Nazis and the Church


Hitler wanted to Reduce the Church's Power

1. In the 1930s, most Germans were Christians and the Church was very influential. During the Weimar Republic, the state and the Church had worked closely together and the Church was involved in national matters like education.

2. Some prominent Nazis were anti-Christian and Nazi ideology disagreed with the role the Church had traditionally had in society.

3. Hitler thought religion should comply with the state and wanted churches to promote Nazi ideals. He was also worried that some members of the Church might publicly oppose Nazi policies.

4. The Nazi Party was careful to maintain support from the Catholic and Protestant Churches during its rise to power because they were so popular. However, as Hitler consolidated his totalitarian state, his control over churches increased.

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The Catholic Church was Persecuted

1. In July 1933, an agreement called the Concordat was signed between the Pope and the Nazi government. Hitler promised not to interfere with the Catholic Church if the Church agreed to stay out of German politics.

The Concordat reassured Christians that Hitler was consolidating ties with the Catholic Church, but he was actually restricting its power.

2. The Catholic Church was now banned from speaking against the Nazi Party, but Hitler soon broke his side of the deal.

  • The Nazi Party started to restrict the Catholic Church's role in education.
  • In 1936 all crucifixes were removed from schools and by 1939 Catholic education had been destroyed.
  • The Nazis began arresting priests in 1935 and put them on trial.
  • Catholic newspapers were suppressed and the Catholic Youth group was disbanded.

3. In 1937, the Pope spoke out against Hitler in a letter to Catholic Churches in Germany. The view of the Church had changed, but many German Catholics were too scared to speak out against the Nazi Party. Catholics tried to protect their religion by avoiding confrontation.

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Nazis Controlled the Protestant Church

The Protestant Church was reorganised and fell under Nazi control.

1. When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, there were 28 independent Protestant Churches. These Churches were politically divided - some formed a group known as the 'German Christians'. They supported Hitler and favoured an anti-Semitic version of Christianity.

2. The Nazi Party backed this versionb of Christianity and believed all Christians should follow its principles. In 1936, all Protestant Churches were merged to form the Reich Church.

The Reich Church replaced the symbol of a cross with the Nazi Swastika, and the Bible was replaced by 'mein kampf'. Only Nazis could give sermons and the Church suspended non-Aryan ministers.

3. The Reich Church was an attempt to increase state control over the Protestant Church and make a National Socialist version of Christianity.

Not everyone supported the Reich Church - it was opposed by a Protestant group called the 'Confessing Church'.

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