Summarize in your own words how the churches responded to Nazism. Would you be prepared to use either of the words ‘resist’ or ‘collaborate’?
In most cases the position of the church could not be defined as collaborating or resisting Nazism. The approach of the church was tough because they were trying to avoid conflict without compromising their beliefs. The Catholic Churches during this time contained many individuals who are unfaithful to their beliefs because they can’t do anything against the new powers. The Christian churches, in some cases, became obstacles that stood in the way of the Nazi regime. “The churches’ opposition was issue driven rather than rooted in a coherent, politically active anti-Nazi morality” (Housden 1964, p.64). Religion was pulled out of the educational institution in hopes of eliminating the obstacles that the Nazi’s were facing. The church was in an awkward position because religiously it is taught to respect authority, in this case, would be Hitler and the Nazis. However, the events that were taking place in Germany at the hands of Hitler violates religious beliefs also. The church’s had the authority to keep their ideological views and continue to worship as they believed. In some cases, the church altered their position to avoid conflict with Nazism. There was a mixture of self-interest, support of Nazi policies, and even opposition to the religious attacks on the Jews. The churches had to take into consideration the possibility of resisting the Nazis too much. The Jews, the target of hate and violence, was based on their religious beliefs. Other churches were given freedom to follow what they believed, but they had to wonder if they were next. In most cases, the actions of the church could not be defined as ‘resisting’ or ‘collaborating.’ The changes made were for self-preservation and to prevent having to change their practices to support or defy the Nazis. There are no means to simplify the events with those two descriptive words.
“The Nazi’s were more hostile to the church than the Church was to them”. Do you agree?
Hitler had an agreement with the Catholic Church that he would not interfere with their religious practices and they would but comment on politics. “In general the church hierarchy sought to avoid conflict with regime without endorsing all aspects of its policies” (Geary 1993, p. 55). The agreement between Hitler and the church only lasted a few years. The Nazis knew the church could create obstacles for their power and practices. Hitler began to arrest priest and find ways to interfere with their stability. The Nazis handled everything with power and hostility. The church is known for love and spreading the word of God. One can assume that the Nazis continued their practice of hostility to the churches and not the other way around. Hitler appointed his own Reich Bishop that gathered all of the Hitler supporters together. It was illegal during this time to oppose Hitler, so it limited the damage the church do to the Nazi regime. In contrast, the Nazi’s were giving virtually unlimited power to handle situations with force if necessary. One has to consider the influence of churches leaders. They may have had the ability to lead their congregations to oppose the Nazis, but it would never carry the same level of violence as Hitler. I do agree with the statement, “The Nazi’s were more hostile to the Church than the Church was to them.” Churches are motivated by a higher power that promotes love and honor to their God. The Nazis showed their hate and lack of regard for human life with the hundreds of thousands of Jews they terminated. The actions of the church and the Nazis provide a strong argument for the position they played during this time and how they handled any conflict that occurred.
- Geary, R., 1993, Hitler and Nazism, p. 55.
- Housden, M., 1964, Resistance and Conformity in the Third Reich, p. 64.