Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

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Newsletter- January 1999- Vol. V, no. 1

 

Dear Friends,I fear that some of you may have been disappointed if you tried to access the Index to past issues on our web-site, which has been out of order. We hope to take remedial steps. Looking over the books reviewed in the past year, I note a tendency to concentrate on German affairs. I hope to do better in 1999, but want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who so kindly, and without remuneration, were persuaded to review books for our members. The responses have been so positive that I very much hope you will continue. Ed.

 

Contents: 1) Modern Martyrs' Monument 2) Book reviews: a) Chandler, The Moral Imperative b) Hayes, Holocaust education c) Baginski, Religious policy in French-occupied Germany 3) Journal articles: a) M..Greschat, Church policy in the French zone of occupation 1945-49 b) W.Husband, Soviet atheism c) D Ackermann, Catholics in Hanover d) D.Novak, Jews and Catholics e) P.Prein, Moravians in Africa f) U.R-Braun, Ludwig Ihmels 4) Book notices - Hexham, Concise Dictionary

 

1) Last July, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and other notables, ten newly-carved statues of twentieth century martyrs were unveiled on the west portal of Westminster Abbey, London's most historic and prestigious Anglican church. The desire of the Abbey's Dean and Chapter was to record the fact that this past century has been a period of heroic suffering and persecution for many Christians. To mark this, ten representative figures were chosen on an international and ecumenical basis. These figures are- from left to right - Maximilian Kolbe (Poland, d.1941), Manche Masemola (South Africa, d.1928), Janani Luwum (Uganda,d.1977), Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia (Russia, d.1918), Martin Luther King (USA, d.1968), Oscar Romero (El Salvador, d.1980), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Germany, d.1945), Esther John (Pakistan, d.1960),Lucien Tapiedi (Papua-New Guinea, d.1942) and Wang Zhiming (China, d.1972). The statues themselves were designed by the British sculptor Tim Crawley, and the unveiling ceremony was preceded by an impressive Concert of Remembrance, when the premiere performance of a new De Profundis by John Hardy was given,specially composed for this occasion. In conjunction with these events a notable book of tributes was published - The Terrible Alternative. Christian Martyrdom in the Twentieth Century, London and New York: Cassell 1998. Edited by our list-member, Dr Andrew Chandler, this collection of essays by noted scholars will be reviewed here later, and should be helpful in providing information about the lesser known figures here commemorated.

 

2a) ed. A. Chandler, The Moral Imperative. New Essays on the Ethics of Resistance in National Socialist Germany 1933-1945.Widerstand: Dissent and Resistance in the Third Reich. Boulder,Co:Westview Press 1998, 124pp This slim volume contains six essays that were presented in 1995 at a conference to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For the occasion, the George Bell Institute,University of Birmingham, brought together distinguished religious leaders, academics and publicists from North America, Britain and Germany to hear papers on "Christianity and Resistance: Nazi Germany 1933-1945". A splendid introduction by Andrew Chandler places the essays in a broader setting of the pre-1933 history of church-state relations in Germany, and the post-1933 political realities of the Nazi dictatorship and the churches' response. Students will be grateful for the many references that lead further into the subject. Churches specialize in the business of discerning evil. Yet they did little of that when public policy in Nazi Germany became overtly evil. In a chapter on "The role of the churches in the German Resistance Movement", John Conway sees in this 'reluctant resistance' of the churches, especially the Protestant ones, a legacy of their tradition to back up civil authority. This tradition peaked during World War I, when the churches invested their moral capital in support of German militarism and imperialism. Through the defeat of these secular causes, the churches forfeited their claims to moral leadership in Germany. They now dedicated their energies to preserving their organization and doctrine. This protective attitude made the Churches blind to the need to defend the secular values and political ideals of the liberal republic. Instead they could find in the Nazi agenda old and new ideals to champion: nationalism, anti-liberalism, anti-parliamentarism, anti-communism and revisionist foreign policy. This agenda also appealed to Catholics, whose greater mistrust the Nazi regime neutralized in mid-1933 by the Concordat. Conway also points out how the regime's early and blatant terrorism helps one understand the churches' subsequent quietism. While Conway sees in the commitment of the churches in World War I a compelling explanation for their global failure in the Nazi era, he is of course aware of the exceptional instances of heroic resistance by clergy and laity. This is the theme of the chapter on 'Laity and Churches in the Third Reich' by Beate Ruhm von Oppen. Among the resisters, she cites H.J. von Moltke as one who did not count the churches out. He expected that their resistance would grow as Nazi persecution increased. He also assigned to the churches a role in the moral renewal after the war,and included Protestant and Catholics in the broad coalition he assembled to draft programmes for a defeated Germany, As an example of lay resistance on the humblest level, Ruhm v. Oppen pointed to the untutored religious obstinacy of the peasant Franz Jaegerstaetter in Austria, who refused to 'fight for a regime that was fighting against the church', and was beheaded. He had faith first,and resisted the evil that threatened its core; Moltke first recognised the evil, and in resisting it grew in faith, as his letters, edited so brilliantly by Ruhm v. Oppen, show. In a chapter 'Church, Religion and the German Resistance', Klemens von Klemperer maintains that all institutions tend to conform, or to collaborate with the regime under which they exist. Therefore, it would be wrong to expect en bloc resistance from the military, industry, civil service or even the churches. Nevertheless,some in the German Resistance expected more than accommodating quietism from church leaders, and demanded that the Church not be 'silent like a dumb dog'. That was the conclusion of exceptional church leaders outside Germany (Berggrav, Oslo). While the churches failed to lead, those who took up resistance found that religion gave them strength in their dangerous and lonely stance. Klemperer calls this turning to religion "Spirituality -Frommigkeit". He cites striking instances of how personal piety, deepening over time, sustained resisters, with or without a religious background. And as they realized that the Nazi regime meant to destroy religious and secular human values they became aware of how much Christianity and Humanism had in common. That helps to explain the 'piety' of socialists, who found strength in prayer or the Eucharist. One traditional blend of Christian and secular values that inspired a prominent social group to resist is the subject of Klaus-Gorgon Muller's chapter on 'Prussian elements in the German resistance'. His focus is on the Prussian conservative and military tradition, a backward-looking world view peculiar to an exclusive social class (gentry) and profession (army). Both bear enormous responsibility for bringing Hitler to power, partly because their Prussian virtues - duty, service to the state, pietist self-appraisal -failed early on to expose Hitler. Later, these same values inspired courageous men to organize bold plots against him. While it is useful to be reminded that one time Prussian virtues had admirable components, we cannot forget they were shared by a class that had forfeited its claim to leadership in the last decades of the Empire. Peter Hoffmann assessed 'The Persecution of the Jews as a motive for Resistance against National Socialism'. His unrivalled knowledge of the sources is evident in the end-notes - among them judicious bibliographic mini-essays. The chapter sums up the anti-semitic policies and coercive resolve of the Nazi system - to oppose the one meant to face the other. While this rule applied to all manner of resistance, anyone who showed concern for the fate of the Jews defied the central belief of the Nazi regime. Hoffmann gives a wealth of detail showing that some first challenged the Nazis' anti-semitic policies, (Goerdeler) and were then led to inform and protest (the Scholls); but others became more resolved to end the regime when they learned about the fate of the Jews. This is what police interrogators concluded after 20 July 1944, as was also evident in the testimonies in the People's Court. In these most harrowing circumstances, resisters explained their actions by referring to the racist policies, especially the murder of the Jews.Hoffmann states that 'the crimes of the regime, in particular the deliberate murder of the Jews' (p.91) was the most powerful factor motivating the plotters against Hitler's life. That could explain why so many who took part in the July 1944 plot had not acted in earlier years. The final chapter is by Ursula Buttner, 'An unknown case of resistance; the rescue of Jews in Christian-Jewish mixed marriages', which deals with examples of resistance at the most personal level:Christian spouses shielding partners whom the Nazi law deemed to be Jewish. Although progressively marginalised, the Jewish partner had a measure of safety - as long as the marriage held. As public pressure to divorce or cast adrift the Jewish spouse increased, so did suicide. But in 1943 in Berlin, when these Jewish spouses were rounded up for deportation, their families rallied and obtained their release after a mass protest of more than a week in front of the central collection point. Is there a similar example of mass civil disobedience in the Third Reich? Resistance calls for personal moral commitment. In the Third Reich, resistance could range from tyrannicide to protest on behalf of a spouse. Some resisted very early (Moltke), others late (Stauffenberg). The question remains: why did these persons make their commitment? What sets them apart from relatives and friends with whom they had grown up, learning the same values at home, in school, church and university? Before 1933 none could have singled out the likely candidates for resistance activity. Yet those who did resist were undoubtedly inspired by ethical norms and religious beliefs that were common knowledge. What set them apart was that they recognized evil and were inspired and sustained in their determination to do something about it. The essays in this collection show that, as the perils of resistance escalated, commitment to Christian beliefs deepened.Erich J.Hahn, University of Western Ontario.

 

2b) Stephen R.Haynes, Holocaust Education and the Church-related College. With a foreword by Franklin H.Littell. Westport, Conn:Greenwood Press 1997, 185pp Stephen Haynes, a young Presbyterian minister now teaching at a church-related college in Tennessee, is fully persuaded of the maxim adumbrated a generation ago by Professor Franklin Littell that the Holocaust is not just a Jewish, but also a Christian tragedy, not least because of the importance of the Jewish-Christian bond and the historical complicity of Christians in antisemitism. His book is a study of how far this perception has taken root in church-related colleges in the U.S.A. In 1994 he conducted a nation-wide survey of such colleges, asking about the inclusion of Holocaust education in their curriculum. His findings are highly ambivalent, namely that there is a lack of institutional commitment to such courses in many colleges, or that the initiative largely stemmed from interested faculty members. Indeed Holocaust education at church-related colleges would appear to be negatively correlated with religious aspects of college identity. It is Haynes' aim to suggest how an effective Holocaust education can help to give an more authentic Christian dimension to church-related higher education. For one thing, no one teaching or learning about the Holocaust can avoid a personal crisis of identity, out of which a new spirituality can grow, including a widening of intellectual and moral horizons, and an ability to be moved by others' pain, along with a sense of personal responsibility for alleviating such pain. The church colleges' own religious traditions can be resources for humanizing pedagogy and encouraging such broader sensitivity, if properly fostered. By so doing, such an education could help to counter the indifference, apathy or relativism, or worse still the racially-motivated collaboration, which marked the response of so many secular universities and their graduates to the Holocaust, and other outbursts of racial intolerance, in the 1930s and 1940s, and the danger of which still exists today. JSC

 

2c) Christophe Baginski, La politique religieuse de la France en Allemagne occupee (1945-1949), Villeneuve-d'Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion 1997, 344 pp.(This review translated from the French by Editor) This work consists of a 1996 doctoral thesis from the University of Lille III. It is an acute study, though lacking in the kind of conclusions which might have provided a more synthetic overview of an already complex subject. But the treatment is new and rigorous, based on German and French archives, from which one can learn a lot about a topic hitherto little treated. What strikes one is the highly improvised character of French religious policy in the zone occupied by General Koenig's troops, compared to the American and British policy in their respective zones. This was due principally because France only received its occupation zone at the Potsdam Conference in August 1945, and had therefore to adapt to these new circumstances without time to weigh up the attitude to be adopted towards the German churches. The task was therefore delicate. The author shows very well that the churches were the only institutions in German society to survive the general disaster,particularly the Catholic church thanks to its supranational character and its links to the Holy See, whereas the Protestant churches were fragmented by their purely German structure.Furthermore they were entrenched in those areas where their spiritual authority was strong: Catholics represented 62.5% of the French zone's population, compared with the Lutherans' 34.8% - in other words an impressive majority. The situation was far >from simple. The churches had supported the Nazi regime, possibly more out of conformity or weakness rather than out of ideological conviction. But the number of those who resisted, especially at first, was very few. Denazification was therefore necessary, just as in the rest of German society. The churches, however, quickly distanced themselves from the Nazis' crimes, refusing to recognise any share of responsibility, and instead stressing their acts of resistance,which, no doubt, may have been real, but were not on the scale one could have wished. However, the French joined their allies in a deceptive stance, by agreeing that the churches could be regarded as having supported the resistance movement. Was this just naivete?Certainly not. In French eyes, the churches had two advantages: first, they represented a bulwark against Nazi paganism, and after 1947,against communism. It was necessary to make them supporters of the occupation policies. So the French authorities quickly allowed freedom of worship, and the re-opening of seminaries and theological faculties. They organised a very limited and discreet purge of the clergy, here studied in detail. In return they demanded that the German churches should ease relations with the occupation authorities, and restrict themselves purely to the religious arena. However, it was soon clear that, in asking for alleviation of the occupation's rigours, or in appealing for a prompt return of prisoners, the bishops were engaging in political affairs. The French authorities took a very firm line. The author seeks to show that, in general, relations were correct, even benevolent on the part of the French. After consulting with the Holy See, they agreed to recognise the validity of the 1933 Reich Concordat. They ensured that no church lacked supplies for celebrating the Eucharist, which was a considerable achievement at a time of great penury. Charitable works were authorized and even encouraged, as was youth work. Finally, the French sought to buildup Christian political parties, but on condition that the Centre Party,which had voted plenary powers to Hitler in 1933, should not reappear. They avoided adopting too punitive a policy, but rather believed, like their allies, that this would be an effective way of combating the increasing menace of communism. At the same time, this benevolence could hardly conceal other French objectives, such as their desire to separate both the Catholic and Protestant churches of the Saar from the rest of Germany. It is a pity that the author did not give more space to this issue, which was central to the French occupation authorities. It would have been good to describe this situation more exactly, as it provided an overlap between the religious and political spheres, as part of France's desire to detach the Saar from Germany in order to establish it as a kind of satellite state. Nevertheless we owe Christophe Baginski a debt for so competently filling a historiographical void with this solid and pertinent work which allows us to understand more fully the complexity of Franco-German relations in the immediate post-war period. Francis Latour, Paris

 

3a) Journal article: Martin Greschat, "Die Kirchenpolitik Frankreichs in seiner Besatzungszone", 2 parts, in Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschichte, Vol 109, nos 2 and 3, 1998. This same subject is explored by one of Germany's leading church historians in a two part article, which is notably more critical of French policy. Greschat shows that French dreams of restoring its European status rested on the exploitation and dismemberment of western Germany, thus fulfilling the unfinished business of 1919. At the same time, the Germans would need to be re-educated to learn to abandon their long-held nationalism, or their admiration for former heroes, up to and including the Nazis. Such goals now appear fantastic, and Greschat rightly repeats the already known facts about the lack of competence both in theory and practice, of the French occupation authorities. Relations with the churches were cool and correct, but suffered from ambivalence: on the one side the French tried to win them over to French goals, even while propagating the view that Church and State should be rigidly separated as in France. The British and Americans were criticised for believing that the churches should be encouraged to help in building up a new sense of democracy. Such political activity was highly problematic in French eyes. Suspicion of clerical resurgence, especially Catholic,was evident. While the churches were expected to condemn Nazism, they were not to be allowed any political expressions on current policy. Not surprisingly, this policy ran into serious opposition from the still nationalistically minded German bishops,who now saw their role as the advocates for the "oppressed" victims of the occupation policy. Their unwillingness to accept any blame for Germany's crimes, which were ascribed solely to a few Nazis,only made the situation more tense. But the church leaders were increasingly prepared to engage in political protest, if only to makeup for past failures. Such a stance not surprisingly caused tensions. On the other hand, Greschat notes that efforts to foster peace and reconciliation were made by a valiant French Jesuit, who evaded the military government's regulations, and in turn such moves widened the German church members' horizons. So too the chief Protestant chaplain, Marcel Sturm, established good relations with the Confessing Church members, even though he saw that they too were still overly nationalistic. "Ils ne peuvent pas chanterouvertement "Deutschland uber alles", main c'est reste la melodiede leur coeur". Karl Barth's strictures about the German churches and about the disastrous effects of Lutheranism were widely accepted by the French Protestant officials. Where, as in the Palatinate, the local church leaders showed no willingness to come to terms with their past, the French authorities intervened forcibly,dismissed the acting bishop and installed their own favourite. But at the same time, they declared that true German repentance would be met with friendship and assistance. Greschat pays tribute to Sturm's efforts to combine his pursuit of French political aims with the encouragement of the Confessing Church's theological programme, in a sincere effort to rebuild the German Protestant churches in the French zone. In the end, such ambitions failed, but the personal witness certainly helped to build bridges towards a better future. JSC

 

3b) William Husband, Oregon State University: "Soviet Atheism and Russian Orthodox Strategies of Resistance, 1917-32", in Journal of Modern History, March 1998, p 74 ff. This article usefully explores how Russian workers and peasants employed resistance and circumventions to protect their traditional beliefs and practices against the changes imposed by the new Bolshevik regime after 1917.

 

3c) Detlef Schmichen-Ackermann, "Katholische Diaspora zwischen Ruckzug und Selbstbehauptung in der NS Zeit" in Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Vol 49, no7/8, July 1998, p.462.Ackermann examines the extent of collaboration and/or resistance amongst the Catholics in the "exile" of north Germany around the city of Hannover during the Nazi period. A helpful local study.

 

3d) David Novak "Jews and Catholics: Beyond Apologies" in First Things, no 89, January 1999, p 20. This assessment of the recent Vatican statement "We remember" by a sympathetic Jewish scholar, rightly points out that the Catholic church is now calling for an active work of repentance and reconciliation, which has far more theological significance than an apology, designed to bury the past, ever could have. But Novak also rightly makes the point that the document would have been stronger if it had simply not raised the still disputed issue of Pius XII's diplomatic actions during the Second World War - an issue which it could not possibly have treated adequately.

 

3e) Phillip Prein, "The Moravian Invention of an African Missionary Object" in German History, Vol 16, no 3 1998,p.328ff. This piece describes how far national and racial ideas penetrated German church circles with the example of the Moravian mission to southern Africa. These missionary leaders left behind their previous emphasis on individual conversions, and now began to dream of converting a whole Volk, with surprisingly romantic idealism.

 

3f) Uwe Rieske-Braun, "Ludwig Ihmels und die soziale Frage" in Zeitschrift fur Kirchengeschichte, Vol 109, no 3, 1998. This article sketches the career and ideas of the Bishop of Saxony (1922-33) and his stance on social questions, particularly in connection with the ecumenical conference in Stockholm in 1925.Rieske-Braun rightly shows that Ihmels was one of those conservative church leaders whose reluctance to support the democratic advances or peaceful foreign policy of the Weimar Republic led directly to their enthusiasm for the Nazi victory in 1933.

 

4) Book notices:Irving Hexham draws attention to the new edition of his Concise Dictionary of Religion,second edition Regent College Press,Vancouver 1999, first published in 1993. At the same time he has made it available on the website: http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/concise/INDEX.html. This compendious work is a scholarly attempt to provide a glossary of most of the world's religions, which dexterously combines incisiveness and outspokenness.

 

Since it is the season of the Epiphany, and although not really a 20th century subject, I draw your attention to the splendid account,beautifully illustrated with black and white photographs, by Richard Trexler, The Journey of the Magi. Meaning in History of a Christian Story, Princeton University Press 1997, 278pp, which ends with the triumphant return of the Magi's relics to Cologne Cathedral through the almost entirely bombed out streets of that city in 1948. "The magi will come again, when the West needs to justify a new world order. . .Once again, the journey of the magi would culminate in resurrection".With best wishes to you all. The next issue will appear a few days late - but better so than never!

 

John S.Conwayjconway@interchange.ubc.ca.