June 2003 Newsletter
Association of Contemporary Church Historians
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)
John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia
John Conway is on holiday this month, so he has asked me
to take over this month’s Newsletter. I am very happy to do so, and
therefore take the opportunity to send you an essay on the significant topic of
Christian-Jewish relations as they developed in Germany in the immediate
postwar period. I should be glad to have any comments you may care to send
me to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please ensure that you do NOT press the Reply button to
Matthew Hockenos, Dept. of History, Skidmore College,
Saratoga Springs, New
The German Protestant Church and its Mission to the Jews after the
Matthew D. Hockenos
Since completing a book-length study on the German
Protestant churches from 1945 to 1950, I have turned my attention to the fate the
Protestant Church’s mission to the Jews (Judenmission) after the Holocaust.
How did the Holocaust and the founding of Israel three years after the end of
WWII affect the church’s long-held belief that it was the duty of Protestant
pastors and church leaders to preach the word of Jesus Christ to Jews
with the intention of converting them to Christianity? What was the nature of
the discussions and debates over the church’s theory of supersessionism?
Did Protestant pastors and laypersons, who staffed the mission offices in
German cities, change their procedures for interacting with Jews who
remained in Germany after the war?
A number of reputable scholars including Paul Aring,
Micha Brumlik, Paul van Buren, John Conway, Eva Fleischner, Wolfgang Gerlach,
Richard Gutteridge, Charlotte Klein, Heinz Kremers, Christoph M. Raisig, Rolf
Rendtorff, and Martin Stöhr have addressed one or more of these
questions in their books and articles. But my aim is to explore Protestant-Jewish
relations after the war in a wider context. On the one hand I examine the
scholarly debates within the Protestant Church and between Protestant theologians
and Jewish scholars over the missions. On the other hand, I investigate the
activities of local missionaries in German cities who sought to convert Jews
to Christianity in the postwar years. And I also seek to include some
assessment, however limited, of these endeavors from the Jewish side. My
working thesis is that although the majority of Protestant church leaders and
theologians gradually came to the conclusion that Jews did not need Jesus Christ
since God’s covenant with the Jews remained in force, there remained
and still remains a minority of church leaders and local pastors who refuse to
denounce unequivocally the practice of missionizing Jews in
Germany and continue to seek the conversion of Jews by subtler means. Although
this latter group is a minority, they are not without influence.
Below is a revised and abridged version of a paper I
presented at the German Studies Association’s San Diego meeting in October 2002.
I welcome comments and criticisms. Since this is a work-in-progress, which I
intend to expand into an article or an even longer study, I ask that you do not
quote or reproduce any portion of the text without my permission.
In April 1950, when representatives of therecently-reconstituted Evangelical
(Protestant) Church in Germany assembled from all parts
of the country in their legislative body or Synod in the Berlin suburb of
Weissensee, they officially issued what was to be a highly significant and
challenging statement on the controversial issue of the “Jewish
question.” It read as follows:
For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all (Rom. 11:32).
We believe in the Lord and Savior, who as a person came from the people of Israel.
We Confess the Church which is joined together in one body of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians and whose peace is Jesus
We believe God’s promise to be valid for his Chosen People even after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
We state that by omission and silence we became
implicated before the God of mercy in the outrage which has been perpetrated against
the Jews by people of our nation. We caution all Christians not to balance what has come
upon us as God’s judgment against what we have done to the Jews; for in
judgment God’s mercy searches the repentant.
We ask all Christians to dissociate themselves from all
antisemitism and earnestly to resist it, whenever it stirs again, and to
encounter Jews and Jewish Christians in a brotherly spirit.
We ask the Christian congregations to protect Jewish
graveyards within their areas if they are unprotected.
We pray to the Lord of mercy that he may bring about the
Day of Fulfillment when we will be praising the triumph of Jesus Christ
together with the saved Israel.(1)
The primary purpose of the eight-sentence statement was to
put the church on record as opposing antisemitism in postwar Germany and
to acknowledge the church’s silence during the Third Reich. But the statement
also briefly addressed the church’s theological anti-Judaism. By
declaring in the third sentence that God’s promise to the Jews remained in force
even after the crucifixion of Christ, the Berlin-Weissensee statement
rejected the centuries-old theory of supersessionism whereby the church
superseded the Jews as God’s chosen people. The notion that God had rejected
the Jewish people in favor of the church was fundamental to the philosophy
undergirding the missionary enterprise. Consequently the repudiation of
supersessionism undermined the theological foundation of the Protestant
mission to the Jews.
However, the Berlin-Weissensee statement did not
explicitly reject missionizing Jews. In fact, it concluded in traditional
Christian triumphalist language: “We pray to the Lord of mercy that
he may bring about the Day of Fulfillment (Tag der Vollendung) when we will
be praising the triumph of Jesus Christ together with the saved Israel.”
The Berlin-Weissensee statement reflects the confusion in the
church over its mission to Israel in postwar Germany. The message of the
synod was ambiguous. If the Jews were still God’s chosen people then why did
the church need to pray that Jews would recognize Jesus as the Messiah?
Missionaries in general did not read the statement as a call for them to stop their
work among Jews. In addition to the ambiguity of the statement itself, the
autonomy enjoyed by the regional churches in Germany meant that in some
churches, such as the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria, clergymen
continued to actively seek to convert Jews while other churches transformed their
missions into organizations that sought a dialogue between church and
As an example of those still actively seeking converts, can
be cited the Bavarian Lutheran Pastor Wilhelm Grillenberger, who in
the spring of 1951 reported on his activities over the preceding six months as
director of the Evangelical-Lutheran Mission to the Jews in Munich.(2)
His work from November 1950 to May 1951 fell into two categories: New Testament
instruction with Jews in preparation for their conversion to Protestantism and
outreach to potential Jewish converts. Grillenberger elaborated on five Jews he was instructing in
the basic tenets of Lutheranism. He spent one night a week with
55-year-old Eduard M., a survivor of Theresienstadt concentration camp, discussing
Martin Luther’s Small Catechism and preparing Eduard M. and his wife to
convert to Protestantism. He met twice a week with Judka S., a Jew
from Lodz, Poland, who had been in the Feldafing DP camp twenty miles
southwest of Munich. According to Grillenberger, the 45-year-old Judka S. was a
widower, alone in the world, suffered from stomachaches, was mistrustful of
everyone, especially other Jews from the camp, and was hoping to emigrate
soon. Judka S. had received six months of instruction in Luther’s Small
Catechism but Grillenberger believed he needed to strengthen his faith
before being baptized. Another student, 23-year-old Erich S., was the
son of a Protestant mother and Jewish father, who was now dead. “The
lessons with him are a joy,” Grillenberger reported, “because he has not received much
in the way of lessons in Judaism.” Grillenberger believed Erich S. would
need the rest of the year to study and learn about Christianity before he was
ready to convert. Another man receiving instruction was a 30-year-old
Polish Jew. Even though he intended to emigrate in four weeks, Grillenberger
lamented that he could not participate more regularly in Catechism lessons
because his job as a chauffeur for the American Joint Distribution Committee
did not allow him enough free time. Finally, Grillenberger reported that a
51-year-old half-Jew (sic) named Paul B. had registered to be baptized and
intended to live at the Jewish mission in Munich for a month to prepare for the
baptism. Paul B., Grillenberger noted, hoped to become a Lutheran pastor.
In the area of missionary outreach, Grillenberger visited
Jewish homes in the Munich area. “The discussions are open, friendly, and lead
in many cases to wonderful results,” he reported. He praised the work of the
laymen and women connected to the mission office in Munich, who also made
house visits and distributed the New Testament among Jews in the nearby
DP camps.(3) Every Thursday afternoon in the mission station Grillenberger
held a Bible study for Jews who had converted and those who were interested in
converting. He also preached “mission sermons” once or twice a month in
Lutheran churches.(4) He was particularly grateful to pastor Heinz David Leuner, a
Jew from Breslau who converted to Protestantism in 1935 and fled to Britain, for
lecturing and preaching twice in Munich during the past six months.
And finally he reported that he regularly visited the synagogue in Munich where he
made new contacts.
Grillenberger’s report was typical of missionaries who
were engaged in the everyday work of proselytizing in the late 1940s and 1950s.
The Bavarian Jewish Mission was a branch of the
Evangelical-Lutheran Central Federation for the Mission to Israel
(Evangelische-lutherische Zentralverein fuer Mission unter Israel), which was reconstituted in
October 1945 by Karl Heinrich Rengstorf (1903-92), a professor of theology in
Muenster and director of the Institutum Judaicum, originally founded by Franz
Delitzsch (1813-90), the father of the mission to Israel in Germany.(5)
Rengstorf acknowledged in 1945 that in consideration of all that had happened to Jews
during the last twelve years that it would be inappropriate to begin
immediately with traditional missionary work, defined as actively seeking out
Jews with the intent to convince them to convert to Protestantism.(6)
Instead Rengstorf recommended that the Central Federation concentrate on
studying the present situation of Jews and baptized Jews in Germany and
combating negative stereotypes of Jews. Rengstorf did not renounce the
church’s obligation to preach the gospel to Jews, he simply wanted to curtail the
conversion efforts for the time being.
Although the local branches of the Central Federation also
declared their intention to study the history of Jews and Judaism and to
combat antisemitism, the large influx of eastern European Jews into Germany in
1946 and 1947 brought about a return of traditional missionary efforts.
Many of the Jews arriving in Germany from Eastern Europe in 1945 and 1946
were fleeing Poland where pogroms and other antisemitic activities had resulted
in the deaths of hundreds of Jews.(7) Polish Jews and other Jewish
refugees housed in DP camps had no intention of remaining in Germany for an extended
period of time. Ironically, occupied Germany from 1945 to 1952
functioned as a sanctuary for Jews while they waited for the opportunity to emigrate to
Palestine/Israel, the United States, Australia, and elsewhere.
The DP camps and the temporary quarters for Jews in cities
such as Munich provided missionaries with concentrated groups of Jews
whose own faith had been weakened or challenged by their experiences over the
past twelve years. Although many Protestant pastors considered the influx of
tens of thousands of east European Jews into Germany highly regrettable, if not
objectionable, missionaries saw both an opportunity and an obligation. At
a meeting of pastors and missionaries in Nuremberg in 1946 Pastor
Wilhelm Friedrich Hopf (1910-82) described the flood of Polish Ostjuden into
Bavaria as an “inducement to steer our congregations toward a Christian
and missionary outlook on the Jewish question.”(8) According to Hopf it
was both an opportunity for the church to prove that it was not
antisemitic and an obligation to preach the good news to all men.
For missionaries the solution to the “Jewish question” or
“Jewish problem” was conversion. Although missionaries seeking to convert Jews
insist they are not antisemitic, their ultimate goal as the theologian Eva
Fleischner argues, “. . . is baptism and entrance into the Church, with the
consequent disappearance of the Jew as Jew.”(9) Whereas the Nazis had tried to
solve the Jewish question by deporting and killing Jews, postwar
missionaries sought to solve it by persuading Jews to join the Christian Church and
assimilate. Since the Nazis had closed down the missions in the late 1930s and
early 1940s maintaining that Jews as a race corroded German society,
the missionaries presented the postwar reconstitution of the missions as a
sign of the Lutheran churches‚ opposition to antisemitism and their love for the
Jews. There was no better way, missionaries contended, for the church to
express its aversion to the racial hatred of the Nazis and the continuation of
antisemitism in postwar Germany than to open their arms to Jews,
especially the demoralized and uprooted Ostjuden, by preaching the gospel to them. If
anyone needed to hear the good news that Christ had suffered and died to
take away the sins of the world, it was Jews. Not to preach to the Jews would be
antisemitic because it would indicate a racial bias against them.
Most parishioners, pastors, and church leaders accepted in
theory the philosophy underpinning the mission to the Jews in the
immediate postwar years. In reality, however, practical support was lacking.
Many devoted missionaries complained that prejudice toward Jews by
church leaders and congregations resulted in a lack of support for the missions.
For example, Pastor Theo Burgstahler (1896-1965), a missionary in Ulm
where over 10,000 Jews were housed in various camps in 1947, complained
that, “Missionaries by the thousands carry the gospel to the pagan world,” but
“Israel [i.e., the Jews in Germany] remains until today the stepchild of the
mission.”(10) According to a report submitted by pastor Hopf of the
Nuremberg mission, Bavaria was an exception. He and his colleague Martin
Wittenberg maintained that the work of the Bavarian Mission to Israel was strongly
supported by the rest of the Bavarian pastorate as well as leaders of the
Bavarian Lutheran Church. Evidence of this support was the substantial
financial contributions the Bavarian Mission received in the fall of 1946 from over
200 parsonages in response to Hopf and Wittenberg’s appeal for
contributions.(11) Perhaps the fact that tens of thousands of Jews had recently streamed
into Bavaria convinced many pastors that a “Jewish problem” still
existed and that the mission was the way to resolve it.
Hopf’s enthusiastic and optimistic assessment in his
official report notwithstanding, in private correspondence he also
frequently complained about the lack of support from church leaders.(12) Although the
official discrimination against Jews came to an end with Hitler’s
defeat, the ingrained prejudices against Jews did not disappear overnight. The
distorted image of the Jew as a black-marketeer living extravagantly on care
packets from wealthy Jews abroad while everyday German Gentiles barely
survived in bombed-out basements did not bring a flood of support for the missions.
The vast majority of Jewish refugees in Germany wanted to emigrate
and most Germans were happy to see them go. It was only the missionaries
who hoped to offer Jews a permanent home in the Evangelical Church in Germany.
These missionaries believed that they had a deeper
obligation to preach the gospel to Jews than to pagans. Even the pastors and
theologians who believed that both the continued existence of Jews in Europe after
the Holocaust and the founding of the state of Israel in May 1948 were signs
of the Jews‚ chosen status maintained that until Jews recognized Jesus as the
Messiah they had not fulfilled their purpose as God’s chosen people. In April
1948 in Darmstadt, the council of brethren, which consisted of churchmen
from the former Confessing Church who wanted to reform the postwar
church, had declared that “God remains true to Israel and does not abandon it,
despite its disloyalty, despite its rejection of Christ. . . . At the same time,
however, the Church is waiting for the erring children of Israel to resume the
place reserved for them by God.”(13) This type of thinking, I believe, was
more representative of the Protestant Church than the rejection of
supersessionism in the Berlin-Weissensee statement two years later.
The Darmstadt statement of 1948 and the Berlin-Weissensee statement of 1950
are often juxtaposed by theologians and historians
(including myself) for the purpose of underscoring the differences between the two.
Typically, scholars argue that the Berlin-Weissensee statement marks a major
advance over the Darmstadt statement because it rejects supersessionism
whereas the Darmstadt statement affirms it. But, in fact, the two statements have
an important underlying theme in common: they express the hope that
Jews will join the church and thereby fulfill their God-given mission. To be
sure, the Berlin-Weissensee statement is subtler and less smug: “We
pray to the Lord of mercy that he may bring about the Day of Fulfillment when
we will be praising the triumph of Jesus Christ together with the saved Israel.”
Whereas, the Darmstadt statement implores Protestant churches and
pastors to “Tell them [the Jews] that the promises of the Old Testament are
fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” As Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, the director of the
Evangelical-Lutheran Federation for the Mission to Israel, explained, the sorrow
the church felt for the Jews “springs from the knowledge that the Jews as
such, although chosen by God, have not yet come to the goal which was
appointed with their election . . . .”(14) In short, the rejection of
supersessionism alone did not mean the end of the missionary movement. Even if
directors of the missions complained that they did not receive the practical
and financial support they wanted, there is plenty of evidence before and
after Berlin-Weissensee that missions to the Jews were widely
accepted as necessary and theologically valid.
What was the Jewish response to Protestant missionaries in
the immediate postwar years? This is more difficult to determine;
although Grillenberger mentions 5 Jews who expressed interest in converting, I
have uncovered only the opinions of prominent Jews. One critic, Rabbi Steven
S. Schwarzschild (1924-89) who served as rabbi in Berlin from 1948 to 1950,
asked rhetorically in the Berlin Jewish periodical “The Way” (Der Weg),
whether Christians in Germany were in the moral position to proselytize
considering the recent “bloodbath” that took place in Christian Central
Europe.(15) He noted that since the end of the war a number of Protestant and
Catholic organizations with innocuous names had been established in Germany
professing to promote friendly relations with Jews and a deeper understanding of
Schwarzschild acknowledged that much could be done to
improve relations between Jews and Germans, and that genuine efforts in this
direction should be applauded. But some of these organizations he charged hid
their true intensions, i.e., to persuade Jews to convert. He found this
particularly reprehensible when these groups focused their attention on
Jews in the DP camps, Jews whose lives had been turned upside down by
over a decade of persecution. He singled out the Protestant periodical
“Judaica” and the Catholic periodical “Freiburger Rundbrief” as typical
examples of publications engaged in missionary activities under the guise of fighting
antisemitism and encouraging a dialogue between Christians and Jews.(16)
Since most German and Polish rabbis had either been
murdered by the Nazis or fled abroad, the dialogue sought by Protestant clergymen,
Schwarzschild contended, was not a dialogue between equal partners. The
Jews approached by Christians after the war were more often than not
uneducated war refugees who were intellectually unprepared to defend themselves
against the aggressive arguments of Christian pastors and theologians. Even the
Christian organizations that explicitly repudiated missionary work
and genuinely sought a dialogue with Jews, Schwarzschild accused of engaging
in a monologue ö if only because Jewish theologians were in such short supply
Schwarzschild concluded that the first stage in the process
of reconciliation was not to aggressively promote a close friendship after
years of animosity. First a period of time needed to lapse during which Jews
and Christians lived next to each other in a peaceful and respectful manner.
Wounds needed to heal before friendship and dialogue were possible.
Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956), one of two rabbis from
more than two-dozen to survive internment in Thieresenstadt
concentration/extermination camp, was subtler in his critique of the Protestant missions to the
Jews.(18) Baeck, along with Professors Martin Buber and Hans-Joachim
Schoeps, were identified by Schwarzschild as prominent German Jews who worked
with some of the Christian organizations that Schwarzschild criticized.
After his release from Thieresenstadt Baeck emigrated to England in 1945 and
returned to Germany for the first time in October 1948. During this visit he
participated in the first conference on Christian-Jewish relations organized by
the Evangelical-Lutheran Committee for Service to Israel,
whose director was Rengstorf. Baeck delivered a lecture entitled, “Judaism on
Old and New Paths,” which two years later was published in “Judaica,” a
periodical edited by Pastor Robert Brunner of the Basel mission to Israel.
Baeck argued that true Christians must recognize their Jewish roots and
contended that the Protestant Church during the Nazi era was a glaring
example of what happens when Christians forget this. He reproached Christians who
took the Holocaust as a sign of God’s rejection and damnation of the Jewish
people. In a 1954 article that appeared in a collection of essays by leading
European Christians in missionary organizations and friendship societies, Baeck
criticized the church’s tendency to approach Jews from a position of
superiority. He saw nothing inappropriate with the missionary task per se. In
fact, he argued that if Christians were indifferent it would signify “some
inner weakness and indolence or even a self-centeredness contradictory to the
religious way.”(19)But what he did not like was when the church depicted the
Jewish people as the rejected people and condescendingly offered to save
them from damnation by inviting them into the church. “There could be no greater
barrier to mutual understanding, or to even honest and heartfelt discussion,”
Baeck believed, then failing to acknowledge that the Old Testament and
Judaism did not need the New Testament or the church to complete it.
The German-Jewish scholar Hans Joachim-Schoeps
(1909-80), who spent the Second World War in Sweden and lost his parents in Nazi death
camps, returned to Germany in 1946 and took a position in the theology
department at the University of Erlangen in Bavaria. Since his own research
in the 1930s and later focused on Christian-Jewish relations, Schoeps was a
formidable Jewish voice in the postwar Christian-Jewish dialogue. Schoeps
expressed the hope that Jews and Christians would recognize the validity of
God’s revelation at both Sinai and Golgotha in his 1948 essay, “Possibilities
and Limits to Jewish-Christian Understanding.”(20) Significantly,
however, he insisted that Jews could not be expected to recognize God’s covenant
with the church as valid for themselves. “Every Jew today, as in the past,
must reject Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. . . . We are, however, prepared to
recognize that, in some way which we do not understand, a Messianic
significance for non-Jewish mankind is attached to the figure of this man [Jesus of
Nazareth]. . . . In thus recognizing that the revelation of the church of Jesus
Christ has its sphere of validity, from which only Israel is excepted by
virtue of its direct election by the Father, I do not believe that I offend against
the Jewish tradition.”(21) In no way, Schoeps argued, did recognizing
the importance of Jesus for Christians challenge Judaism. Judaism he
insisted was not in need of completion or fulfillment.
Although he left it to Christian theologians to decide
whether or not Christians should be instructed to recognize the validity of
the covenant God made with the Jewish people, he made his own opinion
quite clear. He acknowledged that for Christians to accept the continued
validity of God’s election of Israel would require not only the abandonment
of central beliefs of the church but also its missionary enterprise. But
historical accuracy demanded, Schoeps argued, a rejection of these views.
“For the church to revise this judgment [that the Jews have been rejected by
God], which would imply abandonment by the church of its mission among the
Jews, seems more than justified by historical experience.” By “historical
experience” Schoeps meant the continued existence of the Jews despite the many
attempts to destroy them.”We must express the hope that, just as today we are
prepared to acknowledge the witness of the Church to be true, as the truth that has
been granted exclusively to the Church, so the Church may also
acknowledge our awareness of God and his covenant with us as true, as the truth which has
been granted exclusively to us . . . .”(22) In an age when fewer and
fewer Europeans, Jews and gentiles, were actively engaged in professing their
faith, Schoeps called for a mutual acknowledgement of each other’s truth.
Certainly there were Christian theologians in
Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, including Helmut Gollwitzer, Guenther Harder, and
Heinrich Vogel, who whole heartedly agreed with Schwarzschild, Baeck, and
Schoeps‚ critiques of the church’s mission to the Jews, supersessionism, and
Christian triumphalism.(23) In fact, debate raged in the church in the
1960s and 1970s over whether the church’s mission to the Jews in all forms
should be unequivocally repudiated. An important moment was the
1961 Kirchentag. But it was not until 1980 that the regional Synod of the
Evangelical Church in the Rhineland explicitly repudiated the church’s mission to
Israel. Using language very similar to that used by Schoeps in 1948,
Eberhard Bethge, the principal author of the Rhineland Synod declaration, and
the representatives of the Rhineland regional church declared, “We believe
that in their respective calling Jews and Christians are witnesses of God
before the world and before each other. Therefore we are convinced that the
church may not express its witness towards the Jewish people as it does its
mission to the peoples of the world.” In the two decades since 1980 many
of the regional churches have published similar documents repudiating the
mission to Israel.
Significantly the Bavarian Lutheran Church issued a 4-page
position paper on “Christians and Jews” in 1998 that did not explicitly reject
missionizing Jews but did call for Bavarian Lutherans to “think through anew”
the church’s mission to the Jews.(24) The glaring absence of an explicit
rejection of the mandate to witness to Jews was only partially muted by the
Bavarian Lutheran Bishop Hermann von Loewenich’s announcement that he
personally opposes missionary efforts directed at Jews.(25) And in 2000 the
EKD revisited the 1950 Berlin-Weissensee statement in a document entitled,
“Christian and Jews: A Manifesto 50 Years after the Weissensee Declaration.”
Although EKD Synod failed to reject missionizing Jews altogether, it did urge
dialogue, respect, and “a brotherly and sisterly relationship between
Christians and Jews.”(26)
Why did it take four decades in some regional churches,
even longer in others, and is still a matter of debate among some church leaders,
for German Protestants to reject the church’s mission to the Jews?
First, it is relatively easy in retrospect to see how Christian
anti-Judaism played a role in fostering and legitimizing an antisemitic milieu that
made the Holocaust possible. But in Germany and elsewhere in Europe this
was not immediately apparent in the late 1940s and 1950s. An extended period
of intense reflection was necessary before recognizing Christian
teaching, especially Christian triumphalism, as a primary culprit. Second, the
theological foundation of anti-Judaism was so deeply rooted in the
church’s doctrine and traditions that a repudiation of this theology was no small
endeavor. It meant overturning some of the most basic tenets of
Protestant Christianity, and this revision naturally met with stiff resistance at first.
Third, the founding of Israel in May 1948 had less of an impact on the
church’s attitude toward Jews and Judaism than is often argued. Although
some Protestant theologians viewed the founding of the state of Israel as a
sign of the continued choseness of the Jewish people, others
recognized the secular nature of the state. In fact, those who did not attribute a
theological meaning to the founding of Israel argued convincingly that Jews living
in Germany were, in fact, easier to reach with the gospel than Jews in Israel,
where proselytizing was condemned. Fourth, Christian guilt over
the persecution of Jews during the Third Reich led some pastors to conclude
that the church must never abandon Jews again and viewed a repudiation of the
mission to Israel as a continuation of antisemitism and an abandonment of the
Jews. And finally, the temptation to missionize the large numbers of Jewish
refugees in the immediate postwar years and again in the 1990s with the
emigration of tens of thousands of Russian Jews to Germany proved too strong
for many Protestant pastors and church leaders to resist.
1: The following translation is from The Theology of the
Churches and the Jewish People: Statements by the World Council of
Churches ands its Member Churches, with commentary by Allan Brockway, Paul van
Buren, Rolf Rendtorff, and Simon Schoon (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1988),
2: Wilhelm Grillenberger, “Bericht über meine Taetigkeit
in der Münchener Judenmission vom November 1950 bis Mai 1951,” LKAN,
LKR XIV, 1608a.
3: As of 1952 there were approximately 12,000 Jews still
in DP camps in Germany. This was down from 182,000 in summer 1947.
The vast majority of Jewish DPs lived in the American zone, which included
4: Hans-Siegfried Huβ collected several mission
sermons, including a few by Grillenberger, in Redet mit Jerusalem freundlich:
Predigten (Neuendettelsau: Freimund-Verlag, 1951).
5: Rengstorf et ala to Oberkirchenrat Stuttgart, 24 Oct.1945, LKAS,
6: See Eva Fleichner, Judaism in German Christian Theology since 1945, ATLA Monograph Series, No. 8, (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975), 139 and Heinz Kremers, Judenmission heute? Von der Judenmission zur
bruederlichen Solidaritaet und zum oekumenischen Dialog (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1979), 10-11.
7: See Angelika Koenigseder and Juliane Wetzel, Waiting
for Hope: Jewish Displaced Persons in Post-World War II Germany,
translated from the German by John A. Broadwin (Evanston. IL: Northwestern University
Press, 1994), 43-53.
8: Hopf, “Niederschrift,” 23 Oct. 1946, LKAN, V. III/51,1.
9: Eva Fleischner, Judaism in German Christian Theology
since 1945, ATLA Monograph Series, No. 8, (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press,
10: Theo Burgstahler in Der Freund Israels 74: 6 (Dec.
11: Hopf, “Niederschrift,” LKAN, V. III/51, 1.
12: See Hopf’s correspondence with Rengstorf in LKAN,
V. III/51, 1.
13: An English translation of “Ein Wort zur Judenfrage” is
available in the World Council of Churches collection of statements, The
relationship of the Church to the Jewish People, (Geneva (1964), 48-52.
14: Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “The Jewish Problem and the
Church’s Understanding of its Mission,” in Goete Hedenquist, ed.,
The Church and the Jewish People (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1954), 30.
15: Born in Frankfurt, Schwarzschild moved with his
family in 1939 to New York City, where he attended high school. Later, he
enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. Ordained a rabbi at Hebrew Union
College in Cincinnati in 1948, he served as a rabbi in both parts of Berlin and in
East Germany from 1948-1950 and in Fargo, North Dakota, and in Lynn,
Massachusetts, from 1950-1964. The quote is from Steven S. Schwarzschild,
“Freundschaft oder Missionarbeit?” Der Weg 47 (25 Nov. 1949): 9.
16: In a response to Schwarzschild’s article editors of the
Freiburger Rundbrief denied that they had any missionary intentions.
See Freiburger Rundbrief (April 1950), 15-17.
17: Frank Stern discusses some of these organizations in
his article, “Wider Antisemitismus-für christlich-juedische Zusammenarbeit.
Aus der Entstehungszeit der Gesellschaften und des
Koordinierungsrats,” Menora: Jahrbuch fuer deutsch-juedische Geschichte 3 (1992):
18: Born in Lissa (now Leszno, Poland) on May 24, 1873,
Baeck studied at the Universities of Breslau and Berlin and at the Juedisch-
theologisches Seminar, Breslau and the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des
Judentums in Berlin, receiving his doctorate in 1895 and rabbinical ordination in
1897. He served as a rabbi in Oppeln, Duesseldorf, and Berlin, as a lecturer
at the Hochschule, and from 1933 to 1942 as president of the
Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden. Deported to Theresienstadt in 1943, he
emigrated to Great Britain in 1945, and became chairman of the World Union
for Progressive Judaism and first president of the Leo Baeck Institute. He
died in London on November 1, 1956. The other Rabbi to survive
Theresienstadt was Rabbi Neuhaus of Frankfurt.
19: Leo Baeck, “Some Questions to the Christian Church
from the Jewish Point of View,” in Goete Hedenquist, ed., The Church and the
Jewish People (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1954), 108.
20: Hans Joachim Schoeps, “Moeglichkeiten und Grenzen
Verstaendigung,” Unterwegs 3 (1948): 4-11.
21: Schoeps, “Moeglichkeiten,” 5-6.
22: Hans Joachim Schoeps, The Jewish-Christian
Argument: A History of Theologies in Conflict, trans. David Green (London: Faber
and Faber, 1963), 167.
23: One can easily trace a similar change in perspective
toward proselytizing by Catholics in Germany in the Catholic periodical
Freiburger Rundbrief edited by Gertrud Luckner and Karl Thieme.
24: The position paper was issued at the Bavarian
Church’s November 1998 Nuremberg Synod. See, “Freiburger Rundbrief,” 6, no. 3
(1999): 191-97. For an English translation see the “Jewish-Christian Relations”
25: Bishop Loewenich’s remarks are quoted in “Synode
aktuell” Evangelischer Presseverband fuer Bayern (24 November 1998).
26: See the “Jewish-Christian Relations” website for
English and German translations of this document.
Matthew D. Hockenosmhockeno@skidmore.edu