Propaganda Wars: Stimmen der Zeit and the Nazis, 1933-1935

Article excerpt

By 1935 Adolf Hitler had silenced most politically suspect organizations and publications in Germany. Among those targeted were operations associated with political parties, labor unions, socialism, and unco-operative or undesirable ethnic groups and religions viewed as potential rivals for the German soul or as underminers of the racial and cultural purity of the German Volk. Since Nazism claimed to represent the best interests of the German nation, few groups professing differing world views-this included the Catholic Church-escaped suspicion. While the Nazis lacked the political confidence to obliterate the Catholic Church, their contempt for the Church as an ideological rival was obvious. Nazi moral and political challenges to the Church caused anguished divisions among the German clergy, some choosing to oppose Nazism as the Third Reich systematically extinguished most of the Catholic organizations and publications, others adopting a more accommodationist stance, and still others advocating collaboration.1

In this context, the survival of the Jesuit-sponsored periodical Stimmen der Zeit into 1941-under increasingly tightening government scrutiny-is instructive. Founded in 1865 as Stimmen aus MariaLaach, Stimmen der Zeit served as a forum for Catholic scholarship and a Catholic understanding of current intellectual trends, social, political, philosophical, theological, historical, and even scientific ideas. In 1915, Stimmen aus Maria-Laach had become Stimmen der Zeit, but the general format changed little.2

Even more remarkable than Stimmen der Zeit's survival at all in Nazi Germany was the fact that it regularly dared to question Nazi ideology after 1933. While the editorial staff of Stimmen der Zeit did face police harassment and ideological attacks, only once did it suffer serious official sanctions before its final termination in 1941.3 Very few overtly Catholic journals-much less those remaining defiant of the new Nazi world order-survived Hitler's Gleichschaltung. But besides Stimmen der Zeit, there were a few, most notably Hochland. Like Stimmen der Zeit, Hochland enjoyed a prestigious international reputation, employed a remarkably similar set of strategies and approaches, and survived into 1941.4

Stimmen der Zeit's editorial offices were located in Munich, and among its staff and contributors were several of the Munich Jesuits whom Hitler's police watched carefully: Father Anton Koch once faced charges for the contents of a sermon; Father Max Pribilla's book, Fürchtet Euch nicht: Grundsätzliche Erwägungen zur kirchlichen Lage was seized from Munich bookstores; authorities censored Father Peter Lippert's texts from a 1937 radio Mass; and Father Erich Przywara was heckled and egged at an address he gave at the University of Munich in 1935.5

Father Alfred Delp, who was executed in 1945 for his alleged involvement in the July, 1944, bomb plot against Hitler, contributed several articles to Stimmen der Zeit during the Nazi years; he was the only regular contributor of Stimmen der Zeit to suffer Nazi execution.6 Delp was at best rather peripherally connected to the White Rose resistance group, whose activities at the University of Munich drew serious public attention in 1943. Delp also became a member of the Kreisau Circle which planned and carried out the July, 1944, bomb plot, although little evidence suggests he was involved in the plot itself or even knew of it until after the fact. In any event, Delp's activities, alleged or otherwise, had a negligible influence on the fate of Stimmen der Zeit, since his traceable involvement with both groups seems not to have predated 1942, after the journal was no longer being published.7

Stimmen der Zeit's survival as an ideological opponent to Nazism was rooted to a large extent in what it did not do. First, the Jesuit contributors to Stimmen der Zeit generally avoided direct confrontation with the Reich government, rarely openly criticizing Reich policies and practices. …