And the Witnesses Were Silent: The Confessing Church and the Persecution of the Jews

And the Witnesses Were Silent: The Confessing Church and the Persecution of the Jews

And the Witnesses Were Silent: The Confessing Church and the Persecution of the Jews

And the Witnesses Were Silent: The Confessing Church and the Persecution of the Jews


An endlessly perplexing question of the twentieth century is how "decent" people came to allow, and sometimes even participate in, the Final Solution. Fear obviously had its place, as did apathy. But how does one explain the silence of those people who were committed, active, and often fearless opponents of the Nazi regime on other grounds -- those who spoke out against Nazi activities in many areas yet whose response to genocide ranged from tepid disquiet to avoidance? One such group was the Confessing Church, Protestants who often risked their own safety to aid Christian victims of Nazi oppression but whose response to pogroms against Jews was ambivalent.


How can we reassess what happened, to keep it from poisoning us and setting a pattern for what is yet to come?—Romano Guardini

This study was accepted in 1970 as a doctoral dissertation by the Evangelical Theological Faculty at the University of Hamburg. For years it went unpublished since it contradicted much of the accepted thought among veterans of the Kirchenkampf (church struggle) and leading church historians. the issues I examined were considered taboo. My critics accused me of attacking those who had witnessed courageously on behalf of the Christian confessions and principles of faith. Apparently, some time had to pass before a new generation could reexamine the accepted history of the Kirchenkampf. Few people were familiar with the documents that proved that the Evangelical Church's record under Nazism had been less than heroic.

In the early 1980s, friends in Germany, the United States, and Israel persuaded me to update the manuscript. Thanks to the editorial assistance of Professor Peter von der Osten-Sacken, director of the Institute of the Church and Judaism in Berlin, a German edition was published in 1987. a second edition followed in 1993.

By the time of its publication, this study was no longer a novelty in the historiography of the Kirchenkampf. My research had long since been confirmed and supplemented by the findings of others. the significance of this volume today rests more in its collection and assessment of the documents themselves than in the intent to present something new.

The title of the German edition, Als die Zeugen Schwiegen, underscored the contradictions within this "confessing" church. Publicly and often at great risk, it confessed sterile points of dogma, while remaining silent as Jews and "non-Aryan" Christians were "eliminated," "removed," or simply "disappeared."

Yet whoever confesses bears witness, and becomes a witness as well. the contemporary witness who experiences political events differs from the theological witness, who bears witness by confessing faith in word and deed. One of the problems of the church that called itself the "Confessing Church" was that it remained silent when it was confronted with the fate of the Jews. It became a nonconfessing and, in its confessional . . .

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