The Long Reach of the Protestant Parsonage in Germany?
Published on: April 18, 2012
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  • WigWag

    Perhaps it is unfair, but as I was reading Professor Berger’s fascinating post about the reach of the Protestant parsonage in contemporary Germany I could not help but wonder what the influence of the Protestant parsonage might have been during the Nazi era.

    Hitler was a Roman Catholic (or at least raised a Roman Catholic) which makes sense considering that he was an Austrian by birth. Parenthetically, this has always made me curious why chauvinism frequently seems so strong at the peripheries; Alexander was Macedonian, Bonaparte a Corsican and Stalin a Georgian. Incidentally they were all short even in an age when people were generally shorter than today. Hitler was 5’8″, Stalin was 5’5″, Bonaparte was 5’6″ and Alexander was (best estimate) 5’6″.

    I’ve read that when he ran for Chancellor, Hitler actually received far more of the Protestant vote in Germany than he did the Catholic vote.

    Surely there must be a body of literature that explores the relationship of Lutheranism to the rise of fascism although if there is, I am unfamiliar with it. Perhaps Professor Berger might write a post about this someday or at least point his loyal readers in the direction of some of this literature.

    We all know about Weber and his conception of the relationship of the Protestant Reformation to the origins of modern capitalism. Was the fact that the Nazi Party was born in the same nation that gave rise to the Reformation a coincidence? Perhaps it was; but it would be interesting to get Professor Berger’s take on the subject.

  • Cunctator

    WigWag, what a conicidence. as I was reading Prof. Berger’s article, I was thinking about the prominence of Protestants in the German resistance. (There were a lot of Catholics as well, but I think a careful scrutiny of the numbers would bear me out.) It is not surprising, given that is due to the fact that the majority of resisters were Prussian.

    It is interesting, however, that neither Gauck nor Merkel are Prussians. Merkel’s father moved his family from around Hamburg (I think) into the DDR to take up a post as a local pastor. Gauck comes (again I am not certain) from Mecklenburg.

  • Scott Kistler

    Very interesting. I hope that you’ll write about why the former DDR and the Czech Republic are so thoroughly secularized sometime.

  • Mastro

    As an exchange student in Munich in the ’80’s I was struck by how much the Catholic church was a part of the German students- who seemed to be “cool”- not so much in America at the time.

    Of course it helped that the church had a meeting hall where the teens could hang out and drink beer-

  • John

    I’ve always considered it prima facie obvious, based on Hitler’s private words and public and private actions (insofar as I am familiar with them), that Hitler/Naziism (and fascism generally, at least as embodied in Mussolini) was pretty ferociously anti-Christian and anti-theistic. The propaganda front was sometimes different, but if one thinks Hitler was a Christian because of propaganda, then one will also think he was a man of peace, had no plans to invade neighbors, etc. etc., which were similarly delusion-inducing acts of agitprop.

    In Table Talk (a record of private conversations complied by his aide, Martin Bormann), Hitler expressed his contempt for Christianity and his lament that it, rather than Teutonic paganism, was the religion inherited by the Fatherland, and says the only theistic religion that impressed him was Islam–a warrior faith, as he saw it, then allied with the Reich, but (alas!) not a significant presence within the Reich.

    That, combined with the explicitly anti-Christian indoctrination in elite Nazi organizations, and of course combined with what Hitler did more generally, seem to settle it.

    I know it is common, especially amongst atheist activists and Marxists, to still say that Hitler was a Christian–but that tends to discredit the activists more than it does Christianity.

    It is certainly true that many Christians, especially what one might call “ethnic Christians”, let themselves be duped by Hitler, through a combination of propaganda (he is a man of peace who only seeks to restore German pride, etc. etc.), poor political calculation (Hitler is a clown who will be ultimately easily managed by more experienced, more powerful political betters), a humanistic lack of imagination of the possibilities of nearly maximal evil (your allegations about Hitler are ridiculous–no human being would even contemplate such things, let alone the Leader!), naive anti-Communism (however bad Hitler is, he’s better than the Communists!), and traditional Prussian authoritarianism (I may think he’s nuts, but he is the legitimate leader, and I swore and oath when joining the army…), and thereby wickedly participated in tremendous evil–but it’s still I think critically important to note that the evil sprang from a lack of applying the Christian faith, not the presence of it. Even more troubling for Christians is the fact that some Christians were genuine apologists and tools of the regime–but again, the point is their very human, very self-serving betrayal of the faith for the opportunities such betrayal provided, not their fidelity to it.

  • vb

    Merkel studied physics, not chemistry, although she did work in an institute for physical chemistry. I read in a German biographical article about her that she chose this field because it was the one least likely to be influenced by politics.

  • jkl

    Napoleon and Alexander were non shrot. The average height at their time was by far lower. The armors of the Middle Age belong to people 5 feet tall at bmost.
    Why in the peripheria natiolalism is greater? because you want to fit. It like converses , they are more faiuthful to the creed.
    Yes, hitler won with the protestants votes of Nuremberg and the surroundings but the votes at the parliament were provided by the Natioalist Catholic Party. The leader of the party was the only survivor when the right wing leaders were killed during the Long Knives Night. And was made Knight of the Church in 1966.
    On Weber, half the population of Germany is catholic, are they poorer than the protestans? no, unless as long as I know.

  • Eric Rasmusen

    Don’t think that Lutheran pastors are necessarily Christian. From what I’ve heard, it’s more like a civil service job as a social worker, with displays of religious enthusiasm discouraged.

  • Jim Wagner

    Just a small point. Didn’t the revolution start from the Nicholaikirche rather than the Thomaskirche in Leipzig?

  • Barbara M

    In my readings of German history and my current reading “The Reformation” by Will Durant,I believe that 100 years after Luther started the Reformation, 80% of Germans were Lutherans or Pietists, or some other denomination. Only 20% remained Catholic – and only 3 areas of Germany were majority Catholic: Alsace-Lorraine, Baden, and Bavaria.

    In the intervening 100 years, there was terror, confiscation or foreiture of property, physical persecution – and obvious the Catholics did the worst – from nearly 100% of Germany down to 20%.

    I also read that Hitler’s father was his mother’s step-uncle, which clearly ought to have been forbidden by an Austrian Catholic church, but Hitler’s mother was pregnant, so the marriage was permitted. (That baby died, and the next, then Adolf.)

    Is it true that Hitler razed the church and village where this marriage took place, to hide his mother/father history? Close familial intermarriage was certainly verboten, wouldn’t you think?

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