A Church Divided

A Church Divided

German Protestants Confront the Nazi Past
Matthew D. Hockenos
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/27/2004
ISBN: 978-0-253-11031-2
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This book closely examines the turmoil in the German Protestant churches in the immediate postwar years as they attempted to come to terms with the recent past. Reeling from the impact of war, the churches addressed the consequences of cooperation with the regime and the treatment of Jews. In Germany, the Protestant Church consisted of 28 autonomous regional churches. During the Nazi years, these churches formed into various alliances. One group, the German Christian Church, openly aligned itself with the Nazis. The rest were cautiously opposed to the regime or tried to remain noncommittal. The internal debates, however, involved every group and centered on issues of belief that were important to all. Important theologians such as Karl Barth were instrumental in pressing these issues forward. While not an exhaustive study of Protestantism during the Nazi years, A Church Divided breaks new ground in the discussion of responsibility, guilt, and the Nazi past.

Author Bio

Matthew D. Hockenos is Assistant Professor of Modern European History at Skidmore College.


"Hockenos (Skidmore College) admirably demonstrates that theological doctrines and language shaped the views of Protestants in postwar Germany (1945—50). He identifies conservative and reform wings in the Confessing Church (1934—45) and examines their significance for postwar debates over the church's relationship to the Third Reich. Conservatives interpreted the Nazi era as humankind's sin against and alienation from God, for which reconciliation with God and a return to the pre—Nazi church were the solution. Reformers concluded that pre, 1933 theology had facilitated Nazi rule and the persecution of the Jews; they called for a reconsideration of theology to prevent future mistakes and emphasized the church's need to confess its guilt. Hockenos emphasizes the role of church leaders, theologians, and synods, although he provides insight into the views of parishioners regarding issues such as the church's role under Nazism and Jewish—Christian relations after 1945. The author clearly favors the reformers and their goals, but his portrayal of conservatives is fair. This study addresses a remarkably complicated topic with great care and clarity. It will be valued by those interested in German history and the impact of religious doctrine on historical and political analysis. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper—division undergraduates and above." —G. F. Schroeder, St. John's University, Minnesota , 2005oct CHOICE

"..a timely and welcome study. Hockenos writes in a reader friendly manner that makes his research accessible for the academic and general reader..The author's ability and skill to communicate the history and theologies of the immediate post—war period in a fluent manner is complimented by a very full series of notes with more than sufficient additional reading for the most avid enthusiast of German Church history. Hockenos's work is a valuable addition to German religious history and an excellent resource for research bibliographies." —

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Table of Contents

1. The Church Struggle: Ecclesiastical, Political, and Theological Disunity in the Third Reich
2. Representations of the Nazi Past in Early 1945
3. "Guilt from Another World": Guilt, Repentance, and Forgiveness in Year Zero
4. The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt: Religious Confession, Freedom Charter, or Another Versailles?
5. The Guilt of Others: Bishop Wurm's Letter to English Christians
6. "On the Political Course of Our People"
7. The Church and Antisemitism
8. "A Ray of Light in Their Darkness": The Church and Anti-Judaism