- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (April 23, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019512118X
- ISBN-13: 978-0195121186
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.4 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler 1st Edition
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"The book offers a thorough and insightful picture of the churches in Nazi Germany. Combining the personal memories drawn from oral histories with archival research of church documents, Barnett has written a masterful work of history. Most important, the book is written in a vivid style that brings to life the complex moral dilemmas of the Third Reich."--Susannah Heschel, Case Western Reserve University
"Conveying an accurate portrait and understanding of the German church struggle under National Socialism has proven to be extraordinarily complicated....Victoria Barnett is singularly well prepared to do this. She has written an unusually accurate, sophisticated, and vivid book about the German church struggle...a genuinely absorbing and readable work."--Eberhard Bethge, biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
About the Author
Victoria Barnett is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary, New York, and a professional writer whose articles have appeared in Christianity and Crisis, The Christian Century, The Witness, and the news bulletins of Religious News Service. She lived in Germany for 13 years and now lives in Washington, D.C.
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Like the Soviets, the Germans wanted a church they could keep under their thumb and control if they had to tolerate any at all. In the Soviet Union, a few token congregations were 'tolerated' in major cities like Moscow, and the Soviet stooges heading the congregations therein boasted of their religious freedom, which was primarily for outward consumption as religious repression was the norm. Publicly, their messages were distorted by Soviet propagandists. In Nazi Germany, the people were more resistant to marginalization of Christianity, because it was so ingrained in the hearts and minds of many Germans. The Nazis hoped to muzzle nascent Christian resistance, and demarcated the boundaries of a state-tolerated Christian assembly, under two confessional creeds, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. An organized resistance to the Nazi state and state-tolerated church was present in the underground church of Confessing Christians. These protestors objected vehemently to Nazi edicts-the so called Aryan clauses-that forbid non-Germans from being members of the church. The Gestapo counterintelligence had two sections dedicated to domestic monitoring of religious groups and their resistance, and churches were ridden with moles and informants. The Himmler Decree punished the activities of the Confessing Church, effectively outlawing their seminary studies, exam taking, which made them criminal activities. Yet the Confessing Church persisted, but faced persecution.
The anger of Nazis was kindled in one locale, as local Christians much preferred the tranquility of Bible studies to being spoon fed by Nazi indoctrinators. One Nazi quipped, "A migration of people occurs when these so-called Bible studies take place..." The pastor soon heard of death threats leaking from the Gestapo. The Confessing Church was bound by a code of ethics, and many refused to turn snitch, as the Berlin Council of Brethren declared: "From the standpoint of honor of a Christian and a German man, it is ruled out absolutely that a pastor of the Confessing Church offer himself to the police as an informer on his colleagues... The honor and fellowship... forbid any pastor to contribute, in any form, to a colleague's imprisonment..." Their constitution and resolve not to cooperate was perhaps much stronger than Soviet resistance. Yet anti-Christian, politically-correct historians (who seek to malign Christianity) would have you believe that the Christian church was in cozy lockstep with the Nazi party. They offer a few pictures of browbeaten clergy saluting the Fuhrer to vindicate their point.
Many Confessing Christians found their fate in the concentration camps. Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed that for Christian civilization to persevere that Nazi Germany must be brought to desolation. His patriotism compelled him to return to Germany, after seeking refuge in London and New York, even as war was on the horizon and endure suffering alongside his people. He couldn't see himself involved in the reconstruction and ministry there if he would not suffer alongside his people. The Christian Resistance readily admits compromises were made. Many wrestled with the nature of resistance. Bonhoeffer, for example, lamented Hitler was "anti-Christ" and most be opposed. He came to see compromising the Gospel mission by turning the church into a propaganda instrument for the state and "giving that which was holy unto the dogs..." (Mt. 7:6) as a most egregious and disreputable compromise that would arouse God's judgment. He was summarily implicated in the Abwehr conspiracy for his loose connections to a plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was among the Flossenberg martyrs, and executed just days before the Allies liberated his camp. Bonhoeffer is the archetype of the Christian resistance to tyranny. He would not submit to a self-aggrandizing demigod who trumped the Christian mission of evangelism to all peoples. Hitler zealously persecuted the opposition and heralded destruction as a creative force. Nazi abuses against Christians were so crude as to include plastering churches with anticlerical posters, desecrating religious symbols, smearing excrement on altars and church doors. Clergy were routinely singled out for violence, assassination, internment. Throngs of Hitler Youth paraded with shouts of "Death to Christians and the Jews!" Those who cooperated willingly desecrated their altars with swastikas and compromise their pulpit sermons with Nazi propaganda.
Barnett touches on some of the more nefarious abuses, though more could be chronicled. She makes light of lack of resistance in some circles and tries to illuminate considerations for lack of resistance. Overall, Barnett does an objective overview of their efforts of the resistance and Protestant protest. This book is mildly hampered by the small print, overtly unreadable passages that lose their fluidity, thus the text is hard to read at times. The breadth of content and the reasonable objectivity redeem it. Barnett's objectivity is much better than other books coming from Marxist circles. Other books on church-state relations in Nazi Germany are little more than anti-Christian diatribes. These biased historians act as though all Christians and Christian clergy walked in cozy lockstep with the Nazi state and seldom put up even a whimper of protest. (I give it a 3.5 out of 5.0 star rating.)
"It is the attitude to religion which separates and must always separate Conservative thinking from National Socialism. The basis of Conservative politics is that obedience to God and faith in him must also determine the whole of public life. Hitler and National Socialism adopt a fundamentally different position... It is a fact that Hitler... only acknowledges race and its demands as the highest law governing state activity. That is materialism irreconcilable with faith and Christianity."
--Ewald von Kleis-Schmenzin
During Hitler's reign in Germany this struggle in the Protestant churches was between the likes of Reverands Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoffer and members of the Confessing Church and the self styled 'progressive' 'German Christian Movement' and their neo-pagen nazi supporters.
This book is the story of their struggle.