Explain how the Nazi’s dealt with the Church in Germany? (8 marks)
The Nazi’s first used co-operation, and then repression, to deal with the Church in Germany. Firstly, Hitler tried to control the Christian churches by reassuring them and encouraging them to work with the new Nazi government. However, this did not work because the Nazis glorified strength and violence, and taught racial superiority whereas Christianity preached peace, tolerance and respect for all people. This led Hitler to turn the full force of the police state against Christians. One-third of Germany’s Christians were Catholic. This caused more problems because Catholics owed their first allegiance to the Pope rather than Hitler. In addition, they had their own schools which taught different values from the Nazi state schools. At first, Hitler tried to reach an agreement with the Catholic Church, and in July 1933 he reached a concordat with the Pope. Hitler agreed to confirm the freedom of worship for Catholics and not to interfere with Catholic schools in Germany; and the Roman Catholic Church agreed that its Priests would not interfere in politics, and that it would instruct German bishops to swear loyalty to the National Socialist regime. Hitler however, did not keep his promise and Catholic priests were harassed and arrested, and mainly ended up in concentration camps. Furthermore, Catholic schools were brought in line with state schools or close, and Catholic youth activities were banned.
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Many Protestants were so grateful that Hitler had protected them from anti-Christian communists that they worked with the Nazi’s; they even allowed Nazi flags to be displayed inside their Churches. These Protestants formed the German Christian Movement, with Ludwig Muller as their leader. In September 1933, Hitler made Muller the Reich bishop of Germany, and Protestant pastors who supported Hitler were allowed to carry on with their Church services as normal. On the other hand, many Protestants opposed Hitler’s policies; some even spoke out against him. The most famous was Pastor Martin Niemuller. In 1933, he was one of the Protestant pastors who set up the Pastor’s Emergency League (PEL) to campaign against Nazi actions. These Protestants became increasingly troublesome to Hitler, and in 1937, Niemuller was sent to a concentration camp.
In conclusion, Hitler tried to control the church by encouraging them to work with the Nazi government. When this strategy did not work, he tried to make an agreement and made a concordat with the Pope in July 1933. However he did not stick to his promises, and continued to repress the Church. He co-operated with the Protestant Church, and allowed them to continue their services the same as long as they supported Hitler. Any who opposed his views, or spoke against him, was a threat to Hitler, and sent to a concentration camp.