The Deadly Influence of National Socialism
National Socialism was a political movement that emerged in Germany after its defeat in World War I. This movement is more commonly known as Nazism. The National Socialist Party or Nazi Party was formed in Munich is 1919. Adolph Hitler was given all dictatorial powers as the result of the Enabling Act. By 1933 the party had gained control over the entire German state and the ideas, propaganda, and doctrines of National Socialism were written in Hitler's Mein Kampf (My Struggle) . Hitler believed that, "The Nordic master race was created to rule over inferior races, especially the Jews" (McManus 5). This was just the beginning of Nazi thought that swept throughout Germany until the end of World War II. Party membership was "voluntary" and millions joined, some willingly and others against their will. National Socialism transformed Germany from a weak republic to a powerful state. This change was brought about by one individual, Adolph Hitler. Hitler had tremendous influence over millions in the German community. National Socialism greatly influenced the church and education in the Third Reich. Today the Nazi influence is seen in white nationalist groups all over the world.
It was essential for churches in the Third Reich to understand what was happening politically in Germany. Hitler subordinated church policy to his political policies. Tensions were high in the German Bishops' Conference between the president Archbishop Bertram and Bishop Preysing. Preysing saw that the Third Reich was corrupt as early as 1933. The Vatican and most of the German Bishops agreed with the ideas of National Socialism. Bertram defended the government until his death in 1945. Preysing on the other hand, refused to be involved and resigned from the Conference of Bishops in 1935. In 1941 Preysing, Grober, and Berning worked out a pastoral letter. These men wanted to inform the public about the murders of the mentally ill, persecution in occupied territories, and action against the monasteries had been occurring. They also questioned their duty to God and to his followers. This questioning lead to twenty more bishops joining the fight against the Reich government. Bertram declared he could not support the letter and so it was never published. The tables had turned and now it was Bertram who was all alone in his thoughts. Bertram corresponded with Hitler by means of letters from 1940- 44. Hitler wrote, "I have no other interest than that state and church, in the best possible mutual understanding, should do everything possible to overcome the difficulties of wartime and thus contribute to the final victory" (Scholder 165). Through these letters, Hitler made Bertram feel important and kept him on his side. In actuality, Hitler was deceiving Bertram by trying to gain the churches' support.
Hitler did not care about the state of the church. He just wanted the churches to believe they were the...