Abettors of Nazi Racial Policy

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Both the Protestant and the Catholic church provided assistance certifying “Aryan descent” during Nazi rule millions of times. Since civil city clerk’s offices had only existed since 1876, a so-called “certificate of Aryan descent” could only be produced with the assistance of church authorities.

The rush on the parish registers kept at parish offices had begun in April of 1933 when civil servants had to prove their ancestry. The “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” placed them in jeopardy of dismissal from the civil service when they were of non-Aryan descent. The Nazis’ steadily mounting racial fanaticism made a “pedigree” essential to one’s livelihood for more and more groups of professionals and individuals, especially after the enactment of the “Nuremberg Laws” in September of 1935.

By issuing certificates of Aryan descent on a massive scale, nearly the entire German clergy was involved in ostracizing the Jews and provided official church assistance (Manfred Gailus) implementing Nazi racial policy. This especially pertained to the German Christians, who actively pursued kinship research in order to contribute to the national völkisch awakening and “dejewify” the church.

This also entailed open or covert collaboration with government and party authorities such as the Nazi Reich Agency for Kinship Research, which was supposed to trace all Germans’ family trees back to 1500. Mecklenburg regional church governed by German Christians even established its own kinship office.

Even though it did not cooperate with state and party in the process, the Confessing Church provided “certificates of Aryan descent” just as willingly as the rest of the clergy. The regional churches of Bavaria and Württemberg, affiliated with the moderate Confessing Church, even called upon their pastors to take advantage of the “certificate of Aryan descent” as an opportunity for ministry and evangelization.

Criticism of the unquestioning issuance of “certificates of Aryan descent” was voiced only by individuals such as Paul Schempp, a Confessing Church pastor in Württemberg. In a letter of September 8, 1936, he reproached Bishop Theophil Wurm: For not having found a serious word against the parish offices having become institutes of kinship research.

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