Museum Fellowship Book Reviews

 
 

book cover used by permission of University of Missour PressQuakers and Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness 
Hans A. Schmitt
Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1997

Reviewed by:
Mary Mills

Foreign Language Teacher, Retired
Verga, New Jersey

 
 

Reading Quakers & Nazis is like drawing a breath of fresh air after being confined to the stale atmosphere of a small, closed, windowless room. In contrast to many works on Nazi Germany, most notably Goldhagen's Hitlerís Wlling Executioners, Quakers & Nazis offers hope during one of the most dismal epochs of human history. After introducing the Quakers as a religious sect seeking God, peace, and an end to human suffering, Schmitt sets the stage for Quaker heroism under the Nazis by providing a detailed description of the physical aid given by Quakers to impoverished Germans whose suffering the rest of the world did little or nothing to mitigate. The best remembered instances of physical aid given by the Quakers are the "Quaker feedings". In Berlin during the summer of 1920, 630,000 mothers and children were provided a daily meal due to the efforts of the Quakers, most of whom were from England. Due in large part to these humanitarian acts, the seed of Quakerism was planted in Germany. By the time Hitler came to power, almost 200 Germans were members of the Quaker Yearly Meeting in Berlin. 

The clerk of the German Yearly Meeting during the Nazi period, Hans Albrecht, is mentioned frequently by Schmitt as one who "continued to resist government harassment and intrusions, especially the continuing surveillance of his mail." According to Albrecht's daughter, Etta, there were a few occasions when incriminating evidence was right under the noses of the Gestapo. Fortunately for Albrecht and those whom he helped, the Gestapo never found any incriminating evidence during its searches of the Quaker meeting house and Albrecht's house. Like other Quakers, both foreign and German, Albrecht was subjected to numerous arrests by the Gestapo and, at one point, lost his job because of his subversive activity. Tolerance and humanitarianism were, after all, considered subversive by the Nazis. 

The bravery of the Quakers in their opposition to the Nazis extended well beyond Germany into Austria and the Netherlands and involved establishing a school in the Netherlands for the children of those persecuted by the Nazis. Through their undaunted efforts to conceal, feed, educate, and provide safe passage to those persecuted by the Nazis, the Quakers produced an inner light that penetrated the outer darkness of Nazism. 

This book can be a useful resource for students as well as teachers. It provides information on a little known aspect of the Holocaust, the involvement of Quakers in aiding people fleeing Nazi persecution.

 

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