Protestantism and National Socialism

Studies on the Nazi Penetration of the Protestant Social Milieu in Berlin, 1930−1950

(Last modified 1998)

The study aims to elucidate the complex relationship between Protestantism and National Socialism, the affinities and linkages, the differences and dissonance, from the perspective of social history and the history of mentality. The focus of the study, which investigates developments in the entire city of Berlin from 1930 to 1950, is not the Protestant Church as a bureaucratic institution but the genesis of competing religious movements within Protestantism (German Christians versus Confessing Church) and their social and cultural integration in National Socialist society. Everyday life and behavior in conflict situations in nearly 150 city church parishes and biographical material on the lives of 565 parish clergymen are the two main areas of study. The sources evaluated here yield overwhelming evidence of a variety of manifestations of Protestant anti-Semitism. In a broader historical perspective, nationalist Protestant mentality proves to be an outstanding feature of Protestant tradition and identity, culminating in approving, indeed, for the most part, in outright enthusiastic reactions to the events of 1933.

Thus, the postwar historical construction of the Church's struggle - an inadequate and presumably unconsciously distorted self-portrait drawn by participants, which historians have adopted largely unexamined - seems in need of revision. The development of German Protestantism in these two decades reflects not so much the confrontation between right-minded Christians and the Antichrist Nazi state, but rather a fratricidal war within the Church, a sharp inner-Protestant struggle over opposing beliefs about the proper extent of Protestant integration in the National Socialist state.