Siegfried Knappe’s book “Soldat“(his account of life in the German Army) provides rare insight into the clever ways tyrants manipulate their people. While Stalin and Hitler may be long dead, the propaganda techniques their henchmen used are alive and well. Specifically, the exploitation of bitterness and guilt are still quite common in our culture, and are frequently used against Christians.
After World War I, many Germans were angry about the humiliating Versailles Treaty their country had signed. This treaty forced Germany to accept full responsibility for the war and to give up territory to France. This harsh treatment caused a great deal of bitterness among Germans, and Hitler eagerly exploited it to gain power.
Knappe recalls a conversation that illustrates how this happened. Two men were arguing about Hitler, and one of them expressed concern about Hitler’s persecution of Jews, along with his taste for military gambles. The other ignored these issues, and defended Hitler because he reclaimed what Germany had lost to France. This man’s resentment blinded him to the threat of a budding tyrant.
People might wonder how this is relevant today. In the modern world, resentment is frequently directed against Christians. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the abortion debate.
Abortion supporters frequently attack Christian opponents as “religious extremists” who wish to impose draconian laws from the middle ages upon them. By comparing pro-life Christians to medieval witch-burners and asserting that they “want to control your body,” abortion supporters whip up resentment among their followers. They then use this anger to galvanize people into action, as was seen recently in the protests against Texas’ pro-life bill.
Just as Hitler used the bitterness to eat away at the German people, so the pro-choice activists incite bitterness against Christians.
How can Christians best counteract this? We should strive to present our ideas “with gentleness and respect,” and prove our opponents wrong by our actions. Give no one any reason to be bitter.
Bitter resentment was not the only means of control Knappe witnessed. Guilt was also used, but this time, the perpetrators were none other than the Red Army. Knappe surrendered to the Soviets in Berlin at the end of the war and was promptly sent to a prison camp. Once there, he and the other inmates were subjected to an intense brainwashing campaign intended to overwhelm them with guilt.
Knappe recalls that the Russians attempted to convince them of “the guilt of every individual German” and constantly told the prisoners that they were all “war criminals.” Regardless of their individual actions, each man was held responsible for Nazi atrocities. Those who indeed had innocent blood on their hands were especially vulnerable to this propaganda, and often collaborated with their Communist overlords.
Knappe tells of an officer who had executed civilians in Norway and began to work for the Soviets to alleviate his conscience. While the aiding vicious Red Army was arguably worse than his previous crimes, this man was blinded by his desire to sooth his conscience.
A similar tactic is used today in the debate over gay rights. Media outlets regularly depict all Christians who disagree with gay marriage or other issues involving homosexuality as hateful, ignorant bigots, equating disagreeing with the gay political agenda with vicious hatred against gays.
Just as every German was held responsible for war crimes, so all Christians are accused of being radical hate-mongers. Many Christians feel guilty and embarrassed upon hearing Biblical ideas distorted in this manipulative light.
Adding to these feelings is the fact that many churches have mishandled homosexuality in the past. As a result, some of them attempt to assuage their consciences and “make up” for these sins by supporting political agendas such as gay marriage, or by silencing those who disagree with homosexuality. (A recent example might be some Christians who recently spoke out against Phil Robertson.)
Supporting “gay rights” out of guilt over bigots makes no more sense than supporting Soviet aggression because of past Nazi atrocities.
In short, the exploitation of bitterness and guilt Siegfried Knappe saw the Nazis and Soviets so adeptly utilize is a technique commonly employed by the American media today. We all should remember to guard our minds against such manipulation.
– Andrew Rock, Contributing Writer