Film, speakers, exhibit focus on 20th century opposition to suppression in Germany

Apr 03, 2014

North Central College hosts a distinctive two-day symposium, titled “Religious Opposition to Suppression: German Traditions,” on Monday and Tuesday, April 7-8, featuring a documentary screening, guest speaker, exhibition of historical posters and colloquium.

The guest speaker both days is Michael Lunberg, Consistorial Councillor in Berlin and Brandenburg, Germany. Born and raised in East Germany under a repressive communist state and political party, he was active in the opposition movement in the late 1980s, leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Because his father was a pastor in the Lutheran Church, his family was marginalized and denied advanced education. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Germany was unified, Lunberg studied theology. In his current role, he’s responsible for establishing, implementing and overseeing all aspects of Protestant religious study in the state of Brandenburg.

On Monday, April 7, at 7 p.m. in Koten Chapel, Lunberg will introduce the critically acclaimed documentary “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace” (2004). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant pastor and theologian and one of the most well-known resisters to the Nazi regime, was executed in 1944 just weeks before the end of World War II in Europe. After the film screening, Lunberg, Campus Chaplain Lynn Pries ’67 and Gregory Wolf, Dennis and Jean Bauman Professor in the Humanities and professor of German, will lead a discussion about the film and resistance to oppression.

Earlier on Monday, Lunberg will open a special exhibition, titled “Wir wollen freie Menschen sein! Der DDR-Volksaufstand vom 17. Juni 1953” (We want to be free people: The peoples revolt in the German Democratic Republic in 1953), on display through April 14 in the foyer outside Koten Chapel. Sponsored by the Federal Republic of Germany, the exhibition features 25 posters that chronicle the popular uprising against the Soviet-backed East German government in 1953, just months after the death of Joseph Stalin. The revolt was brutally suppressed by the Soviet Union and led to widespread imprisonment of activists.

On Tuesday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in Koten Chapel, a one-hour colloquium titled “Religious Opposition to Suppression: German Traditions” will feature three speakers. Wolf will speak on “Religious Resistance in the Third Reich: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller,” Lunberg will discuss “Religious opposition in the German Democratic Republic” and Pries will address “Bonhoeffer and Niemöller: their influence in the United States.” A discussion will follow and the Bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg will give an official greeting.

“An important part of the colloquium will be the dedication of a memorial plaque to Martin Niemöller,” says Wolf. “Niemöller, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was an important pastor, theologian and resistance fighter to the Nazi dictatorship.” Niemöller (photo, left) was imprisoned, 1937-1945, in various concentrations camps and survived to become an outspoken critic of worldwide military aggression and nuclear proliferation. The plaque commemorates Niemöller’s 1967 visit to North Central College and the 30th anniversary of his death in 1984.

Organized by Wolf, the two-day symposium and poster exhibition are cosponsored by the College’s Cultural Events program, Office of Ministry and Service, department of modern and classical languages and the German program.

They also are part of the College’s Global Human Rights focus, now in its final term of a three-year series and sponsored by the Office of International Programs and the Leadership, Ethics and Values program.

Other Global Human Rights events in April include:
•    “Disruption” (2014) documentary screening and workshop by filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis: Wednesday, April 16, 4 p.m., Harold and Eva White Activities Center
•    “Stuck” (2013) documentary screening and discussion with producer Dawn Stark of Both Ends Burning Campaign: Monday, April 21, 7 p.m., Harold and Eva White Activities Center