Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich

Article excerpt

Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich. By Doris L. Bergen. (Chapel Hill:The University of North Carolina Press. 1996. Pp. xv, 341. $39.95 hardcover; $16.95 paperback.)

In post-World War I Germany there were a good number of groups within the Protestant Land Churches "preaching religious renewal along nationalist, volkisch lines" (p. 5). Among the strongest of these movements was one in the Land Church of Thuringia led by two young pastors, Siegfried Leffler and Julius Leutheuser. Other groups joined, and their movement came to be called German Christians, a name often held to have been suggested by Hitler.The church elections which took place in 1933, shortly after Hitler came to power, gave the German Christians a golden opportunity to gain control of many congregations and other church offices. People who had never bothered to vote in church elections went to the polls, and the German Christians won two-thirds of the votes.The German Christians did not withdraw from the established churches, and which church party would control the churches became an important aspect of the Kirchenkampf.

The German Christians sought to promote a synthesis of the church and the National Socialist movement. To this end they tried to "dejudaize" the church. It was maintained that Jesus was not of Jewish heritage. Jewish phrases were deleted from the Old Testament, which was often set aside. New hymnals were brought out, and the author has quite a bit to say about German Christians and church music.

The volume is organized on a topical basis with eleven chapters.The titles of some of the chapters will give an idea of the way the material is presented. There are chapters on "The Anti-Jewish Church"; "The Antidoctrinal Church"; "Non-Aryans in the People's Church"; and "Catholics, Protestants and Dreams of Confessional Union. …

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