Book Note: Annemarie S. Kidder, ed., Ultimate Price. Testimonies of Christians Who Resisted the Third Reich

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 19, Number 2 (June 2013)

Book Note: Annemarie S. Kidder, ed., Ultimate Price. Testimonies of Christians Who Resisted the Third Reich (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012), 177 Pp., ISBN 9781570759550.

By John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

kidder-ultimateThis short selection of texts written by seven notable Germans who resisted the Nazi onslaught against their Christian faith will be a helpful introduction for beginners in this field. While the testimonies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been known in English translation for many years, it is good to have these brief and excellently translated extracts from the writings of lesser known figures, such as Sophie Scholl, the Munich student executed for her protests against Nazi totalitarianism, or of Jochen Klepper, the well-known novelist, who committed suicide with his Jewish wife in 1942. On the Catholic side, the Jesuit Father Alfred Delp was also executed for his involvement with the July 1944 plot to overthrow Hitler. His prison letters are, like Bonhoeffer’s, an inspiring witness to his enduring faith. Less known to English-speaking readers will be the testimony of Franz Jägerstätter, the Austrian farmer, executed for his refusal to serve in Hitler’s army, or the courageous stand of the Berlin Cathedral Provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg, who prayed publicly for the persecuted Jews and for the prisoners in concentration camps, for which he was arrested and sent to prison. The only survivor, the Jesuit Father Rupert Mayer, was already arrested in 1937 for his provocative sermons critical of the regime. His refusal to be silenced led to his being imprisoned again in 1938, and then to being placed under house arrest in a distant monastery in 1940. The common theme of all these witnesses was their determination to protest against the injustices of the Nazi regime, even though their motives for doing so varied widely. They were all well aware of their isolation in adopting such views, but were resolved to defend the integrity of their Christian beliefs. Their readiness to challenge the majority’s obeisance, gullibility or fearfulness is what makes these testimonies so compelling. This little book will undoubtedly help to uphold their memory among a wider public, in the hope that their sacrifices will resonate far beyond their own times or their original homeland.