Banned: The Theological Seminary in Berlin

  • 1st Picture for document

Educating future pastors was a particular challenge for the Confessing Church. As of 1935, it became apparent that state controlled universities were increasingly less of an option.

There was therefore a call at the third National Synod of the Confessing Church in Augsburg in June of 1935 to assure there were alternatives for such courses and tutorials students could not be expected to attend for conscience’s sake. The logical consequence was the establishment of its own theological seminary independent of state influence. Berlin and Elberfeld were selected as locations.

A number of professors were appointed to the theological seminary in Berlin in August of 1935. Hans Asmussen became its first director. He drafted a letter of commitment for the professors, which followed Luther’s ordination texts. Asmussen himself taught practical theology and exegesis classes; he additionally served a parish in Berlin-Lichterfelde.

The Gestapo banned the seminary even before its opening ceremony on November 4, 1935. The professors had to endure protracted interrogations and, as its director, Asmussen received the official notification of dissolution. Despite the ban, teaching continued under the guise of “theological study groups”, initially still publicly and under comparably orderly conditions. Academic operations went underground, though, when independent theology programs of any kind were made punishable in August of 1937.

The certificate pictured is a document from this phase. Classes and seminars were usually held in private residences under elaborate precautions to maintain secrecy until May of 1941 when the remaining professors were arrested and teaching was fully abandoned. Asmussen was also arrested on May 9, 1941 and detained for eight months. Although he himself had gradually been teaching and administering examinations less for years, he was still considered to be the illegal seminary’s leading intellect.

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  • © Internet presentation from the exhibition “Unterwegs zur mündigen Gemeinde”; Source: „Blanck-Lubarsch“

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