The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-45

By J. S. Conway | Go to book overview

7 The Rival Claimants for Body
and Soul

'Our generation's path through life must be
National Socialist, and our children must
consequently have but one ideal, and that is
Adolf Hitler.' — MINISTER OF STATE WAGNER,
I5 February 1937

The failure of Kerrl's attempt to establish his Ministry of Church Affairs as the controlling force in church policy, and the limited success of Rosenberg's ideological campaign, now left the way open for Himmler and Heydrich to assume the dominant role in the next phase of the Church struggle. In the immediate pre-war years, the efforts of these men were responsible for a rapid extension of administrative restrictions and methods of intimidation, designed to intensify the Nazi persecution of the Churches. In particular, three areas of Church life were to be the Gestapo's especial targets in the Nazi campaign to re-educate the people in the spirit of Adolf Hitler: first the Churches' lay organizations, their press and radio work, and their lines of communication to the general public; second, the educational work of the Churches; and third the activities of the smaller and less significant sects.


I THE GESTAPO LAYS ITS PLANS

The strategy of this campaign was to be laid down in Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin. Himmler's anti-clericalism was reinforced by the demonic fury of his subordinate Heydrich, who was forever pressing for more violent measures against the Church. Under the direction of these two men, the Gestapo developed a huge network whereby they worked to bring every aspect of German Church

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