An Ostensibly “Christian State”
The National Socialists fundamentally changed their religious policy after their “seizure of power” on January 30, 1933. Hitler abandoned the neutrality he had displayed and a began propaganda campaign favorable to the church, primarily with an eye toward the Reichstag elections on March 5, 1933. Never again did Hitler invoke God so frequently and so fervently (Scholder) as in the two months before the Reichstag election. This trend continued even after the election and Hitler gave the two major churches extensive assurances.
Protestants welcomed Hitler as a God-sent alternative to godless Bolshevism, who was well-disposed toward the church. In a government statement on March 23, 1933, two days after the major propagandistic staging of the “Day of Potsdam”, he categorized the two major Christian denominations as the most important factors for the preservation of the Volkstum. Statements of this kind did not remain without impact. Many Protestants expected that a foundation of Christian values would apply to Hitler’s “new state”. They hoped that the spark of national awakening would spread and– following the end of the territorial church government in 1918 – a revitalization of their church would commence.
The Protestant church governments also abandoned their reserve after Easter of 1933 and publicly backed Hitler and the new state, held to be ordained as Christian. At first, large segments of Protestantism failed to recognize the brutal dictatorial nature of National Socialism, especially in its dealings with minorities. Nonetheless, only a few months were needed until the realization began to grow in Protestant circles that the church’s hopes would not be fulfilled under the political premises of the Nazi state. The “German Christian Faith Movement’s” advance into the ecclesio-political public sphere especially caused disillusionment.
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- © Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Heinrich Hoffmann, Bildnummer 10008063 Fotograf/Agentur: Heinrich Hoffmann