The Protestant church & the GDR, 1949-85

  • Created by: _maryaam
  • Created on: 21-01-17 18:11

What was the role of the Protestant church in the GDR

  • Different across period
  • Uneasy stalemate in 1960s
  • 1970s – co-existence (before 1978 Accord offered real possibility of genuine co-operation)
  • Last period- Church began to foster- tolerate the beginnings of opposition


Attacks on religion beliefs and practices

·         End of WW2- soviet zone of Germany- 17 million population & 15 million were Protestant

·         Protestant church = strong at end of WW2 – represented a link with past  & spiritual solace during the last 50 years of war

·         Marxists Leninist ideology = no place for religion

-          BUT Soviets couldn’t attack Church due to unease (1953 uprising)

·         1945 Land Reforms – Church land unaffected by land & nationalization measures

·         1946 - USSR abolished Church schools and religious education in its zone of occupation

·         Confessional Church (Who had opposed Nazis) = had made links with communists inside the concentration camps of the Third Reich

-          Nevertheless, underlying ideological battle between the party and religious faith existed

·         CDU (Christian Democratic Party, as of 1945) - swallowed up as part of the National Front of the GDR & completely controlled by SED

-          Notion of acceptance between Christianity and SED discarded- SED wanted to reduce its role to merely religion

·         Ulbricht = “Communism and Christianity can’t exist together in the same sphere”

·         1951 – Discrimination against Protestant youth groups in schools in signalled start to anti-church campaign- Intensified by intro of Jugendweihe

-          Was the ritual for a child to enter a Marxist and atheist world - furious response from Church leaders seen as direct competition to the Christian conformation service

-          Pastors and religious speakers said that people should obey God not men – Pastor Mizenheim (the ‘Red Bishop)- spoke out against this (who would later become loyal communist)

-          No. of youth in J. increased = 17.7% in 1954-55 - 90% by late 1960’s

·         Ulbricht told Stasi to increase operation against Church - drew up a list of church leaders who were acceptable and who were not

·         1960 – Ulbricht softened his rhetoric against Church - CDU used to influence Pastors & the State Secretariat for Church Questions was created in 1960 to co-ordinate the work of the Church, under the control of the SED

  •  Outrage over the Jugendweihe calmed = Church adapted to the ways of the SED and the GDR
  • Attendance at Church services dropped steadily throughout the 1960s.
  •  By 1964 - nearly one-third of East Germans were atheists
  • The compromise between state and Church can be seen in the GDR constitution of 1968.

-          It explicitly recognised religious freedoms, a clear concession to the Church yet prohibited any all-German organisation which the Church was - clear message that the state could not tolerate the links with West Germany & strictly controlled movement between the two

  • 1969 - the GDR churches officially broke…


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