The First Freedom They Take Away

A quarter of a century ago, a twenty-six year old pastor-theologian gave a radio address at the Potsdamerstrasse radio station in Germany. His speech was innocently titled “The Younger Generation’s Altered Concept of Leadership.” The talk was about the fundamental problems of leadership as understood by the young Germans at that time. Before the talk was over, the speaker was cut off from the air waves.

The name of the speaker was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The speech was made in February 1, 1933, exactly two days after the national elections where Adolf Hitler was democratically elected as chancellor of Germany. We all know how the story turned out. Hitler became a ruthless dictator and Bonhoeffer was executed 23 days before Germany was liberated in 1945.

One thing I came to understand: in oppressive regimes, the first freedom they take away from the people is the freedom of speech. From there, everything could spiral downhill.