Christian History Institute

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items tagged with world war ii

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Articles

23 Feb 2017

Recommended resources

by the editors | Issue 121

BOOKS

General books about soldiers, the home front, and faith in World Wars I and II (and sometimes other wars) include John Costello, Virtue Under Fire (1987); Gerald Sittser, A Cautious Patriotism (1997); Michael Burleigh, Earthly Powers (2005) and Sacred Causes (2007); Michael Snape, God and the British Soldier (2005) and God and Uncle Sam (2015); David Fromkin, A Peace To End All Peace (2009); Jonathan Ebel, Faith in the Fight (2010) and G. I. Messiahs (2015); and Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War (2014). 

Many books tell the...

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23 Feb 2017

Christmas Miracles

by various | Issue 121

During Christmas 1914 spontaneous gestures of goodwill erupted in some places on the Western Front.

On Christmas Eve the firing practically ceased. I think both sides understood we were going to have a day off. Through the night we sang carols to one another. … When dawn arrived we started putting our head above the parapet and waved to each other. On our left was a brewery occupied by the Germans and to our surprise we saw a German come out and hold his hand up; behind him were two rolling a barrel of beer. They came halfway across. …

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23 Feb 2017

Spreading light in a dark world

by Jared S. Burkholder | Issue 121

In 1944, the same year Allied forces stormed the beaches of occupied Europe, the congregation of Boston’s historic Park Street Church began giving up some meals during Lent. They sent the money they would have spent on food to the War Relief Fund, an initiative created by the newly formed (1942) National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). They were not alone in their desire to alleviate the suffering in war-torn Europe. Now known as World Relief, this fund was just one of many new Christian service organizations spurred into being by the...

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23 Feb 2017

John Birch: fighting missionary

by Don Haines | Issue 121

Hearing the name “John Birch” today, many think of the John Birch Society. But the real John Birch had nothing to do with the anti-Communist group of the 1950s that named itself in his honor.

When 22-year-old Birch, graduate of Mercer University and a Baptist seminary in Macon, Georgia, arrived in Shanghai in Japanese-occupied China in 1940, he’d come to be a missionary to the Chinese people and began by learning the world’s most difficult language in record time—no surprise to his family back in Georgia who always saw Birch as the...

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23 Feb 2017

Mitsuo Fuchida: from Pearl Harbor attacker to Christian evangelist

by Matt Forster | Issue 121

Commander Mitsuo Fuchida (1902–1906) of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service is perhaps best known for leading the first wave of bomber and fighter planes during Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. At 7:40 a.m. on December 7, 1941, he sent up the green flare from his plane signaling the order to attack; and he later ordered his radio operator to send the message “Tora! Tora! Tora!,” informing the Japanese that they had achieved complete surprise. (In 1970 Tora! Tora! Tora! was  the title of a cinematic dramatization of the attack.) 

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23 Feb 2017

Christ and the remaking of the Orient

by Darren Micah Lewis | Issue 121

The sun flowed through the low-hanging clouds above the USS Missouri . Tokyo Harbor was abuzz with hundreds of military vessels, all awaiting the unconditional surrender of Japan. September 2, 1945, was a day that so many at home had prayed for. This ceremony marked the official end of almost four years of hostilities between the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers. World War II was now left to history. 

[MacArthur in the Philippines—Wikimedia]

the man who returned

At first the Japanese had refused to accept the terms of the Potsdam...

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23 Feb 2017

Melting down the bells: Orthodox and atheists in Russia

by Paul E. Michelson | Issue 121

Karl Marx famously defined religion as “the opiate of the people,” a kind of Prozac for the proletariat. Lenin called religious ideas “unutterable vileness … of the most dangerous kind.” The result? Overall a policy of unremitting hostility toward the Russian Orthodox Church under Lenin and Stalin, occasionally tempered for pragmatic reasons.

Just prior to World War I, the Russian Orthodox Church boasted 100,000,000 members, more than 54,000 churches, 57,000 priests and deacons, 1,500 monasteries, 95,000 monks and nuns, and extensive state...

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23 Feb 2017

A war story: Romania above all

by William D. Pearce | Issue 121

“One has to be sorry for the poor Romanian people, whose very marrow is sucked out by the Jews. Not to react against the Jews means that we go open-eyed to our destruction. … To defend ourselves is a national and patriotic duty.” So spoke Patriarch Miron Cristea (1868–1939), the leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church between the world wars. What should have been a bright time for Romania, following the treaties of World War I, which were generous to the country, had devolved into political, economic, and cultural crises. Romanian leaders...

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23 Feb 2017

A War Story: Italian Catholics and a Fascist Europe

by Matt Forster | Issue 121

In World War II, 97 percent of Italy’s population identified as Roman Catholic. Some joined Mussolini’s Fascist Party and enlisted to fight in the Italian Army, but some also risked imprisonment or death to protect Jews and supported the resistance. Most would have been people without much influence, men and women who went to Mass, prayed, worked, and did good deeds for their neighbors. Most of their stories will never be told.  

[Mussolini and Hitler, 1940—Wikimedia]

the popes and the dictator

The individuals in Italy who receive the...

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23 Feb 2017

Dietrich Bonhoeffer sees the handwriting on the wall

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Issue 121

Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl, for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him.

CH 121Order Christian History #121: Faith in the Foxholes in print.

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23 Feb 2017

Karl Barth preaches on the Jewishness of Jesus

by Karl Barth | Issue 121

Christ belonged to the people of Israel. That people’s blood was, in his veins, the blood of the Son of God. That people’s character he has accepted by taking on being human, not for the sake of that people or of the superiority of its blood and its race, but for the truth, i.e. for the proof of the truthfulness, the faithfulness, of God. … Jesus Christ has been a Jew. He has himself once said of himself: To the lost sheep from the house of Israel and to them alone is he sent (Matt 15:24; cf. 10:5–6). For us who are not Israel, that means a...

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23 Feb 2017

The church of the bystanders

by Christopher Gehrz | Issue 121

In 1998 Israeli scholar Yehuda Bauer was invited to speak before Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. “I come from a people who gave the Ten Commandments to the world,” he told the legislators. “Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: thou shall not be a perpetrator; thou shall not be a victim; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.”

[anti-Nazi poster—Wikimedia]

During the 12 years of the Third Reich, Christians broke each of Bauer’s commandments. A few—both too...

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23 Feb 2017

World wars Timeline

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 121

The political backdrop of this issue

1914

June 28 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Duchess Sophie, are assassinated by Serbian activist Gavrilo Princip.

July 28 Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, officially launching World War I.

1915

[American sailor reading the Bible in World War II—https://www.archives.gov]

April 24 Genocide against Armenians begins in Turkey.

May 7 German U-boat sinks British liner Lusitania .

1916

May 16 Sykes-Picot Agreement divides the Middle East between Britain and France.

July 1 ...

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23 Feb 2017

Service for peace

by Steven M. Nolt | Issue 121

“What’s the matter , Burkholder? Why don’t you answer the judge?” the army major snapped at 22-year-old Paul Burkholder. Perched on a small chair, the young man sat in a semicircle of officers and lawyers sent to Fort Mead, Maryland, in 1918 to question those who refused to don uniforms as soldiers.

The major kept roughing Burkholder up, “until he got me in a position that I couldn’t scarcely talk [and] my voice trembled.” Finally the young man explained that he wasn’t afraid of fighting, but “if I have to take the uniform, I’m identified as...

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23 Feb 2017

No atheists in the foxholes?

by Kevin L. Walters | Issue 121

In German prisoner-of-war (POW) camp Stalag 4c, a small group of imprisoned US troops gathered for an improvised Christmas Eve worship service in 1944. Since they lacked a chaplain, a young man reluctantly volunteered to lead them in prayer. 

Clarence Swope, who was present at the service, recalled, “It was the most moving religious experience I ever had.” Though they prayed for the safety and comfort of their families rather than their own, Swope described leaving the gathering with an exhilarating feeling of complete faith that all would...

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23 Feb 2017

A sacred Conflict or an unfortunate necessity?

by Barry Hankins | Issue 121

In 1940 , the year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, America was already inching, if not striding, toward involvement in the war that was raging in Europe. That January Fortune , a major secular magazine, published a scathing editorial against America’s clergy for their failure to support the war. 

Fortune editors pointed out that before World War I, preachers had opposed the evil of war; but during that war they had exhibited a holy war mentality in their anti-German propaganda. Then, after World War I, the editors claimed, clergy...

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22 Feb 2017

Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 121

The Austrian-born Hitler, baptized Roman Catholic, served in the German Army in World War I. After the war he entered politics alongside other disillusioned veterans. He became interested in a German nationalist organization, and his skills as an orator and organizer earned him the leadership of what he renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party. 

[Hitler—Library of Congress]

Nazi involvement in a failed 1923 coup led to Hitler’s brief imprisonment, where he wrote his autobiography Mein Kampf, or My Struggle (1925). In it...

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22 Feb 2017

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945)

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 121

Roosevelt, an Episcopalian, came from a wealthy New York family and rose quickly to political prominence. He served as assistant secretary of the navy under President Wilson, ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 1920, and then withdrew from politics while battling polio. 

[Franklin Delano Roosevelt—Wikimedia]

Undeterred by his illness, Roosevelt eventually reentered the political fray by winning the governorship of New York in 1929 and then the presidency in 1932. He married his fifth cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1905; despite several...

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22 Feb 2017

Josef Stalin (1878–1953)

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 121

Iosif (Josef) Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili came from the working class; his mother sent him to a school that trained Russian Orthodox priests, and he later went to seminary on a scholarship, but his studies appear to have led him to question and abandon his faith. He discovered the writings of Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) around 1900 and joined the Bolshevik group within the larger Marxist movement.

[Stalin—Library of Congress]

Exiled to Siberia several times, the young revolutionary was drafted into, then rejected by, the Russian Army during...

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22 Feb 2017

Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 121

Young Winston’s parents were a British lord (Lord Randolph Churchill, chancellor of the exchequer) and beautiful Brooklyn socialite Jennie Jerome. He fought in the British Army as a young man and, in his early thirties, married Clementine Hozier, an affectionate union producing five children. Churchill was officially Anglican, but attended religious services only occasionally.

CH 121Order Christian History #121: Faith in the Foxholes in print.

Subscribe now to get future print issues in your mailbox (donation requested but not required).

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22 Feb 2017

The Crisis of the West

by Jeffrey B. Webb | Issue 121

A wrong turn on June 28, 1914 , plunged the world into war. 

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, rode through the streets of Sarajevo in Bosnia, a province Austria-Hungary had taken from the Serbs just six years earlier. Unbeknownst to him, seven Serbian nationalists were hiding in the crowd to attempt an assassination. The first try—a bomb—missed, injuring an officer. The rattled archduke kept his scheduled appointments, but chose a different route back, intending to go to the...

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22 Feb 2017

Editor's note

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait | Issue 121

World War I and World War II, for me at least, have often presented themselves as a series of names: Woodrow Wilson, Alvin York, Corrie ten Boom, Anne Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We all know heroic stories; some of us remember the sagas of specific battles. 

Even more than 70 years after the end of World War II, these wars still form us. Many of our print readers are from the United States, and many online readers hail from other nations that fought in these conflicts. As world wars, they transformed the face of the globe politically and...

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21 Feb 2017

Letters to the editor

by Our readers | Issue 121

Taste and see

Thank you for your leadership of Christian History, which is truly a blessing to me and to many other Christians! The most recent edition—The Wonder of Creation—particularly touched my heart. Your Editor’s Letter was insightful and beautiful… . Please prayerfully consider a future edition of Christian History about food. It would be wonderful to hear the story of how Christians have found Him in food, through the generations.—Edward Joseph James, MD

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21 Feb 2017

did you know

by the editors | Issue 121

The vicar is a pacifist 

G. A. Studdert-Kennedy (1883–1929), an English slum vicar who became a World War I chaplain, developed an unusual way to get the attention of troops—distributing Bibles and Woodbine cigarettes, earning him the name “Woodbine Willie.” Once he put up a post with the sign “The Vicarage.” Soldiers walking by commented, “Look—the bloody vicarage.” Studdert-Kennedy poked his head out and said, “And here’s the bloody vicar.” When he died at 46, he was so famous that King George V sent condolences. Some ex-soldiers sent a...

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30 Nov 1991

Radical Resistance

by Richard V. Pierard | Issue 32

MOST GERMANS welcomed Adolf Hitler’s appointment as German chancellor (prime minister) on January 30, 1933. Few were more jubilant than Protestant church leaders. They welcomed the possibility of a national regeneration.

The dean of the Magdeburg Cathedral exulted in the Nazi flags prominently displayed in his church. “Whoever reviles this symbol of ours is reviling our Germany,” he declared. “The swastika flags around the altar radiate hope—hope that the day is at last about to dawn.”

Some churchmen even referred to the “turning point in...

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