862.404/72

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

No. 1169

Sir: With reference to despatch No. 1038 of July 16, 1934,68 I have the honor to report that the National Synod of the German Protestant (Evangelical) Church met on August 9 in Berlin, to adopt measures which, according to Dr. Jäger, the legal officer of the Unified Church, were of decisive significance for the pacification of the Church. In a press conference he pointed out that the practical effect of the closer relation between the State Churches and the Reich Church was that the legislative powers of the individual State Churches were transferred to the Reich Church. There were, he continued only three State Churches not yet unified—those of Bavaria and Württemberg, and the reformed State Church of Hanover. The synod would be asked to pass on all legal and administrative measures adopted hitherto in order to put an end to all assertions of illegality and unconstitutionality. The unification of the three Churches that were [Page 274]still holding out would be achieved by transferring all legislative power to the Reich Church and church policy would be determined in future no longer according to parliamentary methods but by the head of the Reich Church in harmony with the leadership of the people (i. e., Hitler). A further church law would modify the oath of office of the clergy so as to include “recognition of the Führer” and still another law would abolish the church flag in favor of the exclusive use of the German national flags. Other important questions would probably be settled in a new national synod in September or October.

With a large majority of “German Christians” present, the program thus outlined in advance was railroaded through. New by-laws were adopted according to which “the Reich Bishop opens, directs and represents the German Evangelical National Synod. He executes, in conjunction with the legal officer, the drafting of its decisions.” A law was adopted specifically transferring sole legislative power to the Reich Church, and within it to the “Spiritual Ministry of the German Evangelical Church” which is to pass all church laws for the Reich Church and the regional churches as well. As the official statement laconically adds: “Furthermore there was adopted the church law concerning the oath of office of the clergy and officials of the German Evangelical Church.”

In connection with the oath of office above mentioned, one must turn to unofficial sources to learn that this signifies a promise of loyalty and obedience to the Führer. A blanket approval was further given of all legislative and administrative acts of Bishop Müller and the Spiritual Ministry. The flag law was also passed according to program.

The communiqué concludes: Reich Bishop Müller closed the National synod with the conviction that the session had contributed towards arriving at a fraternal union such as might conduce to the achievement of its (the Church’s) high aim. He led a gladly welcomed cheer (Siegheil!) for the German people and Fatherland, and for the Führer and Chancellor.”

The protest of the representatives of the Opposition, of which one learns from other quarters, was apparently unavailing. While the effect of the vote was to reduce the synod to a register of the Reich Bishop’s will, its immediate result as a measure of pacification may be seen from the enclosed translation of a protest claimed to have been sent to the 7000 odd pastors of the Emergency League and read in many pulpits last Sunday.71

Six Church superintendents have been suspended from office in the Rhine Province.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
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