December 2002 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia

Newsletter- December 2002- Vol. VIII, no . 12

Dear Friends
My very best wishes to you all at this season. May the celebration of the
birth of Jesus be a time of joy and refreshment to you. At a time when the
wider political scene is so laden with gloom and disasters, we can only
pray that the Light of the World will indeed prevail. In the meantime, we
can surely remind ourselves that it is better to light a candle than to
curse the darkness. A few lines from George Herbert for this season follow:

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God no hymne for thee?
My soul’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word; the streams, thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the day-light hours
Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I find a sunne
Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.
Then we will sing, and shine all our own day,
And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine
Till ev’n his beams sing, and my musick shine.


1) Report on KZG conference 2002
2) Report on GSA conference 2002
3) Karl Barth-Rezeption Since 1990
4) Book reviews:

a) Dentan, Impossible de se taire
b) Draper, Pastor Andre Trocmé

5) Book Review Symposium – J.G.Lawler, Popes and Politics
1) Report on the KZG conference 2002
For the first time, the Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte group held its annual
meeting outside Europe. The 2002 conference took place at the Pacific
Lutheran University, near Tacoma, Washington, USA. Luckily, it was
possible for our founder and editor of the journal, Prof. Gerhard Besier,
to attend along with most of our European colleagues on the editorial
board. As well we were fortunate to have guests from Israel, Poland,
Finland, Sweden and Germany, along with numerous participants from the
United States and myself from Canada. This was made possible by grants
from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and other foundations. We were also
grateful for a presentation by three Holocaust survivors, who recounted
their personal experiences.
The theme of the conference was “Christian teachings about Jews: National
comparisons in the shadow of the Holocaust”, with the emphasis on the
period before 1939. We heard reports on Germany, Poland, Spain and Latin
America, Estonia and Denmark, which gave rise to sombre comparisons. The
picture would have been even darker if we had been able to have full reports on France, Roumania,
Hungary and Russia. Yet, it became clear that each national situation
involved a complex mixture of political and social as well as theological
elements. We learnt, for example, that, despite the virulent antisemitism
of such men as Court Preacher Adolf Stoecker, Germany before 1914 was one
of the best places for Jews to live. Likewise we learnt that the most
successful rescue of Jews during the Holocaust, namely in Denmark, could
not be attributed to the lack of antisemitism in that country, even in
Christian circles.

Such comparisons also invited the question as to how far words or ideas
led to action. It was clearly necessary to explore further the relation of
Christian teachings to the actual murderous policies of the Holocaust. Such
considerations also needed to evaluate the secular aspects of antisemitism.
How were Christian antisemitic attitudes picked up and institutionalized?
Above all, a fuller consideration had to be given to the issue of
continuity versus contingency in this crucial period.

Equally, left for another conference were the questions of post-1945
Christian teachings about Jews. To some of the audience, it seemed, little
had or has changed, given the continuity of Christian symbolism and
liturgies, especially about the Crucifixion. To others, on the other hand,
the developments since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and the
equivalent Protestant changes towards Judaism, mark the most significant
event in church history in the twentieth century, with the abandonment of
sixteen hundred years of polemical bigotry. Another fruitful topic for a
future conference would be to examine the ways in which church history has
been used (or misused) in the post-Communist countries of eastern Europe.
Another unprecedented event in KZG’s history was the presence at both
evening sessions of several young persons holding up anti-Israeli or
anti-Holocaust placards. The most blatant of these stated categorically:
“Luther was right about the Jews”. When I attempted to ask the placard
holder whether she was a Lutheran or had read what Luther had once said, I
was told that this was a silent protest and that the perpetrators were
forbidden to engage in any discussion. The conference members were
naturally distressed at this wholly unwanted presence.

But in the conference itself, a lively dialogue on Christian-Jewish
relations was possible in an atmosphere of mutual respect and equality.
This meeting therefore followed the pattern established over the past
thirty years, showing that the North America provides a fruitful meeting
ground for such encounters.

The quality of the papers presented was excellent and they will appear ,
together with some of the responses, in the first issue of Kirchliche
Zeitgeschichte in 2003. If your Library does not subscribe, you might like
to get in touch with Gerhard Lindemann, Kisselgasse 1, D69117 Heidelberg,

2) German Studies Association, San Diego, CA, 4-6 October 2002
The first day of the conference included a session titled “Mennonites,
Prostitutes, Catholics, and Jews: The ‘Other’ and Nation-Building in
Nineteenth-Century Germany.” Mark Jantzen of Bethel College in Kansas
opened with a paper on “The First Duty of a Citizen: Mennonite Emancipation
and Opposition to Prussian Military Service, 1848-1890.” Jantzen introduced
listeners to a topic new to many of them: the Mennonites of the Vistula
Delta and their conflicts with the Prussian (later German) government over
issues of military service in the second half of the nineteenth century. As
the case of the pacifist Mennonites demonstrates, Jantzen argued,
acceptance of military service was a “necessary precondition” for admission
into the German nation. By 1890, Mennonites in Germany either emigrated or
agreed to abandon their pacifism and take up arms. Keith Pickus of Wichita
State University gave a paper on “Nation-Building on the Periphery:
Catholics and Jews in Hesse.” Pickus used a regional focus to offer new
perspectives on the Kulturkampf and antisemitism in Imperial Germany. In
Hesse, he showed, the antisemitic movement associated with the romantic
populist Otto Boeckel contained anti-Prussian elements that made it
attractive to some local Catholics. At the same time, the Jewish liberal
politician and Kulturkaempfer Ludwig Bamberger repeatedly won election to
the Reichstag, backed by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish votes. Like
Jantzen, Pickus showed the relationship between religion and the German
nation to be much more complex than familiar models of confessional dualism
suggest. Julia Bruggemann’s very interesting paper on prostitution falls
outside our area so will not be discussed here. In his stimulating comment,
Helmut Walser Smith of Vanderbilt University asked whether the idea of the
nation was the optimum principle around which to organize these three
papers. All three topics, he suggested, revealed the “underside of national
unity as the long-term decline of internal diversity.”

A good crowd gathered on the second day of the conference for a session on
“Theology as Ideology in Nazi and Postwar Germany.” Richard Steigmann-Gall
of Kent State University led off with a paper titled “The Text and Context
of Nazi ‘Theology’.” Steigmann-Gall argued that even Heinrich Himmler, the
Reichsfuehrer-SS, qualified his condemnation of Christianity and retained
some aspects of Christian teaching. According to Steigmann-Gall, Nazi
Pagans demonstrated a “surprisingly favorable view of Protestantism” and
even depended on certain varieties of Protestant thought. Suzanne
Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum followed with
a presentation titled “‘Christian Charity’ and ‘Jewish Vengeance’: Bishop
Aloisius Muench’s One World in Charity, 1946-1947.” Brown-Fleming showed
how the American bishop Muench, Catholic liaison representative to the U.S.
Army in occupied Germany from 1946 to 1949, became popular among German
Catholics as a sympathetic, pro-German figure. In a celebrated pastoral
letter called “One World in Charity,” Muench preached a version of
“Christian” love that implied “Jewish” hate and contempt for God. It was
ironic but not surprising, Brown-Fleming concluded, that a myth grew up
associating Muench with Adolf Eichmann. Finally Matthew Hockenos of
Skidmore College offered reflections on “Protestant Theology and the
Conversion of Jews, 1945-1950.” Hockenos described how a handful of
Lutherans in Bavaria resumed efforts to convert Jews almost immediately
after World War II ended. Displaced persons camps provided missionaries
with concentrated groups of Jews to whom they preached the gospel in the
hope of winning them to Christianity. Habits of Christian anti-Judaism
combined with Christian guilt about the abandonment of the Jews under
Nazism kept the church’s mission to the Jews alive for decades after the
Holocaust. Doris Bergen of the University of Notre Dame provided the
commentary. Bergen noted the different definitions of “religion” in each of
the three papers and drew attention to common themes of ambiguity and

The third panel on religion took place in the very last conference session,
so that at times the presenters threatened to outnumber their audience.
Nevertheless the panel titled “Religious Institutions in the Nazi Era”
featured two interesting papers, both by subscribers to this newsletter.
Gerhard Besier spoke on “The Policy of the Ecclesiastical Foreign Office of
the German Protestant Church (DEK) during the Spanish Civil War,” and
Michael Phayer sent a paper (read in his absence by Judith Meyers of
Olympic College) titled “NS church Policy for the Protestant Volksdeutsch
Church in Poland.” Besier presented an intriguing picture of the German
Protestant Church in Spain in the 1930s, where official representatives of
the church’s foreign office under Bishop Heckel supported Franco, whereas
many other German Protestants sympathized with the Republican cause.
Phayer’s paper emphasized Nazi duplicity toward the ethnic German
Protestants of Poland after September 1939. In the former Polish lands,
Phayer argued, Nazis faced no constraints in expressing their hatred of the
Christian churches: they used the Volksdeutschen and their piety to
consolidate Nazi power and then turned on them with radical efforts to
disestablish their churches. Robert Ericksen of Pacific Lutheran University
responded with a spirited comment that acknowledged the innovative nature
of Besier’s and Phayer’s work but drew attention to tendencies in Phayer’s
paper that could come across as apologetic.

Taken together, these three panels on religion represent some of the most
exciting research in German Studies occurring on both sides of the Atlantic.
Doris Bergen, Notre Dame University

3) Karl Barth Rezeption since 1990
In the years since 1995, when this Arbeitsgemeinschaft was first
established, the brief of the group has always been a wide one. There has
been geographical diversity, both in terms of membership and also in terms
of themes discussed in the newsletters. There has been confessional
diversity, with studies of Protestant, Catholic, Mormon and Jehovah’s
Witness churches all coming under scrutiny. And there has been disciplinary
diversity – not only have the histories of institutional churches been
considered and discussed, but (as should always happen within the realm of
Church history) theology and theologians have also found their just
recognition. It is in this context that the present piece finds a place,
being a reflection upon a man who, as a person and as a theologian, has
received quite some exposure within this forum over the past seven years,
Karl Barth. More specifically, this piece is intended as a brief summary of
the scholarly reception of Barth’s work since 1990.

The former Director of the Karl Barth-Archiv in Basel, Dr Hinrich
Stoevesandt, said some years ago that, although Barth was undoubtedly one
of the most influential theologians for both Protestants and Catholics
during the twentieth century, theology ‘has in the main gone down other
roads than those to which he pointed’ in the years following his death in
1968. In other words, Barth’s influence, while indisputable, has been
fundamentally antithetical to the path of mainstream theology and Church
praxis. Or, perhaps better, in the decades following his death, mainstream
theological study was undoubtedly influenced, but in an overly antithetical
sense, by Karl Barth. Paths taken were deliberate divergences from those
Barth would have wished to see followed.

Whether or not this is still the case is an open question. What is
absolutely clear, however, is that scholarly study of Barth has increased
massively throughout the past twelve years and, crucially, not only in the
northern hemisphere but also in countries such as Australia, South Africa
and even Japan.

A significant reason for this boom in Barth studies has undoubtedly been
the increasing availability of Barth’s own writings, including many pieces
that were hitherto available only to those who trawled through the
archives. In this, the work of the Barth-Archiv and the Karl Barth
Foundation have been indispensable, in particular with their decision to
produce a Gesamtausgabe: Section I (Sermons); Section II (Academic Works);
Section 3 (Individual Lectures and Brief Works); Section 4 (Conversations);
Section 5 (Letters); Section 6 (From Barth’s Life). The collection and
production of this Gesamtausgabe is, obviously, a work-in-progress and,
given the massive size of Barth’s writings, will not be completed for many
years to come. However, the fruits of the work to date are already
noticeable and have spawned a renewed interest in Barth’s life and work,
from scholars throughout the world.

As far as the actual content of current Barth studies is concerned, the
major contributions in recent years have been concentrated upon four basic

Barth’s theological methodology
Barth’s ethics and anthropology
Barth’s understanding of the Jewish question
Barth’s relationship with Charlotte von Kirschbaum

On the first, the major area of debate has been focused on the revision of
the traditional view, put forward by Hans Urs von Balthasar et al in the
early 1950s, that Barth’s dialectical method evolved into an analogical
method after 1931. In recent years, German and American scholars have done
much to critique this argument, by convincingly showing the presence of
dialectic, as a significant piece of Barth’s methodology, well into his
‘Church Dogmatics’. Scholars such as Michael Beintker led the way in this
revision, with the most influential study coming from Bruce McCormack, in
his 1995 book ‘Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology’ (a
book which won him the Karl Barth prize in 1998). This book has been, in
fact, arguably the most influential book on Barth since Berkouwer’s 1956
study ‘Triumph of Grace’.

As a brief aside, another methodological problem which has engaged Barth
scholars has been the extent to which Barthian theology is compatible with
postmodernist and deconstructionist discourse. Three books, in particular,
shed light on this. The first was written by Graham Ward in 1995, on
‘Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology’. The second, which appeared
the following year, was entitled ‘Deconstructing Barth: a Study of the
Complementary Methods in Karl Barth and Jacques Derrida’ (written by Isolde
Andrews). The third, which has demonstrated the vitality of Barth
scholarship in Australia, was the result of a 1998 conference celebrating
the 30th anniversary of his death, and appeared as ‘Karl Barth: A Future
for Postmodern Theology?’ There is more to be done here, but at least it
can be said that discourse scholars have not overlooked the figure of Barth
who was, most clearly, a pioneer in European intellectual history.

The second area of significant development has been concerned with Barth’s
ethics and the related field of Barthian anthropology. Both Nigel Biggar
(‘The Hastening That Waits’, 1993) and John Webster (‘Barth’s Ethics of
Reconciliation’, 1995, and ‘Barth’s Moral Theology’, 1998) have countered
the traditional view, put forward by people like Robert Willis, that Barth
so emphasised the transcendental ‘Wholly Other’ God that he allowed no
place for human agency in the field of ethics. The reality, as these two
scholars, and others like them have shown, is far different. With renewed
readings of Barth’s Christ-centred theology (that is, a theology that takes
the vere homo of Jesus as seriously as the vere Deus) and the consequently
sharpened focus on Barth’s anthropology, it is now generally understood
that Barth’s ‘system’ allowed for no other stance other than a very
activistic ethics. This is not to suggest that Barth took a similar view to
Brunner and Tillich, believing that theology could begin with humanity. But
it is to argue strongly that, precisely because his theology started with
the God of the Incarnation, Barth had to deal sympathetically with human
ethical agency. Not surprisingly, this fresh paradigm has enabled new and,
to many, very surprising insights into Barth’s political life.

Thirdly, and in part as a result of the above, there have been numerous
works in the past twelve years that have looked at Barth’s understanding of
the Jewish question, arguably one of the most pressing politico-ethical
issues that dominated his lifetime. The older view (until the early 1990s)
was that Barth was indifferent to Judaism, that he believed the Jews to be
a religiously anachronistic people, or – worse – that he was positively
hostile to them. However, Eberhard Busch (‘Unter dem Bogen des Einen
Bundes’, 1996), and Mark R. Lindsay (‘Covenanted Solidarity’, 2001) have
both sought to over-turn this view, by looking at both Barth’s political
activities and writings, and the theological bases upon which they were
built. Katherine Sonderegger has, it is true, presented a more critical
view (‘That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew’, 1992) but it does appear that, in
general, the tide seems to be turning away from the old, uncritically
negative view of Barth on this score.

Finally, at the level of Barth’s personal life, new research is now being
done on Barth’s personal relations, in particular with his long-time
colleague Charlotte von Kirschbaum. Was she simply a devoted secretary,
without whose steadfastness Barth’s work would never have been what it in
fact became? Was she exploited by him, as many feminist writers have
suggested? Were the two of them in love, with Barth’s own wife Nelly in
fact the exploited figure? Perhaps all three are true. But certainly there
is a wealth of material here that is only just starting to be uncovered.
There are many other strands of Barthian scholarship that are currently
being pursued, including critical works on his biblical commentaries,
studies of his sacramental theology, and studies from the perspectives of
liberation, feminist and black theologies, all of which illustrate the
continuing relevance of Barth’s theology for the present age. Perhaps,
though, the clearest evidence that Barth scholarship is alive and well is
the fact that, in 1997, Princeton Theological Seminary successfully
tendered to establish the Center for Karl Barth Studies (Yale was the other
interested party). Since its inception, the Center has hosted successful
conferences and is actively involved in fostering Barth studies, in
conjunction with the Karl Barth Society of North America.

There is, evidently, huge and growing interest in the life and work of this
most influential theologian. Not all share his views nor indeed should
anyone share the views of any theologian without a duly critical stance.
But those of us who see in Barth a champion of the Church, of the Gospel,
and of the human freedom that it proclaims, can only regard the current
status of Barth research as immensely exciting.
Finally, to quote Arthur Cochrane (notable for his work on the Church
Struggle), ‘the interest of the [Karl Barth] Society is not in promoting
Barth’s theology, but in using it because of its striking clarity in
saying ‘what the apostles and prophets witnessed.’ This, surely, is of
interest to all who are involved in theology and the Church.
Dr Mark R. Lindsay
Director of Academic Studies
Trinity College
Fellow, Department of History
University of Melbourne
Parkville 3052
4) Book reviews
a) Paul-Emil Dentan, Impossible de se taire. Des protestants suisses face
au nazisme. Geneva: Labor et fides. 2000. 134 pp.
Everyone knows that Karl Barth was the champion of the resistance against
the nazification of the German Evangelical Church. After his enforced
expulsion to his homeland Switzerland in 1935, he became even more
outspoken in his opposition to Nazi totalitarianism. But he was not alone.
This short book pays tribute to a dozen other Swiss personalities, largely
inspired by Barth, who sought by thought and deed to stand firm in the hour
of danger.

Some were pastors whose resolute preaching of the gospel stressed the need
to prevent any weakening of the faith and to defend human rights. Others,
like Pastor Vogt of Zurich and Gertrud Kurz, became notably active in
support of the refugees seeking asylum in Switzerland, most of whom were
Jewish. They were already heavily engaged in this work, when, in the
summer of 1942, the Swiss government ordered their borders to be closed and
all refugees to be turned back. This move aroused a wave of protests in
Swiss Protestant circles. Their outrage at the government’s complicity
with the Nazis was heightened by their moral and biblical insights, which
are here quoted at some length. Their efforts were curtailed, their
activities placed under surveillance, and their public speeches and sermons
censored. But the Hugenot tradition of resistance against oppression gave
them strength, and they successfully mobilized at least a portion of the
church against opportunism and expediency. Their traditional links to
France made them particularly anxious to smuggle endangered refugees across
the Franco-Swiss border, in many cases successfully. Amongst those
involved in this work was the honorary Swiss citizen, the Dutchman Visser
‘t Hooft, then acting as general secretary of the World Council of Churches
(in process of formation)., whose resistance story was later told in his

In recent years, the Swiss record in the second world war has been heavily
criticized, and its reputation for peaceful neutrality challenged. So
Dentan’s tribute (recently translated into German under the title
Nachstehen oder Widerstehen, Zurich: Theologisches Verlag) is designed to
show that there were those who upheld the ideals of generosity and
integrity based on the Protestant tradition, i.e. the other and better

b) Allison Stark Draper, Pastor André Trocmé. Spiritual Leader of the
French village Le Chambon. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 2001.

The fame of the holiday resort village Le Cambon sur Lignon in the uplands
of southern France first came through an American professor, Philip Hallie,
in his book Lest innocent blood be shed, followed by Pierre Sauvage’s
inspiring film Weapons of the Spirit. They both narrated how this remote
community, peopled mainly by Hugenot Protestants, became a haven during the
second world war for some 5000 refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish,
seeking asylum from the threat of imprisonment or deportation at the hands
of the Nazis and their French collaborators.

Allison Draper has now summarized their findings in a concise effective
book designed for teenagers. It is one of a series of so-called “Holocaust
Biographies”, giving an introduction to some of the historical
personalities of sixty years ago. André Trocmé was the Protestant pastor
of this village who successfully mobilized his people to provide a whole
series of hiding places, mainly in remote farm houses in the countryside.
Trocmé had already discovered two features of this community distinguishing
them from others. First, the deeply entrenched memory of the persecution
suffered by the Hugenots over many centuries at the hands of the majority
Catholics made them identify with the victims of modern oppression.
Second, these Calvinists maintained a strong attachment to the Hebrew
Scriptures in their Old Testament, and hence regarded with high respect
God’s Chosen People, the Jews. Trocmé himself was a charismatic and
conscientious pacifist, whose hatred of violence, tyranny and militarism
led to his passionate and dedicated involvement, and brought him into the
clandestine resistance movement. The school he established for non-violent
peace studies became the centre for protecting the refugees. At the height
of the Nazi round-up of Jews in 1942, Trocmé and his congregation not only
provided safe houses for Jews and other anti-Nazi victims, but also
participated in underground efforts to smuggle them across the frontier to
Switzerland. These activities quickly led to confrontations with the French
authorities, but Trocmé was backed by the defiant spirit of his flock. In
1943 he and his two closest associates were arrested by the Vichy police
and held for a month in a concentration camp. Later he was forced to take
refuge himself and survived in hiding until the end of the war. Later on,
he was frequently asked why this community had behaved so nobly in such a
unique conspiracy of goodness. But for all in Le Chambon, this was the
normal thing to do, a fulfillment of their Christian obligation towards
their neighbours.

After 1945 Trocmé dedicated his services to the cause of peace through the
Fellowship of Reconciliation, and later became a pastor in Geneva until his
death in 1971. Allison Draper’s short and sympathetic description of his
career includes some well-chosen photographs and can be commended – not
only to beginning students – to accompany showings of Sauvage’s splendid film.

5) Book review Symposium
The Spring 2002 issue of the U.S.Catholic Historian, Vol. 20, no.2,
contains a lengthy book review section, examining J.G.Lawler’s recent book,
Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment and the Holocaust (reviewed here in
the May 2002 issue). This work is itself largely a review of a number of
recent books, particularly those dealing with Pius XII and developments
within the Roman Catholic Church. So it was the idea of this journal’s
editor to invite four of those authors criticized by Lawler to respond at
some length to his views. This they do with vigour (p.62-88). Lawler then
gives his own response to their challenges (p.89 – 117), which again takes
up the cudgels to point out the egregious blunders, flaws and errors of
these commentators. Not much of historical value emerges from this
battle, but it affords a good overview of the present state of the debate
for those who have not struggled through the material recently. In fact at
least 15 books dealing with Pius XII have appeared in the last while, so
this kind of argumentative and critical summary may well be of help.
With very best wishes to you all. I hope to be in touch with you again in 2003
John S.Conway