Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Third Reich and the church

I ran into some interesting reading today in some TIME Magazine archives -- in particular, an old cover on Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi "Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment." Although the article is a bit long and hard to read because of some formatting issues, I was unable to tear myself away -- considering the article was written in 1933, it provides a very interesting look at something that was very current. Perhaps it still should be.

I was especially interested in how the German churches responded -- since the article touched a bit on that. So little is generally known about the rise of Hitler and how the average Christian in Germany responded. An interesting figure to study is a man named Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, a man who eventually became known for his insistence on the church's autonomy from the Nazi state.

Claremont McKenna College has an interesting study on the details of German evangelical church of that day. I noticed an interesting fact: the Nazi-supporting "German Christians" tended to be worse persecutors of Protestantism than the government.
By the middle of 1934, Protestant opposition to Hitler was well organized, and the German Christian Church became fraught with internal division. Without support from the government, the German Christians and Muller became totally ineffective.

This did not stop Jager from brutally oppressing pastors in Wurttemberg (although the strength of the resistance in Prussia handicapped Jager's ability to interfere with church operations), and continuing to spread propaganda denouncing the Protestant opposition. A Protestant Kulturkampf ("culture struggle" -- my note) was instituted, and throughout Germany, with the exception of Westphalia, opposition was brutally repressed. Pastors were fired, arrested, and jailed.

In October of 1934 Jager was dismissed by Hitler, and all measures against dissenting bishops were annulled. Opposition leaders were summoned to Berlin, and Frick assured them that neutrality was now the official government policy towards the German Evangelical Church.

Labels: ,

<< Home 0 Comments:

Post a Comment