Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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Newsletter- July 1998- Vol. IV, no. 7

 

Dear Friends

 

Contents: 1) Congratulations 2) Book reviews a) Graham and Alvarez, Nothing Sacred b) Evangelische Pfarrer 3) Journal article: Webster, Non-aryan clergymen in exile 4) Kirchliche Tourismus: South Tyrol

 

1) Congratulations are due to our list members, Mark Lindsay, whohas successfully completed his doctoral studies with distinction at the University of Western Australia. His thesis was on "Covenanted Solidarity: The theological bases for Karl Barth's opposition to Nazi antisemitism and the Holocaust"; (another list member, Professor John Moses, being one of his examiners); and to Rob Levy, for completing his MA thesis on "Screening the Past:Scholarly histories and popular memories" for Washington StateUniversity.

 

2a) David Alvarez and Robert A. Graham, SJ. _Nothing Sacred. Nazi Espionage against the Vatican, 1939-1945_. London and Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass Publishers, 1997. Pp 190. Cloth$42.50. ISBN 0-7146-4744-6 Paper ISBN 0-7146-4302-5 (This review appeared on H-German on June 5th) Fr.Robert Graham, who sadly died last year, was a notable journalist and Jesuit, who wrote several books on the history of the Papacy and the wartime policies of Pope Pius XII. In the course of these studies, Graham uncovered a large amount of material relating to the espionage and surveillance efforts by foreign governments or emissaries directed against the Vatican. With the assistance of a younger colleague from California, David Alvarez, his bulky findings have now been reduced to a compact and readable 183 pages, concentrating on the Nazi attempts to spy on the Vatican during these turbulent years.

The Vatican was, and is, a strictly hierarchical entity, whose policies are not subject to public scrutiny. Its diplomacy, similarly, is enveloped in secrecy, a characteristic which became even more tightly controlled once the European war broke out in 1939. The result was that all sorts of groundless rumours, imagined scenarios and even calculated falsehoods were rife about what the Pope would do or say, purveyed by "informants" who were only too ready to satisfy the world's curiosity, often for personal gain. Since this "information" was never authorized, but equally rarely officially denied, fanciful speculations abounded, some of whichwere later repeated in post-war journalistic books. The Holy See was widely assumed to have considerable spiritual power which could affect the Catholic citizens of many nations. Such influence was worth cultivating. For this reason, during the war, "all of the major belligerents (with the exception of the Soviet Union) maintained diplomatic missions at the Vatican to press the righteousness of their cause and to solicit the support of the Pope and his advisers. At the same time all of the major belligerents (including the Soviet Union) sought to determine the sympathies of the papacy, and to uncover and frustrate the intrigues of their opponents by maintaining intelligence coverage of the Vatican" (ix).

Prominent among these players was Nazi Germany. Hitler and his associates always had a hostile and suspicious attitude towards Catholicism. The Papacy, they believed, employed a world-wide network of clerical agents supplying potentially dangerous information to Rome. In consequence their deliberate aim was to curtail and curb such activities, not only by a ruthless persecution of "political Catholicism" in Germany and its occupied territories, but also by establishing their own networks of agents in the Vatican environment itself. A principal locale was the German Embassy to the Holy See. The Ambassador, Diego von Bergen, however, was a diplomat of the old school, rightly sceptical of much of the supposed "insider information" fed to him by various dubious contacts, and even by some pro-Nazi clerics. But Bergen was nearretirement and no longer enjoyed much support in Berlin. Much more significant were the intrigues of Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), whose pathological hatred of the church made him lose all sense of logic or proportion. He built a large staff in Munich and Berlin and in1941 declared that "our ultimate goal is the extirpation of all Christianity" (59). In the meanwhile intelligence operations against such a dangerous foe should be intensified. The Vatican, as the centre of this anti-Nazi activity, was particularly suspect. Already in March 1939 an agent had been sent to Rome to report on the papal election, though his speculations proved entirely erroneous. This debacle showed that spying on the Holy See required better staffing, despite strong opposition from the regular diplomats. The RSHA was successful in penetrating not only the Nunciatures in Berlin and Slovakia, but also the central office of the German Catholic bishops. Various agents with contacts to high ecclesiastics were paid large sums to send in information.

These machinations, on the other side, aroused alarm in theVatican, leading to the belief that the Nazis were about to invade Vatican territory or even kidnap the Pope. In August 1943, this threat seemed so imminent that sensitive diplomatic documents and the Pope's personal files were hidden under the marble floors of the papal palace. Despite the authors' diligent researches, they have been unable to find any hard evidence that such a plot was instigated, but the fears were genuine, even if "inspired" by western agents. The closest the RSHA got to penetrating the Vatican itself was by bribing some exiles from Georgia with funds to buy a convent in which they tried to install a secret radio transmitter. But this failed when the Allies reached Rome first. They did manage to"turn" a young Soviet agent from Estonia, who did translations for the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, but he promptly reverted when the Germans left and was last seen in a Siberian 'gulag'. The harvest was very meagre. The only real success came from eavesdropping on the Vatican's signals communications and deciphering the Vatican's diplomatic codes. Despite being the first in history to use cryptography, by the 1940s the Vatican's methods were primitively out of date. Both Germany and Italy had no difficulty in reading most of the papal traffic, or in tapping the various nuncios' telephones. In fact, the Vatican officials knew their systems were insecure, and hence were obliged to be even more discreet than ever. It was a severe restraint, and probably the greatest weakness of papal wartime diplomacy.

The authors conclude that the results were mixed. No high-level Nazi agent was placed in the Papal entourage, and none of the very small number of individuals in the Vatican responsible for policy decisions was disloyal. This lack of success was partly due to the duplication of efforts by rival Nazi agencies, but also to the total misapprehension of the Vatican's stature in the world, which was nothing like as powerful (or sinister) as the Nazis imagined. Nazi espionage was only one of the reasons why theVatican's influence and prestige suffered disastrously during the second world war. Essentially much more significant was the growing gap between its ideals of peace and justice and the meagre achievements of its diplomacy, for example in its efforts to mitigate the Holocaust. But the authors succeed very well indepicting vividly the turgid, claustrophobic and conspiratorial atmosphere which prevailed during those fateful years. JSC

 

2b) "Evangelische Pfarrer: Zur sozialen und politischen Rolle einerburgerlichen Gruppe in der deutschen Gesellschaft des 18 bis 20 Jahrhunderts", edited by Luise Schorn-Schutte and Walter Sparn. (Konfession und Gesellschaft. Beitrage zur Zeitgeschichte, 12) Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1997. ISBN 4-17-014404-9. 217pp. "Evangelische Pfarrer" is a collection of ten essays edited by an historian, Luise Schorn-Schutte, and a theologian, Walter Sparn.Like half of the contributors to their volume, both were born in the1940s. Eberhard Winkler and Johannes Wahl are the only two theologians represented; Reinhart Siegert was trained in Germanistik, and the others all appear to be historians, Given their professional profile, it is no wonder that the collection is heavily influenced by the methodological and thematic approaches to history which emerged in Germany in the 1970s and early 1980s. Indeed, a quick survey of the contents reminds us just how productive those years were in developing new ways to explore the German past. Schorn-Schutte's piece on "Evangelische Geistlichkeit im Alten Reich und in der schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft im 18 Jahrhundert" echoes attempts at cross-national comparisons that grew out of the French Annales school and its interest in the"longue duree".

Wahl's "Lebenslaufe und Geschlechterraume im Pfarrhaus des 17 und 18 Jahrhunderts" builds on alternative traditions of Alltagsgeschichte. Hartmut Titze's use of quantification, in "Uberfullung und Mangel im evangelische Pfarramt seit dem ausgehenden 18 Jahrhundert" is reminiscent of older works by Konrad Jarausch, who used quantified date to explore issues of professionalization. Titze's assumption that social structures underlie cultural and material phenomena brings to mind the structuralism of Hans Mommsen and others. In his study of the Protestant pastors in the Vormarz in Kurhessen, Robert von Friedeburg echoes the so-called Bielefeld school of social history around Hans-Ulrich Wehler and its efforts to link the social and the political. The marks of Bielefeld are also evident in Frank-Michael Kuhlemann's essay on "Die evangelischen Pfarrer und ihre Mentalitat in Baden 1860-1914" with its sociological concerns, debt to Max Weber, and incorporation of the Annalistes' attention to"mentalite".

Oliver Janz, in "Kirche, Staat und Burgertum in Preussen", focusses on another preoccupation of the Bielefelders:the educated middle class, or "Bildungsburgertum". Questions of change and continuity, so crucial to reassessments of World Wars I and II in earlier works by Fritz Fischer, and at the heart of the debate over Germany's alleged "Sonderweg", reappear in productive ways in Kurt Nowak's fascinating "Politische Pastoren: Der evangelische Geistliche als Sonderfall des Staatsburgers (1862-1932)". Of course the past twenty years have also changed historical methodology, and most of the essays reflect at least some of these developments. Schorn-Schutte and Wahl pay attention to women and gender, a part of the population and a category of analysis noticeably absent from mainstream German scholarship of the1970s. Kuhlemann's interest in culture represents another innovation, evident also in Christoph Klessmann's intriguing"Evangelische Pfarrer im Sozialismus - soziale Stellung und politische Bedeutung in der DDR", with its exploration of "milieu". The one piece by a Germanisten, Siegert's :"Pfarrer und Literatur im 19 Jahrhundert", might not have been possible without scholarship on reading and production of books over the past decades, some of the best of it by the cultural historian Robert Darnton. So although there are times at which the essays in "Evangelische Pfarrer" give one the impression of being in a time warp, in fact the book in rather subtle ways shows signs of the 1990s as well.

As the book proves, application of older approaches, many of them drawn from Wehler's "Gesellschaftsgeschichte" - a particularly German variety of social history - to the study of Protestant clergy in modern Germany, can be very fruitful. For example, the emphasis on the political contexts in which pastors existed helps complicate old cliches about relations between church and state. Here we see not simply the oft-invoked union of "Thron und Adler", but a multi-faceted, dynamic, regionally-varied relationship between pastors - some of whom were liberals, some of whom sought more independence for their churches - and states that followed their own agendas. Attention to issues of class reveals complex connections between the clergy and the bourgeoisie: sometimes they overlapped to the point of coalescence; sometimesthey moved in opposite directions with regard to prestige and power. In general, studying the social and material realities of pastors' lives puts into perspective the changing conditions in which clergy and their families operated over time. Surprisingly, one ofthe most interesting and useful pieces in the book is what might seem at first glance the driest: Titze's quantitative analysis of the six phases in the market for Protestant clergy from the end of the eighteenth century to the present.

But there are downsides to the reliance on methodologies from the1970s as well. For one thing, those by now somewhat old-fashioned approaches lend an unnecessary provincialism to much of the book. The essays here, rooted in a German historical tradition, miss much of the enrichment that drawing on works from outside might have produced. In vain I searched the footnotes for reference to the burgeoning English-language literature on religion in Germany, much of it written by subscribers to this list: people like David Diephouse, Helmut Smith, and Dagmar Herzog. Although such works are in many cases directly relevant to the topics being explored, they might as well not have been written for all the impact they appear to have had on these scholars. Not surprisingly, the few exceptions - references to Steven Ozment and David Sabean or to Robert Ericksen (pp. 37, 48 and 72) - appear in what are, in my view, some of the livelier essays here: the contributionsby Wahl and Titze.

The book's chronological coverage also reflects both the strengths and the weaknesses of the 1970s historiography. One of the great contributions of that decade was its recovery of the Kaiserreich as aperiod of interest. To a significant extent that concentration grew out of efforts to identify the roots of National Socialism, but the works stood on their own merits. "Evangelische Pfarrer" partakes in that scholarly legacy; moreover, it also reflects the significant emphasis these days on the post-World War II Germanies. Klessmann's contribution on the German Democratic Republic is an excellent example of how much can be learned by taking into consideration the most recent German past. Entirely absent from the volume, however, is any examination of Protestant pastors in the Nazi era. The editors decry this gap in their introduction (xxiii), but it sticks out like the famous blue elephant in the middle of the room which no one mentions and all the guests politely avoid, but which nevertheless remains an all-too-embarrassing presence in every conversation. How can one speak of the development of German Protestant clergy over time without even addressing the years that constituted the greatest challenge to these men and their congregations? Given the many outstanding German scholars working in the area, the editors could certainly have done more to include some discussion of the Nazi years.

Finally, a sociological approach that lends itself well to exploring processes like secularization in many cases also produces bloodless analyses that can become tedious for readers. The worst culprit in this regard is Friedeburg. I found myself scouring his essay for signs of human life - anecdotes, even names - as relief from the impersonal discussion. In contrast, Eberhard Winkler's piece on "Evangelische Pfarrer und Pfarrerinnen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1949-1989)", the least historically and methodologically informed of all the contributions, was a refreshing reminder that history can be about people. Perhaps Winkler could be faulted for his anecdotal approach, but I for one benefitted from his personal, engaged assessment of the challenges facing the Protestant clergy in West Germany before unification - and after. It is Winkler too whose concluding question provies a fitting close to the book: "Wie werden Menschen dazu bewegt, ihre geistigen und materiellen Gaben gemass (1 Peter: 4:10) als gute Haushalter der vielfaltigen Gnade Gottes in den Dienst zu stellen?" (p. 211) The reference to the New Testament and the content of 1 Peter 4:10 itself "As every man has received the gift, even so minister the same to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God".remind us that, after all, a discussion of pastors is still a conversation about religion. By invoking scripture, Winkler highlights what is perhaps the most serious weakness of a purely social-historical approach to the study of Protestant pastors: that is, the way it excludes precisely the most absorbing and even urgent questions about religion. Economics,social class, relations with state authorities, education, professionalization, and religious institutions are only part of the story. What about belief, ritual, tradition, community, faith and spirituality? To address these components of the history of Christianity in Germany, one needs tools that allow access to their rational, the emotional, and even the physical - tools that are more likely to come from anthropology, cultural history and gender studies than from sociology and social history.

"Evangelische Pfarrer" wuld have benefited from more careful editing. Some problems with breaks in words produced many cases of inappropriate hyphenation in the middle of lines. In addition to being distracting, non-words like "kon-ne", "Bekennt-nisse" and"ba-dischen" (pp 89,93 and 121) create a postmodern or even Heideggerian effect that stands at odds with the book's content. There is no index, and Janz's essay is severely under-footnoted. Such quibbles aside, Schorn-Schutte and Sparn have put together a collection that will be useful to everyone concerned with Protestant clergy in the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic, or the post-WorldWar II Germanies. Doris Bergen, University of Notre Dame (with apologies for the unavoidable omission of umlauts)

 

3) Journal Article: Ronald Webster, German "non-aryan" clergymen and the anguish of exile after 1933. in Journal of Religious History, (Sydney,Australia), Vol 22, no 1, Feb. 1998, pp 83-103.This article, based on oral and archival sources, comments on the lives in exile of a group of "non-aryan" pastors forced to flee to theU.K., Canada and USA to escape Nazi anti-Jewish persecution. It pays homage to the work of those who assisted the refugees, and explores the ways these testimonies open new ground for the the ongoing dialogue between Judaism and Christianity.

 

4) Whitsun in the South Tyrol. The village of Klobenstein sits halfway up the mountainside, high above the gorge of the River Etsch which hurtles down from theBrenner Pass, past Bozen, Trent and Verona to the Italian plains. Nestled amongst surrounding meadows, in its midst is the village church - hardly larger than a chapel - where my wife and I went to celebrate the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Whitsunday. Like most of these ancient churches, it must have been a simple Gothic structure, but was later rebuilt during the baroque period, and now is surmounted by a onion-shaped steeple, whence two discordant bells unharmoniously summoned us to the Mass.

Inside the apse was decorated with three large pictures under classical porticos, and the altar was moved forward, so that there wasn't enough room for all the parishioners, especially on a major Festival like Pentecost. Many of them were obliged to stand throughout in the aisle, the narthex or even outside the west door. Luckily the sermon was short and simple, while in the gallery a wind and brass ensemble accompanied the Introit, Gloria and Creed with a tuneful folkloric setting. A lady parishioner read the Prayers of the People, invoking God's aid for the tense political situation in Indonesia, which sounded very far from this peaceful Alpine village.We sang a hymn, which, since there were no hymn books, must have been well known to the villagers. But I did notice the young priest glowering at the congregation for not singing more enthusiastically.

Afterwards everyone spilled out to the nearby coffee shop and Gasthaus to enjoy the bright sunlight.We walked back through the copses and fields, glowingly burstingwith yellow buttercups, kingcups, campion and blue violets. We crossed over the picturesque little tram line which loops and turns through the meadows. Every hour a tiny South Tyrolean "sky-train"trundles slowly between the farms and hamlets, as it has done ever since it was built in 1907. At the other end of the line is the settlement of Mary Ascension, where the wealthy merchants of Bozen have for centuries built their summer homes to escape from the heat below. The only sounds were the calling of the cuckoos and the clanging of cow-bells.

It was an idyllic rustic paradise.But it was not always so. Whenever the Etsch gorge was blockedby rock slides, floods or high waters, the only route open from north of the Alps necessitated ascending the hillsides to Klobenstein and then zig-zagging down the steep descent to Bozen far below. From Roman times onwards, thousands of merchants, soldiers, pilgrims and caravans trod the same paths we took on our way to church. Plundering armies invaded from north and south, looting the peasants' cattle, and forcing them higher up into the mountains.Even in modern times, political turmoil has engulfed the area. Originally the South Tyrol was part of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire. But in 1919 it was awarded to Italy, in flagrant contradiction to President Wilson's principle of self-determination. Under Mussolini, a vicious policy of "italianization" was launched -democratic rights were expunged, the German-speaking school system abolished, and place names forcibly changed. In 1939 Hitler and Mussolini signed a notorious agreement, giving the South Tyrolese the option, either of moving back to the German Reich to be rewarded with new lands conquered by the Nazi armies, or of compulsorily becoming Italian citizens, and even, it was said, of being evicted to Sicily if they disobeyed. This choice split the community apart, and the wounds still show.

With Mussolini's overthrow in 1943, the South Tyrol was seized by the Nazis, and hopes for a German future arose again, only to be dashed as the American and British armies "liberated" the territory in 1945. Demonstrations and sporadic violence against Italy's rule continued until finally, some thirty years ago, the Italian government recognised the virtue of multiculturalism and restored most the German-speaking rights. The casualties in this long drawn-out struggle were high. On our way back to the hotel, we passed a memorial chapel dedicated to ayoung priest, Fr Peter Nuss Mayer, executed by the Nazis for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the SS in 1945. Only a third of those who "opted" to go to Germany returned to their homes after the war. Despite the lushness of the meadows, economic realities make for difficult survival on these mountain slopes. Only embedded tradition and loyalty keeps this German-speaking minority attached to their homesteads.Across the valley looms the massive cliff face of the Schlern, rising a thousand feet precipitously from the valley floor. In the summer evenings, when the sun's angle is right, the whole rock face turns a brilliant crimson - much to the delight of the tourists dining on the hotel terraces. Then the light fades, darkness falls, a night-bird calls, and the whole valley is silent, wrapped in the peace and grace of God. JSC

 

With every best wish for the summer holidays to you all,

 

John S.Conway