Flossenbürg churchgoers

General view of Flossenbürg concentration camp after liberation by the US Army 99th Infantry Division, April 1945

General view of Flossenbürg concentration camp after liberation by the US Army 99th Infantry Division, April 1945

 

EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT

“We were wretched, despairing figures as we struggled to drag
ourselves along the white-covered streets. Suddenly, the loud noise
of church bells rang in our ears. Before us, lay the church proclaiming
Sunday. Although we retained only a pitiful glimmer of life and
hope, the chimes of the bells touched something barely alive in each
of us. Did this signify anything? Had the priest rung the bells on this
peaceful Sunday morning to call together the good citizens of this
small town to protest against inhumanity and indignity in general,
and this awful procession of corpses in particular? We really wanted
to believe, to hope that the world was at last alerted from its indifference
and had eyes to see this dreadful drama as it passed before
them – the martyrdom, torture and death of helpless people. Could
they not see, hear and feel that in the face of this unfathomable mass
murder they could not and should not any longer remain silent?
Just then the gates of the church opened and a crowded mass
of people burst out. The service must have just finished. The faithful
slipped off the pavement into the road, the same street where we had
encountered the church-goers. The SS quickly tried to force us on to
the left side of the street with a few blows from their batons. They
passed by very close to us, this God-fearing community in their best
Sunday dress, men, women and children, all pious clutching their
prayer books in gloved hands.
They lowered their eyes and looked away as they passed by. Was
it fear or indignation, dread or contempt? We could only believe it
was their contempt; that was all we had been accustomed to for so
long. And the bells rang louder and louder, really near, really loud.
They seemed to ring directly from the hearts of the pious, those children
of God, who only seemed to know about “love your neighbour”
and compassion from the pages of the Bible. They calmly surveyed
our misery and with hardened hearts observed us like statisticians
contemplating criminals.”

BystanderChristianityFlossenbürg camp
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