Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Church of England and the Holocaust

The Church of England and the Holocaust: Christianity, Memory and Nazism

TOM LAWSON
Volume: 12
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 220
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81dx4
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Church of England and the Holocaust
    Book Description:

    This is the first book to consider the Anglican church's response to the Nazi persecution and then murder of Europe's Jews. Acting as a critique of the historiography of the 'bystanders' to the Holocaust, it reveals a community that struggled to understand the depravity of Nazi anti-semitism. The author outlines Anglican attitudes to war, anti-semitism and many related issues, demonstrating the extent and the limits of the Church's engagement with European politics, and shows how Christian interpretations of Nazi persecution contributed to much wider assumptions about Germany and German history in Britain during the war years. He then moves on to the post-war world, indicating the important role played by the Church of England in forging memories of the Nazi era and especially the suffering of Europe's Jews. Overall, this book offers a challenging new interpretation of the Holocaust and its wider context, and of the history of the Church of England and its role in the intellectual life of the nation. Dr TOM LAWSON teaches in the Department of History, University of Winchester.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-457-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION: CONTEXTS
    (pp. 1-28)

    When considering the meaning of ‘Western Civilisation’ in 1951, the then Archbishop of York, Cyril Garbett, struggled to find a positive definition of such a vast and amorphous concept. Ultimately Garbett concluded that the best way to understand its meaning was to consider what `Western Civilisation’ was not. ‘Belsen and Dachau’ he argued, as ‘expressions of cruelty’ were the opposite of the aims and values of the West.¹ By using the memory of Nazi concentration camps as anti-symbols, Garbett drew on a rich heritage of attempts to explore the meaning of the Third Reich in the Church of England. Invariably...

  6. Part I: Responses

    • Chapter One ‘THE STRUGGLE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM’: THE MYTH OF MARTIN NIEMÖLLER AND THE ANGLICAN UNDERSTANDING OF NAZISM
      (pp. 31-54)

      Looking back from the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Holocaust dominates our understanding of the Third Reich. The Nazi state was, quintessentially, the racial state and it is the ‘Final Solution’ that seems to encapsulate the unique horrors of Nazism. Yet for most interested observers in Britain during the 1930s it was not racism, and certainly not the treatment of Germany’s Jews, that captured the iniquity of the new Nazi state. Indeed, where Nazism was seen as dangerous, racism and antisemitism, far from being understood as the central crime of the Third Reich, were interpreted (if they were seen...

    • Chapter Two ‘A CRUSADE TO DELIVER OUR FELLOW MEN FROM A SUB-HUMAN BARBARISM’: NAZISM AND WAR IN THE ANGLICAN IMAGINATION
      (pp. 55-80)

      Despite dark fears of the totalitarian anti-Christ, the interwar Church of England actually believed that the primary danger to the civilised world came from war. Anglican leaders had been deeply scarred by the First World War, both by the complacency of their own nationalist rhetoric and by the horrors of the battlefield and the ‘lost generation’. As a consequence, the Church formed the backbone of anti-war feeling in Britain after 1920. This rejection of warfare culminated, in September 1938, in a celebration of the Munich agreement, both inside and outside the Anglican Church, as a divine deliverance from the ‘devil...

    • Chapter Three ‘BURNING INDIGNATION’: THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND THE MURDER OF EUROPE’S JEWS
      (pp. 81-108)

      On the 21 June 1941 Nazi forces began the invasion of the Soviet Union. Following in their wake, SS troops sought, in the name of security and in line with Nazi plans for the redistribution of the population of eastern and central Europe, to pacify the newly occupied territories by killing all Jewish men of fighting age. These men were taken from the communities in which they lived, and murdered, often being shot into graves that they had dug themselves. By late August these SS Einsatzgruppen and other itinerant killing squads were murdering Jewish men, women and children. During the...

  7. Part II: Memories

    • Chapter Four ‘THE TRADES UNION OF BISHOPS’: THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND THE SEARCH FOR A USABLE PAST AT THE BEGINNING OF THE COLD WAR
      (pp. 111-138)

      Towards the end of October 1945 the leaders of the newly unified Protestant Church in Germany, the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD), met at Stuttgart. George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, joined them. The meeting produced the famous ‘Stuttgart declaration’ on German Christians’ responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi era. This declaration admonished Christians and churches in Germany, asking why they ‘did not confess more courageously, did not pray more faithfully, did not believe more joyously, and did not love more passionately’ during the Third Reich.¹ Yet Bell, the representative of both the Church of England and a member of...

    • Chapter Five ‘TO WHOM VENGEANCE BELONGETH’: THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, CHRISTIANITY AND OPPOSITION TO WAR-CRIMES TRIALS
      (pp. 139-166)

      War-crimes trials were a crucial aspect of the search for a usable past. The meaning of genocidal conflict was shaped in courtrooms and on gallows throughout what had been Nazi-occupied Europe. Judgements declared who had been a criminal and what their crimes were and why. Those that went unpunished or uninvestigated spoke just as eloquently about the nature of the suffering that had just passed. Trials have also been written into narratives charting the development of historical memories after 1945. The western allies appeared to demonstrate a commitment to working through the past in their trials programmes. But, when those...

  8. CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 167-180)

    Studies of British reactions to the Holocaust have not, by and large, focused on the Church of England. They have thereby neglected a community that has a great deal to tell us about the roles that Britain played as bystander. Focusing on the Church of England further illuminates the understandings and interpretations that underpinned the British response to the Holocaust; it also reveals a community which, in its own way, felt and articulated the pain of European Jewry, in other words a community which meets our present-day expectations of the bystanders. In addition, the example of the Church of England...

  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 181-202)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 203-208)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-210)