“The Church then ought to declare both in peace-time and war-time that there are certain principles which can and should be the standards of both international and social order and conduct. Such principles are the:
1. Equal dignity of all
2. Respect for human life
3. Acknowledgement of the solidarity for good and evil of all nations and races of the earth
4. Fidelity to the plighted word
5. Appreciation of the fact that power of any kind, political or economic, must be co-extensive with responsibility.
[“The Church’s Function in War-time” by Bishop George Bell – Fortnightly Review – September 1939]
I was born in 1931 in the small German town of Meiningen, famous for its theatre, much like Stratford-upon-Avon. Its mainly middle-class citizens were deeply disillusioned, tired of the infighting of the political parties. Germany seemed to be in a state of social and moral disintegration, crying out for healing and reconciliation. People were drawn to a charismatic, unconventional power-hungry leader who read their minds and promised what they wanted to hear. I know history never quite repeats itself, but the analogies are frightening.
The single issue was the exceptionalism (Opinion, 29 July), the superiority of the German race. The good, mainly churchgoing citizens easily voted his Brown Shirts onto the regional council (think the Brexit party). Two years later they voted nationally in sufficient numbers to enable Hitler to seize total power. It was all perfectly legal, too late to effectively protest. Dissent was now treason (think the Daily Mail). My father’s parents were Jews. Outcasts now (think our non-Brits), a few years later we had no choice but to flee and my grandmother to take poison. I pray for our PM and hope that I am needlessly crying wolf.
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher