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A Church Divided

German Protestants Confront the Nazi Past

Matthew D. Hockenos

Publication Year: 2004

This book closely examines the turmoil in the German Protestant churches in the immediate postwar years as they attempted to come to terms with the recent past. Reeling from the impact of war, the churches addressed the consequences of cooperation with the regime and the treatment of Jews. In Germany, the Protestant Church consisted of 28 autonomous regional churches. During the Nazi years, these churches formed into various alliances. One group, the German Christian Church, openly aligned itself with the Nazis. The rest were cautiously opposed to the regime or tried to remain noncommittal. The internal debates, however, involved every group and centered on issues of belief that were important to all. Important theologians such as Karl Barth were instrumental in pressing these issues forward. While not an exhaustive study of Protestantism during the Nazi years, A Church Divided breaks new ground in the discussion of responsibility, guilt, and the Nazi past.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi-xii

The completion of this book would not have been possible without the wisdom and generous support of many individuals and organizations. Of the many colleagues and mentors who influenced this project at every stage, Molly Nolan and Stewart Stehlin of New York University, and John S. Conway, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, in particular deserve my warm appreciation. ...

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pp. 1-14

When Allied bombs stopped falling on Germany in May 1945, German men, women, and children emerged, dazed and scared, from their makeshift basement bunkers in Berlin, Dresden, Frankfurt, and other German cities. Colossal destruction confronted them everywhere. The English journalist Isaac Deutscher described Berlin as evoking “the impression of a miraculously well-preserved ruin of classical ...

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1. The Church: Struggle Ecclesiastical, Political, and Theological Disunity in the Third Reich

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pp. 15-41

In the period 1933–45 Protestant responses to National Socialism in Germany ranged from enthusiastic endorsement to active opposition. These reflected the variety of theological and political perspectives of Protestant clergy and laity to the crises that had beset Germany since the First World War. Twelve years of Nazi dictatorship only made these divisions more entrenched and obvious. The divisions ...

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2. Representations of the Nazi Past in Early 1945

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pp. 42-62

In spring 1945 Germany prostrate, destroyed by Allied bombs and disgraced by twelve years of Nazi rule. Its dreams of victory had been abandoned. Its government had been overthrown. Its territory had been invaded and occupied. Its enemies were now expected to take their revenge, and indeed tales of raping and pillaging by Soviet troops in the eastern provinces sent panic waves through every ...

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3. Guilt from Another World: Guilt, Repentance, and Forgiveness in the Year Zero

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pp. 63-74

Nothing divided churchmen in 1945 more than the manner in which they interpreted the church’s guilt for its conduct during the Third Reich. Although many in the pastorate and laity on the local level believed that any type of confession or apology was both unnecessary and undesirable, the majority of high-profile church leaders on the national level were in agreement that in one form or another the ...

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4. The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt: Religious Confession, Freedom Charter, or Another Versailles?

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pp. 75-100

Considering the underlying animosities that lingered from the church struggle, the administrative unity achieved at the Treysa conference was a significant accomplishment. The new church leadership, however, enjoyed little respite. Critics from inside and outside the church bemoaned the lack of contrition by church leaders at Treysa. “You should have seen this self-satisfied church at Treysa,” Niemöller re-...

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5. The Guilt of the Others: Bishop Wurm’s Letter to English Christians

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pp. 101-117

In dramatic contrast to reactions to the Stuttgart declaration, domestic responses to Bishop Theophil Wurm’s open message, “To the Christians in England,” were warm and enthusiastic (see appendix 5).1 Written two months after the Stuttgart meeting, Wurm’s outspoken critique of the Allies’ occupation policy and his comparison of it to the Nazis’ occupation policy were, for many Germans, long over-...

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6. On the Political Course of Our People

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pp. 118-134

“The Confessing Church must have a political policy, we must have a political position as Christians, we need to say today that we are taking a new path.”1 The Lutheran churchman who made this clarion call was Hans Iwand, a member of the reform-minded council of brethren (Bruderrat) and an ally of the Dahlemite wing of the former Confessing Church. With the encouragement and assistance of Karl ...

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7. The Church and Antisemitism

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pp. 135-152

For postwar Protestant Church leaders the “Jewish question” or “Jewish problem,” which some clergymen had hoped to resolve in past decades through conversion and others through support for antisemitic legislation, consisted of three interrelated issues: the practical, the historical, and the theological.1 The most immediate issue facing churchmen was practical: How should the church, in its day-to-day ...

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8. A Ray of Light in Their Darkness: The Church and Anti-Judaism

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pp. 153-170

At its April 1948 meeting in Darmstadt, the brethren council (Bruderrat), which had so notably challenged Lutheran orthodoxy when debating Germany’s political course a year earlier, still adhered to a theologically conservative position with regard to the Jews. The brethren council stated that “since Israel crucified the Messiah, it rejected its own election and its own destiny. . . . Through Christ and since ...

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pp. 186-193

In his 1959 essay “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?” the German philosopher and social critic Theodor Adorno (1903–69) expressed frustration and disdain with the German failure to face the Nazi past head-on. In the fourteen years since the end of the war, “no serious working through the past” had taken place. Instead, he detected a concerted effort to repress the past by “wip-...

APPENDIX 1. Theological Declaration of Barmen: (Confessing Church, May 1934)

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pp. 179-180

APPENDIX 2. Message to the Pastors: (Brethren Council, August 1945)

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pp. 181-184

APPENDIX 3. Message to the Congregations: (Treysa Conference, August 1945)

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pp. 185-186

APPENDIX 4. Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt: (Evangelical Church of Germany council, October 1945)

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pp. 187-188

APPENDIX 5. To the Christians in England: Bishop Wurm, 14 December 1945

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pp. 189-192

APPENDIX 6. Statement by the Council of Brethren of the Evangelical Church of Germany Concerning the Political Course of Our People: (Darmstadt Statement, August 1947)

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pp. 193-194

APPENDIX 7. Message Concerning the Jewish Question: (Council of Brethren of the Evangelical Church, Darmstadt, April 8, 1948)

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pp. 195-198

APPENDIX 8. Statement on the Jewish Question: (Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany,Berlin-Weissensee, April 27, 1950)

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pp. 199-200


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pp. 210-234


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pp. 235-260


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pp. 261-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110312
E-ISBN-10: 0253110319
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253344489

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos, 1 figures, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2004