On Being and Finding a Friend

By Portmann, John | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

On Being and Finding a Friend


Portmann, John, The Virginia Quarterly Review


Quakers & Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness. By Hans A. Schmitt. Missouri. $29.95. The familiar stereotype of Friends (or Quakers, as they are better known) as solid yet non-threatening moral citizens extends far into the past. In Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson (1799) we read: "I have always loved the simplicity of manners, and the spiritual-mindedness of the Quakers; and talking with Mr. Lloyd, I observed, that the essential part of religion was piety, a devout intercourse with the Divinity; and that many a man was a Quaker without knowing it." Boswell's point here is that genuinely religious impulses ought to erase rather than create divisions among people and that Quakers exemplify these genuinely religious impulses. Boswell essentially says that Quakers get religion right.

Nothing in Hans Schmitt's admirably well-written book contradicts or undermines the stereotype of Quakers already evident in Boswell's observation. What is particularly interesting about Schmitt's engaging examination of Quaker responses to Nazi atrocities is the way it presses on the notion that many a (religious) person is a Quaker without knowing it. Although Schmitt tends to view Quakers as importantly different from other religious groups, his praise of various Quaker deeds points up paths to goodness that persons of any (or no) faith might take.

A good bit of this book is naturally predictable: Friends did not reciprocate the suffering Nazis inflicted on them. Friends hid and protected Jews from the Gestapo. Quakers emerge as moral victors. What should be no less predictable is the somewhat unsettling fact that the same Quaker who apologized to a Jewish congregation in Berlin for the failure to spare them the humiliation inflicted by a rowdy gang of Storm Troopers also petitioned the German government to commute the death sentence imposed on Nazi murderers of a Communist in the Silesian village of Potempa. In both instances the Quaker's conduct was guided by the same thoroughgoing love Friends felt for all humanity: for Jews who did not share their Christian beliefs and for Nazis who violently opposed their vision of human brotherhood. This kind of loving has landed Quakers in trouble, almost from their beginning. Schmitt's history nicely illustrates how politically dangerous it can be to bestow our sympathy indiscriminately on other human beings.

In order to tell us about Quakers in Germany, Schmitt tells us a good deal about general Quaker history. Like other 17th-century sects such as the Baptists and the Unitarians, the Quakers grew out of the Anabaptist revolt against Roman Catholicism. Anabaptists argued in the 16th century that all people needed to be rebaptized (hence the provenance of the term "anabaptist"). Roundly condemned by Luther, the Anabaptists were Christendom's first fundamentalists, persecuted by Protestants and by Catholics alike.

Fundamentally, Quaker worship precluded all hierarchy and transcended principles of political governance. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On Being and Finding a Friend
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.