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

No. 435

Sir: In continuation of my despatch No. 405 [407] of January 8, 1934,58 I have the honor to report that the opposition clergy continue to withhold their approval of Reich Bishop Mueller’s drastic order restraining the public discussion of church policies by the pastors. Thus far the Reich Bishop has abstained from taking disciplinary measures against some 1,500 clergymen who openly disavowed his authority when they read last Sunday from their pulpits a protest against the present administration of the Reich Church. It has been officially confirmed that the Bishops of the Evangelical Churches in Bavaria and Wuerttemberg have declined to enforce the Reich Bishop’s order. The Bishop of Wuerttemberg, in a pastoral letter to his followers, declares that they should uphold the new German Government but, should they be compelled to choose between an Evangelical or an Aryan faith “we know that …59 only a firm loyalty to the heritage received from our fathers can bring welfare and blessing to the National Socialist movement.”

The Bishop points out that the opposition that has arisen against the leadership of the Reich Church is purely an ecclesiastical matter. He expresses regret that the Evangelical Youth Organizations had been incorporated into the Hitler Youth without prior consultation with the leaders of the former and adds that the manner in which the Evangelical Youth has been absorbed has “rendered it exceedingly [Page 266] difficult, if not impossible to exercise a real and Evangelical care over the young people.”

It is understood that many laymen in sympathy with the recalcitrant clergy have addressed letters to the Reich Bishop threatening to leave the Church if the Nazi extremists are not checked. On the other hand, the German Christians, who provoked the present conflict in the Church and who deemed it wiser to remain in the background during the past weeks, are again rallying to the support of Dr. Müller. They are holding public meetings in an attempt to counteract the lively activity of the opposition clergy. The Gospel in the Third Reich, a weekly journal of the German Christian movement published by Dr. Hossenfelder, has openly demanded State intervention. The police is reported to have confiscated the membership lists of the Pastors’ Emergency League. Whether this is either an attempt to intimidate the opposition pastors or the forerunner of wholesale arrests in the Church remains to be seen.

Meanwhile Dr. Beyer, the last remaining member of the Clerical Ministry has resigned. The Reich Bishop, however, has requested the four members of his body who resigned at different times to carry on their duties provisionally until a new Church Cabinet is formed. He has again summoned the heads of the regional churches to Berlin in order to nominate their candidates to the Clerical Ministry in accordance with the provisions of the new Church Constitution. Indications are lacking, however, that this second attempt to reconstruct this body will be more successful than the preceding one.

It is reported that Professor Karl Barth of Bonn University, a prominent theologian who had sharply criticised the attempts of the German Christians to reform the Church and who was regarded as the theological leader of the Opposition, has been retired from his post.

Reports announcing the arrest of Protestant pastors for allegedly disrespectful behavior towards the present régime appear occasionally in the press.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Post, p. 291.
  2. Omission indicated in the original despatch.