Ambivalence, Association, and Avoidance as Christian Responses to Nazi Antisemitism and Racial Policy

On November 9, 2017, I had the honour of participating in the annual Kristallnacht Pogrom remembrance sponsored by the Calgary Jewish Federation and the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews, at the Riddell Library, Mount Royal University, Calgary. I presented the following lecture, entitled, “Ambivalence, Association, and Avoidance as Christian Responses to Nazi Antisemitism and Racial Policy.” I have added some images and links to this web version, to illustrate and expands on some of the ideas I discussed. To listen to an audio version of the lecture, please click here.

I would like to begin by thanking the Calgary Jewish Federation and the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews for their kind invitation to me to speak tonight about the German churches in the Third Reich and Christian responses to the antisemitism and the racial policy of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist regime. I would also like to thank Mount Royal University for the use of this lovely venue: the Riddell Library.

Burning of a synagogue in Rostock, Germany. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

My lecture tonight arises out of four distinct contexts. The first one we’ve already recognized. We meet on November 9, the 79th anniversary of the Kristallnacht Pogrom—the Nazi-orchestrated attack on Jewish synagogues, businesses, homes, and families. Continue reading


Remembering the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Anxious Heart

I was given the honour of speaking at our 2017 Reformation Day chapel at Ambrose University. Here’s the text of my reflection. You can view the video here (my talk begins around the 22:00 mark).

My wife Colleen has been urging me to dress up like Martin Luther today for Halloween, so I finally agreed. I decided to dress like a middle-aged professor. Here it is!

Long before there was Halloween, of course, there was Hallowed Even, or holy evening, the day before All Saints Day—the day Christian churches in so many traditions remember those who have gone before in the faith—what Hebrews 12 would call that great cloud of witnesses.

Martin Luther as an Augustinian Friar, workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

But today, October 31, is special because it is the day which by common consent has come to represent the beginning of the Protestant Reformation—that revolution within Christianity sparked by Martin Luther, the German priest, an Augustinian friar, who you saw walking rather stiffly across the Playmobil video, and we’ve learned a little bit how he struggled against the sale of indulgences, which diminished the role of repentance among Christians, and how this eventually led to his excommunication and his outlawing, and how that eventually split Western Christendom into a whole variety of confessional and denominational expressions. And so most of us here today worship in churches that flow from Luther’s Reformation, and even if you worship in a Catholic church, your church too has been fundamentally shaped by Martin Luther and his work. Continue reading

The Historical Context and Nature of Luther’s Protest

Martin Luther statue, Berlin. Source: author’s personal collection.

In the spring of 2017,  I was invited to give a lecture about the historical context and nature of Luther’s protest. The video of my  “Taste of Reformation” lecture from April 3, 2017, can be seen here. This printed version includes the images adds a little more detail on the Cranach painting “The Vineyard of the Lord.”

A Taste of Reformation: The Historical Context and Nature of Luther’s Protest

By Kyle Jantzen, Ambrose University

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it is fitting that we look back on the event—both to understand something of what happened back in 1517, and to reflect on what it might mean for Christians and churches today. That is the purpose of tonight’s lecture and discussion. In that spirit, I’d like to start things off with a few thoughts about the historical context in which the Reformation took place. After that, I’ll describe the process by which various late medieval grievances expressed by Luther and many others evolved into a fundamental ecclesiastical break between Luther and his followers and the Church of Rome. Finally, I’d like to identify some of the key themes in the early phase of the Reformation. Continue reading

Yes, You Can: Studying History and Finding a Career

Twice each year, at our Ambrose University Open House days for prospective students and their parents, I know I will have several conversations about the economic value of a history degree. Almost without fail, parents ask this question–and quite rightly, since they are usually the ones investing tens of thousands of dollars into their children’s education. They want to know that they’re making a good buy and that their kids won’t end up under-employed. Continue reading

Life Interrupted: History and the Possibility of Life Lessons

The other day, I was working with students to analyze a series of primary historical documents. It’s something we do often in history classes, but as we were discussing Jewish responses to the Holocaust at the end of the war, a different conversation started up inside my head. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the way that tragedy impacts us, and how we recover.

The context was a discussion of texts from the pre-publication version of a new reader on Jewish responses to the Holocaust, which scholars from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are soon bringing to press. The document in question was a polite but determined letter written in uneven English by a young Polish Jew named Julius Lewy. Composed at the end of May 1945, it begins “Dear Liberators” Continue reading

How Contemporary White Nationalists Reference Nazi Germany

On Tuesday, November 22, 2016, The Atlantic posted an article entitled “’Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President Elect.” It concerns a November 19 National Policy Institute (NPI) conference in Washington, DC, along with video footage excerpted from the speech of NPI president Richard B. Spencer. The NPI is an “alt-right” (i.e. right-wing extremist) white nationalist organization based in Arlington, VA, just outside of the US capital. Though it was founded only in 2005, the NPI is a part of a stream of North American racism, antisemitism, and support for Nazism that dates back to the 1930s, and which has never entirely disappeared. In his speech, Spencer drew heavily on the symbols, language, and ideology of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. Here is how:

1. “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory!” Continue reading

Researching German Immigration to Western Canada

At Ambrose, history faculty and students research various local history projects. From 2016-2018, we are engaged in a project called “Refugee Stories: The Immigration and Resettlement of Germans in Western Canada, 1947-1960.” We are partnering with members of various German-Canadian communities in Calgary and throughout Alberta, combining scholarly research and oral history interviews to discover the history and memory of the emigration of Lutherans, Baptists, Mennonites, Catholics and others from Germany and/or Eastern Europe and their resettlement in Canada during the fifteen years after the end of the Second World War. This research will be community-based and participatory, which means that members of the German-Canadian community will be invited to bring their knowledge and expertise about this history into a partnership with university researchers.

We are delighted that “Refugee Stories” has the support of Continue reading