and decided that [finding God] is the only way a good many folks find themselves.”

The apostle Paul considered himself to be the chief of sinners.

The apostle Paul considered himself to be the chief of sinners.

In other words, only God knows for sure the inner workings of man’s heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)

In the next installment I will work through many of the relevant Scriptures.

For further reading…

From Hitler’s Wolves to Christ’s Lambs, an article from the Gospel Coalition on Gerecke and Nuremberg.

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And God made them male and female and indeterminate.

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“…and God made them male and female and “indeterminate.” (Der Spiegel)

Germany is following Australia’s and Finland’s lead in allowing a third choice when it comes to gender identification on documents that ask for the information. A person simply has to enter the letter “X” for indeterminate rather than ” m” for male or “f” for female.

I could probably go on for quite a while about all the things that are wrong with this confusion but will settle for this.

It’s not exactly a secret how far Germany has drifted from Christianity since the heady days of the Reformation and Martin Luther. And where one thing retreats, another advances and in Germany’s case as well as much of Western Europe that something is Islam.

Nominal cultural Christians, agnostics and atheists may mock Christians that take Scripture seriously and get away with it since most Bible believing Christians are not surprised by anti-Christian biases but with Islam, it’s an animal of a rather different sort.

Islam tends towards being touchy.

religion-of-peace

Sharia law prescribes death to homosexuals as well as calling gender confusion sin. Sharia law is also the stated goal within the western democracies by any honest Islamist. Some rightly fear this trend while their politicians bend over back wards to accommodate Islam.

The irony is the abandonment of traditional Christianity while militant Islam  is on the rise. As one thing retreats, another advances.

For a real eye opener on what slam teaches on homosexuality follow this link to the ReligionofPeace.com

A quick search turned up a number of pictures of Islam demonstrating for Sharia in Europe and here.

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Sharia-law-in-Europe

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Sharia-SC

What is Pluralism and its Application to Islam?

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Through my other blog that is titled, History Stuff that Interests Me, I have made some friends around the world and some of them are from Western Europe that like the US have significant Moslem populations.

Today one fellow blogger, an American who is married to a German and lives there, posted this image on her blog:

religion-of-peace

The image was in reference to a Moslem riot in Sweden and yesterday’s murder of a British soldier in London by two Moslem jihadists.

I also noticed today that two of my European friends were having a discussion on FB regarding the murder of the British soldier and they were accused of racism and bigotry simply because they were objecting to the pc attitudes prevalent in their countries (Britain and Germany).

No doubt the blogger will soon be subjected to the “all Moslems are not like that” routine that follows each jihadist attack just as my two European friends were (not one racist and bigoted comment was noted by me by either of them).

That’s about how it goes in this country as well. Say something remotely critical of Islam and you are labeled a racist or bigot or both, end of discussion.

No fair-minded person would hold all responsible for the actions of the few but that kind of argument fails to identify why there are jihadists in the first place and what are their ultimate goals..

The western nations have evolved politically to embrace pluralism.  The online Free Dictionary defines pluralism like this:

a. A condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society.
b. The belief that such a condition is desirable or socially beneficial.
In the wake of the Reformation Europe fought many wars, notably the Thirty Years War, that had religious ramifications. One of the results of the Thirty Years War was a drift, at times a slow drift toward pluralism.One the tenets of the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War is that each prince could determine the religion of their own state. The choices were limited to Catholicism, Lutheranism and Calvinism. While it does not seem like much today, at the time it was a significant step toward religious pluralism.
Europe at the end of the Thirty Years War, 1648. In green is the Ottoman Empire turned back at Vienna, 1683.

Europe at the end of the Thirty Years War, 1648. In green is the Ottoman Empire turned back at Vienna, 1683.

Our own country enshrined freedom of religion in our Constitution and did away with State run churches in an effort to be pluralistic. As a result of these movements and historical events most of the west is pluralistic in outlook and content as a whole to live and let live in a sort of melting pot of cultures and faiths.
Do I think most Moslems are content to live and let live? Yeah, probably, but the minority that seeks to establish sharia in the western countries and use jihad (the passive and aggressive varieties) do not. Pluralism is not something they can accept because they believe their version of the Islamic faith will not allow that kind of tolerance. It’s not really any more complicated than that.
It’s also worth noting that every time there is a jihadist attack Moslem leaders in general are relatively silent, so silent, it’s deafening.
Why is this?
I can think of two reasons off the top of my head.
One is fear, fear that if you are not for us you are against us. The jihadists are ruthless as we’ve seen time and time again. Unless it would serve their political purposes to speak out the jihadists would have no problem killing off their own. Note how Moslems who convert to Christianity are treated.
Secondly, I think it would be unwise to assume that many mainstream Moslems are not at least sympathetic to jihadist and sharia ultimate goals. They might reject the violence to get there for a host of reasons but we would foolish to ignore that many think sharia is a good thing even in the west.
As  an American I believe the war on terror is ultimately a war on those who reject western notions of pluralism and would rather live like Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban.
As a Christian, I see Islam in general as slavery and antithetical to the Gospel of Grace and what freedom in Christ means and does not mean.
The war is a war on ideas because ideas have consequences.

The “Church of Anything Goes”

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FEMEN is a female political action group based in the Ukraine noted primarily for making their views known by running around topless. Slogans are painted on their uncovered chests and their mode of operation seems to be loud and obnoxious.

Recently they disrupted a meeting between Germany’s Merkel and Russia’s Putin. Putin appears amused.

Their most recent exploit involved a Belgian Archbishop.  The bishop was attending a conference at a university about freedom of speech when Femen showed up and showered him with abuse along with water squirted from a bottle that looked like the virgin Mary. Femen accused the bishop and the Catholic Church of being homophobic, the left’s favorite pejorative when someone disagrees with their agenda.

The bishop’s reaction was to bow his head, pray and endure  the hateful tirade by Femen.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York issued the following statement when asked about the incident.

  So, for example, the Church loves, welcomes, and respects the alcoholic . . . but would not condone his binge;

    The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a prominent business leader…but would not condone his or her failure to pay a just wage to a migrant worker;

    The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a young couple in love . . . but would challenge their decision to “live together” before marriage;

    The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman who has had an abortion, and the man who fathered the child and encouraged the abortion . . . but would be united with them in mourning and regretting that deadly choice;

    The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman or man with a same-sex attraction . . .  while reminding him or her of our clear teaching that, while the condition of homosexuality is no sin at all, still, God’s teaching is clear that sexual acts are reserved for a man and woman united in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, loving bond of marriage.

    The Church loves, welcomes, and respects wealthy people, while prophetically teaching the at-times-uncomfortable virtue of justice and charity towards the poor.

    We are part of a Church where, yes, all are welcome, but, no, not a Church of anything goes.

Dolan is no shrinking violet and has the courage of his convictions even standing up to the Obama administration, an administration that is aggressive in promoting baby killing, homosexual marriage and the continued undermining of the family and substituting for it the “benevolent collectivist state.”

I have issues with Roman Catholicism regarding the nature of the gospel (a theological issue rather than a social issue) but do admire a man who can say unashamed he does not represent the church of “anything goes.”

I don’t have the stats handy but many, perhaps more than half of Roman Catholics disagree with Dolan on one or more of the above issues and are apparently fine with the likes of Obama and becoming the church of “anything goes.”

Likewise, I do not have stats for my own faith group (broadly speaking evangelical Christianity) either but there certainly is a trend in some quarters to be the church of “anything goes.”

For churches that seek to remain faithful to Scripture and are actively resisting becoming the church of anything goes we can expect increased government pressure to conform to the spirit of this age. I’m no prophet but pressure will soon turn to persecution, a persecution already started as our right to free speech is denounced as “hate speech” by the likes of Femen and their leftist progressive allies.

My pastor and friend is preaching through 2 Timothy 2 right now. Here’s where he has been camped for a number of weeks:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:8-13 ESV)

Again, I am not a prophet but on the other hand I would never have thought the US would have a President as actively anti-Christian as this one. The church of “anything goes” is no church at all and as unpleasant as it may be I believe that God will use the pressure\persecution to separate the wheat from the tare, the true from the false, the faithful from the faithless.

May God help us.

Some Thoughts on DOMA

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I was thinking of this passage the other day probably because of a scene in The History Channel’s series on the Bible.

…Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:5-7 ESV)

The people of Israel wanted to be like all the nations and have a king. The prophet and judge Samuel recognizes the demand as folly and does not like it but God says to Samuel, give them what they want and don’t take it personally because the people are actually rejecting me.

Rejection of God as the ruling force in people’s lives is not unique to Old Testament Israel. In our own semi-Christianized culture the rejection of God as Creator and Ruler is widespread and the evidence is everywhere.

The pressure builds on the Supreme Court.

The pressure builds on the Supreme Court.

In our country the State reigns supreme in practice which is why the California Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is now being debated in the Supreme Court. If God were supreme then one of the primary purposes of marriage would end the debate.

God said this:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)

If a person (big if) takes Scripture seriously we see that God created male and female and told the male and female to be fruitful and multiply something that only a male and female can do.

That fact that DOMA is being judged by the Supreme Court judges illustrates, no matter which way it goes that the highest authority in the land is the king, as represented in the US by the President, Congress and in the final analysis, the Supreme Court.

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Personally, I think that even if DOMA stands it will only be a matter of time until “the people” get what they want. As it goes now Progressives and some, maybe most, Economic Conservatives are working overtime to redefine the family in their own eyes, apart from the rather obvious created order. (Even an evolutionist gets that homosexual couples cannot procreate.)

The people of Israel got their wish. They got a king but they also received a warning from the prophet and judge Samuel:

So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.   He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-15; 1 Samuel 8:16-18 ESV)

When the law of man trumps the natural created order there will be consequences of that we can be sure.

For Greater Glory_ The Cristero Rebellion

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For Greater Glory is a movie about the Cristero Rebellion in Mexico in the late 1920’s. The rebellion is little known even within Mexico so it’s little surprise the movie was not a block buster.

My wife and I watched it on Netflix because I was intrigued by this little known rebellion that involved the Roman Catholic Church and a rather nasty Mexican government led by Plutarco Elías Calles. Calles was bent on eliminating Roman Catholicism in Mexico. Many Catholics forcibly resisted the heavy-handed and even brutal government and launched the Cristero Rebellion.

For Greater Glory

For Greater Glory

The movie centers on a mercenary general recruited by the Catholics to fight the government forces. The general is an agnostic (called atheist in the movie by his wife played by Eva Longoria) but also a bit of a military genius. The general, Enrique Gorostieta, is played by Andy Garcia and played well.

A sub-plot involves a boy who witnesses the execution of a peaceful priest and decides to join the rebels. The boy is adopted by the general and then captured by the cruel federal troops. The boy’s torture and eventual execution looks like a passion play and quite touching. The boy has been canonized as a Catholic saint and martyr.

Not knowing anything about the actual history of the rebellion my wife and I found the story line compelling. Critics said the movie was overtly Roman Catholic and I suppose it was but that’s not why we found it compelling.

We’re evangelical Protestants and so would have serious issues with Rome regarding the nature of the gospel but that’s all beside the point because the movie is about freedom of religion and worship something enshrined in our own Constitution.

I found it interesting that the Mexican Government of the period seemed to use the Catholic Church as a scape goat presumably because the Catholic Church must have spoken out against some government policy or other.

I think a person can rightly wonder how long a progressive, increasingly, heavy-handed Obama led government in our country will tolerate religious opposition to abortion on demand, same-sex marriage and aspects of Obamacare?

Some say, oh persecution can’t happen here but I’ll bet that’s what the Mexican Catholics thought in the late twenties. My hat is off to them because they fought back. Good thing they had guns heh?

To my wife and I the movie made a significant point about religious freedom and what can happen when a government decides to persecute a church because the church opposes its agenda.

As to the historicity of the movie and because I knew nothing about the rebellion I looked it up and found this link in a review. 

General Enrique Gorostieta y Velarde de Cristero

General Enrique Gorostieta y Velarde de Cristero (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The movie appears to follow the history to a point but takes liberties and given the scope of the rebellion that is hardly surprising.

The movie features a number of secondary characters, some quite interesting. At times it is hard to follow these character because there are so many and they do not have time to develop them. That seems to be a weakness in the movie and a mini-series might have done the whole thing better justice.

Nevertheless, it was a good movie in our opinion with timely message. We’d give in 3 1/2 stars.

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