862.404/50

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

No. 486

Sir: I have the honor to report that since the writing of my despatch No. 435 on the conflict in the Evangelical Church it has become apparent that, for the present at least, the tide has turned against the opposition pastors.

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Chancellor Hitler has held a number of interviews with Reich Bishop Müller, on one occasion together with certain Protestant Bishops as well as representatives of the opposition clergy and the German Christians. Although at this conference it seemed at first that a settlement might he reached on the question of the clerical Ministry and the position of Bishop Müller it is significant that Hitler contented himself merely with the recommendation to the opposition clergy that they endeavor to get along with the Reich Bishop. The Chancellor’s rather lukewarm attitude was not shared by General Göring60 who was also present. According to the London Times, Göring, who is hostile to the opposition, submitted to the conference certain material prejudicial to these pastors supplied by the Secret Police. The meeting broke up without achieving a settlement.

Dr. Müller has on recent occasions shown his hostility to the opposition. He has suspended a number of pastors for reading the declaration of protest from their pulpits. On January 21, he ostentatiously inducted into office the German Christian Bishop of Brunswick, Dr. Beye, one of the men whose elimination was demanded by the opposition clergy. In his sermon which he delivered on this occasion he declared that he had offered his hand to all and that those who refused it would now be “rapped on the knuckles.” In defending the Aryan paragraph in the Church, he said that history would thank Chancellor Hitler “for winning respect for the conception of blood purity”. As Bishop he would baptize a young Jew, but he would not permit the baptized Jew to become a pastor. A baptized Chinese as a pastor was not conceivable. If the baptized Jew wished to become a pastor he should go as a missionary among the Jews.

Other events indicate that Dr. Müller’s influence is gaining. An announcement has appeared that in his capacity as Bishop of the Prussian Evangelical Church, he has assumed the powers and functions of the Church Senate. This means that he possesses legislative as well as executive control over that influential organization. A most important official statement, however, was made public on January 27, a translation of which reads as follows:

“Today (Saturday) the Reichsbisehof invited the leaders of the German Evangelical Church to a conference. As the result of a long conversation carried out in complete unanimity the following united statement was given out by the leaders of all the German Evangelical territorial churches:

‘Acting under the influence of the great occasion on which the leaders of the German Evangelical Church had come together in the presence of the Chancellor of the Reich, they unanimously confirm their unreserved loyalty to the Third Reich and its Führer. They most sharply condemn all criticisms against the State, the people and the political tendency that are intended to endanger the [Page 268]Third Reich. They especially condemn this criticism when the foreign press is used to represent the dissension in the Church erroneously as a struggle against the State. The assembled Church leaders place themselves unitedly behind the Reich Bishop and are determined to execute his measures and orders in the manner desired by him, to hinder the ecclesiastical opposition thereto and to strengthen the authority of the Reich Bishop by all Constitutional means available.’”

According to press reports this announcement of loyalty to Reichs Bishop Müller was evoked by an intimation to the Bishops from Chancellor Hitler that unless the strife within the Church ceased the State would discontinue its subsidies, amounting to about 100 million marks for the entire Reich. In addition, it seems evident that the difficulties in the Protestant Church have been placed on a political basis—in other words, a dispute concerning religious doctrine and authority is set forth as a danger to the State which tends to bring discredit upon it. Upon that ground the clergy submit to the authority of Müller and it is significant that the Chancellor was present when the resolution was drawn up.

Pastor Niemöller, the leader of the opposition, has been given “leave of absence”. This presumably means that he has been deprived of his parish. It is reported on reliable authority that he and a hundred other ministers have been arrested.

Physical violence has taken place. Windows have been broken in the houses of a number of ministers and only several days ago the pastor of the prominent Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche was assaulted in his home by a group of rowdies.

It is possible, of course, that some kind of concessions will be made by Bishop Müller and a satisfactory adjustment reached. The active interference of the State, however, would indicate that the usual National Socialist policy of force will be used to crush or render harmless those who are unwilling to conform to authority.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Hermann Göring, President of the Reichstag and Minister for Aviation.