Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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Newsletter- April 2001- Vol. VII, no. 4


Dear Friends,

1) On writing Church History
2) Book reviews: a) ed.Schjorring, et al., History of the Lutheran World
b) Zucotti, The Vatican and the Holocaust
c) ed. Denzler and Siegele-Wenschkewitz, Theologische Wissenschaft im
Dritten Reich
3) An Easter Hymn

1) "That historians should their own country a break, I grant you, but not
so as to state things contrary to fact. For there are plenty of mistakes
made by writers out of ignorance, and which anyone finds difficult to avoid.
But if we knowingly write what is false, whether for the sake of our country
or our friends or to be pleasant, what difference is there between us and
hack writers? Readers should be very attentive to and critical of
historians, and they in turn should be constantly on their guard." Polybius,
2nd Century B.C.

"Church history provides an important means of understanding the Christian
people and their Church, since, if it is willing to use the historical
critical method, it thereby reveals where Christians have been and gives
them some important clues about where they are going. The picture it
reveals, if it is striving to be critical as well as objective, does not
always please. Shadows are part of all people and the institutions they
create. Institutional shadows can be ignored or deliberately concealed, but
the price is a heavy one, for ultimately such studied ignorance weakens and
even kills the human spirit, which in turn fosters apathy and finally
institutional irrelevance. In following such an argument, there are church
historians who would insist that we must always avoid making "moral
judgments" about what happened in the past. However, if being a church
historian means avoiding "moral judgments" about the past, then, as a
profession, it must surely relinquish its claim of having anything of much
importance to teach to the present or future generations. However, having
the courage to critically examine and accept the shadow can provide the
human spirit with a new sense of unity, hope and compassion and the
possibility of individual and institutional reconciliation, reform and
renewal. Vincent J. McNally

"Let nothing untrue be said, and nothing true be unsaid": Pope Leo XIII
"Truth may be painful for the Church, but untruth is even more so": Klaus

2a) ed. J.H.Schjorring, P.Kumari, N.Hjelm, From Federation to Communion. The
History of the Lutheran World Federation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press 1997,

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of its establishment in 1947, the Lutheran
World Federation commissioned the distinguished Danish church historian,
Professor Jens Holger Schjorring, along with two colleagues, one from Madras
and one from Philadelphia, to produce a record of the developments in these
decades within the Lutheran world family. The result is an informative,
thoughtful work designed for the intelligent layman, which will hopefully be
read also by non-Lutherans.

The editors wisely refrained from a strictly chronological approach but
rather combined their narrative with an analytical and theologically-based
examination of the various trends within the Lutheran community. The central
thesis is that, over the course of these fifty years, Lutheranism has
changed its ecclesiological self-understanding, and Lutherans have grown
closer together. The result is the emergence of a sense of being no longer
just a federation of nationally-based units, but one communion, deliberately
conscious of the common responsibilities each section feels towards the

At the same time, the L.W.F. understands itself as a movement within the one
ecumenical movement for the sake of the one Church catholic. How these
forces have been reconciled and witnessed to is the principal subject of
this excellently balanced study.

In actual fact, the 1947 creation of the Federation was the second attempt
to bind Lutherans from around the world closer together. In 1923 the
preceding organization, the Lutheran World Convention, had been established,
but the German Lutheran leaders had at that time clearly seen this agency as
a vehicle for their nationalist views, especially their political campaign
against the alleged "injustices" of the Versailles Treaty. This same
nationalism was to lead these men to give their effusive support to the
political goals of Adolf Hitler, even if they also strove to protect their
church's own autonomy. The failure to overcome this clash of loyalties meant
that in 1945 this old guard, led by Bishop Marahrens of Hanover, was
discredited. A new beginning, a new name, and new faces were required. It
was largely the Scandinavians' initiative, backed by American money, which
led the new structure to be set up at the university town of Lund in Sweden
in 1947.

The immediate tasks were clear enough: how to tackle four vital areas of
responsibility: rescue for the needy, common initiatives in mission, joint
efforts in theology, and a common response to the ecumenical challenge. The
remarkable fact was that, despite the bitter wounds of the past, and
continuing tactical differences of view, there was united support for a new
organ of international Lutheran fellowship and co-operation. It survived
largely because the new German leadership turned over a new leaf, while the
American and Nordic Lutherans acted with generosity and pastoral care in
their dealings with their former enemies. The result was a common
determination to settle urgent matters on a new and ecumenical basis, and to
rediscover Luther's heritage in a non-nationalistic framework. At the same
time there was a new awareness of the Lutheran communities on other
continents, placing them within the whole global community of Christian
churches. In contrast to the self-justifying and defensive mentality of the
1920s, this new Federation had a much different and more open dynamic.
Schjorring uses the attractive metaphor of an orchestra to describe the
Federation's progress. There was always the danger that individual sections,
German,.Nordic, American or the so-called minority churches, would create
disharmony by insisting on playing their own tunes. In view of the absence
of any single strong conductor, Schjorring attributes the success to the
moderating and modulating influence of the Nordic churches. The decision to
establish headquarters in Geneva, alongside the still unborn World Council
of Churches, was clear evidence of the willingness to rise above
nationalistic proclivities and to co-operate ecumenically, even if this
proximity later led to some abrasive quarrels over "turf". But the
advantages of Geneva's world-wide view made for a constructive relationship
between the secretariat and the member churches, allowing for both
uniformity and pluriformity within the Lutheran family. There were, to be
sure, moments of shrill discord, but also times of unforgettable melody and
rich harmony.

Schjorring's third chapter describes how the resources of the Federation
were mobilized, first to undertake relief and reconstruction programmes in
Europe, and then, in the 1960s, almost seamlessly were extended to meet some
of the even greater and continuing needs on other continents. This was the
period of European de-colonization. The churches were among the leaders in
seeking to hand over responsibilities to their local adherents, and
accepted, sometimes readily, sometimes reluctantly, the change in
relationships such a step involved. The Lutherans were perhaps fortunate
that the war-time expulsion of so many German missionaries had made their
daughter churches more self-reliant. Schjorring could possibly have made a
few comparisons with other churches in Africa and Asia undergoing the same
process in order to show how well the Lutherans fared.

The growth of these newer self-reliant indigenous churches in the Lutheran
family necessitated a change in the understanding of mission. Western
missionary paternalism was replaced by a recognition of the autonomy and
independence of the local churches on all six continents. It was the
foundation for a world-wide koinonia. And after 1970 the structures of the
LWF sought to reflect the desire of these younger churches to participate as
decision makers and full partners rather than as mere recipients of western
benevolence. At the same time, these younger churches readily accepted the
responsibility of mission, and indeed have frequently succeeded in
contributing new emphases and enthusiasms. But, as is here made clear, the
LWF's structural changes were often the sources of internal controversy. The
historic European and North American missionary societies were obliged to
adapt to a new and as yet untried stance. Again, some comparisons with other
churches' experience would have been welcome.

These striking political and ecclesial changes necessitated new theological
reflection. Schjorring's thoughtful chapter on the course of Lutheran
theological deliberation shows how the traditional task of handing on past
insights had to be matched to new and often radical challenges. Finding a
balance has not been easy. The shadow of Luther himself, of the Reformation,
and of northern Europe loomed large; but gradually a wider vision prevailed
with a new attention to the concerns of the younger churches and their
special ethical problems. At the same time, the older churches have been
called to a new understanding of their political responsibilities in
society, thus remedying the deficiency of the 1940s. Particularly
interesting is the discussion of how the LWF applied this wider vision when
dealing with the issue of apartheid. Undoubtedly this paved the way for a
greater sense of communion between all sections of the Lutheran family.
The final section of the book contains a narrative of the eight Assemblies
of the LWF between 1947 and 1990, as well as short biographies of the
Presidents and General Secretaries during this period. This information will
be useful for reference purposes. Together with the analysis outlined above,
the whole work can be commended to a wide readership, as a stimulating
record of the life and witness of this section of the Christian Church.
JSC (With apologies for the belatedness of this review).

2b) Susan Zuccotti, Under his very windows. The Vatican and the Holocaust in
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, $29.95.
(This review is reprinted from the New York Times Book Review, 4 Feb 2001)

In the last three years the papacy's role in World War II, and above all its
response to the Holocaust, has come in for fresh scrutiny. In part this is
because the process for canonizing Pope Pius XII, begun nearly 40 years ago,
is now, it seems, heading toward some sort of conclusion. In part it is
because of pronouncements made by the Vatican. In 1998 the Holy See's
Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews issued a statement entitled
''We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,'' in which it expressed ''deep . .
. regret'' for ''the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the
church'' who had done less than they should to oppose or mitigate Nazi
atrocities. Last spring, in Israel, squaring up to the issue of Roman
Catholicism's historic anti-Judaism, Pope John Paul II declared that ''the
Catholic Church . . . is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution
and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any
time and in any place.''

''Under His Very Windows,'' Susan Zuccotti's third book about the Holocaust,
comes hot on the heels of John Cornwell's ''Hitler's Pope'' (which makes a
case for the prosecution) and Ronald J. Rychlak's ''Hitler, the War, and the
Pope'' (for the defense). Zuccotti is firmly in the prosecution camp. Her
aim is to show that whatever help was given to the Jews by the Catholic Church
during the war resulted almost entirely from spontaneous acts by courageous
individuals -- priests, monks and nuns, and occasionally prelates -- and not
from any interventions by the Vatican. The argument that Pius XII worked
tirelessly behind the scenes for the Jews (an idea already circulating by
the end of the war, and endorsed in the 1960's by Pinchas E. Lapide, an Israeli
diplomat who calculated that the pope was responsible, directly or
indirectly, for saving 860,000 Jewish lives) is dismissed as myth.

Zuccotti makes her case strongly. She charts the near-total silence of both
Pius XI and Pius XII in the face of the Italian anti-Jewish laws of 1938,
underlining how the Vatican intervened only on specific issues such as
interracial marriages and converts to Catholicism. She looks at the
assistance given by the church to internees in Italy after June 1940 and
concludes that ''the Holy See had done nothing more for Jewish internees
than for non-Jews, and that was little enough.'' She examines in detail how much
the Vatican knew about the Final Solution, and when, and suggests, like
others before her, that while the full magnitude of the tragedy may have
been unclear, the pope and his senior officials had plenty of reliable
information and that from 1942 they ''knew and believed a great deal about the
exterminations.'' In the light of this, she says, the fact that Pius made
just two vague public references in the war to those who were suffering on
account of ''their nationality or descent'' (using the neutral word stirpe
rather than razza) was wholly reprehensible.

Zuccotti then looks at the plight of Jews in Italy from the time of the
Italian armistice in September 1943, when the Germans took direct control of
north and central Italy, to the end of the war. She examines the harrowing
events surrounding the Rome roundup of Jews by the Nazis in October 1943 and
the deafening silence of the pope. She then explores the efforts made by the
church in Rome and northern Italy to assist those Jews who had managed to
elude the Nazis. There is a good deal of fresh and often fascinating
material here, drawn from local archives and from interviews by the author with
survivors. Zuccotti's main point is to show that the many instances of Jews
being sheltered or assisted by clerics were not due in any way to Pius.

This is a serious and well-researched book that certainly raises yet more
questions about the conduct of the papacy in World War II. But is it good
history? For all its scholarship, it feels driven by a remorseless desire to
find wanting. Only in the conclusion does Zuccotti face what for the
historian must be the most important question: not so much the fact of
silence or relative silence, but how that silence is to be understood and
interpreted. Credit is given in places; but for the most part the text is a
litany of phrases like ''it was not enough,'' ''that was all,'' ''it was
very little,'' ''lamentable,'' ''he was wrong,'' ''should have'' -- phrases that
repeatedly raise questions about the author's intellectual, as well as
moral, vantage point. All historians make judgments, but their first duty is surely
to try to understand. Zuccotti condemns, but offers little new insight into
why the Vatican and Pius acted as they did.

Part of the problem lies with shortage of material. The only Vatican papers
available for the war years are the 11 volumes published by the Vatican
between 1965 and 1981. Accordingly, it is hard to gauge the complex
interplay of political and moral considerations that necessarily informed papal
actions. Also, and perhaps crucially, Pius himself remains elusive: he was
solitary, secretive and autocratic, more given to praying than confiding in
others or committing private thoughts to paper. But even if more material
becomes available, reconstructing the moral and emotional atmosphere out of
which the genocidal atrocities of the war grew, as well as the silences of
the pope, would be extremely hard. It is easy with hindsight to dismiss
certain fears or hopes as misplaced. At the time they were real.

Like Cornwell, Zuccotti is keen to highlight the traditional anti-Judaism of
the Catholic Church; and while she does not go as far as Cornwell in
declaring that Pius was at heart an anti-Semite who believed that the Jews
had brought their own fate upon themselves, we find ourselves being nudged
quite firmly in this direction. The available evidence, however, does not
warrant this. That strong prejudices against the Jews existed in Catholic
circles is beyond doubt, and that these were shared in some measure by Pius
is certain. But prejudices of this kind were sadly common in Europe in the
early 20th century, and not just among Catholics. Moreover, there is a vast
chasm between cultural and religious anti-Judaism and racist anti-Semitism.
Pius's reticence in the face of the Holocaust, as of many other atrocities
in the war, probably arose from a complex amalgam of political, moral and
religious considerations, interlaced with uncertainty and fear. In what
measure exactly these various elements worked to inform his decisions we may
never know.
Christopher Duggan is a historian at the University of Reading in England.
His books include ''A Concise History of Italy.''

N.B. A new journal article which takes issue with the above book, as well as
other books critical of Pius XII, such as Michael Phayer's The Catholic
Church and the Holocaust 1930-1965 (reviewed here December 2000), has been
written by a leading American scholar, Rabbi David G.Dalin. This appears in
The Weekly Standard Magazine, February 26th 2001, Vol 6, number 23. It is
also available on the website:
At the end of this 13 page article, David Dalin comes to the following

"There is a disturbing element in nearly all the current work on Pius.
Except for Rychlak's Hitler, the War and the Pope, none of the recent
books - from Cornwall's vicious attack to McInerny's uncritical defence - is
finally about the Holocaust. All are about using the sufferings of the Jews
fifty years ago to force changes upon the Catholic Church today. It is this
abuse of the Holocaust that must be rejected."

2c) ed. Georg Denzler and Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz, Theologische
Wissenschaft im "Dritten Reich". Ein oekumenisches Projekt. (Arnoldshainer
Texte 110) Frankfurt-am-Main: Haag and Herchen 2000, 187 pp.

Shortly before her untimely death in December 1999, Leonore
Siegele-Wenschkewitz completed a brief introduction to this collection of
six essays, which her colleague Georg Denzler, emeritus professor from
Bamberg, has brought to publication as one of the series of Arnoldshain
texts, named after the Evangelical Academy near Frankfurt, where Frau
Siegele-Wenschkewitz was the Director.

Both scholars were concerned to fill what they perceived as a lamentable gap
in the historiography of the Protestant and Catholic churches' stance during
the Third Reich, namely the absence of any comprehensive and comparative
study of the theological faculties during this period.

One reason for this omission was the lacklustre performance of the
theologians of that era. Moreover, since 1945, particularly for the
Catholics, the writing of church history during the past few decades has
been defensive and apologetic. Possibly for this reason, as Professor
Denzler points out, even though nearly a hundred substantial studies have
appeared under the auspices of the Catholic Commission for Church History,
none covers the role of the Catholic theological faculties under Nazism. Nor
has there been any ecumenical willingness to undertake such a project by
theologians of both churches working together.

No one can deny that the theological faculties played an unheroic role in
the Nazi era. Too many of the Protestant faculties came under the leadership
of pro-Nazi activists, such as Emanuel Hirsch in Goettingen. As for the
Catholics, as Denzler points out in his opening chapter, there was no
willingness to challenge the view that the 1933 Reich Concordat had secured
Catholic rights, and in return the professors should uphold the regime. Only
a few took a confrontational stand against the ideology of National
Socialism. Most were silent. Even so, the Gestapo had no doubt about the
pernicious influence of the Catholic theologians and sought every means to
suppress them. Denzler might well have weighed up how much the "smell of
fear" and the certainty of repression prevented any more outspoken

On the other hand, Denzler's second chapter outlines the stance of four
prominent Catholics theologians who openly supported the regime. Karl Adam
was Tuebingen's most prominent Catholic professor. He threw his weight
behind Hitler as the man who would restore the nation's health and greatness
by emphasizing its Christian heritage. Hence he could justify the regime's
antisemitic policies. Michael Schmaus was another leading Catholic seeking
to build bridges between Catholicism and Nazism, mostly because of his
fascination with "volkish" ideas. So too Joseph Lortz of Muenster embraced
the Nazis' autocratic leadership because of his dislike of all left-wing
tendencies. Not until 1937, after the Papal Encyclical, did he begin to
realize the incompatibility of these loyalties. So, despite his earlier
eagerness for the Nazi cause, he went on to have a lengthy post-war career
in Mainz. And a fourth theologian, the Jesuit Anton Stumm, though much less
well known, was equally ardent in his enthusiasm for Hitler and his dreams
of national glory. Denzler is not only offended by these outspoken and
reactionary attitudes but equally by the veil of silence so carefully drawn
in post-war Germany over these men's earlier excesses.

A parallel case on the Protestant side was Otto Weber, director of the
Elberfeld School of Reformed Theology, and later Professor in Goettingen. He
was too young to have fought in the war, but, like many of his generation,
eagerly sought a restoration of Germany's national honour and world status.
Hence in 1933 he saw Hitler as Germany's saviour, who would give a lead in
overthrowing liberal and humanistic ideas, and so set an example for the
renewal of the Church. Not surprisingly he joined the Nazi Party in May
1933, and a few months later became one of the new Reich Bishop's Cabinet in
Berlin. But shortly afterwards he began to see the folly of his ways, and
gave up this office in favour of teaching reformed theology in Goettingen.
In 1945 he made a full apology for his mistakes, was reconciled to Europe's
leading reformed theologian,. Karl Barth, and continued to teach until his
death in 1964. The author of this chapter, Vicco von Buelow has since
completed a massive biography, published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in

More problematic was the career of Johannes Leipholdt, Professor of New
Testament in Leipzig for forty-three uninterrupted years, 1916-1959. Dr
Siegele-Wenschkewitz analyses his extensive popular publication record
throughout these years and shows how the political changes affected his
stance. In the Weimar republic he portrayed Jesus as a loyal Jew, true to
his own tradition. In the Nazi era, however, Leipholdt stressed Jesus the
opponent of Judaism, and hence could repeat the Christian stereotypical
denigration of the Jews. After 1945, he emphasized Jesus' universal mission,
derived from Greek ideas, and so again downplayed Judaism. Since such a
stance was approved by the communist regime in East Germany, he was able to
maintain his position in Leipzig, and even to become a member of the People'
s Parliament. A careerist, or a cautious scholar careful not to expose
himself? The question is left open.

Oliver Arnhold describes the scandalous views of the extreme pro-Nazi
Protestant theologians from Thuringia, who believed that no one should be
entrusted with spiritual leadership in the new Germany who did not have
"national socialist flesh, national socialist blood, national socialist
spirit, and national socialist longings". Attempts by more moderate
theologians to condemn such heretical and un-Biblical distortions, and to
exclude their proponents from the church administrations, only widened the
rift. The Thurigians retaliated by accusing these dry-as-dust and
reactionary scholars of missing the boat, of failing to recognize the
greatness of Adolf Hitler, and of isolating the church in an outdated
ghetto. Trusting in the backing of the Nazi Party leadership, these zealots
steered straight for confrontation. The result was that the Evangelical
Church was even more divided, the Nazi government lost interest in trying to
force the church into subjection, the Reich Church Minister was totally
discredited, and no effective resistance to the Nazis' secular goals was

Patricia von Papen contributes a well-researched chapter on the career of a
Nazi intellectual, Wilhelm Grau. Born in 1910, in Catholic Bavaria, Grau was
finishing his studies when the Nazis came to power. His thesis on the
expulsion of the Jews from Regensburg in 1519, in which he praised the city
fathers for their stand against the perfidious Jews, had obvious
contemporary relevance. Not surprisingly Grau quickly jumped on this popular
bandwagon and was soon enlisted as a writer for the new Reich Institute for
the History of the New Germany. He was employed in providing justifications
from history for the Nazis' fanatical antisemitism. But subsequent quarrels
with the egotistical Director, Walter Frank, led to his dismissal and
transfer to the staff of the chief Nazi ideologue, Rosenberg. By the middle
of the war, he had come to adopt Rosenberg's thesis that not only the Jews,
but also the Christian churches, endangered the future health of the German
Volk - a not uncommon view in such circles. Patricia von Papen has
meticulously examined all of Grau's highly ephemeral publications, and
indeed even interviewed him in his old age. She does not however disclose
whether he changed his views after 1945, or what lessons he learned from his
over-enthusiastic endorsement of this pernicious ideology. Nor is it
explained why Grau was included in this volume, since he was never a
theologian, or a significant leader of church opinion.
The tone of all the contributions in this book is accusatory. While such
indignation is objectively justified, it is unclear what it hopes to
achieve. No theologian in Germany today is an "eliminationist antisemite".
Hammering more nails into this coffin would seem questionable.

3) An Easter Hymn

Alles Leben stroemt aus Dir
Und durchwallt in tausend Baechen
Alle Welten - Alle Sprechen
Deiner Haende Werk sind wir

Dass ich fuehle, dass ich bin,
Dass ich Dich Du Grosser! kenne
Dass ich froh Dich Vater nenne:
O, ich sinke vor Dich hin.

Welch ein Trost, und unbegrenzt
Und unnennbar ist die Wonne,
Dass gleich Deiner milden Sonne
Mich dein Vateraug umglaenzt!

Deiner Gegenwart Gefuehl
Sei mein Engel der mich leite,
Dass mein schwacher Fuss nicht gleite
Nicht sich irre vor dem Ziel.

Old Appenzeller Hymn

With best wishes
John Conway Website: