Letter from the Editors: September 2015

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

Letter from the Editors (September 2015)

By Kyle Jantzen, Ambrose University

Greetings friends,

Once again we are pleased to offer a new issue of short articles, book reviews, and other notes relating to the contemporary history of German and European religious history. In this September issue of Contemporary Church History Quarterly, two themes loom large: coming to terms with past failings of the Christian Church and finding hope in the life and practices of Christianity.

The Brandenburg Cathedral. Photo (cc) via Flickr user Steffen Zahn. https://flic.kr/p/nWVSrg.
The Brandenburg Cathedral. Photo (cc) via Flickr user Steffen Zahn. https://flic.kr/p/nWVSrg.

The ongoing challenge of coming to terms with the past informs Susan Zuccotti’s article on the relationship between Pope Pius XII and the Catholic church institutions which rescued Jews in and around Rome during the Holocaust (a response to William Doino Jr. and the film Lo vuole il Papa, reviewed last issue), just as it does Manfred Gailus’ public lecture (here translated and abridged by John S. Conway) on pro-Nazi Protestants associated with the Brandenburg Cathedral. In the same vein, Christopher Probst’s review of the George Faithful book, Mothering the Fatherland, explores how a spirit of repentance for the role of the Church in the Holocaust can lead to positive actions.

The second theme of hope in the life and practices of Christianity can be found in Patrick J. Houlihan’s study of sustaining Catholic practices during the First World War era, reviewed by Kyle Jantzen, and Keith Clements’ study of the importance of international and ecumenical church relations for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, reviewed by John S. Conway. Similarly, Victoria Barnett reviews Heike Springhart’s analysis of the contribution of religion and church to the postwar reconstruction in West Germany.

Other contributions round out the issue: Matthew Hockenos reviews Mark R. Correll’s Shepherds of the Empire, which compares the ideas of two conservative Protestant theologians, Martin Kähler and Adolf Schlatter, and two conservative Protestant preachers, Adolf Stoecker and Christoph Blumhardt, all active in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. Victoria Barnett reviews an important contribution on the Nazi persecution of Christians of so-called “non-Aryan” descent. Heath Spencer alerts us to an article on the relationship between secularism and antisemitism in the late nineteenth century, and Victoria Barnett reports on two interesting research initiatives: a Bonhoeffer Conference in Flensburg and a summer research workshop at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

We hope you find this issue of Contemporary Church History Quarterly stimulating, and wish you all a productive autumn season.

On behalf of the editors,

Kyle Jantzen

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Response to William Doino Jr. and the Film Lo vuole il Papa

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

Response to William Doino Jr. and the Film Lo vuole il Papa

By Susan Zuccotti, Independent Scholar

In the June 2015 edition of the Contemporary Church History Quarterly, William Doino Jr. discussed a documentary televised in Italy on April 1 entitled Lo vuole il Papa. Based on the work of historian Antonello Carvigiani, the film argued that Pope Pius XII was personally involved in the opening of convents and monasteries in Rome to thousands of Jews and other fugitives who were trying to escape arrest by the German occupiers of the Eternal City after September 1943. The film portrayed the oral testimonies of four nuns who, when they arrived as novices at four different religious houses in Rome years ago, were told by some of the older sisters about rescue efforts during the war. Accompanying each of the testimonies were brief filmed excerpts from the wartime chronicles of their institutions, recording a papal role in rescue. In addition, the documentary presented the oral testimonies of two men hidden as boys in two of the convents. Doino found the film persuasive, described it as new, and related it to other documents, accounts, and testimonies that he has discussed elsewhere and believes to be evidence of a clear papal directive for Jewish rescue in Rome.

When examined closely, the testimonies of the nuns and the chronicles are diverse in content and questionable as evidence. Let us begin with content. The first nun represented the cloistered Augustinian Sisters of the Santi Quattro Coronati, where 24 people, including at least 6 and perhaps as many as 17 Jews, were hidden. She explained that she was told that the pope had ordered the convent to open its doors to fugitives, including Jews. Relevant lines from that convent’s handwritten wartime chronicle, first made public in 2006 and thus not particularly new, confirmed her words, stating, “In this painful situation [of the German arrests and torture of fugitives beginning, the chronicler’s account, in November 1943] the Holy Father wants to save his children, including the Jews, and orders that hospitality in monasteries be given to the persecuted, and also the cloistered convents must adhere to the desire of the Supreme Pontiff [emphasis mine].”[1]

The film’s second witness was from the cloistered Cistercian Sisters of Santa Susanna, where roughly 18 military and political refugees and 26 Jews had been sheltered. This nun also referred to a papal directive for rescue, but added that the order had gone to all superiors of all Catholic institutions in Rome. How could she have known that? The accompanying lines from Santa Susanna’s handwritten war chronicle, made public in 2014, differed significantly from the nun’s testimony. The chronicler wrote, “In this situation the ecclesiastical authorities exhort and encourage and give their consent (with a maximum of caution) to opening the doors of the holy cloistered places to hide and receive as many persons as possible…[emphasis mine].”[2] Encouragement and consent from individual unknown prelates are important, but they are not the same as a papal order to all Church institutions. Words matter, and the implications differ. It is also important to note that Jews were not mentioned here, and caution was urged.

The third witness, from the convent of Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori which had sheltered 150 refugees including perhaps as many as 103 Jews, did not evoke a papal order.[3] Instead, she declared that she had been told that “The Holy Father wanted, desired, that the convent welcome these people.[emphasis mine]” Her testimony, in other words, resembled the written account from Santa Susanna. The accompanying handwritten chronicle from Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori confirmed her words, recording simply that the pope wanted institutions to take in fugitives, but “without obligation.” The fourth and final witness was from the Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina, which sheltered 123 people, including Jews. This nun was even more general, testifying simply that the sisters admitted fugitives because the pope appealed to them for charity. The accompanying typed chronicle also did not refer to a precise papal order, but it did provide insight on how rescue probably developed. It declared that at various times during the autumn of 1943 someone at the Vatican Secretariat of State requested the director of this particular institution to take in specific endangered individuals or families. The chronicle added that such a request could not be refused. But, significantly, it also declared that some 120 people, refugees or families made homeless by bombing raids, had already been accepted at the Istituto by the end of September 1943, well before the roundup of Jews in Rome on October 16 and the mass flight of surviving Jews into Catholic institutions.

We shall return to the issues of content raised in the film, but let us next examine the nature of the evidence. It is not easy to question the oral testimonies, filmed in the beautiful settings of their convents, of four elderly nuns, earnest, articulate, and confident of the accuracy of their information. But these women are providing hearsay, not first-hand, evidence. Their information apparently reached them at unspecified times for unknown reasons from unnamed associates, about whose personal histories we know nothing. The older sisters who passed along the information may have been young novices themselves during the war, with no special knowledge at that time about which fugitives were Jews or why they were there. Their own superiors may have told reluctant or fearful younger sisters that the pope wished or even ordered rescue measures to convince them to help fugitives, including atheists, Communists, and, especially, Jews, but the telling did not make it true. This evidence would not hold up in a court of law, and historians should apply similar criteria. Second, why were the young incoming nuns told such things privately in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s at all, at a time when no such accounts were being made publicly, despite the fact that Pius XII had long been criticized for not helping Jews? And why did the nuns wait until now to come forward? And why do they (and those who write about them, like Doino) stress help given to Jews, when it is clear from other records that at least half of those sheltered in religious institutions were political or military fugitives or non-Jewish civilian war refugees?

The written evidence presented in Lo vuole il Papa is equally problematic. The film provides a cursory glimpse of the volumes of war chronicles from the four convents, and then zooms in on the few lines relevant to the shelter of outsiders in each case. It gives no information about when, why, and by whom the rescue accounts were written or why they have not been made public sooner. With this technique it is impossible to detect what is obvious from a more careful study of the accounts—that they were not written during the war, and were often not even recorded by the chronicler who wrote the previous or subsequent entries. Examples abound. In the pages for 1943 and 1944 of the chronicle of the Santi Quattro Coronati, the author wrote in an entry for June 6, 1944, when Rome was liberated, that a general in the army of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic wanted for war crimes after the conflict was sent to hide in the convent by the Vatican Secretariat of State (this attribution very specific) and stayed for five years. The war chronicle of the Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori referred to gas chambers, which would not have been understood with certainty in the first half of 1944, and to papal efforts to hide fugitives in the Pontificio Seminario Romano Maggiore (referred to as the Laterano) and Castel Gandolfo, equally secret at the time. The chronicles, then, are not wartime diaries but subsequent secondary accounts. Who wrote them, and when, and where did the information come from?

The testimony in Lo vuole il Papa of two fugitives hidden during the war is no more enlightening. Piero De Benedetti Bonaiuto found shelter at the convent of the Santi Quattro Coronati. In that convent’s war chronicle, which recorded the presence of five political fugitives or “patriots,” six Jews, and thirteen unspecified individuals, he was listed as a “patriot.” In his filmed testimony, he briefly discussed his experience in hiding and offered an opinion that special authorization would have been needed because the convent was subject to the rules of strict cloister. As a boy, he would have known nothing about a papal order. The second survivor-witness, Renato Astrologo, hid with his parents, grandmother, and three siblings in the convent of Santa Susanna. According to an article in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on June 3, 2014, the women entered the convent on October 24, 1943, while the men hid elsewhere until the end of January 1944. The article also stated that Astrologo was a convert from Judaism to Catholicism. In his testimony, Astrologo expressed his gratitude to the sisters who had saved him and stated his understanding that an order had “come from a high place.” He also could have known nothing more specific at the time.

Lo vuole il Papa might be more persuasive if it were confirmed by the other sources Doino mentioned in his article, but that is decidedly not the case. For example, Doino refers to an article in the Palestine Post on June 22, 1944, in which a correspondent wrote that “several thousand refugees, largely Jews” had been sheltered in the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo “during the recent terror.” This allegation has been repeated endlessly, but there is no evidence that the refugees were “largely Jews.” The pope did offer shelter and sustenance at Castel Gandolfo to hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of refugees escaping Allied bombing raids and German attacks on villages near Rome in the late winter and spring of 1944. Some of those refugees may have been Jews with false papers and not known to be Jewish. But no evidence has yet been unearthed to indicate that those involved in providing assistance believed that they were helping Jews. There is, furthermore, no personal testimony from Jews about receiving such shelter, although Jewish accounts of being hidden in other religious institutions in Rome are plentiful.[4]

Doino also alludes to statements about a papal directive from priest-rescuers Paolo Dezza, Pietro Palazzini, Hugh O’Flaherty and John Patrick Carroll-Abbing; the Jewish survivor Michael Tagliacozzo; and historians Andrea Riccardi, Anna Foa, Sister Grazia Loparco, Antonello Carvigiani, and Pier Luigi Guiducci. His list is not exhaustive; he could have mentioned other secondary sources. Each of these cases must be examined carefully, in more detail than is possible here. Looking briefly at the first four primary sources, however, the Jesuit Father Dezza, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University during the war and later a cardinal, wrote on June 28, 1964, during the controversy concerning Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy critical of Pius XII, that the pope had instructed him to accept persecuted civilians and Jews.[5] Strangely, Dezza never repeated the claim in his other writings, and it is not clear if refugees were in fact hidden in his institution.

Father Palazzini, also later a cardinal, published a book in 1995 describing his role in helping hide some 145 non-Jews and 55 Jews at the Pontificio Seminario Romano Maggiore. He made no reference to a papal order in his book, but he did refer to “the guidelines provided by Pope Pius XII…to save human lives.” He added that during the war, “to rediscover [the sense of reciprocal charity], one voice was often raised among the din of arms: it was the voice of Pius XII. The refuge offered to so many people would not have been possible with his moral support, which was much more than a tacit consent.”[6]As evidence of the guidelines and support, Palazzini referred to eight papal speeches. Three of the eight, at Christmas 1942 and on June 2, his name day, in 1943 and 1944, included brief references to the pope’s compassion for those persecuted because of nationality and race, but did not directly mention religion or Jews. The other five speeches simply stressed the need for charity to all victims of war.[7]

The Irish Father Hugh O’Flaherty took enormous risks to aid escaped Allied prisoners of war during the German occupation of Rome, but Jews are rarely mentioned among those he helped.[8] The story of the American Father John Patrick Carroll-Abbing, later a monsignor, is much the same. In addition to prisoners of war, Father Carroll-Abbing worked with political fugitives, partisans, civilian refugees, homeless children, and the poor in general. In 2000, he apparently informed Doino that the pope told him many times to help Jews, but his two books about his wartime activities, published in 1952 and 1966, rarely mentioned Jews at all. He never wrote that he took personal initiatives to help Jews, that the pope told him to hide Jews, or even that Jews were hidden in Vatican properties. His single written reference to papal involvement in Jewish rescue was an indirect observation rather than a personal experience. Without declaring that the statement affected his own work, he observed that after the roundup of Jews in Rome on October 16, 1943, “word came from the Vatican that, because of the emergency, nuns would be allowed to give hospitality in their convents to Jewish men as well as their families [emphasis mine].”[9] He added that the permission was given specifically to the Sisters of Nostra Signora di Sion, who passed it along to other convents.

There is little doubt that some 187 Jews were among those hidden by the Sisters of Nostra Signora di Sion. Many of the Jews fled there on October 16, 1943, as the Germans were rounding up their families and friends in the nearby former ghetto of Rome and throughout the city. The initial rescue effort was spontaneous. Since the convent was not cloistered and operated a girls’ boarding school that was virtually empty because of the war, there was no need for immediate papal authorization to receive outsiders. The sisters have never claimed to have received a papal directive for rescue, although they stress that they informed the head of their order and that the pope ultimately knew what they were doing.[10] The situation was similar at the Istituto Pio XI, a boarding school for some 200 to 250 boys run by the Salesians. In his study of more than 80 Jewish boys sheltered there during the war, Francesco Motto found no evidence of a papal order. He too emphasized that Vatican authorities had some idea of what was happening, and that the Salesian brothers immediately involved were convinced that they were acting according to the wishes of the Holy Father.[11]

In addition to many more accounts of Jewish rescue in Church institutions that do not mention a papal directive, there are some that specifically deny it. One example of the latter is Brother Maurizio, the steward at the Fatebenefratelli Hospital that hid some 46 Jews during the German occupation. Brother Maurizio related that after admitting Jewish fugitives on October 16, 1943, the directors duly notified Vatican officials. When they received no response, they took the silence for approval and increased their efforts.[12] Father Elio Venier, later a monsignor, recalled his work at the parish church of Santa Maria della Divina Provvidenza, where about 65 Jews were sheltered. He declared that officials at the Vicariate were informed of the rescue activities because parish churches were under their jurisdiction, but he added that the pope did not get involved in such matters.[13] The French Capuchin Father Marie-Benoît who, working with Jewish and non-Jewish friends and associates, placed and supported some 2,500 Jewish refugees in both religious and secular institutions in Rome, agreed.[14] After the war, but only when asked, he explained that he had received no money and no mission from the Vatican.[15]

Other reasons to doubt the existence of an order from Pius XII for rescue relate to known papal directives that seem contrary to it. Both Francesco Motto, writing about the Salesians, and the spokeswomen for the convent of Nostra Signora di Sion refer to a letter received on October 25, 1943, declaring, “The secretary of state of His Holiness expresses the confidence that [your] conduct…will be inspired by diligent observation of the dispositions and instructions provided by the Holy See and by that discreet and prudent correctness that is always, but now more than ever, necessary.”[16] Such a call was not conducive to extensive rescue. Two months later, on December 27, six days after Italian Fascist and German SS raids on three Vatican properties, Pius XII told the director of La Civiltà Cattolica that it was necessary to be more prudent with regard to refugees and added, “Yes, exercise charity with the many piteous cases that arise, but avoid the use of false documents and any even slight appearance of fraud.”[17] The pope may not have understood that it was almost impossible for fugitives, Jewish or not, to hide in any institutions without false documents.

Another German-Fascist raid on February 3-4, 1944, this time on the huge extraterritorial Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura, caused some at the Vatican to pull still further away from support for the rescue of fugitives. Little could be done for the 64 victims of the raid, including five Jews, but Vatican officials publicly and vehemently protested the violation of extraterritoriality to the Germans. Privately, however, they were terrified of additional and still more brutal raids, the arrests of more of their protégés, and the possibility of diplomatic incidents. On February 6, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Luigi Maglione wrote that he had “instructed the abbot [of the monastery at San Paolo], in the name of the Holy Father, not to permit disguises in other clothing: no one should wear religious habits if he is not a priest or monk.”[18] It is not clear how broadly this prohibition was distributed, but it was not an encouragement for rescue.

Far more serious, sometime that same February a message went out from the Vatican ordering that all non-clerics sheltered in a number of properties of the Holy See be asked to leave. Strict penalties for disobedience were specified. Again, all the recipients of this order are not known, but the message clearly went to the Seminario Lombardo, the Seminario Romano Maggiore, and the Collegio dei Sacerdoti per l’Emigrazione Italiana. Directors of the institutions reluctantly obeyed, although they never left their guests in the lurch. New hiding places were found, and in some cases the fugitives returned after a time.[19] Similar orders were issued within the Vatican City itself, where at least 50 outsiders were being sheltered in the private apartments of prelates living in the Canonica di San Pietro.[20] In this case, the prelates engaged in sheltering fugitives appealed, and the order was not enforced.[21]

There is no question that thousands of Jews were sheltered in church institutions in Rome during the German occupation. One survey conducted soon after the war placed the number at 4,447, in 220 female and 60 male religious houses.[22] Another more recent analysis refers to 4,169 Jews in 234 religious houses.[23] While numbers vary, the phenomenon of rescue is clear; what is unclear is how it happened. Historians and other scholars study the story not to glorify or vilify Pope Pius XII but to try to understand the events themselves. To do so, they look to the evidence, both written and oral. When the evidence is conflicting, they examine its validity—its authenticity; the motives of those who supply it; the timing; the possibility of error, bias, or misunderstanding. They also analyze the plausibility and consistency of the evidence within a wider context—in this case, with consideration of the pope’s other actions, statements, and concerns during the Second World War. Finally, they study the precise words used in testimonies. With this in mind, let us return to the documentary film Lo vuole il Papa, examine it in the context of other evidence mentioned here, and attempt to formulate an hypothesis about Jewish rescue in Rome.

Judging from the conflicting evidence in the film and from the other testimony discussed in this article, it seems unlikely that Pius XII ordered Catholic institutions in Rome to open their doors to Jews and other fugitives. It is possible that in some cases he was involved in granting permission to cloistered convents to suspend their rules regarding outsiders, but it is not probable that he ordered them to do so.[24] We have seen here indications of the pope’s hesitancy regarding rescue, his counter-instructions, and his requests for prudence, as well as the denials of a papal directive by some religious spokesmen and the failures to mention it by others. We know from the internal discussion concerning fugitives sheltered within the Vatican City that some prelates opposed their presence and tried to make them leave. Would they have taken that position if the pope had ordered all Catholic institutions in the city to accept them? And in the broader context, Pius XII was anxious to preserve Vatican neutrality and diplomatic privileges, and protect his institution and the Catholic faithful from German reprisals. Why would the pope jeopardize these priorities when a directive for rescue in Rome was not necessary? Romans who followed the pope’s public statements knew that he had urged charity and compassion for the victims of war on many occasions. They had read the articles in L’Osservatore Romano on October 25-26 and 29, 1943, following the roundup of 1,259 Jews in Rome, which referred to “the universally paternal charity of the Supreme Pontiff…which does not pause before boundaries of nationality, or religion, or race [emphasis mine]”—a clear reference to Jews that had not been used in previous papal speeches. They were aware that after Mussolini’s puppet regime ordered Italian police and carabinieri to arrest and intern all Jews in the country on November 30, 1943, two more articles in the Vatican daily newspaper had objected vigorously, though without mentioning German measures of deportation and destruction.[25] Catholics who wanted to hear all this could hear. In rescuing Jews and other fugitives, they firmly believed they were heeding the will of their pope.

But if there was no comprehensive papal order, how did rescue develop? In many cases, as for the Salesians and the Sisters of Nostra Signora di Sion, it was initially spontaneous—fugitives came to the school or convent and asked for help. Authorization came later. But to explain many other cases, it is useful to look again at two of the written testimonies presented in Lo vuole il Papa. The chronicler for Santa Susanna wrote, “In this situation the ecclesiastical authorities exhort and encourage and give their consent (with a maximum of caution) to opening the doors of the holy cloistered places to hide and receive as many persons as possible…[emphasis mine].” Similarly, the chronicler for the Istituto Maria Santissima Bambina recorded that on several occasions during the autumn of 1943, someone at the Vatican Secretariat of State requested the director of the institution to take in specific endangered individuals or families. These claims are credible. Many individual priests and even high-ranking prelates in Rome had their own personal protégés, perhaps an anti-Fascist activist or partisan, or the Jewish spouse of a friend or family member, or a former Jewish teacher or classmate, employer or employee, doctor or nurse—the possibilities are endless. Catholic institutions taking in outsiders needed recommendations about the backgrounds, personal integrity, and, sometimes, economic reliability of prospective guests. Priests and prelates, sometimes at a high level, supplied those recommendations and undoubtedly implied that rescue was the will of the pope. Although directors of religious houses were not unwilling in any case, such recommendations and reassurances were hard to refuse.

The pope did not oppose the opening of religious houses in Rome to fugitives unless he believed that the risks to rescuers and rescued alike were excessive. Although he certainly understood much of what was going on in his own diocese (the pope was the bishop of Rome), he probably did not know the details. He did not wish to become personally involved. And while he allowed some of his advisors to act on behalf of Jews and other fugitives, he was well aware that others close to him opposed rescue.

Does it matter whether there was a broad order for Jewish rescue from Pius XII or whether rescue was rather either spontaneous or the result of the private initiatives of individual priests and prelates? The answer is yes, for two reasons. First, understanding private individual initiatives helps us better comprehend the complexities and risks of the pope’s situation on an international level and the pressures he was under from within. We may learn more about these internal pressures when the Vatican archives of the papacy of Pius XII are opened. Until then, the study of Jewish rescue in Rome provides some clues. But above all, examination of the origins of rescue helps us to appreciate how and why it happened. As we consider the nuns described in Lo vuole il Papa, along with Cardinals Pietro Palazzini and Elio Venier, the Sisters of Nostra Signora di Sion, the Salesian brothers, Father Marie-Benoît, and so many others, we see the true nature of courage, generosity, and commitment to religious and human values. It is to be hoped that Pope Pius XII himself would be among the first to want that heroism recognized.

[1]For more on the chronicle of the Sisters of the Santi Quattro Coronati, see especially 30giorni, n. 7/8, August 2006, pp. 32-46. See also Antonello Carvigiani, “Aprite le porte, salvate i perseguitati,” Nuova Storia Contemporanea, September-October 2014, 131-44. The estimate of 17 Jews sheltered is from an often-cited list published in Renzo De Felice, The Jews in Fascist Italy, trans. Robert L. Miller, (1961 and 1993; New York: Enigma Books, 2001), 751-56, 752. De Felice indicated that the list came to him from the German Jesuit Father Robert Leiber, Pius XII’s close advisor and friend, who in turn stated that it was compiled after the war by another Jesuit priest and verified in 1954. For details on the list, see Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 199-200.

[2]For more on Santa Susanna, see Carvigiani, “Aprite le porte,” 131-44. The number 26 is from De Felice, 752.

[3] The number 103 is from De Felice, 751.

[4] For details on what is known about refugees at Castel Gandolfo, see Susan Zuccotti, “Pius XII and the Rescue of Jews in Italy,” in Joshua d. Zimmerman, ed., Jews in Italy under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 287-307, 306. It is noteworthy that Carvigiani, “Aprite le porte,” 132, cites as an authority, and with approval, statistics by Dominiek Oversteyns, De geschiedenis van de Hebreeërs in Rome tijdens de nazibezetting en vervolging in Rome (Rome: Privata, 2013), n.p., which declare that there were no Jews at Castel Gandolfo. I am not able to verify the Oversteyns citation.

[5] Dezza had been asked to contribute to a special edition of L’Osservatore della Domenica dedicated to the memory of Pius XII. His contribution is on pp. 68-69. Originally titled Der Stellvertreter, The Deputy opened in Berlin in 1963, in London as The Representative in the same year, and in New York in 1964.

[6]Pietro Palazzini, Il Clero e l’occupazione tedesca di Roma: Il ruolo del Seminario Romano Maggiore (Rome: Apes, 1995), 17 and 35.

[7] Palazzini did not mention articles in L’Osservatore Romano on October 25 and 29 and December 3 and 4, 1943, to be discussed below, which did refer to religion and Jews.

[8]See, for example, J.P. Gallagher, Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican (London: Souvenir, 1967).

[9]Carroll-Abbing, But for the Grace of God (London: Secker and Warburg, 1966), 55-56. The first book is A Chance to Live (New York: Longmans, Green, 1952). For Doino’s account of his conversation with Carroll-Abbing, see William Doino, “ The Pope Gave Me Direct Orders to Rescue Jews,” Inside the Vatican, August-September 2001, special insert, x. For details, see Susan Zuccotti, “Pius XII and the Rescue of Jews in Italy,” in Zimmerman, p. 298.

[10]The number 187 is from De Felice, 752. For details on rescue efforts at the convent of Nostra Signora di Sion, see Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows, 189-93.

[11] De Felice, 754, puts the number of boys sheltered at 83. For details on the Salesian rescue effort, see Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows, 191-92.

[12]The number 46 is from De Felice, 754. For Brother Maurizio’s testimony, see Federica Barozzi, “ ‘I percorsi della sopravvivenza,’ (8 settembre ’43-4 giugno ’44): Gli aiuti agli ebrei romani nella memoria di salvatori e salvati,” unpublished thesis, Università degli studi di Roma “La Sapienza,” 1995-96, 156.

[13]Monsignor Elio Venier, interview with this author, Rome, November 13, 1996. The number 65 is from De Felice, 755.

[14] For this estimate of refugees assisted, see Settimio Sorani, L’assistenza ai profughi ebrei in Italia (Rome: Carucci, 1983) , pp. 150-51; and Centro di documentazione ebraica contemporanea (CDEC), Milan, b. 8-A-I, f. Delasem—Settimio Sorani, “Attività della ‘Delasem’ dopo l’8 settembre 1943” by Sorani, May 16, 1944. The number given by De Felice, 755, for “Father Benedict of Bourg d’Iré” (Father Marie-Benoît, or, as he was known in Rome, Father Maria Benedetto) was too high.

[15] For details, see Susan Zuccotti, Père Marie-Benoît and Jewish Rescue (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 2013), 179-80 and 223. Vatican documents published in Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale (ADSS), eds. Pierre Blet, Robert A. Graham, Angelo Martini, and Burkhart Schneider (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1975), IX, docs. 433 and 487, reveal that at least one high-ranking Vatican official disapproved of Father Marie-Benoît’s dealings with the Jews and tried to get him to stop.

[16]This appeal accompanied a protective placard issued by General Rainer Stahel, German military commander of Rome, to many religious institutions throughout the city on October 25, 1943. The placard, to be posted outside each institution, read, “This building serves religious objectives, and is a dependency of the Vatican City. All searches and requisitions are prohibited.” As we shall see, this placard did not always prevent raids. For details, see Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows, 193.

[17]Giovanni Sale, “Roma 1943: occupazione nazista e deportazione degli ebrei romani,” La Civiltà Cattolica, IV, quaderno 3683, December 6, 2004, 417-29, 426, from a document in the archives of La Civiltà Cattolica. The pontifical institutions raided were the Seminario Lombardo, the Collegio Russo, and the Istituto Orientale.

[18]ADSS, XI, doc. 30, notes of Maglione, 126.

[19] Reference to this order may be found in the archives of the Seminario Lombardo, b.7.A.73, Diario, “Appendice,” 17-18. For details, see Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows, 225-28.

[20] The number 50 is from ADSS, X, doc. 53, Monsignor Guido Anchini, head of the Canonica, to Pius XII, February 13, 1944, 127-29. Nearly all the guests were men. Roughly 24 of the 50 were non-Jews, another 17 were described as non-Aryan Catholics, and 7 were described as Jews with no mention of religion. There is no record of any guests being hidden elsewhere in Vatican City.

[21] Ibid.

[22] De Felice, 751-56.

[23] Dominiek Oversteyns, De geschiedenis van de Hebreeërs in Rome tijdens de nazibezetting en vervolging in Rome (Rome: Privata, 2013), n.p, cited in Carvigiani, “Aprite le porte,” 132

[24]Rules of cloister are far more complex than is usually stated. Depending on the congregation, the rules often could be temporarily lifted by the head of the order. Also, some cloistered convents operated public spaces like guest houses, where the same strict rules did not apply. Some such convents may have employed Catholic laypersons to work in their public spaces.

[25]The articles in October were on page 1. The later articles, “Carità civile,” and “Motivazione,” appeared on December 3 and 4, both on page 1.

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A Past that Will Not Pass Away: A Contribution to the 850th Anniversary of the Brandenburg Cathedral

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

A Past that Will Not Pass Away: A Contribution to the 850th Anniversary of the Brandenburg Cathedral

By Manfred Gailus, Technische Universität Berlin

The following article was adapted from a public lecture concerning the 850th anniversary of the Brandenburg Cathedral and is used by permission of the author. Our thanks to John S. Conway, University of British Columbia, for his translation and abridgment of Manfred Gailus’ text.

Brandenburg’s 850 year old cathedral, dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, is a noted historic site, picturesquely and sedately situated on the banks of the Havel River. But eighty years ago, it was the scene of a very different celebration. Shortly after the general election of 5 March 1933 there was a rambunctious parade in the Cathedral Square led by Nazi Party units, including veterans’ formations and the SA, as they paraded to celebrate Hitler’s victories and his coming to power in Germany. They were addressed by Dr. Ludwig Ziehen, the Principal of the Cathedral School (“Ritterakademie”), who gave a speech in which he celebrated the “liberation of Brandenburg by the forces of the nationalist movement” and thanked everyone who had helped to bring this about. At the same time, he expressed the hope that the “brave national flags” (including the swastika) would never disappear from Brandenburg’s flagpoles, and called for three Nazi cheers before the marchers dispersed back to the city centre.

Ludwig Ziehen was to play a crucial role in Brandenburg’s fortunes during this period. He had served as Principal of the Cathedral School since 1916 and was also chairman of the Cathedral Chapter (“Domkapitel”), which included laymen. As early as 1923 he had created a club of extreme right-wing sympathizers and after 1930 had emerged as a leading campaigner for the Nazi Party. Officially he joined the Party in November 1932, and in March 1933 was their leading candidate in municipal elections. In the following month he became chairman of the Brandenburg city council. One of the first actions it took under his leadership was to proclaim President Hindenburg and Adolf Hitler to be honorary citizens of Brandenburg. The session closed with the singing of the national anthem and the popular Nazi Horst Wessel song. Those socialist members of the council who had refused to stand for this song were escorted by SA marshals from the room and beaten up outside.

Ludwig Ziehen was thus a prominent political figure and at the same time manager of the Cathedral’s religious and business affairs. The Cathedral had over the centuries accumulated a great number of valuable pieces of property, including the renowned school, so that the legal position had become confused and complicated. In 1930 the responsible Ministry in the Prussian state government had issued a new constitution, which established a legally-recognized Foundation, which transferred authority from the clergy and placed it under the regional secular authority. The former Cathedral Chapter was then dissolved.

The Cathedral’s congregation was quite small, around 1000 members. In the July 1933 church elections, the overwhelming majority decided for the so-called “German Christians” who eagerly supported the Nazis’ ideology, and sought to combine this with their Lutheran inheritance. They then claimed 80 percent of the seats on the church council, and were vocal in support of their ideas. But this group was not given the authority to make appointments to the cathedral’s clerical staffing, which still rested with higher levels of the state and church administrations. The result was that, for several years, the question of new clergy appointments led to continuing problems, especially after one of the senior ministers, Superindendent Schott, decided to retire in 1934. Ziehen was one of those who complained that the seemingly endless controversies about who should be appointed in his place was unworthy of so distinguished and historic a parish as the Brandenburg Cathedral. In fact, in 1936, a provisional appointment was made of Reverend Bruno Adler. But he was one of the more extreme “German Christians”, who had already become notorious as a Nazi sympathizer in Westphalia and had even been made Bishop in Münster. But his rigid and domineering behavior there had made his position impossible.

In 1935-36 a new chapter opened, largely due to the actions of the new Reich Minister for Church Affairs, Hanns Kerrl. A new Cathedral Chapter was selected with retired naval officer, Adolf von Trotha, as chairman. He was known as a staunch opponent of the previous democratic governments, and in 1933 was chosen by the Nazi authorities to be a member of the distinguished Prussian State Council. In 1939 he wrote his own profession of faith, which included the statement: “I believe that Jesus Christ had fully cut his ties to the Jewish people. He told the Jews the truth, and they cast it back in his teeth and rejected him.” Amongst the other appointments to the Cathedral Chapter were Provost Konrad Jenetzky, a leading “German Christian” from Silesia, and the prominent “German Christian” pastor in Berlin and temporarily Bishop in Magdeburg, Friedrich Peter. The Church Ministry had tried to give Peter a leading position in the Berlin Cathedral, but the church council there had refused to accept him. So they obliged the Brandenburg Cathedral to give him a position, along with the local leader of the Nazi Party, Karl Scholze, who had already joined the Party in 1930 and was employed full-time in propagating the Party’s cause. In fact, because of the outbreak of war, only Ziehen was permanently present in Brandenburg, but was himself – as a member of the Cathedral Chapter – fully engaged in managing Cathedral affairs. In the Cathedral School, numerous festivities celebrated the Nazi Party’s achievements, including listening to the radio speeches of Nazi leaders such as the Propaganda Minister Goebbels and singing the praises of the Reich Youth leader Baldur von Schirach.

The war-time circumstances and the lack of clergy made for more difficulties. After Bishop Bruno Adler left in 1940, Ziehen was obliged to write to the regional church administration, because “for the last six months we have had no clergy available. Church attendance threatens to become depleted. This is a deplorable result of the previous squabbles.” Finally in April 1942 a young pastor, Dr. Rudolf Biedermann from Pomerania, was called to join the Cathedral. Ziehen assured his colleagues that he had found Biedermann to be filled with a true National Socialist spirit, and that he would rely not only on the Bible and his Protestant heritage, but also on his “loyalty to the Führer of the German people”.

An extensive correspondence between Ziehen and the various members of the Cathedral Chapter who were serving in the army gives a good impression of their attitudes during the period of hostilities. For instance, Bishop Peter was engaged for two years in the blockade of Leningrad, during which over a million civilians died of starvation and cold. His letters from the front showed him as still believing in eventual victory, with a loyal greeting to the Führer and “Heil Hitler”. But after the downturn in Germany’s military fortunes at the end of 1942, a change of tone occurs. Ziehen even expressed a sense of distance in his attitude towards the regime. He could no longer accept the over-optimistic forecasts put out by the Propaganda Ministry. But of course these doubts could not be expressed in public: that was – he conceded – much too dangerous a topic.

The end of the war was also a difficult and dangerous time for the Cathedral. The synthesis of Nazi Party ideology and Christian belief which had been so eagerly pursued since 1933 was now falling apart. In the end, Ziehen’s biography seems rather tragic as though he was involved in a Götterdämmerung leading to a fatal ending over which he had no control. But no one was prepared to admit that the whole experience of nazification since 1933 was a ghastly error. Now – 70 years after the end of the war and 25 years after Germany’s reunification – this would seem an appropriate time to reflect on these events.

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Review of Mark R. Correll, Shepherds of the Empire: German Conservative Protestant Leadership 1888-1919

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

Review of Mark R. Correll, Shepherds of the Empire: German Conservative Protestant Leadership 1888-1919 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014), 283pp. ISBN: 978-1-4514-7295-0

By Matthew D. Hockenos, Skidmore College

Mark Correll’s Shepherds of Empire is a study of a particular stream of conservative Protestant theology and preaching in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Germany. It is not, as the subtitle suggests, a book about the conservative Protestant church leadership as much as an in-depth theological study of what Correll calls “believing” Christians or Christians for whom the Scriptures remained authoritative despite the challenges of biblical criticism. In the first four chapters Correll examines how two conservative Protestant theologians, Martin Kähler (1835-1912) and Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938), and two conservative Protestant preachers, Adolf Stoecker (1835-1909) and Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), sought—in different ways—to make conservative theology and preaching compatible with the modern age. Kähler and Schlatter sought to create a modern conservative theology by bridging the divide between traditional Protestant doctrine and modern critical scholarship, while Stoecker and Blumhardt engaged in the social question. In two final chapters, Correll examines the theological nature of preaching in Wilhelmine Germany and during the First World War. He concludes that of the four men examined in the first four chapters only Stoecker had a significant influence on the practical Christianity of pastors in Germany. Blumhardt, Kähler, and Schlatter, however, deserve to be read, studied, and admired—not for the influence they had on practical Christianity—but for their important theological and spiritual advances in attempting to overcome the modernist-traditionalist divide that defined Protestantism in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Germany.

Correll-ShepherdsCorrell begins with the court preacher Adolf Stoecker (1835-1909), who created the church networks and organizations that provided believing theologians and church leaders with a community of likeminded churchmen in which they could expound their modern conservative responses to the crisis of Protestantism at the turn of the century. Although Adolf Stoecker is best known for popularizing political anti-Semitism, his conservative political vision of a triumphant Germany, united in thrown and altar, and fending off Germany’s multiple enemies —Austria, France, Catholics, Socialists, Liberals, as well as Jews—appealed to more than just anti-Semites. While he saw the defeat of Austria in 1866 and France in 1870 as the beginning of a great awakening in Germany, he became increasingly disappointed that the Prusso-German leaders failed to rally the growing working-class to participate in this national and Protestant awakening. In addition to founding the Christian Social Workers’ Party to harness the poor for his conservative Christian cause, another central concern of his was to combat the threat of liberal or critical theology in the church, which was gaining ground at the time. To this end he founded the “Positive Union,” an organization bringing together believing church leaders, theologians, and pastors, with the purpose of maintaining control of the key leadership positions within the church and thereby limiting the destructive influences of liberal theology on the pastorate. While the Positive Union was mostly a success, his conservative and anti-Semitic political party never gained any traction among workers. Nor did his idea to do away with the state church and found an ultra-nationalist—albeit independent of the state—Volkskirche, which would work side-by-side with the state to further the cause of a conservative Christian Germany.

Despite these two failures, Correll believes that Stoecker played a crucial role in not only organizing the believing community but in establishing “a template for a general nationalist sermon” in which “God blessed Germany in direct proportion to the obedience of the nation.” (43)

Adolf Stoecker’s brother-in law, the systematic theologian and Halle professor Martin Kähler, consciously identified with the collective of conservative or believing theologians and preachers assembled in Stoecker’s Positive Union. Like Stoecker, Kähler feared that the Bible was losing its centrality in church life and the life of the nation primarily due to the attacks by theological liberals and critical scholars. Over his lifetime Kähler sought to developed a theology that occupied a middle ground between the critical scholars for whom the Bible was just one of a number of ancient texts that needed to be scientifically studied and the conservative biblicists or fundamentalists for whom every word of the Bible emanated directly from God—the so-called doctrine of verbal inspiration. Kähler worried that this schism was tearing the Protestant church apart and weakening it ability to shepherd the German population and to ward off the challenges from Catholicism and modern Enlightenment thought.

At the center of Kähler’s theology was a defense of the Bible’s authority for Protestantism—an authority that he believed transcended human reason. But in contrast with the adherents of verbal inspiration, Kähler did not believe that the Bible was an infallible text. In fact, he valued the critical scholars’ study of the ancient languages and the history of the ancient Middle East for providing a more nuanced understanding of the history surrounding the Bible. For Kähler the authority of the Bible did not rest on its historical verifiability but in its efficacy to change lives. The purpose of the Bible was to inspire faith in God, to transform the life of the faithful, and to stimulate Christians to live an ethical life and to encourage others to do so as well.

Kähler’s junior colleague, Adolf Schlatter, took Kähler’s project to create a believing theology suitable to the modern world to a whole other level. To begin with, Schlatter’s dissertation and principal interest was in interpreting the texts of first-century Palestinian Judaism using the methodologies of historical criticism. By emphasizing Jesus’ Jewish heritage Schlatter both engaged the field of historical criticism and challenged the prevailing view of Jesus as a product of the first century Greek movements. For much of his life Schlatter found himself at the center of the modernist-traditionalist controversy because of his belief in the importance of the historical study of the Bible. Ultra conservative traditionalists viewed Schlatter with suspicion because of his openness to modern criticism. Liberals, such as von Harnack, found Schlatter’s conservative theology and support of Stoecker’s Positive Union mired in the past.

Correll argues that Schlatter was “the first Protestant believing scholar to set out to define conservative Protestantism wholly in modern terms.” (106) In contrast to many of his conservative colleagues who interpreted the Scriptures through the Reformation confessions or read the Scriptures as the unambiguous and unerring word of God, Schlatter recognized the temporal nature of Jesus’ revelation of God and asked the question, “What does the Scripture man for us?” Schlatter’s modern believing theology was built on the recognition that God’s revelation took temporal forms. This did not, however, stop him from maintaining at the same time that the Bible was the revealed word of God. God, Schlatter argued, chose to reveal himself through the historical narratives presented by the Bible’s authors. The authority of the Bible was evident to those who made the choice to accept it as the word of God.

Christians who read the Bible as the reveled word of God, Schlatter maintained, would be inspired to practice Christian ethics by their recognition of God’s gifts of love and mercy for his creation. In Schlatter’s ethics, Christians act ethically when they offer their gifts and services for the good of the whole community. Schlatter’s conservative nationalism was on display in his ethical system when he described the first and most important community in the life of a Christian as the ethnic community or Volk.

Whereas there were obvious similarities between the believing theologies and ethics of Kähler and Schlatter—not to mention their close political and organizational connections to Stoecker—it is much more of a reach to include Christoph Blumhardt, the social democratic preacher from Bad Boll, within this group. But Correll makes a convincing argument that Blumhardt “showed one extreme in the spectrum of possibility for conservative Christian thinkers at the turn of the century.” (142)

Blumhardt’s theological conservatism is certainly not hard to pin down. He seems to have had absolutely no interest in engaging seriously the critical scholarship of the time and was, in fact, an enthusiastic advocate of the miraculous events in the Bible and even the presence of miracles in the modern world. Although he had little patience for academic theology—critical or believing—his view of the Bible as the means by which the word of God come to believers was in line with Kähler and Schlatter. But for Blumhardt the Bible was not absolutely essential to faith. One could have faith in God by simply recognizing all the ways in which God intervened regularly in the world.

Blumhardt saw his primary calling as preaching the coming kingdom of God and the need for every Christian to work toward this end. In contrast to Kähler, Schlatter and particularly Stoecker, he harbored little if any nationalism and did not give Germany any particular role in the coming of the kingdom. He associated the kingdom of God with the struggle of the working class and the coming of God’s righteousness to earth. He defended his membership in the Social Democratic Party by claiming that socialists were doing more to establish God’s kingdom on earth than many Christians. He believed that Christianity and socialism were fully compatible in that they both wanted to change the world for the better. Socialists did this through their political actions and Christians did this through ethical behavior inspired by their relationship with God. Theologically it makes some sense to include Blumhardt in the same circle with Kähler, Schlatter, and Stoecker, but in all other respects they had little in common.

In Correll’s final two chapters he examines the nature of preaching in Germany from the 1880s through the First World War. These chapters are particularly useful for church historians interested in the theological and spiritual message of the Protestant pastorate to their congregations. Here Correll maintains that although theological liberalism reigned supreme in most of the university theology departments—Erlangen and Greifswald were the exceptions—the pastorate remained largely conservative, as did their sermons. Neither critical theologians nor believing theologians seemed to have had much impact on the practical Christianity of the clergy. Theology students were certainly introduced to the debates between modernists and traditionalists during their university training—and were likely to take the side of their mentor—but they made little effort to engage their congregation in the basic tenets of the debate. Instead their sermons were marked by “traditional Lutheran platitudes and nationalist enthusiasm,” associated with Stoecker. Central to most sermons in the decades leading up to the war was the simple notion that God bestowed on the German people blessings and curses in proportion to their obedience and faithfulness. During the war pastors told their congregations that God was on their side and that victory was inevitable. Correll argues that the failure of the church’s leaders and clergy to develop a more honest and critical assessment of the war and to offer a credible interpretation of Germany’s defeat and postwar plight led parishioners to leave the church in droves.

Correll’s study of the theological debates from the 1880s to 1918 is a heavy read—especially the chapters on Kähler, Schlatter, and Blumhardt—but in the end proves quite useful and enlightening. He introduces readers to the traditionalist-modernist debate that dominated German theology in the late nineteenth-century and provides an in-depth analysis of how a select group of theologians and preachers tried to address the theological crisis by incorporating some modernist elements into what was an otherwise very conservative theological and spiritual outlook. Correll is clearly disappointed that the theological innovations of Kähler and Schlatter failed to have much of an impact on the pastorate but his perceptive examination of the sermons from the time nevertheless provide the reader with a better understanding of how the German Protestant clergy utterly failed to prepare the populace for the coming century.

 

 

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Review of Patrick J. Houlihan, Catholicism and the Great War: Religion and Everyday Life in Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1922

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

Review of Patrick J. Houlihan, Catholicism and the Great War: Religion and Everyday Life in Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1922 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Xiii + 287 Pp. ISBN: 978-1-107-03514-0.

By Kyle Jantzen, Ambrose University

Catholicism and the Great War is a transnational comparative history of everyday Catholicism. In it Patrick J. Houlihan sets out to revise the story of Roman Catholic theology and lived religion during the First World War era in both Germany (where Catholics were a minority) and Austria-Hungary (where they comprised a majority). His subjects include church leaders, military chaplains, front soldiers, women and children at home, and the papacy. And his scope is not only the war but also its immediate aftermath, which allows him to tackle the additional themes of memory and commemoration. This is an ambitious book.

Houlihan-CatholicismHoulihan’s argument is that conventional interpretations of religion in the First World War, which emphasize the secularizing effect of a shattering war experience as expressed in the voices of cultural modernists, do not capture the experiences of German and Austro-Hungarian Catholics. Rather, he asserts that Catholics adjusted to industrial warfare because their transnational faith and its practices helped them to cope relatively successfully with the upheaval and brutality of war—more successfully than Protestants, whose faith (in the case of Germany) was more closely tied to the defeated state.

The book begins with a dense introduction, demonstrating Houlihan’s remarkable historiographical knowledge. Here and throughout the book, the author interacts substantively with a wide array of scholarly literature on religion and war, the First World War, nineteenth- and twentieth-century European Catholicism, military chaplaincy, religion and nationalism, women’s experiences of war, and numerous other topics. It is indeed the strength of his work.

Methodologically, Houlihan eschews quantitative or institutional history, embracing a transnational approach to his subject, which fits well with the internationalism of Roman Catholicism and enables him to avoid the trap of viewing Christian religion only in terms of its instrumental service to national movements and state interests. He also pursues a comparative methodology, highlighting differences between the experiences of German and Austro-Hungarian Catholics, though often distinctions are blurred as examples are drawn freely from both regions. Still, it is worth noting that Houlihan finds Austro-Hungarian Catholicism to have been a vital component in maintaining imperial loyalty and social cohesion, problematizing commonly-held assumptions about the inevitable demise of the Habsburg Empire. Finally, Houlihan also attempts to incorporate elements of the history of everyday life of Central European Catholics, and to blur boundaries between battlefront and homefront, creating what he calls a “family” history of Catholicism in the First World War (16).

All of these streams of interpretation are worked out in a series of chapters on Catholicism before the war, Catholic theology during the First World War, the role of Catholic military chaplains, the experiences of Catholic soldiers, the circumstances of Catholic women and children at home, the influence of the papacy, and memory and mourning among Catholics after 1918.

Leading up to the war, Catholics in Austria-Hungary were overwhelmingly rural, living in traditional local communities of belief. At the same time, however, new imagined communities were emerging in Central Europe, thanks to the various national movements which were often connected to Catholicism. German Catholics, on the other hand, were influenced most powerfully by the legacy of the Kulturkampf, which drove Catholics into a defensive posture, as demonstrated by Catholic political and labour movements. But for most Catholics in Central Europe, the outbreak of war in 1914 was seen mainly as yet another trial to be endured, and as a threat to the coming harvest.

Once the war had begun, German and Austrian bishops were prominent public advocates of just-war theology. For German Catholic leaders, war was a patriotic test of faith. For Austro-Hungarian bishops, it was a call to defend Habsburg dynastic honour and therefore the divine order as they understood it. Military chaplains played a significant role in mediating this theology to ordinary participants, not least by praying for divine blessings on military weapons. As the war dragged on, though, public theology began to emphasize the war as a punishment for aspects of modernity that had drawn Europeans away from God and the Church. And after defeat in 1918, Catholics in former Habsburg lands found themselves reimagining themselves at the dawn of a new day of freedom and opportunity—at least those from minority groups formed into new nation states, such as Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Poles, and Slovenes. While the “new theologies” of Max Scheler, Romano Guardini, and Karl Adam would bear fruit only later in the 1960s, other “everyday theologies” were also emerging: positively, the rise of a feminine form of Catholicism; negatively, an upsurge of Catholic antisemitism which would later help to pave the way for Hitler and the Holocaust.

Military chaplains—of which there were 1441 in the Prussian Army and 3077 among the Habsburg forces—provided pastoral care among Catholic troops. This they did more effectively in Austria-Hungary than in Germany, according to Houlihan, who uses a case study of Tyrolean Catholics to support this point. Still, all chaplains were overwhelmed by the magnitude of industrial warfare. Houlihan notes that Catholic chaplains enjoyed better reputations than their Protestant counterparts, since they tended to serve closer to the front lines. In one of the best sections in the book, Houlihan explains how chaplains used the three sacraments of communion, confession, and extreme unction to minister to their troops. On the Western Front especially, the cramped quarters of static trench lines made holding a full Mass a rare event. In the end, Houlihan argues that 1916 was a watershed year. Triumphalist “God-with-us” pronouncements gave way increasingly to private doubts about God’s support in war and public reassurances of Christian hope and perseverance in times of suffering.

Among front line soldiers, Houlihan argues that Catholic religion served them better than has often been assumed, in light of the prominent modernist literature of authors like Jaroslav Hašek, Robert Graves or Erich Maria Remarque. Rather, Catholicism was surprisingly resilient in modern conflict, as ordinary soldiers coped with their circumstances by means of a mix of transnational Church institutions, sacramental practices, correspondence with home, superstition (including amulets, talismans, and letters of protection), and popular piety focused on saintly and Marian intercession.

On “the unquiet homefront,” Catholic women and children both suffered and benefitted from the war. Wartime disrupted traditional gender roles. Though public roles for women included war relief, nursing, and industry increased markedly, Houlihan argues that Catholic women in rural Central Europe tended to embrace more conservative, traditional roles. Just as the Virgin Mary was a powerful symbol for frontline soldiers, so too was Mary was a powerful symbol for Catholic women, either in her virginity or her motherhood. Above all, the home front was a nostalgic ideal of piety and peace. Family networks provided comfort—both for soldiers at the front and their wives and family members left at home. And although the First World War opened up new public opportunities for women, Houlihan finds that most rural Catholic women remained focused on local and domestic concerns and traditional religious practices.

Stepping back from the history of everyday religion, Houlihan argues that the Holy See remained fairly impartial during the early years of the war, “nearly bankrupting itself through its devotion to its caritas network of care, especially for POWs, displaced persons, and children” (188). Pope Benedict XV forecast a bloody, brutal war, but argued that the bonds of common humanity and the institutions of the Roman Catholic Church could serve as a force for peace and unity. To that end, his Papal Peace Note of August 1917 called upon the belligerents to embrace peace and civilization. Benedict also oversaw a major revision of Canon Law (1917) designed to strengthen papal power and reinvigorate the Church. Lastly—and here Houlihan returns to his ordinary Catholics—Benedict was important as a symbol. Indeed, many ordinary Catholics wrote to him, hoping he could personally intervene on their behalf or bring peace and reconciliation to a war-torn world.

In his final chapter, Houlihan carries his examination of German and Austro-Hungarian Catholicism into the postwar era, arguing that traditional religious imagery helped Europeans make sense of the war. Themes of collective sacrifice, deference to authority, and universal suffering, grief, and consolation were manifest in monuments and commemorative services, as they had been in the Mass in Time of War. Clergy played an important pastoral role in comforting families of fallen soldiers, just as relics, votive tablets, and other physical objects of memorialization honoured the war dead.

As wide-ranging and as steeped in the secondary literature as Houlihan’s book is, it suffers from a significant lack of primary source evidence. The author acknowledges this in his preface, noting how hard it is to find archival traces of “prayers, fears, and suffering.” As a result, he asserts that his book “is a religious history that gives an impressionistic portrait” (15). It is of course true that this kind of source material is hard to come by, which is why studies of the interior lives of ordinary people are so often local or micro-historical in nature. Repeatedly, Houlihan makes large generalizations based on scant evidence, as in the case of his assertion that Catholics were worried about the impact of the outbreak of war on the coming harvest. This stands to reason, but the statement, “To many Catholics, war was another cyclical plague, redolent of the sinful human condition; it was not cause for celebration” is supported only by one memoir from a Lower Austrian domestic servant and three secondary sources (48). To give another example, a single diary from an Austrian soldier provides the supporting evidence for the conclusion that “soldiers who had to experience the daily horrors of battle often used their faith to cope” (70). Similarly, a single photo of a church service in Weimar Germany along with two references to secondary sources serves to counter the prevailing historiographical view of declining public piety after the First World War (260-261). And no explanation is provided for why a case study of Tyrol would serve to explain the relationship between military chaplains and soldiers throughout Germany and Austria-Hungary (81-82). In sum, while there is little reason to doubt that traditional Catholic religious practices persisted in rural Central Europe during and after the war, Houlihan’s wide-ranging study of this topic makes overly large claims which rest on overly thin evidentiary foundations. Simply put, it is impossible to discern whether or not the phenomena he describes are generally true for early twentieth century Catholicism in Germany and Austria-Hungary, since the his source material is drawn unsystematically from a wide array of regions and positions within Catholicism. He would be far more successful building his case through a series of studies like his useful regional analysis of German military chaplains in occupied France (Houlihan, Patrick J. “Local Catholicism as Transnational War Experience: Everyday Religious Practice in Occupied Northern France, 1914–1918.” Central European History 45, no. 2 (June 2012): 233–67), where his mastery of the secondary literature is combined with a solid and representative collection of evidence.

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Review of Hartmut Ludwig and Eberhard Röhm, eds., with Jörg Thierfelder, Evangelisch getauft—als “Juden” verfolgt: Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

Review of Hartmut Ludwig and Eberhard Röhm, eds., with Jörg Thierfelder, Evangelisch getauft—als “Juden” verfolgt: Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 2014). 473 pages, with illustrations. ISBN: 9783766842992.

By Victoria J. Barnett, U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

The history of “non-Aryan Christians” under National Socialism has been a peripheral issue in much of the historiography and a notoriously fuzzy one even in works that focus on the German churches, reflecting the ambiguities of the category itself as well as the unpredictable fates of those who were so labelled. In Nazi Germany the term “non-Aryan” was often used interchangeably with “Jew,” yet for many Germans there was a distinction. Jews had been persecuted throughout European history, but the Emancipation laws of the nineteenth century opened the way to greater opportunity and assimilation, often but not only through conversion to Christianity.  For some, the decision to assimilate through conversion was a pragmatic one, made in the belief that it would lead to a better career and firmer standing in German society; for others, it was made for reasons of marriage or conviction. In any case, it was a double-edged sword, creating a dividing line in German society that became very evident after 1933.  Christians of Jewish ancestry did not think of themselves as Jews and were not viewed as such by religiously observant Jews, and many of these Christians shared the antisemitism of the times. After 1933, however, Nazi law designated anyone with Jewish ancestry as “non-Aryan,” blending the religious and racialized categories, and as a result many baptized Christians suddenly found themselves categorized as Judenchristen, Nichtarier, or nichtarische Christen.

Estimates of the number of people who fell into this category under Nazi law vary. This volume gives the total figure as around 400,000 (a figure that includes members of Christian churches as well as secular Germans with some Jewish ancestry). A 1945 World Council of Churches publication that quoted German governmental figures from 1933 put the number at 250,000 (and the number of religiously observant or secular Jews at 550,000), but some ecumenical leaders in the U.S. and Europe who were involved in refugee work in the 1930s gave numbers as high as one and a half million—based, I suspect, on the total numbers of refugees (not just Christians) that these organizations sought to assist.

The Nazi regime began to pass anti-Jewish laws immediately.  The two major 1933 laws—the April 1, 1933, “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” and the September 1933 law dis-barring “non-Aryan” lawyers—had sweeping effects. In both instances, there were exemptions for Jewish veterans of the First World War as well as for people who had been practicing law or serving in the civil service as of August 1, 1914, and throughout 1933 and 1934 these laws were irregularly implemented, particularly where so-called Mischlinge, or Germans of partial Jewish ancestry, were concerned.  It wasn’t really until the 1935 Nuremberg laws that the categories and degrees of “racial Jewishness” were legally defined.

In the instance of the April 1 law there was another important exemption, elucidated in the May 6 Reichsgesetzblatt: the churches. The April 1 law essentially left the implementation of the law up to the regional and provincial church governments, and in the case of the Protestant churches, of course, the German Christian Movement was eager to introduce a church version of the Aryan paragraph throughout Germany.  Their attempts to do so sparked the widespread theological and ecclesial debate that culminated in the Protestant Kirchenkampf.  As opponents of the Aryan paragraph argued, it directly contradicted church teachings on universal salvation, baptism, conversion, and ordination.  There were of course other church teachings, such as the centrality of love for one’s neighbor, that should have led to a broader solidarity with everyone persecuted under the Nazi regime, but for the most part Protestant and Catholic churches in Germany drew a clear distinction between secular and religiously observant Jews on the one hand, and baptized Christians who fell under the Nazi racial laws on the other.  Solidarity with the former group was virtually non-existent (on the contrary, Protestant leaders like Otto Dibelius rushed to justify the Nazi anti-Jewish measures). Concerns for the latter group proved to be erratic and short-lived, as the initial controversies about the Aryan paragraph dissipated and support for those affected crumbled under internal and external pressures.

Ludwig-EvangelischEvangelisch getauft—als “Juden” verfolgt is not a comprehensive history of this topic; nonetheless it is a valuable contribution to the literature.  As its subtitle indicates, it is primarily a Gedenkbuch with brief biographies of 180 German Protestants whose lives were changed by the racial laws and the responses of their church. The editors have cast a wide net. The individuals profiled here include not only theologians and members of the Christian clergy, but individuals who were barred from studying theology before 1945 and others who, barred from other professions, decided to study theology in exile. Also included are teachers of religious education, Christians in “mixed” marriages, Austrians who came under Nazi law after 1938, and even several individuals who were Deutsche Christen or members of the Nazi party. While most of those profiled were members of the German Evangelical Church, there are also several profiles of individuals from Methodist, Baptist, and other free churches.

The editors’ introduction is an admirably clear overview of the subject, portraying the complexities of the Nazi laws and the gradual intensification of pressures on these individuals, and concluding with a brief but devastating portrait of the churches’ responses up to and after 1945. There are several very useful appendixes, including a table that locates these individuals by Landeskirche and “racial” category as defined by the 1935 Nuremberg laws, a bibliography organized by name that gives the sources for the information about each individual, and an extensive bibliography of the relevant literature. An additional appendix is a compilation of all the various measures against each individual as well as their fates and subsequent careers—a listing that gives a poignant overview of the numerous ways in which many of these people suffered. Pastors and teachers were forced into retirement, spouses were publicly humiliated, anonymous threats were sent. A number of people were betrayed by colleagues; some were sent to prisons, concentration camps, or forced labor. Some found safety for a time in one of the Confessing Church institutions.  Most of them emigrated and many—though not all—remained abroad after 1945. Those who returned encountered a mixed reception by church leaders and had to wage legal and procedural battles in some instances in order to re-enter their careers. Several people briefly returned to Germany before deciding to leave again.

The 180 biographical studies, written by a number of clergy and scholars, comprise the heart of the book. By extending their study beyond the names of the clergy already known from the literature on the Kirchenkampf, the authors and editors demonstrate the diversity of this sector of the population and have included many women in their profiles, which gives a portrait of the gendered dynamics surrounding the issue. While some of these individuals were familiar names from existing studies of the Confessing church and the Gruber office, there were a number of individuals that I hadn’t realized were affected by the racial laws and there were other names that were completely new to me.  There are a number of individuals from “brown” regional churches, and the accounts of their experiences offer important information about how the actions of church leadership in those regions affected both opposition voices and “non-Aryan” Christians.

While some of these people found refuge and solidarity in the Confessing Church, for examples, others found it lamentably passive and silent. Ernst Althausen, the Russian-born grandson of an Orthodox rabbi, worked in the interwar period with ethnic German refugees in the east, leading him to study theology in Berlin. He joined the Pastors Emergency League but complained to Martin Niemoeller that it wasn’t enough to stand up to the German Christians. Althausen worked for the Berlin Judenmission and came under pressure from the Nazi party and the church alike. After he had to wear the yellow star in 1941 his Confessing Church colleagues in Berlin stopped allowing him to hold church services and (at the age of 80), he was banned from public speaking.

The stories of “non-Aryan Christians” who were either sympathetic to Nazism or married to such people are particularly striking. Pastor Georg Börner, a supporter of the Deutsche Christen and the Nazi Party, didn’t join either organization only because his wife was one of the daughters of Kurt Eisner, the Jewish social democrat who was assassinated after leading the 1919 German revolution in Bavaria. Throughout the 1930s Börner was publicly attacked in Der Stürmer and the SS Schwarze Korps, but Nazi party members in his parish defended him, Bishop Hans Meiser stood behind him, and during the war the Bavarian governmental president issued a special order permitting him to stay in his pastorate.  His wife remained unscathed, and after 1945 the Börners remained in their parish until his retirement in 1968. One pastor who did become a member of the Deutsche Christen as well as the Nazi Party was Hellmut Fischer, who successfully hid the fact that he had a Jewish grandmother until 1938, when the Bavarian government decided to require Aryan certificates for clergy. Fischer quietly requested to be transferred to a non-pastoral position, but in December 1938 Landeskirche officials told Fischer he would have to leave the ministry.  His parish council stood up for him, declaring that he was a good pastor and “politically reliable.” The outbreak of the war resolved things: Fischer was drafted, the Landeskirche tabled the proceedings against him, and he was able to return to a parish after the war in Würzburg.

As these examples illustrate, many of these people are so interesting and surprising that readers will be tempted to do additional research (I found myself wondering, for example, where Eisner’s daughter stood politically in all this, and what happened to Eisner’s other children). The volume as a whole illustrates that those designated as “non-Aryan” Christian represented a broad spectrum of backgrounds and theological and political perspectives. As such it is a major contribution to our understanding of the complexity of the issue. The range of Germans affected by the Nazi racial laws was wide and their fates varied widely. Some people came under immediate pressure in 1933; others retained their positions until the late 1930s. Some of the people portrayed here moved toward a broader solidarity and engagement on behalf of all persecuted Jews, in contrast to the rest of their church. And, as the editors note in the introduction, the stories of these individuals attest to the widespread antisemitism not only during the Nazi era but afterward, when some of them continued to suffer under their church leadership and the antisemitism of friends and colleagues.

(The views expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or any other organization.)

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Review of Keith Clements, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ecumenical Quest

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2015)

Review of Keith Clements, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ecumenical Quest (Geneva: World Council of Churches Publications, 2015), 326 Pp. ISBN 978-2-8254-1656-3.

By John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

Keith Clements is a British theological scholar who served for many years as General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches, thus becoming well aware of the churches’ modern ecumenical dimensions. He has previously written a number of shorter works about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but in this more substantial study concentrates on Bonhoeffer’s connections to and involvement with the ecumenical church bodies of the 1930s. Drawing largely on the Collected Works, now fortunately all translated into English, Clements seeks to show that this was the most continuous thread of his life and activity, but one which has been rather neglected in earlier biographies which have concentrated on Bonhoeffer’s theology or his role in the German Church Struggle.

Clements-DietrichIn fact, Bonhoeffer’s participation in ecumenical affairs started immediately after his return in September 1931 from his visit to the United States. He was sent as a German youth delegate to a meeting in Cambridge of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches. This body had originally been established in 1914, but had to suspend its activities during the war, and had only been resuscitated in 1920. Its support came from influential lay and clerical leaders, particularly in the democratic countries of Western Europe and North America. They recognized the need for programs of reconciliation and peace activities in order to bind up the wounds caused by the destructive violence of the recent war. It was here that Bonhoeffer met with such leading figures as the Anglican Bishop George Bell of Chichester, with whom he was to collaborate for the next decade.In fact, Bonhoeffer made such an impact that he was forthwith appointed as an Honorary Youth Secretary and given responsibility for the World Alliance’s youth work in central Europe. This was a challenge he could hardly refuse, and one to which he brought his newly-minted skills in theological advocacy and his energetic support of the World Alliance’s aims.

As Clements makes clear, however, Bonhoeffer soon saw that the whole ecumenical endeavour was sadly lacking an adequate theology. Passing high-minded resolutions at conferences or engaging in moralistic wishful thinking about the need for peace was not enough. With all the brashness of a twenty-eight-year-old—Clements calls it boldness—Bonhoeffer set out to remedy this deficiency. At the World Alliance’s next major conference held in Denmark in 1934, he advanced the argument that what was needed was for a great ecumenical council of churches to be convened which would commit all its members to non-violence and abjure all forms of militarism. The cause of peace demanded a universal approach and was not a matter just for individuals, or even for local or national churches. In the absence of any such body, the World Alliance meeting should dare to act as that council.

It was therefore especially necessary to attack those theological ideas about “the orders of creation” which German theologians were using to justify their nationalistic sentiments. Against this, Bonhoeffer argued for an order of preservation which would obey God’s commandment to witness to truth and justice, and prepare the way for the reception of the gospel of Christ. But in fact the ecumenical community was not yet ready for this precocious and prophetic vision of Christian witness. And Bonhoeffer himself became fully occupied with the onset of the Church Struggle within Germany, following Hitler’s take-over of power in 1933. He was now taken up with combatting the eager support given to the Nazi Party, particularly by his contemporaries amongst the younger pastors who so eagerly began to spread Nazi militaristic, nationalistic and antisemitic ideas in the fallacious belief that this would bring ordinary people back to the church.

Bonhoeffer’s move to England in October 1933 brought him into more frequent contact with Bishop Bell, who indeed came to rely on Bonhoeffer’s valuable guidance about the hectic developments in the German Evangelical Church. On the other hand, Bonhoeffer was unsuccessful in persuading any of these ecumenical bodies to sever their connections with the now nazified official church structures, and to regard the Confessing Church as the only true vehicle for Christian witness in Germany. The tensions this dispute caused led to the result that no one from the German Evangelical Church was allowed to attend the significant ecumenical conferences which took place in Britain in 1937, or to participate in the discussions in 1938 which resulted in the founding of the World Council of Churches.

By this time, however, Bonhoeffer had returned to Germany to lead the Confessing Church’s seminary at Finkenwalde in the remotest part of east Pomerania. This necessarily cut down on his opportunities to be in contact with his ecumenical partners. But, as Clements points out, Bonhoeffer was insistent that “The German Church Struggle is the second great stage in the history of the ecumenical movement and will be decisive for its future. It is not an ideal which has been set up but a commandment and a promise—it is not high-handed implementation of one’s own goals that is required but obedience. The question has been posed.” But in this idealistic vision Bonhoeffer was to be disappointed.

Clements does not elucidate how far this set-back induced Bonhoeffer to be drawn increasingly into the ranks of those who now sought to oppose Nazism and Hitler by some form of resistance or revolt. But as the war clouds increasingly gathered in the late 1930s, and as the Nazi ambitions became ever clearer, the hopes of the peace party were doomed to disillusionment and frustration. To be sure, it was largely due to his ecumenical friends in the United States, such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Lehmann and Henry Leiper, that Bonhoeffer was offered an escape route from the risk of being conscripted for military service by accepting offers from New York to return to the United States in the summer of 1939. Yet, shortly after his arrival, Bonhoeffer realized he had made a mistake. As he explained in the well-known letter to Niebuhr, it was not the call of family, or of his church, but of his nation which led to his decision to return to Germany:

I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people…. Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization.

Clements rightly comments that in speaking of “Christian civilization” Bonhoeffer recognized the threat posed by the Nazis not just to Germany but to the wider Christian community. He saw himself engaged in the struggle for the widest goals of Christian witness which now required him to go back and face this ”terrible alternative”. It was all part of the costly discipleship to which he was committed.

After the outbreak of war, and his recruitment as an agent of the Military Intelligence Service, Bonhoeffer found that the hostilities virtually paralyzed the activities of the ecumenical movement and forced its supporters to find new ways of upholding their sense of community and mutuality. Clements argues that in these circumstances Bonhoeffer’s commitment to ecumenism became still more pronounced even though carried out in a conspiratorial manner. Thanks to his connections he was able to travel abroad, twice to Switzerland, where he contacted both Karl Barth and Visser’t Hooft, now the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (in process of formation), and told them about the discussions for post-war renewal going on in the resistance circles in Germany

Bonhoeffer’s most significant journey came in April 1942 to Sigtuna, Sweden, where he met once again with Bishop Bell. Bonhoeffer’s objective was to persuade Bell to urge the British Government to make a public declaration of support for the German Resistance in the hope that any such declaration would provide evidence that, when Germany was defeated, she would not have to suffer an even more vindictive settlement than in 1919. To this end, Bonhoeffer revealed to Bell the names of the leading members of the anti-Hitler conspiracy, and eagerly looked forward to his nation’s eventual defeat, since Germany deserved punishment and ought to express repentance for the crimes committed in the nation’s name. But, in fact, when Bell fulfilled his mission on his return to London, the result was a disappointing rejection. Clements clearly admires Bonhoeffer’s dangerous venture as an example of ecumenism in practice. But other historians are more skeptical, pointing out that this plan was more the product of these churchmen’s wishful thinking than any realistic awareness of the international political scene, or the realities of choices facing the British authorities at the time.

In April 1943 Bonhoeffer was arrested and taken to Tegel prison on the outskirts of Berlin. He was never to regain his freedom. But from the letters, essays and poems smuggled out by a friendly warder, we have the evidence that his dedication to the ecumenical cause remained as before. As Clements shows, he used the opportunity to explore the dimensions of Christian discipleship in the service of the world when the church takes upon itself the needs of the world before God. We have one final glimpse of his ecumenical commitment from the day before he was murdered in April 1945. Together with a group of other notable prisoners, including a British P.O.W., Captain Payne Best, whom Bonhoeffer had discovered was acquainted with Bishop Bell, they were spending the night in a Bavarian schoolhouse. It was the Sunday after Easter, and Bonhoeffer was persuaded to hold a short service for them all. He had hardly finished when two SS policemen entered, and called out “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us”. He had just time to give a message for Best to pass on to Bishop Bell. “Tell him, Bonhoeffer said, that this is the end but for me the beginning of life. With him I believe in the principle of the Universal Christian brotherhood which rises above all national interests, and that our victory is certain”. Then he was led away, taken back to Flossenbürg concentration camp, placed in front of a summary court martial, condemned to die, and on the following morning, 9 April, executed in the prison yard.

Clements’ final chapter describes the post-war reception of Bonhoeffer’s fame and ideas, beginning with the heartfelt tribute paid by Bishop Bell at a memorial service held in a large London church in July 1945, which was broadcast by the BBC’s German service and heard by members of Bonhoeffer’s family. It was the first intimation they had that he was no longer alive. It was the beginning of the process which Victoria Barnett has rightly called “the making of an ecumenical saint”, and culminated in the placing of Bonhoeffer’s statue on the front portal of Westminster Abbey in London, together with other Christian martyrs of the twentieth century. He was seen as a suffering Christian witness and defender of the faith. The emphasis was on his unconquerable piety and his unyielding trust in God.

But in fact, there were also contrasting reactions which Clements does not mention. In post-war Germany, not a few of the more conservative members of the Evangelical Church, including those in the ranks of the Confessing Church, took a much more hostile view of Bonhoeffer’s past. To many of these men, Bonhoeffer was not a Christian martyr but a national traitor. It was inconceivable to them that a pastor should have been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the head of state, should have openly refused to pray for Germany’s military victories, or should have welcomed the prospect of his nation’s downfall and defeat. It took some twenty years before Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer’s closest friend and biographer, was able to overcome these prejudices. Another and more favourable reception came in the 1950s in Britain and North America with the English translation of Letters and Papers from Prison and the revelations about Bonhoeffer’s political activism and participation in the anti-Nazi struggle. At the same time, these letters aroused a tremendous excitement, especially in the younger generation, because of the stimulating critique of existing church doctrines and the enigmatic assertions about the “world come of age”, the call for a “religion-less Christianity”, or the necessity of being “the church for others”. These were the themes which gave, and still give, Bonhoeffer an enormous appeal as a major source of inspiration and guidance.

Fortunately, in so praising Bonhoeffer’s legacy, Clements has avoided the distortions and omissions which have marked the recent American biographies by Metaxas and Marsh. Instead he points to Bonhoeffer’s posthumous appeal and influence, which have established his reputation far beyond his native German Lutheran home. Indeed, Clements can claim that in view of Bonhoeffer’s response to Nazism and the Holocaust, he has also become a significant figure for Christian-Jewish dialogue. In so doing, Bonhoeffer belongs internationally and irrevocably to the ecumenical scene. His witness to this cause remains his most lasting memorial and is one which still commands respect. We can therefore be grateful to Keith Clements for so fully and convincingly outlining Bonhoeffer’s contributions to the ecumenical world view to which he was so seriously committed and in which he believed so passionately.

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