Protestant clergymen and church-political conflict in National Socialist Germany : studies from rural Brandenburg, Saxony and Württemberg / Kyle Jantzen.
This dissertation is a comparison of local church conditions in three German Protestant church districts during the National Socialist era: the Nauen district in the Brandenburg Church Province of the Old Prussian Union Church, the Pima district in the Saxon Evangelical Lutheran Land Church and the Ravensburg district in the Württemberg Evangelical Land Church. It focuses on the attitudes and roles of the pastors, curates and vicars who served in the primarily rural parishes of these districts, analyzes the effect of the ‘national renewal’ that accompanied the National Socialist seizure of power upon the church conditions in their parishes, and probes their own attitudes toward the prevalent religious nationalism of the day. Following a comparison of the controversies surrounding pastoral appointments in Nauen, Pima and Ravensburg, the study examines the nature and intensity of church-political conflict in each of the districts during the National Socialist era. Finally, the study closes with a consideration of clerical attitudes toward the National Socialist euthanasia programme and the antisemitism that led to the Holocaust. Drawing on official church correspondence at three levels (parish, district and land church), parish newsletters, accounts of meetings throughout the period, the study concludes that while these Protestant clergymen generally shared a common conservative nationalist outlook, the manifestation of the church struggle in their parishes took diverse forms. Parishioners in Nauen and especially Pima (but not Ravensburg) displayed a high level of interest in their churches in 1933, in part an effect of the strength of the national renewal in their regions. In Nauen, the church struggle was channelled into the quest for control of pastoral appointments. In Pima, the church struggle mirrored the course of events in Saxony as a whole, and included extreme ‘German Christians,’ radical members of the Confessing Church and a moderate movement for church peace. In Ravensburg, ‘German Christian’ pastor Karl Steger dominated local church politics and fostered pro-National Socialist groups throughout the district. Finally, the study found almost no evidence among clergymen of official or public engagement with the moral and theological challenges posed by National Socialist racial policy.
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