History repeats

When I attended seminary many years ago, I was struck by the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Reverend Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran minister, theologian and activist. He is best known for his work, “The Cost of Discipleship,” which was published in the 1930s. Dietrich was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship and Adolf Hitler. He spoke, without fear, against the regime’s euthanasia program and the persecution of the Jews.

As a result, he was imprisoned in April 1943. He was sent to Tegel Prison, and later, transferred to the Flossenburg concentration camp.

Nearly a month before the liberation of Europe, in April 1945, Dietrich was accused in the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, which was known as the “July 20 Plot.” Less than a month before the end of the war, Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothes, ordered up to the gallows and hung.

Dietrich was one of the few people who could see what fascism was doing to his country. He witnessed the destruction of Jewish cemeteries and the rampaging of Jewish businesses during the riots of “Kristallnact,” also known as the night of the broken glass. He watched as Jewish citizens were harassed, beaten and raped. Synagogues were burned. Jews had to register their businesses, which were later confiscated. Jewish professors were banned from universities. Jewish children were ordered to attend only Jewish schools. Book burning became a national event.

The ultimate humiliation was the ordering of Jews to wear a gold star when appearing in public. Of course, this was to be followed by the Holocaust.

There is an old adage that alludes to history repeating itself. It may be true, for it only takes time for people to forget or deny the past. I have recalled some similar events in the past years, which puts me on edge and should sober us all – that history can indeed be repeated.

We have had numerous hate crimes and murders in Jewish synagogues, we have had racist marches and the destruction of Jewish cemeteries. We have had legislation for voter suppression and gerrymandering of voting districts. We have had book-burning sessions and censorship of literature by right-wing groups.

We have had propagandist media companies spewing lies to the public. We have had politicians denying the results of our voting system. We have had professional athletes and entertainment stars embracing anti-Semitic hate speech.

There is another old adage that “those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.”

It is time to self-examine who we are and what we want the future to look like for us and our children.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer would not have had it any other way. 

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio