Coming to terms with the past : the Protestant Church in Germany, 1933-1948 / by Matthew D. Hockenos.
This is a study of the conflicting ways prominent Protestant theologians and church leaders in Germany, such as Hans Asmussen, Karl Barth, Otto Dibelius, Hermann Diem, Hans Iwand, Hans Meiser, Martin Niemoller, Helmut Thielicke, and Theophil Wurm, sought to come to terms with the Nazi past and the church's role in that past. The various and contradictory ways churchmen interpreted their actions and inaction during the Third Reich often reflected the long-standing divisions within Protestantism over the relationship between church and state. For the conservative Lutheran majority in the church, Vergangenheitsbewaltigung (coming to terms with the past) meant minimizing or excusing the church's complacency toward and/or complicity in Nazi rule while simultaneously seeking recognition of German suffering or hardship during the Second World War and the Allied occupation. A radical minority, on the other hand, harshly criticized these attitudes as wholly inconsistent with Christian values and sought to redress past wrongs by acknowledging the church's share of responsibility for what had happened during the Third Reich and by changing the church's traditionally supportive relationship with the state. This study examines what, at the theological and experiential levels, motivated churchmen to make the public statements they did about the Nazi past and to take the type of political action they did in the years immediately following the Second World War. Five chapters analyze the Barmen declaration of 1934, the Kirchenkampf (church struggle) from 1933 to 1945, the statements issued by churchmen at the Treysa Conference in August 1945, the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt of October 1945, and the Darmstadt Statement of August 1947. They explore the ways Lutheran, Reformed, and United Protestant clergymen grappled with the church's centuries-old theological divisions and its ambiguous relationship to Nazi policies. The conflicting approaches taken by churchmen on how to confront the Nazi past are explained by differences in their theological beliefs, their varied experiences during the Nazi period, their political convictions, and the historical context of Germany under Allied occupation.
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