Some years ago as a visiting prof at Uni Marburg theologische Fakultaet, I was told several times by different people about a certain non-lecture event. On the morning after that first Nazi pogrom, “Kristallnacht”, the regular lecture of Rudolf Bultmann was to take place.
His usual hall was on the third floor in the south east corner of the building with windows on two sides. For years the view had included the Synagogue of Marburg; but now, it was a smoking foundation.
Bultmann walked in at his usual time to a packed and silent room, everyone braced to hear what he might have to say – although all were now fearful to say anything. He came to the lectern, opened his folder, but immediately turned away from the students, walking over to the windows. For the entire period Bultmann stood staring out the window at the empty space and made no sound whatsoever. At the end of the time he returned to his notes, closed the folder, and walked out of the room.
Sometimes, many times indeed, silence speaks loudest of all. Bultmann became a member of the Confessing Church and an inveterate foe of the ‘German Christians’ and Naziism. Because of his standing he was left alone. Had he been a man of less importance there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have died in a death camp.