Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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Newsletter- June 2000- Vol.VI, no. 6


Newsletter - Vol VI, no 6 - June 2000

Dear Friends
The flood of new books and articles in our area of study seems never ending,
and the task of making a selection for review is correspondingly
challenging. I trust however that you continue to find the coverage broad
enough to interest most of you some of the time!
The next issue will be a double Summer Newsletter for both July and August,
which will be sent to you in the third week of July.

1) Obituary: Joachim Mehlhausen
2) Karl Barth Prize awarded to South African academic
3) Forthcoming conference: German Studies Association
4) Book Reviews:

a) G.Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies
b) A.Vuletic, Christen juedischer Herkunft
c) J.D.Thiesen, Mennonite & Nazi?
d) F.Ludwig, Church and State in Tanzania

5) New articles -

M.Lindsay, Karl Barth's dialectics,
J.Pollard, The Vatican and the Wall St. crash
S.P.Ramet, Religion and Politics in Germany
J.Alwell, Religious liberty in Sweden

1) It is with great regret that we learn of the death on April 3rd of
Professor Joachim Mehlhausen, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Tuebingen, the
former chairman of the Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur kirchliche
Zeitgeschichte, after a lengthy illness. He was de facto the successor to
Klaus Scholder in Tuebingen, and gave leadership to his church's efforts to
encourage a knowledge of the denomination's past. His successor is to be
chosen at the next meeting of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft at Magdeburg in June.
In the meanwhile, a retired Oberkirchenrat, Prof Harald Schultze of
Magdeburg has been nominated as vice-chairman, and also chair of the special
commission dealing with the history of the Protestant churches in the
divided Germany, i.e. between 1945 and 1990.

2) Congratulations to our fellow List-member, John de Gruchy of the
Department of Religious Studies in the University of Cape Town,, who has
been awarded the prestigious Karl Barth Prize for the year 2000. It will be
presented to him at a ceremony in Berlin in August.
Professor de Gruchy, a minister of the United Congregational Church of
Southern Africa, is world renowned for his studies on the Swiss theologian
Karl Barth, as well as on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Both were noted for their
opposition to the Nazi regime in Germany, which they comprehensively
critiqued on theological grounds.
Among Professor de Gruchy's unique contribution to theological scholarship
has been his work which drew parallels between the apartheid ideology in
South Africa and the Nazi doctrines, He applied Barth and Bonhoeffer's
critique of Fascism to the 'false theology' of apartheid, and his work was
instrumental in leading the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to declare
apartheid a 'theological heresy' in 1982, putting pressure on all the South
African family of Reformed churches to renounce apartheid.
The Karl Barth Prize was instituted by the German Evangelical Church in 1986
to mark the centenary of Barth's birth. Among previous winners have been the
theologians Hans Kung and Eberhard Jungel. (Source: Worldwide Faith News)

3) German Studies Association conference, Houston,Texas, October 6th-8th
The following sessions of interest to our readers are announced in the
provisional programme:
Friday October 6th, 8.30 a.m., Session 2: Hitler's Pope? Image, Imagination
and Pope Pius XII.
Cornwell and Pius XII: what the author got right, Richard Rubenstein
Sicilian Vespers Revisited, Michael Phayer
Reflections on Pius XII and the Third Reich, Hannah Decker,
Commentator, Frank Nicosia
Friday, October 6th 8.30 a.m. Session 8: The Protestant Church and the Cold
The World Council of Churches, the German churches and the Cold War, Armin
American Protestantism and the German churches during the Cold War, Gerhard
The Christian Peace Conference and the World Council of Churches, Gerhard
Commentator, Robert Ericksen
Saturday, October 7th 1.45 p.m. Session 106
The Index of Forbidden books and Catholic Nationalism in Wilhelmine Germany,
Jeff Zalar, Washington.
Sunday, October 8th, 8.30 a..m. Session 133: Divergent Problems of Mischehen
and Mischlinge under National Socialism 1933-45
Victor Klemperer's Diary of an intermarried Jew, Nathan Stolzfus
Regional aspects of persecution among Mischlinge, James Tent
Umgangsstrategien sogenannter juedischer Mischlinge mit der NS-Verfolgung,
Beate Meyer
Commentator, Doris Bergen

4) Book reviews:
a) Guenter Lewy, The Persecution of the Gypsies. Oxford: O.U.P. 2000, 360pp
Thirty five years ago Guenter Lewy wrote the first account in English of the
Catholic Church in Nazi Germany, challenging many of the apologetic alibis
about its role during that fateful time. He now has produced an equally
significant study of the Nazi persecution of the gypsies, again, apart from
one short and unimpressive study, the first academic treatment in English.
This topic has waited all these years for a suitable analysis for various
reasons. In the first place, unlike other victims of the Nazis, such a the
Jews, the gypsies do not maintain a literate culture. Their historical
memory is largely oral. They are strangers to the political advantages to be
gained as former victims of a barbaric regime. They suspect any outsiders
who seek to probe their experiences.
As a consequence this work has been largely compiled on the basis of the
official records of the time, and concentrates therefore more on the
perpetrators of this persecution rather than on the victims. It is one of
the strengths of Prof. Lewy's account that he reinforces the view taken in
other studies of Nazi persecution that there was no prearranged or
systematic plan, but rather a plethora of competing strategies, which were
then steadily radicalized by being played off against each other.
Lewy points out that the Nazis inherited a widespread social antipathy to
the approximately 25,000 gypsies known to be in Germany. Their policy at
first was prompted by pressure from below, at the local level, leading to an
intensification of the measures for control already initiated during the
Weimar Republic. In the second phase, beginning in 1937, gypsies were caught
up in the programme of crime prevention that led to "preventive police
custody" served in concentration camps. The third phase was instituted by
Himmler in late 1938 using racial criteria to brand some gypsies as a danger
to the nation. At the outbreak of the war, itinerancy was forbidden,
compulsory labour was imposed, but gypsies were not allowed to enlist or
remain in the armed forces, and continued to be treated as social outcasts.
But Lewy makes the point that Hitler appears not to have been involved at
any time, and the evidence does not exist that the gypsies were
systematically targeted for destruction as a blanket category. Indeed, to
the contrary, "pure" gypsies were valued as examples of racially significant
types, and hence were not subject to sterilization or deportation. Much more
dangerous were those who had attempted to integrate, and thus could be
considered as "polluters"of the German "blood".
As a result of this categorization, large numbers of gypsies were forcibly
imprisoned and/or "resettled" in the east, where their casualties resulted
in many deaths. But even Himmler's notorious order of December 1942 to send
more than 13,000 gypsy men, women and children to Auschwitz was not just
part of a larger plan to destroy the whole gypsy race, since numerous
exemptions were given. Those dispatched eastwards were selected basically as
social misfits rather than on racial grounds. Lewy suggests that the
subsequent mass murder of these Auschwitz gypsies in the spring of 1944,
after being held there for 18 months, was probably due to the need for more
temporary space for Hungarian Jews.
No exact statistics are on record as to how many gypsies lived under Nazi
control, nor how many were so horrendously and deliberately murdered. So it
is impossible to estimate the proportion of their losses. In Lewy's view
these mass murders do not add up to genocide, but are shocking enough. While
no direct orders can be traced for any general gypsy extermination, it is
more likely that such executions were based on the belief that the gypsies
constituted an inferior people whose lives were fully dispensable. Other
scholars however point out that the mass involuntary sterilization of
gypsies in 1943 and 1944 can be considered as an act of genocide, as a
deliberate act of preventing the future contamination of German "blood".
In Lewy's view, it is not helpful to try and equate the sufferings of the
gypsies with those of the Jews. He points to the continued squabbles which
have arisen over whether or not to include Sinti and Roma in the
U.S.Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. There were in fact significant
differences in Nazi policy, but the victimization of the gypsies did not,
alas, end with the overthrow of Hitler and his gang. Rather the distrust and
hostility exploited by the Nazis are still evident today. What is not
evident is any sign that the churches sought or seek to combat such
stigmatization. JSC

b) Aleksandar-Sasa Vuletic, Christen juedischer Herkunft im Dritten Reich.
Verfolgung und organisierte Selbsthilfe 1933-1939 (Veroffentlichung d. Inst.
f.Europaische Geschichte Mainz, Abteilung Universalgeschichte Bd 169) Mainz:
Verlag Philipp von Zabern 1999, 308pp
The story of those Christians who were of Jewish or partly Jewish origin in
Germany during the Nazi era has only been touched on up to now. In the more
general accounts, their fate is discussed in the context of the ideological
debate within the Nazi hierarchy of how they should be treated, or of the
theological debate in the churches as to whether they really belonged. After
the war, the survivors themselves were only too eager to forget their
degrading classification as "non-aryans" or "Mischlinge", and preferred to
be seen as fully Christian as everyone else. For their part, church
historians were embarrassed by the dismal lack of support given by their
leaders to these unfortunate members of their own church, so kept silent.
And, in any case, the largest body of documentation only became available
after the fall of the German Democratic Republic. So it is good that
Aleksandar-Sas Vuletic now gives us this full study, which is published by
the prestigious Institute for European History in Mainz.
Basically this work is an account of the short-lived Reich Association for
"non-aryan" Christians, later called the Paulus Bund. But first the author
has to tackle the problematical issues of numbers and nomenclature. No one
knew, or knows, for certain how many Christians of Jewish or partly Jewish
descent were in Germany in 1933, and estimates ranged from 2 million
downwards. Nor was it known how many subsequently emigrated. Equally
confusing was the plethora of overlapping but all pejorative adjectives such
as "not fully German", "half-Jew", "non-aryan", "mixed blood", which were
not so much descriptive as discriminatory and were naturally not used by
those affected.
The paradox was that, since the Nazis had no biological means of
establishing who was a Jew, they were obliged to use a religious test based
on allegiances sixty or eighty years previously. Having only one Jewish
grandparent was enough to be categorized as falling under the Nazis'
draconian racial legislation. But the implementation of these new rules for
those no longer or not fully Jewish was to provide for bureaucratic
As for those affected, their sudden plight in being treated as no longer
only Christians and Germans was traumatic. They were frequently regarded by
the Jewish community as renegades, but were only semi-accepted by the
Christian churches, which too often shared much of the Nazis' racial
thinking. Particularly lonely were those who had been born as Christians or
converted to Christianity but had later lapsed into free-thinking or
atheistic beliefs, who now found themselves totally abandoned by any
community to whom they might have turned.
The two major churches' response to the Nazi persecution was ambivalent, at
best. Neither sought to mobilize their congregations to protest such
injustices, even on behalf of their own supporters. The Catholic Church
established a committee which principally sought to encourage emigration,
while the Protestant community saw the rapid rise of the pro-Nazi group, the
so-called "German Christians", which openly called for the elimination of
all Jewish elements from their liturgies and theology, as well as the
ejection of all "non-aryan" pastors. Although these moves were resisted by
the Confessing Church on theological grounds, even so there was little
sympathy shown to their "non-aryan" members. Not until 1938 did the
Confessing Church establish a small committee under Pastor Gruber in Berlin
to assist such Jewish Protestants to emigrate. By contrast the effective aid
given by Bishop Bell of Chichester to a group of Protestant pastors and
their families, enabling them to leave for England was notable. But for
those laity like Victor Klemperer who wanted to stay in Germany and have
their rights championed, the Buro Gruber proved to be a disappointment.
Left to their own devices, in the summer of 1933, some members of this group
decided to form their own self-help group, the Reich Association. But it was
quickly overwhelmed by the number of people seeking advice or protection
from the Nazi authorities. It was necessarily both dependent on Nazi
permission to exist and seeking to challenge the unwelcome and unprecedented
measures adopted against its members. Throughout its brief existence, the
Reich Association, despite its fervent affirmations of national loyalty, was
constantly in a subordinate position to the overwhelming power of the
Gestapo, who had never any interest in furthering its objectives, unless it
was to encourage emigration. As the author makes clear, the Association's
deferential approach to the Nazi authorities went hand in hand with the
illusion that these anti-Jewish measures were only temporary, or that
Christians would be exempted. Clinging to this vain hope was clearly a
psychological necessity as it was widely held by the membership for far too
The officers of the Reich Association were all respectable bourgeois and
mainly Protestant citizens, eager to stress their German nationalism and
offering their services to forward the goals of the "national revolution",
as for example supporting the November 1933 plebiscite on Germany's
departure from the League of Nations. The same officers declared their lack
of sympathy for any pacifists, communists or exaggerated intellectuals, who
would not be accepted as members and whose activities were deplored. These
highly conservative and patriotic attitudes, however, did them little good.
The Nazis were not impressed.
Given the Nazis' incessant antisemitic propaganda, the Reich Association's
leaders had to abandon their wishful thinking about integration into the new
Germany, but instead still believed their patriotism could prevent their
being isolated in a kind of Christian non-aryan ghetto. But, inevitably,
organizing activities and community services for this special group led to
increased feelings of separation. Yet, for the growing number of unemployed
artists and writers, cultural activities undertaken on their behalf were a
significant help.
By 1935 it was clear that being Christian was of little help against the
Nazis' discriminatory measures. Reluctantly the Association had to take up
the idea of emigration and to encourage educational and re-educational
courses which could be of practical value. Particularly the young people saw
no alternative and were increasingly disinclined to adhere to the leaders'
nationalistic appeals. At the same time, the escalation of the antisemitic
measures in 1935 with the proclamation of the so-called Nuremberg Laws
heightened the tension for the Christians of Jewish origin too.
In the subsequent two years the Gestapo stepped up its harassment and
intimidation. At the same time, a new leader, Heinrich Spiero took over the
Association, whose career is here ably depicted. But despite his highly
conservative and nationalist views and good connections, he was unable to
reverse the Nazi policy. The numbers affected by the new laws grew apace and
Spiero's strenuous efforts to provide programmes to assist them proved
unavailing. In 1937 the Gestapo demanded a still more rigorous
interpretation of the Nuremberg Laws, forcing the eviction of all members of
the Association who were themselves born Jews, and leaving it purely for
those of "mixed blood". Since its leaders including Spiero were all in the
first category, this effectively put an end to the organization. The rump
group was no longer to be linked by their Christian attachment, and it
became purely a means of controlling the "Mischlinge". But the hope of
gaining more recognition by abandoning both its Jewish members and its
Christian character proved illusory. The screws continued to be tightened
and in August 1939 the organization was ordered to close down immediately.
This dismal record of bureaucratic brutality is based on an excellent
mastery of the sources. But necessarily it excludes almost entirely the
personal stories of the victims. Their exclusion from German society and
their shunning by the churches to which they belonged is another sad story
which in part has been told. by Ursula Buttner, in her book Die Verlassene
Kinder der Kirche (1998) which forms a valuable complement to Vuletic's

c) John D.Thiesen, Mennonite & Nazi? Attitudes among Mennonite colonists in
Latin America, 1933-1945. (Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History no
37) Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press 1999 329pp
We still lack a full English-language study of the Mennonites in the period
of the Third Reich. Possibly the sensitivity of the issues and their
emotional and divisive overtones are still felt among the survivors and
their descendants in North America. But John D.Thiesen, archivist for the
General Conference Mennonite Church from the campus of Bethel College in
Kansas has now given us an insightful examination of one very small part of
the wider picture, namely of the political attitudes found in the exiled
Mennonite communities of Latin America. In fact, since their presence in
both Mexico and Brazil was so small, the book is principally about the
situation in Paraguay. Thiesen's basic question is: "How was it that in the
Mennonite colonies, with a deep tradition of pacifism, many people embraced
the same volkisch National Socialist assumptions that underlay Hitler's
The answer largely arises out of the context. The Mennonites were given a
grant of land on the remote western borders of Paraguay in the 1920s in
order to secure title from Bolivian ambitions. One group of settlers arrived
in 1926-7 from Canada, disaffected by the pressure there to anglicize and
modernize. Another larger group arrived in 1929-30 from Russia, where they
had been subject to increasingly distressing persecution by the Communists.
Thanks to energetic rescue efforts by the German government, they were
brought from Moscow to Germany, but in the circumstances of the growing
depression stayed there only a few weeks before proceeding onwards to their
new settlements in Latin America.
Their predominant political attitude was clearly an overwhelming hostility
towards the Soviet Communists, who had deprived them of their homelands,
wealth and prospects. At the same time, all these new settlers found
themselves stranded in a difficult environment, completely cut off from the
local inhabitants. These colonies were four days' journey from the capital
city. Their isolation reinforced their desire to cling on to their ethnic
consciousness as Germans and to build their institutions on the basis of
their German language and their familiar ideologies, which they believed
held them together against the dangerous tides of revolution and modernity.
It was hardly surprising that, in such remote communities which lacked
communications, the influence of the few educated members, such as the high
school teachers or the editor of the colony's newspaper, should be
disproportionate. These were the individuals whose enthusiasm for the new
Nazi regime after 1933 was to have such an impact in the Paraguayan
colonies, especially Fernheim, whose archives have luckily been preserved.
In addition to the romanticized view of Hitler as Germany's saviour against
Bolshevism, the kind of Nazi propaganda arriving in Paraguay stressed the
essential duty of preserving the German race from all outside forces - a
kind of defensive posture which appealed to many unsophisticated Mennonites.
Furthermore these trends were actively encouraged by their Mennonite mentors
in Germany to whom the colonists looked for guidance on such political
matters. Professor Bernard Unruh and another teacher Walter Quiring both
eagerly supported the Nazi remaking of German society, and provided their
proteges overseas with justifications for upholding the great ideas of
"Deutschtum" and its volkisch destiny. Both Unruh and Quiring's views were
extensively quoted in the colonists' newspaper, and propagated in the high
school, where Unruh's student, Fritz Kliewer, organized the young people in
a manner highly reminiscent of the Hitler youth.
Such few visitors as the colonists received, especially German officials,
naturally encouraged such a positive view of the new Third Reich. It was a
considerable time before alternative views about what was happening in
Germany reached Paraguay. Tales of the Nazi persecution of the churches were
frequently denied, while Unruh and Quiring continued to claim that National
Socialism and Christianity were fully compatible. But eventually a serious
division appeared in the colonies over the issue of pacifism, since the
new-found enthusiasm for the Third Reich and its militant expansionism could
hardly be combined with traditional Mennonite views. Even so, a group of
young people actually went back to Germany in 1939, full of enthusiasm. The
men, apparently willingly and following the example of their German
Mennonite counterparts, were ready to abandon their pacifist heritage. They
joined the German army, "doing their duty unto the uttermost for the German
Fatherland", and looked for the day when Germany's military victories in the
Ukraine after 1941 would enable them once more to return to their old
settlements. Nine of them were killed or missing in these campaigns.
The opposition to such a political stance came mainly from those American
and Canadian Mennonites, seconded to help out in Paraguay, but who were
perceived as "modernizers' or disruptive to the Germanness of the colonies.
Nevertheless, after 1941, this factor attracted attention from outside
interests, including the American government, which brought pressure on the
Paraguayan authorities to arrest known Nazis on their territory. In the end,
the two most prominent activists were temporarily arrested and forced out of
the colonies.
After the war, those who had most ardently propagated their support of
National Socialism in the name of Germanness claimed they had been deceived
by Hitler. But, as Thiesen suggests, a better explanation for this kind of
enthusiastic encounter with Nazism is to be found in the Mennonites' need to
create a new cohesive identity for themselves which could make sense of
their previous sufferings as refugees and offer hope for a new future even
in a strange land. We can be grateful to John Thiesen for elucidating these
problematic attitudes, even if his account may well uncover old and still
unhealed wounds.

d) Frieder Ludwig, Church and State in Tanzania. Aspects o a changing
relationship. 1961-1994. (Studies of Religion in Africa, XXI)
Leiden/Boston/Koln; Brill 1999
Since studies of the churches in Africa are uncommon, this new contribution
by a German scholar, nicely translated into English, is much to be welcomed.
Ludwig seeks to cover the story of all the churches in the newly-independent
nation from the early 6os to almost the present. This was of course the era
of Julius Nyerere as the founding father of the new nation and his bold
experiments in economic development on a communitarian scale. The strength
of this work is the careful consideration of how the various churches moved
from their former era of European missionary dominance and dependency to a
more truly African symbiosis. The comparisons Ludwig makes are insightful,
especially on the difficulties each group had with the various strains and
stresses caused by their European origins. But the transition away from
missionary control to indigenous leadership was in many respects easier than
the problem of their own profile in the new state. The churches had the
advantage that Nyerere was known to be sympathetic, so the initial stages of
the post-independence period were harmonious with the local church leaders
deferring to the President's guidance, and obtaining his help in the new
arrangements for such things as education and health. But this relationship
did not allow for any kind of prophetic criticism. As Nyerere's government
took on more and more authoritarian features, the churches' silence was
notable. Only in the last few years has a more critical stance been adopted
as the failure of Tanzanian Ujamaa Socialism has been admitted. At the same
time, the church structures also need to evolve from the kind of
hierarchical patterns of the past. Ludwig's survey is helpful and balanced -
an excellent example of the outside observer, having researched the
available sources, being able to evaluate, with sympathy but not
uncritically so, the complex developments of the past generation.

5) Articles: Mark Lindsay, Dialectics of Communion: Dialectical Method and
Barth's Defence of Israel, has appeared in a new book, ed. K. Tonkin, Karl
Barth: a Future for Postmodern Theology (Australian Theological Forum/Open
Book 2000) Lindsay's chapter deals with the continuing usage of dialectic
within Barth's CD II/2 on the doctrine of election, and the way in which
this section of his Dogmatics, written between 1941-2, was in direct
opposition to Nazi antisemitism and the onset of the 'Final Solution'.
John Pollard, The Vatican and the Wall Street crash, in The Historical
Journal, Vol 42, no 4, December 1999, pp 1074 ff. An informative account of
the Vatican's financial strategies in the period of the great depression,
when the grant given by Italy in connection with the Lateran Treaty was
almost squandered by the grandiose building schemes of the Vatican's leaders
Sabrina P.Ramet, Religion and Politics in Germany since 1945, in Journal of
Church and State, Vol 42, no.1, Winter 2000, pp 115 ff. This broad survey of
the political stances adopted by both the Catholic and Protestant churches
in Germany over the past half century covers a lot of ground, some of which
Prof. Ramet has already described in more detail in her books. But useful is
the listing of the current political problems encountered as the churches
have tried to deal with the new conditions created over the past ten years
since re-unification.
Jonas Alwell, Religious Liberty in Sweden. An overview, in Journal of Church
and State, Vol 42, no 1, Winter 2000, pp 147 ff. The evolution of Sweden
from a tightly-knit Lutheran church-state symbiosis to the present
secularized state with a remnant establishment of the national church is
here well described and evaluated. The author makes some interesting
observations about the place of minority religions such as the Jews and
Muslims, and the difficulties which a secularized state encounters in trying
to meet their requirements.

With best wishes to you all for a blessed Ascension Day
John S.Conway
Website for biographical and research information
I am most grateful to the Library staff at Regent College who have now
compiled a Website for the John S.Conway Collection, books and files etc,