For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler

For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler

For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler

For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler


The Confessing Church was one of the rare German organizations that opposed Nazism from the very beginning, and in For the Soul of the People, Victoria Barnett delves into the story of the Church's resistance to Hitler. For this remarkable story, Barnett interviewed more than sixty Germans who were active in the Confessing Church, asking them to reflect on their personal experiences under Hitler and how they see themselves, morally and politically, today. She provides a haunting glimpse of the German experience under Hitler, but also gives a provocative look into what it has meant to be a German in the twentieth century.


The ways in which individuals confronted Nazism depended upon their backgrounds and personalities as well as upon their political persuasions. Both theological and temperamental differences among the leaders of the various churches played a major role in the alliances and divisions within the church opposition to Hitler. the radically different situations of the regional churches in 1934 magnified these personal differences. Germany's churches were divided regionally along borders that often reflected confessional differences as well. Some regional churches were predominantly Lutheran; in others, the Reformed tradition had played a stronger historical role. in the Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union, the Reformed and Lutheran traditions had been united since 1817.

After the July 1933 church elections, "German Christians" successfully seized synodal control of most regional churches. Those in which they encountered the strongest opposition were the three largest Lutheran churches of Hannover, Bavaria, and Württemberg and the eight regional churches that made up the united Evangelical Church of the Old Prussian Union, in which the Lutheran tradition had been leavened by Reformed influences.

There were, of course, a fair number of stalwart Lutherans in the Old Prussian Union and a few Reformed or United parishes in the Lutheran regional churches. But, in general, institutional developments in these churches reflected the dominant confessional tradition of each church. Institutionally, German Lutheranism was more hierarchical than the Reformed tradition. the Lutheran bishops held more power than the church presidents in reformed regions (the presence of a bishop or president in a region indicated the dominant tradition there), and Lutheran preaching, based upon the theological doctrine of two kingdoms, was more explicit about church obedience to state authority. in the Church of the Old Prussian Union, where the Reformed tradition had had a greater influence, increased power on the lay and congregational levels of the church had been an early development.

The theological differences between the two traditions led to disputes within the church opposition to Nazism, and no one articulated or provoked these differences as much as the Swiss-born Reformed theologian Karl Barth. Barth, professor of systematic theology in Bonn until 1935, was instrumental in helping to write some of the most important early documents of the Confessing Church, and he wrote most of its founding statement, the Barmen Declaration of Faith. His greatest influence, how-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.