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The Nazis and the Churches. The New Christianity... 100% Aryan Daily Mirror 1941. Ideological Tensions. The Nazis tended to see Christianity as tainted by Judaism – a product of Jewish culture Hitler is quoted in 1933 as promising ‘to stamp out Christianity’

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the nazis and the churches

The Nazis and the Churches

ideological tensions
Ideological Tensions
  • The Nazis tended to see Christianity as tainted by Judaism – a product of Jewish culture
  • Hitler is quoted in 1933 as promising ‘to stamp out Christianity’
  • Early radical Nazism was hostile to Christianity – 24 point programme 1920 talked about promoting a new form of ‘positive Christianity’ involving a rejection of Jewish inheritance, rejection of traditional churches and the adoption of ‘Aryan’ and ‘pagan’ rituals
  • The influence of radical Nazism can be seen in the German Faith Movement which in 1934 became the official religion of Germany
the german faith movement
The German Faith Movement
  • Set up and led by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer
  • Sought to move Germany away from Christianity towards a religion based on "immediate experience" of God

The development of the German Faith Movement revolved around four main themes:

  • the propagation of the 'blood and soil' ideology
  • the replacement of Christian ceremonies by pagan equivalents; the most favoured pagan deity being the sun, as can be seen from the flag of the faith movement
  • the rejection of Christian ethics
  • the cult of Hitler's personality.

Never caught on – never more 200,000 followers – less than half of 1% of population.

  • Hitler therefore still had to ‘deal’ with the traditional Roman Catholic and protestant Churches in Germany both of which maintained significant following and loyalty.
relations with the roman catholic church
Relations with the Roman Catholic Church
  • The Nazis feared the influence of the RC Church . It was the only international and independent organisation operating within Germany – a potential source of opposition.
  • At first Hitler attempted to compromise with the RC Church buying their compliance with an agreement or Concordat with the Pope in 1933
the terms of the concordat 1933
The Terms of the Concordat 1933
  • The RC Church guaranteed its ‘religious freedom’ and right to conduct its own affairs free from government interference.
  • RC Church property was guaranteed and the legal status of clergy guaranteed. RC Church to retain the right to appoint its own clergy.
  • RC Church allowed to continue its role in education.
  • RC Church not to be subjected to GLEICHSLATUNG.
  • In return the RC Church promised not to interfere in politics and accepted the disbanding of its own political party The Centre Party.

The Pope thought he had won a great victory whereas Hitler knew he had bought some time

hitler ignores the concordat
Hitler Ignores the Concordat
  • Very quickly it became apparent that the Concordat meant little to the Nazis ... SA continued to harass Catholic clergy and Youth Groups
  • By the mid 1930’s the Concordat had broken down completely
conflict with the rc church
Conflict with the RC Church
  • In 1937 Pope Pius XI issued a public letter or encyclical called ‘Mit Brenneder Sorge’ in which he condemned Nazi paganism, condemned the lack of human rights in Germany, condemned the absence of ‘law’, condemned the Nazis racial policies and describe Hitler as ‘arrogant and dangerous’.
hitler s response
Hitler’s Response
  • Hitler told catholic Germans to make a choice between their religion or Nazism
  • He handed ‘religious affairs’ to the SS to monitor – persecution, harassment increases
  • Removed all crucifixes from classrooms
  • All Church youth and voluntary organisations closed down

All this triggered serious opposition in catholic areas such as Bavaria

impact of war on relations
Impact of War on Relations
  • War intensified the conflict between the Nazis and the RC Church
  • 1941 Cardinal von Galen spoke out against the Nazi euthanasia programme and the programme was dropped quickly
  • Harassment and arrest of lower clergy intensified
  • RC Church failed to speak out against the Final solution ..... Why do you think this was?
the nazis and the protestant churches
The Nazis and the Protestant Churches
  • 28 protestant churches in Germany with over 45 million members – largest the Lutheran Church with 18 million
  • Divisions and lack on international dimension arguably made Protestantism easier to ‘Nazify’
  • In April 1933 Hitler appointed Ludwig Muller as National Bishop or ‘Reich Bishop’ as a first step to ‘coordinating’ Protestantism
  • Hitler also set up a new GERMAN CHRISTIAN CHURCH headed by Muller in which the Jewish origins of Christ and Christianity were rewritten and an attempt made to marry Nazi ideas to protestant ideas.
  • Hitler called on all protestant pastors to join the new church – only around 2,000 of 17,000 did so.
the confessional church
The Confessional Church
  • This was a direct response to Hitlers attempt to Nazify protestant and was a breakaway independent church set up by Martin Niemoller.
  • 7,000 protestant pastors joined the Confessional church
  • Confessional church openly and publicly criticised the Nazis throughout the period leading to many arrests and executions.
  • Niemoller himself was arrested and spent 7 years in Sachensenhausen and Dachau concentration camps.
  • Originally Niemoller had welcomed Nazism because of its opposition to communism – only became a critic when he witnessed Hitler's religious plans in operation.
ministry for church affairs
Ministry for Church Affairs
  • The failure of Muller and the growth of the Confessing Church prompted Hitler to set up the Ministry of Church Affairs in 1935
  • Its main role was to harass, arrest and imprison critical Christians – Niemoller himself arrested in 1937
  • It was partial successful – even the confessing Church remained silent in the face of the Final Solution
  • Some heroic exceptions e.g. Dietrich Bonhoffer – active resistance fighter and member of the Confessing Church – eventually executed 1945
key questions discuss and complete in your revision twin
Key Questions – discuss and complete in your revision twin
  • What were the key events in relations between the Nazis and the churches – draw 2 timelines to show these and learn them
  • Why did Hitler and the Pope sign the Concordat? – spider diagram the motives of both
  • Why was there so little opposition to the Nazis from Christians? List possible reasons