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Kirchenkampf

Kirchenkampf (Germ., ‘church struggle’). The conflict between German churches and the Nazi state. The Barmen Declaration of 1934 by the Confessing Church rejected any outside control of the church, and succeeded in denying the government the docile collaboration of the church. The Confessing Church, however, was progressively weakened by disagreements in its own ranks about co-operation with the official Minister for Church Affairs; by tightening restrictions on church funds and paper for publishing and the conscription of pastors; and by the arrest of leaders like M. Niemöller and D. Bonhoeffer. Even so, the opposition mounted by the Protestant churches to Hitler seems small, a fact acknowledged in the ‘Declaration of Guilt’ made by Confessing Church leaders at Stuttgart in 1945.

The RC Church, seeing an ally against ‘Bolshevism’ in the Nazi government, quickly came to terms with it in a Concordat of 1933. This was soon dishonoured (e.g. by the suppression of Catholic schools), and in 1937 Pope Pius XII issued a strongly anti-Nazi encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (with burning anxiety). The Concordat was never rescinded, however, and no organized RC resistance emerged, although there were individual heroes.

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