This week, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, First Fruits of Zion officially premieres our new documentary film Escape from Nazi Demons. You can watch the film free online starting from Wednesday night, 9pm (EST).
Wilhelm Oder was a significant figure in Nazi-era Austria, and he quickly ascended through the ranks of Hitler’s war against the Jews.
He became the head instructor of the Einsatzgruppen school of murder in Poland, where Hitler’s death squads learned the art of mass murder and how to most efficiently kill Jews. Wilhelm Oder was a celebrated expert in shooting Jews in the back of the head, and every day for class, the murder school brought fresh Jews for demonstrations and training exercises. After the war, an Austrian court convicted Oder of war crimes, and like most Nazis, he received a light sentence, not more than a slap on the hand. He served in a work detail for a few years, after which he returned home to his family, including his young son Werner, who at the time was around five years of age.
Pastor Werner Oder said that from the time his father returned, a darkness entered their home, and he began to experience nightly terrors in the form of nightmares. Every night he saw a demonic creature come up out of the floor—like something rising from a grave—and try to kill him. By night he suffered those spiritual terrors, and by day he was sometimes thrown into the water or down stairs, not by his father, but by the spirit of darkness that had taken hold of him. He was raised in a home fueled with hatred for the Jews and contempt for others. As a teenager, he became dangerously violent, alcoholic, and suicidal, filled with irrational hatred and a spirit of sinat chinam (baseless hatred). He expressed his inner torment in fights and brawls and acts of violence and vandalism for which he was frequently arrested. Werner was headed either to an early grave or a life sentence in prison and still, he suffered the nightmares.
He considered taking his life, but he first cried out to God. God heard him and sent someone. A German missionary working among the deprived youth of post-war Austria introduced Werner to the gospel. For three days Werner resisted the message. On the third day, he put his trust in God for the forgiveness of sins and freedom from the curse. From that day, the nightmares ceased, and a transformation began.
Sometime later Werner was in a Catholic Church, praying and thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, when it occurred to him, “But her name wasn’t Mary; it was Miriam; she was a Jew.” It further occurred to him, “And Jesus was a Jew.” And it occurred to him that the hatred of Jews he had inherited could not be reconciled with his new faith. He went home and said to his family, “I’ve become a follower of Jesus—and he was a Jew—and what did you do to the Jews?”
Werner moved to England to attend seminary and become a pastor, but while he was studying, he realized that the anti-Semitism he was trying to escape was in the theology he was studying, and he became acutely aware of how replacement theology and the assumptions of supersessionism had prepared the way for the Holocaust. He eventually dedicated his life to speaking out against anti-Semitism, against replacement theology, and he has become an advocate of Jewish people, Israelis, Messianic Jews, and the victims of the Holocaust.
Today Pastor Werner travels in Europe and calls on Christians to acknowledge and embrace their Jewish roots. He calls on the church to repent of the sins of anti-Semitism and replacement theology, and everywhere he goes, he proclaims a message of love. When Werner speaks, Holocaust survivors are often in attendance. They are, naturally, revolted by the idea of meeting a son of a Nazi, but he wins their hearts with God’s love. He teaches love for the Jewish people and for the stranger, and a message of contrition and forgiveness. He says, “God poured the liquid gold of God’s love into my heart.”
Werner Oder had a difficult relationship with his father, but even that relationship did not remain untouched by the love of Messiah, and he found his way to forgive his father—not for the crimes he had committed against the Jewish people but for the spiritual and psychological wounds he had inflicted on his son. That’s the story of the son of the Nazi.
Pastor Werner Oder tells an amazing story of transformation from the world of satanic hatred, darkness, anti-Semitism, and the vilest forms of sinat chinam. That a person could come from that world, meet the Messiah, and experience the transforming message of love impressed us enough to produce a documentary about the story of Pastor Werner Oder, which is now available at escape.ffoz.com under the title Escape from Nazi Demons. To read the full story of Werner Oder’s journey, see his book Battling with Nazi Demons: The Astonishing Journey of the Son of an Austrian War Criminal.