Leaving aside the wisdom of having a Mormon leader deliver a sermon, Liberty University should apologize for Glenn Beck’s questionable history.
At about 10 minutes into the video of his sermon at Liberty, Beck went to a table on the stage with various documents. He first picked up a collection of colored triangles used by the Nazi’s to identify why prisoners were placed in work and death camps. He then identified several Bibles, saying one of them put an end to the Salem witch trials. He then told his version of how Joseph Smith died, pulling out what he claimed was Joseph Smith’s pocket watch. While not everything Beck said was incorrect, there were some significant problems. I am going to take each one in a separate post.
Let’s start with Beck’s incorrect identification of the people required to wear the purple triangle. Beck said at 10:04:
or this one, what got you sent to the concentration camps for the purple triangle? You were a Bible scholar. The Bible is the enemy to fascists.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were required to wear purple triangles in Nazi concentration camps. The Nazi’s called the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bibelforscher (Bible student/researcher) and viewed them as dangerous because they refused to salute Hitler. Beck’s presentation is misleading and obscures the fact that many Protestants and Catholics stood by while the Witnesses were persecuted. Perhaps Beck confused the terms “Bible students” with “Bible scholars,” but the way he used that term without identifying the Jehovah’s Witnesses gave the impression that orthodox Bible teachers were rounded up. While a very small percentage of orthodox Christians (Baptists, Adventists, pentecostals, etc.) were taken into custody, the overwhelming majority of purple triangle wearers were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Given that Beck said he vacationed at Auschwitz and has studied the history, it seems incredible to believe he was unaware of these facts.
According to Auschwitz commandant Rudolph Hoss,* the Jehovah’s Witnesses were particularly striking in their behavior. They were trustworthy and resilient and seemed to revel in their affliction as giving them a chance to stand for their beliefs.
Out of respect for the sacrifices made by Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think Beck should publicly acknowledge how misleading his presentation was at Liberty. The Bible may be a problem for fascists but in practice there was one group the Nazis singled out because of the way the Witnesses interpreted the Bible and lived out those beliefs.
*Hoss, Rudolph, Steven Paskuly, (Ed.), (1996). Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz. New York: Da Capo Press.