Creating a “National” Church: The De-Judaization of Protestantism and the Holocaust




McClenagan, Elizabeth

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While the majority of German Protestant churches were silent in response to the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, the Deutsche Christen or German Christian movement enthusiastically supported the Nazi regime’s goals and was actively involved in efforts to extract “Jewish” elements from Protestantism in an effort to create a “pure” German religion. Many scholars view the radical form of Protestantism expressed by this group as a by-product of Nazism. However, I argue that ideas promoting the de-Judaization of Protestantism were already existent within Protestant theology and that Hitler’s rise to power merely provided the opportunity for these ideas to come to fruition. I examine this topic by analyzing nationalistic and anti-Jewish ideas in German Protestant theological texts during the early twentieth century, focusing on how these ideas informed the later de-Judaization of certain churches between 1932 and 1945 under the German Christian movement, which included actions like eliminating the Old Testament from the Protestant Bible and refusing to recognize Jewish conversion to Christianity. I approach this topic by situating my analysis of several key Protestant theological texts within broader scholarly discussions about the position of the churches towards the Jews in Weimar and Nazi Germany.



antisemitism, anti-Judaism, Holocaust, Jewish-Christian relations, Protestantism, theology