Linda’s parents were German musicians who were killed in a train accident just before WWII. Linda spent the next few years in a Catholic school in Berlin during the war. She would take bread to the French prisoners of war.
She invited me to a thanksgiving dinner one year where she had some Austrian friends from the old country coming to visit. The dinner was lovely and I enjoyed the cultural experience. After her friends left, Linda sat down with me and told me of the old days. She told me how she saw the propaganda of the Third Reich and how deeply it influenced her thinking. She also told me how wrong it all was, but how hard she struggled against her indoctrination. She told me how she knew it was wrong to hate Jews, but that she wrestled with her training as a young child to hate them.
She told me other things as well about how brutal some of the Allies were, particularly the Russians. She told me how she came to America and took speech lessons to remove the German accent, How she married and remarried. How evil her second husband was and how he was spending time in Leavenworth prison. Even colonels with spotless records can commit crimes. She told me of her hidden son who lived, yet as little more than a spectre, after a serious automobile accident cause by his use of drugs.
In all of this, she left the Roman Catholic Church and found solace in the gospel of grace. A military wife, she stayed close to the base and the transient families she knew there.
Her story is an echo of many. I’ve been fascinated with how such deceit as what was propagated by the Nazis can affect entire populations of people. Last night I watched a documentary following the children and grandchildren of Hitler’s top men as they fought against the dark legacy of their infamous fathers. It reminds me of the warnings in Exodus where the iniquity of the fathers will be visited on their children and grandchildren. Although their descendents did not commit the crimes of their fathers, they bear the weight of guilt among those who survived their father’s sins.
(Note: Being a foreign film, Lore isn’t rated. It should be rated R. There are adult themes and images. Beware if you plan to watch this.)
But I compare this also to the 2009 portrayal of the Diary of Anne Frank. My favorite portrayal was the 1980 version. After watching this one, I see how filtered the 1980 version was. The 2009 version showed a bit more the bratty side of Anne Frank. Are victims less sinful than their murderers?
On the one hand, we would note that a murderer committed a crime. It is no crime to be victimized. However, the nature that rises up to fuel a murderer is shared by all people. We are all products of a fallen world and subject to the dubious information that colors it darkly. It is perhaps more apparent to those with murderous parents, such as the offspring of Himmler, Goering and Goeth. They are more able to recognize the evil in their own hearts because of the astonishing sins of their fathers because of the difficulty in coming to terms with sins they did not commit. For that matter, think of the Jews born in captivity during the exile in Babylon and Persia. They didn’t commit the sins that sent their parents into exile, yet they must bear the burden of those sins.
For others, who have lived in relative peace by parents who are relatively decent people, sin seems to be more of an abstract thing. In this case, fairness becomes the arbiter of sin. It is easy to believe that which is fair is good and that which is unfair is evil. It is easy to arrive at the conclusion that being fair makes one a sinless person.
So it is hard for such people to understand that God is not fair. Jesus, the only truly innocent man, paid the price for the sins of evil people. That’s not fair. It can only be fully understood by people who truly see the depths of their own sin, whether that sin has resulted in action or harbored only in the mist of dark thoughts and desires.
Linda knew the sin she was capable of and fought against it while all around her swarmed the stench and decay of death in the sins of others. Let us not treat slavery to righteousness as a prison when we are hidden from our destruction as Anne Frank and her family was for a time. Let us regard our hideaway in Christ soberly and not despise it. Let us not be brats in the Body of Christ.
5. I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6. Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7. You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah (Psalm 32:5-7, ESV)