May 1996 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway,Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter no 17 (Vol II, no 5) – May 1996


Vancouver B.C.

Dear Friends,

1) Eastern Germany

John Burgess: After the Wall: The Church in Eastern Germany. This five-page reportage drawn on John’s personal impressions of his visits to the former DDR describes the attitudes of church people during the past six years since re-unification. It is available on E-mail from him at:

2) Austria

Harry Ritter, Western Washington State University kindly contributed the following:

“Readers of this Newsletter may be interested in a recent article on ‘Austria and the Ghost of the New Europe’ by Tony Judt which appeared in the “New York Review of Books”, Feb. 15th 1996, pp 22-5. Judt is a historian of contemporary France, but is currently working on book about Europe as a whole since 1945. This article about Austria is especially well-informed. It places the parliamentary elections of December 17, 1995 in historical context, including the recent rise of Joerg Haider and the Austrian Freedom Party. Particularly interesting are Judt’s remarks on the impact of the end of the Cold War on Austrian identity, and on similarities between developments in Austrian public life, on the one hand, and events in Italy, some of the countries of the former communist eastern Europe, and (especially) France on the other. Judt begins his article with the remark that “It has been a long time since Austria mattered much for anyone who doesn’t live there” – which was precisely the prospect which fuelled support for the Anschluss in the 1920s and 1930s. He ends the essay by concluding that Austria is today, in fact, a metaphor for contemporary European insecurities as a whole: ‘For Austria is a shrunken land with a confused identity, overshadowed by its heritage and fearful for its future, reluctant to abandon real social gains but convinced it can no longer afford them, happy at the end of the division of Europe but worried by the loss of its role in that division. But is this not also in varying measure the condition not just of France, but also of Italy, of Britain and other countries besides?’

Of further interest with regard to Austria is Ernst Hanisch’s imposing _Oesterreichische Geschichte 1890-1990. Der lange Schatten des Staates_, Vienna: Ueberreuter 1994, 599pp. This exceptionally judicious, balanced overview of the past century of Austrian history may well become the standard general history of contemporary Austria. Written by a product of the Catholic political tradition, it is noteworthy for its self-critical and even- handed account of the role of the Church in twentieth century Austria, from late imperial times down to the present.”

3) Southern Germany

Book review:

Bernhard Lehmann, Katholische Kirche und Besatzungsmacht in Bayern 1945-1949 im Spiegel der OMGUS- Akten (Miscellanea Bavarica Monacensis Bd 153), Neue Schriftenreihe des Stadtarchivs Munchen 1994, 453 pp. DM 32.80 (This review will appear in Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte)

Bernhard Lehmann’s well-organized and, luckily for us, much abbreviated doctoral thesis draws attention to the paradoxical situation for researchers working on the history of post-1945 Catholicism in Germany. The records of the short-lived American Military Government (OMGUS) were all shipped back to Washington, have largely been made available to the public, and have been extensively filmed by German historical institutes. By contrast, no access has been given to the files of the Bavarian Catholic dioceses since January 1946, except of the documentary volumes excellently prepared by the late Fr. Ludwig Volk,SJ. However, as Lehmann’s comprehensive bibliography shows, much has been written on this topic already. The main lines are therefore well known. Lehmann’s contribution, despite its lack of either a name or subject index, is a well-balanced survey, which ably steers a course between too much denominational loyalty or too much sycophancy towards the American conquerors. Instead, with the advantage of hindsight, he is rightly critical of both the Catholic episcopate and the U.S. military government authorities.

Despite more than two years’ planning, the Americans in 1945 had no agreed policy towards the German population. Some, like Morgenthau, argued for a punitive peace and adopted the idea of the collective guilt of all Germans; others saw the opportunity to introduce far-reaching, left-leaning and in their eyes overdue reforms. On the other side, the military leaders, like Lucius Clay, sought to disengage themselves as quickly as possible from civilian governmental responsibilities, while the local level officers were pre-occupied with the immediate function of providing food and shelter for the millions of ordinary Germans. Since this task could only be fulfilled with German co-operation, the Military Government turned for guidance to the churches, who enjoyed the reputation of being the only anti-Nazi organization still intact.

For their part, the Church leaders naturally supported the latter policy, and played a considerable role in suggesting nominees for the new administration. In so doing, they clearly favoured conservative upholders of the pre-Nazi era. were averse to approving any known “leftists” and overlooked, in the interests of efficiency, the Nazi sympathies of many of the leading members of their communities. Led by the eminent Cardinal Faulhaber, who had been Archbishop of Munich for nearly thirty years, the Catholic bishops at first favoured an authoritarian “non-political” government, in which, as in 1918-19, the churches would be the symbol of continuity and moral authority. Faulhaber was aware of the danger of the Catholics playing too active a political role, but instead sought to create conditions favourable to the “re- Christianisation” of a country misled by the allurements of Nazi pagan and secularist ambitions.

This stance, however, soon ran into difficulties with OMGUS, which led to confrontation in place of co-operation. Particularly regrettable were the church leaders’ readiness to condone both individual Nazis’ behaviour, their opposition to any notion of collective guilt, their portrayal of themselves solely as the victims of Nazi aggression and their support of the popular amnesia towards the crimes committed against the Jews or in the occupied countries.. Above all, the alleged reactionary views of the bishops, who opposed the American plans for a democratic re-organisation of society, led to a marked weakening of church influence after the initial few months. OMGUS saw the church, with its triumphalist attitude, as being too often concerned solely with preserving its privileges, such as the maintenance of the Reich Concordat of 1933, the separate denominational school system, the control over youth work, or the restitution of Nazi-seized property. Admittedly, OMGUS was grateful for the splendid work of church welfare agencies, such as Caritas, but remained suspicious of supposed political intentions behind such activities. Equally, the Americans’ desire to see a renovated church was thwarted by their directive for “non-interference” with the church’s internal affairs, and by their own tradition of the separation of church and state. Furthermore OMGUS suffered from the very rapid turnover of its personnel, from demobilisation, or sheer incompetence of its lower-level staff, ignorant of the language and indifferent to the people they were supposed to rule. Despite its generally positive attitude towards the churches, OMGUS’ Religious Affairs branch was one of the more neglected agencies which enjoyed virtually no influence on decision-making. Its overall impact was minimal.

Lehmann’s useful assessment of this short-lived attempt shows the contradictions of an authoritarian and foreign military government trying to impose the ideas and ideals of democracy. Equally it shows the contortions of the Bavarian church leadership, apparently attempting to turn back the clocks of history to before 1789. Unfortunately this can only be an interim report. It will all have to be done again, if and when the church archives are opened. Only then will we be able to judge whether the misperceptions of each other’s intentions were justified, and gain a fuller appreciation of the church’s role in this traumatic and turbulent period.

University of British Columbia, Vancouver
John S.Conway

4) Denazification;

On a related topic, and with reference to the findings in Doris Bergen’s Twisted Cross ( see Newsletter no 15), and my review of Reichrath’s biography of Ludwig Diehl (see Newsletter no 12), Ronald Webster,Toronto, sent in the following clipping from the newspaper Rheinpfalz, Jan 6th 1996: Enkenbach [Pfalz] [epd]. “Die Entnazifizierung fur die Pfarrer verlief milde, ja sehr milde” urteilte im November 1949 der damalige Praesident der pfalzische Landeskirche, Hans Stempel. Dass viele trotz ihres NSDAP-Parteibuches glimpflich davonkamen, haengt nach Ansicht des katholischen Kirchenhistrikers Thomas Fandel, Heidelberg, damit zusammen, dass die Kirche die Entnazifizierung weitgehend in eigener Regie durchfuehren konnte. Fandel, der sich in seiner Doktorarbeit mit ‘Pfarrer und Nationalsozialismus in der Pfalz’ befasst hat, sprach gestern auf einer Tagung in Enkenbach.

In Mai 1947 habe die Protestantische Kirchenregierung insgesamt 76 Massregelungen beschlossen, berichtete Fandel. Es kam zu sieben Entlassungen, drei Suspendierungen und elf Versetzungen. Sechs Pfarrer wurden in den Ruhestand versetzt, funf Manner verloren ein leitendes Amt, weitere 6o Geistliche wurden zuruckgestuft oder zu Geldbussen verurteilt.

Wie stark die pfaelzische Pfarrerschaft politisch belastet war, zeigt nach den Recherchen Fandels, dass in den Jahren 1933 bis 1940 uber 20% der Seelsorger der NSDAP angehoerte. Diese seien nach Kriegsende reibungslose in die sich neu formierende Gesellschaft eingegliedert worden, so Fandel, der im Oeffentlichkeitsreferat des Bistums Speyer beschaeftigt ist.

Die Landeskirche habe nur die schwersten Faelle bereinigt und gehofft, auf diesem Weg andere belastete Pfarrer im kirchlichen Dienst behalten zu konnen. Auffaellig sei das gaenzlich fehlende Unrechtsbewusstsein bei der Gemassregelten, die sich als Opfer des NS-Regimes fuehlten. Fur einer Grossteil von ihnen erreichte die Landeskirche bereits 1948 bei der franzoesischen Militarregierung eine Amnestie.

Joining us is:

Timothy Williams, 103A Schellingstrasse,
80798 Munich

Best wishes
John Conway