The SED and the Protestant Churches

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  • The SED and the Protestant Churches
    • The SED and the Protestant Church
      • Why did the SED not understand the church?
        • The Stasi infiltrated the church but in the 1980s it still played a major role in leading opposition groups in the downfall of the GDR. The SED never learned that the church could not be controlled.
        • It also failed to understand the religious power of the church and that people would disobey the states to follow the teachings of the church.
        • The church would act to gain support for the popularity of Christianity not the state.
      • The SED tried to harness the power of the church by offering concessions in terms of religious belief, which was tolerated in all 3 GDR constitutions, and expecting political loyalty to the regime as a result of this toleration with the veiled threat that dissent could threaten this tolerance.
    • Religious Education
      • Communists were determined to rid all elements of society of religion.
      • From Jan 1951 religious children could face discrimination with over 300 expelled from school.
      • In 1953 after de-Stalinisation the children were reinstated.
    • Jugendweihe
      • 1954 it was introduced as a secular alternative to confirmation. It was taken at 14 as a rite to childhood from adulthood.
      • It was voluntary but it was expected that all children would take it – church protests were widespread and unexpected.
      • However even despite protest by 1969 90% of teenagers had taken it as it was seen as necessary for education and career progression.
    • Fall in Religious Participation
      • Religious participation fell across Europe after the war. New residential areas tended to have no religious leadership or buildings.
      • The young in particular were no longer affiliated to religious groups. However the state still wanted to control and make use of the church.
    • Rapprochement
      • In 1957 the Ministry of Church Affairs was formed in 1960 its name was name was changed to the Secretariat for Church Affairs but its aim was the same; to co-ordinate and direct church activities in the best interests of the state.
      • Ulbricht announced that the church and statecould work together on social welfare.
      • In 1967 Church and State celebrated 450 years of the Reformation with the SED highlighting its role as heir to progressive movements in History.
      • The church however setup the Construction Force which was created for conscientious objectors who might refuse conscription.
      • The church also tried to widen its appeal to the youth which conflicted with the FDJ.
    • Co-operation 1969-78
      • The church and state began to work closer together; community work,anti-nuclear movement, international recognition for the GDR and toleration of and co-operation with the churches was in keeping with Ostpolitik.
      • Some individual pastors did not co-operate with the state and preached anti-communist ideas.
      • Many churches also reached out to those in society such as drug takers and the homeless who the SED did not want to recognise they existed in socialist society.
    • Compromise 1978-89
      • In March 1978 Honecker met with the Church and they agreed the 1978 CONCORDAT – the church could build new places of worship in residential areas and they were allowed more media time.
      • This was mainly funded by the FRG. The SED realised the church was not going to disappear and the SED could try and use the church to increase their support.
      • The church needed to show their willingness and they cooperated which made the discrimination against them even more difficult to understand.
      • The security forces still did not trust the church; the department for church affairs employed 223 IMs.
      • The church was divided in its response to the state; some supported the Concordat others began to lead opposition groups.
    • Antagonism 1945-69
      • The Communists could not openly attack the church; the Protestant church had 15 million member and the Catholic church had 1 million out of a population of 17 million
      • the churches had spoken out against Nazism and in concentrations camps many communists prisoners had got to know and respect religious fellow inmates.
      • The first decade post-war was a period of hostility, the so-called KIRCHENKAMPF or battle against the Churches.

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