Religious Socialism, Peace, and Pacifism
The Case of Paul Tillich
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Paul Tillich was celebrated in the Federal Republic of Germany as an apostle of international understanding and peace. In 1956 the city of Frankfurt awarded him its Goethe Medal. In order to appreciate the significance of this distinction, one must first recall that in postwar Germany, Goethe symbolized not only German idealism but also the best features of the German tradition of humanism and cosmopolitanism— values that stood diametrically opposed to the chauvinism of the Nazi regime. In 1958 Tillich was again honored by the city of Hamburg with the prestigious Goethe Prize; and in 1962 he received the even more prestigious Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels, the peace prize of the Society of German Publishers, which was awarded in a public ceremony in the Paulskirche. These events testified to the desire of Germans to demonstrate that they had learned the lessons of recent history and from the experience of Nazi terror and aggression. Tillich, the distinguished theologian and philosopher, now served as a German crown-witness to international peace.
The remarkable role that Tillich played in postwar Germany raises questions about his views on peace and pacifism during the interwar period. It is fitting to begin with an episode that changed the life of one of Weimar's leading Religious Socialists. On November 6, 1928, Pastor Gunther Dehn lectured in Magdeburg's Ulrichskirche on "The Church and International Reconciliation."1 Here Dehn declared that Christians should not regard the Fifth Commandment as a strict principle, but rather as a guideline to be discussed and redefined as the political situation changed. He then questioned whether national interest was a valid justification for going to war. Although he acknowledged the right of nations to defend themselves if attacked, he
1 The best account of the Dehn controversy is by one of his colleagues, Ernst Bizer, "Der Fall Dehn"
in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., Festschrift fur Gnther Dehn (Neukirchen/Moers, 1957), 239—61.