Tortured for Christ by Rev. Richard Wurmbrand

Tortured for Christ
Rev. Richard Wurmbrand
Published 1967 (updated 2013)
Christian Greats Challenge (Missionary Bio)

Richard Wurmbrand was born in Romania, in 1909. In 1938, he and his wife Sabina converted from Judaism to Christianity. During WWII, under Nazi control, Romanian Christians, as well as Jews, were persecuted. As church leaders, both Richard and Sabina were arrested several times, beaten, and sent before Nazi judges. From this they learned that the body can endure much physical pain, and that "the human spirit with God's help can survive horrible tortures."

After WWII, in 1945, Russian Communists occupied Romania. Under Communist control, religion was immediately compromised, and all religious leaders pledged allegiance to the Communist dictator, Stalin. During a meeting of the Ministry of Cults (this was actually a ministry), most spoke up in agreement with Communism. Agitated, Sabina told her husband to "wash this shame from the face of Christ." Richard said, "If I do, you'll lose your husband." And Sabina replied, "I don't need a coward for a husband. Go and do it."

Richard did speak up and told his fellow Christians that it was their duty to glorify Christ, not earthly powers; that Christianity and Communism could not operate together. He suffered for this, but to him, it was worth it.

For the next three years, Richard and Sabina worked diligently to maintain the Underground Church. They were determined to reach the Russian people with the gospel; after all, the Russians had been brainwashed for decades under Communism. Richard said the Russian people had thirsty souls and drank up the gospel. They had been so deprived of truth. 

When comparing Communism to Jesus, Richard said, 
Jesus is polite...the Communists are impolite. They enter by violence into our hearts and minds. They force us to listen to them from morning to late in the night. They do it through their schools, radio, newspapers, posters, movies, atheistic meetings, and everywhere we turn. We have to listen continuously to their godless propaganda whether we like it or not. Jesus respects our freedom. He gently knocks at the door of our heart. 
The Underground Church learned to work under the Communist regime, employing tricks to work in secret, out in the open, and even to infiltrate all levels of government activities. The Communists hated the Christians because they "recognized, as only the devil can...that if a man believed in Christ, he would never be a mindless, willing subject."

Then, in 1948, the Secret Police kidnapped Richard. He spent eight-and-a-half years in prison, was released under Khrushchev, in 1956, rearrested two years later, and then officially released in 1964.

Wurmbrand did not speak much about the tortures he endured, but he shared enough that the reader understands it was harrowing. He called them unspeakable. Instead he described Communism as an evil spiritual force "that only can be countered by a greater spiritual force, the Spirit of God." He called Communists materialists. When man is not accountable to God -- when he "has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human." They believed they could act on all the evil in their hearts. Richard learned that since they permitted no place for Jesus in their hearts, he would leave no place for Satan in his. 

After fourteen total years in prison, Wurmbrand was released, thanks to the influence of American public opinion. (See, public pressure does work.) He was reunited with his wife and son.  Because they returned to work within the Underground Church, their lives were in danger. Two Christian organizations paid the Communist government a ransom, enabling the Wurmbrands to leave Romania. Richard recognized he could bring the voice of persecuted Christians to the rest of the world if he lived out in the world. Today Richard is recognized as the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, once known as the Underground Church.

Richard did not harbor bitterness or resentment toward his Communist torturers. He acknowledged their need for Christ, too. He loved them, but he hated Communism. Much of Tortured for Christ is about how to defeat Communism. Wurmbrand expressed a need to win over political, economic, and scientific leaders, including those in the arts, because they are the ones who influence the souls of men and essentially shape whole countries. 

Living in England, and later America, Wurmbrand faced a disappointing challenge. Many in the West were ignorant of how to defeat the Communist system. The West was asleep. But Wurmbrand continued to warn against evil Communism, which he demonstrated is not compatible with religion, especially Christianity. Christ encourages individuality, whereas Communism only thinks in the collective. There are no personalities under Communism. (See how this won't work with the "Be who you are/Be true to yourself" movements?)

But Wurmbrand was also encouraged because he saw evidence of Christianity defeating Communism through the Underground Church. He witnessed the love of Christ in the persecuted winning over their persecutors. 

Finally, the author named three ways for the West to help persecuted Christians:
1. Pray for the enemy. Pray they may be saved.
2. Send Bibles and Christian literature.
3. Donate funds. Funds help VOM (Voice of the Martyrs) purchase supplies and resources for Christians in dangerous regions.

Sabina Wurmbrand passed away in 2000, and Richard passed in 2001. Now I am interested in reading The Pastor's Wife, by Sabina. 

Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand


If you want to know more about Christianity, Christian biographies, Christian martyrdom, the truth about Communism, or Communist history, then this is a perfect short book to read. 

For more from VOM, go here: Voice of the Martyrs.

UPDATE 2/29/20


  1. Great review... this sounds like an important book to read and still very relevant. I follow updates by Barnabas Fund, a similar Christian charity, and just recently they shared that a pastor Wang Yi and his wife in China, along with many of their congregation, were recently imprisoned:

    1. Thanks, Marian. For whatever reason, when I tried the link, it told me the link was not secure, including when I looked up the Barnabas Fund, and it wouldn't let me through.

    2. How strange...it's not doing that for me. Maybe it's a browser setting

  2. As excellent as these books are, I can only take so many of them at a time. Since I read Elie Wiesel's "Night", I'm still not sure I'm up to reading another yet. But a wonderful review and a check for one of your challenges!

    1. I hear ya! He did keep his specifics to a minimum and said that he wrote a different book that went into greater detail about the kinds of tortures the Communists inflicted on their prisoners. Shoot...a long time ago, I read a high school book by Albert Marrin regarding Stalin, and I read enough about what the Communists did. To this day, I still remember. Whenever I feel a bit cold, I think about what those people went through. Then I toughen up.

  3. I got this book and have been meaning to read it for years. I do not even know where it is anymore. I put off reading it because, based on the cover, I was afraid there were going to be graphic details of torture. Thanks so much for giving me a good synopsis.

    1. No graphic details...more about his mission. I hope you find it. You'll probably finish it in a day or two b/c it is so short.

    2. Well, wait...just a few details about a few torture techniques...but he really keeps it brief. You can self-censor, if you need to, w/o missing the message.

  4. I read this when I was a new Christian and used to get their Voice of the Martyrs newsletters before the Berlin Wall came down so there were often prayer requests for those who were imprisoned. I read about a pastor who was imprisoned because he operated an underground church so I wrote a letter to the Kremlin saying he should be released. I was about 19 & when my younger sister heard what I'd done she was paranoid a black maria would pull up one night & take me away. 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold' tells a very chilling story stemming from the author actually seeing the Wall being built. Now we hear accounts of persecution from places such as India & Africa but they tend not to touch us in the west. The Eastern Bloc was seen more of a threat I think.

    1. Oh, wow! Where were you living when the Wall was built? You're in Australia, right?

      I was 15 during that time. How brave of you to write. Good for you!!! This is one part of history we don't really read a lot about. Thank you for the book suggestion. There is a movie on this period that was excellent: The Lives of Others (2006). I believe it was East Germany before the Wall. It was so good!!!! This is the trailer..https://youtu.be/n3_iLOp6IhM. I wish people knew how evil Communism is...how no one trusts anyone, and there is paranoia everywhere. Wurmbrand touches on this a lot in this book...how even the soldiers and secret police and government officials end up being prisoners b/c no one believes anyone anymore. This movie demonstrates this ideal about Communism. What an evil world to live in...to not trust anyone.

    2. I was living in Scotland when the war was built & in Australia when it was torn down.

  5. I had no idea how Voice of the Martyrs got started. This book is inspirational and is going on my tbr list. I found out about the reading challenge today and may join if it's not too late. I am already in the Christian Reading Challenge which requires alot of reading so I am not sure I have time.

    1. This particular book is quite short, and the author has written numerous other books in greater depth about his life, which may also be interesting.

    2. P.S. Laura,
      Do you have a book blog, too? Also, what titles do you have on your Christian Reading Challenge?