Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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April 2009 — Vol. XV, no. 4

 

Dear Friends,

O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid!
Ist das nicht zu beklagen
Gott des Vaters einigs Kind
Wird ins Grab getragen

O grosse Not!
Gotts Sohn liegt tot
Am Kreuz ist er gestorben
Hat dadurch das Himmelreich
Uns aus Lieb erworben

O Jesu, du
Mein Hilf und Ruh
Ich bitte dich mit Tränen:
Hilf, dass ich mich bis ins Grab
Nach dir möge sehnen.


Johann Rist, 1607-1667

At this Eastertide, we rejoice in the hope given to us in the Resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, but also we recall His sufferings on the Cross, and those of His Church during its long and troubled history. The Lutheran hymn above, written four centuries ago, surely attests to these two realities, as do the books reviewed below.

Contents:

1) Book reviews:

a) Gailus, Kirchliche Amtshilfe
b) Vromen, Hidden children of the Holocaust in Belgium
c) Heschel, The Aryan Jesus
d) Wickeri, Reconstructing China – K.H.Ting
e) Clark, Allies for Armageddon

2) Journal issue, Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte Contemoporary Church History, 2008, no. 2

1a) ed. Manfred Gailus, Kirchliche Amtshilfe. Die Kirche und die Judenverfolgung im “Dritten Reich”. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2008. 223 Pp. ISBN 978-3-525--55340-4.

One of the earliest discriminatory measures taken by the Nazis against German Jews was the passing in April 1933 of the so-called Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service. This prohibited anyone having Jewish ancestors from holding positions in the state civil service. including the judiciary, the universities, schools and hospitals. Hundreds of thousands were affected. Many of them were church-goers, who now found it necessary to seek clarification as to whether they had any Jewish forebears. The only way this could be done was by consulting the parish registers, which by long standing decrees of the Prussian monarchy, had been carefully maintained for several hundred years. Births, marriages, deaths and particularly baptisms were all recorded. So in 1933, the local parishes were inundated with requests to examine these registers, since anyone seeking a job in the public service needed to provide proof that he was of “pure” German origin. At the same time, there were various zealots among the parish clergy who wholeheartedly welcomed the Nazi attempt to “purify” German society by discovering the extent to which their congregations had become “polluted” by intermarriage with, or baptism of, “foreign elements”, particularly Jews. These pastors readily gave support to the idea that the “pure” German community of blood “should safeguard Germany’s eternal future”, or alternatively that “mixed” marriages, even in the distant past, had been a disastrous development which should now be rectified.

In the mood of 1933, when the vast majority of pastors and their congregations welcomed Adolf Hitler as Germany’s saviour from national humiliation and/or the danger of racial contamination, the search for alleged Jewish miscegenation was seen as a national duty. No pastor objected. Soon enough, the genealogical zealots, all confessing their devotion to the Nazi cause, took over the organization of this nation-wide investigation. Thousands of parish records were gathered together in centralized regional offices, where huge card indexes were prepared, carefully listing the names and dates when “alien elements’ had crept into the church. In the view of some of these fanatical pastors, this process had been part of a deliberate Jewish plot to undermine the “pure German” character of the church. Their duty was to oppose this subtle and dangerous process. As one bigoted pastor from Schleswig-Holstein declared: “it was the duty of the priest to record with diligence this past pollution of our nation’s purity, and to ensure that it never happens again.”
In most cases, pastors receiving requests to search their registers obediently complied, since they were officially the keepers of the state’s records and statistics. It was their patriotic duty to obey the law, which they then conscientiously carried out. Of course, in 1933, no one could have known what such discriminatory measures would later lead to. But none could have failed to realize the portentous effect of this kind of discrimination and exclusion from the majority in the church. It was all willingly enough undertaken.

Those who collaborated in these endeavours, which were often to have such fatal consequences for those affected, had no regrets at the time. Nor any since. After 1945, these activities were all covered over with a blanket of amnesia and the bureaucratic paper trail was carefully buried.
This is a story without any redeeming features, all the more since the majority of the pastors involved returned, after 1945, to regular parish work. Their pro-Nazi participation and/or sympathy, even if investigated, was largely brushed under the carpet. Some were even complemented on their “diligent and energetic genealogical researches”.

We therefore owe Professor Manfred Gailus and his team of authors a debt of gratitude for writing up so competently this disgraceful story, and for describing the stages by which church officials assisted the Nazi racial campaign of persecution at one of its most intrusive points. As they note, the only opposition to this Nazi-induced enterprise came from the reluctance of several pastors, especially in the rural areas, to be parted from their parish registers; alternatively some argued that they could not spare the time to undertake the necessary researches, or that they lacked the financial resources to employ people with sufficient skills in the use of dusty and long-forgotten records. In some parts of Germany, this desire to co-ordinate and centralize the discovery of Jewish forebears amongst the parishioners had only meagre results. Nevertheless the attempt remains a sad stain upon the church’s history. We can surely be grateful to Professor Gailus for his continuing efforts to undertake the task of coming to terms with this and other portions of the German Evangelical Church’s problematic past.
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1b) Suzanne Vromen, Hidden Children of the Holocaust. Belgian Nuns and their daring rescue of young Jews from the Nazis. Oxford University press, 2008. 178 Pp. ISBN 078-0-29.318128-9

The saga of the Jewish children saved from the Nazis’ persecution during the Holocaust is always heart-wrenching. In Belgium, which figures only occasionally in holocaust historiography, little is known about the rescue work undertaken mainly by nuns, who hid the children in numerous convents across the land. Suzanne Vromen’ s account breaks new ground and is therefore valuable in filling this gap.

Compiled principally from the survivors’ testimonies, Vromen has interviewed many of these, both boys and girls, whose names were later recorded. She has produced a systematic and comparative evaluation of their treatment and eventual rescue, and does so with a sympathetic stance, since she herself only narrowly escaped the same experience. She pays particular tribute to the courage and foresight of the Mothers Superior of the convents, and their readiness to extend help to these children, despite their knowledge of the risks they ran. At the same time, this was all the more unexpected, since these convents were among the most traditional institutions in a strongly Catholic country. Pre-Vatican II attitudes were widespread. Anti-semitic stereotypes were commonly expressed, but aversion to the German occupation and its repressive policies prevailed. At the same time, Vromen takes care to refute the accusations that these nuns were motivated either by the desire for financial gain, or by proselytizing motives. Certainly, as she notes, many of these hidden children were baptized so that they could more fully participate in the numerous daily Catholic rituals. But, in Vromen’s estimation this was primarily in order to make them inconspicuous, and succeeded in this attempt.

The testimonies she gathered show a wide spectrum amongst the children from those who gladly adopted a new Catholic identity to those who resisted any loss of their Jewishness. After the war very considerable efforts were made to reconnect the children with their parents. If the parents had not survived, the children were given to a Jewish agency, necessarily impersonal and eager only to preserve them as a precious remnant. Undoubtedly many of the nuns were reluctant to see their charges depart to such an uncertain future. But Vromen gives the benefit of doubt about their intentions.

The convents varied greatly in size and character. But all shared in a very traditional institutional style, laced with Catholic piety, which imposed on all inmates an often rigid conformity. Vromen estimates that approximately two hundred such institutions were involved in this rescue work. She provides an excellent account of the daily lives in war-time. Like all such schools and homes, the children and their caretakers were obliged to suffer the rigours of war-time conditions, with the oppression of the foreign occupation forces, the dangers of bombing raids, the scarcity of food, the cold of winters and the absence of recreation. For the Jewish children there were the added dangers of detection and the lack of knowledge about their parents’ fate. At the same time, accepting these children demanded special qualities and competence from the convents and their staffs. Particularly the role of the Mother Superior was crucial. The burden placed on these women for the success of their rescue missions here receives due acknowledgment.

The fact that, in later years, many of these nuns were awarded the title of “Righteous Gentiles” speaks favourably about how their loving care was remembered by their charges. Vromen was fortunate in being able to interview many of these nuns, whose memories were still sharp, despite their advanced ages, fifty or more years after the events recalled. Necessarily, since no records were kept at the time, these recollections are now indispensable. Vromen’s research therefore helps to break the silence which so long veiled the story of these hidden children and pays tribute to the courageous and steadfast nuns who sheltered and cared for them . The regrettable fact is that these women have only received belated recognition in recent years in post-war Belgium, in contrast to the men who participated in the more dramatic armed resistance. It is also regrettable that the Belgian Catholic Church has not seen fit to make any institutional commemoration of their humanitarian endeavours. Vromen’s tribute is therefore both timely and appropriate.
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1c) Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus. Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton Univ. Press. 384p $29.95

(This review appeared in America Magazine, February 16, 2009, and is reprinted by kind permission of the author)

Founded in 1939 against the background of Nazi dominance by a group of German Protestant theologians, pastors and churchgoers, the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life sought to redefine Christianity as a Germanic religion whose founder, Jesus, was not a Jew but rather an opponent of Judaism who fought valiantly to destroy Judaism but fell victim in that struggle.

This volume presents the history of that institute: how it came into being and won approval and financing from church leaders, the nature of the “dejudaized” New Testament and hymnal that it published, the many conferences and lectures that it organized, and those who joined and became active members especially from the academic world and in particular its academic director, Walter Grundmann (1906-74).

Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, is the daughter of the famous Jewish scholar and religious activist, Abraham Heschel. She grew up hearing from her father and his friends about the German academic scene in the 1920s and 1930s. Her interest in Grundmann’s institute was piqued in the late 1980s, and she has worked on this project for many years, especially since the pertinent archives became accessible. She has an interesting and important story to tell about the political corruption of academic Christian theological scholarship, and she tells it very well. She offers abundant quotations from the publications and correspondence of the major figures. Just when the reader feels the need for more background information about a particular person or topic, Heschel supplies it. She retains the objectivity appropriate to a historian without glossing over the horror of her topic and the scoundrels who perpetrated it.

One of the institute’s preoccupations was to dejudaize Jesus. Along with some other distinguished German biblical scholars of the time, Grundmann and his colleagues contended that Jesus descended from the non-Jewish population of Galilee, that he struggled heroically against Judaism, and finally fell into the hands of the Judean officials who had him put to death. For Germans in the 1930s and early 1940s who were struggling against what they were told was an international Jewish conspiracy, the “Aryan Jesus” was proposed as a symbol of their own struggle. Their task was to complete successfully the struggle that the Aryan Jesus had begun. As a means toward that end, some “German Christians” saw the need to divest Christianity of its Jewish elements and to produce a purified Christianity fit for the future thousand-year Reich.

The impetus for this project came first of all from the long German tradition of theological anti-Judaism. Added to that tradition were the “race” theories that had emerged more recently and the rise to political power of Hitler and the Nazi party. Moreover, there had developed within German Protestantism a split between the “German Christians” and the “Confessing Church.” The “German Christians” took more eagerly to the task of ridding Christianity of its Jewish elements and developing a new kind of Christianity supposedly more consistent with the Nazi ideology that they saw coming to power before their eyes. One of the strongholds of the German Christian movement was the region of Thuringia, and the institute dedicated to eradication of Jewish influence on the German church had its home in Jena. While not officially sponsored by the University of Jena, Grundmann and several of his co-workers were faculty members there.

Grundmann became the institute’s academic director and driving force. In his mid-30s he had been lecturing and writing about “Jesus the Galilean” and drawing parallels between Jesus’ alleged struggle against Judaism and the contemporary German situation. He was a popular teacher and lecturer, and had many contacts in the German academic world. His own teachers included Adolf Schlatter and Gerhard Kittel, very distinguished scholars whose writings were often tinged with anti-Judaism. In his work for the institute Grundmann organized conferences that attracted other scholars, and so widened the institute’s influence. Even when paper was scarce, Grundmann managed to get published his own writings and those of scholars sympathetic to the institute’s goals.

One of the institute’s first projects was the production of a dejudaized translation of the New Testament. This involved purging the Synoptic Gospels of positive references to Judaism, eliminating the biographical and autobiographical notices about Paul’s Jewishness and highlighting the negative comments about “the Jews” in John’s Gospel. Another project was a dejudaized hymnbook, in which Jewish language and concepts were eliminated and replaced by songs about war and the “fatherland.” A dejudaized catechism presented Jesus as a Galilean whose message and conduct stood in opposition to Judaism. These publications were widely circulated and had great influence.

Two issues central to the Christian Bible presented problems for Grundmann and his colleagues: the Old Testament and Paul. While many in the German Christian movement wanted to jettison the Old Testament, some (mainly professors of Old Testament) wanted to retain it as evidence of Jewish perfidy and degeneracy, often using the ancient Israelite prophets’ denunciations against the Jewish people of the present. Since Paul had been the theological hero in Luther’s Protestant Reformation, he could not be so easily purged. The solution was to use Paul’s general ideas and play down or omit what seemed too “Jewish” about his person and theology.

The Nazis’ reception of Grundmann’s institute was mixed. Some officials welcomed the support of the German Christians and of the institute in particular. However, other highly placed Nazis did not want to encourage a renewed German Christianity that might rival their own plans for a Nordic paganism entirely without Christian elements. For members of the Confessing Church and the Catholic Church (despite their own forms of anti-Judaism), the goals and projects of the institute and the German Christians seemed too radical. While this mixed reception was a great disappointment to Grundmann and his colleagues, it became their salvation after the defeat of the Nazis.

In the superficial “denazification” process after the war, Grundmann and his colleagues portrayed themselves as scholars of Judaism, victims of Nazi persecution and heroes responsible for the church’s survival. They wrote recommendations for one another, attested to one another’s integrity and took up former or new positions in the church and the university. Grundmann continued to publish books and articles without apology, and even turned up as an informant for the East German secret police, the Stasi.

Heschel has a remarkable story to tell. Her reliance on primary sources and her objectivity are impressive. One comes away from her account wondering how such apparently intelligent and learned Christian scholars could have been so foolish and craven. While there were several causes, Heschel’s narrative demonstrates once more the noxious power of Christian theological anti-Judaism, especially among those who should have known better.

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., is professor of New Testament at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and editor of New Testament Abstracts.

1d) Philip Wickeri, Reconstructing Christianity in China – K. H. Ting and the Chinese Church, Maryknoll NY, Orbis Books, 2007, 516 pp., US$ 50.00, American Society of Missiology Studies, no. 41.

(This review appeared first in the International Review of Missions, September 2008)

This is a most remarkable book, about a remarkable Christian man and leader, living through some of the most remarkable upheavals, threats and in the end resurrection developments of the Christian Church in China. It is also written by a remarkable disciple, the only foreigner to date to be ordained in China to the Christian ministry within the Chinese Protestant Church. Like many earlier studies in this North American Series, it is not quick, still less easy reading, but will deserve to be read and studied for many years.

Wickeri first met Bishop Ting in 1979, when he was invited to serve 'as an interpreter for the Chinese inter-religious delegation at the Third World Conference on Religion and Peace' (p.4) which took place at Princeton Theological Seminary where Wickeri was a doctoral student. The thesis he wrote became in 1988 the comparably full and important study Seeking the Common Ground – Protestant Christianity, the Three-Self Movement and China's United Front (Maryknoll, Orbis Books) which remains a key study of the more general inter-action between Chinese Communist rule and the faith and practice of Chinese Protestant Christians over the 40 years following the Communist taking of power in 1949. The new book is all the more interesting both for covering the same history through the faith and thinking of a particular person and leader, while also continuing the story into the present when Bishop Ting, now 92 and restricted to a wheelchair, is still taking a lively interest in all that is happening in and around the Church he has served so well.

The book is a biography of a particular person, yet also takes the reader through a richly documented story of what was happening at each stage both to China as a nation and to the total Protestant community within which K. H. Ting grew up and of which he became a major leader as it was allowed to rediscover itself and its vocation under the government led by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s. He was born in Shanghai, into a family attached to St Peter's Church, a congregation of the then Anglican Church in that city's International Settlement, where his maternal grandfather had been a deacon and priest in the early part of the century. His university studies were in the Anglican foundation, St John's University, Shanghai, where after one year in engineering he transferred to theology, almost all of his studies being taken in the English language which he has spoken and written perfectly ever since.

The three main sections of the book take the reader through the three very different periods of Bishop Ting's long life: that of the Japanese occupation, the Second World War, and his five years of international service in Canada, New York and Geneva during the civil war in China and the war in Korea; then the years of 'Deconstructing Christianity in China' while settling into living under Communist rule and the upheavals that the chaotic 'cultural revolution' of 1966-76 consisted of and was followed by; and then the restoration, indeed rebirth, of Christianity since the late 1970s until today. In each period we are taken deeply into Bishop Ting's own experience and handling of all the uncertainties and tensions, thanks in particular to recorded interviews that he gave Wickeri in the early 1990s when the latter was serving in the Hong Kong office of the Amity Foundation that has proved to be one of Bishop Ting's most creative initiatives. Wickeri insists in his Introduction that the book is 'not an approved or authorized biography', though Bishop Ting 'has cooperated with me at different stages in the process of writing and research' (p. 9), and that he takes responsibility himself for his interpretation and evaluation of major themes within it all – with 64 crowded pages of Notes and a Bibliography of 43 pages indicating just how much care he has taken !

Space forbids any attempt to enter into the fascinating detail of this whole story, for instance the crucial role in Ting's career played more than once, above all during the 'cultural revolution', by Chairman Mao's second-in-command, Zhou Enlai, whom Ting may have met in his boyhood, and whose secretary in the 1940s was a schoolmate of his wife's (p.53) ! Or into Ting's relationship with the Buddhist leader Zhao Puchu, a close companion in membership of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference from 1959 onwards, and whose commitment to Ting is movingly reflected in an Ode (a Ci in Mandarin) the monk wrote for him, probably at a particularly low moment in 1973, which, in English, is printed – and 'translated' in the appended footnote - on p. 197f.

Yet of course it is Bishop Ting's ever-growing responsibilities in and for the Christian (which is how Protestants are identified, in distinction from Catholics, in Mandarin) Church(es) in China, which provide the bulk of the material of this rich book, from Ting's early, short pastorate after graduation from St John's in a wartime and occupied Shanghai, all the way through an extraordinarily demanding life, to his efforts after 'retirement' to re-shape the theological outlook of the Church by a long series of articles, addresses and other writings devoted to 'Theological Reconstruction' (see pp. 346ff.). By this, which has not been always popular among Ting's many colleagues around the country, he means above all looking out more widely, more lovingly and more exploringly, on to the total human scene in and beyond the People's Republic.

Throughout, the book is centrally interested in the development of Ting's theological understanding and the practical principles and decisions to which that has led, not least in the endless weighing during most of the story of what can and cannot be openly said or done in the light of the political leadership and its sensitivities at each different stage. One would like to think that the weight of care Ting has shown throughout his life in this field could be softening in these latest years. Yet what has been happening around Taiwan, Tibet and the Olympic games in 2008 surely indicates that the Christian leaders of today and tomorrow are likely to find themselves facing a no less care-filled and sensitive set of roles to play than those faced by Bishop K.H. Ting over the 60 and more years so fully documented here.

Dr Martin Conway, Oxford, chairman of the Friends of the Church in China from 1994 – 2000.

1e) Victoria Clark, Allies for Armageddon. The Rise of Christian Zionism. New Haven an London: Yale University Press. 2007. 331 Pp. ISBN 978-0-300-11698-4

Victoria Clark is a British writer, who earlier gave us an insightful study of the Christian churches in the Balkans in the aftermath of Communist rule. She now turns to a more lurid subject, the often spectacular witness of the so-called Christian Zionists, who form part of the contemporary American Religious Right. This community with its extreme views, both theological and political, is best known for its successful mobilization of assistance for the State of Israel, and the remarkable amount of financial support it has garnered for Israel’s cause. This significant minority among American Protestant fundamentalists derives its beliefs from certain early Puritans with their addiction to taking biblical prophecies literally, if selectively. These included an unshakable eschatological belief in the immanence of Jesus’ Second Coming, along the lines fervently preached by the early nineteenth century British evangelist, John Nelson Darby. His advocacy was based on a time frame which included the restoration of all Jews to their promised biblical homeland, the rise of the Anti-Christ, the seven years of Tribulation, the devastating Battle of Armageddon, the Rapture of the saved Christians into heaven, followed by the Last Days and then the End of the World. It was all part of God’s prophetic and immutable plan.

The first part of Clark’s book is devoted to a well-researched study of the origins and development of these beliefs, and their impact on Christian society, especially in Britain and America. Even before the rise of the modern secular Zionist movement, this Protestant faction under such leaders as the Earl of Shaftesbury had fostered the idea of restoring Europe’s Jews to their ancient territories. Such concepts undoubtedly played a significant part in the British Government’s issuing of the 1917 Balfour declaration in support of a Jewish national home in Palestine, and later led to President Truman’s immediate recognition of the newly-established State of Israel in 1948. Such steps were all interpreted by this sect as proof of their correct discernment of the signs of the pre-millennial age.

The second half of the book describes Clark’s personal interviews with a number of American Christian Zionist leaders. She becomes increasingly dismayed by the rigidity and dogmatism of their biblically-based eschatology, even if the leaders are coy about the exact methods or timing when their predictions will take place. But all can agree on the American Christians’ duty to aid and abet the Jewish state, even suggesting the desirability of using nuclear strikes to attack such implacable enemies of Israel as Muslim fundamentalists or the Iranian nation. They have no sympathy at all for the Christian Arabs of the Middle East, whose plight is ignored even while huge Christian resources are deployed to sponsor new Jewish settlements in the West Bank territories, as well as to assist in the return of more Jews from exile elsewhere. Any talk of compromise with Israel’s opponents, or any suggestion that a two-state solution on the soil of Palestine would be preferable, is regarded as a sign of weakness, comparable to the appeasement of Nazism practised by the ill-fated British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938. It must be resolutely and utterly condemned.

Clark also devotes considerable space in describing the highly organized tactics of this group on the American political scene. A plethora of lobbying organizations in Washington and elsewhere has developed a significant political impact, assisted by the sympathetic hearings they received from President George W. Bush. Such agencies are backed by the effective rallying of support at the local parish level, especially in such hard-line areas as Texas and Colorado. Clark’s forays to meet such crusading pastors on their home ground only revealed the chasm in understanding between her liberal and balanced agnosticism and the dogmatic bible-based certitudes of her hosts. She rightly wonders how such flamboyant displays of religious nationalism can be described as Christian, and makes clear her increasing distaste of such apocalyptic aggressiveness. Even if the most recent political developments in the United States have seen a decline in the fortunes of these militant and dedicated campaigners, nevertheless the pressures to maintain the flow of vast American resources, both private and public, to Israel will almost certainly continue. Since the Democratic Party also gains much of its support from American Jews, no reversal of such a policy is to be expected. As Clark concludes: “If the influence of Christian Zionism on western policy continues to exert the hold it does today {2007} there is a chance that we will all become allies for Armageddon” (p. 289).
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2) Journal issue: The latest issue of Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte/Contemporary Church History, Volume 21, no. 2, 2008 is devoted to the Church of England Bishop George Bell. Fifty years after his death in 1958, a commemorative conference was held in his diocesan city, Chichester, organized by the Director of the George Bell Institute, Andrew Chandler, who is also a co-editor of this journal. The papers read at this international and bilingual conference are now printed, and provide a valuable survey of Bell’s career, with particular emphasis on his international and ecumenical witness. At the same time, these scholars have been able to use a larger and more up-to-date range of sources than was possible for Bell’s official biographer, Canon Jasper, forty years ago. Charlotte Methuen (Oxford) begins by describing Bell’s early entry into the ecumenical arena in the aftermath of the first world war. Like many others, he was appalled by the disastrous consequences for Christian witness caused by the violent hatreds of the war, and drew the conclusion that all the churches should now unite in combating the evil forces which had led to this slaughter and destruction. They should also combine in binding up the wounds of war rather than keep on stressing their doctrinal differences. Such ideas led him to become involved with other leading European Protestant churchmen, such as the Swedish Archbishop, Nathan Söderblom, who was the key figure in promoting the Stockholm conference in 1925, out of which grew the Life and Work movement of the ecumenical church. Bell was to play a leading role in guiding its destinies. At the same time, he recognized that more was needed in tackling the harmful effects of unbridled nationalism, particularly in Germany. He organized a series of theological conversations between German and British theologians, which in fact only showed how far apart their theologies still were. But Bell’s liberal nature led him to hope that, with good will and the abandonment of war-time hostility, the British public could be persuaded that there was another Germany, apart from the militaristic and aggressive forces so often portrayed in British propaganda Naturally he was an ardent champion of all peace endeavours seeking to reconcile the two sides, and warmly supported Prime Minister Chamberlain throughout the Munich crisis in 1938. He had for example, made strenuous efforts to help those Germans persecuted by the Nazis, especially “non-Aryans”, and Quakers, He offered hospitality in Britain to some twenty German Protestant pastors and their families turned out by Nazi pressures, as described by James Radcliffe. When war was declared, he took a leading role in caring for the refugees, many of whom in 1940 were interned on the Isle of Man, even though they had fled from Hitler’s prisons to the supposed safety of Britain. Bell’s advocacy and personal involvement on their behalf are well described by Charmain Brinson (London). Even more notable were his public stances during the war against the Royal Air Force’s unlimited bombing campaigns and the unwarranted vilification of the enemy which he rightly feared would repeat the mistakes of the first world war, and make impossible the kind of rebuilding of a new Europe based on a new era of reconciliation and peace. Philip Coupland’s essay on Bell’s vision of post-war Europe shows both his far-sighted and idealistic stance, as well as the opposition he had to face. It was this belief that, despite all, the “better” Germans should be allowed to play their part in the reconstruction of the continent which made him argue against vindictive policies even for convicted German war criminals. In Tom Lawson’s view, this was too generous, and showed that Bell was not sympathetic enough to the victims, especially Jewish victims, and their desire for restitution and justice. In these efforts, Bell was to work closely with the General Secretary of the new World Council of Churches, the Dutchman, Visser ‘t Hooft, as described in an excellent portrait by Gerhard Besier. Both collaborated in recognizing the danger of Soviet communism. Dianne Kirby gives a clear evaluation of Bell’s stance during the Cold War, when he played a prominent part in outlining the clash between democracy and dictatorship, and identifying the Christian churches with those seeking to find a new path of mutual understanding without compromising their detestation of totalitarian regimes. As the editors suggest, Bell’s witness can be described as “Bridge building in desperate times”. JSC

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