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> Ardente cura, The situation of Christianity in the Third Reich
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post Mar 7 2008, 12:16 PM
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This is a relocation of the discussion which developed in the thread Half of texas? .

Sparked by Chrysalis' question whether the formation of Aztlan and an aztec-cult based police state would even be possible. The discussion led to the example of Nazi ideology replacing Christianity and the role of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich. I'll just quote Chrysalis' reply from here on and comment:

QUOTE ("Chrysalis")
Hmm... The totalitarian nature of the Nazi party was one of its principal tenets. The Nazis contended that all the great achievements in the past of the German nation and its people were associated with the ideals of National Socialism, even before the ideology officially existed. Propaganda accredited the consolidation of Nazi ideals and successes of the regime to the regime's Führer ("Leader"), Adolf Hitler, who was portrayed as the genius behind the Nazi party's success and Germany's saviour.

Indeed the Nazis tried to tie the development of everything they considered "German" to the Nazi ideology and what they couldn't use, they declared "undeutsch" or "volksfremd" or basically just added the adjective "jewish" to it. The most ridiculous excrescence of this to me concerns "Fraktur"-fonts which are often associated with Nazi propaganda (and today, many right-wing and neo-nazi publications use it to try and look Germanic), but in fact, while first being embraced by Hitler, were later ruled illegal and declared as "Schwabacher Judenlettern" (Schwabach jew letters, Schwabach is a town in Bavaria).
I hope this illustrates just how random such declarations were.

The Führer-centric propaganda was partially rooted in a German demand for strong leader, after the democratic parliament of the Republic of Weimar failed continuously. The cause were certain mistakes in the German constitution such as a pure proportional representation within the Reichstag as well as the so-called "Ermächtigungsparagraph" (authorization paragraph) which enabled the Reichspräsident to gain dictatorial powers as well as the right to disband the parliament.
From the beginning of the Republic of Weimar, restorative forces who wanted to reestablish a monarchy always accused the social democrats of "backstabbing" the German people by signing the German capitulation in 1918. On the other hand there were radical communist forces who demanded to convert Germany into a communist republic, modelled after the then-fledgling USSR.
Just to skim over it (though the discussion might lead back to this later), right and left wing forces within the parliament stymied decisionmaking. After the death of Friedrich Ebert, Paul von Hindenburg was elected Reichspräsident. He was a follower of the restoration and abused the Weimar constitution as he saw fit, reigning the Republic from 1930 on with so-called "Notverordnungen" (emergency decrees).
While effectively Germany was ruled by a dictator once again, the parliament which was paralyzed because it consisted of many small factions which made it difficult to gain a majority to decide anything. This wasn't helped much by Hindenburg disbanding it several times a year. The people only saw (or wanted to see) the democratic parliament as undecisive and lost all hope in Democracy. The Reichstag was called a "Laberbude" (blabbershack so to speak) which furthered the influence of both right and left extremist parties. Politically, Hindenburg allied with the NSDAP in the end because he believed Hitler to be easily controllable. Only Hindenburg died before he could find out in the spring of 1934.

QUOTE ("Chrysalis")
To secure their ability to create a totalitarian state, the Nazi party's paramilitary force, the Sturmabteilung (SA) or "Storm Unit" used acts of violence against leftists, democrats, Jews, and other opposition or minority groups. The SA's violence created a climate of fear in cities, with people anxious over punishment, or even death, if they displayed opposition to the Nazis. The SA also helped attract large numbers of alienated and unemployed youth to the party.

Well, basically there were many paramilitary forces in the Republic of Weimar, the SA being one of the fastest growing, reaching a preliminary climax in the failed attempt to overthrow the Bavarian Landtag which got Adolf Hitler thrown into jail. You could give many other answers to the question of what drove people into the SA, but the most important have been named in this paragraph.

QUOTE ("Chrysalis")
Vctims of Nazi persecution in addition to those Jewish and Roma between 1939-1945 included communists, various political opponents, social outcasts, homosexuals, religious dissidents such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, the Confessing Church and Freemasons.

The Church in Nazi Germany was subjected to as much pressure as any other organisation in Germany. Any perceived threat to Hitler could not be tolerated - and the churches of Germany potentially presented the Nazis with numerous threats.

In 1933, the Catholic Church had viewed the Nazis as a barrier to the spread of communism from Russia. In this year, Hitler and the Catholic Church signed an agreement that he would not interfere with the Catholic Church while the Church would not comment on politics. However, this only lasted until 1937, when Hitler started a concerted attack on the Catholic Church arresting priests etc. In 1937, the pope, Pius XI, issued his "Mit brennender Sorge" statement ("With burning anxiety") over what was going on in Germany. However, there was never a total clampdown on the Catholic Church in Germany. It was a world-wide movement with much international support.

Pope Pius XI condemned the Nuremberg Laws in July, 1938, and was preparing an encyclical against anti-Semitism, but died in 1939 before it could be completed. His successor, Pius XII decided not to speak out against the atrocities being carried out in Germany.

Pope Pius XI. as well as Pius XII are often critized, Pius XI. for agreeing to the Reichskonkordat, a contract guaranteeing Catholics in Germany the right to practice their faith in exchange for the Vatican to tie priests closer to the German state and Pius XII for deciding not to publish the second encyclical "Humani Generis Unitas" which basically condemns the Nazi's racism-based ideology. The latter was in my personal oppinion a wise decision though. The Nazis had already violated the Reichskonkordat before and publishing this encyclical would have basically sent every practicing Catholic to a concentration camp. While not openly condemning the Nazi regime, the Catholic church continued fighting the Holocaust on many levels even getting into arguments with the German secretary of foreign affairs, von Ribbentropp, while many clergymen in the Vatican tried to get Jews out of harm's way (for example through vicar Pankratius Pfeiffer, the "Roman Schindler" who helped 100 Jews and resistance fighters to flee by hiding them within the attic of his Order's settlement).

QUOTE ("Chrysalis")
The Protestant Church was really a collection of a number of churches - hence they were easier to deal with. The Protestants themselves were split. The "German Christians" were lead by Ludwig Muller who believed that any member of the church who had Jewish ancestry should be sacked from the church. Muller supported Hitler and in 1933 he was given the title of "Reich Bishop".

In 1936, the Reich Church was created. This did not have the Christian cross as its symbol but the swastika. The Bible was replaced by "Mein Kampf" which was placed on the altar. By it was a sword. Only invited Nazis were allowed to give sermons in a Reich Church.

In 1941 August von Galen, the Archbishop of Munster, spoke out in a sermon against the Nazi practice of euthanasia (the killing of those considered by the Nazis as genetically unsuitable). Adolf Hitler wanted Galen arrested but Joseph Goebbels warned against this as Galen was a popular religious leader. It is claimed that Galen's sermon inspired the formation of the anti-Nazi White Rose group.

After the war there was a general re-essurgance in christianity and a unification of protestant churches as well. During this period of time we could argue that religion was not attacked openly but was suppressed and subordinated by the Third Reich's power apparatus for maintaining the personality cult around Adolf Hitler.

I'm not that familiar with every aspect of the Protestant Church's past, so I can't comment on it as much but as you stated correctly, protestants at the time weren't really organized and the Nazis tried to coordinate them into the "German Christians" to control and instrumentalize the religion.
I'm glad you mentioned Galen, he is an often forgotten element of resistance in the Reich, speaking openly against the Nazis since before his appointment as Archbishop and maintainig ties to resistance groups like the circle around Carl Friedrich Goerdeler. His popularity was probably based on his location in Münster, because even now Westphalia is one of the most faithful Catholic parts of Germany.
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post Mar 7 2008, 01:23 PM
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