A story worth hearing

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2011

LaPlace – Hilmar von Campe, a former tank gunner in the German Army and POW, will be speaking at Living Water Baptist Church, 625 Woodland Drive, LaPlace. With four appearances scheduled over three days, von Campe will share his riveting experiences Feb. 13 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., as well as Feb. 14 and 15 at 6 p.m. The one-time prisoner of war whose courageous escape led him across seven borders to freedom offers his view from a ringside seat to one of the darkest periods in human history. He is expected to share his experiences of what it was like to live as a German citizen under the Nazi regime. 

Just 7 years-old when Hitler came to power, von Campe remembers the intimidation of those who attended church, the pressure to conform to the Nazi way of life and the reprisal against his parents for refusing to join the Nazi party.

“The main preoccupation of my parents during the Nazi years was to save us children from Nazi indoctrination,” von Campe recalled.

At 10-years-old, like every other German child, he was required by law to enter the Hitler Youth, a youth group similar to other youth organizations — but with the Nazi framework. He participated in Hitler Youth activities for several years and, at age 18, was drafted into the army where he served in the Yugoslavian theatre fighting the Soviet military. Upon Germany’s surrender, von Campe was captured and became a prisoner of the Communist government of what was then Yugoslavia. Eventually, he staged a sensational escape with two other men and miraculously found his way home.  

However, the destruction of Germany, the loss of his father in a Soviet concentration camp, the death of his elder brother in the war and his family’s expulsion from their home in Eastern Europe replaced the love and security he had once known. As he attempted to rebuild his life with the rest of his countrymen in a war-torn nation, von Campe found himself a student of economics at the University of Hamburg. Yet the most provoking lessons were those he learned outside of the classroom. He was faced with the same question everywhere he turned, “How could this happen?” And as he struggled to understand, he discovered that the Nazi system was built on lies.

“I lied for personal gain and they lied for political power. But a lie is a lie,” von Campe explained. “The bystander who looked the other way was as responsible as the criminal or the politician for what happened in Germany.”

Though somewhat controversial, his comparisons of Nazi thinking and morality with the current attack on Western Civilization and the battle for truth were not created in an ivory tower. They are deeply insightful, highly relevant and especially unique because they are based on von Campe’s personal experiences under Nazi rule. Well equipped to draw his conclusions, von Campe’s latest book, “Defeating the Totalitarian Lie,” connects the dots, fills in a number of historical blanks and compares the shocking emergence of the unthinkable in Nazi-Germany with some of the more disturbing trends in America today. 

For more information, please call Amaris Genovese at 504-400-7530.