Paul Johnson, writing for Forbes, makes a frightening comparison between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. He points out that prior to World War II, Hitler sent German forces into the Rhineland (then a country west of Germany), then into German-speaking Austria, and then into the Sudetenland (areas of what was then Czechoslovakia).
Hitler claimed that he was only honoring the wishes of German-speaking peoples who wanted to be part of his Third Reich. Similarly, Putin claims that his incursion into Crimea came at the request of Russians there. Observers worry that he will do the same in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
Winston Churchill condemned Hitler’s advance, but British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated a settlement with the German dictator in 1938. The next spring, Hitler used the territories he had gained to launch an invasion of Czechoslovakia, then Poland. World War II was the result.
Is history repeating itself, this time with a Russian president determined to create an empire for himself?
This headline makes the possibility even more alarming: “Leaflet tells Jews to register in East Ukraine.” Pro-Russian militants in the area have taken over a government office and are attempting to make Ukraine part of Russia. Now Jews emerging from a synagogue say that masked men handed them leaflets ordering them to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee, or face deportation and confiscation of their assets. The Ukrainian Prime Minister has denounced this action, as has U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. However, a Jewish resident says, “the text reminds me of the fascists in 1941.“
Martin Niemöller, the anti-Nazi German pastor who spent eight years in a concentration camp, later lamented:
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
It often seems dangerous to speak truth to power and safer to avoid conflict. But the opposite is actually the case: “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), while “a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Proverbs 12:19). The apostles who refused to stop preaching the gospel (Acts 4:20) have been remembered and admired for 20 centuries, while the authorities who threatened their lives have vanished on the dust heap of history.
How should Americans stand against tyranny and for the Jewish people? Please share your thoughts in our comments section. And choose to glorify Jesus today by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), knowing that God’s word “shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
When last did you pay a price to serve Jesus? What risk is he asking you to take for his Kingdom today?