Nazism has become a byword for unspeakable evil. In its rise to power, this was not always so clear. Germans desperately anxious for their country after the disastrous defeat in World War I were very open to calls to make Germany great again, to deliver their country from national humiliation, political paralysis, and economic crisis. Catholics and Protestants alike thought they could build bridges to Hitler’s National Socialism on the basis of shared concerns for Germany’s identity and well-being. Patriotism and religious duty to obey a legitimate government kept many loyal even in the face of persecution and despotism.
In this six-part lecture series led by Dr. Michael Hollerich (Theology Professor at the University of St. Thomas), first offered as a series of Zoom events in October and November 2020, we explore the collapse of a fragile democracy and its replacement by a dictatorship, and how both Catholics and Protestants – though with very different relationships to Germany since it became a unified nation in 1871 – rationalized (and criticized) their collaboration. Recordings include discussion of how nationalism, which Vatican authorities in the 1930s considered might be the greatest modern heresy, has functioned then and now to confuse authentic religious and moral duties.