Participants: John Bradshaw (Host), John Weidner
Series Code: IIW
Program Code: IIW001369A
00:06 It has stood the test of time.
00:10 God's book, the Bible.
00:16 Still relevant in today's complex world.
00:21 It Is Written, sharing hope around the globe.
00:36 ♪ [Stinger - Thoughtful]] ♪
00:44 JB: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw.
00:47 Thanks for joining me. In 1994, the movie
00:51 "Schindler's List" won seven Academy Awards,
00:54 including the Oscar for Best Picture.
00:59 It told the story of a Czech German businessman named
01:02 Oskar Schindler, who employed Jews in
01:05 his factories so he could shield them from the horrors
01:09 of the Holocaust. It's said that, in total,
01:13 Oskar Schindler saved the lives of 1200 Jews
01:17 who would almost have certainly perished without his
01:20 direct intervention. Millions died in the Holocaust,
01:25 victims of the madness of Adolph Hitler's final solution.
01:30 Europe was paralyzed by Hitler's megalomania, but there were
01:34 some who dared to stand against Hitler and risk everything to
01:38 give others the gift of freedom. ♪ [Dark Brooding Underscore] ♪
01:43 Here in Switzerland, during World War II,
01:45 one unlikely hero was personally responsible
01:48 for saving more than 800 Jews from the Nazis
01:52 as well as hundreds of others, including Allied servicemen.
01:56 And it was faith in God that drove this unlikely hero to risk
02:00 his life; to suffer torture and unspeakable abuse;
02:04 to be imprisoned; to live in constant danger.
02:08 Faith in God led this man to give all he had so that others
02:13 might be saved and not perish. ♪ [Pensive Melody] ♪
02:18 Today, in Cologne, France, a village of 3,000 people just
02:23 outside Geneva, Switzerland, there's a monument recognizing
02:27 the heroism of this man of faith.
02:30 A simple monument paying tribute to an extraordinary life.
02:36 John Weidner was Dutch. He was raised largely in France
02:41 because his father taught at this Christian college.
02:45 And as Hitler's noose began to tighten around the collective
02:48 Jewish neck, he became aware of the desperate situation
02:52 facing many Dutch Jews.
02:57 His upbringing gave him a strong respect for liberty--
03:00 religious and personal. Seeing Jews being herded into
03:05 detention camps affected him profoundly.
03:08 The simple thing would have been to look the other way as Nazi
03:11 aggression increased in the late 1930s.
03:14 That's what the majority did. After all, what could one person
03:19 possibly do in the face of the overwhelming force and power
03:23 of the Nazi regime? Especially when resistance often
03:28 meant persecution, imprisonment, torture, or death.
03:34 But doing nothing isn't the simple thing, when your heart
03:37 glows with love for God and compassion for others.
03:42 John Weidner couldn't just do nothing, even when choosing to
03:47 do something to help was tantamount to signing his own
03:51 death warrant.
03:53 This is not just another story about another brave man who
03:56 resisted Hitler's machine of war.
03:59 Now, even if it was, it would still be one of the most
04:02 remarkable stories that you'll ever hear.
04:04 But this is a story that has implications for us today,
04:08 because it's an account of someone who demonstrated true
04:12 self-sacrificing love, even as Jesus did
04:15 when He was on the Earth. And this is a story that shows
04:19 us that faith in God leads a believer to actions,
04:23 and not just words. ♪ [Dark Brooding Underscore] ♪
04:25 Time's a funny thing, isn't it? World War II in Europe was one
04:30 of the most horrific times in all of history.
04:34 Yet today, you'd never know-- at least, not by appearances.
04:38 Geneva, Switzerland, is a beautiful, affluent city.
04:43 Across the border in France, life is a quiet,
04:46 go-about-your-business sort of affair.
04:49 But if we could go back in time not many decades, things would
04:53 be completely different. Not peace, but fear;
04:58 and jeopardy in the place of safety.
05:02 These very streets, these fields and these hills were the scenes
05:07 of incredible drama. In fact, it was these hills
05:10 which provided an escape route for many people fleeing Nazi
05:14 persecution. In 1939, there were 300,000 Jews
05:21 living in France. By 1940, thousands more Jews
05:26 were fleeing to France from Belgium and Holland.
05:29 France was a haven, but in June of 1940,
05:34 when the French army gave way, France was divided
05:37 into two sections. Northern France was occupied by
05:41 Germany, while the south of France, a so-called free zone,
05:46 was administered by a French government that cooperated
05:50 with the Nazis. Many Jews in southern France
05:54 were housed in camps, which before long made them easy
05:58 targets for the Nazis. As long as they were in camps
06:02 in France, the Gestapo could take
06:05 Jews from the camps for any reason at all,
06:09 and those people would usually never be heard from again.
06:14 ♪ [Gentle Melody] ♪ By 1941, Jewish refugees were
06:19 pouring out of Belgium and Holland and into France,
06:24 but it was becoming increasingly difficult for them
06:26 to get out of France. If they could get to Switzerland
06:29 or Spain or England, then they would be safe.
06:33 Now, initially John Weidner began working with
06:36 Dutch diplomats. But as diplomatic solutions to
06:39 this crisis became increasingly impossible to achieve, it became
06:43 obvious that an underground resistance movement was needed.
06:49 A key factor in helping so many escape was this mountain range,
06:54 the Saleve. Beyond is Mont Blanc, the
06:57 highest mountain in Europe. Because Weidner went to school
07:00 at the bottom of this mountain range, he knew it intimately.
07:04 His knowledge of the trails and the cliffs and the hiding places
07:07 of this rugged landscape made it an excellent escape route.
07:12 Ahead of time, God had prepared John Weidner so that at the
07:17 right time God could use him in incredible ways.
07:21 I'll tell you more in just a moment.
07:25 ♪ [Gentle Theme] ♪ >: Every Word is a one-minute
07:27 Bible-based daily devotional presented by
07:29 Pastor John Bradshaw and designed especially
07:32 for busy people like you. Look for Every Word on selected
07:36 networks, or watch it online every day on our website,
07:41 ♪ [Rythmic Melody] ♪
07:49 JB: During the Christmas season there's a lot of rushing in a
07:51 lot of lives, and a lot of plans being made and a lot of gifts
07:54 being given and a lot of food being consumed.
07:56 And very often, something gets lost.
08:00 Stillness. Jesus and His parents were in a
08:04 quiet place when Jesus was born. The shepherds were assembled on
08:08 the silent hillsides; the wise men traveled,
08:11 but not along busy freeways, and they didn't get
08:13 stuck in traffic even once. But get this: when Herod
08:17 the king heard these things, he was troubled,
08:19 and all Jerusalem with him. That's Matthew 2:3.
08:23 That first Christmas, the only one who was uptight was Herod,
08:26 and those he caused to be agitated.
08:28 If it's really about peace and goodwill and family and Jesus,
08:31 try to enjoy the peace of Jesus this Christmas.
08:33 Merry Christmas.
08:35 I'm John Bradshaw for It Is Written.
08:37 Let's live today by every word. [Pensive Melody]
08:44 JB: Planning for your financial future is a vital aspect of
08:46 Christian stewardship. For this reason, It Is Written
08:49 is pleased to offer free planned giving and estate services.
08:53 For information on how we can help you, please call
08:55 1 (800) 992-2219. Call today,
09:00 or visit our special website, www.HisLegacy.com.
09:08 ♪ [Pastoral Melody] ♪ JB: This is It Is Written.
09:12 I'm John Bradshaw. I'm glad you've joined me today,
09:15 and I want to wish you today a very merry Christmas.
09:18 The view from up here is breathtaking.
09:23 I'm not so sure how much notice escapees took of their view when
09:26 they were fleeing for their lives from the Nazis.
09:29 But standing here today, it's not easy to drink in
09:33 as much of the scenery as you'd like to.
09:36 Up here, we're in France. This was a dangerous place to be
09:39 if you were a Jew during World War II, because you were in
09:42 Nazi territory. Switzerland,
09:45 freedom for Jewish refugees, is just down there,
09:49 only a mile or so away. There's Lake Geneva,
09:53 with the beautiful, historic city of Geneva right there.
09:57 In John Weidner's day, Geneva was the home of
09:59 the League of Nations. Replaced in 1946
10:03 by the United Nations. Today, Geneva is the home of the
10:07 World Health Organization, a number of U.N. agencies,
10:12 the International Red Cross, the World Trade Organization,
10:17 as well as banks and watchmakers and a lot of very
10:21 wealthy people. ♪ [Music swells] ♪
10:27 John Weidner spent years living here when his father taught at
10:30 the college at the foot of the Saleve.
10:33 So he knew this area like the back of his hand.
10:37 He personally accompanied individuals or groups of people,
10:40 young and old, fleeing for their lives across these mountains.
10:45 He was often chased by Nazi soldiers.
10:49 Many times he was shot at. Frequently he'd have to hide
10:53 among the rocks up here to save his life.
10:56 Weidner's mission wasn't for the faint of heart.
11:00 It was incredibly dangerous, and it wasn't only his own life
11:05 that was in danger. Weidner and others founded an
11:10 organization called Dutch Paris, named because a lot of their
11:15 work involved getting Jews out of the Netherlands,
11:18 through Paris and on to safety.
11:21 There were about 300 people involved.
11:24 Some hid Jews in their homes or in their businesses
11:27 or on their farms. Other people forged documents.
11:31 Some provided food, some money, some influence.
11:35 Church officials were involved. Government officials.
11:39 People who knew which parts of the border were electrified,
11:42 and which were not. People living down near the
11:45 border helped immensely. But out on the front lines
11:49 was John Weidner. He founded, coordinated and
11:54 worked in an organization that saved hundreds
11:57 and hundreds of lives. ♪ [Transitional Bright Melody] ♪
12:07 Weidner ran a textile business in Lyon in France, which was the
12:11 home of the Resistance movement. He had run a business in Paris,
12:16 but he lost it to the Nazis. So he started another business.
12:20 The reason he felt like he needed to run a business was
12:22 because having a business would provide a legitimate opportunity
12:26 for him to travel in a time when people couldn't move about
12:29 freely. But operating his business
12:32 in Lyon, the home of the Resistance,
12:34 became too dangerous for him, so he abandoned the business
12:38 and walked away from it. So he came to Annecy,
12:41 also in France, about 25 miles away from Geneva.
12:45 And he opened another textile business here,
12:49 just across the street from beaut.
12:52 This would provide him with a couple of things he desperately
12:55 needed. Like his other businesses,
12:58 it would provide Weidner with money, which he could use
13:01 to save lives. This time, having a business
13:04 this close to the border would give him a good reason to be
13:08 close to the border. And that's where he needed
13:12 to be, if he was going to save people's lives.
13:16 ♪ [Suspensful Underscore] ♪
13:20 It was a different world then. During the war, the border
13:24 between France and Switzerland was fortified and guarded
13:27 and defended. There was barbed wire and dogs
13:31 and fences and soldiers with guns.
13:34 A person had to have travel papers everywhere they went.
13:38 If you didn't have them, you could be arrested
13:40 and imprisoned. There was no such thing
13:43 as real freedom. You'd never know, would you,
13:47 what went on here, on these peaceful, idyllic streets
13:51 years ago. If only these streets
13:55 could speak. ♪ [Forboding Underscore] ♪
13:58 John often took refugees to stay at his store here, in Annecy.
14:02 If there were too many of them for him to safely keep,
14:05 some would stay a couple of blocks away
14:07 in the back room of a gift shop run by a Swiss woman
14:11 committed to helping the Resistance.
14:14 She was eventually executed by the Nazis.
14:19 Fear and mistrust were everywhere.
14:21 It was impossible to know who was a spy or an informant.
14:25 In order to save lives, John had to contend
14:28 with police officials and border guards and soldiers.
14:32 In fact, once he got into Geneva by dropping from a bridge into
14:37 the coal car of a train. Things were going great until
14:42 soldiers stopped the train, looking for fugitives.
14:46 What would John do? Well, the driver of the train
14:48 was sympathetic to the Resistance, so he hid John
14:51 Weidner in a closet inside the locomotive.
14:55 Soldiers searched the locomotive and they came to within inches
15:01 of where John was. That's how dangerous
15:03 it could be. As a matter of fact,
15:05 it even got worse. ♪ [Suspenseful Underscore] ♪
15:13 A young lady who was part of the Dutch Paris group one day
15:17 dropped a notebook. She had made the terrible
15:21 mistake of writing down names of people who were involved in
15:25 Dutch Paris in that notebook. That was a serious no-no.
15:30 The notebook was noticed; it was grabbed by the Gestapo,
15:34 who wanted to know what the names meant.
15:37 They arrested the young lady and demanded that she tell them
15:41 who these people were, where they lived,
15:44 and what they did. Of course, she flatly refused.
15:47 They took her away to a jail cell,
15:49 where they threatened to torture her and they threatened to
15:53 bother her family. At the same time,
15:55 they promised her that if she cooperated,
15:58 her father, who was in prison,
16:01 would be released from prison. She still would not cooperate.
16:07 So they took her to a room where they forced her to watch
16:10 prisoners being tortured. It was all just too much
16:14 for the young lady. She cracked.
16:16 She wanted to safeguard herself and her family,
16:20 so she named names, she gave addresses,
16:23 she divulged details. Well, her father was released
16:29 from prison, but he was rearrested the next day
16:32 and put back into prison. One hundred fifty members of
16:36 Dutch Paris were arrested. Forty of them were executed.
16:46 So what moves a person to do what John Weidner did?
16:50 Before he died in 1994 he said, "I didn't have a choice."
16:56 Clearly he wasn't motivated by personal gain.
16:58 Even though there was a lot of money to be made in getting
17:01 people across the border to safety, John Weidner
17:04 did everything he did as a labor of love.
17:08 He was never paid; he never took money
17:10 from anybody he saved. He did it all because God's
17:14 love had gripped his heart. And when God's love grips a
17:18 person's heart, it leads that person to say, what can I do to
17:22 demonstrate the love of God? What can I do
17:26 to make a difference? That's what moved Jesus,
17:30 when He came into this world to make a difference
17:34 for you and me. That was John Weidner's
17:37 experience. I'll have more in just a moment.
17:41 ♪ [gentle piano transition] ♪
17:45 JB: There's a special gift I'd like to offer you today.
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19:11 ♪ [Foreboding Underscore] ♪
19:20 JB: Probably the best known verse in the entire Bible
19:23 is John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved
19:28 the world that he gave his only begotten son,
19:32 that whosoever believes in him should not perish
19:35 but have everlasting life." The next verse,
19:38 John 3:17, is not quite so well known
19:42 but it's equally as powerful. It says, "For God did not send
19:45 his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the
19:49 world through him might be saved."
19:52 See, everything God did in the plan of salvation,
19:56 everything God does in the plan of salvation,
19:58 all God did in sending Jesus into this world was done
20:03 in order to save humanity. To lift up and save a people who
20:08 didn't deserve to be saved. John Weidner was someone
20:12 who gave. No, he didn't lose his life
20:16 doing what he did, but he came awfully close.
20:19 There were times he was shot at while swimming across a river
20:22 to safety. One time, in Lyon, he and an
20:25 accomplice were actually arrested and sentenced
20:28 to be executed, but just minutes before
20:31 the execution was scheduled to be carried out,
20:33 he managed somehow to escape out a prison window.
20:37 He and his accomplice dropped three floors onto the
20:40 cobblestone streets below and escaped to safety.
20:45 The Los Angeles Times reported after Weidner's death in 1994
20:50 that Weidner had been interrogated in Lyon by the
20:53 notorious war criminal Klaus Barbie.
20:55 The Butcher of Lyon. It has been estimated that
20:58 somewhere between 11,000 and 25,000 people were executed,
21:04 tortured or sent to concentration camps directly
21:08 by Barbie himself. But somehow Weidner managed to
21:11 escape Barbie's interrogations. He escaped only to come back
21:17 into the fray and put his life on the line again and again
21:21 and again. The Gestapo really wanted John
21:25 Weidner-- so much so that they offered a reward of 5 million
21:29 francs for his capture. Now, in 1945 that was about
21:33 $50,000.00. Just think of what it would be
21:36 worth today. They wanted Weidner.
21:40 They didn't get him, but they came close.
21:43 And they knew how to play dirty. The Anti-defamation League
21:48 honored Weidner posthumously in 2014.
21:53 The press release of that event had this to say: "Weidner was
21:57 high on the Gestapo's most-wanted list.
22:01 In an attempt to get Weidner to turn himself in,
22:04 the Gestapo arrested his sister, Gabrielle, in February of 1944,
22:10 while she was attending church in Paris.
22:15 In one of the more agonizing decisions of his life,
22:18 Weidner was forced to choose between continuing his
22:21 rescue work or surrendering himself in exchange for
22:26 Gabrielle's freedom. He chose to continue his work.
22:32 Gabrielle Weidner died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp
22:36 in February of 1945.
22:41 Can you imagine? Some people have given a lot,
22:43 haven't they? Interesting.
22:46 After World War II, Weidner went to the Netherlands and he
22:48 visited that young lady. The one whose carelessness cost
22:52 the lives of all those Dutch Paris members.
22:55 He visited her in her home, and he forgave her.
23:00 Now, if you think Weidner went through a lot-- and he did--
23:03 don't make the mistake of forgetting about those who
23:06 paid the highest price. One censor says that when World
23:09 War II began there 139,717 Jews living in the Netherlands, more
23:16 than half of them in Amsterdam. By the time World War II was
23:21 over, only 35,000 of them were still alive.
23:25 Millions perished in the Holocaust.
23:28 Weidner lived during World War II
23:30 for one purpose, and that was to save others.
23:33 People he didn't know. People who weren't the same
23:36 religion as he was. People who were the targets
23:39 of a brutal regime. Now, he had the opportunity
23:42 to flee. To escape to England.
23:45 And England would have meant safety.
23:48 But Weidner didn't go. Instead, he chose to remain on
23:51 the continent, because going to England would have meant
23:55 that many people who would have been saved,
23:58 would not have been saved. Weidner couldn't face
24:01 that thought. He just had to do
24:05 what he had to do. He was honored by France,
24:10 Great Britain, Belgium, The Netherlands, and
24:13 the American Jewish Congress. The nation of Israel recognized
24:18 Weidner as a righteous Gentile. A tree with his name attached to
24:23 it was planted on the Hill of Remembrance, along the Avenue of
24:27 the Righteous, in Yad Vashem-- Israel's official memorial to
24:32 the victim's of the Holocaust.
24:38 He moved to the United States in the 1950s.
24:42 He married, he settled in California, and he ran a
24:45 successful business. He said this in a speech
24:49 honoring Holocaust victims: "During my father's lifetime,
24:55 he taught me, my family, his parishioners,
24:58 and the community that the most important quality
25:02 in a human being was to love, respect, and treat our fellow
25:06 man as we wished to be loved, respected, and treated.
25:12 I was a witness to the barbaric treatment of the Jews
25:15 by the Nazis. I personally observed the
25:18 killing of a jewish infant who was torn out of the arms
25:22 of his mother," he said.
25:24 "I was determined to heed the teachings and example of my
25:28 father, and I did everything that I could to save as many
25:33 lives as possible."
25:38 He saved a future Nobel Prize winner; he saved future
25:41 government officials; he met General Eisenhower;
25:45 he met the queen of The Netherlands.
25:47 But through it all, John Weidner remained simply a man who was
25:52 dedicated to serving and saving. The truth is,
25:57 he lived for others. And isn't that what Christmas
26:00 is about? The Christmas story tells us
26:03 about God sending Jesus into the world to save others.
26:06 At Christmastime, typically we ask "What are you going to
26:09 get for Christmas?" when perhaps the question we
26:12 should be asking is, "What are you going to give?"
26:16 This Christmas, my family and I are thankful for freedom.
26:20 We're thankful for John Weidner, and the forgotten heroes
26:23 like him. Freedom and love for others
26:25 ran through their veins. We're thankful that Jesus came
26:30 to this earth as a baby in a manager,
26:32 and that He's coming back soon, as a conquering King.
26:36 What a day that will be! We say with John, who wrote the
26:40 book of Revelation, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
26:49 ♪ [Silent Night on Piano] ♪ Let's take a moment to
26:51 pray together. Our Father in heaven, this
26:53 Christmas we've been reminded about someone who lived to give.
26:59 We are grateful for people like John Weidner.
27:02 We're most grateful for Jesus, who lived entirely to give.
27:08 And to give the greatest of all gifts, everlasting life.
27:12 Don't let us be so distracted at Christmastime that we fail to
27:15 remember the true meaning of why Jesus came to this earth.
27:21 We thank You today. We love You
27:23 and want to love You more. And we pray in Jesus' name.
27:30 [Music continues]
27:45 Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to seeing you
27:47 again next time. Until then, Merry Christmas.
27:51 And remember, it is written. Man shall not live by
27:55 bread alone, but by every word
27:58 that proceeds from the mouth of God.
28:06 ♪ [Silent Night continues] ♪