Hans Ehrenberg and Gerhard Kittel

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Like many other theologians, the New Testament and Jewish studies scholar Gerhard Kittel believed it was possible to distinguish “anti-Judaism” grounded in the Bible and scholarship from anti-Semitism based on social Darwinism and völkisch ideas. Along with others, Kittel had asserted that “Judaism” had a different essence than Christianity.

Approaches such as Kittel’s actually fostered the church’s anti-Semitic conduct under National Socialism or, at the least, a lack of critical awareness of National Socialism’ racist anti-Semitism on a broad front in the churches.

One of approximately thirty Protestant pastors of Jewish descent, Hans Ehrenberg vehemently resisted the racist anti-Semitism and marginalization of “Jewish Christians” within the church. He clearly distanced himself with his “72 Theses on the Jewish Christian Question” from such “anti-Jewish” approaches as Kittel’s, which at their core strove to vindicate anti-Semitism.

Ehrenberg responded to Kittel’s work “The Jewish Question”, a second edition of which was quickly published in 1933, with a letter in which he stressed that Kittel ought to let “Jewish Christians” be Jews. This also meant that– other than Kittel postulated – they should not to be allowed to lose their rights as citizens. Disheartened, Ehrenberg realized in 1938 that The church stands helplessly before the Jewish Question.

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  • © Landeskirchliches Archiv der Evangelischen Kirche von Westfalen, Bestand 3.17 III.5

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