Adventist Involvement With Nazi Germany, Part 3: The Not Very Apologetic Apology…

Church Leaders Say “We’re Sorry”
German and Austrian churches apologize for Holocaust actions
BY MARK A. KELLNER, assistant director for news and information of the General Conference Communication Departmentoting the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Seventh-day Adventist church leaders in Germany and Austria have released a declaration saying they “deeply regret” any participation in or support of Nazi activities during the war. The church bodies “honestly confess” a failure “in following our Lord” by not protecting Jews, and others, from that era’s genocide, widely known as the Holocaust. Millions of people perished from war atrocities, including more than 6 million Jews who were exterminated in Nazi persecutions during the 12-year period of 1933 to 1945.The declaration was initially published in the May 2005 issue of AdventEcho, a monthly German-language church magazine, and also will appear in other German publications, said Günther Machel, president of the South German Union Conference and one of three signatories to the statement.

A copy of the statement has been provided to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel, added Rolf Pöhler, a former North German church area president who is now that region’s theological advisor and was involved with the drafting of the declaration.

“We deeply regret that the character of National Socialist dictatorship had not been realized in time and distinctly enough, and the ungodly nature of [Nazi] ideology had not clearly been identified,” the statement, as translated from German, reads. The church says it also regrets “that in some of our publications . . . there were found articles glorifying Adolf Hitler and agreeing with the ideology of anti-Semitism in a way that is unbelievable from today’s [perspective].”

Church leaders also expressed regret that “our peoples became associated with racial fanaticism destroying the lives and freedom of 6 million Jews and representatives of minorities in all of Europe” and “that many Seventh-day Adventists did not share the need and suffering of their Jewish fellow-citizens.”

A paramount regret, the statement indicated, was that German and Austrian Adventist congregations “excluded, separated and left [church members who were] . . . of Jewish origin to themselves so that they were delivered to imprisonment, exile or death.”

Under various racial decrees, some Adventist congregations expelled members of Jewish heritage. One, Max-Israel Munk, was placed in two concentration camps by the Nazis and survived and returned to his church after the war. He said he did not wish to act toward his congregation in the way in which he had been treated, according to Daniel Heinz, a church archivist at Friedensau Adventist University who has studied Adventist activities during the National Socialist era.

Along with Machel, the other leaders who signed the statement were Klaus-Juergen van Treeck, North German Union Conference president, and Herbert Brugger, president of the Adventist Church in Austria. Pöhler and Johannes Hartlapp, church historian at Friedensau, drafted the statement on which the declaration is based. All three church geographic areas voted to approve the text, Pöhler said.

In the statement, the three assert that the “obedience we owe to the state authorities does not lead to giving up biblical convictions and values.” They said that while only God can judge the actions of prior generations, “in our day, however, we want to take a decided stand for right and justice-towards all people.”

Brugger, in a telephone interview, said, “Our church members really appreciated the publishing of this document.” No indication of a reaction from Austria’s Jewish community has been received, but Brugger said the Adventist Church is not as well known in Austria as some other movements are.

Asked how a church that considers keeping the Sabbath as one of its core beliefs could forsake Jewish Sabbath-keepers during a time of persecution, Brugger suggested that it was political, not theological, considerations that may have led to the strategy.

During World War I a portion of the German Adventist church had split off, opposing any military service. This led the National Socialists in 1936 to ban the so-called “Reform Movement” during their time in power. Brugger said concern over a Nazi closure of the main Adventist churches may have weighed on leaders in that era.

“I think during these times the official leaders of our church were afraid of losing the control over the church and losing the church because the political authorities had already . . . [confused] our church with the Reform movement,” he explained. “I think our leaders were afraid to lose the official recognition of our church, so therefore maybe they were not [as faithful] to our beliefs as would have been necessary.”

The main Seventh-day Adventist church in Germany was also briefly banned under the Nazis, notes Pöhler. A quick reversal by the regime led to relief among Adventists but also to a level of cooperation with the government that was unhealthy.

“We not only kept silent, but we also published things we never should have published. We published anti-Semitic ideas that, from our perspective, weren’t really needed,” Pöhler said in a telephone interview.

“We had to realize that one wrong statement, one wrong move by a person meant he could end up in a concentration camp,” Pöhler said of that era. “[That was the] reason why we excluded and disfellowshipped Jewish-born Adventists from our midst: If a local church had not done this, [the Nazis] would have closed the church, taken the elder to prison, and it would have meant the whole church would be forbidden.”

While some European Adventists took courageous stands to protect Jews, others went along in part because of concern for their families and churches. It would be difficult enough for an individual to reach out to a Jewish person, Pöhler explained, but to risk the lives of those in a congregation was an added burden. Such caution was even reflected in the nomenclature used by German Adventists, he said.

Daniel Heinz, director of church archives at the Adventist university in Friedensau, Germany, said his research into the stories of Adventists who helped Jews during the war led to his discovery of those who acted less honorably.
Resistance to Nazi policies, as well as the compassionate yet brave response of many Christians, among them Seventh-day Adventists, to protect lives of those under Nazi persecution, have been documented throughout Europe, including Poland, Hungary, Holland, and Denmark.

“I found some very impressive stories of Adventists who helped Jews in the Third Reich, risking their lives, and I found the opposite,” Heinz said. Among other church members, one Latvian Adventist family took in a Jewish man, hid him during the war, and survived. The refugee became an Adventist believer and church pastor after the war ended.
According to Machel, “Sixty years after World War II is late-but we saw it as the last chance for a declaration.”

Young adult church members reacted positively to the statement’s expressions of concern and contrition.

“To humbly reveal our sins and failures is the most important thing God wants us to do,” said Sara Gehler, 25. “And even though 60 years have already passed, I think it was necessary for us as [the Seventh-day Adventist] Church to take a stand on the Second World War.” She added, “It is our duty as Christians to protect and help those who are weak, helpless, and in need.”

Said John Graz, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Adventist world headquarters, “For those who believe in God’s love for every member of the human family, against any kind of discrimination based on race, religion, or gender, this declaration written by a generation which had no responsibility in the Holocaust and the war, but endorse the responsibility of their parents, will stand as a positive landmark and great encouragement.”



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Adventist Involvement With Nazi Germany, Part 2: The Brainwashing of the Children

Source material taken and adapted from
an unnamed article written by a
B. Skillet, August 2009.

nazi-child-image Adventists like to impugn other Christians for allegedly believing in “cheap grace”

They say that Christians merely use grace as an excuse to avoid keeping the Law. But there’s a funny thing about the term “cheap grace.” It entered the mainstream Christian lexicon in a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer said that, “cheap grace was grace divorced from discipleship.” It was a false grace that did not call the recipient to submission to Jesus Christ. It was forgiveness without repentance, a justification that didn’t lead to transformation.

Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship in 1937. It was, in a sense, an indirect response to the way the state churches had embraced Hitler and Nazism. They had consented to racial purity laws within their congregation, and generally supported and even worshiped Der Fuhrer. Bonhoeffer, in contrast, had already made himself a source of scorn when, two days after Hitler was installed as chancellor, he tried to deliver a radio address calling German Christians to oppose the Nazi regime. He thought Germany had succumbed to a horrible idolatry. He was right.

But the German state church wasn’t the only denomination that gave itself up to Nazi evil. Adventists like to criticize the Catholic church for its alleged complicity in the sins of Nazism. But they conveniently gloss over the fact that, though several private SDAs tried to help the Jews, the denomination itself, and most of its adherents, were an active supporter of Hitler’s regime.

Dr. Zdravko Plantak, one-time head of the religion department at the SDA Columbia Union College, wrote a book called The Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist Social Ethics. In it Plantak describes how the Adventist church became an active participant in the Nazi regime.

According to Plantak, Adventists schools embraced the Nazi brainwashing of children, incorporating Nazi symbols, nationalistic observances, and teachings into their curriculum. More, the President of the Seventh-day Adventist Eastern German Conference declared, “under no circumstances did any Adventist have the right to resist the government, even if the government prevented him from exercising his faith.

Adventist writings took on the call of Nazism with Der Adventbote; the official periodical of the German Seventh-day Adventist church, wrote that “the National Socialist Revolution was the greatest of all time, because it made the maintenance of a pure inheritance the basis of its ethnic life.”

In their Morning Watch Calendar, the German Adventists shamefully wrote:


Trust in his people has given the Führer the strength to carry through the fight for freedom and honour of Germany. The unshakable faith of Adolf Hitler allowed him to do great deeds, which decorate him today before the whole world. Selflessly and faithfully he has struggled for his people; courageously and proudly he has defended the honour of his nation. In Christian humility, at important times when he could celebrate with his people, he gave God in Heaven honour and recognized his dependence upon God’s blessings. This humility has made him great, and this greatness was the source of blessing, from which he always gave for his people. Only very few statesmen stand so brilliantly in the sun of a blessed life, and are so praised by their own people as our Führer. He has sacrificed much in the years of his struggle and has thought little about himself in the difficult work for his people. We compare the unnumbered words, which he has issued to the people from a warm heart, with seeds which have ripened and now carry wonderful fruit.


For those of you who don’t notice, the Calendar referenced Hitler’s sacrifices for “his struggle.” Hitler’s famous book that laid out his philosophy was called Mein Kampf, or, in English, My Struggle. Clearly, this is an open endorsement of Hitler’s philosphy by the German Adventists of the day.

Plantak continues:


It is ironic that while Adventists had insisted upon religious liberty, they did not raise a voice against the persecution of countless Jews. Instead, they even disfellowshipped those of Jewish background. At a time when German Adventists were publishing the religious liberty magazine Kirche und Staat [English: Church and State] (an outside observer noticed its primary purpose as being the opposition to the Sunday laws), they kept quiet about the 1933 purges when hundred were murdered, and they said nothing against the persecution of Jews or about the occupied territories.


Because Adolf Hitler let them keep their precious Sabbath, most Adventists didn’t oppose the Nazi Regime.

Corrie Schroder, student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote a seminar paper dealing with Adventist complicity in the holocaust.
Schroder details several interesting facts:

1) The official SDA church in Germany encouraged the Nazi government to investigate and ban the rival SDA Reform denomination because, in Schroder’s words, the views of that SDA splinter group were “were far from German.” So much for “religious liberty.”

2) In exchange for being allowed to keep their precious Sabbath, the German SDA church offered to help cultivate a better image for the Nazi regime among their counterparts in the United States. The SDA denomination sent Hulda Jost, head of their church welfare system and leader of the Adventist Nurses Association, to the U.S. to convince American Adventists to support the Nazi regime. Now, to the credit of American Adventists, when Hulda began touring the U.S. spouting Nazi propaganda, they basically told her to cut out the propagandizing.

3) Though Adventists claim to believe in “separation of church and state,” they allowed their well-organized welfare system to be taken over by the Nazi government. The Adventists actually welcomed this take over. And, without any pressure from the Nazi Regime, the Adventists required that no members of the SDA Reform movement were to benefit from its welfare program.

4) In welcoming the Nazi government’s take over of their welfare program, they also had to consent to the application of racial purity laws to their welfare system. As such, they agreed to give no help to “Jews, anti-socials or undesirables.”

5) The SDA church referred to the law requiring forced sterilization of the mentally ill the mentally disabled, epileptics, drug addicts, and alcoholics as, “a great advance in the uplifting of our people.”

6) Adventists saw fit to remove “Jewish words” from their denominational lexicon. They changed “Sabbath School” to “Bible School” and “Sabbath” to “Rest Day.”

7) German SDA leadership wrote, “The pastors and members of our Church stand loyally by their Volk and fatherland as well at its leadership, ready to sacrifice life and possessions.” Writes Schroder, They were willing to sacrifice their life and possessions for the fatherland, but they were unwilling to do the same for their religious beliefs.

Many German Christians supposed that, because they were under grace, they could compromise their integrity by winking at, or even taking part in, the sins of Nazism. Adventists, in contrast, believed that in order to maintain their Sabbath and the existence of their special remnant denomiation, they had to sacrifice everything else to the Nazi ideology.

So next time an Adventist starts to lecture you about “cheap grace,” give them this article.

The Seventh-day Adventist Involvement in Hitler’s Nazi Germany

Seventh Day Adventists
Text written June 2002 by Corrie Schroder
Last Updated January 1, 2003
This Page Part of the UCSB Oral History Project

Nazi Germany was a horrible place for small denominational churches…

…because there was no religious liberty. One small denomination that survived was the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. When Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany, the German Seventh-day Adventist denomination (hereafter referred to as Adventists) believed it was time for a strong leader in Germany. Hitler seemed to be the best candidate because of “his personal dedication and his abstinence from tea, coffee, alcohol and meat, practices shared by the Adventists, [therefore] he was welcomed as a savior.”[1]  I hope to point out, because of the willingness to compromise the decent of the German Adventist denomination from the moral issues listed below, to where they ended at the end of World War II.  They ended in compromise, loss of personal integrity, and denominational integrity, splitting of the denomination and were racially damaged as a Christian organization because they were unable to hold fast to the tenets of their beliefs.  They tied the denomination to the German State giving up their religious freedom in attempt to survive through compromises.  This position of compromise brought shame upon the German denomination as well as the worldwide denomination after the end of World War II.

The Seventh-day Adventists evolved doctrinally from the interfaith Millerite movement of 1831. Adventists believe in religious liberty, to such a point that church and state are to remain separate. They are also conscientious objectors. When Adventists are required to join the military they apply for positions where they do not have to bear arms, for example the medical corps. There are 27 fundamental beliefs that the Seventh-day Adventists believe. The following four fundamental beliefs listed are the ones that pertain to my topic:

  1. The “Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God.”[2]
  2. The God Head or Trinity: “there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.”[3]
  3. Spiritual Gifts and Ministries, “God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts which each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity.”[4]
  4. Christian Behavior, “We are called to be godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven.”[5]

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination was not officially organized until May 21, 1863, even though the name had been chosen in 1860. At that time, the movement included 125 churches and 3,500 members.[6]  The Adventist church spread first throughout North America. After 1874, the denomination spread throughout Europe. In 1888, L.R. Conradi became the founder of the German Adventist church. He established headquarters for the Adventist Church in Hamburg, Germany in 1889.[7]  Conradi also established the first Adventist school in Germany near Magdeburg, called Friedensau Missionary Seminary.

A Seventh-day Adventist – in Germany – had many difficulties. The two main difficulties were their children had to attend school on Saturday, which is considered the Sabbath by Adventists. The second difficulty was the mandatory military service.[8] Refusing to send their children to school and not joining the military were punishable by imprisonment. The problem with the schools was solved by a compromise. The government authorities allowed Adventist children to study their bibles while in school on the Sabbath.[9]Military service posed two problems, working on the Sabbath and bearing arms. These problems were never truly solved, but “army medical examiners began to find all manner of excuses for rejecting Seventh-day Adventist recruits.”[10] This rejection of Seventh-day Adventist men ended with the start of World War I. This caused a problem within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Germany.

The Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement

The Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement came about because of the controversy over military service. During World War I, the German Seventh-day Adventists churches belonged to different Unions, North, South, East, and West, but all were under the guidance and control of the European Division. The European Division’s headquarters was located in Hamburg, Germany. The main problem was that most of the members serving as Division leaders lived outside of Germany and because of the war, travel and communication were difficult.[11]

With the outbreak of the war and the mobilization of troops in Germany, the German Adventist leaders decided, “Adventist men could enter the military and serve as combatants and even ignore traditional Sabbath observance.”[12] This caused major problems within the Adventist community, because they had always served in the military as non-combatants. The rank and file members believed that actively participating in war broke the fourth and sixth biblical commandments.[13] The fourth commandment is “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” When entering military service, keeping the fourth commandment is no longer a priority, because the warring sides do not take into account what day it is. The sixth commandment is “You shall not murder.” If you take a combatant role in war it is nearly impossible not to kill someone.

During the American Civil War in 1864, the Seventh-day Adventists declared,

The denomination of Christians calling themselves Seventh-day Adventists, taking the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, are unanimous in their views that its teaching are contrary to the spirit and practice of war; hence, they have ever been conscientiously opposed to bearing arms.[14]

But during World War I, the German Seventh-day Adventist denomination went against the General Conference and decided to become combatant instead of remaining non-combatant. This caused a small group of Seventh-day Adventists to split from the main body of the German Seventh-day Adventist Church. This small sect called itself the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement (hereafter referred to as the Reformers). The Reformers believed they were remaining “faithful to the law of God, upholding the original position, as taught and practiced up to that time.”[15] They were remaining faithful, because they refused to be combatants during WWI. It was acceptable to the Reformers to join the military as non-combatant, but to join as combatants was against God’s law and the doctrines of the Adventist Church.

After the World War I, the German Adventist leaders admitted that they had been wrong when they said it was not against God’s law to join the military in a combatant role. During the European Division meeting at Gland, Switzerland, on January 2, 1923, the German Adventist leaders, to show that they believed in a non-combatant role, stated that,

they were in complete ‘harmony with the general teachings of their brethren of that denomination throughout the world.’ But this declaration was weakened by the additional pronouncement which read: ‘We grant to each of our church members absolute liberty to serve his country, at all times and in all places, in accord with the dictates of his personal conscientious conviction.[16]

The leaders of the German Adventist denomination told the General Conference they were wrong in their policies during World War I. They had realized their mistake and were once again in “harmony” with the teachings and doctrines of the Adventist denomination. But they believed their members had a right to choose their own path. What this meant was the German leaders believed that Adventists should remain in non-combatant roles, but they believed their  members could decided on their own whether or not to be combatant. This statement would cause problems in the future.

There was still the breach between the Seventh-day Adventists and the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement after this meeting, which needed to be healed. L.R. Conradi, the president of the European Division, tried to justify the actions of the German Adventist leaders by explaining that the General Conference had “given German Adventists tacit approval.”[17] This tacit approval was to allow German Adventists to work on the Sabbath and bear arms. This explanation only made matters worse between the Adventists and the Reformers. Soon after World War I, the General Conference sent a delegation led by A.G. Daniells to try and heal the growing breach between the Adventists and the Reformers. A.G. Daniells stated that the “German [Adventist] leaders of the church have been wrong, but he also criticized the Reformers for setting up a separate organization and using misleading tactics to promote their views.”[18] In the end, the Reformers were disfellowedshiped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[19] The Reformers decided to create their own church where they “refused all military service and insisted on a rigid Sabbath observance”[20] and they would “continue with original teachings and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”[21] The Reformers no longer believed it was acceptable to be non-combatant during times of war. They believed the Seventh-day Adventists were no longer following the original teachings of the Church. In Gotha, Germany, July 14-20, 1925, “the SDA Reform Movement was first organized, officially, as a General Conference, when the ‘Principles of Faith and Church Order’ were drawn up and the name ‘Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement’ was adopted.” [22]

Support for Hitler

In the Adventist town of Friedensau, Germany 99.9% voted for the Nazi parliamentary state. Even though the Adventists wanted a strong Fuhrer and supported Hitler, that support varied. The reason was because of Hitler’s contradictions about religious liberty. The departmental secretary of the South German Union Conference, M. Busch, was in support of Hitler and “approvingly quoted Hitler’s statement in Mein Kampf  that ‘for the political Fuhrer all religious teachings and arrangements are untouchable.’”[23] The Adventists believed that Hitler was for religious freedom, while the Nazi Party was against it. “Still, point 24 of the Nazi party program stated that the Party supported positive Christianity, without tying itself to any particular confession.”[24] This was a debatable problem among Christian groups because no one knew what “positive” Christianity was. This problem was never clarified and the contradiction remained. When Hitler became dictator of Germany the discussion on the contradiction ended and very soon Christian groups would know what Hitler meant by “positive” Christianity.

On November 26, 1933, the Nazi state banned the small denominational churches. Among those prohibited were the Seventh-day Adventists. The Seventh-day Adventists decided to seek legal advice on what to do about the ban and within two weeks, the ban was lifted on the Adventist denomination.[25] After this, it was decided within the denomination that “positive” Christianity meant support for the Nazi state. To show their support for the Nazi state, the Adventists sent a letter to the “Nazi Ministry of Interior an official memorandum on Adventist teachings, church organizations, social activities and attitude to the government.”[26] The Adventists also informed the Interior that there church “members hold ‘German attitudes.’”[27] Pointing out that the government’s suspicion and concern should be to a “rival schismatic group, the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement, whose attitudes, the Adventists insisted, were far from ‘German.’[28] It seems that the Adventists were more concerned with holding German attitudes then holding Adventists attitudes.

It was because of this letter that the Nazi government noticed the Reform Adventist denomination. In trying to distance themselves from the Reformers, the Adventists led the Nazi government to them. The government investigated the Reformers and decided that they held different views from the acceptable Seventh-day Adventist denomination.[29] The Reformers were then banned on April 29, 1936.[30] The Seventh-day Adventists believe in religious liberty, but instead of voicing their outrage over the persecution of the Reformers and the Jews, the Adventist leaders decided to take action against these two groups. The Adventist leaders “issued directives to prevent the Reformers from joining the Adventist Church.”[31]  And they expelled Adventists who had a Jewish background from the Church.[32] The Adventists were unwilling to even protect their own members if they thought the Nazi government would disapprove. The state was able to control the Church because there was no religious liberty. This is not to say that individual Adventists did not help Jews or other undesirables. The Adventists were notable, for the private and individual help they gave to Jews, for not only were Jewish converts cared for and hidden, as they were in some other sectarian and church circles, but help was also given to unbaptised Jews with whom Adventists happened to come in contact.[33]

In 1935, the privileges enjoyed by Adventists, such as keeping the Sabbath, selling religious literature, money transfers that were necessary for missionary work, and certain publications were forbidden.[34] This made the German Adventists reconsider their position on religious liberty of keeping church and state separated. They knew Nazi Germany was receiving a bad public image abroad because of its treatment of small denominational churches whose home base was in the United States. If the smaller denominations were willing to help improve the Nazi image abroad, the Nazi government was willing to allow those denominations some leniency. This was the starting point of the German Seventh-day Adventist denomination sacrificing integrity and basic denominational principles. The denomination “worked with German authorities to cultivate a better image for Nazi Germany in America in order to get better treatment at home.”[35] This was accomplished through the Adventist welfare program.

The Seventh-day Adventist welfare system was considered the best in Germany. Their organization in welfare made the Adventists stand out. Through their welfare system, the Adventist Church was able to show their “Christian principles and [their] patriotic loyalty to the state.”[36]  The Nazi government was satisfied with the work the Adventists were doing but not with the language. Instead of using “Christian” it was renamed “heroic.”[37] The Adventists welfare program was incorporated into the state’s National Socialist People’s Welfare Department. The incorporation went against their belief that church and state are to remain separate. The German Adventists welcomed the incorporation of their welfare program. They believed they could accomplish greater things and help more people. But with the incorporation, the Adventists had to obey the state’s laws, which were, no Jews, anti-socials or undesirables were to be given welfare.[38] The Adventists – on their own – added that no Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement members were to receive help.[39] The Adventists were not helping more people, in fact they were discriminating against the people who needed their help the most. Along with the welfare programs of the Adventist, the health reforms and racial hygiene became important.

The Adventists believed that along with their welfare program, their health ideals were leading the way for a new Germany. Adolf Minck, soon to be president of the German Adventist Church, said, “We are not unprepared for the new order. After all, we have helped prepare the way for it, and helped to bring it about.”[40] The problem with supporting the Nazi government in their health program was the government’s belief in the principles of Darwinism. The Adventists denominational stance was against Darwin’s principles. The German Adventists sacrificed this principle for the Nazi government. In order to gain favor with the Nazi government, the Adventists changed what was written in their publications and reformed their health message. The Adventists “frequently print[ed] negative comments about the Jews.”[41] They also tried to show that even though the Adventists teachings about the Sabbath seemed Jewish, they were not Jewish.[42] The Adventists also believed in the sterilization program. Direct statements and the reprinting of non-Adventist articles showed their support for sterilization.[43]

The mentally weak, schizophrenics, epileptics, blind, deaf, crippled, alcoholics, drug addicts – all were to be sterilized. ‘This law,’ an article in the Seventh-day Adventist paper Jugend-Leitstern said, was ‘a great advance in the uplifting of our people. [44]

The position of the German Adventists changed from “caritas, the caring for the less fortunate and weak, to elimination of the weak, as the work of God. Their strong right arm had led German Adventists to a volkisch position.”[45] The Adventists had built a “well organized, efficient welfare system that seemed particularly well suited to work with state authorities.”[46] This system allowed Hulda Jost to be recognized by the Nazi regime.

Hulda Jost was the director of Adventist welfare and the leader of the Adventist Nurses Association. The Adventist Nurses Association operated several nursing homes and provided staff for numerous hospitals within Germany.[47] In this position, she was able to establish contacts within the Nazi government and outside Europe. She was also a big supporter of Hitler and his regime. Because of her contacts, she was able to help the Adventist denomination survive during the early years. This also made her the best candidate to travel to the United States and speak on behalf of the Nazi government.

Hulda Jost’s trip to the United States was planned for 1936 because the General Conference quadrennial session was going to be held in San Francisco. An invitation was sent to Hulda Jost from the Adventist Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Between the Adventist Headquarters and the German Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Jost’s itinerary for her trip was planned. Jost arrived several months earlier to travel throughout the United States to speak on the German welfare services.[48]

Once in the United States Jost met with the General Conference vice president J.L. McElhany and her interpreter Louise C. Kleuser. Jost also had a meeting at German Embassy where she was told to avoid political controversy by speaking only on the achievements in the social service sector.[49] Jost spoke on the achievements of Germany under Hitler’s control to Adventist and other various organizations. It was not until April, that problems arose over Jost’s lectures. The problems started over a meeting with a pro-Nazi organization called Friends of the New Germany, which the German consul had set-up. The Chicago Daily News ran a story about Jost under the headline “Hitler Doesn’t want War, says Woman Leader.”[50] In the article she is quoted as having said that Hitler did not want war and the Germans were rearming because they feared Russia. When asked about the Jews, Jost said, “Hitler has merely wanted to take leadership away from the Jews but he doesn’t want to hurt them.” [51] This was the beginning of the General Conference problems with Jost.

The problems increased while in Denver, for Jost had alienated many of her listeners at a lecture by speaking so much about Hitler and the Jewish question.[52]  It seemed to the Adventist leaders that Jost was giving propaganda speeches about Hitler and his regime. She was no longer focusing on the Adventists or the welfare system in Germany. While still in Denver, Jost was pulled aside and asked by the Boulder sanitarium administrator to keep her lecture to the gospel because they did not want to hear any Hitler propaganda.[53] After her lectures in Denver, the General Conference decided it would be a good idea to keep a close rein on Jost. They gave warnings to each person Jost was to contact for her lectures. Even though the General Conference felt that Jost had become a liability towards the end of her lectures in the United States, the purpose of her mission had been accomplished. That mission was to “correct the distorted image of Germany.”[54]

Jost and the German Adventist leaders believed they had done their duty in the United States and hoped the Nazi government would be more lenient towards the Adventist denomination. But while they were in the United States, the German government passed a new decree requiring all school children to attend school on Saturday and the Adventist children were no longer allowed to study their bibles in class[55] There were also soldiers who were having difficulties in keeping the Sabbath.[56] Jost wrote a letter complaining to the high officials she knew about this new decree. She stated how the Adventists had been supporting the Nazi government and the work she was doing in the United States to improve their image. Joseph Goebbels even wrote a letter of his own to the Reich Church Ministry, but the decree was not revoked.[57] This was one case where Hulda’s connections and the trip to the United States did not help the Adventists. Yet there are other cases that show that having a powerful ally was useful.

One such case was about the investigation, by the Gestapo, of nurses belonging to the Adventist nurses association who had been dismissed because they were considered politically unreliable.[58] Jost became upset over their dismissal and did not believe the Gestapo’s report was correct, so she asked her friends in the Propaganda Ministry to look into it. The Propaganda Ministry’s report found the nurses to be “politically cleared.” Another example of Jost’s connections occurred in 1937, when a friend in the Church Ministry – who had a connection with the Gestapo – warned her about plans to dissolve the Adventist denomination.[59] With the help of her friends, Jost was able to contact higher officials in the Gestapo and stop the effort to dissolve the Adventist denomination.[60]

In March 1938, Hulda Jost passed away. Jost believed she helped the Adventist denomination survive the early years of Hitler’s regime. Jost knew she was lying while in the United States, when she said that the “Nazi authorities respected liberty of conscience as a matter of principle, and that [her] church enjoyed complete religious freedom.”[61] But she believed all her efforts and compromises to the Nazi regime would make her denomination free from the harassment of the Gestapo. The Adventist denomination was no longer separate from the state, because of Jost’s connections and actions. The Adventists believe in  the separation between church and state, but Jost went against this principle. Even with all of the compromises made in the early years, the Adventists had no security from the Nazi government. They sacrificed a main principle, separation of church and state, for nothing. Without security from the Nazi regime, the Adventists continued to make compromises with the regime.

World War II

The Second World War began when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  The previous year the Adventists began to remove “Jewish words” from their denomination. The word Sabbath School was no longer allowed and was replaced by the word Bible School.[62] Another word no longer allowed was the word Sabbath; this was changed within the denomination to Rest Day.[63]  With the outbreak of WWII, the government issued an ordinance preventing pastors from taking an offering in church or house-to-house.[64] There was a loophole to this ordinance, which said pastors were allowed to “levy fees on their members.”[65] This allowed small denominational pastors and churches to survive during the beginning of the war.

The Adventists in Germany continued to believe in Hitler and his regime. The publications in the late 1930s were about how Hitler was strengthening Germany and taking back the lands that had once belonged to Germany. They believed that God, himself, was leading this war and the readers of the Adventist journals could take comfort in that.[66] The East German Union president, Michael Budnick, informed the other conference presidents that Adolf Minck had been taken in by the Gestapo and informed that it was unacceptable conduct not to work on the Sabbath.[67]

The Church leaders believed that in order for the Adventist denomination to survive they needed to give instructions on April 30, 1940 to their pastors in a circular stating that “‘in total war there can only be total commitment and sacrifice.’”[68]  The problem with total war was the Church leaders did not want another split in the denomination that had occurred during WWI. In order to prevent this, the circular also told the pastors to instruct their members of the duties owed according to the Scriptures.[69] One of the Adventists’ fundamental beliefs is that the Holy Scriptures is the word of God.  The document stated that on Biblical grounds the church members should submit themselves to armed forces, because “God had commanded: ‘Submit yourselves, for the Lord’s sake, to every authority,”[70] which was quoted from 2 Peter. Along with 2 Peter, the German Adventists used Romans 13 to justify their continued support for Hitler and his regime. Romans 13 deals with the issue of submitting oneself to government authorities. The president of the East German Conference, W. Mueller, has been quoted as saying:

Under no circumstances did any Adventist have the right to resist the government, even if the government prevented him from exercising his faith. Resistance would be unfortunate because it would mark Adventists as opponents of the new state, a situation that should be prevented.[71]

This shows that German leaders did not want to resist the Nazi government. They did not want to be seen as opponents to the Nazi government. It was important to the leaders not to cause trouble in the Nazi regime. Even if the Nazi polices went against the denominational beliefs. The German Adventists leaders ignored or forgot the fact that they were supposed to submit first to God and His authority before submitting to a worldly authority.

This circular seemed to have worked, for in 1940 the government sent out a report naming the religious sects that would be allowed to continue to work in peace because they had limited themselves to religious teachings. The Seventh-day Adventists were one of the sects named.[72] Still this did not make the Adventists feel safe and they continued to compromise with the Nazi regime.

In 1941, the German government once again banned the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, but only in certain districts in the east.[73] These districts were Silesia, Danzig, and Lower Silesia. This caused some alarm within the Adventist communities, but there was nothing to be done to rescind the ban. In order to still have meetings, the Adventists met privately in members homes.[74] The S.D. noted that the Adventists in these districts were ignoring the ban, but little action was taken against the Adventists.[75]

The German Adventists continued to support Hitler and his regime until the end of World War II. The Adventists served loyally in the armed services, but most served in combatant positions and rose within the ranks.[76] This went against the denomination belief that if Adventists participate in war it must be in a non-combatant position. The Church leaders claimed, “the pastors and members of our Church stand loyally by their Volk and fatherland as well at its leadership, ready to sacrifice life and possessions.”[77] They were willing to sacrifice their life and possessions for the fatherland, but they were unwilling to do the same for their religious beliefs. The racial policies of the Nazi regime went against what Adventists believe, but the Adventists did not voice their concern. They also did not voice their objections about not having religious liberty in Nazi Germany. The German Adventists may have served their fatherland loyally, but they did not serve the Seventh-day Adventist denomination loyally.

After the War

The German Adventists continued to believe they had done the correct thing by compromising with the Nazi government. The survival of the church was what was important to the German Adventist leaders, and in order to survive they needed to compromise. Only in May 1948, did the General Conference take a closer look at the German Adventists’ actions during the Nazi regime. The reason why the General Conference took interest was because of a letter written by Major J.C. Thompson, chief of the Religious Affairs Section of the American Military Government in Berlin.[78] The letter wanted to know why the Adventists had not removed all the Nazis from their leadership positions within the denomination.[79] It also compared the Adventists to the Catholics, saying that the Catholics did not have to remove many people because of their strong opposition during the Nazi regime. There was no opposition from the Seventh-day Adventists.

The German Adventist leaders were upset with the General Conference for ordering members to step down from their positions because they had joined a Nazi organization. In order to survive in Nazi Germany, they argued, people had to join Nazi organizations. The German leaders believed the General Conference had no right to make judgments about them because of their actions during the Nazi regime. They were especially upset because the General Conference had “adopted and enforced a policy that prevented publication of any commentaries about Nazism or even fascism,”[80] in order to assist the German Adventists. The German Adventists did not like the fact they were being blamed when the General Conference was assisting them in their survival.

The General Conference had become alarmed in 1939, when they estimated that 10 percent of the German Adventists were working on the Sabbath.[81] The Sabbath is one thing that defines the Seventh-day Adventist church. With the start of World War II there was nothing the General Conference or the German Adventists could do. The German Adventists had sent out a circular telling its members to submit to the authority of the government. While this did not meet the demands of the Nazi government, it was used as evidence in the General Conference case against the German Adventists.[82]

There were several issues the General Conference had with the actions of the German Adventist leaders. Membership in a Nazi organization was of concern but not the greatest concern. The greatest concern of the General Conference was that “the denomination had been misled in its attempt to accommodate the demands of the Nazi state.”[83] The erosion of the Sabbath keeping in Germany led the General Conference to pass a resolution in 1946 on “Faithfulness and Sabbath-keeping.”[84] The German Adventists were still unwilling to admit they had been wrong. They still believed what they did was good, because it allowed for the survival of the denomination. The German leaders did not believe they had compromised any biblical principles.[85] The president of the German Adventist Church, Adolf Minck, wrote to the General Conference president, J.L. McElhany, stating, they had obeyed God’s law and the Ten Commandants. He also said that “‘they might have lived out the one and the other commandment a little different’ than in times of peace. ‘But holy did they remain to us.’”[86] This kind of reasoning of the German Adventist leaders made it hard for the General Conference to show that what they did was wrong. The German Adventist leaders interpreted the Scriptures to suit their situation. They believed that just because they were working on the Sabbath did not mean they had not kept it holy. They believed that “Scripture and Jesus taught clearly that the application of the law, rather then being absolute, was dependent on the circumstances.”[87] Their circumstance was either to work on the Sabbath or go to prison. This was not a viable choice for the German Adventist leaders. The German Adventist leaders never admitted that they made any mistakes, it was against their National pride and their continued rationalization of their actions during the Nazi regime.[88]

In conclusion, the German Adventists connected the Adventist denomination to the German state, which went against their belief of separation of church and state. They did this by allowing the Nazi government to take over the Adventists welfare program and dictating the policy. The Adventists were suppose to help those in need, instead they discriminated against those groups of people who needed their help the most. They refused to help the Jews, undesirables, and the Reformers because it would have cause trouble with the Nazi regime. The Adventists defended the Nazi regime and lied about the regime having religious liberty. Instead of speaking out against the Nazi regime and its treatment of the Jews, the Adventists remained silent. They remained silent to protect themselves. The Adventists also worked and sent their children to school on the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is one of the beliefs that make the Adventists different. This is one of the fundamental principle of the Seventh-day Adventists and when times got tough, they willing sacrifice this principle. The German Adventists willingly became combatants during WWII. The Adventist denomination understands that governments have a right to draft people during times of war, but the Adventists have always refused combatant roles. The German Adventists went against this policy and willingly accepted combatant roles. The Reform Adventists were not willing to sacrifice this principle and were sent to concentration camps or executed. In order to survive, the German Adventists sacrificed the standards and principles, which made them Adventists. The German Adventist leaders said they had to make the compromises in order to save the church. It is the standards, principles, beliefs, and integrity that make up the Adventist Church. By sacrificing the standards, principles, beliefs, and integrity of the Church did not save the Church, it weakened the Church. It showed how far the German Adventists were willing to go against what they believed and taught in order to save themselves. I believe the German Adventists leaders made these sacrifices in order to save themselves, not the Church. If they had wanted to save the Adventist church, the German leaders would not have compromised its integrity or gone against the church’s beliefs. It is always easier to make compromises then maintain integrity.

           

[1] Christine E. King, The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non- Conformity, (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1982), 92.

[2]  Seventh-day Adventists Believe… A Biblical Expostion of 27 Fundamental Doctrines, Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, (Maryland: Review and Herald, 1988), 4.

[3]  Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 16.

[4] Seventh-day Adventists  Believe, 206.

[5] Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 278.

[6] “Our History,” http://www.adventist.org/history/ (24 February 2002).

[7] Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, (Nampa: Pacific Press, 2000), 212-213.

[8] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 213.

[9] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 213.

[10] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 213.

[11] Seventh-Day Adventist Encyclopedia M-Z, ed. Don F. Neufeld, (Maryland: Review and Herald, 1996), 592.

[12] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[13] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 110.

[14] Cited from F.M. Wilcox, Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War, p. 58.  “Origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement,”<http://www.sdarm.org/origin.htm> (6 February 2002).

[15] “Origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement,” < http://www.sdarm.org/origin.htm >(6 February 2002).

[16] Erwin Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” Spectrum 8 (March 1977), 12.

[17] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[18]  Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[19] Schwarz,and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 620.

[20] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 110.

[21] “Origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement,” < http://www.sdarm.org/origin.htm > (6 February 2002).

[22] SDARM Good Way Series-Study 13- The SDA Reform Movement Origin <http://www.asd-mr.org.br/sdarm/way/gws-13.htm> (14 February 2002).

[23] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 14.

[24] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 14.

[25] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions,  96.

[26] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 15.

[27] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 96.

[28] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 96.

[29] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 110.

[30] Hans Fleschutz, ed., And Follow Their Faith!, (Denver: International Missionary Society ), 19.

[31] Roland Blaich, “Divided Loyalties: American and German Seventh-day Adventists and the Second World War,” Spectrum 30 (Winter 2002), 44.

[32] Zdravko Plantak, The Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist Social Ethics, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 20.

[33] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 101-2

[34]Roland Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad: The Case of Hulda Jost,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 35, number 4, Autumn 1993, (United States: J.M. Dawson Institute), 808.

[35] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 807.

[36] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[37] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[38] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[39] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 105.

[40] Adolf Minck, “Reformation,” Jugend-Leitstern, (April 1933), quoted by: Roland Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene: Adventists and the Biomedical Vision of the Third Reich,” Chuch History, Vol. 65, (Pennsylvania: Science Press, 1996), 427.

[41] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 16.

[42] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 16.

[43] Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and the Nazi Temptation,” 19.

[44] R. Sulzmann, “Erbkrank,” Gegenwarts-Frage, vol. 9, nr.1, 1934, p.8, quoted by: Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and the Nazi Temptation,” 19.

[45] Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene,” 437.

[46] Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene,” 427.

[47] Blaich, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene,” 427.

[48] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 809.

[49] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 810.

[50] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 811.

[51] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 811.

[52] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 811.

[53] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 812.

[54] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 820.

[55] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 820.

[56] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 820.

[57] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad ,”821.

[58] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 823.

[59] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 824.

[60] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 824.

[61] Blaich, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad,” 827.

[62] Jack M. Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble: German Adventists Under Nazi Rule,” Spectrum 8 (March 1977), 4.

[63] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 4.

[64] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 7.

[65] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 7.

[66] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 44.

[67] Roland Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism: The Case of the German Adventist Church,” Central European History, vol. 26, number 3, (United States: Humanities Press, 1994), 270.

[68] Mr. Blaich does not say who this quote is from, but it seems to be from G.W. Schubert to the General Conference Committee, Feb. 7, 1937. Or it is from the Circular to the Conference Presidents of the East German Union, Mar. 27, 1940. Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[69] Blaich “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[70] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[71] “An unsere Gemeindeglieder in Deutschland,” Der Adventbote, vol. 39, nr. 17, August 15, 1933, pp. 1-4. quoted by: Sicher, “Seventh-day Adventist Publications and The Nazi Temptation,” 15.

[72] Patt, “Living in a Time of Trouble,” 7.

[73] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 45.

[74] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions, 108.

[75] King, The Nazi State and the New Religions,108.

[76] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 47.

[77] Blaich, “Divided Loyalties,” 47.

[78] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 225.

[79] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 225.

[80] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 266.

[81] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 270.

[82] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 271.

[83] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 274.

[84] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 274.

[85] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 275.

[86] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 275.

[87] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 275-6.

[88] Blaich, “Religion under National Socialism,” 280.

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