September 1995 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor.

University of British Columbia

Newsletter no 8 – September 1995


1. Conferences

2. Books

Dear Friends,

Most of you will now have started the new semester/term in the northern hemisphere, so I trust you will still have time to read the enclosed, which comes with best wishes for the new academic year.

I am glad to say that, at the 18th International Historical Congress in Montreal (see below) I was able to recruit some new friends for our Arbeitsgemeinschaft. I believe it would be very helpful to use one issue of this Newsletter to give an outline of Work in Progress, so that we can all become better acquainted with each other’s interests.

So may I ask each of you to send me a short statement, which I will collate together for this purpose, and will post whenever a sufficient number have been received. This is your Newsletter, so please find the time to send me something which may be of interest to us all.


1. Conferences

The 18th International Congress of Historical Sciences held in the Congress Centre, downtown Montreal from August 26th to Sept 3rd brought together some 2000 historians from Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia. Virtually absent were any representatives from China, Africa and the rest of Asia. Since all possible subjects were covered, there wasn’t much on our special interests, though Kyle Jantzen outlined his preliminary findings about three Evang. parishes in the Third Reich. We look forward to hearing more from him. A general discussion of present Holocaust research was interesting for its inclusive character, when the other victims of the Nazi mass murder programme were suitably remembered. In fact, it was notable that one distinguished Holocaust historian made the point that “too much emphasis has been placed on Christian antisemitism as a root cause of the Holocaust”. We can expect that this topic will be taken up further at subsequent conferences.

Forthcoming conferences:

7th International Bonhoeffer Congress, Cape Town, South Africa, January 7-12th 1996, under the auspices of Prof John de Gruchy,

26th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, March 3rd-5th 1996, University of St Thomas, St Paul, Minnesota, organiser: Karen Schierman, 2260 Summit Ave, St Paul, Minn 55105. Topics include: The Holocaust and the Vatican, Educating the Clergy,Perpetrators Bystanders Victims Rescuers Survivors and much more

Commission Internationale d’Histoire Ecclesiastique Comparee (CIHEC) Regional meeting, Lublin, Poland, 2-6th Sept 1996 under the auspices of Prof Jerzy Kloczowski, whom I first met at the Oxford CIHEC meeting in 1974, and who one of the leading lights when CIHEC held its 1978 regional meeting in Warsaw in 1978. Was anyone else on our list there?

The title for 1996 is: Christianity in East Central Europe and its relations with the West and the East. There are to be six sections: Antiquity,The Middle Ages,Modern Times (6th-18th Century),The Nineteenth Century, The 20th Century, Atlas of Christianity. The programme looks most interesting, and more details can be obtained from Institute of East Central Europe, Czartoryski Palace, Plac Litewski 2, Lublin 20-080, Poland.



2. Books

Although it is not new, I can recommend Gordon Horwitz, In the Shadow of Death, 1991, which is a study of the concentration camp of Mauthausen near Linz, Austria. I have seldom read a more desolate or terrifying study of brutality, hatred and murder. Actually Horwitz’s aim was to study the reactions of the people who lived around this camp and its dependencies, but the widespead amnesia or indifference meant that his surviving witnesses had little to report that was uplifting. In essence, his story depicts the appalling conditions and sufferings inflicted on the inmates, and the sad absence and/or incapability of the local population to do anything against the Nazi terrorism. A profoundly depressing book.

Alison Owings, Frauen: German Women recall the Third Reich, Penguin Books 1993.

This series of interviews with German women has much of interest, since Owings has been able to gather interviews from the whole spectrum including some still fervent admirers of Hitler. The role of the churches is a repeated theme, by no means all of it glorious. And although serious scholars may doubt how far Owings’s understanding of the Third Reich extends, the book has many insights which will be of interest to krchlicher Zeitgeschichtler.

On a personal note: to fill the time during my extended air trip to Montreal and back, I read Oscar Maria Graf’s Das Leben meiner Mutter, a wonderfully insightful account of the Bavarian countryside around the southern end of the Starnbergersee at the end of the last century. Particularly good were his observations on the religious practices and attitudes of the local peasantry, with their intense Catholic devotion, mixed with archetypal superstition and bigotry. I especially liked his pointing out that in 1866 on the occasion of the Prussian-Austrian war, provoked by Bismarck: “In jenen Jahren naemlich beteten die Leute in allen bayrischen Kirchen, der Allmachtige moege ihr Land vor diesem ‘finsteren, grundfalschen, verderbten luthrischen Antichrist’ gnadigst bewahren”. Alas, they lost.

Do please send me any short items you may want to, about your reading and/or experiences over the summer. I look forward to hearing from you all, especially about your research interests.

Yours sincerely
John S.Conway