Martin Niemöller was a Lutheran pastor in Germany when the Second World War began. He is immortalized for being the one who said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Imagine that you’ve just been set free from an oppressive concentration camp. You’ve been ruthlessly worked and have seen friends and loved ones die in the process. How would you react to your freedom?
It’s a safe bet that Viktor Frankl responded differently.
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If you were creating your own government, what would you do first? Would you build a strong military? Secure honest leaders? Write just laws or ensure a viable economy?
East Germany didn’t start that way. Their first official act was to apologize to the world.
The peace had been a fragile one at best. For 3 years, Rwandans focused on putting the genocide of 1994 behind them, but the Tutsis still did not trust the Hutus who had killed their family members, and the Hutus feared the Tutsis were secretly planning revenge. It seemed the nation would remain divided forever.
But reconciliation would start with a Hutu teenager who had a gun pointed at him.
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“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” declares Tolstoy in War and Peace. The truth – and consequence – of that statement has revealed itself time and time again throughout the travesties in mankind’s history.
Sadly, it was true of an entire church in Nazi Germany.
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Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish-born priest who affected the lives of thousands around the world through a ministry he founded within the Roman Catholic Church. But his real legacy centers on a selfless act for one man named Francis…at a place called Auschwitz.
Immaculée Ilibagiza could hear the killers calling her name. For weeks, she and seven other women silently hid in a tiny shower, trying to escape the holocaust raging through their native Rwanda. The genocide had already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
For days on end, she wondered if she would survive…or die like the rest of her family.
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For most of us, learning proper syntax and correct grammar was as exciting as watching grass grow. We diagrammed sentences, studied subject/verb agreement…and hated every minute of it. But for Immaculée Ilibagiza, a young African girl caught in a civil war, learning English became a matter of life and death.
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One of the Holocaust’s most endearing and celebrated figures was Corrie ten Boom. She survived the horrible persecution of the Third Reich, and then spent the rest of her life helping millions find forgiveness through her travels and writings.
But her greatest struggle came after the war when she met one of the guards who savagely mistreated her in a concentration camp.