COVID-19 and the Ghosts of Europe’s Past
Zipping past anarchist graffiti and the crumbling ruins of communism, my host and I made our way toward what would have been one of the scariest neighborhoods in Europe 30 years ago. My friend, then in his 60s, had lived in Berlin for much of his life but this 2017 excursion would be a first for the both of us—me, a Generation Z Canadian tourist, and him, a former East German who fled to West Berlin. Our destination was a museum in the old headquarters of the Stasi, East Germany’s notorious secret police.
Part of the duties of the Stasi was to make life as miserable as possible for anybody not conforming 100 percent to the regime. Anybody in trouble with the Stasi could be blacklisted from finding a job or earning a living. Or they could arrest you and force you to recant anti-Communist beliefs—through any means necessary. Trying to cross borders into the capitalist West was forbidden. Religious organizations were infiltrated and heavily monitored. The Stasi gave people a variety of objects to spy on their next-door neighbors: hidden cameras disguised as everything from watering cans to water bottles to car doors. In East Germany, you didn’t know who was going to denounce you: your boss, your best friend, your spouse.
Looking out the windows of the Stasi headquarters, gazing at all the homes built right next to East Germany’s nerve center of terror, I thought, Not too long ago, if I was where I am now, I would be in serious danger. But I didn’t feel threatened walking down the streets of Berlin in the modern day. Europe left those relics of totalitarianism in the 20th century. Modern Europe, from west to east, has embraced freedom and democracy. Modern Europe is a free society.
At least, that’s what I felt in 2017.
Fast-forward four years. Europe’s reaction to covid-19 is causing some ghosts of the 20th century to return.
I live in England right now. The United Kingdom handled covid restrictions better than some other countries. But it was still unsettling to have to give my name and phone number to complete strangers every time I entered a pub or a restaurant or a museum. And the constant admonitions to “protect the nhs” (National Health Services) couldn’t help but give me the impression that lockdown wasn’t so much about protecting people as it was about protecting the government.
While most of England’s restrictions have been removed, the same cannot be said about the rest of Europe.
Hendrik Steen (the names of those interviewed have been changed) is a research scientist for a technology company in the Netherlands. Like many others, lockdown has forced him to work from home since March 2020. Instead of interacting with his 15-strong research team face-to-face, he had to communicate with them virtually. He sometimes had up to 15 video calls a day.
“When returning to the office,” he told me, “we had a lot of hybrid meetings.” Mr. Steen said even after the mandate to work from home was lifted, some employees still chose to work from home. “My employer thinks this is great because they can now do with less office space and save cost. As a result we will be working max 60 percent from the office in the future and the remainder from home.”
This might be a minor effect, but the Dutch lockdown is affecting more personal areas as well.
Mr. Steen and his family normally attended weekly church services. But during the lockdown, the Dutch government considered religious services “nonessential” and forced the closure of Mr. Steen’s local congregation. “At times it had to be closed for weeks on government order,” he said.
Church services are currently up and running. But a few days before I contacted him, the Dutch government announced new lockdown measures putting more pressure on Mr. Steen’s faith. Congregants have to leave the building by 5:00 p.m. There is also a mandatory curfew in place. Many members have to travel long distances to get to church services. For some, the commute can take two hours each way. Many have to leave services a lot earlier than normal to avoid breaking curfew.
Another area of life impacted by lockdown in the Netherlands is travel. “We can’t travel outside of the EU for holidays, and after Brexit, it has become almost impossible to travel to the UK,” he said. Mr. Steen used to visit Great Britain quite frequently, but hasn’t been able to do so in almost two years.
No Berlin Wall necessary.
Circumstances get more extreme the further south you travel in Europe. Lockdown isn’t the only thing one has to worry about; vaccination status is a whole other can of worms.
Eugénie Thibaut lives in the French Alps. France is taking its vaccination program extremely seriously. “In France,” she told me, “not being vaccinated is synonymous with being cut off from the world.”
According to Mrs. Thibault, the situation in France has changed dramatically compared to even just a few months ago. “I had to participate [in] a sport event on a Sunday in September as a ‘volunteer,’” she said. “I had to do a pcr test [a type of covid test] on Friday. From now on, this will no longer be possible. The tests will only be valid for 24 hours from the time of sampling. The results are known about four to 24 hours after the test, so the test will no longer be valid when the result is known.”
Mrs. Thibault explained that another form of test, antigen tests, are quicker to get results from. But they have to be taken under the supervision of a health-care worker or pharmacist. There aren’t many pharmacies around her locality. When she tried to take an antigen test in the supervision of a pharmacist, the pharmacist she went to gave her what she called a “hallucinating moral lesson” about how she needed to prioritize getting vaccinated. Vaccination in France isn’t mandatory—officially—but living life without getting vaccinated is becoming increasingly difficult. “We might as well say that the health pass is now a vaccination pass,” she said.
France’s transportation networks are now conditional to vaccination status as well. Mrs. Thibault said it is “impossible to take the train without a pass, and impossible to have been able to do a test just before getting on the train. … Same thing for the plane. Any travel outside the region will become impossible except by car.”
“Unless we ‘give in’ to the government’s diktat, we are now isolated, cut off from the 80 percent of vaccinated people … isolated from any culture, leisure, vacations, travel [or] visits.”
Across the Alps lies one of Europe’s strictest covid-vaccination mandates. Italy has enacted measures mandating a “green pass” for all workers. Noncompliance means suspension without pay.
Renata Lippi works at a preschool in northern Italy. In order to keep her job, she has to pay out of her own pocket for a covid test every 48 hours.
“In any case,” she said, “it is not easy to find shifts to do the test because there are many people who do not want to get vaccinated. There are long lines.” In Italy, you could say covid lines are the new Soviet bread lines.
“Three times a week I have to return to the city to take the test,” said Mrs. Lippi, “consuming twice as much gasoline plus the payment for the test and the time lost.” These restrictions aren’t just inconvenient or taxing. The Italian government is threatening people’s livelihoods altogether.
“On November 24, a new government decree came out that will be operational from December 6 and provides, among other things, mandatory vaccination for all educational employees,” Mrs. Lippi said. “The deadline for educational personnel is December 15. If we do not vaccinate, we will be suspended from work and will be without pay. It will no longer be possible to get the green pass with the test.”
One may ask, What’s the big deal? Just take the vaccine and get it over with.
But that’s the whole point of a free society. When other diseases caused problems worldwide—whether it was swine flu, bird flu or sars—people were free to take the vaccine or not.
And the various covid-19 vaccines are not typical vaccines. Normal vaccines usually require five to 10 years of testing and development before they’re approved for human use. covid-19 as an illness hasn’t been around for that long, never mind its vaccines. mrna vaccines are also experimental. Most vaccines inject dead viruses into the bloodstream for the body to process and use to produce antibodies. mrna vaccines cause the body’s own cells to produce coronavirus proteins. In other words, they artificially muck around with your immune system. This is not to mention all the confirmed cases of people dying from taking covid vaccines.
This reminds me of when East Germany forced its Olympic women’s swim team to take steroids to “improve performance.” To this day, many of the swim team’s survivors live with severe health problems, including hepatitis, heart disease, liver cancer, deepened voices, excess hair growth and genetic defects in their children. But the East German government told the swimmers they were just taking “vitamins.”
A free society wouldn’t force its citizens to take an experimental drug. A free society wouldn’t track its citizens’ vaccination status every time they enter their workplace, public transportation or a restaurant. A free society wouldn’t ban people from leaving its borders. A free society wouldn’t force churches to close “for the good of the people.”
England isn’t completely free from covid restrictions. But being surrounded by so many countries embracing an ever increasing restriction on liberties, I almost feel like I’m living in tiny West Berlin.
Many thought that Europe had seen the end of this kind of totalitarian control over its citizens’ lives when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. But covid-19 has brought Europe’s ghosts back. Only this time, it isn’t just Eastern Europe that’s having to deal with this. The problems are Continent-wide.
The Bible has a lot to say about Europe’s flirtation with autocratic governments. Revelation 13 discusses a “beast” (verse 1), a biblical symbol for an empire (Daniel 7:17, 23). This beast is described as a war-making power (Revelation 13:4). It persecutes religious minorities (verses 7, 15). It decides who can and cannot participate in business (verses 16-17). And it is obsessed with men glorifying the state above all (verse 8).
Late theologian Herbert W. Armstrong proved in his booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? that this beast is the Roman Empire (request your free copy).
A related prophecy in Revelation 17 also discusses a “beast” with “seven heads and ten horns.” This represents seven resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire to arise after the original empire’s destruction in a.d. 476. Verse 10 shows that these empires are consecutive. These include the powerful empires of men like Charlemagne, Napoleon and Hitler.
Six of these resurrections have come and gone. There’s one more to come.
To learn more, please request a free copy of The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy, by theTrumpet.com managing editor Brad Macdonald. Also please read our assistant managing editor Richard Palmer’s recent article “Lurch Toward Tyranny.”