Often I have wondered how an entire society could become as corrupt as Nazi Germany. Were the citizens so financially desperate that they would overlook the murder of millions of Jewish people in order to maintain a government that promised prosperity? Had the church become impotent because its leaders had rejected the inerrancy of the Bible and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Had racial hatred blinded the people to the magnitude of the sins they were tolerating? What part did cowardice play? Did so few people speak out against the Nazis because of peer pressure? Did they want to fit in with everyone else so badly that they were willing to be silent about horrible injustices being committed before their eyes?
Such questions came to my mind last weekend when Janet and I rented the DVD Valkyrie. The movie tells the story of German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the leader of an attempted coup and failed assassination of Adolph Hitler in the summer of 1944.
Amazingly, the coup nearly succeeded. At key points in the attempted coup, several important governmental and military leaders needed to make a choice: Would they join the coup and save the lives of millions of innocent people, or would they remain loyal to Hitler and save their positions in the government? Most of them struggled with the decision-making process. Some came to the conclusion that saving their jobs was the "right" decision. Some chose to try to save the lives of other people. However, even many of the people who chose to oppose Hitler hesitated at important junctures when quick decisions were needed. As a result of wrong decisions and hesitation when the time came for decisive action, the coup eventually failed. The war would last for several more months with hundreds of thousands of innocent people continuing to be slaughtered.
Based on a true story, Valkyrie unveils the life of a German hero who knew what was right and acted without hesitation when the time came to make a decision to save people's lives. If only more people had possessed his moral clarity and courage at the beginning of Hitler's rise to power, the Holocaust and World War II could have been avoided.
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).