"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