Being brought up as the son of a Nazi was a burden hard to bear for Werner Oder, an Austrian born in the aftermath of the Holocaust. His father Wilhelm had presided over the murder of many Jews as he trained men in the art of killing at a camp in Poland during World War II.
But in spite of all attempts at denial and covering up the truth, his complicity in the massacre of defenseless men, women and children came to haunt his son – quite literally.
As a small boy, Werner, now 64, regularly woke up screaming from horrific nightmares – a demonic entity actually rising up from a hole in the floor to frighten the life out of him – and he developed into a sickly child as a result.
His father had somehow escaped immediate post-war punishment on account of apparent lack of sufficient evidence, but Werner saw little of him anyway as he was a serial adulterer. Eventually the legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal uncovered the truth of his wicked crimes, but he died of a heart attack just before his trial.
Werner, meanwhile, whose two half-brothers had served in the Hitler Youth, was growing into an angry young man bent on destruction as the psychological damage caused by his family’s involvement with the Nazi death cult manifested itself in aggressive, drunken behavior and self-harm.
“I wanted to be accepted and loved, but the more I tried to be acceptable, the more rejection I felt,” he recalls in his book Battling with Nazi Demons.
He tried to kill himself by swallowing an entire box of tranquilizers his mother kept for her own peace of mind. But he desperately wanted help nevertheless. He remembered how, as a small boy in the throes of his recurring nightmares, he somehow prayed to God for help – even though he knew nothing about God, having been brought up in a completely pagan environment.
His mother was so touched on hearing him that she wrote it down on a slip of paper: “Dear God, look upon me your little child and have mercy on my tears. I do not want to die. If you let me live I will serve you.”
And God did not forget him as the answer finally came many years later in the form of a Christian missionary from over the mountains with whom he came into contact.
He heard that Jesus offered release from the “visitors from hell” that had plagued him all those years. He could hardly believe it was true, but when he invited Christ into his life, he was suddenly and miraculously freed from all the demons that had strangled his mind, spirit and body for so long.
“Kneeling to confess my sin and my need of forgiveness and deliverance, it seemed as if the weight of the whole world rolled off my shoulders," said Werner. "With tears, I sensed the light of God flooding my mind, driving out the darkness of despair and fear. Like chains, the troubles of my soul fell off; my sanity returned and I knew from that moment that God’s only Son Jesus Christ had come to set this prisoner free. From that day, all demons left and my nightmares stopped.”
For the past 30 years Werner has been pastor of the Tuckton Christian Centre in Dorset, England. Not only has he made friends with a Polish Jew who had witnessed and given evidence of his father’s cruelty in court, but he is now a passionate supporter of Israel and the Jews.
And he believes the Church itself was complicit in the Holocaust, which resulted in the death of six million Jews.
Martin Luther, for all his positive contribution to the Reformation in restoring the place of faith in Christ rather than religious observances as the key to salvation, had unfortunately ended his life by publishing terrible anti-Semitic rants, which later served as clerical endorsement for Hitler.
Werner sees a direct correlation between anti-Semitism and denial of the Holy Spirit’s work and relates how, shortly after the modern-day Pentecostal movement emerged on the scene at the turn of the 20th century, a group of 56 German evangelicals (those who believe in the Bible’s absolute authority) met to discuss whether or not it was of divine origin and decided, in what is known as the Berlin Declaration, that it was “of the devil”.
As Werner told a conference in York, this amounted to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which even Jesus said was unforgivable.
“They turned out the light in Europe, and we’re still paying the price for it,” he said. “The Holy Spirit was knocking on the door of the church in Europe and saying, ‘The darkness is coming. I want to empower you to resist the Nazis and protect my people’.”
Battling with Nazi Demons is published by Onwards & Upwards, with a foreword by author and international speaker David Pawson, and is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com