Robert P. Ericksen

in The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211869
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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This article examines the so-called Kirchenkampf (Church Struggle) waged by German Protestants in the Third Reich. It shows that it hardly represented forthright opposition to the Nazi state, as claimed by some of its veterans after World War II. Most Protestants were more supportive than resistant to the Nazi regime. Even the Confessing Church, once considered a resistance movement, showed considerable support for Hitler and little concern for the Jewish victims of his policies. The other side in the church struggle, the Deutsche Christen, sought to prove their Nazi credentials by separating Christianity from its Jewish roots, even suggesting an ‘Aryan Jesus’. Some Protestant individuals, such as Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), did oppose Nazi policies at risk to their lives. More typical, however, was Gerhard Kittel (1888–1948), a renowned theologian who joined the Nazi Party in 1933, claimed a natural affinity between Christianity and Nazism, and engaged in polemics against Jews.

Keywords: German Protestants; Kirchenkampf; church struggle; Nazism; Deutsche Christen; Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Gerhard Kittel

Article.  6497 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Christianity ; Judaism and Jewish Studies

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