Martin Rumscheidt, a retired theologian, visited Dublin on Monday. Born in 1935 in Nazi Germany, Dr. Rumscheidt did not learn his father was an integral piece of Adolf Hitler’s war machine until more than a decade after World War II ended. His father was an executive at IG Farben, a large chemical company that used slave labor to build and run its factories during World War II. Martin Rumscheidt has spent most of his adult life confronting the reality that his parents were Nazi industrialists and perpetrators.
As a child in Germany, he absorbed the lessons of the state - and the virulent antisemitism that was central to Nazism. It was only after immigrating to Canada and being exposed to an open society that he began to experience people and realize the stories he had been told were simply untrue. He shared a story of befriending a Jewish classmate while in college.
“We were playing billiards in the student union, and he banged his knee on the table, and he blurted something out, and I said, ‘ I didn’t know you spoke German.’ He said, ‘Martin, that’s not German, it’s Yiddish,’” said Rumscheidt. “At that moment everything I had learned in school, in church, and partly in my home, everything I learned about Jews was wrong. He didn’t cheat, he didn’t lie, and he had accepted me as a friend. I had been impregnated with anti-Semitism, and I didn’t know until I was 19.”
In rejecting these views, Dr. Rumscheidt’s professional studies focused on how Christianity can allow for such atrocities as the Holocaust and reforming the liturgy to prevent a recurrence. In talking at morning meeting, he said, " you don't have to try and change the world, just try and change your neighborhood... A neighborhood is a place where everyone is welcome. Faith is trust in others; and, hope is friends who will help you."
Dr. Rumscheidt spoke at morning meeting and visited with a number of the history classes throughout the day.