March 2007— Vol. XIII, no. 3
1) Book reviews
a) Krondorfer et al., German theologians' autobiographies.
b) Carter, Martyrdom in Melanesia
2) Archival information: The Meissen Library, Durham
3) Journal articles:
a) Gailus, An ardent Nazi's career - Pastor M Ziegler
b) Linday, Bonhoeffer, Yad Vashem and and the Church
4) Reader's response to R.Steigman-Gall's The Holy Reich
1a) Björn Krondorfer, Katharina von Kellenbach, Norbert Reck, Mit Blick auf die Täter. Fragen an die deutsche Theologie nach 1945. Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus 2006 ISBN- 13: 978-3-579-052274 317 pp.
Björn Krondorfer and Katharina von Kellenbach, who teach at St. Mary's College of Maryland, have done much to promote the cause of Christian-Jewish reconciliation in the German context. For Germans, far more than in other countries, the prerequisite for such a task is the willingness to engage in Vergangenheitsbewältigung - in this case with the long history of German intolerance, prejudice and persecution of the Jewish people, which culminated in the Holocaust. As is well known, such attempts to come to terms with the Nazi past after 1945 were only reluctantly and fitfully undertaken, and are indeed not yet complete. What role did the churches play? What theologies were preached and practised? In Krondorfer's view, the eminent scholars and preachers of the Evangelische Kirche failed in their duty to set an example of public repentance and contrition, or to lead their audiences towards a new theological understanding of Judaism and its relationship to Christianity. His questions about German post-1945 theology are, in fact, much more directed to the theologians themselves and their own personal failure to adopt any public stance out of which a new beginning could be undertaken.
Krondorfer backs up his challenging contentions by examining the autobiographies written by German theologians since 1945. approximately 35 in all, in order to see how they undertook their own coming to terms with the past. His findings are astonishing - and deeply disappointing. He shows that, with only a few exceptions, this entire group of theologians wrote their autobiographies with apologetic purposes. They demonstrate how decisively their minds and careers were fashioned by the dominant nationalist and racialist ideologies of early 20th century Germany. Equally disappointing was their failure, even after the crimes of the Holocaust were well known, to engage in any confession of Christian complicity, or of repentance or reparation towards any of the victims of German aggression, especially the Jews. Instead the key notes of these writers are self-justification and self-exculpation. To be sure, after 1945, Martin Niemoeller publicly, in numerous sermons and speeches, acknowledged his own and Germany's guilt. His call for repentance was, however, strongly opposed and bitterly resented. And even he, in later years, took a very generous attitude towards the earlier misdemeanours of many of his compromised clerical colleagues in the church of Hessen-Nassau. Not until we come to the youngest post-war generation do we find a different tone.
Krondorfer divides his theologian-authors into different cohorts, according to their ages. He persuasively argues that these men (almost all were men) gained in their youth a set of political ideas which influenced their subsequent lives. He begins with the oldest and distinguished bishop, Theophil Wurm, born in 1868, whose memoirs were written when he was over eighty, but which still reflected the values he had learnt under the Kaiser's rule. Wurm and his generation (and his sector of German Christianity) suffered the terrible shock of the German defeat of 1918. As conservatives, their world fell apart. They soon came to blame, not their misguided rulers, but the victorious Allies. The Treaty of Versailles very quickly became the symbol of how Germany was being oppressed, and they themselves victimized. The tone of self-pity, or preoccupation with their own fortunes, runs throughout. The rise of Hitler could then be explained as the result of Allied vindictiveness, and his struggle to regain Germany's place in the world, justified. Germany's defeat in the second war could also be seen as a recurrence of German victimization. Wurm was one of those who loudly protested Allied occupation policies after 1945, and could believe these moves were prompted by a deliberate attempt to starve the German race out of existence. He led the vocal chorus of self-pitying lamentation about the hardships suffered by Germans. Not a word about the far greater sufferings imposed by Germans on the many other peoples of Europe, let alone on the Jews.
For a slightly younger cohort, Krondorfer subjects the autobiographies of Walter Künneth and Helmut Thielicke, neither of whom could be accused of pro-Nazi attitudes, to an insightful but biting analysis. Here too he finds that the desire to escape from any acknowledgment of guilt leads to an evasiveness, when the actual fate of the Jews is hardly mentioned at all. Neither of these men showed a willingness to speak out about German guilt or to say words of sympathy for the Germans' victims. Instead their concern is all for the suffering Germans, for whom they show a commendable pastoral care, but whose crimes they seek to downplay or relativize. So too their emphasis is on the fate of the bombed-out or the expellees from the east, not on the concentration camp inmates so brutally mistreated or willfully murdered. In the end, Krondorfer affirms, it is the tone of self-exculpatory rectitude which is so irritating. He closes his essay with a expression of indignation and exasperation: "The language used in these theologians' autobiographies lacks experimental liveliness; the contents show only too clearly an unwillingness to reveal the whole personality. What is missing is any sign that these authors felt anguish or that they experienced moments of agitation, chaos, fragmentation, questioning, searching, exposure, nakedness, incompleteness, blundering, face-to-face honesty, intimacy, or vulnerability. When we of later generations read these polished and orderly self-justifications, we can only wish that, in our post-Auschwitz world, some theologian at some point would be ready to stutter or stammer a genuine apology and a meaningful confession of guilt."
Norbert Reck takes the same approach in his evaluation of the autobiographies of Catholic theologians. The older cohort, such as Rahner, Fries, Schmaus and Guardini, ascribes the political and social evils of their day to the general abandonment of the church and its teachings, which had set in a hundred years or more ago and now found its climax in Hitler's rule. This convenient way of blaming Nazism and its attendant crimes on much wider or even universal phenomena amounts to a skillful evasion. Their remedy consisted of a call to return to the faith, and to rebuild the church's dogmatic base. Needless to say there was no readiness to deal with the tradition of Catholic antisemitism, or to examine the church's own complicity in Nazi crimes. The same can be seen in the memoirs of Joseph Ratzinger, the present Pope Benedict XVI. He depicts his early years as living in an enclosed Catholic milieu which sought to isolate itself, as far as possible, from any involvement with the Nazi regime. When obliged to participate, e.g. in the Hitler Youth or the Volkssturm, this was a forced obedience not a willing compliance. Only younger theologians such as Johann Baptist Metz began to recognize the need for a theological revision towards Judaism "after Auschwitz", based on an honest admission of the church's failures. But he only went so far, and it was left up to a layman, Georg Denzler, to undertake a more systematic and hard-hitting critique.
Katharine von Kellenbach has used the records of prison chaplains to study how the question of guilt was handled amongst the convicted Nazi war criminals. With one exception, these men refused to acknowledge any such contrition. To the end they maintained that they had only obeyed orders, had done their duty and served their country loyally. Any wider sense of moral or political obligation was completely absent. Instead they saw themselves as the victims of a vindictive foreign justice. How to bring these men to a different state of mind, or how to convey a Christian message of forgiveness, without encouraging these criminals' sense of self-pity, was a demanding and difficult assignment for these chaplains.
For the forgiveness of sins, neither the Catholic nor the Protestant tradition requires a direct connection to, or reparation for, the victim. By contrast, the Jewish liturgical practice foresees deliberate actions of reconciliation between offender and victim, especially in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But any such action is disputed by those in the Protestant tradition who believe that confession can only be made to God, and only God can forgive. Because God's grace is so abundant, the sinner will not suffer the rejection he might well receive if he approached his victim. But, as Bonhoeffer recognized, such private confession can easily give way to self-deception, self-pity and evasion.
Genuine repentance also requires visible action. In the case of the former Nazis, or of the German churches, such Sühnezeichen have been few and belated. There is still evidence of nationalist resentment against any real solidarity with the Nazis' victims, especially Jews, Poles and Russians. By contrast, the German churches readily enough supported large-scale measures to reintegrate Nazi criminals into post-war society, and by such "normalization" to help cover over their pasts. Christian theology, such as the parable of the Prodigal Son, has often been misused to give former Nazis the benefit of every doubt. Christian loving-kindness was contrasted to the Old Testament, i.e. Jewish, demands for punitive judgments. Reconciliation can this become cheapened, if there is no real sign of repentance by the sinner, or if only the victims are expected to forgive and forget.
As Katharina von Kellenbach shows, these questions and controversies continue to resound through all German attempts to construct a new era in Christian-Jewish dialogue. All three authors, in fact, are saddened by the evidence of continuing prejudice against the victims of society, and are evidently concerned that the present-day resourcefulness of German theology may not suffice to prevent a repetition of the excesses of the previous century.
1b) Richard A.Carter, In search of the Lost. The death and life of seven peacemakers of the Melanesian Brotherhood, Norwich, Canterbury Press 2006, 242 pp.
Richard Carter is a young priest from England who went out in 1990 to the Solomon Islands in the south-west Pacific Ocean, and subsequently served as Chaplain to the Melanesian Brotherhood, based on the island of Guadacanal. This Brotherhood is a vibrant community of eager and dedicated young men who are committed to short-term monastic vows, and undertake evangelistic and service tasks for the hundreds of rural, often isolated, villages where most of the people live. Carter's evocative description of their witness is drawn from his diaries and letters, and provides a vivid picture of how this vigorous, though little-known, branch of the Anglican Communion has sought to present the challenge of Christian discipleship in difficult and often tragic circumstances.
Carter's period of service coincided with a rapid escalation of communal violence in the Solomon Islands, particularly on Guadacanal, where both the capital, Honiara, and the headquarters of the Brotherhood, at Tabalia, are situated. This ethnic conflict and near civil war led to outbursts of wanton destruction of property which ruined the nation's infrastructure, and resulted in a marked economic decline. The whole public sector closed down because there was no money to pay any salaries. Much overseas aid was withheld, and no secure climate for future investment could be cultivated. Gangs of unemployed and discontented youth were recruited and armed with weapons to carry out communal reprisals, and there were reports of atrocities committed on both sides. The police and government authorities were suspected of corruption and partisanship.
The Christian communities sought to counter this situation by a resolute commitment to peace and reconciliation. At the suggestion of the government, the Melanesian Brothers joined a disarmament campaign by offering to collect and destroy any guns they could persuade the villagers to hand over. Several thousand guns were in fact collected by the Brothers and dumped into the sea. They recognized that, to succeed, they needed to preserve the strictest impartiality and not to be seen as deriving favours from one faction or the other. But it was not enough. Too often, each side suspected that giving up their weapons would jeopardize their safety. The Brothers were accused of political naiveté. They were warned that they were being involved in situations of double-dealing and deceit. It was clear that the chief casualty of the conflict was the trust and respect which had formerly united the whole island society. Instead fear and suspicion were rampant. The ethnic antagonism was brutal and destructive, and its effects were noticeable on all sides. Despite the courage and bravery with which the Christian groups faced the tension, they were obliged to witness terror at first hand. They still live with painful memories of unforgettably evil events. It called for all the resources, biblical and spiritual, at their command to offset these sickening horrors.
One of the ways in which the Brothers sought to combat the loss of identity and alienation, and to prevent the disintegration of the village societies, was to stage a series of pilgrimages with religious dramas. These plays, drawn from the Gospel stories, were translated into the vernacular Solomon Island dialects, and performed by a large cast drawn from the Brothers and Novices. Richard Carter himself arranged and directed these performances in terms relevant to Melanesia. They all contained elements essential to powerful drama: simplicity, conflict, a sense of danger and a trenchant presentation of Christian teachings. They proved to be immensely popular, but their message of peace and reconciliation was too often outweighed by the atmosphere of tension and communal strife.
One of the most stubborn and defiant insurgents had his well-fortified encampment on the remote Weather, or western, coast of the island. In March 2003 one of the Brothers attempted to reach him with a message of peace, but was taken captive. On Easter Sunday, news arrived in Tabalia that he had been tortured and murdered. Six more Brothers who went to rescue his body were in turn captured as so-called "prisoners of war". In the Brothers' headquarters, an agonizing period of waiting for their release followed. The risk of sending any more men out to the danger zone appeared to be too great. They could only pray.
For two months there was an ominous silence. The warlord's forces gathered momentum. The police and military authorities lacked the resources to overcome the rebellion or rescue the hostages. Villages where the Brothers had recently performed their plays were sacked and burnt to the ground. Several innocent villagers were deliberately tortured and put to death. Back in Tabalia, the Brothers' paranoia grew by the day. It was a relentless spiral. Inevitably the fear grew that a tragedy had occurred which was too great for them to bear.
At the beginning of August, these fears were officially confirmed. The six young Brothers who went out in faith in search of their brother had all been murdered in cold blood three months earlier. The shock united the whole community in a bond of traumatized sadness. They sat up through the night recalling stories of these slain Brothers and trying to come to terms with the enormity of their loss. Messages of support and condolence poured in from around the world. Slowly, over the next few days and weeks, the realization grew that the martyrdom of these seven Brothers would be a signal to the world that Christian courage and sacrifice were not in vain, and that their deaths were in fact life-giving to the wider church. In death, the seven Brothers, as Carter says, "are a constant, aching reminder of the integrity, values and love which alone can bring hope to the world".
In October and November 2003, the remains of the seven men were brought to the Brothers' mother house in Tabalia, and buried in the special burial ground there. Nine months later, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, himself came to pay his respects. He asked to be admitted as a Companion of the Melanesian Brotherhood, and then planted a kaui tree amongst the colourful groves of bougainvillea and frangipani which surround the Brothers' final resting place. The plaque commemorating his visit bears the inscription that their faith should be the seed that yields a harvest of peace.
It is readily apparent that the purpose of this book is not only to make the story of these heroic Brothers' sacrifice known to the wider world, but also to enable Richard Carter to come to terms with his own anguished grief at the loss of his well-beloved companions. It was also apparent that, to achieve these aims, his period of service in Melanesia should come to an end. He left the Solomon Islands in 2005 to return to his original family in Britain, and, with their help, to write what Archbishop Williams commends as "a most truly evangelical book". Not only does its inspiring message effectively present the vision of the Brotherhood, but it also provides a valuable record of this troubled period of the history of the Anglican Church in Melanesia.
2) The Meissen Library, Durham Cathedral, UK
(I include the foillowing article written by the Appeal Secretary since several of our colleagues may wish to take advantage of this newly-available resource.)
The Meissen Library at Durham Cathedral is the largest gathered collection in Britain of books in German on the history snd theology of the German Protestant Church, containing publicaions from the later 18th century to the present day (some 13,000 volumes). It is, however, remarkable for the breadth of its holdings across a wide range of theological disciplines, including material rarely available outside Germany. For example, it contains works in ecumenical theology, reflecting the increasing engagement of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland with other branches of the Christian Churh including the Orthodox in Europe. Such engagement was inevitable from the 18th century onwards after the major partitions of Poland, but the collection also reflects the world-wide representation of Christian mission through the agencies of those traditions now part of the EKiD. Strengths of the collection include material on the period of the "German Christian" movement, the Church in Eastern Europe after World War Two, Christian contributions to politics and society during the 19th and 20th centuries, especially material of preaching and an extensive collection of sermons. There is a section concerned with Jewish-Christian relationships both in the past and in the present-day world, and Christian understanding of Islam has a useful section. The collection is already available to readers and researchers. For access, please contact Mrs Sylvia Graham, The Cathedral Library, The College, Durham DHI 3EH, UK, or by phone at 0191 386 2489, or by e-mail email@example.com For accommodation in Durham in a nearby College, please contact A. L.Loades@durham.ac.uk
The Library (from the former seminary at Imbshausen, together with major gifts of books by some distinguished donors) was given to the Church of England by the EKiD under the terms of the 1991 Meissen Declaration between the EKiD and the Church of England. On behalf of the Church of England, the then Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral agreed to house the Library as a distinct collection, but the Chapter made it clear that it did not have the funds other than for the provision of suitable accommodation for the books. Since 1997 when the library was established in the undercroft of the Cathedral deanery, a band of volunteers has worked consistently hard to shelve the books, eliminate duplicates (the sale of which has enabled us to establish a new books fund) and catalogue and enter the books on the Meissen Library's own website. We aim to make this resource widely available, by employing a professional cataloguer to put the contents onto the on-line catalogue of Durham University, since this is by far the most effective way of increasing national and international knowledge of the collection. We would then be able to re-direct the efforts of our volunteers to sustaining opening hours and supervision of readers.
The Meissen Library Appeal
As indicated above, we want to employ a professional cataloguer, possibly part-time over a period of three years, or for a lesser period full-time, to get the catalogue on to the on-line OPAC catalogue of Durham University. The sum of GBP 80,000 should cover the cost of employment/insurance etc. The employer would be Durham Cathedral. The person appointed would be responsible to the Canon Librarian, The Revd Canon Professor David Brown FBA, Van Mildert Professor of Divinity, and to the Management Committee for the Meissen Library chaired by The Revd Alan Chesters.
The secretary of the Appeal is Professor Ann Loades CBE, Meissen Library Appeal, Durham Cathedral Library, The College, Durham DH1 3EH, U.K. Donations may be made directly to her, made payable to the Durham Cathedral Donations Meissen Library. Donors who pay UK tax may also have their donations enhanced by completing a Gift Aid form, available form All Loades as above.
3) Journal articles: a) Manfred Gailus, "Von 'gottgläubiger' Kirchenkämpfer Rosenbergs zum 'christgläubigen' Pfarrer Niemöllers. Matthes Zieglers wunderbare Wandlungen im 20 Jahrhundert," in Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft. Vol. 54, no. 11, November 2006, p. 937-973.
Manfred Gailus, who teaches at Berlin's Technical University, has undertaken a masterly piece of detective work to uncover the career of Matthes Ziegler, a former ardent Nazi who ended up by being a ranking Pastor in the Church of Hessen-Nassau, where he was appointed through the auspices of the anti-Nazi hero, Martin Niemöller. Like so many other young men of his kind, Matthes Ziegler was caught up by the frenetic mood which greeted Hitler's rise to power in 1933. Having been born in a rural parsonage, he was intending to study theology at Greifswald, but instead switched his favours to the new political wave of enthusiasm, and was given a job by Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi Party's chief ideologue and editor of its main newspaper. As editor of the Party's internal monthly, the NS Monatshefte, Ziegler became an experienced journalist. But his aspirations did not stop there. When war broke out he switched his allegiance to Himmler and Bormann, and was given further propaganda assignments, such as preparing material to be used against the Catholic Church, once the "Endlösung" of the Roman pest could be launched. In 1945, as an SS officer he was automatically arrested and spent three years in detention until 1948.
But somehow or other he gained an interview with Martin Niemšller who then held the office of Church President = Bishop in Hessen-Nassau. Thanks to Niemöller, Ziegler was given permission to join the next ordination course, and subsequently was appointed to various parishes in Hessen-Nassau. He served there until retirement in 1976, all the while suppressing any embarrassing information about his past. But, in retirement, he wrote a self-serving autobiography, which was never published, but which came into Gailus' hands and thus precipitated this investigation.
Gailus can offer no explanation for Niemöller's surprisingly sympathetic handling of this rather unpleasant character, whose dictatorial manner and extreme right-wing opinions were still unchanged in his later years. But Gailus has pieced together all the surviving evidence from Nazi sources, and presents a devastating picture of an ambitious careerist who sought to exploit the political system for his own advantage. His memoirs in fact fully displayed the contradiction between his desire to play down his disreputable past while simultaneously boasting of his association with the Nazi "Bonzen", Rosenberg, Darré, Heydrich, Himmler and various Gauleiter. Ziegler's claim that he knew nothing about the crimes these men committed is hardly credible. But for years all this was hushed up. We can be grateful to Manfred Gailus for this skilful exposure.
b) Mark Lindsay, "The Righteous among the Nations". Bonhoeffer, Yad Vashem and the Church in Toronto Journal of Theology, Vol. 22, no 1, Spring 2006, p. 23-38
For more than twenty years now, contention has reverberated over the decision of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem to deny the status of a ãrighteous Gentileä to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the eyes of those in charge, he falls outside the scope of the definitions they established to be considered as a rescuer of Jews, while acknowledging his services in resisting the Nazi regime.
Mark Lindsay of Melbourne, Australia, examines more closely the criteria of "righteousness" in the light of Bonhoeffer's reflections on the Beatitudes and in his later writings. According to the Yad Vashem officials, righteousnes is to be attributed to ethical acts in the face of direct danger. Religious faith is not a prerequisite. The title of righteous Gentile is awarded to individuals who rescued Jews from Nazism's genocidal machinery, even if, in other situations, their moral probity was spotty. Oscar Schindler, for example, was a swindler and an adulterer. And evidence suggests that many rescuers were not righteous in the usual moral sense. So Yad Vashem's definition of who receives the title is an ambivalent one.
Lindsay seeks to show that orthodox Protestantism shows a similar ambiguity. The specific ethical conduct demanded of the Christian is often undefined, and many moral situations arise where no pattern of righteousness is predictable. For Bonhoeffer, unlike most of his colleagues in the university or church, his sharply increased political awareness in the early 1930s led him to see that the real danger of Nazism demanded a raft of corporate actions in the name of justice, truth and humanity. These were not restricted solely to rescuing Jews, but could and should, result from the Christian's faith journey, sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Such righteousness would likely lead to danger and be at great personal cost. It could, and in his case did, require perseveance to the point of martyrdom. So Bonhoeffer surely deserves the title of a Righteous Christian.
4) Reader's response:
I would like to comment on the journal article "Was Nazism an ersatz political religion, or were Christianity and Nazism incompatible?" (February Newsletter, p. 6-7)
I welcome correction, but I get the distinct impression that most discussions of this sort have assumed that the German Lutherans and Catholics were Christians, therefore their activities show the degree of cooperation and agreement between Christianity and National Socialism. It seems to me that far too little has been said about the question of whether or not many of the German Christians were Christians in name only, not seriously dedicated to following the teachings of Christ, and in fact disobedient to the teachings of Christ, and not really Christians at all.
For example, your article said "Göring was married in church, Wilhelm Frick retained a strong commitment to Protestantism, and Hanns Kerrl, the Minister for Church Affairs, could quote the Bible by heart and was convinced that the churches and the Nazi Party were inseparable because both opposed Judaism." Such things seem like strong arguments, but, when it comes to Goering, nowhere do Christ or the apostles say anything about church weddings. If a vicious, evil, and brutal man who clearly has not the slightest interest in the Sermon on the Mount is married in a church, this shows some kind of relationship between Naziism and the German Church - that said church might have little or nothing to do with Christ and the apostles is all too often ignored. Frick retained a strong commitment to Protestantism: did he believe that salvation was by faith alone, and that this included repentance of sin, and following the way of Christ? How many people are aware that 20th century German "Protestantism' was vastly different from traditonal biblical protestantism, and had in fact abandoned many historic doctrines? Hanns Kerrl could quote the bible by heart - did he believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and died on the cross for the sins of the world, that he rose from the dead, that he would return as God to judge the world?
Many German Christians were far removed from the teachings of Christ and the apostles, and their support for Hitler proves only their own spiritual blindness and disobedience to Christ, not a connection between Nazism and Christianity.
Also, I have been skimming Mein Kampf recently and have made note of a number of passages where Hitler expresses deep and overt hostility toward Christianity. It seems these passages are often overlooked - if I am wrong, will be glad to know of it. I will give you a few references - forgive me if this is old hat to you.
Book 2 chapt.5: Christianity's intolerance is fundamentally Jewish, and "positively embodies the Jewish nature." This is the very point H.S. Chamberlain made (I have the reference in Salalah). In this passage Hitler refers to Christian intolerance with "loathing" and discusses how this philosophy filled with intolerance (Christianity) can be broken. He speaks of the spiritual terror and coercion introduced by Christianity and says it can only be broken by coercion and by terror.
Bk. 2 chapt. 2: the churches are not concerned with racial purity; sending missionaries to Africa turns healthy but primitive Africans into a "rotten brood of bastards"; that instead of missionary activity, the churches should be preaching eugenics and racial hygiene
Bk. 1 chapt. 3: both denominations are wrong on the Jewish question and hence are suitable "neither to the requirements of the nation nor to the real needs of religion." Protestantism is hostile to antisemitism.
These are open and overt attacks on the churches, which Hitler later moderated or avoided for political reasons. No doubt he could easily explain them away as rhetorical excesses or just politics if later confronted with them.
You referred in your book to the blindness of German Christians - to what extent is that attributable to the fact that many of them had long since abandoned biblical Christianity?
With best wishes to you all for a blessed Lent