Written By
S.R. Shearer

"With the rise of National Socialism (i.e., the Nazis) there came further divisions among the Protestants (of Germany). The more fanatical Nazis among them organized in 1932 'The German Christians' Faith Movement' of which the most vehement leader was Ludwig Mueller, army chaplain of the East Prussian Military District, a devoted follower of Hitler who had first brought the Fuehrer together with General von Blomberg when the latter commanded the district. The 'German Christians' ardently supported the Nazis ... and wanted to create a 'Unity Church' which would embrace all Protestant bodies and denominations. In 1933 the 'German Christians' had some three thousand pastors out of a total of seventeen thousand (app. 20%).

"Opposed to the 'German Christians' was another minority group which called itself the 'Confessional Church' (which - like the Reich Church - was composed of another 3,000 pastors (i.e., about 20% of the total). It opposed the Nazification of the Protestant churches. In between lay the majority of Protestants (the remaining 60%), who seemed too timid to join either of the two warring groups, who sat on the fence and eventually, for the most part, landed in the arms of Hitler.

"It's difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants ... The Weimar Republic (i.e., the socialist government which had preceded Hitler) had been anathema to most Protestant pastors ... because it (i.e., Weimar) drew its main support from the ... socialists (and other assorted leftists). (Indeed) during the Reichstag elections (of 1933) one could not help but notice that most of the Protestant clergy ... quite openly supported the ... Nazis. (But) they were soon to become acquainted with the very strong-arm Nazi tactics which had swept Hitler into power. The Nazi government intervened (in their internal affairs), dissolved a number of provincial church organizations (which had refused to go along with Hitler and the Nazis), suspended from office several leading dignitaries of the Protestant churches, and generally loosed the S.A. and the Gestapo on recalcitrant clergymen ... On November 1933, the day after the German people had overwhelmingly backed Hitler in a national plebiscite, the 'German Christians' staged a massive rally in the Sportpalast in Berlin ... Resolutions were drawn up demanding 'One people, One Land, One Faith', and requiring all pastors to take an oath of allegiance to Hitler.

"On the first of July, 1937, some 807 pastors and leading laymen of the 'Confessional Church' were (finally) arrested and hundreds more in the next couple of years. As for the majority of Protestant pastors, they, like almost everyone else in Germany submitted in the face of Nazi terror. Still, it would be misleading to give the impression that the persecution of the 'Confessional Church' ... by the Nazi state tore German Christians asunder or even greatly aroused the vast majority of them. It did not. What really aroused most German Christians was the glittering success of Hitler in providing jobs and creating prosperity. Not many German Christians lost much sleep over the arrests of a few thousand recalcitrant pastors."

William L. Shirer
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

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