German-christians

(Deutsche Christen). The so-called German Christian Church which at first reflected the ecclesiastical policies of the Nazi dictatorship. After World War I, nationalist and racist traditions of the nineteenth-century German Protestantism expressed themselves in a number of movements. With the rise of Adolf Hitler they achieved great influence in the church, often by force. At one extreme there were those who made a pagan religion of German blood and destiny, hostile to traditional Christianity (German Faith Movement); while on the other side the Faith Movement of the German-Christians, supported by theologians of the stature of Emanuel Hirsch and (for a time) Friedrich Gogarten,* believed that God was calling the church through the contemporary German situation to be again the church of the German people, with a living faith freed from a dead and alien past and with the organizational unity of a Reichskirche under one Reichsbischof. In this way it might be seen as a nationalist exploitation of liberal theology; its rejection of the OT and the Jewish element in Christianity was perhaps not unrelated. Nazi support for the German-Christians waned after 1934, though it was sufficient to keep many in their official positions. They had failed to realize that Hitler did not wish the Nazi state to be complemented by a nazified but still influential Christian church.