Niemöller, a Co-founder of the Confessing Church
A German National anti-republican, Martin Niemöller had voted for the NSDAP early on. He placed great hopes in the new regime in the first months of 1933. He quickly realized however that the National Socialists would deprive the church of its independence.
At home and abroad, he soon became an iconic figure of the church’s resistance against Hitler. His resistance was aimed at the German Christians and the Nazis’ policy toward the church. In the election of a Reich Bishop in the spring of 1933, he supported Friedrich von Bodelschwingh against the German Christian Ludwig Müller, whom Hitler backed.
When the German Christians had assumed power in virtually all of the regional churches in the summer of 1933 and introduced the “Aryan Paragraph”, he established the Pastors’ Emergency League, a self-help organization for oppositional pastors, in the fall of 1933. He was a key figure in the Confessing Church from the outset. When it split in 1936, he stood by its “radical” wing, which objected to any involvement in the state’s ecclesio-political measures.
He held to his conviction that the Protestant church should be strictly ordered in keeping with the resolutions of the National Confessing Church Synods just as uncompromisingly as he criticized the Nazis’ policy toward the church and the state’s measures persecuting the Confessing Church.