Book Note: Hartmut Ludwig, Suddenly Jews

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 22, Number 1 (March 2016)

Book Note: Hartmut Ludwig, Suddenly Jews: The Story of Christians whom the Nazi racial laws classified as Jews, and of the Good Samaritans who came to their aid (the Bureau Grüber), trans. Martin Nicolaus (Berkeley: Duplex Press, 2015). ISBN: 1517109914.

By John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

This translation of Ludwig’s larger account An der Seite der Entrechteten und Schwachen, reviewed in CCHQ in June 2013, now makes more easily available in an English translation the same story of a small and heroic group of German Protestants, mainly of Jewish origin, who managed to rescue a tiny proportion of those caught up in the Nazi Holocaust. It has been capably translated, but omits all the footnotes and the bibliography, presumably in order to reach a much wider constituency of English-speaking readers.

Ludwig-SuddenlyWhen Hitler came to power in 1933, the majority of German Protestants loyally supported him, believing his promises to restore Germany’s place in the world, and to save them from the danger of Communist revolution. His rabble-rousing attacks on the Jews were dismissed as mere propaganda, which would be abandoned once the regime settled into power. But in fact the Nazis only increased their anti-Semitic campaigns, both by executive decree and by legislation, leading to the vicious outbursts of November 1938, known as the Kristallnacht. Grievously affected were those in the Protestant churches who now found they were classified as Jews on racial grounds, regardless of the fact that they or their parents had converted to Christianity in earlier years. They could expect no help from the pro-Nazi authorities in the majority of Protestant churches. Only in the minority Confessing Church were to be found some men and women who rallied to their support. In the crucial circumstances in later 1938, the Provisional Leadership of the Confessing Church selected a Berlin pastor, Heinrich Grüber, to organize relief efforts for these Protestants of Jewish origin throughout the country. He set up his own independent office, and immediately began to search out opportunities for those affected to emigrate. At the same time, he sought to provide assistance to those who could not or were not willing to leave the country. But in 1940 this assistance was halted by the Gestapo. Grüber’s chief assistant was murdered, along with fourteen other helpers deported to extermination camps. Fortunately, Grüber himself survived and continued his ministry in post-war Berlin.