Guest post

John Richards recently contacted me because we were both students at UCSB long ago! John was a student in Professor Stuurman’s classes. I, of course, immediately requested that he should contribute to the Blog from time to time. He responded with what follows:

Hi Bob,

Two of my elementary school friends have been discussing current events in the US from a religious perspective and recently, Buddy (Mary), who is active in the Unitarian church in Port Townsend sent a note with a link to a recent Politico article to Charlie, a quite devout Christian who lives in Sacramento. For some reason, Buddy included me in this correspondence. I read the article she posted below and after several days of pondering her question, I decided to respond. So far we haven’t heard from Charlie to get his perspective.

Here’s my reply:

This is a very interesting, yet disturbing phenomenon. The rise of Qanon in our country boggles my mind. I’m not a religious person, a result of my biological studies and work in a scientific field, but I have always been fascinated with the different religions and spiritual beliefs. One of my favorite university classes was “the Bible as English Lit”, taught by a Rhodes scholar, Douwe Stuurman, who studied philosophy in Germany in the 1930’s and saw first hand the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. He became a prof at the Santa Barbara College, the precursor of UCSB, but when the US entered WWII, he joined the army and went back to Germany on a mission to try to preserve as many as the books an Nazi documents as he could find. Here’s an excerpt about Stuurman’s work during the war – from “ Cultural Policy in a Time of War: The American Response to Endangered Books in World War II” by Kathy Peiss:
“ One of the more intriguing examples is Douwe Stuurman, who had been a Rhodes scholar and teacher at Santa Barbara College before he joined the army as an ordinary GI. On his own, he began retrieving Nazi books and pamphlets; future generations needed to know this history, he believed, and these publications would provide concrete proof. One day Stuurman showed his archive to Sargent Child, and the amazed Monuments officer could not contain his excitement. Stuurman had “run from Vienna to Nürnberg like a brilliant open field runner—-he has gained access to cellars, attics, storerooms—-thru [sic] the help of German and Austrian scholars—-and by playing no tricks with them so that they learned to trust him—-has come up with the beacon.” With an unofficial nod from his major, who quietly loaned him trucks, shelving, and space in a warehouse, Stuurman had collected over 100,000 items documenting the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. The principled call to preserve and document was, for Stuurman, a necessary rejoinder to looting and indifference.”

Here’s the reference cited in the article:
Sargent Child to Luther Evans, September25,1945,box33,folder:Representative Stuurman, Douwe, Library of Congress European Mission Records. Among many works on the fate of Jewish books, see Rose (2001), Shavit (1997), Simpson (1997).

After reading the Politico article again, I looked up Christian nationalism (see US) and Christian fascism on Wikipedia. Very interesting – check them out when you have time.

I also looked up Elizabeth Neumann’s background:

One of my primary concerns is to assure all religious and non-religious citizens that the federal and state governments adhere to the principle of the “separation of church & state”.

Best, John


PS – Have you ever seen the movie Monuments Men?

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