Book Review: A Theatre in Dachau

Knoop, Hermanus. A Theatre in Dachau. Translated from the Dutch by A. Petter and Roelof A. Janssen. Neerlandia, AB / Pella, IA: Inheritance Publications, 2001. 143 pp; $14.95 CN, $12.90 US. paperback.

After reading this book it is hard to believe that anyone would want to deny the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Those dreadful years of Nazi oppression in the Netherlands are catalogued here in an amazing way. Not only Jews – but faithful ministers of God’s Word were touched, too. And from the caldron of torture the Lord received some of His servants to Himself: Revs. Kapteyn, Sietsma, and Tunderman. Others came through it, refined in God’s crucible.

Rev. Hermanus Knoop, the author, was serving as Minister of the Word of the Reformed (Gereformeerd) Church at Rotterdam–Delfshaven in 1940. Because he would pray for the legitimate government and the Queen of the Netherlands, the Gestapo took him. He wrote; “I was in the clutch of the Beast for the Word of God and for the Testimony of Jesus Christ. And this was to no other purpose than that I should become a theatre to the world and to angels and to men”(p. 19). In his preface to this book, Dr. Klaas Schilder explains that the term “theatre” is a “spectacle.” He became a spectacle for Christ!

Rev. Knoop outlines the background leading up to his imprisonment, his imprisonment at Scheveningen, and then his removal to Dachau in April 1942.

For a year and a half he remained there until his sudden discharge. The time there was filled with torture and pain. Oh, how God’s own suffered! He wrote, “Very few understood that I was carrying on a struggle of principles, and that my resistance was one of faith for the sake of my church, country, and people” (p. 59). Toward the end of the book where Knoop is writing about the Holy Spirit’s work at Dachau, and after explaining something of Dachau’s torture, he wrote:

all the horrors that I have pictured for you–and I have not told all, but only a snatch here and there–you may forget. But that which I am about to narrate now may not be surrendered to oblivion. For these are “the praises of the LORD and His strength, and His wonderful works that He has done”. . . I must tell them so “that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Ps. 78:4b-8) (p. 127).

Then he adds: Indeed, in Dachau the God of grace did wonders of grace by His Word and Spirit every day. Oh, it was indeed a dreadful time for me that I spent there, and yet it is not at all a hollow phrase when I say that I would for no amount of money have missed this time of my life, since it was so unspeakably rich in grace. I saw God there. The LORD was in this place. It was a house of God and a Gate of heaven (p. 127).

Of course, we ask how these things could happen, and where was the church in these days? He writes that Christians complained about the pro–German spirit alive among the church leaders and in the church periodicals. Then he gives this assessment: The Reformed (Gereformeerd) Churches do not stand out among the Christian churches for courageous and tenacious resistance for the faith. Later a highly placed Gestapo testified that the Reformed Gereformeerd) Churches were the most pliable…This grief was for the corruption rooted at the centre of the institution (p. 71).

A sad commentary, indeed!

The beauty of this book is found in the constant Christian testimony found in it. It is more than an account of atrocity; it is his personal reactions as a firmly founded believer to whom the Holy Spirit continued to apply God’s marvelous Word.

Every believer should read this little volume. This reviewer could hardly put it down because it is so moving.

You may purchase a copy of this book at a Christian Bookstore or through Inheritance Publications, Box, 154, Neerlandia, AB, Canada TOG 1RO, or Box 366, Pella, IA 50219.

Rev. Jerome Julien is the Stated Clerk of the United Reformed Churches in North America.