The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 274

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 174 of September 30, I have the honor to inform the Department that the pressure exerted by the National Socialist authorities upon German Protestants to accept the new unified Evangelical Church continues unabated.

It will be recalled that several thousand Protestant ministers have expressed their disapproval of the centralization of religious authority, their opposition being directed principally against the “Aryan clause” in the fundamental laws of the church. The leader of this important group is Pastor Niemoeller of Dahlem, a suburb of Berlin. The Embassy has been informed that Pastor Niemoeller and two other prominent clergymen have been summarily dismissed from their positions for having offered resistance to the National Socialist Party in its “necessary reconstruction of the German National Church.” The dismissal of these ministers was postponed until after the elections of November 12 by the Prussian Minister of Education, following a protest made by the pastor of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche of Berlin, the inference being that the Government authorities feared the effect that might be produced on the minds of the electorate.

As of possible interest in this regard, I have the honor to state that Dr. MacFarland, the former head of the American Federation of Churches, visited Chancellor Hitler some weeks ago and informed him that the American Protestant denominations would view with regret any harsh treatment of the dissenting pastors. The Chancellor is said to have consented to receive representatives of the protesting clergy, but it is not believed that the interview actually took place.

Relations between the Nazi officials and the Roman Catholics also leave much to be desired, despite the Concordat recently concluded between the Vatican and the Government of the Reich. It is stated that the appointment of a new Bishop of Berlin has occasioned difficulties, as the candidate approved by the Papal authorities is not considered by the National Socialists to be sufficiently loyal to their cause. Further evidence of friction between the authorities and the Catholic population appears in reports that indictments have been issued against such prominent laymen as former Chancellor Marx and Messrs. Brauns and Stegerwald, ex-Ministers of Labor of the Reich, for alleged misappropriation of funds belonging to a workmen’s bank. It is also reported that ex-Chancellor Brüning has incurred the disfavor of the National [Page 304] Socialists for his alleged failure to cooperate in the elections and that his position is a difficult one.

The Reich Government has been attempting to settle with the Vatican controversies relating to the Concordat and according to reliable information sent to Rome Herr Buttmann, a Nazi leader in the Bavarian Diet, with this end in view. He failed, however, to reach an agreement with the Vatican. An effort alleged, whether correctly or not, to have been made by Minister Göring to see the Pope during his recent visit to Rome was also devoid of success.

Notwithstanding these difficulties it should be pointed out that the proportion of favorable votes received by the Government on November 12 in the Catholic regions of Germany equalled that accorded to it in other regions. This may be due to a variety of reasons such as patriotism, the intensive propaganda undertaken by the Nazis or their repressive measures. The last alternative is not improbable, at least so far as Bavaria is concerned, as the Consul General at Munich reports that discontent is smouldering in that country.

Another phase of the confused religious situation in Germany is the agitation of the German Christians, the radical element in the Unified Evangelical Church, for a thoroughgoing change in religious teaching and practices. At a large meeting held in Berlin on November 13 it was decided that the Old Testament should be excluded from the teaching of the Church and the New Testament should be purged of “superstitious” information. Every foreign influence should be excluded from the German Church, holy places should be found at home and not in Palestine, and a close relationship must be made evident between the Nordic spirit and the heroic Jesus, so that the victory of the former over Oriental materialism may be achieved. These startling decisions were too much even for Dr. Müller, the new Nazi Bishop and head of the unified church. He has issued a public statement roundly condemning the resolutions approved on November 13 and upholding the Bible as the “single and immovable foundation of the church.”

The foregoing information indicates that in spite of the success achieved by the National Socialist Party in the political field, its attempts to obtain complete control over the religious life of the country are encountering great difficulties. It is predicted that the meeting of the new Reichstag will afford an opportunity for this discontent to find expression, although the members of that body were probably selected with care by the party officials.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
J. C. White

Counselor of Embassy