So today I was revising for my RE exams, more specifically the topic of peace and justice within Christianity and, as per usual when it comes to RE, it got me thinking. Although RE is supposed to help us gain an understanding of beliefs and views within religion, which of course is important, I also think RE helps us to develop our own beliefs and views on the world around us.
So, when I was reading about pacifism today and how most Christian’s believe that violence is never acceptable, I started to think about my views on violence. Am I a pacifist? Could I ever condone violence?
At first glance, my brain was telling me no. No, violence can’t ever be acceptable. It is not right to use violence to terrorise people, seek revenge, solve ‘conflicts’ using violence. It is never, ever right.
But then I started thinking about the Nazi’s and Hitler (as you do, you found out yesterday that I am really interested in this era of history, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise). Was it acceptable for Britain to declare war on Germany? Was it right for our, innocent soldiers to kill many innocent (well, they were practically forced to fight for Hitler, whether they agreed with it or not) German soldiers when in reality it was a war between Hitler and Churchill and the other allied world leaders?
But then I realised that although Britain had fought violence with violence and that this may be considered unacceptable by some people, what would have happened if we hadn’t declared war would be 1000x worse. I mean, reading Wolf by Wolf proved that.
Although in my opinion pacifism is the ideal, sometimes we have to stand up and not be pacifists, sometimes using violence is for the best.
Dietrich Bonhoffer was a Christian pacifist during Nazi Germany. He decided to become involved in the bomb plot to assassinate Hitler as killing Hitler would have been the ‘lesser of two evils’ in this situation. I deeply admire Bonhoffer for this, for going against not just his religion, but his core values and morals. He knew when violence was acceptable and necessary and I think society as a whole could all learn something from him.
Although the bomb plot failed and Bonhoeffer, along with others involved in the plot, were imprisoned and eventually sent to concentration camps (Bonhoeffer was sent to Buchenwald then Flossenbürg concentration camp) his defiance of the Nazi’s was truly inspirational. Not only did Bonhoeffer become involved in the bomb plot, he also fought the Nazi in many ways, for example he publically spoke out against Hitler in radio broadcasts, he worked for the German intelligence agency Abwehr and helped German jews escape to Switzerland, he was invloved in the Confessional Church which in it’s self was an act of defiance against the Nazification of Christianity in Germany.
I think it’s awful how such an inspirational man died such an awful, undignified death at the age of 39 in a concentration camp, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by the American’s.
When I went to Berlin last year, I learnt about Martin Niemöller, who also founded the Confessional Church and was known as an anti-Nazi theoligan. I visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp during my trip and saw for myself the prison cell where Martin – and others like him- had been imprisoned for his acts of defiance. It really put into perspective just how terrifying life in Nazi Germany must have been and now I find myself wondering would I have been a pacifist and stood by and let Hitler’s mass genocide and persecution of innocent people happen? And I honestly have no idea.
Although I’d like to think that I would stand up and fight back just as Dietrich and Martin and many, many others did, I have no idea whether in the circumstanves I would have been able to surpress my inner pacifist inclinations.
All I can say is that these two men are just two of many, but sadly not enough, who stood up to the Nazi’s and were able to figgt against the fear and terror of the Nazi regime to do what was right. And I really do admire them for that.
It makes me wonder, how can such courageous and inspirational people emerge from such darkness?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, the Confessional Church, Anne Frank, the White Rose Group, the Schöll siblings, the Edelweiss Pirates, countless resistance groups…the list could go on.
So many amazing people emerged from a time when people were ruthlessly murdered – their futures and lives snatched away from them – because of their religion, race, sexuality, political and moral beliefs etc.
And that’s why I love this era of history so much. Not because of Hitler and all that he did, but because of the people who fought against him, stood up for themselves and society as a whole, fought through fear and terrorism and opression. Those are the people I am interested in. Every single person who died at Hitler’s hands deserved so much more from life, and I feel like even though we can only give them a fraction of what they deserve by remembering them, we must do this.
Every person who died innocently at Hitler’s hands is a hero, an inspiration to me and although I will never be able to say in words just how incredible those people were, I must keep writing and reading and learning about them, doing something in an attempt to remember and pay my respect to them, and I think we all should too.
Although I can’t ever except that the violent products of Hitler’s greed for power were right (even just writing those words sickens me), I can accept that everyone who fought against him fought with a justifiable violence that I can accept. So, to conclude, I now believe violence can be acceptable in certain, specific circumstances but I will never promote violence because I guess I am truly a pacifist at heart.