Friedrich-Wilhelm Krummacher

A pastor and later bishop of Greifswald, Friedrich-Wilhelm Krummacher joined the NSDAP on May 1, 1933 under the spell of “national awakening”. That same year, he was appointed to the Office of the German Evangelical Church Federation in Berlin. From 1934 onward, he worked as a theological adviser in the Church Foreign Office of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

As a consistory councilor and later high consistory councilor for ecumenical relationships, he was in charge there for liaising with the “ethnic German Protestant churches in Eastern and Southeastern Europe” as well as overseeing the “German Protestant parishes abroad in in the major cities of Europe and Eastern Europe”.

In his brochure “The Protestant Church in the New Reich” published in 1934 in the German Academy in Munich’s series of publications, he wrote, The present-day state requires the church’s service, even to vanquish its enemies, godlessness, Bolshevism and Marxism (p. 34).

Krummacher was drafted into the Wehrmacht as a military chaplain at the end of August 1939. In 1940, he published a collection of eleven war sermons in which he interpreted the war as a struggle in defense of our nation’s life, freedom and future (p. 54).

Krummacher was taken prisoner by the Soviets on November 9, 1943. He witnessed the opening of mass graves of predominantly Jewish civilians shot to death at Babi Yar refugee camp, a former German concentration camp near Kiev. According to his own statements, this experience, the march through the ruins in Ukraine and his humane treatment by Soviet officers caused him to change his thinking.

While still in Kiev, he wrote a handbill together with other prisoners in which he addressed his division. Following interrogations, Bible readings and intensive reflection, he wrote down statements in his own hand for the Soviet military authority on January 18, 1944 in which he expressed his dismay over the extermination campaign against the defenseless and innocent and reflected on the absence of any protest from Germans and Christians.

Krummacher joined the BDO and NKFD in Krasnogorsk prisoner of war camp and became a founding member of the Council for Church Affairs. He formulated his new theological and political views in radio addresses and sermons as well as in articles for “Free Germany”.

In June of 1944, he authored three reports intended to facilitate planning for the reorganization of Germany after the war: “Organization of the German Protestant Church, State and Church, Future Tasks”, “Ecclesiastical Figures in the German Protestant Church”, “Ethnic German Protestant Church Leaders”.

In the first report, Krummacher voice the hope that the church would be able to proclaim the Gospel freely. He advocated an active role for the church in reshaping moral and cultural life in Germany and in building trust with the Red Army in the course of the occupation of German territories.

Krummacher was released in August of 1945 and flown to Berlin with a select group of émigrés and prisoners of war. Erich Weinert, president of the NKFD, had characterized him as an impartial antifascist and declared him suitable for one of the highest ecclesiastical offices (Bräuer, p. 445).

In conjunction with the twentieth anniversary of May 8, 1945, Walter Ulbricht attempted to exploit Krummacher’s erstwhile work in the NKFD propagandistically for SED church policy. Krummacher, then chairman of the conference of church governments in the GDR, was persuaded to publish essays on his work with the NKFD entitled “Call to a Decision”.