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

No. 1337

Sir: I have the honor to report that Dr. Müller was formally installed as Reich Bishop and Primate of the German Evangelical Church at a service held at the Protestant Cathedral in Berlin on September 23. It may be more correct to say that he installed himself as he was not consecrated by another ecclesiastic but took a solemn vow expressing his willingness to accept the leadership of the Church and to guide it according to the precepts of Martin Luther.

The ceremony was attended by Dr. Frick, the Reich Minister of the Interior (who also has religious matters under his jurisdiction), Dr. Meissner, the Chief of the Presidential Chancellery, many regional bishops and clergy, and by Dr. Jäger, the legal officer of the Church. In addition to the foregoing, numerous delegations of German Christians were present, while the prominence of S.S. and S.A. uniforms lent a marked National Socialist appearance, not to mention the giving of the Nazi salute in the Church itself. A very moderate sized crowd remained outside the Cathedral listening to the service, which was conveyed to it by loudspeakers.

For several days previous to Dr. Müller’s installation both he and Dr. Jäger took occasion to make a number of public statements relating to the significance of the combining of the regional churches into one organization, and to the religious basis of the Unified Church. The large assembly of German Christians, held in Berlin just prior to the ceremony of installation, furnished the occasion for certain of these. Dr. Jäger, for instance, stated that the very nature and beliefs of National Socialism could not tolerate the separate existence of the Church in so far as the outward organization was concerned. The State could not touch or interfere with matters of creed or confession. They were free and, together with the preaching of the Gospel, could be left to the clergy. The latter, however, could have nothing to do with church politics; that field was reserved to the highest leaders of the Church, presumably Müller and himself. Legal authority would emanate henceforth solely from the Reich Church.

On the subject of religious beliefs, it was emphasized by Müller, who boasted of his connections with the German Christians, that there was no intention of denying Christ, worshipping Wotan, or quarreling with the Roman Catholics. Another speaker repudiated the statement that German Christians had anything to do with the anti-Christian “German Faith Movement” of Count Reventlow. It was intended, according to Müller, to preach the Gospel in simple German so that the S.A. man or the laborer could understand it. Favorable as these [Page 276] words may sound, it is stated in opposition circles that they do not dispel the doubts of those who apprehend that the German Christians will continue to spread racial and other essentially unorthodox doctrines which conflict with the all-embracing concept of Christianity, and are championed in Rosenberg’s “Myth of the 20th Century.”

The Reich Bishop’s installation and the outward unification of the Evangelical Church have failed to silence his opponents, although they are contending against heavy odds. Hitler, for instance, has issued a definite statement aligning himself in support of the legislation of unification, enacted by the Synod on August 9 (see despatch No. 1306, page 472). Reports continue to appear of forcible measures applied to recalcitrant clergy. According to the Consul at Stuttgart, Bishop Wurm has been detained by the police in his house and will soon be compelled to leave that city. On the other hand, the majority of Dr. Wurm’s clergy, despite a very real fear of punishment, continues to stand by him. On the day of Müller’s enthronement, Bishop Meiser, of Bavaria, and hundreds of opposition pastors are reported to have preached sermons denouncing the Bishop of the German Christians and pointing out that faith is endangered and true unity has not been achieved. Müller, on the other hand, in an address delivered a short time ago in Hanover, threatened to take harsh measures against those who would not cooperate with him, and to coerce them to leave the Church.

That the responsible authorities realize the task that remains to be completed before the controversy can be adjusted is seen in an appeal made by Dr. Frick to the German Christians, declaring that the situation fills him with the greatest concern, and expressing the hope that the assembly of German Christians would contribute to achieve this. Dr. Jäger, however, in a statement made at this meeting, declared that a long road still remained to be traversed before outward unity would be replaced by a genuine and thoroughgoing unification.

The matter of the oath of allegiance seems to be still unsettled. There is no indication that, despite the alteration in the wording, the opposition clergy has taken the vow.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Dated September 21; not printed.