862.404/88

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

No. 1407

Sir: I have the honor to report that since the transmission of my despatch No. 1385 of October 15,73 the controversy which is disturbing [Page 277]German Protestantism has suddenly assumed new and unexpected aspects. A number of prominent German Christians holding official positions, among them being Dr. Kinder, the leader of the German Christian organization, have taken issue sharply with Dr. Jäger in regard to his approval of the plan for a national church combining Protestants and Catholics. In other words, this project, which has been the subject of rather indefinite reports and rumors, has been brought sharply into the light and has confused still further the already complicated situation. Jäger appears to have become incensed at the attitude of the churchmen and attempted to suspend them from office. Nevertheless, according to subsequent reports, he did not succeed in doing so owing to the objections of Reichsbishop Müller. This statement, if correct, would imply a disagreement between Müller and his most zealous assistant, which would not tend to strengthen the Unified Church.

In Bavaria, Bishop Meiser is reported to be under strict house arrest, while members of the secret police are constantly posted before the door of his room. A commissioner has been appointed to govern the Protestant diocese of Southern Bavaria. Bishop Wurm, of Württemberg, seems to have been released, to judge from a press report emanating from Düsseldorf where he is said to have addressed a large gathering of people.

The other incident, which may well prove to be of greater importance than the quarrel between Jäger and the German Christian dignitaries, is the decision of the Confessional Synod of Barmen to secede openly from the Unified Evangelical Church, on the ground apparently of differences in religious belief, and to request recognition of the Reich Government. This decision was announced on October 20 at a meeting of pastors held at Dahlem, near Berlin, presided over by Bishop Koch, the head of the Confessional Synod. It is reported that delegates from foreign countries were in attendance.

On Sunday, October 21, Bishop Koch read the proclamation of secession at Pastor Niemöller’s church in Dahlem and ordained a number of young clergymen.

The problem naturally presents itself as to the reception which Hitler will accord to the decisive step taken by the Confessional Synod. It is alleged that on Tuesday, October 23, he will make an important statement on the church controversy after Reichsbishop Müller takes the oath of allegiance. He has attended conferences with Hess and Ritter von Epp, the Bavarian Statthalter, at which the Bavarian religious situation has been considered. Von Epp is said to favor the cause of Bishop Meiser.

It is difficult to predict what position Hitler will take. He has consented, however, to receive Müller’s oath of allegiance, thereby recognizing him as Reichsbishop. In addition, it is worthy of notice [Page 278]that secret police have been used against Meiser in Bavaria, and that in Württemberg the S.A. is said to have received orders to give support to officials of the Unified Church. It is quite possible that Hitler will endeavor to bring about peace by effecting a reconciliation between the opposing groups. It seems less likely that he will accede completely to the request of the Confessional Synod. To do so would constitute virtually a public censure of Müller.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
J. C. White

Counselor of Embassy
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