Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Britische Presse Und Nationalsozialistischer Kirchenkampf. eine Untersuchung der "Times" Und Des "Manschester Guardian" Von 1930 Bis 1939

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Britische Presse Und Nationalsozialistischer Kirchenkampf. eine Untersuchung der "Times" Und Des "Manschester Guardian" Von 1930 Bis 1939

Article excerpt

Brittsche Presse und Nationalsozialtstischer Kirchenkampf Eine Untersuchung der"Times"und des "Manchester Guardian"von 1930 bis 1939. By Markus Huttner. [Veroffentlichungen der Kommission fir Zeitgeschichte, Reihe B: Forschungen, Band 67.] (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh. 1995. Pp. 814. DM 108.00.)

For the past thirty years publications on German Catholic contemporary history have been appearing with impressive regularity in the magnificently produced "Blue Series" of documents and monographs. The Commission for Contemporary History, under the sponsorship of the doyen Konrad Repgen of Bonn, has succeeded in printing a large number of works either by his pupils or their pupils, including many dissertations of extraordinary thoroughness and length, of which Huttner's is the latest. All of them are splendidly edited; the scholarship is exemplary and exact; the footnotes, bibliographies, and indices first rate. The problems begin with the author's and the sponsor's perspectives and the shortcomings these impose.

German church history is alas! still written along denominational lines. Interdenominational cross-fertilization is regrettably absent. Each group appeals primarily to its own milieu. Who else would be willing to pay the enormous price of these volumes, which in any case are presumably heavily subsidized for publication? This bias is rather obvious in the present work, which arose out of an examination of how the two leading British newspapers reported on the events of the German Church Struggle. Huttner's careful analysis of the Nazi repression of the Catholic Church, and how this was revealed in the British newspapers, gives us only half the story, despite the fact that he knows, and we know, that British readers were far more concerned about the persecution endured by the Protestant communities, especially the Confessing Church. While such limitations may be acceptable for a Ph.D. dissertation, the one-sidedness of this large volume comes over as unbalanced, even though exhaustively researched and presented in an excellently scholarly fashion.

After several lengthy opening chapters showing how quickly the newly appointed Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels, asserted control over the German press and silenced any reports on oppositional movements, Huttner then turns to the actual course of events, which he follows chronologically from 1933 to 1939, when British reporting perforce had to stop. He shows how the correspondents of the Times and the Manchester Guardian succeeded in evading Nazi censorship, and indeed demonstrates that they were exceedingly wellinformed, principally because of their shrewd choice of insider contacts. Not much escaped their notice. But we in fact learn little new about the actual course of the Church Struggle, which has all been extensively documented in postwar years.

The most interesting features of this huge tome are Huttner's comments on the differences in perception and interpretation adopted by the two main correspondents, Norman Ebbutt of the Times until his expulsion from Germany in 1937, and E A. Voigt of the M. G., who early on retreated first to Paris and then to London, but maintained his close interest in German church affairs. Ebbutt interpreted the Church Struggle mainly in political terms, and stressed the internal conflicts between sections of the churches and the Nazi bureaucracy, whose conflicting plans in any case made for a chaotic and wayward policy. Ebbutt believed rightly that Hitler was not much interested in the details of this campaign, but none of the Nazi hierarchy were pleased by the critical tone of his reporting, especially of such scandalous events as the arrest and trial of Pastor Martin Niemoller, which aroused enormous antipathies in Britain. …

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