Ordinary People Become Murders
During World War II, Captain Wolfgang Hoffman, a dedicated German soldier, disobeyed an order from the high command. He refused to sign a declaration that would obligate him not to steal, plunder or take anything without paying for it during the German occupation of Poland. Captain Hoffman wrote a letter of protest stating, “As an officer, I regret, however, that I must set in my view against that of the battalion commander and am not able to carry out the order, since I feel injured in my sense of honor. I must decline to sign a general declaration.”
Captain Hoffman was a dedicated German commander of one the three companies of Police Battalion 101 stationed in Poland. Battalion 101 was responsible for exterminating at least 57,000 Jews by deporting them to the death camps, cramming them into freight cars or shooting them. Hoffman was an enthusiastic executioner responsible for leading his men—ordinary Germans for the most part—who had no affiliation with the German SS and most of whom were not members of the Nazi party. Typically, they were married, with an average age of 36.5 and had children. But when sent to Poland to serve as henchmen to get rid the Jews, along with the unwanted, the sick and the weak, they had no problem shooting unarmed men, the aged, women, children and even babies in their mothers’ arms. This battalion, like many others, also formed genocidal patrols in order to annihilate more Jews. They took great pleasure in hunting down and killing innocent people on the spot—in their homes, in the streets—wherever they could find them. There were occasions when Battalion 101 organized atrocious group slaughters by rounding up thousands of Jews, selecting able men to dig a huge grave, and then marching their victims in a long procession to a firing squad, where they were shot and buried in a mass grave. These soldiers thought nothing of what they were doing because they were convinced that Jews had no worth. As a popular expression in the German quarters went, it was done “for our daily bread.”
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, a respected Holocaust historian from Harvard University, researched how the German police battalions operated, proving that many of these executions were committed in the most casual and inhumane manner. The executioners were given a free hand when it came to brutalizing Jewish hostages. Goldhagen states, “Such killings were so routine and so expected that the Germans treated them as part of the normal fabric of life and, therefore, did not see it as noteworthy.” While the estimated number of innocent Jews killed is 6 million, that may be too conservative. Who could accurately count such horrific loss of life when the killing was done with such reckless abandon?
Is it not ironic that Captain Hoffman, a zealous murderer of Jews, believed himself to be a man of high moral character? He would not steal or pilfer because, in his own mind, a German soldier was above such behavior. But without any hesitation he could brutally murder other human beings, including women, children, and infants in the tens of thousands with no guilt! Hoffman’s letter, according Goldhagen, was “astonishing and instructive” and served as the impetus for his thoroughly historical and scholarly book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996).
Motivated to Kill—Sanctioned by Darwin’s Evolution
How did it become okay for ordinarily “moral men” to do the unthinkable, as Captain Hoffman’s letter exemplifies? In Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Goldhagen makes this simple statement, “People must be motivated to kill others, or else they would not do so.” While many isolate the blame for the Holocaust solely on Hitler and the Nazis, it was carried out with such organized brutality and precise planning and resulted in the loss of so many innocent victims—at least 6 million Jews and 5 million other “undesirables”— that Goldhagen believed the cause needed to be revisited.
Historically, there was always evidence of anti-Semitism in the Western world, particularly in Germany, but when the conditions were right in this nation, like a “perfect storm,” it grew to a new level. Along with a charismatic and maniacal leader, historians have also pointed to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, which almost destroyed Germany’s economy. Its citizens were angry, hungry, poor and looking for a leader with a solution. Hitler rose to power in 1933 as the apparent savior of Germany. At this point, Goldhagen surmises that the Jews not only served as convenient scapegoats for the Nazi party but for the entire German culture, to the extent that the German people became Hitler’s willing dupes.
Hitler and the Nazis used the historic anti-Semitic prejudice to manipulate the German people. They used outright lies, disdainful illustrations and deceitful films to create a powerful distaste for the Jewish population, until getting rid of the Jews became a “moral” solution to Germany’s cultural problems. Goldhagen states that, “Nazi anti-Semitism was integral to the beliefs of ordinary Germans.” In short, the only way the Holocaust could have happened is with the active participation of willing executioners like Hoffman, and the passive support of millions of ordinary German citizens.
However, another factor that helped transform German society was what its children were learning in the Nazi schools of the 1930s and early 1940s. Along with the same type of anti-Semitic propaganda used on the general public, students were taught the evolutionary model, where the racist theory of eugenics was introduced as science. Eugenics is the application of Darwin’s principles of natural selection to the human race, which says that the “better breeds” of people should dominate the world and eliminate the “weaker.” The resulting educational outcome ensured a passionate hatred for the Jew, who was the first on the list of the “weak” followed by the feebleminded, gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities and others. In the Darwinian model, there was no need for these groups; they would drag the human race down and waste resources that should benefit the strong.
So, in no way can Darwinian evolution be omitted as an important factor in the perfect storm that led to the Holocaust. It gave Hitler, the Nazi party and the German people the scientific legitimacy to select their racial desirables and do away with others. The theory of evolution devalues mankind’s worth as a special creation made “in the image of God,” as Genesis 1:27 says, and who is “crowned with glory and honor,” as it says in Psalm 8:5. In evolutionary teaching, man is nothing more than an animal that evolved over millions of years to his present state from some sort of primate. Such thinking is extremely dangerous.
Ernst Haeckel: Darwin’s Disciple
A key figure that cannot be ignored and who aided in legitimizing the murder of 11 million “undesirables” through the false science of evolution, is Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), a German biologist, physician and artist. He was like a former version of Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins — men considered major figures in popularizing evolution as science to the common man. Darwin’s European disciple, Haeckel took Germany and Western Europe by storm, being read even more than Darwin. His books were entertainingly filled with fanciful imagery and provocative illustrations. But Haeckel is now known for taking great liberties with the truth and for creating images and statements promoting Darwinian evolution that were devoid of any scientific data.
One example is the fraudulent embryonic illustrations that first appeared in Haeckel’s book, The History of Creation, published in 1868. He is well known for forging different animal embryos to make them look more progressively alike, promoting his theory of “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny,” or embryological development as a replay of evolutionary ancestry in the womb. The actual embryos are distinctively different, which supports a biblical view of “kind after kind,” as stated 10 times in Genesis 1. In fact, in September 5, 1997, the prestigious scientific journal, Science, published a study titled, “Haeckel’s Embryo’s: Fraud Rediscovered,” which concluded that his drawings were intentional deception. Dr. Michael Richardson of St. George's Hospital Medical School, London, England, wrote, "This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud.” Unfortunately, these same fraudulent embryo illustrations appeared in student textbooks for over 100 years as “scientific” proof for evolution.
In the same book, Haeckel hired an artist to draw an ape-man-like family, including a man, woman and child, without a trace of evidence. He named them, Pithecanthropus alalus, which means “Speechless Ape-men." They were drawn without a fossilized bone or any artifacts, and based only on what Haeckel imagined “prehistoric man” looked like. Along with these drawings he advanced the racism that was implied in Darwinism, reasoning that since man was an evolved species, there had to be lower forms linked to primates. His transitional form was the black African, who was featured in Haeckel’s highly controversial illustrations of human evolution with a primate morphing into an African and finally into a Caucasian. Haeckel also took great liberties in drawing the first evolutionary tree of life with a branch of creatures he called “Monera,” which demonstrated how life arose from inert matter. He fictitiously created 30 drawings of progressively evolving Monera that appeared in a German scientific journal in 1868, the same year The History of Life was published. However, a chemist disproved the existence of Monera in 1875, stating that these “creatures” were merely a form of gypsum that easily dissolved in alcohol. Nonetheless, these imaginary illustrations still appeared in the last publication of Haeckel’s book in 1923.
In Haeckel’s eyes, his wholehearted belief in evolution gave him a moral “right” to distort reality, resulting in deceptive lies, including his Biogenetic Law, which stated that humans evolved solely from nature over millions of years from simple life to complex. Haeckel was merely taking Darwinism to its logical conclusion, proposing to speed human evolution along by getting rid of the weak. Tragically, his deceitful science was eventually used to lend an air of legitimacy to the murder of 11 million Holocaust victims. I document all of this in my book, Evolution’s Fatal Fruit: How the Tree of Life Brought Death to Millions, which is available through our website at www.creationstudies.org.
Captain Hoffman and Battalion 101 was the product of all these conditions. The lies and deceptions about the Jewish people, along with indoctrination in Haeckel’s Darwinian theories, caused them and millions of their countrymen to become adherents of a twisted, irrational moral code. They became brute beasts devoid of conscience and respect for their fellow man.
But, there is another contributing factor to the Holocaust that is often overlooked: the total depravity of man. By our own nature we are utterly sinful, and left alone we all have the potential to become “willing executioners.” This is essential to understand. Goldhagen came close in stating that the Holocaust required the compliance of ordinary German citizens. But this susceptibility wasn’t unique to the German people. When men fail to honor God and obey His Word and seek to replace him with their own “wisdom,” it always results in tragedy — if not atrocity. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:21, 28 & 29a, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness…”
Human history, especially in the 20th century, is replete with this lesson, and we should never fool ourselves into thinking that it can’t happen in our country. As long as we are on this earth, we know there will be always a battle between good and evil. Because of this, it is extremely important for us to know God’s Word and to believe in the righteousness of Christ and not in our own.
If the willing executioners of Germany had believed that God was the Creator of all men and had honored His Law (“You shall not kill.”), there would have been no Holocaust.
One can only wonder if the way our education system is currently indoctrinating our children with the lie of evolution and forbidding any mention of God, if there won’t be the same result as in Nazi Germany—or in the Communist Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and other nations that embraced the godless ideas of Darwin and Haeckel in the 20th century. Are we leading coming generations down a road of moral depravity, making them susceptible to a charismatic leader who will lead them further astray? This is a time when we all need to be lifting our nation to God in constant prayer, and when the Gospel needs to be boldly preached, starting with the Truth about our gracious Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This month, we are offering two wonderful resources. The first is a beautiful book with full-color illustrations entitled, One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and Culture, by Dr. Carl Weiland, the Managing Director of Creation Ministries International, and writer/editor of CMI’s Creation Magazine and Journal of Creation. One Human Family takes a comprehensive look at the topic of race, including genetics, DNA, the Tower of Babel and language, the history of racist teachings based on Darwinian evolution and much more. Along with the book, we will also send you a DVD of one of Dr. Weiland’s dynamic presentations, “Origins in the Modern World: Why it Matters? A Generation Destroyed,” which covers the importance of understanding our origins based on the biblical account of Genesis. We believe these excellent items will strengthen your faith and help you be a bold witness for Christ. As always, our ministry relies on your partnership to continue our work.