Religion: German Martyrs

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A month later Catholicism also began to strike back, led by rawboned, outspoken Michael, Cardinal von Faulhaber, Archbishop of Munich. In a series of Advent sermons that packed St. Michael's Church he condemned the false choice that the Nazis had tried to place before Catholics—the choice between "Germanism" and disloyalty. His Eminence thundered: "Let us not forget that we were saved not by German blood but by the blood of Christ!'' Cardinal von Faulhaber narrowly missed a Nazi bullet in 1934. In 1938 a Nazi mob smashed the windows of his palace. Now 71, he is in ill health, but he still leads Germany's Catholics in their resistance to Hitler.

So vigorous was Confessional and Lutheran Council opposition to Reichsbishop Muller that Hitler soon shelved him, presently gave his powers to Minister of Church Affairs Hanns Kerrl. Minister Kerrl's creed: "The primacy of the State over the Church must be recognized. . . . The question of the divinity of Christ is ridiculous and unessential. A new authority, Adolf Hitler, has arisen as to what Christ and Christianity really are." To Minister Kerrl, Adolf Hitler is "the Jesus Christ as well as the Holy Ghost of the Fatherland."

The Deutsche Christen element among Protestants, though in numerical minority, has flourished temporally with Nazi backing. But its churches are three-fourths empty. Typical Deutsche Christen bishop is Dr. Martin Sasse of Thuringia, who declares: "We would still go on with the Führer even if he closed the church doors before us. In Germany, there is no life except with the Führer. . . . The present-day task of theological science is to provide a religious foundation for the new State ethics."

This neo-paganism the Confessionals have fought fervently, the Lutheran Council less uncompromisingly. A reef-dodging diplomat, Bishop Marahrens is one of the three pre-Hitler Protestant bishops who has held on to his post, typifies an attitude of something-less-than-martyrdom. Under him, middle-of-the-road Protestantism's steady declaration has been: "Our bishop and council remain the legal authority of our church. . . . The Lord of the Christian Church is Christ, not Hitler."

One Man of Courage. Living martyr and symbol of Christian resistance in Germany both to Germans and the whole world is Pastor Niemoller. A gaunt, blunt, unbending hero of World War I, who won the Iron Cross for his exploits as a submarine commander (he sank 55,000 tons of Allied shipping), he was pastor of the swank Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin's socialite suburb Dahlem and led the Confessional Synod's attack on Naziism until clapped into jail in July 1937 for "misuse of the pulpit." The court freed him when he came to trial in February 1938, but the Gestapo promptly hustled him off to concentration camp at Sachsenhausen. There he remains, all rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, having refused release offered to him on condition that he promise to cease preaching.

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