The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-45

By J. S. Conway | Go to book overview

4 'The Church must be separate
from the State'

'When we put on our brownshirts, then we
cease to be Catholics or Protestants, we are
only Germans.' — ALFRED ROSENBERG, in
Hanover, 22 January 1934

The Röhm Putsch brought home to all Germans who were not completely intoxicated by Nazi aspirations of grandeur the utter ruthlessness of the régime and the determination of its leaders, not merely to obliterate opposition to their political hegemony, but to treat as subversion deserving of imprisonment, or even of death, many of the practices which had hitherto been regarded as of no political significance. This is particularly true as regards the Churches. The Nazi interpretation of the slogan 'Politics do not belong in the Church' was far more comprehensive and more damaging to the Churches' interests than was realized by the well‐ meaning churchmen who had agreed to accept it in principle. The slogan had been deliberately coined to conceal the Nazis' intention of excluding the Church from involvement in any aspect of political life. The only permitted role for the Churches was, as we have seen, to cater for the support of the State and the Party.

From 1934 onwards the Nazi attack on the Church was conducted along three separate lines. The first line was designed to win administrative control, whereby the Evangelical Church, and later the Roman Catholic Church, would be brought under the authority of the State. This conflict ebbed and flowed right up to the outbreak of war, when Hitler declared a truce. It caused a great deal of controversy and intrigue, but it was in fact never

-95-

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