|Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer
||[Aug. 23rd, 2010|04:08 am]
I'm really enjoying his new Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas. He is a really good writer and the bio does read like a novel, as the jacket blurbs say. He's also got these amazing one-line flourishes that have me literally laughing out loud:
p. 348 – After Germany's invasion of Poland: "for two days the British engaged in a diplomatic back and forth, but at some point someone lent Chamberlain a vertebra, for against Hitler's calculations, on Sunday, Great Britain declared war."
p. 356 – "Behold, that unpredictable magus, Adolf Hitler, would now with a flourish produce from his hindquarters a withered olive branch and wave it before the goggling world."
One of the best features of the book, I think, is how it highlights the situation in Germany during these years. There was more activity in the German Resistance than we are taught in school, but it was like walking a tightrope. Many just could not fathom the depths of evil with which they were dealing, and Hitler and his Nazis were very good at deception and taking advantage of the old Prussian morality and honor. At Metaxas is able to describe the situation with remarkable prose:
"….What [Admiral] Canaris [head of the Abwehr, German military intelligence, and a leader in the resistance] could not have known at that civilized meeting was that it would continue and would get much worse. It would not only destroy Germany, but would do so more completely than he had ever dared to fear. The German culture and civilization that he, Donanyi [Bonhoeffer's brother-in-law], and Bonhoeffer knew and loved would be obliterated from history. Future generations would be convinced that nothing good could ever have existed in a country that produced such evil. They would think only of these evils It would be as if these unleashed dark forces had grotesquely marched like devils on dead horses, backward through the gash in the present, and had destroyed the German past, too.
"Canaris and the others in the German military leadership thought that Hitler's bestial nature was unfortunate, but they had no idea it was something that he cultivated and celebrated, that it was part of an ideology that had been waiting for this opportunity to leap at the throats of every Jew and Pole, priest and aristocrat, and tear them to pieces. The German generals had not seen the dark river of blood bubbling beneath the surface of the new Germany, but suddenly here it was, gushing like a geyser. Despite all the hints and warnings, it was too gruesome to be believed.
"Hitler's hour had arrived, and on the first of September, a brutal new Darwinism broke over Europe: the Nietzschean triumph of the strong over the weak could at last begin. The weak who could be useful would be brutally enslaved, all others would be murdered. What seemed so offensive to the international community—that Hitler would take the territory of the Polish people by force—was nothing compared to what the Nazis were doing. Their racial ideologies demanded more than territory; Poland must become a giant slave labor camp. The Poles were to be treated as Untermenschen (subhumans). Their lands would not merely be occupied; they themselves would be terrorized and broken into utter docility, would be dealt with as beasts. The Germans would not tolerate the possibility of failure or the slightest manifestations of mercy. Brutality and mercilessness would be aggressively cultivated as virtues."