January 2005 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


Newsletter — January 2005— Vol. XI, no. 1

Dear Friends,

Today I am celebrating my 75th birthday, and the beginning of Volume XI of this Newsletter. Both events astonish me, and no doubt you too! But having survived so far, I can only pray to be given strength to go on for a while yet. Certainly, I am equally astonished and delighted by the number, range and quality of books on contemporary church history which continue to appear – and hence require notice. This revival of interest in church history in general, and our period in particular, is of course to be greeted with pleasure by all who believe that the Christian faith and its history can and must be presented to the world as the on-going process of God’s good providence. I can only hope that my small efforts to this end have met with your approval, as is indicated by the fact that our mailing list continues to grow! Your support over the years has been an enormous encouragement to me. So the New Year affords an opportunity to send you all my very warm thanks in gratitude for your support, and also to send greetings and best wishes for your respective endeavours in the coming months. I am always glad to hear from you with your comments, so long as you send them to me at the address below.
John S.Conway

1) Book reviews:

a) Katharina Staritz: Dokumentation Vol. 1

b) D.Palm, Evangelische Kirchentage.

2) Book chapter: H.Lehmann, Religious Socialism, Peace and Pacifism.

3) The situation in the Ukraine, December 2004.

List of books reviewed in 2004
1a) Katherina Staritz 1903-1953, mit einem Exkurs Elisabeth Schmitz Dokumentation Band 1: 1903-1942, eds. Hannelore Erhart, Ilse Meseberg-Haubold, Dietgard Meyer. Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlagshaus. 2nd edition 2002. ISBN 3-7887-1682-7

Katherina Staritz was one of the first women to become an ordained minister of the German Evangelical Church. In this role she was to become one of the few heroines of this church during the Holocaust. But she has largely been forgotten, even by those who followed in her pioneering footsteps. It is safe to say that abroad she is completely unknown. So it is particularly welcome that three of her friends – perhaps disciples – have undertaken this excellent and careful documentary compilation of her letters and papers, along with an illuminating introduction to her career. The difficulties she faced in pursuing her goal to become a theologian, her courageous engagement on behalf of the victims of Nazi persecution, and her sufferings at the hands of the Gestapo, are the main themes of this preliminary first volume, which takes her story up to the time of her imprisonment in Ravensbrück, the notorious concentration camp for women. This documentary collection provides a fascinating view of the Church Struggle and its consequences as seen through the eyes of this sensitive and dedicated woman.

Katherina Staritz lived most of her life in Breslau in Silesia, and began her studies after the end of the first world war. It was a time of great confusion and intellectual turmoil, with so many of the pre-war certainties overthrown and discredited. Her desire was to seek for answers in the study of theology, but her father saw no career prospects for a woman in that field, so encouraged her to study Arts with a view to teaching. But she persevered and eventually switched faculties and obtained her theological degree.

She was encouraged in this course by a family friend, Professor Hans von Soden, who later became Dean of the Theological Faculty at Marburg. Katherina’s correspondence with him over the span of twenty years is, in fact, the main source used in this book. He saved her letters, and after his death in 1945, they were all returned to her. Unfortunately his letters to her seem to have been lost when she was forced to flee Breslau on the approach of the Red Army in 1945. But her attractive openness in discussing with her mentor in respectful tones the theological issues in which she was involved give an illuminating picture of some of the main currents of debate within the Protestant churches of the time.
Hans von Soden was a systematic theologian with a liberal slant. But both politically and in church politics he was conservative. Hence he early on attacked the Nazi Party for its radicalism and saw to it that Marburg was not infiltrated by pro-Nazi theologians of the “German Christian” sort. In fact, with the help of Rudolf Bultmann, Marburg became one of the fortresses of the Confessing Church, and Katherina Staritz one of the loyal following of this school.

In the early 1930s, her letters to von Soden tell of her struggles to gain recognition of her gifts and training. To be sure, since 1927, the Evangelical Church had issued regulations for the employment of theologically qualified women, but only in subordinate positions. They did not enjoy the right to be fully ordained, were subject to the supervision of a male pastor, and most shocking of all, were obliged to abandon their careers upon marriage. (To be fair, this same highly discriminatory regulation was applied to women teachers in British universities until the 1950s!) The best these women could expect was the title of “Vikarin”, clearly to distinguish them from “Herr Pastor”.

As a result, Katherina was employed in Breslau, on a city-wide basis, to minister mainly to women and children, to preach only occasionally, and not to celebrate the sacraments. Her success was such that in 1938 she was rewarded with “tenure”, though still at lower rates of pay than her male counterparts.

Largely because she was assigned to what were considered fringe tasks, she became involved with ministering to the Protestants of Jewish origin, whose plight in the late 1930s became of increasing concern to the Confessing Church. The Confessing Church had all along refused to accept the Nazis’ blanket condemnation of all Jews, whether converted or not. Instead, they recognized that baptism brought any converts into the Christian fold, and therefore they must be unequivocally supported. The November 1938 pogrom, commonly known as the Crystal Night onslaught, was thus a major challenge, and created a dangerous rift in Protestant ranks. Thanks to the initiative of Pastor Heinrich Grüber in Berlin, Katherina Staritz was put in charge of the Breslau branch of his “Büro”, established to assist such victims. Their main effort before 1939 was to advise those seeking to emigrate, but also to deal with the traumatic situations of those with no prospect of leaving the country.

For those who, like Katherina, sought to help, as her letters make clear, the frustration and sense of powerlessness resulting from the Gestapo’s increasingly repressive measures, imposed an ever-growing psychological strain. Moreover it became more and more obvious that helping the Nazis’ Jewish victims was personally dangerous. In December 1940 Pastor Grüber was arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. With emigration banned from the summer of 1941, and with no public means of rallying support, the aid workers were silenced, dispirited, and distraught.
The crisis for Katherina Staritz came in September 1941 when the Gestapo announced its nation-wide decree that all Jews must wear a visible yellow star on their clothing. This was intended to bring about the further isolation and separation of persons of Jewish origin from the rest of the population, and indeed achieved this end. But, for those Christian Jews who were already in a threatened minority situation, this edict meant the probable loss of one of the few sources of comfort and consolation they still had. Many expressed fears of the physical dangers they now would be subject to if they appeared at the church services they had frequented, often for years.

Katherina Staritz was well aware of this predicament and resolved to take action. She therefore, with the backing of her immediate superior, but without consulting any higher ecclesiastical authority, sent round a circular to all the clergy of Breslau city, which stated:

“It is the Christian duty of the parishes not to exclude anyone wearing the Jewish star from their worship services. These persons have the same right to be at home in the church as any other parishioner and are in special need of the comfort of God’s word. The danger exists that some not truly Christian elements may be led astray, so that the Christian honour of the church might be sullied by un-Christian behaviour, Instead parishioners should be reminded to behave pastorally, see Luke 10: 25-37, Matthew 25:40, and Zechariah 7:9-10. Practically, I ask you to consider whether or not, church officials, vergers, sidesmen etc, could be instructed to act in an especially pastoral manner to these members of the parish, now so singled out, and when necessary to provide special seats for them. Perhaps some reserved seats could be set aside, but not as a form of bench for the poor only, but rather to prevent them from being rejected or expelled by any un-Christian elements. In order to ensure that no unevangelical discrimination creeps in, it would be desirable for true and loyal parishioners, who know what the church really stands for, or hold official positions, to also sit next to those who are obliged to wear the Jewish star. Perhaps also such persons could be escorted to church services, since several have told me that they are not sure if they dare to come to church”.

Within a few days, this text had fallen into the hands of the Gestapo – probably leaked by one of the pro-Nazi pastors, and the skies fell in on the unfortunate Vikarin. Her office was raided by the Gestapo and all remaining copies of her circular were confiscated. She was then summoned to meet the Church President = Bishop, and told that she was immediately suspended from duty. When she protested that she was only carrying out her pastoral responsibilities, for which she had been ordained, she was publicly rebuked and let fall by her ecclesiastical superiors up to the national level.
Even in her own parish church, the church committee led by some laymen passed a resolution demanding that no one wearing the Jewish star should be allowed on the premises, thus making impossible the counseling services she had provided. When the four pastors united to protest, they were overruled. And the highest church authority announced that from henceforth “baptised ‘non-aryans’ had to remain away from the church life of German parishes, and would have to make their own arrangements for separate worship and pastoral services”. This betrayal of the Christian cause marks the nadir of the church’s capitulation to Nazi pressures in Silesia.

Worse was to follow The Gestapo passed this circular on to the Reich Propaganda Ministry, under Goebbels, where it was seen as a most useful piece of evidence for proving the churches’ perfidious undermining of the National Socialist ideology. Consequently a virulent attack was launched in the Nazi media on Katherina Staritz as a prize example of the national treachery to be expected from such church members. She was denounced for her sabotage of the war effort at the very moment when Germany’s destiny was being decided. As a result, in March 1942, she was arrested and taken off to Ravensbrück.

Her subsequent fate will be described in Volume 2, due out later this year. JSC

1b) Dirk Palm. “Wir Sind doch Brueder”: Der Evangelische Kirchentag und die Deutsche Frage, 1949-1961. Arbeiten zur Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2002. 360 pp. Table, notes, bibliography, index. Euro 49.00 (cloth), ISBN 3-525-55736-1.
(This review appeared first on H-German on November 7th 2004)

Anyone who has experienced a German Kirchentag (church gathering) is aware that there is really no analogy in religiously-heterogeneous American society; even an English translation of the term is difficult. At the Dresden Kirchentag held under the big-tent theme of “Dare to Trust” in July 1983, this reviewer witnessed how East German Protestant laity posed explosive political issues such as peace and militarization, ecology and human rights, pressing church leaders and the SED regime to respond even as both church and state preferred to shield the Luther-year celebration from the rising tide of social dissent. Until the candlelight marches in the final days of the GDR, such massive gatherings of several hundred thousand people were impossible in any other context than a Kirchentag closing service. This carnival of Kirchentag–Bible studies and political discussion, grassroots organizing and event management, high level negotiations between church and state juxtaposed with spontaneous demonstrations and surveillance by the Stasi–is the object of Dirk Palm’s in-depth and well-researched study. Even though Palm focuses on the early postwar years, the mix of motives among leaders and laity, the partisan interest and politicization by the media, the changing international context characterized the institution Kirchentag in its formative years as well.

Palm’s main goal is to describe and interpret the founding of the Kirchentag in its heyday as an all-German movement after World War II. His chronology ends in 1961, when the Berlin Wall and GDR policy precluded the possibility of such mass meetings. The author provides rich biographical description of the individuals who were instrumental in this movement, in particular Reinold Thadden-Trieglaff, long-time chair of the German Evangelical Kirchentag organization. In the process, the author develops a three-fold typology of conceptions which informed the motives of the various actors and provide the basis for the political tension and compromises which proved necessary to mount such large public events in the context of the widening division of Germany. Thadden-Trieglaff’s vision of “popular mission” and rechristianization after the Nazi era clashed with that of those, such as the founder of the Evangelical Academy, Eberhard Mueller, and Bishop Hans Lilje of Hannover, who conceived of its function in terms of an “academic-problem oriented conception,” a forum for dialogue among elites (p. 304). Still others, such as Berlin Bishop Otto Dibelius and Hessen-Nassau Church President Martin Niemoeller, emphasized a “political-symbolic function” in their conception of the Kirchentag.

The study reflects extensive use of archival sources, including not only GDR sources (SED, state, and CDU-East), but also church archives of the EKD/Kirchentag and important regional churches and official West German sources found in the Federal Archives in Koblenz. Palm augments this with extensive analysis of media coverage of the Kirchentage in order to determine their public resonance. Finally, he uses personal papers and interviews on a limited basis. Palm is thereby able to develop greater insight into the motives and interactions of the multiplicity of actors involved.
Palm investigates the process whereby the fundamentally religious goal of the Kirchentag was altered as a result of the founders’ efforts to institutionalize this new organization, requiring political, logistical and financial support from a host of actors which were largely pursuing their own non-religious interests. For example, to mount all-German Kirchentage the leaders had to navigate the shifting sands of the two German states which were seeking to use the Kirchentag to delay FRG rearmament and integration into the West (in the case of the GDR, CDU-East, and Niemoeller) and to delegitimize the GDR by giving vent to popular dissent (in the case of the FRG, CDU-West and Dibelius). By exploring the agenda and debate at the Kirchentage, Palm demonstrates the effect of the widening political division on the substance of the Kirchentage. Issues such as rearmament and educational discrimination in the East gave way to more focus on issues relevant to the respective part of Germany, such as Mitbestimmung in the West and political activity in the East. Palm demonstrates clearly how shifts in the general East-West climate directly affected the Kirchentage: holding them in Berlin and Leipzig in 1951 and 1954 represented GDR forebearance in the face of Soviet initiatives, whereas rejection of plans for Thuringia and Berlin in 1957 and 1961 reflected the new-found self-assurance of the GDR, in particular Ulbricht’s hard-line wing of the SED.
Other fronts that Palm explores and documents include that between the FRG government under Adenauer and the Kirchentag. Adenauer supported the Kirchentag as a means of developing greater support for the CDU among Protestants and of putting the GDR on the defensive. The Catholic competition with the Protestants also factored into the Kirchentag’s efforts. For its part, the Kirchentag leaders needed the financial support and participation of FRG leaders to make the institution viable as well as gain visibility in German society.
On the internal church side, this study reveals fault lines not obvious to the outsider, but crucial to an understanding of this institution. For example, the split between conservatives and leftists among Protestants manifested itself in the diplomacy involved in planning the Kirchentage and in the debates themselves. In scheduling speakers, Heinemann had to be balanced by Gerstenmaier, Niemoeller by Dibelius.In addition, Palm nicely plumbs the nuances of church support for the Kirchentag. On the one hand, it represented a means of outreach to laity and social relevance. On the other hand, it engendered suspicion in the institutional/clerical church, which often contended that it alone embodied ecclesiastical authority. The largely-successful efforts of the Kirchentag to gain financial support from the FRG and the United States, and from business sponsors provided greater autonomy from the institutional church, even at the expense of increased political dependence.

Ultimately, however, Palm’s purpose in exploring these internal factions is to explain how the Kirchentag sought to establish itself as an element of civil society in an increasingly asymmetrical East-West context. After its hopes to deter West German integration into the West were dashed, the GDR’s efforts to limit the church to the cultic sphere would necessarily target the all-German public forum, Kirchentag (pp. 254-255). Not surprisingly the proposals for parallel Kirchentage in East and West in the late 1950s presaged the split in the Kirchentage movement itself and foreshadowed the 1969 split in the EKD. Dresden 1983 showed that despite the rupture in all-German institutions, the element of civil society did not die out: the reopening of the German question in the 1980s would lend new “political-symbolic significance” to the Kirchentage in both East and West.
Robert F.Goeckel, State University of New York, Geneseo

2) Book chapter, H.Lehmann, “Religious Socialism, Peace and Pacifism” in eds. R.Chickering and Stig Foerster, The Shadows of Total War, Washington, D.C.: German Historical Institute, and Cambridge University Press, 2003 ISBN 0 521 81236 4

Hartmut Lehman’s short account of Paul Tillich’s spiritual and political pilgrimage is very welcome. Had he been an English clergyman, his theological development and subscription to radical left-wing politics, including pacifism, would not have been remarkable. But, in the German Evangelical Church, it was indeed notable, if only because so few others joined him in his search for Christian alternatives to war, nationalism and capitalism. Equally notable is the fact that, with the rise of Hitler and his expulsion from Germany, Tillich began to lose that sense of idealism and eventually, in trying to persuade his American audiences, argued that the responsible use of military power was necessary to regain and safeguard world peace. At the same time, he denounced the sacralization of the nation, which had been the downfall of so many German Protestants. He saw his mission to teach the German people that there were higher values than the nation.

Of course, the same course was followed by some others, notably Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Unfortunately Lehmann doesn’t go into the similarities of these two theologians’ pilgrimage, nor the reasons why other pacifists, especially Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze, possibly German Protestantism’s most notable pacifist in the 1920s, did not adopt the same path. But Lehmann correctly notes that Tillich’s resolute refusal to compromise with Nazi totalitarianism earned him a moral authority which resulted in his being received with honour in his native country in the 1950s. JSC

3. On December 6th (Feast of St Nicholas), the German Evangelical Church’s News Service carried the following item about relief efforts in the Ukraine:

“Kiew verwandelt sich in eine Festung” – Deutscher Auslandspfarrer schreibt aus der Ukraine.
Seine Kirche sei voll von erschoepften Menschen, erklaerte Pfarrer Peter Sachi Ende November am Telefon. Er hatte es eilig, wollte sich wieder um die Leute kuemmern. Sachi ist Pfarrer der Deutschen Evangelischen Gemeinde St. Katharina in Kiew. In den Unruhen nach den ukrainischen Praesidentschaftswahlen bemuehe sich die Kirchengemeinde Herberge und Schutzraum zu sein, so der Pfarrer in einem offenen Brief nach Deutschland. Der Kirchenvorstand, der Wachdienst, Gemeindeangehoerige und er als Seelsorger sorgten nach Kraeften dafuer, die taeglichen Gottesdienste und Veranstaltungen aufrecht zu erhalten. Die Unterstuetzung aus Deutschland, Briefe, Anrufe sei dabei sehr wichtig. “Denn wir haben auch Angst, wir sind muede, die Nerven sind duenner geworden.” Die Kirche sei eine “Herberge am Weg”. Hier koennten die Menschen durchatmen, ausruhen, Kerzen entzuenden und beten. Sachi berichtete von gegenseitigem “Hoeren und Verstehenlernen”.

I trust you all enjoyed a restful and pleasant Christmas, and take this opportunity to wish all the best for the New Year
John Conway

List of books reviewed in 2004:

Barrasch-Rubinstein,E Reading Hochuth’s The Deputy November Besier, G. ed, Zwischen nationaler Revolution und militarischer Aggression January Benz, W. Uberleben im Drittten Reich October Braaten C and Jensen R. Jews and Christians June Coady. M.F. biography of Fr Alfred Delp January Fennell, N. The Russians on Athos May Gilbert, M. The Righteous October Goodman, P. Hitler and the Vatican July/August Greschat, M. Evangelische Christenheit February Hein,M. Die saechsiche Landeskirche nach 1945 May Holtschneider, H. German Protestants and the Holocaust September Klempa, L. and Doran, R. Certain women amazed us March Kohlbrugge,H. Mein unberechenbares Leben November Krell,M. Intersecting pathways: Jewish and Christians theologians June
Krieg, R. Catholic Theologians in Nazi Germany December Linn, Ruth Escaping Auschwitz November Napolitano, M Il papa che salvo gli ebrei July/August Nehring, A. Orientalismus und Mission May Ostmeyer, I. Evangelische Kirche und Juden in der DDR September Roseman, M. The Past in Hiding April Schmidt, H. Hilde Schneider January Weitensteiner, H. Catholic parishes in Frankfurt October Williams,A. Holy Spy May Zasloff, T. A Rescuer’s Story (Vichy France) March Ziefle, H. One woman against the Reich September