The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-45

By J. S. Conway | Go to book overview

Introduction

It is a regrettable fact that in almost all the accounts by English‐ speaking authors of the Nazi era in Germany only slight attention is paid to the affairs of the Churches. So much attention has been paid, and so much discussion focused, on the military and political events of the years of the Nazi tyranny that the internal developments, with the exception of the Resistance movement and the construction of the notorious concentration camps, have largely been overlooked. Only in recent years have studies been made of the methods by which the Nazis were able to impose their totalitarian rule over one hundred million people, and the consequent results to all established institutions both within Germany and within the conquered territories. Among these institutions must be counted the Churches, in particular the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches which together commanded the loyalty of ninety-five per cent of all Germans. This fact alone makes it remarkable that so little attention has been paid to the impact of Nazism upon institutions which had been part and parcel of German life for centuries. Even in the one area of the Churches' life which might seem to be of particular significance to political historians, namely, the Churches' involvement in the political life of Germany, most treatments are very brief. For example, William Shirer, whose history of the Third Reich stretches to over twelve hundred pages, devotes only seven meagre pages to Church affairs, and these are given over to the story of the Churches' persecution and their attempts at resistance to Nazi tyranny. J. L. Snell, in his short survey of The Nazi Revolution in the D. C. Heath series, makes no mention at all of the Churches, not even of their share in the Resistance movement. Even in the more specialized studies of the Resistance itself, little or no analysis is given of the contribution of the Churches, even though it is acknowledged that both in

-xiii-

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