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Nazis v. Nazarenes. As exiled Nobel Prizeman Thomas Mann said last week: "There can be no real peace between the cross and the swastika. National socialism is essentially unchristian and antichristian. . . ." Though the conflict between Christianity and Naziism seems inevitable now, it did not seem so when Hitler came into power. Catholics and Protestants alike helped his coup d'état. Martin Niemoller himself supported him. And one of Hitler's first acts as Chancellor was to declare: "In the two Christian creeds lie the most important factors for the preservation of the German people." Only in secret did he tell his confidant Hermann Rauschning: "The parsons will be made to dig their own graves. They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes. ... I can guarantee that they will replace the cross with our swastika."
Hitler won his religious Munichs over Germany's 21,000,000 Catholics and 40,000,000 Protestants in the first six months of his power. The Vatican signed a Concordat (negotiated by Pope Pius XII, who was then Cardinal Pacelli, Papal Secretary of State) with him on July 20, 1933. By it Germany guaranteed the Church full freedom in its faith, property and organizations, in return for the Vatican's pledge that each bishop would "promise to honor the constitutional government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honor it." With that escape clause, the Nazis have since torn all 33 articles of the Concordat into shreds, yelling "It's constitutional!" every time the Church objected.
Shortly after he got his Concordat, Hitler got the Protestant Reichsbishop he wanted. In the spring of 1933 Germany's Protestants (Lutheran. Reformed) voluntarily merged into the German Evangelical Church. To head it, the Nazis nominated Army Chaplain Ludwig Müller. a friend of Hitler and leader of the Nazified Deutsche Christen (the "German Christians").
By November, the Evangelicals realized that Hitler's hand-picked candidate was out to Nazify their church, crucify Christian doctrine, apply the "Führer Principle" to church government and the "Aryan paragraph" to church personnel. Resistance flared up all over the Reich, and the newly united church split sharply into three groups:
1) The Deutsche Christen, who like Reichsbishop Muller wanted to make the Church the obedient instrument of the State, and who have never numbered more than 3,000 pastors.
2) The Lutheran Council, some 9,000 moderates led by Dr. August Marahrens, Bishop of Hanover, who did not want to be dominated by the State (i.e., the Nazis) but wanted some connection maintained between Church and State.
3) The Confessional Synod, whose 5,000 pastors were militantly opposed to Nazi domination, fought it by every means in their power.