Did the Protestant Church oppose the Nazis?

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Reflect!

Click here to look back at the 'Nazification of Germany' section.

Make a two column list. At the top add the headings 'Support' and 'Opposition'.

  • Under these two headings add notes about the ways in which the Protestant Church supported and opposed the Nazis.
  • Look for reasons why the Church did not help the Jews and reasons why they helped the Jews. Add these to your notes.
  • Now produce a structured essay answer to the question: To what extent did the Protestant Church oppose Nazi racial policy?

The German Protestant church was split in its dealings with the Nazis. Nazi supporters became known as the German Christians, whereas opponents broke away and became known as the Confessing Church.

While the ‘Confessing Church’ opposed the Nazis, they did not challenge the passing of anti-Jewish legislation. Some members tried to encourage Jews to convert to Christianity, but a small group of the Confessing Christians did help Jews by hiding them or assisting them to escape from Germany.

Initially, many leading Protestants supported the Nazis; however, when Nazi policy grew more extreme, they changed their minds.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an interesting example. In the beginning he had supported Nazi actions against the Jews. However, he spoke out against the persecution of Jewish converts to Christianity. For this he and his brother were arrested in 1943 and he was executed in April 1945.

Pastor Martin Niemoller

Pastor Martin Niemöller supported the Nazis and joined the party in 1934. However, when Hitler appointed a Nazi as head of the Protestant Church, Niemöller protested and became head of the ‘Confessing Church’. It was only then that he began to condemn those who were bystanders and allowed evil to happen. Niemöller was imprisoned by the Nazis but he survived the war.