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A Church Undone: Documents from the German Christian Faith Movement, 1932-1940 Paperback – April 1, 2015
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"The German Christian movement, which sought to Nazify German Protestantism, ranks as one of most extreme distortions of Christian theology in history. Yet, especially in the early Nazi period, this group appealed to a broad sector of Protestants, including some of Germany's leading theologians, and it controlled most of Germany's Protestant theological faculties throughout the Nazi years. A Church Undone includes a variety of German Christian documents, from major theological statements to obscure pamphlets. By giving a clearer picture of this movement and its followers, this volume offers important insights into the ideological debates that divided the German Protestant churches under Nazism." --Victoria J. Barnett, General Editor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works
"Our temptation for seven decades has been to seek out and describe Christians in Germany who opposed the Nazi regime. The publication of these documents provides a very welcome corrective. It is not just that Christians in Nazi Germany lacked the courage to oppose Hitler. Too many also misconstrued what we would like to consider the appropriate Christian stance." --Robert P. Ericksen, Pacific Lutheran University
"Solberg's book is a tremendous contribution both to scholars of German Christian church life and to all who care about the uses and misuses of Christian theology. These previously untranslated primary documents provide clear-eyed, chilling witness to the development of Nazi-inflected thinking among theologians and pastors. A remarkable and indispensable volume." --Lisa E. Dahill, Trinity Lutheran Seminary
About the Author
Mary M. Solberg is associate professor of religion at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. She is the author of Compelling Knnowledge: A Feminist Proposal for an Epistemology of the Cross(1997). She teaches on the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the conduct of the churches in Hitler's Germany, and the Holocaust, as well as contemporary theologies and health care ethics.
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This collection, expertly translated and introduced by Mary Solberg, provides readers and researchers materials, chronologically ordered, not previously available in English. The introduction locates the selections in historical context and poses the haunting ethical question: "If we were the German people of the time, could we expect to have responded any better?" The book includes a fascinating genealogy of the German Christian movement (44) and other photos that assist us to imagine the literary world in which the German Christians operated.
Each of the 21 chapters deserves individual attention. Perhaps most unnerving is the speech by Gerhard Kittel on "The Jewish Question," delivered already on June 1, 1933, in which he explicitly verbalizes, even while discounting, the possibility of "violent extermination of the Jews" (207). Solberg comments: "What is chilling about this 1933 statement is first that it was made at all--in a public lecture by a highly-regarded teacher-scholar . . . Furthermore, Kittel seems to dismiss the 'option' of extermination chiefly on the grounds of expedience . . . With historical hindsight, Kittel's statement and the complete absence of any expressed moral compunction take our breath away" (32-33). Other representative documents are "The Original Guidelines of the German Christian Faith Movement," "Speech at the Sports Palace at Berlin," "God's Word in German: The Sermon on the Mount, Germanized," and "The Godesberg Declaration and Responses."
This volume also includes "Theological Existence Today!" by Karl Barth, representative of the minority opposition to the German Christian tide. Selections by other major theologians--Kittel, Emanuel Hirsch, and Paul Althaus--demonstrate the varying degrees to which the theological establishment coalesced in support of the Third Reich. Taken together, the writings exhibit the effectiveness of propaganda, here guised in theological arguments, so to permeate public discourse that unthinkable premises begin to be taken for granted. This publication serves as a cautionary tale about the nature of public discourse in our own time, needful of confessing.