Dismissal under State Pressure

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From the fall of 1935 to the spring of 1936, Werner Sylten fought for his professional survival and tried to get a job as a pastor outside of Thuringia. The regional churches of Hannover, Bavaria and Württemberg, which, like Sylten, belonged to the Confessing Church, were possibilities. He received support for his planned change of jobs from Pastor Ernst Otto, the Director of the Lutheran Confessional Fellowship in Thuringia. Probably with Sylten’s consent, Otto felt obligated however to disclose Sylten’s hitherto unknown descent from a Jewish father.

According to the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, Werner Sylten was considered to be a “half-Jew”. Every attempt to place him in another regional church ultimately failed because of this. While Hannover, Bavaria and Württemberg signaled their good will, they considered themselves unable to give Sylten a job. The Bavarian regional church consistory communicated that in view of the fact that Pastor Sylten is a half-Aryan, it is unfortunately impossible for us to hire him. For our part, we would not see an obstacle in this. However, when calling clergy from outside of Bavaria, we must also have the national government’s approval. We regret that it is therefore not possible for us to comply with your wishes. Hannover and Württemberg presented similar arguments, too.

At the same time, the situation in Thuringia became increasingly dangerous for Sylten. While he received assistance from the Alfred Fritz, Director of the Protestant National Education Association, his efforts could not ward off Sylten’s dismissal from his job as the director of the Thuringian Home for Girls. Sylten no longer got any other job in the Thuringian regional church. Without any legal basis, the Thuringian Minister of the Interior put him on leave from his job as the director of the Thuringian Home for Girls with immediate effect on April 1, 1936 because of his negative view of the Nazi state.

At the end of April of 1936, Gerhard Phieler, Thuringian regional director of the Inner Mission became aware of Sylten’s descent from a Jewish father. As a result, the German Christian church government prevented his call to another Thuringian parish and sent him into temporary retirement. Sylten’s protests and a campaign of solidarity by fifteen members of the staff at the Home for Girls could not do anything about his dismissal. Sylten had to leave Bad Köstritz and part from his sons Reinhard and Walter. Although the Thuringian church government had thus achieved its aim, it still tried to do Sylten damage in 1938, too, and denounced him to the headquarters of the military district in Gotha as a “non-Aryan”.

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  • © Landeskirchliches Archiv Nürnberg, LKR 1577

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