Monday, December 28, 2015


Advent of the internet has surfaced material that theretofore one would have needed an encyclopedia to find, or a trip to the library, or would never have realized existed at all. But now I can read material in the Vatican library. Publications that were in the stacks and not available to ordinary people. Essays or books that when I was in seminary would have been on a waiting list and one could check out only for two hours or for overnight, the demand was such. Today, all instantly available at the touch of the dancing fingers. 

This morning I came across something strange. I enjoy reading and seeing the history of western Europe from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. Often I call up Die Deutsche Wochenschau to see what was going on, or what the folks were being told, in Germany during that period. One can watch, from the German side, situations that led up to WW2 and the course of the war from before the invasion of Poland right through Hitler's ride through Paris in 1940, to the militarization of children and old women as the Reich began to fall, to days before Hitler’s suicide. Much of it I recognize as the “tails side” of propaganda that we Americans feasted on throughout WW2 to help us keep up our wartime nationalist fervor and hatred of Germans and Germany. As one who was there, I testify that the propaganda was most effective, at least on me, as I still have to recognize and struggle with hatred of all things German -- an outlook that has turned around upon myself ever since I found out that my Weller ancestors came not from England in the 1700s as I’d always been told and read, but from Germany, to my horror.  

In an August 1939 issue (the Wochenschau was a weekly newsreel, originally just German language, sometimes with later English subtitles, that goes from about summer 1939 to May 1945) I watched Reich propaganda stirring anger, fury, bitter hatred, justifying invasion and war, toward Poles and Poland ostensibly because of WW1 armistice provisions that realigned borders and made resentful and rebellious Polish subjects of many ethnic Germans. Being a person from the future looking back into the past (a characteristic that also is useful and helpful in doing Bible scholarship), I already knew what would come next. 

That particular Wochenschau, 23 August 1939, evidenced longstanding animosity between Germans and Poles, that I was never aware of, so thought to explore a bit. 

The little I read astounded me, obviously a naive person on the subject. There is a great deal of written material, including current issue, that lays the responsibility for and origin of WW2 not on Hitler and his Nazis, but on, particularly Polish, mistreatment, brutality toward ordinary ethnic Germans living outside the borders of Germany, brutalized ethic Germans escaping into Germany, and the terrible stories they told of their mistreatment experiences, in this case from the Poles. I read one long article and part of another before giving up. The second article seemed quite well balanced, but the first reads as vicious as any Wochenschau edition I’ve viewed, almost sickening. Unsurprisingly, while focusing on the brutal Polish government and Polish people, it praises the economic and cultural accomplishments of the Third Reich without mentioning the Holocaust, the Nazi’s antisemitic (though not only against Jews) policies and programs that are particularly what I remember witnessing especially when American and Allied liberating forces went through Germany at the end of WW2 that Spring of 1945. 

We love to hate, especially anyone who is different from us who, for whatever reason, doesn't like us. We're more interested in hating them back than in trying to discover why and change things.

People forget, don’t we. This morning I’m just looking around at what’s trying to happen in America as we head in to 2016 presidential election year. It's scary.

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