Persecution of the “Religious Socialists”

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The persecution of religious socialists commenced once the National Socialists assumed power. Paul Tillich was the first non- Jewish professor to lose his chair at the University of Frankfurt am Main and he emigrated to the USA. Emil Fuchs, a New Testament scholar, and Martin Heinrich (Heinz) Kappes (1893–1988), a pastor in Karlsruhe, also followed the path into emigration.

Protestant pastors such as Karl Kleinschmidt (1902–1978), Ernst Lehmann (1861–1948) and Arthur Rackwitz (1895–1980) or even the pacifist Hans Karl August Francke (1864–1938) were arrested in March of 1933 for their criticism of National Socialism and remained in custody for months.

Francke wrote an account of his imprisonment, which was widely disseminated in congregations in Berlin. In response to this, Francke was arrested again. With his rather moderate stance, Georg Wünsch, a systematic theologian at the University of Marburg, tended to occupy a special role among the religious socialists.

The unabating pressure from “Gleichschaltung” and the systematic persecution had repercussions after a few months and several state chapters of the League of Religious Socialists disbanded in the period from April to June 1933. The Nazi government banned the “League of Religious Socialists” on July 18, 1933.

Nonetheless, some representative continued working illegally. Ernst von Harnack (1888–1945), son of the theologian Adolf von Harnack, was a Prussian district president and had published in the journal “Der Religiöse Sozialist” and was ultimately executed because of his involvement in the resistance of July 20, 1944.

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  • ©Evangelisches Zentralarchiv in Berlin, Best. 7 Nr. 2068

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