A Church Undone

A Church Undone: Documents from the German Christian Faith Movement, 1932-1940

Selected, Translated, and Introduced by Mary M. Solberg
Copyright Date: 2015
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    A Church Undone
    Book Description:

    Decades after the Holocaust, many assume that the churches in Germany resisted the Nazi regime. In fact, resistance was exceptional. Almost all Germans were Christians, and almost all Christians in Germany stood by, becoming intentionally or unintentionally complicit in Nazi policies and practices. In the early 1930s, a movement emerged within German Protestantism with the aim of fully integrating Nazi ideology, German national identity, and Christian faith. The Deutsche Christen or, “German Christians,” as they were called, interpreted the Christian faith and the role of the church in society in service of the Nazi revolution. They married centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism to the Nazis’ racial antisemitism and sought to eradicate all traces of Judaism from Christianity. The “German Christian” publication program, designed to advance their ideology, included books and pamphlets, radio talks and speeches, as well as liturgies and retranslations of Scripture. For the first time in English, Mary M. Solberg presents a selection of representative documents of the “German Christians.” Her introduction to the volume sets the historical context of the movement and offers short introductions to each of the specific readings. The collection includes key responses critical of the German Christians by Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, among others.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9666-6
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Mary M. Solberg
  4. List of Images
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-43)
    Mary M. Solberg

    This book lays before the reader a selection of texts published mainly during the 1930s by the German Christians, a minority movement within the Protestant church in Germany that enthusiastically supported Hitler and National Socialism and sought to make the church their instrument.¹ Scholars who write about this period and this movement have of course unearthed and pored over many such documents—flyers, pamphlets, and books. These documents have provided a basis for substantive historical and theological analyses of the Protestant church, the German Christian movement in particular, and their roles in the larger drama of the Third Reich. I...

  6. 1 The Original Guidelines of the German Christian Faith Movement
    (pp. 45-52)
    Joachim Hossenfelder

    These ten guidelines were written by Pastor Joachim Hossenfelder and published in June 1932. Key words and phrases point to some of the movement’s preoccupations. “Positive Christianity” refers directly to the same phrase in Point 24 of the 1920 platform of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party.¹ The German Christians favor a “heroic piety,” reject both the “weak” leadership and the “parliamentarianism” of the church as it is presently configured, and dedicate themselves to the battle against Marxism. The guidelines spell out the movement’s conviction that “race, ethnicity [Volkstum], and nation” are “orders of life given and entrusted to...

  7. 2 The Aryan Paragraph in the Church and Responses
    (pp. 53-80)
    Various Authors

    On April 7, 1933, two months after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, the National Socialist government passed the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. The legislation allowed for the removal of tenured members of the civil service, specifically those who could not document their “Aryan” descent and those “who given their previous activities offer no guarantee that they will act at all times and without reservation in the interests of the national state,” that is, opponents of the Nazi regime. Jews were the clearest targets. President Hindenburg insisted on several exceptions, which were incorporated into the new...

  8. 3 Theological Existence Today!
    (pp. 81-100)
    Karl Barth

    Karl Barth (1886–1968) was a member of the theology faculty at the University of Bonn when he wroteTheological Existence Today!He wrote it quickly, at the urging of friends and in response to the increasing intensity of German Christian efforts to nazify the German Protestant Church. Published in July 1933, it has the character of a manifesto and is directed chiefly to pastors and theologians. Whether by Barth’s intention or not, it came to have a much broader audience; before it was confiscated by the Nazi government in 1934, the Kaiser Verlag had published 37,000 copies. To those...

  9. 4 What the German Christians Want for the Church
    (pp. 101-120)
    Emanuel Hirsch

    Emanuel Hirsch (1888–1972), “a major figure in twentieth-century German theology,”¹ was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and professor. He taught church history and then systematic theology at the University of Göttingen, where he also became dean of the theological faculty. He was a recognized authority on both Martin Luther and Søren Kierkegaard, and was known for his translations of the latter’s work from Danish to German. Early in the history of the German Christian movement he became one of its leading theological advisors, and personally counseled Ludwig Müller, who became national bishop [Reichsbischof]. Hirsch, a close friend of theologian Paul...

  10. 5 The History of the “German Christian” Faith Movement
    (pp. 121-162)
    Arnold Dannenmann

    Arnold Dannenmann (1907–1993), a Lutheran youth pastor, was a member of the German Christian Faith Movement. In addition to the book that is excerpted here, in 1933 he also published a book entitledYouth Commits Itself to Christ and to National Socialism[Jugend bekennt sich zu Christus und Nationalsozialismus].¹ Dannenmann begins by declaring boldly that every National Socialist is “bound to Adolf Hitler,” not as a slave but voluntarily, because Hitler has revealed something entirely new: that the German people can become one, “a community of the same blood.” From the beginning, then, the author is emphatic about the...

  11. 6 The Handbook of the German Christians (1933)
    (pp. 163-200)
    German Christian National Church Union

    This “handbook” was published late in 1933, very likely for a popular audience. Its preface briefly recounts a version of the history of the German Christians that begins in 1932 and ends after the November 13, 1933, Sports Palace speech delivered by Reinhold Krause,¹ and the subsequent changes in German Christian leadership. The handbook includes several documents important to the movement: the 1932 Guiding Principles and the Twenty-eight Theses of the Church of Saxony. It also includes a membership application form that could be torn out, filled in, and submitted. The German original includes pictures of virtually all the men...

  12. 7 The Jewish Question
    (pp. 201-228)
    Gerhard Kittel

    Prior to 1933, Gerhard Kittel (1888–1948), professor of New Testament theology at the University of Tübingen, had established himself as an internationally recognized authority on Judaism and its relation to early Christianity. Kittel joined the Nazi Party in May 1933. “The Jewish Question” is a speech he gave in Tübingen a month later, on June 1, 1933. The seventy-eight-page print version published shortly thereafter went through three editions and nine thousand copies. That same year Kittel became a charter member of the National Institute for History of the New Germany (Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands), which pursued and...

  13. 8 Our Struggle
    (pp. 229-248)
    Joachim Hossenfelder

    Joachim Hossenfelder (1899–1976) was a German Lutheran pastor and one of the founders and first national leader of the German Christian Faith Movement, whose members he called “the storm troopers of Christ.”¹ Hossenfelder served in the First World War, studied theology thereafter, and was ordained to the ministry; in 1929 he joined the Nazi Party. He was one of the founding members of the German Christian Faith Movement, which in 1932 brought together several like-minded groups. In May of that year he drew up the original “guidelines” for the movement, guidelines that reflected its founders’ Nazi—and Christian—commitments.²...

  14. 9 Speech at the Sports Palace in Berlin
    (pp. 249-262)
    Reinhold Krause

    On Nov. 13, 1933, Dr. Reinhold Krause (1893–1980), a high school teacher, a committed Nazi Party member, and the forty-year-oldGauobmann,or [Berlin] district leader of the German Christian Faith Movement, spoke to an audience of 20,000 packed into the huge Sports Palace in Berlin. The stenographers who transcribed the speech noted in parentheses the audience’s frequent and enthusiastic responses to Krause’s performance. Detailed newspaper reports subsequently informed millions more within Germany and abroad.

    Krause begins by calling for the “completion of the German Reformation in the Third Reich”; Luther, he claims, “[strove to] . . . altogether [abolish]...

  15. 10 Declaration of the National Bishop Regarding the Events in the Sports Palace
    (pp. 263-266)
    Ludwig Müller

    Ludwig Müller (1883–1945) served as a chaplain in the German Marines during World War I, joined the Nazi Party in the early 1920s, and met Hitler in 1926. In April 1933 Hitler designated him Representative of the Reich Chancellor for Protestant Church Affairs, with “particular responsibility for furthering all endeavors to create an Evangelical [Protestant] Reich Church.”¹ Both Hitler and the German Christians wanted to unite the twenty-nine regional churches [Landeskirchen] in one national, or Reich Church. The results of the church elections on July 23—achieved with decisive help from the Nazi Party organization and an election-eve radio...

  16. 11 Outline of German Theology
    (pp. 267-292)
    Friedrich Wieneke

    Friedrich Wieneke (1892–1957) served in World War I, joined the Nazi Party in 1929, and was active in local Nazi politics in Soldin, Brandenburg, where he was also cathedral pastor. He was an early member of the Christian-German Movement [Christlich-Deutsche Bewegung], then switched in 1932 to the German Christian Faith Movement [Glaubensbewegung Deutsche Christen], with its more profound racialism.¹ Wieneke, as he recounts in the excerpt below, became that group’s “national advisor for theology and higher education,” its self-styled chief theologian, and one of its chroniclers.

    Outline of German Theologywas published in the fall of 1933, a year...

  17. 12 German Christians: A People’s Book A Guide to Today’s Faith Movement
    (pp. 293-320)
    Constantin Grossmann

    The technically correct English word forVolksbuch, here translated “people’s book,” is “chapbook.” Historically, chapbooks, an early type of popular literature, were a medium of entertainment, information, and (generally unreliable) history, especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Popular or folk literature, such as pamphlets, political and religious tracts, nursery rhymes, poetry, folk tales, children’s literature, and almanacs were published in the form of chapbooks, mainly to disseminate popular culture to the common people, especially in rural areas. By giving his publication the nameVolksbuch, or chapbook, Grossmann is calling to mind a romantic medium of centuries past.


  18. 13 The German Community of Christ The Path to the German National Church
    (pp. 321-336)
    Julius Leutheuser

    Julius Leutheuser (1900–1942) was a German Lutheran pastor. A teenager during the First World War, he was a standard bearer by 1918. After the war he studied theology and, shortly after its founding, joined the Nazi Party, becoming an orator in its cause. Both he and his good friend Siegfried Leffler¹ were ordained and took positions in Bavarian churches. In part because of their political views, and their enthusiasm in promoting them, the two young pastors came into conflict with the Bavarian Lutheran church authorities. They moved to Thuringia and founded the German Christian Church Movement [Kirchenbewegung Deutsche Christen]...

  19. 14 Christ in Germany’s Third Reich The Nature, the Path, and the Goal of the German Christian Church Movement
    (pp. 337-364)
    Siegfried Leffler

    Siegfried Leffler (1900–1983) was a German Lutheran pastor. He was a good friend of Julius Leutheuser¹; in 1927 both left their parishes in Bavaria, where they believed their National Socialist political views were bringing them into conflict with church authorities, and moved to Thuringia. There they organized a German Christian group comprising pastors and teachers—a group whose chief aim was the establishment of a unified, supraconfessional national Protestant church structured along National Socialist lines and closely coordinated with the Nazi organization. For young pastors like Leffler and Leutheuser, “there was no longer any distinction between church, cultural and...

  20. 15 Political Christianity On the Thuringian “German Christians”
    (pp. 365-382)
    Paul Althaus

    Paul Althaus (1888–1966) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and professor. He lectured at the University of Göttingen and then served as a hospital chaplain in World War I. After the war he taught at the University of Rostock until the mid-1920s, and then was called to a position in systematic and New Testament theology at the University of Erlangen. There he also served as University Preacher for more than three decades. Althaus greeted the NaziMachtergreifung(seizure of power) in 1933 as “a gift and miracle of God” and an “Easter moment.”

    Althaus developed a theological concept he...

  21. 16 God’s Word in German The Sermon on the Mount, Germanized
    (pp. 383-394)
    Ludwig Müller

    By 1936, whenGod’s Word in Germanwas published, National Bishop Ludwig Müller had lost most of whatever authority he had enjoyed in the early days of the German Christian faith movement. Like most German Christians, however, he continued to support Hitler and the National Socialist project with great enthusiasm. Like many of his coworkers, Müller believed their movement could serve the German people by helping “to make the Bible more understandable to modern Germans by putting its messages into modern terms.”¹ For someone as devoted to the Nazi renewal of Germany as he was, doing so would inevitably involve...

  22. 17 What Do the German Christians Want? 118 Questions and Answers
    (pp. 395-420)
    Otto Brökelschen

    This pamphlet, sixteen pages in the original German, was prepared by a German Christian pastor from the Rhineland town of Oberhausen. With its simple question-and-answer format, it is clearly meant for a popular audience.

    What Do the German Christians Want?offers responses to questions the reader may have about German Christian beliefs in what its author acknowledges as brief, “almost slogan-like terms.” (For more information he refers the reader to other publications listed toward the end of the pamphlet.) Among the topics covered are a host of standard German Christian themes and convictions, among them these: that the state—in...

  23. 18 Freedom of Conscience
    (pp. 421-432)
    Wolf Meyer-Erlach

    Wolf Meyer-Erlach (1899–1982) was a German Lutheran pastor and professor. He studied theology at the universities of Erlangen and Tübingen, served in the military during World War I, and was ordained to the ministry thereafter. Early in the 1920s he became a speaker for the National Socialist German Workers Party. In 1931 he became a radio “broadcast pastor” for the Bavarian state radio system. He joined the Nazi Party in 1933; during the same year he became a leader of the German Christians in Bavaria.

    Despite his lack of the academic credentials needed to assume a university teaching position,...

  24. 19 Jesus and the Jews!
    (pp. 433-442)
    Organization for German Christianity

    The Organization for German Christianity [Bund für deutsches Christentum], which issued the pamphlet from which the excerpt below is taken, came into being in November 1936 when “leaders of German-Christian-controlled regional churches . . . met in the Wartburg Castle outside Eisenach.”¹ Their goal, writes Susannah Heschel, was “creating a judenrein [Jew-free] Christianity for a judenrein Nazi Reich,” that is, a thorough de-judaizing of Christian scriptures, worship, music, theology, and anything else related to the church.² The fragmentation of the German Christian movement from early 1934 onward, and its failure, in any case, to unify the Protestant churches as part...

  25. 20 The Godesberg Declaration and Responses
    (pp. 443-452)
    Various Authors

    The Godesberg Declaration was drafted in March 1939 by Thuringian pastor Siegfried Leffler¹ and other German Christian leaders meeting in the Bonn suburb of Bad Godesberg. They met and composed the statement as the Nazi regime intensified its anti-Jewish policies;Kristallnacht, the vicious pogrom directed at Jewish businesses, synagogues, and homes, had occurred only four months earlier, in November 1938. At its core, one sentence—“The Christian faith is the unbridgeable religious opposite of Judaism”—signaled the German Christians’ intention to “transform the Protestant church into a tool of racial policy.”² It also expressed their ongoing conviction that Christians of...

  26. 21 Who Is Jesus of Nazareth?
    (pp. 453-470)
    Walter Grundmann

    Walter Grundmann (1906–1976) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and professor. In 1930 he became a member of the Nazi Party, and in 1934 a supporting member of the S.S. Between 1930 and 1932 he served as an assistant to Gerhard Kittel and wrote a score of articles for theTheological Dictionary of the NewTestament, of which Kittel was the editor.¹ He became active in the German Christian movement in Saxony, and in December 1933 wrote the “Twenty-Eight Theses of the Church of Saxony,”² which articulated Protestant statements of faith in Nazi language and using Nazi racial concepts....

  27. Bibliography
    (pp. 471-478)
  28. Index
    (pp. 479-486)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 487-487)