World War I and World War II, a great deal of interest has been paid to the German Christian Church and Movement. The focus of this discussion will be on the German Christian Church and movement, specifically the protestant Church (people's church), after WWI and through WWII and the Nazi movement. The purpose of this discussion is to illustrate that the protestant German Christian church's ideology was not a product of Nazi orders or a response to Neo-Pagan influences, but in fact, was derivative of the post WWI culture of German.
According to a book entitled Twisted Cross: the German Christian Movement in the Third Reich, the German Christian Movement was composed of Protestants, both clergy and lay people. The author asserts that people that were a part of this movement believed that Nazi Rule was a prime opportunity to spread Christian ideology.
Members of the movement believed that Nazis and the church had reconciling beliefs that could be used to inspire a spiritual revival and place the church in an equitable place in German culture and society.
The book also reports that the movement was a combination of Christian and National Socialism. The combination of these ideologies eventually became known as German Christianity. Many once believed that the role and presence of the German Christians was only apparent in Germany during 1933 with the rise of the Nazi regime, however historians have documented a different reality. According to the book, the German Christians had a significant presence in Germany during the years of National Socialist rule. The author asserts that for more than ten years, they had a mass movement composed of more than half a million members with branches throughout Germany. The author contends, "Adherents held important positions within Protestant church governments at every level and occupied influential posts in theological faculties and religious training institutes...they controlled many of the decisions and much of the revenue of the Protestant church."
Origins of the German Movement ideology
Twisted Cross: the German Christian Movement in the Third Reich goes on to explain that many members of the movement were simply attempting to make Christianity acceptable to Nationalist socialist society. The author argues that the German Christian Movement was indeed the result of post war influences of the larger German culture. The author asserts that there were several cultural events that led to the emergence of the German Christians. One of the major events occurred in the 1920's when many of the Protestant association led efforts to promote ethnicity and German culture. The book asserts that these events were instrumental in the creation of the German Christian Movement that eventually took prominence in Germany.
Indeed, the author asserts that the German Christian Church movement was not a result of neo-pagan beliefs or Nazi influence. Instead, the author asserts that the movement came about as a direct result of German culture. The author explains that the "The movement's quest for a soldierly, hard Christianity reflected the ideals of many fellow Germans. And efforts to free Christianity from the confines of doctrine and Scripture gave voice to the yearning of many Germans for the comfort of familiar religious ritual and custom without the demands of ethical standards. For these reasons, the German Christian movement constituted much more than a marginalized minority. In significant ways, the strident extremism of the German Christians amplified and echoed tendencies in German society as a whole."
In an article entitled, "Germany is Our Mission -- Christ is Our Strength! The Wehrmacht Chaplaincy and the German Christian Movement" Doris Berger expounds on his beliefs about the German Christian Movement. In this article, the author discusses how the German Christian Movement also affected chaplaincy of the German Military. The article explains that the German Christians were able to infiltrate the Chaplaincy and held leadership positions. The article asserts that the presence of German Christian Chaplains in the German army reiterated the notion that the German Christian Movement came because of the post war culture of Germany. This postwar culture sought to find a compromise between Christianity and Nazism.
Another article found in the journal, History Review explains that the German Christian Movement was indeed born of the postwar culture of Germany. This article focuses on the fact that many members of the movement were dissatisfied with the leadership of the liberal Weimar Government and decided to embrace the Nazis. The author refers to this dislike of the Weimar Government as Weimar-Phobia. The article explains that the dislike of the Weimer government is understandable because as far back as the 16th century the heads of different German states also governed the Protestant Church.
However, after the unification of Germany in 1871 the Protestant Churches became strongly bonded to the Kaiser Reich. During this period the Church preached the political views of the pre-1914 government without any hesitation, they even preached the militaristic ideology of the regime. The author contends that when the regime was defeated it was difficult for the Protestants to accept. The article asserts that This was accentuated by the decision of the Weimar government to sever the relationship between the state and the Protestant Churches and stress the individual nature of religion. The Protestant Churches had to be given new constitutions and adjust to an environment in which they were no longer protected by the State."
When the Nazi party emerged as opponents to the Weimer government many Protestants, saw the Nazis as a possible alternative. The article asserts that although many Protestants were leery of the Nazis' use aggression, paganism, and street violence, there was enough ambivalence about the party that it appeared trustworthy. Because of this, the many Christians offered support to the Nazi party.
The article also asserts that the German Christian Movement was born of anti-Semitic feelings that already existed in Germany prior to the ascension of the Third Reich. In addition, certain Protestant theologians began to question whether or not Jesus was a Jew or an Aryan and some theologians wanted to disregard the New Testament altogether. The article explains, "the inherent anti-Semitism of many Christians allowed them to accept the racial policies of the Nazis more easily than might have been expected. In April 1933 the Lutheran general superintendent of Brandenburg, Otto Dibelius, made a radio broadcast in which he praised the arrest of 'communist agitators' and defended the removal of Jews from government offices as necessary to reduce their disproportionate influence over German life."
Indeed, the governmental changes along with the preexisting notions of the Jews played an instrumental role in the formation of the German Christian Movement and the impact that it had on Germany. This article makes it evident that there were many issues that contributed to the creation and proliferation of the German Christian Movement during World War I and World War II. This reiterates the idea that the movement did not occur because of Nazi orders of Neo-pagan influences but instead because of the cultural issues that shaped postwar Germany.
A book entitled The Church's Confession under Hitler explains that the post world war I culture created a Germany that combined Christianity, militarianism and nationalism. This backdrop became more pronounced in Germany because of the rise of the Nazi party. The book contends that this atmosphere was also ripe for the formation of the German Christians and their movement. The author asserts that the German Christians "secretly reject democracy" and that the old beliefs that were composed of the throne and altar were replaced by the new beliefs of "nation and altar."
This book goes on to reiterate the claims made by the authors of "Cross and Swastika: The Nazi Party and the German Churches To What Extent Did Christians Support Hitler, and for What Reasons?." These claims assert that the rise of the German Christian Movement came as a result of the dislike for the Weimer Reich and theologians' desire to abandon the Old testament and Judaist nature of traditional Christian beliefs. The author of this book explains that the predecessor to the "German Christian movement" was the "League for a German Church." The purpose of this league was to restructure the Church along nationalistic lines and to abandon its "Judaistic" characteristics.
In addition, the book explains that the league wanted to abandon the notion that the Old Testament was canonical. They also wanted to abandon Paul's rabbinic principle of redemption and also sought to make Jesus death a heroic sacrifice that reflected German mysticism. The author explains, "although the League was not a party within the Church and merely sought to influence the old parties with its philosophy, it did unite with other nationalistic movements, notably with the German League of Christians."
Another book entitled Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans, also reiterates the type of postwar culture that existed in Germany. The book asserts that anti-Semitism and extreme nationalism and patriotism were prominent themes in postwar Germany. The author also contends that the culture of postwar Germany also…