The Holocaust Historiography Project

Imposed German Guilt: The Stuttgart Declaration of 1945

R. Clarence Lang

  • Paper Presented to the Eighth International Revisionist Conference.

President Ronald Reagan, in preparation for his celebrated visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg in 1985, termed the alleged collective German guilt for the Second World War “imposed” and “unnecessary.” [1] That President Reagan felt compelled to express himself so clearly demonstrates that the German guilt said to stem from the Second World War is still a burning issue. The president’s words, and the furor that attended them, are a clear mandate for us to examine anew the nature of this imposed guilt, and the persons and circumstances that imposed it

I. Broad Perspectives Regarding The Declaration

The concern of this paper is the background to the declaration of German guilt made in Stuttgart, Germany by eleven leading German churchmen in connection with a visit by a delegation of eight non-German churchmen on October 18-19, 1945. The declaration began “We are especially thankful for this visit, since we realize that we are not only united with our people in a great company of suffering, but also in a solidarity of guilt.” [Emphasis added][2] By linking “our people” with “a solidarity of guilt,” these German clergymen conjured up that entity known as “German guilt.” This paper focuses as well on the role of Pastor Niemöller, doubtless the most famous of the eleven German churchmen who signed the Declaration of Stuttgart. A U-boat hero in the First World War who hailed Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Niemöller later publicly opposed the National Socialist regime and became an object of international sympathy after his incarceration in a concentration camp. [3] That Niemöller, a Lutheran, should so avidly have advocated a collective German guilt is an aberration, for no one more clearly recognized that the nature of guilt is personal, and not collective, than Martin Luther. As the theologian Martin Köhler pointed out, the young Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses of 1517 were expressions of “a religion of the individual conscience". Conscience and guilt go hand in hand. As with guilt, so with repentance, sin, reconciliation, justification, and forgiveness: for Luther these religious entities only become real that inner commitment called faith. Guilt, like faith, can by its very nature only be personal. To be sure, everyone in a group may believe, but never the group as such, for each one believes only as an individual. Merely because a person belongs to a group outwardly does not mean so inwardly.[4]

Because Lutherans take guilt and its nature seriously, Niemöller should have grasped the fallacy in the concept of a collective German guilt. Instead, it has fallen to the revisionists, many of them nonprofessing Christians, to carry out the Gospel endeavor of refuting the collective guilt which has been fallaciously imposed on the Germans. The work of the Revisionists has also brought to light a motive of the victors — and their allies in postwar Germany — in unilaterally imposing a collective guilt on their defeated enemies: the victors' need to be exonerated of their own misdeeds. The defeated Germans, at the mercy of their conquerors in staged trials which afforded the accused little opportunity to place the war in historical perspective, were unable to raise the issue of the war crimes of the victors. This pretense of a collective, unilateral criminality on the part of the Germans afforded the victors a classic, dehumanizing, un-Christian exoneration.

By laying bare the crimes of the victors, revisionist historians have demonstrated that guilt for the Second World War is shared, not unilateral. One need only point to David Irving’s classic The Destruction of Dresden, which demonstrated that although the Allies, with victory a certainty, had a wider range of options to act humanely, they chose to be even more brutal and vindictive, to the bitter end. [5]

While the senseless and unnecessary terror bombing campaign is well known, certain aspects of the hunger blockade which the Allies imposed on German-occupied Europe are less familiar. It is a little known fact that Allied leaders vetoed efforts of the Famine Relief Committee, formed in 1942, to send food to the hard-pressed civilians of occupied Europe after an initial success in Greece, where, in cooperation with the International Red Cross and with the permission of the Germans, tens of thousands of lives were saved by food supplied from Allied nations. Thereafter Allied leaders, above all America’s Franklin Roosevelt and Britain’s Winston Churchill, were obdurate in their refusal to cooperate with the Famine Relief Committee and the Red Cross. These men used food as a weapon during the war; afterwards they profited from the lurid images and descriptions of the horrors of the concentration camps at the war’s close. Many of these horrors were the direct result of Allied policy makers' refusal to cooperate with international organizations such as the FRC and IRC.

That this is not mere speculation is evident from the final report of the Famine Relief Committee. As the victorious Allies advanced into Germany, and the FRC handed over the balance of its funds to the Friends' [Quakers] Relief Service, the Committee’s last report concluded:

It should have been obvious to all intelligent people that our food blockade of the continent of Europe would bring untold torture and suffering to our friends and allies and would do little or no harm to our enemy … It has been possible to obtain proof that our food blockade did not shorten the war by a single hour … History will judge our government harshly for its futile persistence in the policy of total blockade of foodstuffs. [6]

The Famine Relief Committee was by no means an isolated Allied voice, for there were vigorous advocates of such a humanitarian policy in high government positions, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives. As late in the war as June 28, 1943 (six months after Stalingrad, amid a growing realization that the Germans could not win), an emotional debate took place on Capitol Hill. The Republican minority leader, Harold Knutson, a congressman since 1917, pleaded: “What the Society of Friends is doing in northern France, and what the Swedes and Swiss are doing in Greece, can be done in Poland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and the Low Countries, as well as the balance of occupied France.” After pointing out that financing would not be a problem, since the Allies had frozen considerable assets after the Germans occupied these countries, the Minnesotan Knutson, strongly supported by fellow Republican Congressmen Walter H. Judd (MN), Carl T. Curtis (NE), Walter F. Horan (WI), and Christian A. Herter (MA) accusingly ended the debate: “One word from either of them [Roosevelt or Churchill] would banish all the horrors of famine and pestilence from Poland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and the Low Countries. Will they rise to the occasion? The future of white civilization in Europe rests in their hands.” [7] It is evident that in 1943 Roosevelt and Churchill, mindful of the postwar Morgenthau Plan with its cold-blooded imposition of unilateral guilt on the Germans, refused any life-saving measures. (One must also wonder what became of the vast financial resources of the occupied countries seized by the Allies.)

The Famine Relief Committee in 1945, and the congressmen in 1943, could not foresee that in line with the Morgenthau Plan, the Allied blockade would be transformed into a postwar American and British military ban on all private and church humanitarian aid to about 85,000,000 Germans. Nor could they have foreseen that this ban would become a tool whereby Allied Protestant churchmen would, in an utterly un-Christian fashion, manipulate fellow Christian German churchmen in an attempt to impose a lingering guilt on the German people. They could not foresee that this would help to transform the Church of the Reformation, “a fellowship of believers,” into a political sect, i.e., an entity using its resources primarily for political, not religious purposes, above all to “re-educate” the Germans.

II. Theological and Other Implications of the Declaration of Stuttgart

Reflecting on the basic thrust of the declaration, the German Lutheran Old Testament scholar Friedrich Baumgärtel wrote: “The consciousness of guilt that drives one to confess is, is it not, born of the uneasiness of the conscience over specific, concrete completed deeds and behavior?” [Emphasis added] [8]

Baumgärtel’s implication, that consciousness of guilt cannot be generalized or collectivized, has been powerfully amplified by the German theologian Dr. Walter Bodenstein in Is Only the Loser Guilty?, a treatise devoted to the Declaration of Stuttgart. Bodenstein writes: “The words 'solidarity of guilt' take for granted that a collective entity is capable of becoming guilty. Thus a group is treated as an individual.” Setting this in the Christian context, Bodenstein points out:

That nations were seen as individuals is true, so in the Old Testament the nations surrounding IsraeL as well as Israel itself, were spoken of as persons. Babylon became the “daughter of Babylon” and Israel “the daughter of Zion” (Isaiah 41:7; Zech 9). The prophets of Israel personified their people as “a servant of God,” and as “son of man” in order to express Israel’s task in the world of nations. But who can overlook that these were images and through that not groups but only individuals can be responsible and become guilty. (Psalm 6; Ezekiel 18: 5-10) [9]

This fluctuation, from unreal collective (or theocratic) groups to real personal (or fellowship) groups, can be traced in the Old Testament. Regardless of how much of the Old Testament one regards as historical, it is in the New Testament that the personal becomes paramount in the struggles of Jesus and the early church, above all in the confrontation with Phariseeism culminating in the liberating Gospel experience of the Apostle Paul. Based on Paul and the Scriptures, the Gospel became viable once again through Luther, in his struggle with the legalistic ecclesiasticism of his day.

Much becomes clearer in looking at the broader theological context here. For Roman Catholics the starting point is the specific Organization of the Church; for Jews the Covenants in the Holy Torah (the Law); for Calvinists (i.e., Puritans, Huguenots, and Reformed), the Holy Will of God; for Lutherans, however, as for the Apostle Paul the starting point is the personaL sinful human condition, befitting Luther’s lonely words: “Here, I stand.” For Lutherans the Church is thus a fellowship of believers, not a theocracy.

For Lutherans the heart of religion is life personally experienced in terms of accusatory aspects, referred to generically as the Law, and on the other hand forgiving or consolatory aspects, called the Christian Gospel. The Law includes all accusatory aspects of life. The Jewish Torah is thus seen as not unique, but a merely one of the cutting edges impelling persons to the Christian Gospel, which relativizes and overcomes life’s accusatory aspects. More than good news, the Gospel is the inner liberating experience which affirms life, dispels negative, accusatory impositions, and emanates appreciation and thankfulness. The Gospel finds its highest expression in thankfulness to God for Jesus Christ. That forgiveness was Martin Luther’s keystone is clear from his Catechism: “Where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.” In a nutshell, what is at stake is the cardinal teaching of the Christian Church, that is, justification by faith alone.

Some of the sharpness of the Gospel that emanated through Luther was dulled by the puritanical legalism of John Calvin. Today, Christians are in danger of blending this puritanical legalism with that of what has been termed “the Zionist entity,” as this entity attempts to impose the guilt consciousness associated with the term “Holocaust” on successive generations, not only of Germans but of Christians in general, thereby undermining the Gospel of forgiveness. Thus the guilt imposed on the Germans has great implications for Christianity as well.

The danger is that the Church be turned into a theocracy, and thus cease to be a Church. In a theocracy religious unity is based on divine laws, and God is regarded primarily as the Lawgiver. The Church, “the fellowship of believers,” bases its religious unity on a personal faith which regards God as the creator and sustainer of redeeming faith. The essence of the Church is appreciation and thankfulness to God, the highest and most powerful form of thankfulness. Nor is the fundamental issue of how we look at ourselves and others to be overlooked in this connection. At stake is the free, autonomous personality, a personality that the Church is to protect and foster.

Christianity indeed speaks of a human, Adamic sin, but this is not a collectivity of individual transgressions, as if one could visualize sin in piles, with one pile being the sins of the Germans. Adamic sin is rather the personal realization that I find in myself the same personal centeredness and selfishness that I am convinced is also in others. To be sure, interpretations may vary, but for our purposes it is evident that there can be no separate German heart. That the Stuttgart Declaration of German Guilt took place is historical fact; when one confronts the fallaciousness of this imposed, factitious guilt, it wholly evaporates. What is here said as to German guilt applies equally well to “Nazi,” or National Socialist, guilt.

Theologically, Christians are obligated to ask how long they can allow Christianity, and the various Western nations, to be held hostage to historically unprecedented “guilt trips” stemming from the Second World War, without losing the universality of the Gospel as well as a true perspective on history. The Gospel cannot be stripped of its universality in this way without losing its liberating power, the essence of the Gospel, which is the foundation of the Church. How ironic it is that Revisionists, often non-Christians, are fulfilling this Christian role, as they unintentionally prove the Apostle Paul was indeed right when he proclaimed that “all have sinned.”

III. Niemöller and Barth Set the Stage for Stuttgart

Since the Stuttgart Declaration of German Guilt is intimately asssociated with Martin Niemöller, certain insights are to be gained in treating him as a focal personality. Shortly after Adolf Hitler succeeded in creating political stability after a virtual two-year civil war against chaos and Bolshevism, Niemöller’s name became well known inside Germany and abroad. [10] One of the founders of the Confessional Church, and later incarcerated in concentration camps as a personal prisoner of Adolf Hitler, Niemöller became the darling of the international anti-German propagandists.

The Confessional Church was named for the confession proclaimed in May, 1934 at Barmen a city in the Ruhr. The Confessional Church comprised mostly Reformed (Calvinist) Protestants; quite a few Lutherans participated, however. (American readers should bear in mind that the state-supported German Protestant Church comprised both Lutheran and Reformed congregations, although such congregations remained separate.) The confessors renewed their pledge to Jesus Christ as the only head of the Church. This was meant to counter the “German Christians,” Hitler’s supporters within the Protestant Church, who were accused of trying to replace Jesus Christ with Adolf Hitler. The implication of the Barmenites, carried to its extremes meant that Hitler wanted to take the place of Christ in the Church, with persons baptized, confirmed, and ordained in his name. While it is true that Hitler professed faith in Providence (unlike such men as Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky], there is no evidence that he had any such plans as the Confessional Church and its supporters imputed to him.

The differences between the Barmen confessors and many traditional Lutherans were a factor in the later imposition of German guilt at Stuttgart, so it is well to examine them. Most German Lutheran pastors and theologians neither participated in nor subscribed to the Confession of Barmen. Some German Lutherans were ardent National Socialists, some German Christians (in Bavaria about twelve per cent of the clergy were German Christians). [11] Like the theologian Paul Althaus, most Lutherans opposed the Confession of Barmen on theological grounds, for the Confession spoke exclusively of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, rejecting or bypassing the traditional doctrine of Lutherans and Catholics, of a God- implanted natural, universal revelation. Althaus and others saw their convictions reinforced by the Apostle Paul, who spoke of God’s law written in the hearts of all people, and the Evangelist John, who spoke of “the true light which lights everyone.” Calling this the Uroffenbarung [basic or original revelation], Althaus argued convincingly that, merely because some might abuse natural, universal revelation for political purposes, it was no grounds for rejecting there in claiming that Jesus Christ was God’s sole revelation, as the Confessors of Barmen had done.[12]

Barmen, however, was only the first manifestation, so many Lutherans became convinced, of a subtle theological manipulation associated with the Swiss Karl Barth and his allies, who sought to undermine the foundations of Lutheranism, expounded in the Lutheran Confessional Writing of 1580. As will be demonstrated, the Stuttgart Declaration of German Guilt would be a further step in this process.

Seven years after the war, Althaus would correctly assess the German Christians, in recognizing that the main threat for Lutherans was not contained in their doctrinal errors, which had been successfully countered by Lutherans not involved in the Confessional Church. The danger, rather, lay in the “wild,” “emotional,” and “tumultuous” times, during which Germany had been virtually engulfed in a civil war. In such times the temptation is to minimize the Church’s necessary theological role in favor of seeking solutions to political problems. Althaus pointed out that not a single group of theological professors of any stature or ecclesiastical respectability had espoused German Christianity.” [13]

In 1945 this was in any case no longer an issue, for Hitler was dead and the German Christians had been discredited by a friend and foe alike. In 1945, however, Martin Niemöller, just released from Dachau, had a problem with Hitler gone and National Socialism vanquished, was there any future for the Confessional Church? [14] Why preach against a dead Hitler? Niemöller found his new Gospel in the mission to warn Germany and the world of the dangers of Hitlerism, and in preaching that the Germans had need to repent for Hitler and the Second World War Who, if not the Confessional Church, could carry out this crusade in a fallen, degenerated, paganized, and Nazified Germany? [15] This image of Germany devoid of Christianity fell right in line with the propaganda of the victorious Allies, and helped justify their “re-education” and “denazifacation” of the Germans. [16]

To further his new Gospel, in July 1945 Niemöller summoned the Brother’s Council of the Confessional Church to meet in Frankfurt The meeting convened on August 21, with sixteen German brothers and one Swiss, who arrived in an American jeep and wore a U.S. Army uniform.

The Swiss, whose arrival had doubtless been orchestrated by the American Counter Intelligence Corps and the religious sections of the American and British military control commissions, needed few introductions at the Frankfurt Council, for he was Karl Barth, regarded by many as the world’s foremost theologian. A Calvinist with an open anti-Lutheran bias, Barth was a leader in the ecumenical movement which arose in the last century, and which has sought to unify not only Protestanism, but indeed all Christendom.

Karl Barth was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1886. In 1919 he became famous in the theological world with his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. In 1921 he was appointed a professor at the University of Göttingen. The Barmen Confession of 1934 was essentially his brainchild, despite some recent claims to the contrary. [17] After his unceasing criticism of the German government Barth was ousted from Germany. Secure again at Pilgerstrasse 25 in Basel, he became the favorite theologian of the anti-German propagandists. Barth’s basic theological thrust, in the view of his theological opponents, such as Paul Althaus, Emmanuel Hirsch, and Werner Elert, was to formulate his theology in such a way as to exclude the German Christians from Christianity, thus rejecting the traditional Christian view of a natural, universal revelation. In short, Barth was doing ecclesiastically, theologically, and morally what the Jewish boycott of Germany, proclaimed March 24, 1933, was doing economically. [18]

More than any other influential Christian, Karl Barth made a holy war out of the economically based tragedy that was the Second World War. His stance in this regard is documented in his letter to Professor Hronadka of Prague, in September 1938, even before the Germans had occupied the Sudetenland. “Every Czech,” he wrote, “who fights [the Germans] and suffers in doing so is doing this for us — and I say it without reservation, he will also do it for the Church of Jesus Christ… “ [19] After the war, this theological mentality would claim that God had used Russian tanks and German bombers to teach the Germans a necessary lesson. Characteristic of Barth’s thinking regarding the Lutherans was his claim that in the Hitler years, “The Lutherans slept while the Reformed stayed awake.”

The Karl Barth who arrived under American auspices at the Brothers' Council in Frankfurt in August 1945 had been greatly strengthened by the organization, in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1938, of the Provisional World Council of Churches (PWCC). (It became the World Council of Churches in 1948.) This ecumenical group, which strove toward a unified Christian Church, was dominated by its secretary, W.A. Visser't Hooft (of whom more later), a Calvinist and a strong ally of Barth.

In 1945 Barth, Visser't Hooft, and other leaders of the PWCC feared the emergence of a strong, independent German Lutheran Church. With the help of such Lutheran allies as Niemöller they used such terms as “confessionalism,” “denominationalism,” and “separatism” to stigmatize this alleged danger. [20] Barth and his allies also evolved a dual strategy of isolating German Lutherans from the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, and availing themselves of the idea of the Germans' “collective guilt” to keep them on the defensive.

This strategy surfaced at the Brother’s Council of the Confessional Church in Frankfurt. Until then the participating churchmen had spoken of those who had sinned by actively furthering National Socialism or those who had done nothing to stop the Hitler movement. Now these churchmen spoke of the enormous guilt that “our people” had “accumulated,” a departure from the traditional Lutheran concept of guilt which has been discussed above. [21] Essentially, the Frankfurt meeting was aimed at gaining influential positions in the upcoming All-German Protestant Churchleaders' Conference in Treysa, a small town near Kassel, from August 27 to September 1. The Brother’s Council selected Niemöller and Barth to represent them. Barth was not even a German, leaving the question open of whether he imposed himself or was imposed on the Treysa conference. (The free churches, which were not state-supported, such as the Mennonites, Baptists, Free Lutherans and Methodists, were not present; these had their own meetings.)

At Treysa, the Confessional churchmen were able to pack the church council with either their members or their supporters, thereby frustrating the emergence of a viable German Lutheran Church independent from the PWCC. Bishop Marahrens, the influential Lutheran bishop of Hannover, who had past connection with the Confessional Church, was boycotted by his fellow believers. [22] He had talked to Hitler! The secretary of the PWCC, Visser't Hooft, although not at Treysa, had written the Anglican Bishop Bell on July 24, 1945 that Marahrens “must disappear.” [23] After constant hidden and overt pressures the bishop was driven to resign two years later. He was replaced by Hans Lilje, a signer of the Stuttgart Declaration. In the New Testament lots were cast in the selecting of a replacement for Judas. The emergent postwar Germany churchleaders would hardly take such a risk.

The bitterness between the Swiss Calvinist Barth and the German Lutherans became dramatically visible at Treysa. When Barth’s presence became known, the Bavarians, mostly Lutherans, threatened to leave. They were persuaded to stay. [24] As a theological student in Germany in the early 1950's, I was told that at one of the postwar meetings, possibly Treysa, Barth lampooned the German brothers for their lack of courage in standing up to Hitler, whereupon one dared to stand up and shout “We couldn’t all run to Switzerland like you did.”

In the closing session, Tresya seemed a dismal failure to some, but Barth’s remarks were optimistic. Presumably, he sensed a successful check to the “Lutheran danger.” After Treysa, the rest could be accomplished by the ever-handy insistence on atoning for Hitler. [25]

Yet, for Barth, uncertainities remained. In dejection he wrote Niemöller

How I wish you could make this matter [the issue of German guilt] your own. Believe me that, seen from the outside, it is truly a burning issue … so it is with me personally, when I, as I so often do, have to speak about the new Germany … I always get stuck when I have to give some kind of explanation which I still could not bring along either from Frankfurt nor from Treysa I even have to say, “Yes, yes, they really mean it that way!” I would give a kingdom for a snappy [klipp und klar] written statement, a written statement which I could clearly show. [26]

On October 5, Niemöller responded: “That I can and will make this matter my own, you [the personal Du] should no longer doubt, after my speech in Treysa … nevertheless, I will see to it that I come up with a clear expression in the sense you hinted.”

The American Methodist churchman Walter W. Van Kirk, who was a consultant to the American delegation to the UN conference in San Francisco in the spring of 1945, as well as secretary of the Federal Council of Churches, experienced none of Karl Barth’s difficulties with regard to the continued need for German repentance. In his book A Christian Global Strategy, published before Stuttgart, he recognized the danger of a politically isolated Germany. Describing the defeated Germans as “a pariah people subject to all sorts of military controls,” Van Kirk admonished: “But it must not be so between Western Christendom and the churches of Germany. There is but one family of God and all who breathe the name of Christ are encompassed within its fellowship.” As if forseeing the Declaration of Stuttgart, he added: “Nor should certain members of that family sit in moral judgment upon other members. It is for God to judge and exact reparation for guilt.” [27] The contrast with Barth’s approach is all too clear. As the German saying goes, “One hears from the forest [the echo of] what one shouts in.”

Indeed, nearly everyone thought that the guilt issue had been taken care of satisfactorily at Treysa, rendering Barth’s letter to Niemöller doubly strange. At the Treysa conference over a hundred of the churchmen present had adopted a resolution to the German people which included the words: “ … today, we confess that long before God spoke in anger, God besought us in love, but we refused to heed his call.” What else is Christian repentance but this? [28]

This confession was made in Germany, for Germans. It satisfied the religious press in America. Papers such as The Lutheran Standard carried headlines like: Church of Germany Confesses Guilt” [29] The American church historian Richard Solberg, writing twelve years later, pointed out that the German Christians had been boycotted (obviously, anyone with a National Socialist past had simply stayed away): “At the historic meeting [Treysa] odious ties with the past were severed.” [30] According to his biographer, the Anglican bishop George Bell claimed that the Germans had taken up and settled the guilt question.

What satisfied others, however, was not enough for Barth, nor for his powerful ally Visser't Hooft, two Calvinists possessed of their own standards for repentance. Visser't Hooft, the secretary of the Provisional World Council of Churches, revealed his own standard when, after insisting that the PWCC reserved all freedom of action in establishing ties with the.German churches, he announced that the PWCC would deal only with those German churchmen who had demonstrated active opposition to Hitler. [31]

Visser't Hooft’s position as secretary of the PWCC equipped him to play a dominating role in forcing the Stuttgart declaration. A Calvinist from the Netherlands, he was the chief spokesman and policy maker of the PWCC, which operated from the same Geneva, Switzerland headquarters as the International Red Cross. Unlike the Red Cross, however, the PWCC was not neutral. During the war Visser't Hooft worked with the Allied military, indeed some have maintained that he was an operative of the British Secret Service. [32]

Like Barth, Visser't Hooft possessed the Calvinist “holy” determination to direct organizational action rather than to the indirect approach, which stresses changing inner convictions (the approach favored by Lutherans). This difference is readily apparent in Calvinistic terminology, with its predilection for theocratic, depersonalizing terms of reference: its “institutes,” “eternal values,” “principles,” “plans,” “being chosen,” “purposes and causes,” “covenants,” and “goals.” The Calvinist vision of the church is thus less a fellowship of believers than a theocracy, a “new Israel” with holy wars and holy causes, a vision that has worked itself out with world-historical consequences in such diverse locales as Puritan New England and the South African Transvaal. It seems that Martin Luther sensed this difference in outlook more than 450 years ago, when in his colloquy at Marburg with Calvin’s forerunner Ulrich Zwingli, Luther said: “Sie haben einen anderen Geist” [You have a different spirit or attitude.]

This different spirit was now ready to manifest itself at Stuttgart The Treysa conference had elected a provisional council of twelve, which included only members sympathetic to the Confessional Church. Its chairman was Theophil Wurm, the seventy-eight year-old bishop of Stuttgart, a friend of Niemöller who had become well known in Germany during the war for his stand against euthanasia. [33] (A voice like Wurm’s is sorely needed today, for according to a recent newspaper report an estimated six to ten thousand persons are being put to death annually in the Netherlands. In Germany euthanasia was ended by decree in August 1941. Who or what can stop it in Holland?)

Niemöller became Bishop Wurm’s deputy, one of whose duties was to seek ecumenical ties. For Niemöller this meant above all ties with Barth and his supporters in the PWCC, despite their patent bias against German Lutherans.

IV. The Material Basis for the Stuttgart Declaration

There was an unavoidable prerequisite for the declaration of German guilt which the eight churchmen, led by Visser't Hooft, extracted from the German council of twelve. Visser't Hooft had, by acquiring what amounted to control of Protestant aid to Germany, availed himself of a powerful lever, which as events proved, he was only too ready to use.

Here a little background as to Allied food policy with regard to postwar Germany is helpful. The dominant Western ally, the United States, had proclaimed its intention to impose a Carthaginian peace on Germany in the notorious Morgenthau Plan, which was publicized while the fighting still raged. [34]

As mentioned above, a food blockade was Allied policy throughout most of the war. To be fully effective, it was necessary that the blockade enlist the support of neutral nations and international organizations such as the Geneva-based International Red Cross. The Red Cross was a particularly bothersome thorn in the flesh of the Allies, for in the words of its president, Dr. Max Huber: “The Red Cross aids victims of war not because of their particular nationality or because they are fighting for this or that cause, but purely and simply because they are human beings, who are suffering and in need of help.” In one of his writings Huber, a clergyman, went so far as to insist that the Good Samaritan was an actual historical figure and not a parable.[35]

Slowly but surely, the Allies undermined the neutrality of the International Red Cross. In 1943, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was formed. UNRRA adopted a policy of subsidizing only those groups actually fighting against the Germans. Without question Allied policies, as carried out by UNRRA, impeded even the neutral aid which the Red Cross was able to provide in the German concentration camps. Despite this, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “ … from 12 November 1943 to 8 May 1945, some 751,000 packages, weighing about 26,000 tons, were sent by the International Committee to deportees in concentration camps.” [36]

UNRRA policies were, of course, coordinated with the unconditional surrender dictate and the Morgenthau Plan, which the American church historian Richard Solberg, who was present in postwar Germany, called “vengeful.” Solberg points out that while the plan was never officially adopted, it was nevertheless largely carried out. [37]

With the occupation of Germany, UNRRA, headed first by Herbert Lehman and then by Fiorello La Guardia, continued to serve as an arm of Allied military policy. UNRRA enforced a policy that all material aid was to be provided to the displaced persons, or D.P.'s, first, and specified that Germans and Finns could not be considered D.P.'s.

The inhumanity of this Allied policy can be gathered from Sumner Welles' Where Are We Heading, published in 1946. After describing the masses of refugees from eastern Europe, Welles wrote: “Food supplies were totally inadequate to feed these hordes. The wave of anarchy … within western Germany of these masses of refugees was overpowering.” Welles continued:

For lack of an organized force of trained personnel to cope with this situation it was many months before there was any alleviation, before any efficient screening of these floating masses of humanity could be carried out, and before even a minimum of help could be given to that pitiful class of refugees, mainly of the Jewish faith, termed “displaced persons.” No accurate record is yet available. But it can be asserted that for lack of effective organization to meet a situation which should have been foreseen, many thousands of innocent persons experienced a degree of tragedy and suffering which was altogether unnecessary. [38]

That a lack of American charity was not the problem can be seen from the fact that the Lutheran Synod of Missouri, representing only about a third of America’s Lutherans, raised about six million dollars by August, 1945, a sum comparable to many times that amount in today’s dollars. [39]

These charitable efforts, however, faced a considerable obstacle, for the policy of UNRRA was to forbid independent relief efforts, even in the face of such catastrophic human misery as that occasioned by the postwar expulsion of more than ten million Germans from their ancestral homes in eastern Germany and other parts of central Europe.

Meanwhile, the PWCC, which was quite willing to cooperate with the Allies, had acquired control of a key church relief agency in Europe. The European Central Bureau of Relief of Suffering Churches had formerly been headed by the internationally known Swiss clergyman Adolf Keller. Under his leadership the Central Bureau had defied the Allied ban on aid: as late as June 1942 Keller wrote that “food packages are still being shipped to the professors of the theological faculty in Warsaw and [to] evangelical preachers.” [40] When pressure exerted by North American churches forced Keller to resign under protest, his organization was absorbed into the new World Council of Churches Department of Reconstruction and Inter-Church Aid, headed by Dr. H. Hutchinson Cockburn. [41]

Shortly before Visser't Hooft left for Stuttgart, this department was reorganized, and renamed the World Churches Department of Reconstruction and Inter-Church Aid. Its new chairman, Alphons Köchlin, president of the Swiss Protestant Church, set up an agency to coordinate all church aid to Germany, and named as its chairman none other than the secretary of the PWCC, Visser't Hooft. Thus Visser't Hooft, who had earlier articulated the PWCC policy of denying fellowship to ideologically unacceptable (read: German nationalist) churchmen, now had the last word on the allocation and distribution of all Protestant material aid to the Germans. [42]

V: A Confession of Guilt With No One to Give the Absolution

The events of October 17 to 19, 1945 in Stuttgart were intriguingly simple. There was standing room only in Bishop Wurm’s church in the bomb-damaged city when the German council,selected at the All-Protestant Church Conference in Treysa, held its initial meeting. Pastor Niemöller preached on his favorite topic: repentance. [43] This was strikingly out of key with the accent on thanksgiving one of his fellow Lutherans, the primate of Denmark, had given by setting aside a Sunday of thanksgiving in his country, claiming that “our hearts are filled with gratitude to God that the bloodiest war of mankind has ended.” [44]

According to the autobiography of one of the councilmen, Dr. Hans Lilje, later bishop of predominantly Lutheran city and province of Hannover, there was embracing, rejoicing and smiling as the eleven German Council members greeted the visitors, eight supposedly uninvited members of the PWCC. [45]

Sometime before the Council met, Visser't Hooft dined in a cafe with two ardent members of the Confessional Church, Niemöller and Hans Asmussen. They certainly knew in advance of the arrival of the delegation.. Niemöller, as has been noted, had already promised Barth “a snappy and clear” written statement of German guilt.

Asmussen needed no persuasion, since, according to Baumgärtel he had written the PWCC even before the war to suggest such a statement. [46] Instead of taking the Christian approach and indicating to Asmussen that such a statement was un-Christian, Visser't Hooft had come to enlist Asmussen in support of his own preconceived and prescribed un-Christian statement, since such a statement, confession or declaration would have to be based on “all have sinned.” It was Visser't Hooft’s duty to make this clear to Asmussen.

Undoubtedly, the three worked out their strategy to fulfill the PWCC’s wishes for a voluntary German statement in Visser't Hooft’s words, “clarifying the last 12 years of German history.” Visser't Hooft also spoke of “a specific repentance.” Whether at the cafe meeting or elsewhere, Visser't Hooft showed his “trump card.” It was this “trump card” that imposed the decisive pressure on those Council members who still hesitated. The card, or “soft pressure,” was this: the idea was sown that North American churches were having considerable difficulties in raising money for the desperately needy yet unrepentant Germans. Therefore, it a written statement of German repentance could be shown these unwilling congregations, then fundraising endeavors would be substantially easier. [47]

The autobiographies of Lilje and Friedrich Karl Otto Dibelius, two German council members, and the biography of the Englishman churchman George Bell, who was part of the visiting delegation, make clear that this implied, yet real, pressure for a German specific word of repentance, tailored by Germans for Germans, left the German churchman little choice. This is understandable if one puts oneself in their place. The Germans were only eleven (one of the twelve named at Treysa was absent). Theirs was a provisional council, as was the PWCC. Stateless, since there was no German government, they had no civil rights. The PWCC laid on them the burden of either formulating and signing the preconceived “short and snappy” statement of mandatory penance for Hitler, or of bearing the responsibility for additional unnecessary suffering brought about by the unwillingness of congregations in North America to give to the unrepentant Germans. It was late in October. Winter approached as millions of Germans were being uprooted from their ancestral homes in the east, and were flocking into Germany’s countryside and bombed-out cities, some of them as much as ninety per cent destroyed. Incidents of German women-girls, mothers and grandmothers-raped to death in the East were commonplace.

Such was the pressure behind the Declaration. It was tantamount to persuasion by force. Even had this not been so, what right did eight lonely delegates have to declare Germans guilty simply for being Germans?

Dibelius wrote that he had personally drafted the Declaration Here again there are grounds for question, for Niemöller was present when he did so, and Niemöller corrected Dibelius at times. Dibelius speaks of the “Niemöller text.”

To end all speculation on this matter one need only look at the words of Dibelius, who was from Berlin and had seen firsthand the “accumulated” suffering in the East. In Dibelius' words, “It was not easy, after experiencing the terrible things we have witnessed in the East, not to say a word about them and confine ourselves to the guilt of the Germans.” [Emphasis added]. [48] Clearly the juxtaposition of “it was not easy” and “confine ourselves [note the plural] to the guilt of the Germans” unlocks the inner convictions. This was a clerical euphemism for saying it was forced!

The autobiography of Hans Lilje reveals the same perspective. That this was at the time deliberately concealed from at least one delegate, Bishop Bell, is shown by his biography, because there we find that the document “did not reach its final form without some heart-searching, as Dr. Dibelius subsequently [emphasis added] revealed in his autobiography.” There are strong indications that Bishop Bell was left in the dark regarding the “hidden” pressure behind the Declaration, for how else can one interpret his absence at the pre-Stuttgart meeting of the PWCC delegation on October 15 in Baden-Baden, Germany? How else should one interpret his words to the effect that, at one point in one of the meetings in Stuttgart, “ … Niemöller handed around copies of a typewritten document which became famous as the Stuttgart Declaration of October l945"? [49] Clearly this surprised him. If so, then one can even say that Visser't Hooft and his allies took advantage of the gullibility of an Anglican bishop. This should hardly surprise us, since Visser't Hooft went so far as to say bluntly that the bishop of Hannover, Marahrens, had to “disappear.”

By its willingness to threaten implicitly a continuation of the wartime food blockade, the PWCC, and its guiding lights Barth and Visser't Hooft, perpetrated an organizational and theological imperialism, displaying an un-Chirstian holy-war mentality. Through the coup at Stuttgart, theological giants such as Althaus, Hirsch, and Elert were suddenly relegated to the backwaters of German Protestant theology, the mainstream of which was now a vehicle for a preconceived, unhistorical condemnation.

A Christian is entitled to wonder as well why the PWCC administered no absolution. After all, if there existed a specific German guilt, logically, once the German “confession” had been accepted, there should have followed a specific German absolution. In the Church, there is no other purpose for confession than to gain absolution.

The engineers of the Stuttgart Declaration of German Guilt had taken it upon themselves to be the judges of the entire German people, and had avidly accepted the Declaration of German Guilt. Perhaps, in their failure to grant a collective absolution, they sensed, in their heart of hearts, the absence at Stuttgart of the One they had proclaimed at Barmen to be the sole Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

VI: Additional Reflections

Who can deny that tying material aid to spiritual aims is contrary to Christianity and that which churchmen represent? In Christianity one is commanded to “feed one’s enemies.” Even then, after May 1945 the German people were former enemies. Accordingly, such organizations as the Red Cross, and not the Provisional World Council of Churches (PWCC), with its willingness to cooperate unilaterally with Allied political and military policy, had kept this Christian command. Had the Stuttgart affair been really a Chrisffan endeavor, then the PWCC would have avoided any semblance of combining material aid with spiritual fellowship. Even their thinking, in terms of restoration or reconciliation, was not Christian, for Christians always hold the “fellowship of all believers” in the universal confession known as the Apostle’s Creed cannot be broken by political and other secular events.

It is unlikely that a Lutheran such as the Swede Folke Bernadotte would have tolerated any connection of material aid to public repentance. For what else could he have meant when he wrote, just before his tragic murder in Jerusalem in 1948, in his Instead of Arms, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Bernadette claimed he could think of no more beautiful words in the Bible than these, which are on the opening page of his book. [50]

Later writers, both ecclesiastical and secular, would claim that the Declaration of Stuttgart had been misunderstood, that it was only a religious declaration.. But it is clear that what Barth, Visser't Hooft, the PWCC, and the victorious Allies desired from Stuttgart were headlines in the religious and secular press declaring that German churchmen had “repented.” These would bolster the Allied propaganda that the Second World War had indeed been a “holy war.” Furthermore, a German proclamation of guilt supplied justification for Allied policies: for the withholding from the Germans of the rights proclaimed in the “Atlantic Charter,” for the unconditional surrender, for the harsh provisions of the Morgenthau Plan, for the denazification tribunals, for the continued imprisonment of millions of German “prisoners of war,” for the expulsions, for the Nuremberg trials, and all the other punitive measures of the victors. The eleven signatures on the Declaration of Stuttgart would serve the PWCC in its plans for dominating the German Protestants. The eleven names would show the Germans who, in the PWCC’s terms, were the preferred “fellows” in the Fellowship of believers.” Here were modern, up-to-date disciples, the Bonifaces to re-Christianize a Hitlerized, paganized Germany, here were the true churchmen who had not bent their knees to the latterday Baal! For Lutherans, the Barmen Confession of 1934 was now, through the mandate of Barth, Visser't Hooft, and Niemöller, the guide by which the traditional Lutheran confessional writings were to be interpreted.

The ecclesiasticism manifested at Stuttgart transformed the German Protestant Church from an indivisible, invisible (in the sense that spiritually it defies a clear-cut, organizational identity) object of faith into a church clearly visible to humans. As one observer put it, “the marks of the church are no longer faithfulness to the Word and Sacraments, but now include opposition to National Socialism as practiced by Hitler, especially that associated with his programs toward the Jews. [51] While alive, Hitler had awesome power, but now the dead Hitler could even determine who belonged to the Christian Church. Pontius Pilate has been eternalized in the Apostle’s Creed, while the Austrian Hitler, the “Modern Pharoah” had been eternalized, by implication, in the Barmen Confession of 1934, now obligatory for ordination in some German churches. [52]

The medieval Englishmen Wycliffe spoke of the “poor church” as the genuine Christian Church. Strikingly, the new German Evangelists after World War II have hardly walked in poverty. The new Gospel brought with it high administrative positions in the German Protestant churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Council of Churches, with good salaries and pensions paid for by church taxation in West Germany. All this has kept these churchmen theocratically independent from the wishes of the German people in the Volkskirche. For the heirs to the signers of the Declaration of Stuttgart, there are good and profitable reasons for the continued acceptance of what President Reagan said was “imposed” and “unnecessary” German guilt. Mindful of this, German Protestant church leaders renew the Stuttgart Declaration through ceaseless commemorations and anniversaries.

President Reagan called the German guilt “unnecessary.” If a collective German guilt is unnecessary today, then it was unnecessary in 1945, a year in which Germany was battered to its knees and then dismembered by an overwhelming coalition of forces which included the world’s mightiest and most oppressive empires. Forgotten by the victors, and those Germans who rejoice in self- flagellation, is the fact that under Hitler, Germany was attempting chiefly to free itself from the shackles of the onerous peace of Versailles, another imposition brought about through a hunger blockade, and to combat the twin evils of economic depression and Communist chaos.

The West German Revisionist historian Helmut Diwald rightfully termed the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt “most demeaning.” [53] Its ramifications for Revisionists have been and still are of considerable importance. The Stuttgart Declaration and other such pronouncements have served to create an uncritical religious and academic climate, thereby rendering inaccessible the most important source of reconciliation, the relativizing and humanizing perspective of impartial historical study.

Fortunately, the endeavors of the world-wide Revisionist movement, characterized by sound research and an unbiased outlook, are redressing the wrongs of the postwar era. Let the Revisionists' work serve as a touchstone to Establishment historians, both ecclesiatical and secular. The Revisionists, through their writings, are working hard to restore a real sense of fellowship, one dependent neither on false accusations nor on imposed guilt, a fellowship in which Christians and non-Christians alike can be joined by a concern for justice and for truth.


[1] ” … they have a feeling and a guilt feeling thats been imposed upon them. And I just think its unnecessary.” The president’s words, spoken at a press conference on March 21,1985, are quoted in Bitburg and Beyond, edited by Ilya Levkov (Shapolsky, New York, 1987).
[2] Walter Bodenstein, Is Only the Loser Guilty?, translation of Ist Nur der Besiegte Schuldig?, Herbig, 1983. The English was printed in the Christian News, New Haven, MO, in four parts in September 1985. The English is an authorized translation, based on additional discussions with Dr. Bodenstein, who reads English Thus, the English is not exactly as the German.
[3] In 1937 Niemöller was arrested and imprisoned for eight months at Moabit Prison in Berlin. The following year he was tried and found guilty of subversive acts against the state, and was fined two thousand marks and sentenced to seven months fortress arrest. Following his release he was rearrested and spent the years 1939 to 1945 at Sachsenhausen and Dachau. Shortly after his liberation from Dachau, he caused some consternation when he said, during an interview in Naples on June 5, 1945: “I was not ill-treated. I saw isolated acts of brutality, but I took them to be isolated.” [Editor’s note.]
[4] The Lutheran Encyclopedia, edited by J.B. Bodensieck, Augsburg, 1965, p. 2019.
[5] David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden, Viking, 1978.
[6] Ronald C.D. Jasper, George Bell: Bishop of Chichester, Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p.266.
Compare also Jan-Albert Goris, Belgium in Bondage, L.B. Fischer, 1943, p. 217: “The Belgian government [in exile in London] has been trying for more than three years to obtain the organization of the Allies to send at least milk and vitamins to Belgium, without success. Only some medical supplies were sent.” That medical supplies were actually sent shows that sending them was possible.
[7] The Congressional Record account is reproduced in my article in the Christian News, New Haven, MO, entitled “FDR Tragically Spurned His Humarutarian Impulse,” in the April 20, 1987 issue.
[8] Friedrich Baumgärtel, Wider die Kirchenkampflegenden [Against Legends of the Church Struggle of the Hitler period], Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau, West Germany. Baumgartel was a professor in 1933. This booklet should be made available to English readers. On p.3 he writes: “It is exactly the year 1933 which is washed away by many, who did not conscientiously experience it … it is described as though there were clear- cut issues, which there simply weren’t”
[9] Bodenstein, Is Only the Loser Guilty?
[10] The expression “after a virtual two year civil war” is from the college textbook, New Governments in Europe, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1935, p. 155.
[11] Stewart Herman, Jr., The Rebirth of the German Church, with an introduction by Martin Niemöller, S.C.M. Press, London, 1946.
[12] Paul Althaus, Die Christliche Wahrheit [The Christian Truth], C. Bertelsman, Gütersloh, 1952, p. 227-8.
[13] Althaus, Die Christliche Wahrheit, p. 60.
[14] Regarding his arrest in 1937, Niemöller admitted to an American chaplain in 1945, “My underground activities were discovered and I was arrested and sent to the concentration camp.” Lutheran Standard. Wartburg Press, Sept. 26, 1946.
[15] Compare Diether Goetz Lichdi, Mennoniten im Dritten Reich [Mennonites in the Third Reich], Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein, 1977 (p. 85), in which it is claimed that between 1937-45, 18 Protestant pastors became martyrs. This includes Dietrich Bonhöffer, who actually plotted against the government, something Niemöller claimed he would not have done personally, although he respected Bonhöffer for his actions. Compare Dietmar Schmidt, Martin Niemöller, Doubleday, 1959, p. 176.
Lichdi (p. 85) claimed that after 1935, the regime lost interest in the German Protestant Church and strangled it through financial and administrative means. This seems contradictory. How can one claim the government lost interest and then speak of strangulation? In general, I agree with the Scot A P. Laurie, The Case for Germany, Intern. Verlag, Berlin, 1939 (p. 110): “The Government has not the remotest desire or intention to interfere with the religious teaching and faith of the Church” Without mentioning Niemöller, he wrote: “A section [of the Church] refuses to administer the simple regulations of the government and attacks it violently from the pulpit and obtains much satisfaction from a quite unnecessary martyrdom when fined or sent to a concentration camp.”
David Irving in his Warpath, Viking Press, 1978 (pp.220-1), gives Hitler’s assessment Hitler said to Himmler in January 1939, “ … that the pastor’s [Niemöller's] whole opposition now emanated only from his not getting the promotion that he had hoped for after the Nazis came to power. After that he began agitating against the state.”
Compare Philip Gibbs, Across the Frontier, Doubleday, 1938 (p.194). Gibbs says that in 1938 there were 12 Protestant pastors still in prison and not one priest, although he does claim that at one time there were hundreds. Gibbs does not give the source for this information.
On page 209, Gibbs writes: “Let us at least keep our sense of proportion in judgments. The very people who are stirred to passionate anger because a few Protestant pastors are arrested and imprisoned in Germany utterly ignore the wholesale murders of priests and the anti-God campaign in Russia. Their hearts bleed wide compassion for Pastor Niemöller, but are curiously unmoved by the slaughter of thousands of priests in Spain and the outrages against nuns. They are shocked at the treatment of Jews in Germany but they are coldly indifferent to the death and starvation of more than two million peasants in the Ukraine because they dared to resist the orders of Stalin and his officers. Is there not here in this continued nagging at Germany by the Left Wing critics a ghastly hypocrisy because they turn a blind eye to the outrageous crimes committed by those with whom they are in political sympathy?”
[16] Herman, The Rebirth of the New German Church, pp. 20,32; Gibbs, Across the Border, p.199.
[17] Die Lutherischen Kirchen und die Bekenntnissynode von Barmen, [The Lutheran Churches and the Confessional Synod of Barmen], Vandenhöck and Ruprecht, 1984. This book is a collection of papers presented at a conference commemorating Barmen 1934, and is dedicated to Martin Niemöller. See especially pp. 98 ff.
[18] Compare Daily Press, London, March 24, 1933, with its front page headlines, “Judea Declares War on Germany,” and subtitles, “Boycott of German Goods,” and “Mass Demonstrations.”
Compare also: Stephen Wise, Challenging Years: The Autobiography of Stephen Wise, C.P. Putnam, 1949 (p.246): “On March 27 [1933] the American Jewish Congress mobilized the first broad resistance movement to Hitlerism at a mass meeting held in Madison Square Garden, New York.” The German boycott, in fact, defused a very dangerous potential of a national pogrom in Germany, which, as the rabbi pointed out, never materialized. Hitler’s orders were that any form of violence against a Jew would mean an automatic removal from the National Socialist party. The main purpose of the German boycott was to mark Jewish stores, in order to make Germans aware of the extent of Jewish holdings.
[19] Armin Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene [Church Struggle and Oecumene], 1939-45, Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1973, p.188. Compare also, W.W. Van Kirk, Religion and the World of Tomorrow, Willet Clark & Co.1941 (p. 140): “American Christians are divided with respect to the war. On one thing they, however, are agreed. This is not a 'holy war.' This is not a war in which the wrong is all on one side and all the right on the other side.”
The relationship between crusaders and criminals is brought out in a famous statment of R.H. Tawney: “Either war is a crusade, or it is a crime. There is no halfway house.” This seems to explain the determination of some Americans to stage dramatic postwar “war crimes” trials. The words “war crimes” already puts this on the crusading wavelength.
[20] Lutheran Partners (official Lutheran Church magazine), “A Forgotten Anniversary: Stuttgart” May/June, 1985 issue, Philadelphia Article by Stewart W. Herman, Jr.
[21] Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene, p. 263. This transition to a national accumulation of guilt is revealing. When the crusading spirit predominates, then all the enemy has done is tagged as criminal.
[22] Jasper, George Bell, p. 300.
[23] Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene, p. 20. The tenor at Treysa is dramatically revealed in a speech made by Niemöller, found in Baumgärtel’s Wider die Kirchenkampflegenden, p. 43. “We have rid ourselves of quite a few (viele) of the church leaders, who are not suitable to be leaders of the Church … If we were to retain them, we would thereby make the Church from the beginning once again unworthy of belief and bring about a new guilt.” This is from a Niemöller who on October 13, 1933, in the name of 2,500 pastors, sent a telegram to Hitler, pledging faithfully to follow him (Gefolgschaft) and promising him intercessory prayers. On p. 4, Baumgärtel writes about Niemöller’s volunteering in 1939 for the German armed forces (some even claim the SS). Bodenstein, in writing about some of this, remarks: What a short memory Niemöller had.”
[24] Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene, p. 269. At Treysa some termed Niemöller “the dictator.”
[25] Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene, pp. 20 ff.
[26] Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene, pp. 275 ff.
[27] W. W. Van Kirk, A Christian Global Strategy, Willet, Clark & Co., 1945, p. 133. Compare his Religion and the World Today, 1941. Van Kirk wrote: “Who killed the German democracy? Not Hitler. Not Goring. Not Goebbels. Not Himmler. Not the Nazi Party. The statesmen and the people of the victor’s powers killed the German democracy, and their guilt will be recorded in the histories of those terrible years") (p.166). “Along with other nations the U.S. must accept the full responsibility for Hitler” (p. 116). “Certain it is that the Germans were never forgiven in 1918.”
Generally speaking, most Germans would be amazed at the exonerating material found in publications of this period. The difference was that these people had experienced the post World War I period.
[28] Jasper, George Bell, p. 292.
[29] The Lutheran Standard, Oct.13, 1945, p.12.
[30] Richard W. Solberg, As Between Brothers, Augsburg, 1957.
[31] The Lutheran Standard, August 25,1945.
[32] Bodenstein, Is Only the Victor Guilty? [Hooft and Barth were active in lending their prestige to and disseminating the fabrications of Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, among others, regarding gassing of Jews at Auschwitz. According to Rudolph L. Braham “The credence of the material (the so-called “Auschwitz Protocols” — ed) was enhanced through its distribution under a cover later dated July 4, 1944, over the signatures of Professor D. Karl Barth of Basel, Professor D. Emil Brunner of Zurich, Dr. Visser't Hooft of Geneva, and Pastor Vogt of Zurich” [The Holocaust as Historical Experience, edited by Yehuda Bauer and Nathan Rotenstreich Holmes and Meier, New York, 1981, p.120) -Editor’s note]
[33] Schmidt, Martin Niemöller, p. 144.
[34] David Irving’s Der Morgenthau Plan, 1944/45, Facsimile-Verlag Wieland Soyka, Bremen, 1986, is a valuable historical contribution, which includes many copies of official documents in English On p. 271, Morgenthau writes: “The German people must bear the consequences of their acts.”
[35] Fritz Wartenweil, Max Huber, Rotapfel Verlag, Zurich, 1953, pp.242 ff. See also Marcel Junod, Warriors Without Weapons, MacMillan, 1951, p. l.
[36] International Committee of the Red Cross, The Work of the ICRC for Civilian Detainees in the German Concentration Camps (1939-1945), Geneva, 1975, p.24.
[37] Solberg, As Between Brothers, p. 57.
[38] Sumner Welles, Where Are We Heading?, Harper, 1946, p.85.
[39] The Lutheran Standard, August 4,1945, p.15.
[40] Adolf Keller, Christian Europe Today, Harper, p. 192.
[41] Boyens, Kirchenkampf und Oekumene, p. 236; The Lutheran Standard, Oct.13,1945.
[42] The Lutheran Standard, August 25,1945.
[43] Schmidt, Martin Niemöller, p. 37.
[44] The Lutheran Standard, Sept 15,1945.
[45] Bodenstein, Is Only the Loser Guilty?
[46] Besides Bodenstein, Baumgärtel also mentions this cafe meeting in a footnote to Wider die Kirchenkampflegenden (page 75). He also mentions that it seems Asmussen mentioned such a German statement before the end of the war, supposedly in a letter to the ecumenical leaders. This does not contradict the thesis that the declaration was imposed, since an important element in this is the threat to use material aid as the persuader. Asmussen could only make a confession for himself and not for others. If the ecumenical leaders responded to his letter, they had a Christian obligation to point out that the blame is shared and not unilateral. Later Asmussen tried to defend the indefensible by speaking of the Protestant priesthood making the confession for the people, a theological monstrosity.
[47] Bodenstein, Is Only the Loser Guilty?
[48] Jasper, George Bell, p.295.
[49] Jasper, George Bell, p.294.
[50] Folke Bernadotte, Instead of Arms, Hodder and Stroughton,1949, p. l.
[51] In this connection there is a remarkable claim made by A P. Laurie, The Case for Germany (p. 110): “The hatred of the Jews on the continent is not confined to Germany. The anti-Jewish pogroms that have taken place in Poland were so dreadful that the Polish government did not allow any news of them to leave the country, and there can be no doubt that Hitler, by bringing the whole matter under law and regulation, saved the Jews from massacre.”
[52] The term “modern Pharoah” is found in Gibbs, Across the Frontier.
[53] Quoted in Bodenstein, Is Only the Loser Guilty?