February 1996 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway,

Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter no 13 – February 1996


1. Journals

2. Summer Seminar: 1 July – 9 August 1996

3. New Books


1. Journals

Belatedly we have to hand, Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 1995/1, “Volkskirche im Aufbruch?” 247pp.

This issue contains the papers given at the 7th meeting of this group in Oslo in August 1994, and discusses the impact of contemporary democratic, secularist and pluralistic tendencies on the life of the churches. I particularly liked Bryan Wilson’s essay, “Religious Toleration, Pluralism and Privatisation,” which describes the rise and fall of the idea of Christian doctrine and authority as the integrative focus in European nations, and the emergence instead of pluralistic religious practices and private judgement as the norm. But if religion is no longer a communal property, by whom and how are social moral standards to be set? Dick Pierard gives an excellent account of how “civil religion” has developed in the USA, substituting secularized post-Christian ethical ideals, shorn of any specific denominational content. Rolf Schieder points out that, in Germany, after the Nazis monopolized “civil religion” for their racist ideological purposes, the post-war politicians have studiously vacated this field, leaving the churches to return to being the moral guardians of society. With the recent integration of the new provinces from the former East Germany, this situation is now being challenged. But this development may enable the churches to return from their pastoral role to a more prophetic – and Protestant – stance as critics of society’s economic and social functioning.

The lead address by the Norwegian anthropologist, Jan Brogger, can be taken as a strong expression of the conservative Scandinavian views found in other articles, with his appeal to the churches to resist the temptation to compromise with any of the offers of cheap grace promoted by today’s ideological supermarkets.

Interesting international comparisons with similar developments in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic are provided by Osmund Schreuder and Jan Smolik.

Freiburger Rundbrief, Neue Folge, Vol 3, 1996 no 1

This issue contains the tributes given at the funeral of Gertrud Luckner, the indomitable founder of this fine journal, whose articles and book reviews make it the foremost German-language voice promoting the cause of improved Jewish-Christian relations.


2. Summer Seminar: 1 July – 9 August 1996

The U.of California-Berkeley is offering, for credit, a six-week seminar under the leadership of Prof.s Holub and Markovits on the topic of “The new Germany and the new Europe”. Scholarships are available from DAAD to 20 advanced Canadian or US grad. students in any field. Would any of our grad. church historians/theologians like to apply? Deadline 15 March.


3. New Books

Both the Catholic and Protestant Commissions for Contemporary Church History have recently published further large volumes in their continuing series of Darstellungen, covering the Nazi period and beyond. The vitality of this enterprise amongst our German colleagues is commendable, though one has to note how seldom inter-church collaboration, even in historical investigation, is present. German church history, alas!, continues to be written along separate denominational lines, and is directed towards their respective constituencies. The value of ecumenical and international cross-fertilization is under-recognized. The huge bulk of these volumes means that the publishers require a hefty subsidy, paid – presumably – from these Commissions’ contributions from the Kirchensteuer. Despite such assistance, the prices remain horrendous. Ordinary mortals, even the distinguished subscribers to this Newsletter, will hardly be able to purchase these tomes. And with library budgets shrinking, it is difficult to see how long such endeavours can be continued.

a) ed. Joachim Mehlhausen, . . .und ueber Barmen hinaus. Festschrift fuer Carsten Nicolaisen (Arbeiten zur kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte. Reihe B: Darstellungen, Band 23), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen 1995, 642 pp. DM158! This Festschrift for the Director of the Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft fuer kirchliche Zeitgeschichte in Munich contains 39 contributions (3 by foreigners, 4 by Catholics) and thus well represents the spectrum of the writings of German Evangelical church historians today (with the sad absence of Prof.G.Besier – Heidelberg). Like most such collections, these articles are a mixture of insightful and/or occasional pieces. The unifying focus is the “heikle Thema” of “Vergangenheitsbewaltigung”. The tone of repentance is notable throughout, showing how far German church historians have come since the Barmen Declaration sixty years ago. I found notable the editor’s comparison of eight prominent Protestants’ statements after 1945 on the subject of guilt. Ursula Buttner’s tribute to Jochen Klepper was very moving. Martin Greschat’s description of the German Protestants in Poland during the Nazi period is a sad story of how nationalist feelings misguided church policies, as is Prof., now Bishop, Kretschmar’s account of the ruins of the Lutheran church in the former Soviet Union and its recent reconstruction. In my contribution I attempted to show how Christian attitudes towards Judaism have changed since 1945, and Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz similarly pleads for the re-writing of church history from the same perspective. Unfortunately there is neither a subject nor a name index, so the only way for these essays, and the much good scholarship, backed up by excellent footnotes, to find an audience is by serendipity or word of mouth. JSC

b) eds. Leonore Siegele-Wenschkewitz and Carsten Nicolaisen, Theologische Fakultaten im Nationalsozialismus, (Arbeiten zur kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte; Reihe B: Darstellungen Band 18), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen 1993, 429pp, DM 108

A useful but rather spotty survey by various scholars,. The subject still needs to be handled by a single author to give a fully critical and comprehensive account.

c) T.M.Schneider, Reichsbischof Ludwig Muller(Arbeiten zur kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B: Darstellungen Band 19), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen 1993, 384pp, DM 94 – to be reviewed by Doris Bergen.

d) ed. Trutz Rendtorff, Protestantische Revolution? Kirche und Theologie in der DDR (Arbeiten zur kirchlichen Zeitgeschichte. Reihe B: Darstellungen Band 20), Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Gottingen 1993 – to be reviewed later.

e) Markus Huttner, Britische Presse und nationalsozialistischer Kirchenkampf(Veroffentlichungen der Kommission fur Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B;Forschungen Band 67, F.Schoningh, Paderborn 1995, 814pp, DM?

This enormous tome, the latest in the fine Catholic Commission’s series of Blaue Bander, suffers from the handicap that it limits its focus too narrowly on the British reactions to the Catholic church struggle, although necessarily acknowledging that the even-better known Protestant church struggle should be equally fully treated. An excellent description of the British correspondents in Germany, and the remarkable coverage they afforded, is balanced by an attempted analysis of the effect on the British appeasement policy. – to be reviewed more fully in German History (UK) by JSC.

f) Rainer Hering, Theologische Wissenschaft und “Dritte Reich”, Studien zur Hamburger Wissenschafts- und Kirchengeschichte im 20.Jahrhundert, Centaurus Verlagsgesellschaft, Pfaffenweiler 1990, 197, DM 29.80

This earlier shorter volume complements the above-mentioned book ed. by Siegele-Wenschkewitz, (to which Hering did not contribute!), by concentrating on developments in Hamburg, which in fact only established a full theological faculty in 1952. But Hering gives a good description of the earlier developments in the city, including a discussion of the prominent Mission Academy, which provided training for many of the German Protestant missionaries abroad. The opening chapter seeks to give a broad overview of the theological faculties in the Third Reich, prompted by Hering’s belief that “gerade die Untersuchung der Kirchengeschichte und der Geschichte der Theologie als Wissenscaft weisst sehr grosse Defizite auf”. He rightly points out that the continuity of the professoriate makes it necessary to look at a longer period than just 1933-45, and points out how catastrophically Nazi hostility affected the Protestant faculties, not least by the rapid decline in the number of students, and the readiness of some, but not all, leading theologians to compromise their beliefs in order to curry favour with the regime. Hering’s chapter on the development of Mission Studies in Hamburg is excellent, but also shows how strikingly political factors affected this academic enterprise, up to and including the Nazi attacks on all Christian missions overseas. In 1941 Bormann, Hitler’s secretary prohibited all further teaching of such subjects at Hamburg University, even though the renowned director, Walter Freytag, had openly supported Nazi racist views and raised no opposition to the persecution of the Jews. Nevertheless he was quickly restored to office in 1945, went on to build up the Mission school as part of the Arts Faculty again, and later became the first Professor of Missions in the new Theological Faculty, re- establishing this enterprise on a more ecumenical pattern. Similar political quarrels dominated the training of teachers of religion in Hamburg throughout this whole period. Hering closes his book with a short essay discussing the “Historikerstreit”, which shows how such politically-motivated views continue to plague any definitive attempt to come to terms with the Nazi past. JSC

g) Ulrich Schlie, Kein Friede mit Deutschland, Langen Muller, Munich 1994, 520pp

This voluminous account of the various peace feelers put out between 1939 and 1941 updates and expands Bernd Martin’s Friedensinitiativen und Machtpolitik (1972). Schlie does not however add anything new on the initiatives taken by Catholic and Protestant representatives. He recapitulates fully the soundings at the Vatican from November 1939 to March 1940, and agrees with the earlier view that Pope Pius XII’s stance clearly demonstrates how far he was prepared to go to support the German resistance, thus again refuting the claim that Pius was pro-Nazi. He also covers the moves made in 1941 by the leading Protestant social thinker, Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, a confidant of Carl Goerdeler, which were equally fruitless. His findings show, once again, that the German resistance was far too weak and divided to succeed. Their failure was not due to the refusal of the British government to give them promises of support or any statement of peace aims sufficiently generous to induce the generals to overthow Hitler. This was wishful thinking at the time, and remains so, despite many post-war claims to the contrary. JSC

h) Jurjen A.Zeilstra, European Unity in Ecumenical Thinking 1937- 1948, Boekencentrum, Zoetermeer,Holland 1995 454pp Dfl 65

This encyclopaedic study of the Protestant ecumenical elite’s speeches and writings first focusses on their ideas about the state of European politics in the 1930s as national rivalries and irreconcilable ideologies tore the continent apart. After the outbreak of war, these men sought to maintain their vision of a universal Christian civilization by preparing plans for a just and durable peace. They agonized about the future of Germany. They disagreed about the intentions of Russia. But there were too many ambivalences about their attitudes towards the existing nation states, or even about the value of parliamentary democracy, for any coherent policy on the future of Europe to emerge. Despite their highly visible role in society, and their genuinely-held moral fervour in defence of their Christian ideals, their numerous reports and memoranda were almost totally ignored by the victorious Allied politicians. Their hopes that Europe could be re-united and re-christianized proved to be no more than wishful thinking. A full review follows in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. JSC

Most of us in Canada have been having a severe winter with terrible cold and icy spells. We envy those like John Moses and Dick Pierard who had the opportunity of attending the International Bonhoeffer Conference in Cape Town. We hope to report on this event in the next Newsletter. Anyone who has recently read a new book in our field of interest, and would like to contribute a review (not more than 2 pages) is heartily welcome to do so. This is your Newsletter, and I welcome a diversity of views.

In the meanwhile, every best wish,
John Conway,
Dept. of History, UBC, Vancouver V6T 1Z1