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A Tale of Two Leaders: German Methodists and the Nazi State

  • Roland Blaich (a1)

Extract

Nazi foreign policy was hampered from the start by a hostile foreign press that carried alarming reports, not only of atrocities and persecution of the political opposition and of Jews, but also of a persecution of Christians in Germany. Protestant Christians abroad were increasingly outraged by the so-called “German Christians” who, with the support of the government, gained control of the administration of the Evangelical state churches and set about to fashion a centralized Nazi church based on principles of race, blood, and soil. The militant attack by “German Christians” on Christian, as opposed to Germanic, traditions and values led to the birth of a Confessing Church, whose leaders fought to remain true to the Gospel, often at the risk of imprisonment. Such persecution resulted in calls from abroad for boycott and intervention, particularly in Britain and the United States, and threatened to complicate foreign relations for the Nazi regime at a time when Hitler was still highly vulnerable. In order to win the support of the German people and to consolidate the Nazi grip on German society, Hitler needed accomplishments in foreign policy and solutions to the German economic crisis. Both were possible only with the indulgence of foreign powers.

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1. Scholder, Klaus, The Churches and the Third Reich, 1918–1934 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 1: 261–69. Evangelisches Zentralarchiv (hereafter EZA) contains a large collection of press clippings on this subject under 5/802, 803, 804, and 805.

2. Numerous documents tell of efforts by the Foreign Office working with the Foreign Office of the Evangelical Church (Kirchliches Aussenamt) to find ways to combat a hostile foreign press. A number of these are found in EZA 5/802. Hitler charged the Propaganda Ministry with the task to coordinate these efforts. His decision came on 10 May and again on 24 May 1933. Strahm, Herbert, Die Bischöfliche Methodistenkirche im Dritten Reich (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 1989), 62.See also Goebbels's diary entries, particularly for 24 and 26 March and 10 and 25 May.

3. In 1940 Methodists numbered some 55, 131 members in Germany (Strahm, 107).

4. The German Consulate General in New York City was one of several agencies urging that the Foreign Office collaborate with Methodists to combat anti-German propaganda in the United States. Consulate General New York to Foreign Office, 7 April 1933. Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amts (hereafter AA), R62290: Methodisten. On Nazi appeal for Methodist assistance, see A. J. Ohlrich to Nuelsen, 27 March 1933. Methodist Archive, Zurich (hereafter MAZ), 214. All English translations from German language documents are my own.

5. For reports on the appeal, see Der Christliche Apologete (German language weekly of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America), 5 April 1933. For the text of the appeal, MAZ/214. Also in EZA, 5/802. On the interview, see Nuelsen to Dr. J. A. Diekmann (USA), 1 May 1933, MAZ/222. Gratified, Nuelsen wrote to von Neurath “that especially now there is appreciation for the service we are able to render our Fatherland by wisely utilizing our foreign ties” (MAZ/214). All translations from the German are by the author. On the radio address, see Der Evangelist, 23 April 1933, 262, 267. Der Evangelist was the official voice of Methodism in Germany. Excerpts were also published in the German press.See also Conway, John S., The Nazi Persecution of the Churches (New York: Basic Books, 1968), 342–44.

6. Bishop Melle even sought to influence American Methodist editorial policy. In a letter to Bishop Charles Wesley Flint of 3 November 1937 Bishop Melle urged “not to publish only news that can be used against the present Germany, but … news that speak for Germany and her government.” United Methodist Archives, Madison, N.J. (hereafter UMA), Missions, 1–5–3:34. A notable exception is Nuelsen, John L.'s article, “Religion in the Third Reich,” Religion in Life 3 (1933): 541–52, where he exhibits remarkable insights into German history and the mystical nature of Nazism. Nuelsen is pessimistic about the future of religion in a country where the church is reduced to a department of state.

7. Nuelsen Circular of 16 January 1934, MAZ/219. Also, Der Evangelist, 7 01 1934, 13.

8. Nuelsen circular of 16 January 1934, MAZ/219. See also report on Nuelsen's trip in Der Evangelist, 7 01 1934, 13. On 1935 trip, see reports in Cincinnatier Freie Presse, 22 and 23 October 1935.

9. “Bischof Nuelsen spricht über die Kirchenfrage in Europa,” Cincinnatier Freie Presse (22 10 1935). Copy in AA, 62290.

10. The German language Cincinnatier Freie Presse called Nuelsen a “witness of truth” whose report should end all debate about the church struggle in Germany. “Die Behauptung, in Deutschland werde die Glaubensfreiheit unterdrückt gehört ins Reich der Fabel,” Cincinnatier Freie Presse. Copies in the Bundesarchiv, Abteilungen Potsdam (hereafter BA Potsdam), 51.01/23412, No. 00505/3. Also in AA, R 62290.

11. Reporting on Nuelsen's lectures, a Baptist journal praised them as “masterly” exposition of conditions in Germany and an excellent service rendered to Führer and Volk. Quoted in Der Evangelist, 1 03 1936.

12. On the assignment and financial support, see German Embassy, Washington, D.C. to German Foreign Office, 9 12 1935. Also, D. Senzer to Foreign Office, 16 March 1936, and memo by Feuerstein of 24 October 1935. AA, R 6229. The Reichsausschuss provided Melle with RM 500.00. While the contribution of other agencies is not known, a payment of RM 6,000, a handsome sum, was made by a source that “wishes to be anonymous.” “Nachtrag zum Bericht des Direktors über das Schuljahr 1935–36,” 252. Methodist Archive Reutlingen (hereafter MAR).

13. Melle claimed that pastoral conferences were particularly useful in shaping public opinion and policy in the United States. Melle report to Church Ministry (Haugg), 3 07 1936. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00587.

14. See, for instance, “The Lord Blesses Every Step That Hitler Takes,” New York Times, 23 03 1936.

15. 2404 1936.

16. “Amerika-Reise, März-Juni 1936.” BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00587.

17. Der Christliche Apologete, 15 04 1936. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00596.

18. Dr. Melle Praises Hitler and Pictures Nation as Happy,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 24 04 1936.

19. “Amerika-Reise, März-Juni 1936.” BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00583.

20. Report by German Embassy in London to Foreign Office, 30 July 1937 (copy). EZA 5124. See also telegram of German Embassy London, 23 July 1937. EZA 5123, No. 252.

21. “Church's Relations with the State: The Oxford Conference and the German Delegates,” The Manchester Guardian Weekly, 30 07 1937. The official report on the Oxford Conference is found in Oldham, J. H., The Oxford Conference (New York: Clark, 1937).

22. On Nazi praise and the controversy following Oxford, see Schäfer, Gerhard, Dokumentation zum Kirchenkampf (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1982), 5: 571634.

23. A report by the Foreign Department of the Nazi Party told of incendiary anti-German agitation especially by the Protestant clergy calling Hitler a false prophet who placed himself above Christ. Bruehl to Church Ministry (Reichskirchenministerium), 2 06 1938. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23413, No. 00270. Also, Memorandum of 10 May 1938, German Embassy (Thomsen), “Die Einstellung der evangelisch-protestantischen Kirche in Amerika zu Deutschland,” BAPotsdam, 51.01/23397, No. 00552–53. It describes American concern for persecuted Christians in Germany.

24. 10 February 1938. Niemoeller Defied Nazi Court Openly,” New York Times, 11 02 1938, 8.Reprinted in Zehrer, Karl, Evangelische Freikirchen und das “Dritte Reich” (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1986), 149.

25. On request for help, see Church Ministry to Melle, 24 05 1938. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23397, No. 00554. On anti-German sentiments among American Protestants, see “Die Einstellung der evangelisch-protestantischen Kirche in Amerika zu Deutschland,” Memorandum by the Consular Councillor of the German Embassy, 27 April 1938. Included in report by Foreign Office to Church Ministry, 10 May 1938. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23397, No. 00551–58. Also, NSDAP Auslandsorganisarion (Brühl) to Haugg. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23413, No. 00270.

26. Landon had invited President Roosevelt and Methodist Cordell Hull to address the conference, but both declined. Landon to Roosevelt, 1 03 1939, and Roosevelt to Landon, 9 March 1939. Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS), 10/Box 134, Personal R-7, 1939. Landon to Hull, 1 March 1939, 10/Box 134, Personal E-J, 1939.

27. Kerrl to Nuelsen, 16 06 1938. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23413, No. 00271–72.

28. The Defender Magazine, 06 1939. Copy in BA Potsdam, 51.01 /23413, No. 00388–91. See also Melle's defense before the Council of Bishops, “Methodism in Germany, 1937/ 1938,” in which he admitted that “no other area in the Methodist Episcopal Church has to meet larger problems and greater responsibilities.” UMA/Missions, 1185–5–3:34: 7.

29. Melle report to German Embassy, 20 May 1939. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23413, No. 00375. On propaganda war, see Was uns der Bischof Dr. Melle von Amerika erzählt hat,” Leitstern (7 07 1939). Leitstern was the journal of Methodist youth in Germany.

30. Short, Roy H., History of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, 1939–7979 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1980), 65.

31. Melle to Büchner, Church Ministry (3 07 1944), and correspondence between the Ministry and the Foreign Office, 15 July 1944. BA Potsdam, 51.01 /23414, No. 00324–43. See also Strahm, 286.

32. Melle's letter of 5 07 1944 to Hitler was sent via the Church Ministry (Muhs), which passed it with its endorsement to Reich Minister Dr. Lammers (20 July 1944), who forwarded it to Martin Bormann (3 August). Bormann responded (12 August), declining to submit the proposal to Hitler since the Führer had repeatedly refused to allow religious radio broadcasts, lastly in 1941. BA Koblenz, R 43II/386 (Akten der Parteikanzlei der NSDAP), No. 10103827/1–2 (Muhs); No. 101 03831 (Lammers).

33. On Hitler, see Rev. C. G. Meyer, “Im neuen Deutschland,” 12 05 1937. On bad press, see “Die Judenfrage im Lichte der heutigen Zeit,” 11 August 1937, 133–34. On changed view, see the issue of 4 January 1939: 3–4. The same issue, however, carried an article ridiculing a proposal by the Church Federation to establish a Jewish refuge in the jungles of South America: “These Jewish fellows are not interested in clearing wild forests and battling with wild beasts. They are used to managing banks, to lending money for interest, and conducting other profitable business. And now our American Jew lovers mean to send them into the jungles!” The journal ceased publication with the 3 December 1941 issue after the American entry into the war.

34. Diffendorfer to Nuelsen, 29 04 1938. UMA/Missions, 1185–6–1:23, No. 310. Aware of the criticism of his policies, Melle felt that time was on his side and that “by and by a better understanding will come, and some of these editors will change their mind.” Melle to Bishop Flint, 9 April 1938. UMA/Missions, 1185–5–3:34: 3. Occasionally their criticism found its way into Methodist publications. Responding to Melle's Oxford speech, an editorial in The Methodist Times and Leader declared its “profound regret that an accredited representative of American Methodism should have sought to borrow the influence of his great church for the furtherance of one of the most cruel persecutions in the history of Christendom.” “An Episcopal Propagandist,” 2 September 1937.

35. Methodists Ask Reich to End Persecution,” The New York Times, 19 11 1938, 3. The Board of Foreign Missions in the same year issued a strong statement against the persecution of Jews in Germany.Copplestone, J. Tremayne, Twentieth-Century Perspectives, vol. 4 of History of Methodist Missions (New York: The Board of Global Missions, 1949), 985. Select Annual Conferences also issued statements of condemnation. For example, see the resolution of the New York East Annual Conference, quoted in “Methodists Assail Anti-Jewish Acts,” The New York Times, 20 05 1938, 14.

36. Dwyer, 59.

37. Rumors circulating within the church in the aftermath of the Reichstag fire told of Communist plans to burn Methodist churches and hang their pastors. Hugo Georgi to Nuelsen, 27 March 1933. MAZ, 214.

38. Nuelsen to Diekmann, 1 05 1933, MAZ 222—Strahm 442. See also the telegram by Melle and Schmidt to Hitler, congratulating him on the “grand victories in the East” and expressing the conviction that Hitler acted as God's agent to “banish the force of Bolshevism which is the enemy of God and of Christianity.” Report on Conference of the Alliance of Free Churches in Berlin, 3 December 1942. MAR, Bestand Melle/ Sommer.

39. Pastor Gotthilf Hölzer in a public speech, reported in Der Evangelist, 3 09 1933.

40. On the attempted coup, see Nuelsen's confidential report to the Board of Bishops, 25 08 1933. MAZ/214, 5. For an example of the aims of the Nazi pastors, see the draft of the “Deutsch-methodistische Bewegung,” MAZ/214. Also, Strahm, 88–96. On Party membership, see letter by Bernhard Keip to Gestapo, 17 October 1935. BA Postdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00456–57. Among these were District Superintendent Karl Albert Wenzel and his wife. See Gertrud Wenzel to Nuelsen, 15 August 1932. MAZ/214. Others, while not formal members of the Party, nevertheless endorsed it. The most outspoken of these, Pastor Hugo Georgi, former editor of the journal for Methodist youth, youth secretary, and later district superintendent (1939–52), called himself “a National Socialist by conviction” and “committed follower of Hitler”: “To me the [German] people are above any organization, even above the church.” Georgi to Church Ministry, 1 July 1936. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00573. An interesting case is Superintendent Pratsch, who served in Bulgaria. Because of his openly pro-Nazi stance, Nuelsen argued for his transferral back to Germany. Nuelsen to Diffendorfer, 29 July 1940. UMA, Missions, 1185–6–1:25.

41. Strahm, 93.

42. Steckel, Karl and Sommer, Ernst, eds., Geschichte der Evangelish-methodistischen Kirche: Weg, Wesen und Auftrag des Methodismus mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der deutschsprachigen Länder Europas (Stuttgart: Christliches Verlagshaus, 1982), 99.

43. Der Christliche Apologete, 7 08 1940, 119.

44. Diekmann, J. A., “John Louis Nuelsen: In Memoriam,” The Bethesdan, 08 1946, 5.Also, Bishop Raymond J. Wade, “Memoir for Bishop John L. Nuelsen,” UMA/Council of Bishops, July 24-May 1948, 388–92.

45. See, for example, his letter to the pro-Nazi pastor Hugo Georgi, 15 06 1933, regarding restructuring of the church in Germany. MAZ/214. Also, Copplestone, 983.

46. Nuelsen's strong leadership qualities were particularly evident during the crisis surrounding the Central Germany yearly conference of 28 June–2 July 1933. See Nuelsen's correspondence with one of the militantly pro-Nazi pastors, Hugo Georgi, and also with Superintendent Bernhard Keip. Nuelsen to Keip, 11 July 1933. MAZ/214. Nuelsen to Georgi, 15 June 1933, and especially 29 August 1933. MAZ/214.

47. See, for example, Nuelsen's letter to Hugo Georgi of 29 08 1933, where he emphasizes that for him “my church and the community of faith and the love of the savior with those who are born of God to new life are the highest and most precious community there is. It is more precious than family or Volk or race. No community of blood can compare with the community of the spirit.” MAZ/214.

48. On award of honorary Doctor of Theology degree, see Hammer, Paul Ernst, John L. Nuelsen: Aspekte und Materialien eines biographischen Versuchs (Stuttgart: Christliches Verlagshaus, 1974): 3233. The German Red Cross awarded him the Cross of Honor First Class, and President Friedrich Ebert conveyed his personal thanks. Strahm, 16.

49. See Nuelsen to Georgi, 15 July 1933: 2. MAZ/214.

50. Nuelsen to Rev. John R. Edwards, 12 April 1933. UMA, Missions, 1185–6–1118/No. 310. Also, see memo by H. D. Schreiber of 31 March 1933 on a meeting with Nuelsen, reporting on Nuelsen's challenge to cancel or limit the boycott to demonstrate that discipline and order reigned in Germany. EZA/51802.

51. John L. Nuelsen, “The Present Situation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Germany,” (marked “Personal and Confidential”), 25 08 1933. UMA, Missions, 1185– 6–1:18.

52. John L. Nuelsen, “Religion and Church in Hitler's Germany,” unpublished manuscript, MAZ, 261.

53. Hugo Georgi to Nuelsen, 31 October 1933. MAZ/214. Also Nuelsen to Heinrich Holzschuher, 8 June 1933. MAZ/214.

54. Nuelsen to the Board of Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 28 October 1933. MAZ/214.

55. Nuelsen to Georgi, 15 June 1933. MAZ/214.

56. Nuelsen to Rev. John R. Edwards, 12 April 1933. UMA, Missions, 1185–6–1:18, No. 310. Nuelsen made the same point in a confidential letter to the Board of Bishops of 25 August 1933: “In the fateful and fierce struggle between nationalism and internationalism … Methodism must do its best to hold and strengthen the forces of internationalism.” MAZ/214, 4.

57. Nuelsen to Bucher, 7 August 1936. MAZ/223, 3.

58. Strahm, 186, n. 352.

59. Melle to Diffendorfer, 24 March 1938. UMA/Missions, 1185–5–3:34/287. In 1940, reflecting on recent history, Melle said that “we can't help but see the hand of God,” and he claimed to have seen “the finger of God” in the Nazi Revolution. Melle, “Der deutsche Methodismus und die neue Zeit,” 8 October 1940. Printed speech. MAR/ Melle, Kse 081. Bernhard Keip, who often represented the church to the government, saw it the same way. Keip to Nuelsen, 28 January 1936 and 2 February 1936. MAZ/215.

60. Dwyer, James Albert, The Methodist Episcopal Church in Germany, 1933–1945: Development of Semi-Autonomy and Maintenance of International Ties in the Face of National Socialism and the German Church Struggle (UMI, Ph.D. diss.: Northwestern University, 1978), 246. Dwyer also considers this view an oversimplification.

61. Melle, , “Gebetserhörung am Kriegsende,” Der Evangelist, 18 01 1919.Dr. Muhs of the Church Ministry called Melle “an upright German” of “unquestioningly patriotic stance.” Muhs to Lammers, 20 July 1944. BA Koblenz, R43II/386, No. 10103827/1–2.

62. “Am Webstuhl der Zeit,” Der Leitstern, 09 1921.

63. Melle to Simpfendörfer, 7 September 1931. BA, R 4311/179, 77–85.

64. Degree awarded in 1913 by Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio. For a brief biography of Melle, see Keip to Church Ministry, 4 July 1936. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00575–79.

65. In a 1921 trip to America, Melle raised $50,000. “Bericht des Vorstands-Ausschuss,” 15 August 1921, MAR. On a 1926 trip, he collected $10,000. “Protokoll,” 18/19 May 1926, MAR. In 1937 he raised $25,000 from one donor. Ehnes to Diffendorfer, 1 March 1937. UMA/Missions, 1113–2–1:32.

66. On the 1925 statement, see “Bericht des Direktors an den Vorstand,” 19 May 1925, MAR. On the 1933 statement, Evangelisches AHianzblatt, 3 September 1933. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00580–81. Later on he would even claim that Methodists had helped bring about the new order. Der christlkhe Apologete, 2 February 1938.

67. Melle to Diffendorfer, 24 March 1938. UMA/Missions, 1185–5–3:34. Similar statement in “Der deutsche Methodismus und die neue Zeit,” address of 8 October 1940, MAR, Kse 081.

68. The Jewish property in the town of Guben near Frankfurt/Oder was a reward for the positive Methodist stance toward the Third Reich and for Melle's Oxford speech. Church Ministry to Regierungsprasident Frankfurt/Oder, BA Potsdam, 51.01/23414 No. 00043–44.On twins, , Der Evangelist, 9 02 1936, 93.On the pastor's son, Der Evangelist, 27 01 1935, 61.

69. A memo of 17 August 1938 states that other gifts to churches were made without Hitler's knowledge. “The only exception was the case of the Methodist church in Schneidemuhl.” BA, R43II/386, No. 101 00883–84. The gift “was made for propagandistic reasons in view of the [loyal] stance of the Methodists toward the Third Reich.” The memo specifically mentions Melle's speech at Oxford. Lammers to Hess, c/o Bormann, 21 November 1938. BA Potsdam, No. 101 00692–694.

70. Nuelsen to Diffendorfer, 14 May 1938. UMA, Missions, 1185–6–1:23, No. 310.

71. 11 May 1938, 79.

72. Copplestone, 983.

73. Strahm, 226. See also Bishop Wade's recollections about meeting with Sommer and Melle during the Thirties. Raymond J. Wade, “Memoir,” May 1947. UMA/Council of Bishops, July 24-May 1948, 388–92.

74. Their declarations of guilt were so generic as to be meaningless and naturally failed to satisfy their American critics. Melle's address to the Central Conference, 7–11 November 1946, stated: “We have humbled ourselves before God in deep and sincere repentance for our own sins and for the sins of our nation.” UMA/Council of Bishops, July 1947-May 1948, 313. Translation as commissioned by Bishop Wade. The official Methodist declaration of guilt was passed by the Central Conference on 6 December 1945. The opening phrase sets the tenor for the entire document: “With a humble and contrite heart wepraise God that through his undeserved grace he has not permitted the testimony of His church in Germany to be silenced.” While expressing distress that crimes have been committed “in the name of our nation,” it declares solidarity with their nation in bearing this guilt and atoning for it. The only admission of guilt on their part is in “failing in enduring prayer, in fearless testimony, and active love.” UMA/ Council of Bishops, July 1947-May 1948, 142. See also Bishop Sommer's appeal to the Ecumenical Conference in Springfield, MA, 9 September 1947. UMA/Council of Bishops, July 1947-May 1948, 429.

75. Raymond J. Wade, “Memoir,” May 1947. UMA/Council of Bishops, July 24-May 1948, 388–92. Wade had presided over the Scandinavian parish.

76. According to Melle there were attempts to recruit him for membership in the Party, but he resisted. “Statement of Bishop Melle about his political Attitude during the past twelve years,” UMA/Council of Bishops, 24 July-May 1948. Before 1933 Melle, along with a number of other Methodist pastors, had been active in a small political party, the Christlich Sozialer Volksdienst, which sought to apply Christian social principles and favored a return to the Hohenzollern monarchy. Dwyer, 61–63.

77. He argued after the war that Scripture left no doubt that this included even “heathen” authorities. “Statement of Bishop Melle about his political Attitude during the past twelve years,” 4 December 1945. UMA/Council of Bishops, 24 June-May 1948, 132.

78. On Gestapo, Bernhard Keip to Gestapo, 17 October 1935. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No. 00456–57. Some pastors were banned from public speaking. Strahm, 196. On Methodist press, see Richard Wobith to Nuelsen, 20 March 1933. MAZ/214. Wobith, the editor of the official Methodist journal Der Evangelist, at times had to defend himself against protests by church members. In this letter he reassured his bishop: “Der Evangelist is and remains nonpolitical as long as the editor is given a free hand. In this case it was forced to include the article. That may well happen again. I am not permitted to say more, since I am pledged to absolute secrecy.” See also Nuelsen to Diffendorfer, 14 November-19 May 1938. UMA/Missions, 1185–6–1:23/310. Nuelsen complained that the paper printed “all the stuff that the Propaganda ministry sends them. The situation makes my heart sick.” On Methodist youth, see Johannisthaler to Nuelsen, 14 September 1933. MAZ/214. In Saxony they voluntarily joined Hitler Youth. For a summary of Nazi measures against the church, see Strahm, 279–82.

79. See n. 101.

80. Melle in Evangelisches Allianzblatt, September 1933. BA Potsdam, 51.01/23412, No.00582.

81. “Nachtrag,” Board Minutes, 12 June 1934, MAR.

82. On masculine virtues promoted by German Christians, see Bergen, Doris. L., Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1996), 7481. On contacts to Nazi church leaders, see Dwyer, 79.

83. “Racial hygiene” and eugenics were often presented in the broader context of health reform and temperance and thus seemed to fit Methodist teaching. See, for example, “Du und der Kampf um die Zukunft des deutschen Volkes,” Leitstern, 08 1937, 162–66.

84. Privately, some Methodists responded to this case with dismay, shuddering at the prospect of God's judgment that the persecution of Jews would draw upon the German people, but there were never any official pronouncements or mention of such concern in the Methodist press. On pressures to purge the Jewish superintendent, Pastor Ohlrich, see Strahm, 149; on internal Methodist protest, see Strahm, 244. Also, Steckel/ Sommer, 99.

85. “Message of Bishop Melle to the Central Conference of the Methodist Church in Germany,” in session in Frankfurt/Main, November 7–11, 1946. UMA, Council of Bishops, July 24-May 1948, 312–17. Melle claimed he knew “of no cases where we lost our members to the Nazi Weltanschauung, though of course single ones, compelled by the pressure of circumstances, became inactive [!] members of the party.” Melle, “Statement,” 4 December 1945. UMA, Missions, 1117–1–2:17: 287.

86. After a visit to Germany in 1945 Bishop Paul N. Garber of the Zurich area concluded: “Apparently most of the German Methodist leaders were pro-Nazi,” but added, “it should be remembered the same situation existed in all other German churches.” Memo, 10 November 1945. UMA/Missions, 1117–1–2:17: 287. One advertisement in Der Evangelist of 19 November 1933 recommended twenty-five books on “national literature” and great leaders such as Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Horst Wessel, and Adolf Hitler (including Hitler's Mein Kampf). On voting, see “Unsere Wahlpflicht,” Der Evangelist, 5 March 1933, 157. On war, see Melle Circular to pastors, 6 June 1940. MAR, Sommer/Melle files. Melle expressed gratitude to God who “in his providence” had given them the Führer, had “defeated the plots of the enemies,” and had granted “unparalleled success” to German soldiers.

87. Raymond J. Wade, “Memoir for Bishop John Louis Nuelsen and Bishop F. H. Otto Melle,” UMA/Council of Bishops, 1944–48, 391.

88. Strahm, 215.

89. “Declarations by Probst H. Grüber in regard to the position of Bishop Melle,” Memorandum by Dr. Hans Schonfeld, 1 November 1945. UMA/Missions, 11117–1–2:17. Because of his confession he was allowed to participate in the Marienkirche procession of 28 October 1945.

90. See the excellent study by Strübind, Andrea, Die unfreie Freikirche: Der Bund der Baptistengemeinden im “Dritten Reich” (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1991). On Baptist congress, Strübind, 141–77. On other Baptist collaboration, Strübind, 228–52, 271–77.

91. On Methodist influence, G. W. Schubert to C. H. Watson, 5 January 1936. Archives of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 11/1934–36 1, “Schubert, G. W.”On Adventist collaboration, see Blaich, Roland, “Selling Nazi Germany Abroad: The Case of Hulda Jost,” Journal of Church and State 35 (1993): 807–30.Also, Blaich, Roland, “Health Reform and Race Hygiene: Adventists and the Biomedical Vision of the Third Reich,” Church History 65 (1996): 425–40.

92. Term used to refer to the Land churches where the old church authorities were able to retain control. See Helmreich, 163.

93. See circular, Wurm, “An sämtliche Dekanatämter,” 25 10 1937. Landeskirchliches Archiv Stuttgart (hereafter LKA Stuttgart), 115c/XI (Altregistratur).

94. Wurm to Hitler, 16 July 1943.Schäfer, Gerhard, Landesbischof D. Wurm und der Nationalsozialistische Stoat, 1940–1945 (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1968), 305307.

95. Wurm to Lammers, 20 December 1943. Quoted in Helmreich, 331.

96. Decree of 7 September 1937. On Wurm's defense, see Wurm to State Prosecutor, 14 February 1938. LKA Stuttgart, 115c/XIII. Also, Helmreich, 227.

97. See, for example, Melle to Dr. R. E. Grob, 7 October 1937. MAZ, 410/5. Also, Dekan Fischer to Pastor Bauerle, 26 July 1937, and Pastor Lang to Melle, 9 August 1937. LKA Stuttgart, Bund 174 (Altregistratur).

98. Bishop Hans Meiser responded to a 1943 call for protest by concerned pastors against the persecution of Jews, claiming that then he would be arrested, persecution would only worsen, and even church members might face persecution.Chandler, Andrew, ed., The Moral Imperative: New Essays on the Ethics of Resistance in National Socialist Germany, 1933–1945 (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1998), 9.

99. See King, Christine E., The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity (New York: E. Mellen, 1982), 110.

100. Among these was Adolf Minck, leader of German Seventh-day Adventists, who decided to accommodate the Nazi state and thus spare his church members a tragic fate. See Blaich, Roland, “Religion Under National Socialism: The Case of the German Adventist Church,” Central European History 26 (1993): 277.

101. Nuelsen circular, “The Present Situation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Germany,” 25 August 1933. MAZ/214. In a letter to a friend Nuelsen told of a conversation with Melle after his Oxford speech: “I told Bishop Melle very plainly what I thought of his Oxford speech. However, he as well as our German Methodists are living in a water-tight compartment. He is convinced that he rendered a great service to Methodism as well as to Germany.” Nuelsen to Diffendorfer, 14 May 1938. UMA/Missions, 1185–6–1:23/310. Exactly how many church members were Nazis is difficult to assess. According to the editor of Der Evangelist, only 10–20 percent of the letters in response to a series of pro-Nazi articles were letters of protest. Some 80 percent were pleased that these articles removed the stigma that Methodists were not “national.” Wobith to Nuelsen, 20 March 1933. MAZ/214.

102. Nuelsen to Diffendorfer, 14 May 1938. MAZ/214.

103. For a critical review of the German Methodist concept of the state, see Strahm, 44–47.

104. Gamer, , Wesley, Carl, “Germany 9–5–45 to 9–18–45,” UMA, Missions, 1117–1–2:17.

105. Herman, Stewart W., “Interview with Bishop Otto Melle of the German Methodist Church on Tuesday, september 18,” in Die evangelische Kirche nach dem Zusammenbruch. Berichte ausländischer Beobachter aus dem Jahre 1945, ed. Vollnhals, Clemens (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988), 145.

106. Memo by Bishop Carl Wesley Gamer, 5 September 1945. UMA/Missions, 1117–1–2:17. Melle predicted that time would be much more charitable than were his contemporary critics. Christian Apologist, 24 April 1947. The American CIC concluded that German Methodism was tolerated “because of their large following in England and America.” Memorandum, 25 May 1946, Counter Intelligence Corps, Region 3, 25 May 1946. UMA/1117–1–2:17, No. 287.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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