For the Soul of the People : Protestant Protest Against Hitler
In September 1933, Ludwig Miller, Nazi party member and newly elected Reich Bishop, stood before his fellow German Protestants at the infamous Wittenberg synod. He looked out over the delegates, many of whom had actually arrived wearing the brown shirts of the Nazi SA. "The political church struggle is over," he announced. "The struggle for the soul of the people now begins."For the Soul of the People portrays the dramatic struggle between Nazism and the Confessing Church. When storm troopers started showing up at church services and the Nazis began issuing orders to the German Protestant Church, this group of outraged Christians sought to establish a church untainted by Nazi ideology. As the conflict progressed, Confessing Church members were spied on and harassed by the Gestapo. Martin Niemoller, one of the Church's most outspoken leaders, was sent to Dachau. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of its seminal figures, was executed in April 1945 for his involvement in the plot to kill Hitler.For this remarkable book, Victoria Barnett interviewed more than sixty Germans who were active in the Confessing Church, asking them to reflect on their personal experiences under Hitler and how they see themselves, morally and politically, today. She quotes liberally from their frank, unvarnished testimony, using rich historical and archival material to frame their stories. What emerges is no simple allegory of good triumphing over evil, as Barnett discovers that the Church's resistance was neither unqualified nor unanimous. For the Soul of the People portrays a church divided between those who compromised with Nazism and those who eventually tried to overthrow it. Church's strengths and weaknesses, particularly - despite the courageous efforts of a few - its general failure to help the Jews. Throughout, the voices of Germans who lived through the Nazi reign of terror - voices of grief and shame, of defensiveness and regret, of concern and hope for the future - reflect the honesty and courage of people who all their lives will wrestle with the past.The Confessing Church had a powerful legacy in postwar Germany, right up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Confessing Christians were actively involved in the postwar debates about guilt, rearmament, reunification, the political role of the church, and East-West relations. Many of those Barnett interviewed have played prominent roles in that debate, including such influential figures as a mayor of West Berlin, a member of Adenauer's cabinet, and a bishop of the East German church. Barnett's book studies the Confessing Church's influence in East and West Germany after 1945. And as a haunting glimpse of the German experience under Hitler, For the Soul of the People gives a moving, often troubling sense of what it has meant to be a German in the 20th century.
- 167.64 x 238.76 x 38.1mm | 657.71g
- 15 Oct 1992
- Oxford University Press, USA
- United States