Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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Newsletter- September 1998- Vol. IV, no. 9

 

Dear Friends,

 

Contents: 1) Forthcoming conferences: GSA, Salt Lake City Roosevelt Institute, Hyde Park, New York 2) Book reviews a) A.Herzig, History of Jews in Germany b) H.Schmitt, Quakers and Nazis 3) New publication plans in German church history 4) Book notes: a) Society Culture and the State b) Friedlander and Hamerow on the Catholic Church c) Remembrance, Repentance, Reconciliation 5) Bonhoeffer - a Righteous Gentile?

 

1) This year's conference of the German Studies Association will be held in Salt Lake City from Oct. 8th-11th. Two sessions would appear to be of interest to our List-members. Session 5: "The transformation of Religion in the Modern Era",and Session 27, on "Luther and Hitler?", when Hartmut Lehmann, Bob Ericksen and Richard Steigmann-Gall will discuss this provocative issue.

 

The Roosevelt Institute, together with Marist College and the FDR Library,is organising a conference on "FDR, the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in America, 1933-1945" in Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie, N. York from October 7th-9th. Papers examining American and Papal war-time diplomacy will be presented by George Flynn, Brian Villa, Peter Kent, Michael Phayer, Michael Marrus and myself. The contact person is David Woolner, University of Prince Edward Island = dwoolner@upei.ca

 

2a) Arno Herzig, Judische Geschichte in Deutschland. Von den Anfangen bis zur Gegenwart. Munich 1997, 323pp. DM 28 Arno Herzig's Judische Geschichte in Deutschland proposes to give a representative overview of over a thousandyears of German-Jewish history, combining in less than 300 pagesa wealth of information in a concise and often compendious chronology. As professor of Modern History in Hamburg, Herzig rightly makes the point that the history of German-Jewish relations cannot solely be reconstructed in the context of the Holocaust. He stresses that such a narrow approach, which he refers to as an"Einbahnstrasse in diese Katastrophe", can lead to a misleading,even distorted historical account. Although the Holocaust leaves modern German history with a permanent scar, Herzig refocuses his readers' attention on the fact that since the Middle Ages, and particularly since the Enlightenment, Jews were much more than just mere onlookers or passive victims. He points out, as others have already done, that Jews in Germany increasingly interrelated with their Gentile environment and contributed extensively to society's political. economic, scientific and cultural life. Christian-Jewish relations wove a rich and colourful fabric of cultural exchange in which both sides learned and benefited from eachother. Herzig bases his premise on the understanding that German-Jewish history is set within a framework which, on the one hand, was defined by the various degrees of flexibility and freedom given to Jews by the Church and society. On the otherhand, this framework was also determined by the extent to which Jews were able to capitalize on their liberties. The dynamics of Jewish and Christian interaction is, therefore, one of the two most important, significantly related, leitmotifs in Herzig's study.

The second, equally prominent leitmotif is the role of both the Catholic and Protestant churches as fundamentalist institutions successively trying to marginalize and defame the Jewish community to the point of a complete "Ausgrenzung" from German society. Segregation in the German territories of the Holy Roman Empire became increasingly a factor in the 13th century, when the Church ordained the 'servitudo Judaeorum" forcing Jews to wear specific garments. Regulations to segregate Jews were tightened even more once the Basel Council decreed in 1450 that all Jews should take up residence within the cities' designated areas, the "Judengasse", or the ghettoes such as in Frankfurt and Worms. The Reformation brought no improvements, contrary to the hopes of some Jews. Luther emphatically demanded that Jews needed to be converted "wo aber nicht, so sollen wir sie auch bey uns nicht dulden noch leiden". What he insinuated by this was later spelled out in his pamphlet "Von den Juden und ihren Lugen" of 1543, when he advised burning down the synagogues and the Jewish living quarters, depriving Jews of their Talmud, and prohibiting rabbis from teaching.

By the 17th century, the antagonisms of earlier years had largely abated, but Lutheran anti-Judaism incited Christians to reject and mistrust Jews in many ways, particularly if they were economically successful. Not until 1871 were Jews finally made equal before the law. This prompted a more rapid acculturation of Jewish youth, especially among young Jewish intellectuals, both men and women, who became soon over-represented in German universities - compared to their small number in the wider society. Herzig makes the point that, despite this acculturation, German Jews remained faithful to their Jewish identities, which signified to them much more than just a religious quest. Jewishness gave them a sense of self and belonging.

Starting immediately after Hitler's accession to power, German Jewry was incrementally deprived of all their civil rights. Herzig assesses that out of 134,000 German Jews in 1939, only about 8,000 survived the Holocaust. He sees the role of the Church, in face of this tragedy, as one of a silent eye-witness, if not accomplice. Only the Catholic Raphaelsverein, which assisted Jews to emigrate, was an exception. But while Catholics were largely reluctant to preach and propagate the Nazi racial ideology, numerous representatives of the Protestant churches became convenient mouthpieces of Nazi propaganda. It is unfortunate that Herzig devotes less than 20 pages to the fortunes of German Jewry after 1945. German ambivalence about their present situation still remains, even though the popular media, and all politicians, take a strong position against antisemitism.

Given the book's tight format and its emphasis on portraying an overall history of Jews in Germany, it is clearly intended for the general public. However, Herzig's narrative is not easily accessible and, in places, quite convoluted. It comes as a surprise that he makes relatively little use of primary sources and, specifically, that his coverage of Jewish women is almost non-existent. Even though he writes that, during the first pogroms in Germany in 1096, many women formed part of the resistance, choosing suicide over enforced baptism, he never elaborates on this remarkable demonstration of female solidarity. In another case, he shows that a conservative Jewish women's liberation, under the leadership of Bertha Pappenheim, took place in the Wilhelmine period, but the information is only sketchy. And what of all those noteworthy Jewish women philosophers, writers, artists, scientists and social reformers? Should they not be included in any representative survey? Another difficulty in this book arises from Herzig's refusal to be explicit on the extent to which social segregation hurt, or even destroyed, Jewish-Gentile relationships throughout history. Reading this book, one unfortunately feels rushed. I think it would have been more beneficial if fewer facts had been accumulated, but more background provided about how these facts came about. And lastly illustrations would have been a valuable addition. Charlotte Schallie, University of British Columbia

 

2b) Hans A.Schmitt, Quakers and Nazis. Inner Light in Outer Darkness. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 1997. 296pp (This review will appear in Shofar, Vol 18, no 1, Fall 1999) After the widespread allegations of German"eliminationist antisemitism" in the first half of this century, it is a relief to turn to the story of persons who never be accused of holding such views - the Quakers. The history of this small but significant group of German non-conformists has not previously been written either in German or English, so Professor Schmitt's carefully-researched account is much to be welcomed, all the more since we have to wait for so long. He makes extensive useboth of the few surviving Quaker records in Germany and of the reminiscences of surviving members, as well as of the large amount of Gestapo records which portray the close surveillance devoted by the Nazi authorities to this small sect. In addition, hehas made excellent use of Quaker archives in London and Philadelphia, and convincingly establishes his case that this was a tiny but heroic handful of men and women who preferred to light a small candle rather than curse the surrounding darkness of Nazi Germany.

The Society of Friends managed to establish a small following in Europe in its early years, but emigration or rejection led to its disappearance by the mid-nineteenth century. The Quakers first returned to Germany in 1919, when the British andAmerican Friends defied the wishes of their governments and came over to Berlin and Vienna to establish a humanitarian relief programme, principally by setting up feeding stations for the starving children of those cities. The "Quakerspeisung" was so well organised that by 1921 more than one million individuals were being fed in 1640 centres, assisted by 40,000 local helpers. As the food crisis ebbed, the Quakers turned to their other principal and more spiritual concern, the cultivation of groups of spiritual seekers along the familiar pattern of silent meetings and pursuit of the "inner light".. The first national Yearly Meeting was held in 1925, and a headquarters building was purchased in the north German spa resort of Bad Pyrmont.

But the Quaker faith is highly demanding of commitment, conscience and conviction. It requires a readiness to suffer and a courageous witness. As a result no large-scale membership drive was attempted. By 1933 only some 150 members were declared Friends, though probably twice as many were interested observers. With the rise of Hitler, Quakers, as pacifists, were immediately suspect, and the evidence shows that from early on the Gestapo continually scrutinized their activities. The Friends were, however, to demonstrate that, even in this difficult and isolated setting, they were prepared to carry out their commitment to reconciliation and relief of suffering. Very quickly they became involved in trying to assist the Nazis' chief victims, the Jews. In particular, the Quaker help was directed to those "non-aryans"who no longer had connections to any Jewish or Christian organisations. (A particularly poignant case is described in Yad Washem Studies, Vol XI, pp.91-130). This work was principally undertaken by the team of British Friends in Berlin under Corder Catchpool. He fully shared the Quaker commitment to the need to relieve suffering, but at the same time was convinced that his duty called him to attemptreconciliation, even with Nazis. He also shared a common Quaker view that if only he could meet with the top Nazi leadership, hecould convince them of the need for peace and toleration. But by1938 such naive illusions had to be abandoned. Frantic attempts were made to raise funds in Britain for daily sustenance of theNazis' victims, or to gain sponsorship affidavits for emigration to the USA.

The results were limited in scope, but German Friends did what they could to alleviate distress. Being so few they increasingly were to feel their loneliness and vulnerability. When war broke out they were additionally weighed down by their burdened consciences and a deep sense of individual and collective inadequacy. They sustained their spiritual community by publishing small booklets of inspiring writings, and by constant dedication to helping the needy. They felt a particularly keen sense of shame and responsibility as Germans for what was being done in Poland and for the continually renewed pressure on the Jews. In fact, however, unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Quakers were not imprisoned or executed for their beliefs. Schmitt wonders whether this was due to their small numbers, to the need to avoid bad publicity abroad, to their obviously sincere beliefs, or to the memory of the help they had earlier provided.

Schmitt's account also gives valuable descriptions of other Quaker involvements, such as the school established in Holland for German refugees, which somehow survived even during the war. In Vienna, a remarkable American Friend, Emma Cadbury, extended help to the persecuted Jews and Social Democrats, trying to cope with an uncontrollable flood of petitioners, until finally forced to close her doors. More problematic was the good-natured earnestness of those British Friends who sought to prevent war by appeasing the Nazi regime. Their sense of guilt over past British policies, especially the much decried Treaty of Versailles, led them to hope they could usher in a new age of peace and international understanding. But in the end they had to realise that they had largely been duped by Nazi propagandists. In Schmitt's view these peacemakers failed, but they did what they should have done. Their hopeless quest did not transform the world and their cause remains as lost as ever. But their moral example and the"Inner Light" which radiated provided an impressive witness to the power of love. The abiding lesson of the Quaker encounter with Nazism was that evil and violence persist, but Quakers must not and will not abet such destructive forces. JSC

 

3) New publication plans in German Church history. Both the Protestant and the Catholic Church Commissionsfor Contemporary History are making ambitious new plans for large-scale publishing ventures. In the EKiD, instead of undertaking what might turn out to be a contentious post-mortem investigation of the Church's role in the former GDR, the proposal now is to enlarge the scope and to engage in a vast survey with the title "The role of the Evangelical Church in the divided Germany" to cover both the west and east, and thereby facilitate a comparative approach. This is to begin with an early study on "Die Klammerfunktion der Evangelischen Kirche" and a scholarly conference to work out the future dimensions of the project is to be held in Potsdam in November 1998. An even more ambitious proposal is being undertaken by a joint working group of both churches, to be financed by the Volkswagen Foundation. This seeks to evaluate, and eventually publish, those records of the Nazi Security Service, consisting of some 137 running metres of documents, which were carried off by the Red Army in 1945, and later returned to the headquarters of the Stasi in East Germany, presumably for more current use there. They are now housed in the Bundesarchiv's Zwischen-Archiv in Dahlwitz-Hoppegarten, Berlin. These newly-discovered documents can be expected to give a much more complete picture of the ideology and practice of the Nazi repression and persecution of the churches than we have had before. Supervision of the archival project lies in the very capable hands of Dr Heinz Boberach, a former archivist of the Bundesarchiv, and himself a member of the Evang. Kommission. The results will be computerized, and eventually the documents themselves will be (re)-incorporated with the existing enormous records of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (R 58) in the Bundesarchiv. Along with computerized indices, this projectshould provide a much easier access to the Nazi records dealingwith the churches. A full description of this new project can be found in the latest issue of the Mitteilungen der Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur kirchlicher Zeitgeschichte, Folge 17, April1998, pp 68ff, written (presumably) by the young scholar engaged on this work, Wolfgang Dierker, which is available from the Geschaftsstelle, Schellingstrasse 3 VG, 80799 Munich

 

4) Book notes: a) Society, Culture and the State, 1870-1930, ed.Geoff Eley, Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Press, 1996 Yet another volume of conference papers, this one reflecting the impact of gender and cultural studies in recent German historiography. However cogent the articles may be, they will get lost unless one has either an encyclopaedic memory or a well-tuned computerized indexing system. But for our purposes, two deserve mention. David Blackbourn summarizes the findings of his wonderful book, Marpingen (Oxford 1993) in his treatment of "Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Bismarckian Grmany", whichseeks to explore the interface between piety and politics,particularly during the Kulturkampf and its aftermath. Wilfried Spohn casts his net wider in examining "Religion and working-class formation in Imperial Germany, 1871-1914". He seeks to remedy the omission of religion in most of the (proto-Marxist or socialist) writings about the emergence of working class political structures. Whereas most of the Protestant workers became secularized and transferred their loyalties and practices to an alternative socialist culture, the Catholic traditions proved more durable and retained their hold over this minority segment of the working population. The consequent mutual rivalries only hindered any effective challenge to the Kaiserreich's authoritarian structures and policies. JSC

 

b) Two recent books, Saul Friedlander's "Nazi Germany and theJews", Vol. I, and Theodor Hamerow's "On the Road to the Wolf's Lair. German Resistance to Hitler", deal in part with the churches and the Jews during the Holocaust. It appears to me that Hamerow reached a much more balanced and nuanced interpretation. To takejust one example - nevertheless an important one - consider how the two authors deal with Cardinal Michael Faulhaber. Friedlander depicts him as agreeing with Hitler's antisemitic and racist ideas (pp183-4). In so doing, the author unfortunately follows the tendentious German publicist, Ernst Klee, whose book "Die SA Jesu Christi" pinned the racist label on Faulhaber. In arriving at this conclusion, Klee eliminated a key passage from Faulhaber's notes on his three hour meeting with Hitler at the Obersalzberg in November 1936, in which he noted that the Pope (Pius XI) gave an address on the same day as Hitler's Nuremberg speech, declaring that atheism and godlessness, rather than the Jews, were responsible for Bolshevism. (See Ludwig Volk's "Akten Kardinal Michael von Faulhaber, 1917-1945", p 184). My reading of Friedlander leads me to conclude that the author looked for negative points about the cardinal (and others) and overlooked the positive. He does not, for example, mention the positive relationship which Faulhaber had with Munich's rabbi, LeoBaerwald (both before and after the Holocaust), nor does he mention Faulhaber's letter to Cardinal Bertram in which he likened the forced emigration of Jews to the slave trade of previous centuries. Theodor Hamerow, on the other hand, gives a specifically non-racist view of Cardinal Faulhaber, basing his interpretation on, among other things, the private correspondence of the Bavarian church leader. Hamerow found that Faullhaber "disapproved of the regime's racial policy" and not just when it concerned "converted Jews" but also Mosaic Jews (p.140-42). There is much to be said for Friedlander's new book. Although he paints, like Goldhagen, a mostly negative picture of the churches, it is by no means as pitifully under-researched as is"Hitler's Willing Executioners" on their role during the Nazi era. But I would be interested to know if others found a lack of balance in Friedlander regarding the Protestant Church as I have regarding the Catholics.Michael Phayer, Marquette University. (Anyone wishing to reply can write here, or direct to M.Phayer =PhayerM@vms.csd.mu.edu )

 

c) ed D.Tobler, Remembrance, Repentance, Reconciliation. The 25th Anniversary Volume of the Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, (Studies in the Shoah, Vol XXI),University Press of America, Lanham, New York, London 1998 This collection of papers from the 25th conference held in Provo, Utah, in 1995, besides a number of valuable articles on Holocaust topics, also includes Doris Bergen's preliminary account of Overseas Missions and the German Christian View of Race, a sad commentary on how far racist views penetrated even the German missionaries abroad, though most of them turned away from such heresies when they realized the full implications. It also has my own tribute to the founders of these conferences, Franklin Littell and Hubert Locke.

 

5) Bonhoeffer - a Righteous Gentile? Considerable controversy has arisen over the attempt to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer commemorated in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles in the Yad Washem Martyrs' Memorial gardens on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as reported in the latest issue of the International Bonhoeffer Society's Newsletter. Led by a Connecticut lawyer, the grandson of the noted American Jewish leader at the time of the Holocaust, Stephen Wise, pressure is being mobilized to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer's name added to the list of some 16,000 people recognised by the Israeli museum authorities, on the grounds that he participated in the rescue attempts which resulted in 13 Jews escaping to Switzerland in 1942. In reply, the director of Yad Washem Department for the Righteous among the Nations stated that Bonhoeffer "deserves our admiration for his courageous anti-Nazi stand, which eventually doomed him - he is a martyr in the struggle against Nazism" But the purpose of the programme is to "honour non-Jews who specifically addressed themselves to the Jewish issue, and risked their lives in the attempt to aid Jews". There can be no doubt that Bonhoeffer's attitude towards the Jews developed incrementally from 1933 onwards, theologically as well as personally. Not only were his sister and her husband, Gerhard Leibholz, obliged to flee Germany because of his "non-aryan" status, but another brother-in-law, Hans Dohnanyi, became the leading figure in the resistance movement, and was described by the Gestapo as "the intellectual head of the movement to remove the Fuhrer". It was Dohnanyi who organised the flight of the 13 Jews, which has been exhaustively described in Winfried Meyer'sbook, "Unternehmung 7". (Frankfurt/Main 1993) Meyer relates how Bonhoeffer was asked for his advice on the desirability of including Charlotte Friedenthal, a Jewish convert to Christianity, in the group,which he readily gave. But how much more he knew about, or assisted, in this venture was, needless to say, never recorded. But on the strength of his connection with this affair, both he and Dohnanyi were arrested in the following April, and, as we know, both were hanged in 1945.

Does this constitute enough to warrant inclusion among the Righteous Gentiles? In the view of those disappointed by Yad Washem's response so far, there seems to be a built-in reluctance in Jerusalem to honour the members of the German resistance, even when they were clearly opposed to Hitler's crimes, including the murder of the Jews, for the noblest of moral reasons, as Bonhoeffer undoubtedly was. Clearly, not all those who were executed by the Nazis for whatever reasons can be included. And, in Yad Washem's eyes, Bonhoeffer is principally to be honoured for his defiant stance against the Nazis' persecution of the church, and for his challenge to the entrenched anti-Judaism of so many of his Lutheran brethren. But, they claim, "no direct evidence has surfaced on his personal involvement in sheltering or extending other forms of aid to persecuted Jews (to persons still adhering to the Jewish faith)". Such casuistry has been much criticized by Bonhoeffer's supporters. In a "Christian Century" article, they questioned this exclusion of the Christian-Jewish converts, since the danger of being sent to Auschwitz was equally imminent for all Jews. And Bonhoeffer's sympathies were by no means limited only to the Christian Jews, even if he had no immediate opportunity to undertake rescue efforts for others. This is clearly a border-line case. But in the interests of a warmer fellowship between Christians and Jews, such a recognition of the role which Bonhoeffer played in reversing the tradition of Christian anti-Judaism, and in pleading for support for the persecuted and oppressed, would seem to deserve a magnanimous gesture.on the part of Yad Washem, and would by no means detract from the honour which those Righteous Gentiles have been fittingly accorded in the splendidly laid-out row of trees which graces the entrance to the Holocaust Martyrs' and Remembrance Memorial. It would be interesting to hear from any of you about this controversy. JSC

 

With best wishes

 

John S.Conway

 

jconway@interchange.ubc.ca