Sturm und Drang Years

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Born in 1908, Helmut Gollwitzer grew up in a National Conservative, Lutheran parsonage. He spent his childhood and youth in Pappenheim, Bad Steben, Lindau and Augsburg. As a school student, he joined the German youth movement and dreamed there of a new society. In his years in Lindau, he was fascinated by the emerging Hitler movement. His world view began changing after he switched to the humanist St. Anna High School in Augsburg.

From 1928 to 1932, Gollwitzer studied Protestant theology and philosophy at the universities in Munich, Erlangen, Jena and Bonn. Of his teachers of theology Paul Althaus, Friedrich Gogarten and Karl Barth, the latter influenced him most and he became his assistant.

In the early 1930s, Gollwitzer’s ideas shifted from romantic pre-capitalistit to Marxist anti-capitalist. Fascinated by Marxism, in 1931, he asked Karl Barth, who had joined the Social Democratic party, how he could go to such a stinking corpse, as Rosa Luxemburg had put it.

When Karl Barth was expelled from Germany in 1935, his assistant Helmut Gollwitzer also had to leave the School of Theology at the University of Bonn. In 1937, he earned his doctorate under Barth with a dissertation entitled “Coena Domini. The Old Lutheran Doctrine of Communion in Its Dispute with Calvinism, Represented in Early Lutheran Orthodoxy.”

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  • © Evangelisches Zentralarchiv in Berlin, Bestand 500 Nr. 33972

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