(Ger. ch. struggle). Struggle in Ger. bet. ch. and the nat. socialism (abbr. Nazism, from Ger. Nationalsozialismus) of Adolf Hitler (Schick'l-gruber? 18891945; cofounder Nat. Socialist Ger. Workers' Party 191920; Ger. chancellor [called Führer (leader)] with dictatorial powers 1933). See also Socialism, 3.
First stage in the Kirchenkampf was Hitler's attempt to incorporate the ch. into nat. socialism as a cultural factor (spring to fall 1933). A concordat was concluded July 20, 1933, with the RCs (see Concordat, 8). In the ev. chs., elections brought the Deutsche Christen (see Barmen Theses) notable victories, but many opposed Nazism and under leadership of W. Künneth (see Dogmatics, B 13), M. Niemöller (pres. WCC 196168; see also Germany, C 4), H. Lilje,* et al. formed the Jungreformatorische Bewegung May 1933. This became the Pfarrernotbund (Pastors' Emergency League) September 1933.
In the 2d stage (fall 1933fall 1934), Hitler tried to complete the assimilation of the ch. into the Nazi state. This led to opposition and the adoption of the Barmen Theses, which mark the beginning of the Bekennende Kirche (Confessing Ch.), which tried to unite evangelicals who opposed Nazism. Thereafter Hitler was no longer interested in using the ch. and increasingly opposed it.
In the 3d stage (fall 1934February 1937), the state tried to restrict activities of the ch. by controlling its finances. The Bekennende Kirche tried to maintain its own govt. It became clear that the ch. could be destroyed neither by internal nor by external forces because pastors and chs. continued to use Word and sacraments. On the other hand, the ch. found it difficult to maintain a govt. without state sanction.
In the 4th stage (February 19371939), the opponent of the ch. was no longer primarily the Deutsche Christen, but Nazism itself and its anti-Christian worldviews. Some pastors resisted the state and were imprisoned; others tried to avoid conflict with the state in their ministry.
In the 5th stage (WW II; 19391945), increasingly serious attacks were made on the ch. Niemöller was imprisoned, D. Bonhoeffer* imprisoned and executed. Pastors were called into the army, ch. publications suppressed, ch. services and functions curtailed or suppressed. Though hampered also by internal strife, the chs. tried to continue working.
See also Altona Confession.
F. Zipfel, Kirchenkampf in Deutschland 19331945 (Berlin, 1965); J. S. Conway, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 193345 (New York, 1968); Arbeiten zur Geschichte des Kirchenkampfes 19331945, ed. K. D. Schmidt, H. Brunotte, E. Wolf (Göttingen, 1958 ). EL
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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