October 1998 Newsletter
Association of Contemporary Church Historians
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)
John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia
You will be glad to hear that I have now successfully relocated to the
University of Western Ontario, where I am holding the Smallman Visiting
Professorship for the Fall Term and teaching a seminar on Nazi Germany. I
have been busy adjusting to the different technology on hand here, but hope
that the results will provide you with the same service as before.
1) Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte meeting
2) Book reviews
a) T.Fandel, Konfession und Nazismus
b) M.G.Goerner, GDR church and state
c) ed.U.v.Hehl, Katholizismus
3) Research Enquiry – German Catholic journals
4) Book notes: N.Busch Katholische Frommigkeit und Moderne
5) Journal articles: Railton and McGreevy
6) Kirchliche Tourismus – Israel
1) The 1998 meeting of the Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte association took place
earlier this month in the idyllic setting of the Lund Diocesan Retreat
Centre in southern Sweden. The topic was ‘Images of Europe adopted by the
churches after the last war’. We began with an excellent survey of the plans
for the future put forward by churchmen resisting Nazism, who believed in
the need to re-christianize Europe, but who also recognised that the
churches’ ability to do so had been severely compromised. The call was for
intensifying the work already started before the war of building up a modern
ecumenical identity for all of Europe, leaving behind the nationalist and
confessional barriers of the past, and uniting in a spirit of
reconciliation. The newly-formed World Council of Churches, or the Lutheran
World Federation, or the later Council of European Churches were to be
models of this endeavour. But the absence of collaboration from both the
Orthodox and Roman Catholic communities meant that this effort to give
Europe back a Christian soul was a limited success. Much depended on the new
Germany. The surprising development of a stable democracy in one half of the
country owed more to Catholic statesmanship than to Protestantism, whose
forces often proved disruptive. The Nordic Protestant churches remained too
attached to their established positions to provide any new impetus for all
Europe. The overthrow of Communism ten years ago led to a revival of
nationalisms, some of them, as in Yugoslavia, misusing religious traditions
for political ends. Thus a Christian Europe has not survived or revived. And
as the final speaker remarked, the unprecedented arrival of several million
Muslims in Europe makes the necessity of accepting a pluralistic religious
future all the more pressing.
2a) Thomas Fandel, Konfession und Nationalsozialismus. Evangelische und
katholische Pfarrer in der Pfalz 1930-39. (Veroffentlichung der Kommission
fur Zeitgeschichte, Vol 76). Paderborn: F.Schoningh Verlag 1997. DM 100 –
After a long period of relative silence we now have a massive 600 page
account of how both major denominations in the Palatinate reacted to the
Nazi attempts to infiltrate Christian theology and practice during the early
years of Hitler’s rule. The Palatinate has not been well served before,
although a self-serving biography of the Protestant bishop, Ludwig Diehl,
appeared in 1995.
Fandel has succeeded remarkably well in portraying the serious conflicts
within the Protestant church in its attempts to embrace Hitler’s national
revolution while still upholding basic Christian principles. He also makes
it abundantly clear how many Protestant clergymen, led by Diehl himself,
succumbed to the siren call of Nazi ideology by either formally joining the
Party or by showing deep sympathies for its goals. The author, himself
‘Pressereferent’ in the Roman Catholic diocese of Speyer, takes great care
to offer a balanced analysis when he turns to the relations between the
regime and the Catholics. Bishop Ludwig Sebastian, head of the Speyer
diocese during the whole Nazi period, displayed, on the one hand, a strong
wish not to run afoul of the Party, for instance supporting its goals in the
crucial Saar plebiscite of January 1936. Such support was important because
the overwhelming majority of Saarlanders were Catholic, because of the
presence of Saar priests opposed to reunification, and because this helped
the Nazi Gauleiter to claim a united front of Catholics behind the pro-union
vote. On the other hand, Sebastian staunchly defended his episcopal
privileges, especially with respect to the appointment of parish priests and
even more so in his determined opposition to the Party’s goal of ridding the
Palatinate (and Germany) of denominational schools.
It could hardly be said that Fandel uncovers any earth-shattering new
evidence, except perhaps his recounting how priests who had either alcohol
or celibacy problems would use the Party to protect them from the church
hierarchy’s attempts to discipline or expel them. Generally one senses that
Fandel treats the role of the Catholic church with rather more sympathy than
the Protestants, as his narrative and evidence tend to create the impression
that the Palatinate Catholics succumbed less to Nazi blandishments than
their Protestant counterparts.
Fandel has probably been hampered by the rather thin amount of archival
material. While he has diligently mined the holdings of the Berlin Document
Centre, the personnel files and personal reminiscences (for members of both
denominations), much remains unstated. Issues such as the attitude of the
Catholic church to antisemitism, the churches’ response to the imposition of
the ‘aryan laws’, or to the pressure on the Protestant clergy to take an
oath of loyalty to the Fuehrer are not taken up here. Surely, for example,
there were clergy whose ‘non-aryan’ origins were suspect?
Elsewhere, Fandel spends much time discussing the many areas of
accommodation between the Nazi regime and the Palatinate Protestants. The
regrettable enthusiasm shown by virtually all Protestant clergy for the
national revolution in 1933 is just the most prominent example. Fandel
provides valuable statistical charts and interpretations for the large
number of Palatinate Protestants who joined the Nazi Party either before or
after 1933, led by their Bishop. One thought-provoking observation has to do
with the role of the Protestant clergy WITHIN the Party, and its ability
from this vantage point to oppose extreme anti-Christian measures. Fandel
provides interesting examples of how Party members such as Diehl, and even
more extreme Nazis such as Pastors Hans Schmidt or Theo Kaul, occasionally
turned against the regime’s wilful practices. Otherwise, those church
opponents who could not cover themselves with the mantle of Party membership
found themselves in rather dire straits, even though Fandel rightly points
out that in no case did a Protestant clergymen under Diehl’s leadership
spend more than a very brief period in a Nazi concentration camp. None of
them, unlike several of their Catholic counterparts, paid for their
opposition with their lives. An interesting conclusion here too is the fact
that, after 1945, former Party members amongst the clergy fared better than
those who had joined extreme splinter groups, attacking the church
establishment for theological rather than political reasons. In the post-war
era, denazification was only partially applied, and theological errors were
punished more severely than political.
A striking issue raised by Fandel’s treatment is the dichotomy between the
ideological thrust of the Catholic hierarchy and the sentiments of its
parishioners. Bishop Sebastian’s attempts to enforce doctrinal uniformity on
the parishes, especially during the struggle for the denominational schools,
showed the rifts in the Catholic community. For while the local priests were
largely loyal to the bishop’s directives, parishioners deserted the church
in droves to vote for the dissolution of such schools. This challenge to
episcopal authority was a severe blow, and Fandel could have explored how
much this fact deterred the episcopate from issuing calls for a more
resolute opposition on other battlefields, such as defence of the Jews
Here is a fruitful issue that needs deeper consideration: while the Catholic
Church after 1945 prided itself on its success in protecting its liturgy and
doctrine from Nazi incursions, ultimately it fared little better than the
Protestants who had to face deep invasions into territory traditionally
under church prerogatives. While the Protestant clergy showed an all-too
eager wish to reflect the current ‘Zeit-geist’, the Catholic hierarchy
attempted equally dangerously to create an inner world immune to National
Socialism. The consequences of these rival approaches are still being felt
What generally strikes every scholar of the Palatinate church scene is that
resistance to Nazism was extremely marginal, and where it did occur it did
not originate in the Palatinate.
None of the clergy or laity played any significant role on either side,
possibly because of the long-standing tradition of undogmatic pragmatism and
accommodation. A good example, unfortunately not discussed by Fandel, is the
case of Pastor George Biundo, a prominent supporter of the Nazis who
nevertheless survived to re-emerge for another worthy career after 1945. The
post-war silence about such cases may well be due to the desire, still
apparent today, to keep such skeletons safely hidden.
But Fandel has made a good start with trenchant insights which deserve to be
Ronald Webster, York University, Toronto, Ontario
2b) Martin Georg Goerner, Die Kirche als Problem der SED. Strukturen
kommunistischer Herrschaftsausubung gegenuber der evanglischen Kirche, 1945
bis 1958 (Studien des Forschungsverbundes SED-Staat der Feien Universitat
Berlin). Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997. P. xii,433, DM 98.
(This review appreared in German Studies Review, Vol XXI, no 1, Feb 1998)
This study by a promising young scholar represents the definitive historical
work on the church-state relationship in the GDR during the early postwar
period. Goerner brings to this topic not only extensive familiarity with the
archival sources, but also personal experience in the GDR. The study builds
upon his extensive research of the Enquete Commission on this topic,
augmented by in-depth treatment of the rapidly growing body of secondary
literature. The study was originally written as a dissertation at the
liberal Potsdam University, but was published under the auspices of the
conservative Research Group on the SED State at the Free University of
Berlin. Despite the obvious cross-pressures, Goerner has succeeded in
producing a rigorous, non-polemical treatment.
His main purpose is to analyse the shift in SED policy in 1953: after
earlier attempting to integrate the church, then to liquidate it, the SED
shifted to a strategy of inflitrating and undermining the church from
within, seeking to control the institution. The resulting policy of
differentiating among “progressive”, “reactionary”, and “wavering” forces in
the church has since become grist in the mill of numerous scholars, not to
mention the media, church officials, and former SED policymakers. Goerner to
a great extent consolidates our new-found understanding of SED policy.
He analyses the form and structures of SED political control over the
institutional church. His analysis of the SED’s development of a systematic
strategy of divide and conquer, with the corresponding bureaucratic
apparatus for its implementation, is masterful. He provides a probing
analysis of the development of the front organizations and the Inszenierung
von Offentlichkeit by the SED. He concludes that, though the regime’s
instruments of political control changed, its goal of limiting the church to
cultic functions and subordinating it to SED control remained constant.
Goerner sees the Stasi as “an integral factor in the SED’s policy toward the
churches” (p.212), but he argues that it is “one partial sphere of the
fundamentally conspiratorial policy of the SED” (p.3), thereby placing the
Stasi in its proper context.
The author breaks new ground in several respects. First, he provides new
evidence to document the directive role of the Soviets, particularly in the
shift to the New Course in 1953, while confirming the attenuation of this
influence in the late 1950s. Although much remains to be researched in
Soviet archives, Goerner convincingly argues that, as a function of their
policy on Germany, the issue represented high politics for the Soviets.
Second, the author sheds new light on divisons within the SED leadership
itself, documenting, for example, the intramural skirmishes between the SED
leader Walter Ulbricht and Central Committee Secretary Paul Wandel during
the key phase of phony destalinization in 1956-57. New evidence is offered
of the special interest that hardliner Ulbricht took in the issue and his
manipulation of the churches (and the Soviets!). Third, Goerner provides a
nuanced interpretation of the role of the CDU leader, Otto Nuschke: he
treats the CDU as largely gleichgeschaltet, but acknowledges Nuschke’s
efforts to soften state policy and prevent the final division of Germany.
Although Goerner argues for a long-term continuity in state policy, his
findings do seem consistent with more than one scenario. For example, the
front organizations whose origins he richly describes eventually failed as
mobilization organizations, a development consistent with both an
interpretation emphasizing greater state accommodation to the churches in
the 1970s, as well as one highlighting increased Stasi penetration of the
churches. This suggests that the author has succeeded in analysing the early
church-state relationship in strokes both bold enough to offer a cogent
explanation, yet nuanced enough to accommodate the complexity of the
relationship in later years.
Robert Goeckel, SUNY College, Geneseo
2c) ed. Ulrich von Hehl and H.G.Hockerts, Der Katholizismus – gesamtdeutsche
Klammer in den Jahrzehnten der Teilung? Erinnerungen und Berichte. Paderborn
1996 Pp 192, DM 28
Normally each analytical volume in the Kommission fur Zeitgeschichte series
has been published with a scholarly apparatus, but the nature of this book
explains why it is an exception. The contributors to this volume come from a
variety of associations, and they discuss how the German Democratic Republic
and the Federal Republic remained linked after World War II through the
Catholic Church. These fourteen essays describe in very personal terms how
post-1945 Germans in both zones joined with one another to co-operate in
These Catholics did not only co-operate on the basis of nationality, but
rather attempted to keep the Church free and strong. Reflecting the
principle of subsidiary so prominent in Catholic social theory, all of the
essays remind us that in complex dictatorial regimes a great deal of
resistance can be established through personal contacts that struggle to
sustain an identity on every level. Paradoxically, then, maintaining their
Catholic ties helped nurture both German nationalism and Catholicism, which
survived until the wall was torn down.
The essays focus on such areas as the pastoral care of youth, the Caritas
Associations, the work of German Catholics in the diaspora Church in the
GDR, diocesan information services, Catholic Student Associations, and the
role of the laity in both zones as they interacted during these decades.
Paul Arfderbeck, for example, has analysed how the Archdiocese of Paderborn
was split into two parts, but still functioned as one ecclesial entity.
Joseph Homeyer’s essay on the political and economic role of the Church in
the divided Germany of the 1950s through the 1990s is particularly welcome,
since he has outlined, although too briefly, the role of political theology
in helping to structure the responses of the Church in the GDR. Homeyer has
also pointed to a research initiative that could profitably be exploited, if
a scholar could gain access to the sensitive materials that emerged when
bishops from the Federal Republic met those from the GDR in Rome. Their
memoranda, diary entries, and summaries of discussions could really
explicate how the bishops on a personal level attempted to shape political,
economic, and cultural policies, which could help the Church interact with
the two German states.
This collection of essays serves to remind the reader of the many levels on
which Catholics operated in the postwar period, and serves again to warn
historians that any monocausal approach, when applied to historical issues
affecting the religious culture of Catholicism, will not provide an adequate
picture of life in the Church. Particularly crucial at the end of this
century is the fact that the bizonal Church came to a sensitive
understanding of diaspora and refugee experiences, which could help serve to
meet the needs of Catholics working in war-torn areas around the world
Donald Dietrich, Boston College, Mass.
3) Research Enquiry: Genevieve Gunderson, U.Cal. Berkeley writes: As part of
a project on the Catholic response to the Jugendbewegung of the early
twentieth century, I am looking for copies of any of the following
periodicals in North American libraries: “Efeuranken”. “Das heilige Feuer”,
“Quickborn” and “Heliand”. I would appreciate any suggestions or leads you
4) Book notes: Norbert Busch, Katholische Frommigkeit und Moderne. Die
sozial- und mentalitatsgeschichte des Herz-Jesu-Kultes in Deutschland
zwischen Kulturkampf und Ersten Weltkrieg. (Religiose Kultur und Moderne Bd
6), Gutersloh, GutersloherVerlagshaus 1997, 368 pp. DM 88
This is another welcome attempt to bridge the gap between “Profangeschichte”
and “Kirchengeschichte” – much needed in German Catholic historiography.
This work is patterned on the excellent example set by Anglo-American
authors such as Margaret Anderson, David Blackbourn, Jonathan Sperber and
Helmut Smith. It deals with the astonishing success of the cult of the Heart
of Jesus, a very typical ultramontane reaction during the Kulturkampf, as a
symbol of the sufferings of the church at that time. Even though it appeared
to others as a regressive, defensive and anti-modern sentiment, it caught on
widely amongst the persecuted Catholics. Busch’s account of the
organisation, support and effect of this piece of popular piety is much to
be commended as breaking new ground. He finds the Jesuits as principally
responsible for the successful broadcast of this cult which strengthened
personal piety while enhancing the mystical view of the whole Church. He
also shows how this sentiment could be linked with German nationalism during
the First World War to overcome accusations of lack of national solidarity
amongst Catholics. Despite or because of its proto-magical invocations, it
proved highly popular among women, and in general gives added evidence that
the so-called “inevitable” advance of secular rationalism was off-set by
such influential movements as the Herz-Jesu-Kult.
5) Journal articles:
Nicholas Railton, of the University of Ulster, Coleraine, has contributed a
useful, lengthy, if somewhat rambling article on the German Free Churches
and the Nazi Regime to the January 1998 issue of The Journal of
Ecclesiastical History. He shows how the attitudes of such figures as the
Methodist Bishop, Otto Melle, or the Baptist leader, Paul Schmidt, were
developed, and gives explicit references to their conduct at the 1937
meetings in Oxford and Edinburgh, as well as to the responses of the English
churchmen they met.
John McGreevy of Harvard has written a notable article” Thinking on one’s
own: Catholicism and the American Intellectual Imagination, 1928-1960″ to be
found in the Journal of American History, 84, June 1997. This outlines the
massive campaign launched by American liberal intellectuals, led by such
figures as John Dewey, against Catholicism and even against all religions,
which were treated as outdated and dangerous systems of belief which
hindered the development of a healthier secular rationalism. In particular
Catholicism’s anti-individualistic view of society, its subordination to
authority and paternalism, its mediaevalism and anti-democratic tendencies
were held to threaten the very identity of the United States unless forceful
measures were taken in the public arena, and such religious views limited
solely to the private sphere. McGreevy fully describes the intolerant and
indeed authoritarian character of this campaign for “liberty” and shows how
it successfully captured almost every publicly-supported university in the
country, and affected the decisions of the Supreme Court. President Kennedy’
s election in 1960 brought about an armistice. But only now is the American
intellectual climate warming towards Catholicism as a source of moral
formation and civic responsibility.
6) Kirchliche Tourismus – Israel
Move past the soldier with the gun
Open the handbag please lady:
So this is the place of the Crucifixion;
Note the crack in the rock (like any other)
But protected by glass, and
Illuminated of course;
And the open tomb so close
All enclosed in the same Church, and that
A hut compared to St Peter’s
Continually reconstructed, Byzantine
Destroyed by crusaders,
Rebuilt and destroyed, mostly by men
Sometimes accidentally by fire.
To fight for possession
Of this piece of ground
Don’t miss the old olive trees
In the Garden of Gethsemane.
As you put the money in the box
The old Franciscan with the ravaged face
Hands you an olive leaf
Guaranteed genuine in five languages.
And as you descend the Mount of Olives
Do not ignore Absalom’s Pillar
Not sacred enough to destroy
Hardly worth the building of a church over
Non inflammable, but without a doubt
A silent witness of the night of indecision
The night of resolution
The night of certainty.
Here’s where your faith should begin
Not at a crack in the rock
Not at an empty tomb
Not among the tasteless ornaments
At the place of the skull.
Do not attempt to return
A hard enough coming we had of it;
A late take-off
And a slight bumpiness over Crete
But enough to spill the champagne.
The walled-up gate of the Old City
Just across from the Mount of Olives
When the Messiah comes back
And all the dead shall be raised
And the trumpet shall sound
And has He evidence of identification?
What race did you say? Man?
I am sorry it is not precise enough.
Can you see the people He preached to?
If you are unkind
You might say they stand with black hats
Thick spectacles and long hair
Bobbing up and down at the Wailing Wall
Eyes open but minds closed.
That’s the problem – how to open the mind
But to prevent it from emptying.
Pilgrim or Tourist?
Keep all together please
And on the right, one of the most sacred. . . .
At this well in Samaria
Try and keep together please
The sixday sixday sixday
(And on the seventh day they rested)
Thank God we weren’t shown the
Look in the eyes of boy on the donkey
Ignore the jeans and sneakers
And look beyond the suspicion.
You need faith to see the expectation
You always did, you always will.
Here and at any place
Now and at any time.
At least you can’t build a church over a lake.
The sea of Galilee still refreshes the spirit
Dusty with heat; and the fish are still there
To be caught and eaten –
St Peter’s fish – all part
Of the prearranged lunch.
The man opposite puts ketchup on his
But not me – it would mask
The delicate flavour, and besides
One has to watch one’s behaviour.
Who is the old lady on the path?
The Emperor’s wife journeyed from Rome
On the same mission as you
But sixteen hundred years before,
Fixing the site of the Sermon on the Mount
And the miracle of loaves and fishes
A clear choice at London Airport;
I walk briskly through the ‘Nothing to Declare’
Possibly something left behind but certainly
Nothing to Declare.
Who’d be concerned with an olive leaf?
David V.Bates Summer 1969
With every best wishes to you all,