The Control of Churches

How Hitler controlled the churches to gain total power


Hitler and the Church

To achieve full control over Germnay, Hitler needed control of the church as well, as it was a a huge influence on German people, so the Nazis saw it as a threat. Hitler wanted to stamp out the church in 1933, but he wasn't powerful enough yet. The church was a problem because...

  • Around 90% of German people were Christians
  • Hitler wanted to be seen as a god himself
  • The church offered something that Hitler couldn't- A life after death
  • The church had the kind of control over hearts and minds that Hitler needed.
  • They were the only group that could cause rebellion.
  • Teachings of the church could clash with Nazi views

But Hitler needed the church because:

  • Many church members had voted for Hitler- especially protestants
  • There were common grounds on many issues such as the importance of family life and emphasis on the military.
  • The church was often the local power base for Nazis. If the could build on it they could become stronger.
1 of 5

Treatment of the church

The Catholic Church

Hitler didn't want to batlle with the catholics because their leader, the pope was extrememly powerful and could arrange a woldwide opposition against the Nazis should he be made an enemy of.

So Hitler made a concordat (agreement) in 1935 - Nazi's would leave all Catholic churches, schools and groups alone, in exchange for the pope staying out of political matters. Both Hitler and the Pope signed it.

The Nazis never had much control over the Catholics. This was because the had a central leader, the pope who they'd have to win the support of. Hitler basically left them alone.


2 of 5

Treatment of the church

The Protestant Church

The protestants had no leader, they were just individual churches. This made it much easier for Hitler to bring them under Nazi control.

  • The Department of Church Affairs was set up to control Protestant Churches. They were brought together as "German Christians"
  • Hitler was able to choose who the most important Bishops were.
  • Priests wore Nazi robes and badges, with swastika flags in churches.
  • They also did Nazi salutes and marches.

Hitler had some control over the protestants- but not total. He abolished all church schools in 1939, but was never able to get people to stop going or love him more than God.

Nazi Faith Movement

  • Designed by Hitler as an alternative to christianity.
  • Pagan style worship of the sun, nature, the seasons and "Survival of the fittest"
  • Never especially popular
3 of 5

Church Opposition

There was some significant opposition to Hitler for some important figures in the Church. This was dangerous for the Nazis.

  • Martin Niemoller-Protestant church leader and former war hero.

He opposed the Nazi's ideas and what the had done to the protestant church, by making them "German Christians". He was put in a concentration camp.

  • Paul Schneider- Protestant

He criticised the Nazi's and the work of Goebbels in particular, so he spent two years in Buchenwald concentration camp.

  • Cardinal Galen- Catholic

Exposed the Nazi's euthanasia programme on handicapped children, but no action was taken because the Nazis were frighened of rebellion, should he be killed.

  • Jehovah's Witnesses

Wanted to live by religious beliefs, not NAzi propaganda. 1/3 of all Jehovah's Witnesses died in concentration camps.

4 of 5


  • 1933- Hiler signed a concordat with the Pope. Protestant church set up a Reich Church and expelled all non-nazi pastors.
  • 1934- Opposition to the Nazis began. Protestant ministers who objected the Nazis set up independant churches, the confessional church. Cardinal Galen spoke out against the Nazis
  • 1935- A new department of church affairs was set up to control the protestants. 700 Protestant ministers were arrested by the Gestapo for opposing Hitler.
  • 1936- Nazis began a campaign against children attending church schools and Church youth movements. Church youth groups were stopped. Priests and Nuns opposing Nazis were arrested under false charges. Priests accompanied Nazi troups entering the Rhineland, showing "support" fo Hitler's Foreign Policy.
  • 1937- Christmas cards and nativity scenes were banned from school. Pope wrote a letter opposing Hitler that was read out in all German Catholic Churches.
  • 1938- Priests were stopped from teaching religious classes in schools
  • 1939- All church chools were abolished.
5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all WWII and Nazi Germany 1939-1945 resources »