A Lesson from General Dwight Eisenhower on the Importance of Christian Witness

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of France and Germany in 1944-5.  He went on to become the 34th president of the United States from 1953-1961.

Eisenhower told his soldiers to be good witnesses of all they saw during World War II, specifically of the Holocaust.  Why?  He had enough insight to recognize that if the embers of a historical event fade from the memory of first-hand witnesses, they will never be rekindled.  Eisenhower visited concentration camps with reserve but compelled by the necessity to be an eye-witness of the horrors that occurred at these places of indescribable human suffering.  Following one of his visits, he sent a cable to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, General George C. Marshall.  It said, in part:

The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit [to Gotha] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda” (Michael Hirsch, The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust; emphasis added).

Eisenhower was prophetic.  While few, some have dismissed the Holocaust as a fabrication.  The Holocaust was an awful event that has been propagated by those who were first-hand eyewitnesses.  As followers of Christ we have the glorious event of the gospel that was propagated by the apostles who were first-hand eyewitness of Jesus Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  It is now our duty as witnesses to carry forward the message that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.

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