April 2006 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


April 2006— Vol. XII, no. 4


Dear Friends,

May I wish a blessed Easter to you all!

See what transformation! These hands so active and powerful
Now are tied, and alone and fainting, you see where your work ends,
Yet you are confident still, and gladly commit what is rightful
Into a stronger hand, and say that you are contented.
You were free for a moment of bliss, then you yielded your freedom
Into the hand of God, that he might perfect it in glory.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Editor’s Note: I am happy to report that our recently held Bonhoeffer Commemoration
held at Regent College, Vancouver went off very successfully. For those not able to be there, Regent College Bookstore has now produced a complete 5 CD set of recordings of all the verbal presentations, under the title “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Christian Witness and Martyr 1906-1945.” This set can be ordered from Regent College Bookstore, 5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver V6T 2E4, B.C., Canada (breimer@regent-college.edu) for approx $20.


1) Book reviews

a) Poewe, New Religions and the Nazis.
b) Garbe, Theologie zwischen den Weltkriegen
c) Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy
d) Cox, Imperial Fault Lines

2) Professor Gallo’s response to the review of his book last month.

1a) Karla Poewe, New Religions and the Nazis, New York and London: Routledge 2006, xii + 218 pp. ISBN 0-415-29024-4 (hbk), 0415-29025-2 (pbk)

Were the Nazis Christians? Or were Christianity and National Socialism incompatible? Controversy over these questions was recently aroused by the publication of Richard Steigmann-Gall’s book The Holy Reich(Cambridge University Press 2003), which sought to show the lingering attachment of many leading Nazis to some ill-defined form of Christianity. Karla Poewe starts from the other side. Her object is to depict the ideas and actions of those who deliberately sought to create a new religion of Germanic nationalism and racism to replace the now discredited Christianity.

Her principal proponent in this process is Professor Jakob Wilhelm Hauer (1881-1962), whose surviving papers, especially his extensive correspondence, have been well researched by Poewe, who is versed in the study of “fringe” religious movements. Together with kindred spirits such as Matthilde Ludendorff, the wife of the Field Marshal, Ernst Bergmann, the novelist Hans Grimm and the noted anthropologist Hans F.K.Günther, Hauer in the 1920s was determined to build up a new myth and religious sensibility, and to give support to the rising tide of National Socialism. Indeed, Hauer even aimed to make his beliefs the sacred religious centre of the Nazi movement.

Most scholars and orthodox churchmen have dismissed these persons as cranks or pseudo-religious bigots. Their advocacy of German paganism has been ridiculed. Steigmann-Gall downplayed their impact. But Poewe now seeks to rectify these partial judgments. In her view, these ideas played a significant role, especially among the young radicals who formed the cutting edge of the Nazi Party. With dynamic ruthlessness they seized on Hauer’s German Faith Movement to undermine the established churches, even if they abandoned his creed later on once their political power was confirmed.

Hauer had been brought up in pietist circles, was sent out as a missionary to India, and was there greatly influenced by the impact of eastern religions. After the first world war, he shared the widespread disillusionment with both Catholic and Protestant orthodoxy, but was allowed to retain his professorship at Tübingen University in comparative religions. He used this platform to build up a network of youth groups, advocating a purely Germanic paganism, and harking back to the mythical roots of pre-Christian Teutonic traditions. In the climate of the 1920s, such ideas found a considerable following, and could easily be linked to concepts of authoritarian and inspired leadership under a German Führer. This idea of a genuinely Nordic faith-based political community of a united nationalistic Volk took advantage of the widespread desire for a regeneration of German national life after the defeat and denigration of the Great War. Poewe rightly sees this trend as part of the popular resistance against the Versailles settlement, and as giving a considerable boost to the fledgling Nazi Party.

Hauer’s attempt to build a faith movement based on völkisch experiences, elements of the Yogic tradition, pre-Christian Germanic beliefs and a touch of German philosophical idealism was, in effect, a deliberate challenge to the rationalist, democratic assumptions of the Weimar Republic’s political ethos. It also rejected any notion of pluralistic society. Hauer’s antisemitism was certainly ethnically based, and his antagonism to Christianity was in part prompted by his belief that Christianity was unable to shake off its Jewish roots. Instead, a German Faith, led by heroic individuals conscious of their historic bloodlines, would revitalize the Volk. The spiritual and the political tasks were to be intimately linked.
Hauer’s creed was based on a belief in a primal religious force, linked to social Darwinist concepts of the superiority of the German race. The German Faith had its links to the Indo-Germanic cultures in ancient Asia, and thus could acquire a “history” with which to combat the Judeo-Christian tradition. By contrast with the latter’s emphasis on original sin and guilt, Hauer offered a heroic German faith and a heroic ethics.

In 1933 Hauer’s movement received considerable support from many prominent Germans who were already or soon became Nazi Party members. But his ambition to become officially recognized as the ideological promoter of the Party was rebuffed. Hitler’s attitude towards religion was always politically calculated. So long as the majority of Germans remained attached to one or other of the churches, Hitler refused to endorse alternative world-views, or even the ideas promoted by his close associate, Alfred Rosenberg. Unofficially, however, it is clear that Hauer’s movement attracted wide publicity. Poewe suggests an audience of at least twelve million people. Lower-ranking Nazis helped to get him organized on the local level with rallies to promote the Deutsche Glaube, and he gained support from sections of the SS, SA and the Hitler Youth, But it is now impossible to calculate the total number of adherents, since accurate membership records are lacking.

By the end of the 1930s, Hauer’s activities were to be increasingly side-lined by the Nazi authorities. Nevertheless Poewe argues that they were an important component of the conservative revolution which sustained the fascist movement throughout Europe.
The new paganism came to be a significant part of a religious populism. combined with a metapolitical elitism, philosophical vitalism and dreams of national renewal. Its negative effects should not be underestimated.

Indeed Poewe claims its influence is still alive today in Europe’s New Right, long after the Nazi phenomenon was destroyed, based on a continuity of ideas in New Right and New Age publications. Rejection of Christianity paves the way for the recovery of neo-paganism. In support of this argument she quotes from the writings of a few little-known followers of the Nietzschean tradition. She seeks to point out the continuing danger of such anti-democratic, anti-liberal phenomena, and warns today’s readers not to repeat the mistake of the 1920s in downplaying or ignoring the baneful influence of such forces.
Poewe’s study includes helpful notes and an excellently comprehensive bibliography.

1b) Irmfried Garbe, Theologie zwischen den Weltkriegen. Hermann Wolfgang Beyer (1898-1942). (Greifswalder Theologische Forschungen, 9). Pp.747 incl.colour frontispiece + 38 figs. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004. £68.70.
(This review appeared in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January 2006)

Garbe’s biography of the church historian and theologian, Hermann Wolfgang Beyer, is witness to a growing interest today amongst historians in churchmen who saw Hitler and National Socialism as the way forward out of a lost war and postwar national humiliation. It is a new prosopography which serves to balance a primary postwar interest, culminating in Bethge’s 1970 biography of Bonhoeffer, in the Protestant and Catholic minority which opposed National Socialism. This biography is a goldmine of information, packed with telling photos of interwar Protestant nationalistic theologians, their networks and their ephemeral but obviously very persuasive popular penny theology. Beyer, a lecturer briefly in Gottingen (1925-6), was heavily influenced by Hirsch’s nationalist mission temper, and by Kittel and his erasure of Jewish parallels in his controversial Dictionary of the New Testament to which Beyer contributed several articles. As professor at Greifswald (1926-36) and Leipzig (1936-40), he thus soon fell in line, given his active German nationalist mission in school RE textbooks and student politics (his chief book was a history of the Gustavus Adolphus Association, published in 1932), with the German Christians. Though he joined the Nazi Party and Nazi Teachers’ Union first in 1937, he would have done so already in 1933 had it been possible then. Joining the SA, it seems, was his ‘contribution’ to the Lutheran anniversary in November 1933. He was an adviser to Ludwig Muller, asserting the need for strong links with the Nazi Party, and briefly ‘Church Minister’ from December 1933 to February 1934. Board membership of the Evangelischer Bund in 1930 and editorship of Deutsche Theologie (1934-7) were seen as means to assert the ‘pure’ quality of German Lutheranism and to combat an ascendant postwar Roman Catholicism and Bolshevik atheism. But, as one student noted in June 1935, there was something funny about such teaching which began and ended with ‘Heil Hitler’ (storm of applause), lectures on Luther and entelechy in Creation. And yet, Hauer’s German Faith Movement proved too much for Beyer, as did the realisation (too late as Leipzig’s dean of theology) that Protestant theology faculties were ‘unwanted’ by the party leadership. Leipzig’s was officially closed on 18 January 1940. Beyer joined, voluntarily, the Wehrmacht as a military chaplain. He was killed in action on the Don front on Christmas Day 1942, thereby making a reality of the ‘sacrifical death’ which he had learned as a frontline soldier (after 1916) and had preached in a university sermon on Remembrance Sunday 1931. If the reader can bear the detail and the apologetic tone, this is a book well worth reading.
Nicholas Hope, Scotland

1c) John F.Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: Financing the Vatican, 1850-1950. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2005. 265 pp. ISBN 0 521 81204 6

The Vatican has long had a history of secrecy about its affairs. Its policies and operations are shrouded in obscurity, its archives open only for periods long past. At the same time, the character and activities of successive popes have attracted world-wide attention. The result is that journalists and commentators are often obliged to engage in unverifiable speculation about the Papal policies, especially in times of crisis, such as the world wars.

One aspect where both secrecy and speculation have been notably prevalent concerns the Vatican’s financial dealings. In John Pollard’s view, the Vatican has been, until relatively recently, obsessively secretive about its money, leading to a continuing series of inaccurate and ill-informed reportage. Pollard, who has already established his scholarly reputation with an excellent biography of Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), now seeks to give an account of the financial affairs of the Vatican over the period 1850 to 1950, a century during which, he claims, the modern Papacy emerged.

Before 1870, the Pope owned and ruled over a large portion of central Italy, mainly rural estates from which he derived his revenues. But with the military campaigns of the Italian nationalists under the House of Savoy, their defeat of Papal forces, and the unification of the whole peninsular in 1870, the Papacy was reduced to a small enclave of 108 acres on the edge of Rome. The Vatican was forced to alter its whole operation. The resulting financial changes, Pollard rightly sees, had a powerful effect on the Papacy’s subsequent institutional development. In essence this was the period of the substitution of spiritual for temporal power, with strongly centralizing tendencies for Roman control, reaching its apogee, Pollard suggests, in 1950 at the height of Pius XII’s reign, in a display of Christian triumphalism. He therefore concludes his study at that date.

Pollard is concerned not only to describe how the Vatican financed itself, gained its revenues and controlled its expenditures. He also seeks to examine how participation in the capitalist investment markets affected the development of the institution of the Papacy, particularly its relations with its two principal financial foci, Italy and the United States. Wider still, he asks how successive Popes deliberated about the relationship, both on the theoretical and practical levels, between Catholicism and capitalism. While he has been handicapped by the continuing closure of many of the Vatican’s own records, he has made extremely good use of several valuable, hitherto unused sources, such as the papers of the principal financial advisor to Popes Pius XI and XII, Bernadino Nogara. Thanks to his assiduous sleuth works, he is able to provide a convincing picture of the Vatican’s financial operations, which will dispel many of the legends spread by earlier willfully-biased observers.

Before 1870, the Papal funds came mainly from rural rents and properties. But the combination of narrow ecclesiastical inefficiency, political instability and unwillingness to adopt any modern fiscal methods had seriously weakened the Papal treasury. Loans from Jews were frequent. But opposing Italian unification was very costly. Only the revival of the mediaeval Peter’s Pence drew in revenues from Catholics around the world. This had the extra advantage of establishing a material bond between the ordinary Catholic and the head of the Church, who had earlier been a remote, unknown figure. It also opened the way for a progressive universalization and democratization of financing the Papal operations.

Despite losing most of his territorial possessions, the Pope still had, and has, to maintain a splendid (and costly) Court, keep up numerous ancient buildings, organize colourful ceremonies, pay for a large international bureaucracy, and support innumerable charities. Revenues from Peter’s Pence and pilgrimages to Rome were increasingly supplemented by shrewd investments in commercial enterprises. Relations with the government of Italy remained contentious for sixty years until a new era began in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty signed by Mussolini. But not all investments were wise. Pope Leo XIII got badly burnt in the Rome building boom of the 1890s.

Pollard skillfully interweaves his account of the Papal fortunes with descriptions of other factors involved, such as the characters of the Popes, the successes and failures of their advisors, the external and often hostile political developments, and the impact of the world wars of this period. But from 1929 the Italian Government’s money helped matters greatly. And the appointment of Nogara as the Pope’s most influential advisor in the 1930s was a successful move to stabilize and internationalize the Vatican’s situation.

Pollard is more cautious in his assessment of how far these financial dealings affected the conduct of the Papacy’s spiritual mission. On the one hand, he dismisses the wild accusation that the silence of Pope Pius XII over the Nazi atrocities of the Holocaust was caused by his desire to protect the Vatican’s investments under German control. On the other, he does demonstrate how closely the Vatican’s financial operations were linked to the industrial-capitalist base of Italy’s economy. It is still a matter of conjecture to what extent the Papacy’s vigorous involvement in the Italian elections of 1948 was prompted by its apprehensions lest a Communist victory would lead to financial disaster.

There is also evidence of contradictory policies being pursued. At the same time as Nogara was taking very aggressive measures, on the best capitalist lines, to enhance the Vatican’s holdings, his superior Pope Pius XI was issuing the most notable Encyclical of his reign, Quadragesimo Anno, dated 1931, which contained a strong condemnation of monopoly capitalism, with its pernicious connections to faceless multi-national corporations.

In fact, Pollard suggests, this situation was caused by the left hand not knowing what the right was doing. Certainly the legacy of earlier chaotic budgetting and accounting procedures, the habit of individual Popes keeping a reservoir in their desk drawers, the endemic bias against Jewish or Protestant practices, and the general climate of reaction engendered in Rome, all seriously affected the acceptance of more modern investment operations. It is only in recent decades that the Vatican has adopted a fully capitalist climate and has benefited, along with Italy, from the stabilization and development of a flourishing economy.
Pollard rightly points out that there still remains a tension between the management of the Vatican’s finances and the Church’s social and moral teachings. Successive Popes have sought to avert critical publicity on this score. Pope Paul VI donated his papal tiara to the poor. Pope John Paul II repeatedly indicated his empathy for the victims of war and oppression. But essentially the Vatican remains tied to the capitalist and investment systems.

In the last fifty years, the Roman Catholic Church has undergone vast and significant changes. The Papacy has become internationalized, the Popes are no longer automatically Italians. Its prestige is arguably higher and more influential than ever before. Its missions and charitable works are world-wide in scope. The financial basis for all these developments was laid down during the period covered in this book. We can therefore be thankful to John Pollard for describing the processes by which these achievements were established and secured.

1d) Jeffrey Cox, Imperial Fault Lines. Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940, Stanford, California University Press 2002 357 pp. ISBN 0-8047-4318-5

In recent years the historiography of Christian missions has been evolving rapidly and fruitfully. There are still a few authors writing in the heroic mood, describing western agency and non-western response. And there are still many church archives waiting to be usefully exploited for this purpose. But more notably, there is now a growing literature from “the other side”, that is describing or analyzing the points of view of the recipients of western and Christian endeavours. There is an equally interesting scholarship emerging, largely influenced by Professor Andrew Porter at the Imperial and Commonwealth Seminar in London, which asks wider questions about the place of missions in the history of empires, particularly of course the British.

Jeffrey Cox’s study of the intersection of Christianity and colonial power in India takes the title “Imperial Fault Lines” in part to indicate the ambivalence he traces in the minds of both missionaries and imperial rulers. Possibly he himself feels the same, as he shows how the historiography of Christians in India have passed through various ambiguous phases. On the one hand, “triumphalist” historians of the Raj mostly marginalized the missions, reflecting the official disdain widely held by the Indian Civil Service and its British masters. On the other hand, anti-imperialist historians have largely dismissed the missionaries as no more than willing agents of colonial rule over the local inhabitants, imposing their beliefs from a position of assumed superiority. Cox now seeks to pursue a more nuanced approach by exploring the inherent conflicts between the universalist Christian values of the missions, and the political imperialist setting in which they had to operate. He also seeks to describe the major impact on Indian society of Christian missionary institutions, a topic long neglected or disparaged. And he wants to rectify the long-held silence about women missionaries, whose contributions were so often ignored by their male colleagues, but who obviously shared in ambivalent relations with the exploitative imperial presence.

The Punjab makes a highly interesting setting. From 1818 onwards the Punjab presented a particular religious challenge and opportunity. In an era of geo-religious triumphalism, this was to be the base for the control and conversion of Asia. Yet the interests of the British missionaries, let alone those of their American partners, were not synonymous with those of the Government of India. Indeed the latter’s hostility to missions and missionaries was proverbial. The missionaries‚ initial aim was to build up a local church, which would survive or transcend the imperial presence and the Raj. For instance, the leading nineteenth-century administrator of the Church Missionary Society, Henry Venn, called for the creation of self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating Christian communities, after which the foreign missionaries could move on to new fields of endeavour. But the British imperial establishment thought more in terms of building permanent institutions to inculcate devotion to British civilization, and therefore welcomed British bishops presiding over grand cathedrals as visible embodiments of the imperial dream. Cox analyses these contradictions and rival pressures with a skillful use of his sources.

In Cox’s view, the institutions built by the missionaries were both an incentive and a trap. Their impact was much more effective than their preaching. The latter gained few converts; but the former, especially the schools and hospitals, affected wide segments of the non-Christian population. The missions could indulge in the belief that sooner or later their Christian influence would permeate the whole society, just as the British rulers expected that British education would permeate and improve India and replace the backward civilizations of the past. So the missionary institutions were often subsidized by government grants, hence the ambivalence. When if fact the mission-trained cadres neither became converts, nor admirers of the Raj, but supported the anti-foreign nationalist movement, both sponsors were embarrassed. So too, over the years, the contradictions became more and more apparent between the goal of a self-governing indigenous church and the heavy institutional strategy of the foreign missions. The gap between the Europeans‚ standard of living, even of the lowly paid missionaries, and that of their indigenous parishioners, was a constant challenge, and only compounded the difficulty of establishing real inter-racial friendships. It was a form of genteel imperialism, however well intentioned, which inevitably caused resentment. Indian Christians were naturally unreceptive to missionary claims about their “sacrifices” in coming to India. On the other side, there was to be continuing ambivalence, to say the least, about the converts‚ motives for adopting Christianity. Imperial-indigenous relations were always affected, and often poisoned, by considerations of race. In short, paternalism was not enough.

The emergence of a multiracial Christianity in India was therefore beset with difficulties. Paradoxically, and often contrary to the mission boards‚ expectations, there were places in the Punjab where the Christian community expanded rapidly, but from the bottom upwards. The largest group numerically came from the so-called untouchable classes. The eagerness of these illiterates to convert caused many problems for the missionaries, not least because of the impact on their other converts, and the impossibility of overcoming the existing caste prejudices solely by proclaiming that Jesus loved everyone equally. Cox suggests that the search for dignity, rather than the desire for wealth, or liberation from social stigmas, let alone theological factors, was a principal cause for their conversion. But the elitism of some missionaries – particularly Anglicans – could hardly conceive of these people as welcome converts. Yet too strict a control only fostered the tendency to independent forms of hybrid Christianity, whereby the local people adopted only those aspects of the Gospel and faith which suited them. Could they be called Christians? Or were they to be evicted, even if willing to worship? Too often the authoritarian missionaries sought to impose a social and moral order on these communities, and then became disillusioned when their precepts were not heeded. Mission boards were constantly divided as to how many resources should be devoted to pastoral care of these untouchables.

Such a diversion might harm the more glamorous work of schools and hospitals catering for higher classes. In the eyes of some,only institutional attendance and theological knowledge counted for real and deserving Christians. But in Cox’s view, the fullest expression of indigenous Punjabi Christianity was to be found in the hymn-singing and genuine piety of the rural communities.

Cox’s survey of the missionaries‚ contributions in the medical and educational fields, especially of the women, pays tribute to the remarkable successes of the highly-trained professionals who ran these institutions. Thanks to their efforts, such institutions as the Christian Medical College for Women in Ludhiana, or Forman Christian College in Lahore, achieved a high reputation, even if not always sufficiently acknowledged. By the 1940s, mission hospitals provide the bulk of training of nurses throughout all India. Their schools carried off the prizes, outclassing most of the government secular counterparts. But the very fact of such rivalry was evidence of how far they had been drawn into the network of imperial nation-building. Their original task of evangelism was subordinated to higher needs of skilled institutional management. As these institutions grew, the percentage of Christian pupils or patients grew ever smaller. Equally inevitably. the personal contact with Indians became attenuated. Professionalism and racial differences were subtly reinforcing. Many missionaries continued to believe that these divergent goals could be reconciled. But the results more often than not showed the incompatibility of such aims.

The continued expansion of these European-derived institutions from 1880 to 1930 necessitated the hiring of more Europeans. By the 1930s there were over 600 foreign missionaries in the Punjab alone. But the effect was too often to encourage a sense of elitism (and snobbery) and to widen the gap with the ill-educated Christians in the local church. Paradoxically, with the growth of the Indian nationalist movement, some of its leaders came from these mission schools. To many of these men, Christianity was at best irrelevant to India, or an offensive imperialist intrusion at worst. The missionaries‚ hopes of shaping the course of Indian history in a Christian direction proved illusory.

But equally, the indigenous church, so often composed of men and women from stigmatized communities, rarely gained enough well-educated or well-heeled members to become self-supporting and self-governing. Its sense of identity was always problematic. And when the foreign missions retreated after 1947, the Indian churches found themselves saddled with large and expensive institutions they could not maintain. Yet the Punjab local churches, though poverty-stricken and illiterate, had sufficient stability to survive the political crises and mass slaughter of the 1940s. The legacy of the missions. however, remains ambivalent. The verdict of history on this episode in the long saga of East-West relations still remains to be written. But we can be grateful to Jeffrey Cox for his balanced assessment of the successes and failures of this example of the interaction between Christianity and colonial power.

2) Professor Gallo’s response to the review of his book in the March Newsletter:

Dear Professor Conway:

I read your review and hope that in the next issue you can print a few corrections.

1. Five of the essays written by me have never been published. The review indicated otherwise.
2. While two of Rychlaks essays have material used earlier as far as I know they have never been published in this form before.
3. I am a political scientist and historian. My expertise is not only in foreign policy but American Politics. My previous work reflects both fields; moreover nearly 80% of my publications are on Italian themes.
4. While this latest book deals exclusively with the Pius debate my two previous books, For Love And Country and Enemies both in part deal with the issues raised in the Pius War… particularly the former title.

Comment; I don’t agree that this latest group of revisionists has been completely corraled. Perhaps this might be true in a very limited circle of scholars like yourself. In my teaching both in the US and Italy…my extensive encounters with a broad spectrum of the public, friends etc show that this is not the case. I find the books of Goldhagen & Co. still in libraries, bookstores, sold on the internet on both sides of the Atlantic. The internet contains a near universal reflections of the revisionist view. My discussions with the aforementioned underscore this point.

Finally, My encounter with publishers of my volume on the Italian resistance points to my overall point of view. One chapter only addresses Pius XII and in parts elewhere. A near universal objection was to the presence of this one chapter. In short if I had written from the revisionist point of view this would not have been the red flag. My experience is not only with general trade but academic publishers as well. Let me cite just one example…a prestigious University press received positive recommendations for the publication of For Love and Country. The director wrote that alas their marketing department would find this a hard sell since the media and the climate would not permit. This from an academic press.

I do agree that a full biography of Pius is needed..that is why I included Bottom’s essay.

Best regards, Patrick Gallo

Vancouver is now enjoying a wonderul season when all the cherry trees are blossoming. The streets and parks are filled with colour and the spring flowers are providing us with a proof of God’s blessings. May I hope that you, my readers, in so many different parts of the world, will also find occasion at this time to be thankful for the gifts of a munificent nature.

With best wishes
John Conway