During a recent trip into Germany I became convinced that our people in Germany are still loyal and faithful Adventists. They have gone through very difficult times. One of the German conference presidents refers to these years under Nazi domination as "times of distress." They certainly were times of trouble. Seventh-day Adventists, like many other religious groups, suffered much under a regime of terror that one cannot imagine who has not gone through it. Fortunately, it ended before greater catastrophe came to the Adventists.
When the Allied military government granted my request to enter Germany last December, I wondered how I would find our people. What attitude would the ministry reveal? I had known many of our workers during the years I had been connected with the work in Central Europe. When I left Germany in 1936 I had seen trends that had caused me concern. What effect would the war have had?
I entered Germany on a Friday in the last month of 1945, and sperit the first Sabbath in one of our larger churches in southern Germany. Their nice chapel has been destroyed by bombs. They are now meeting in two adjoining rooms in our conference office building. As I sat there that Sabbath morning, listening to a regular, old-time Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath school, and then heard the brethren express their complete confidence in the leaders of the work in America, after I had brought them a message from the General Conference, I knew that our church in Germany had not failed.
Here were people who had gone through years of terror and indoctrination by a ruthless government. They had been subject to radical nationalistic as well as antireligious propaganda. One would expect to find evidences of isolationism, separatism, and skepticism. But they welcomed the message from the brethren of a country that had been at war with theirs with a warm and open heart, and their religious attitude was that of old-time Adventists.
When I met the president of one of the conferences, he said to me, "We want contact with our brethren in America. We want Sister White's writings again." The president of one of the unions cannot travel freely, because of insufficient railroad service. So he is conducting a local evangelistic effort in a small town near his home. But he has to walk six miles each way to get to this place and back. He is not so very young any more, either. Another conference president is still using his bicycle to visit his churches, because he is not able to get around by train.
During the war our ministers were heavily restricted in their work. I learned of two of our workers who had been taken to a concentration camp, where they died. In many places Sabbath services could only be held late in the afternoon, because it was forbidden to interfere with the work of others, even if it was only by coming together for worship or singing religious songs. Public efforts could not be held at all. All work had to be done privately and confined to personal visits.
Now there is greater freedom again. Church services and other meetings can be held at regular times, provided the church hall has not been destroyed. The general public may be invited, too, but the meetings cannot be held late in the evening because of the curfew. Large-scale advertising is not yet permitted, but there is a growing interest, and souls are being won for Christ.
One of the material difficulties is the lack of facilities for baptism. Most of our church halls with baptistries have been destroyed. Swimming pools or other opportunities for baptism are not available, because they have been damaged beyond repair.
Another difficulty is the lack of Bibles and other religious literature, as there has not been any printing of Bibles and religious literature in Germany for years. Some ministers have had to work without a Bible at times, because their Bibles were destroyed when all their belongings burned. But the work is gathering momentum again. The population in general is sullen and downhearted, but our people have a hope in their hearts that others do not have.