World War II and Political Resistance

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After the closing of the theological seminary and eight months in detention, Asmussen met former mayor of Leipzig Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (1884–1945) in 1942, thus approaching the political resistance. Goerdeler had formed a conservative resistance group, which pursued Hitler’s overthrow as its chief aim.

The head of this civilian resistance movement (the “Goerdeler Circle”), Goerdeler personally rejected tyrannicide but collaborated with the military resistance around General Ludwig Beck in order to be able to establish orderly conditions in the period after a successful coup.

In conjunction with this, he asked Asmussen in 1942 for a statement on the church’s economic policy and later also for a plan for reorganizing the churches once the system changed. Asmussen, however, continued making the autonomy of the church’s missions top priority during their collaboration. He would have considered the final step in active political resistance to be a misuse of the church’s mission to confess and preach the Gospel.

After his residence in Berlin had been destroyed by bombs, Asmussen allowed resistance contacts to ostensibly hire him as a secretary at an arms factory in Bremen in 1943, without ever really working there, though. Rather, this job allowed him to travel throughout Germany unimpeded under the pretext of work “essential to the war effort” in order to maintain his contacts to the Confessing Church. In the last years of the war, he collaborated on Bishop of Württemberg regional church Theophil Wurm’s “unification efforts” and moved to Schwäbisch Gmünd as a pastor.

During the war, Asmussen had sought contact to the ecumenical movement, especially its designated general secretary Willem Visser’t Hooft. As of 1942, he spoke of the Germans’ huge debt of guilt and therefore requested a conciliatory continuation of these talks with the global church. He was thus an important contact for the ecumenical movement after the war’s end and significantly shaped die “Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt” that addressed its representatives.

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