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Title: Between defiance and compliance : the Lutheran Landesbischöfe of Hanover, Bavaria and Wûrttemberg in the Third Reich
Author: Beech, Diana Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2708 630X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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While much is known about the polarities of the Protestant 'Church Struggle' (Kirchenkampf) in Nazi Germany, comparatively little is understood about the complex and collective dynamic of the Landesbischöfe of the only three 'intact' churches to escape incorporation into the Nazi-dominated Reichskirche. Traditionally, literature on the Kirchenkampf has taken a simplistic 'good-versus-evil' approach to the conflict and, arguably inspired by a moral need to come to terms with the less-than-glorious past of the German Protestant Church, has been unable to locate the Landesbischöfe of the 'intact' churches neatly within the conventional historiographical paradigm. By taking as its subject Landesbischöfe August Marahrens of Hanover, Hans Meiser of Bavaria and Theophil Wurm of Wûrttemberg, this dissertation examines the contribution to the Kirchenkampf of three men, who, to ensure the continued existence of German Protestantism in the Third Reich, were ultimately forced to find ways to respond to National Socialism that lay somewhere between the parameters of defiance and compliance. In order to demonstrate the collective contribution of the Landesbischöfe to maintaining the status of the German Protestant Church amidst heightening Nazi tyranny, this dissertation traces how, with reference to external personal, political and socio-cultural conditions, the bishops moved from a seeming commonality of cause to display increasingly varied responses to the manifestations of both political and ecclesiastical National Socialism. By tracing the development of their moderate but nonetheless disparate positions, this dissertation not only questions the traditional historiographical assumptions that Landesbischöfe Marahrens, Meiser and Wurm failed to resist National Socialism effectively or were, at best, collectively neutral in the conflict, but also seeks to delineate, for the first time, the crucial parts played by each of the Landesbischöfe during three distinct stages of the Kirchenkampf. In devoting each of its three central chapters to a particular phase in the conflict, this dissertation demonstrates how each of the Landesbischöfe in turn steered the 'intact' ensemble through the Third Reich as a modest yet effective force of opposition to Nazi despotism. Seen as a whole, this investigation ultimately demonstrates how, through their respective turns at national Church leadership, Landesbischöfe Marahrens, Meiser and Wurm did not undermine the wider Church resistance effort but, rather, saved the Church from subjugation to Nazism more effectively than would have been possible had they stood alone.
Supervisor: Midgley, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: German ; Church ; Third Reich ; Nazism ; Lutheran ; Bishop ; Protestant ; Resistance