July 21, 2009
Seventy years ago on this month Paul Schneider, Germanys first Christian martyr under Nazi rule, died heroically in the concentration camp of Buchenwald. Seventy years ago from this month, Schneiders fight against the evils and wickedness of his age ended in glorious victory as he proclaimed the message of the gospel to those killing him. It is appropriate to remember such a brave man, and to be inspired by his bold stand against Nazi Germany.
Paul Schneider was born in a little town of Pherdsfeld, in northern Bavaria. His father was a Christian pastor and a loyal German citizen. Paul had great respect for his father and as a youth knew he wanted to go into the pastorate.
Paul fought for Kaiser Wilhelm II in World War I and, due to the battle wounds he received, earned the famous Iron Cross award from the military.
After the war, he attended seminary in answering the call to go into the ministry. As a young pastor, his life and the life of his country changed dramatically in 1933. That year, Adolph Hitler became the dictator of Germany.
From the beginning of the Nazi regime, Hitler targeted the German churches as a means of spreading his message and his own gospel. Unlike his fellow pastors, however, Paul Schneider refused to pollute the Gospel of Christ with the doctrines of the Nazi Party.
Schneider asked this question in a sermon to his congregation in 1934:
Where are those Christian consciences who judge righteously, who take the standard for their politics neither from National Socialism nor from socialism, but rather from the Gospel?
Despite immense pressure to stay quiet and not stand up for the truth of the gospel, Schneider became the lone vocal advocate of the Gospel and truths of Jesus Christ in his community.
He allowed only true Christians to partake of the Lords Supper and fought against incorporating the Nazi political agenda in his church.
After continuing Nazi persecution, Paul Schneider was arrested and sent to the Nazi concentration camp in Buchenwald, Germany.
Despite torture, beatings, humiliation, hunger, and terrible suffering, Schneiders message did not change.
He preached the Gospel from his confinement cell, and warned the Nazi guards and officers of Gods coming judgment on sin.
I must call the evil - of which I am a witness-as it really is and to make clear to the SS that they are not escaping the judgment of God, Schneider said of his protest against the Nazi guards. I am God's messenger in this prison.
Finally Paul Schneider met his martyrdom on July 18, 1939. Schneider fell into the grip of Ding Schuler, a Nazi doctor, known as the experimental doctor. Schneider was murdered by lethal injection and his faithful wife Margarete brought his body back home for burial.
In the presence of Nazi guards, this prayer was prayed over Paul Schneiders grave:
May God grant that the witness of your Shepherd our brother remain with you and continue to impact on future generations and that it remain vital and bear fruit in the entire Christian Church.
May the life and death of Paul Schneider inspire followers of Christ here and in Europe to stand up for the timeless truths of Jesus, living out their callings in modern society.
Benjamin Scott is a summer intern at Family Research Council. He is a student at Covenant College. Benjamin Scott and his missionary family lived in Germany for eight years.