A conference of Protestant theorists at Wartburg Castle–where Martin Luther had lived in hiding from 1521-22 and had completed his translation of the New Testament–that was nothing new. Yet, the men who assembled at the castle just before the outbreak of the Second World War were there to found a new institute, one which remains overlooked in most histories of the Third Reich. The Dejudaisation Institute, or the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence in German Church Life, was established in 1939 with a central goal in mind: to turn Jesus into an Aryan.
We will examine the nuanced relationship of Protestantism to the Third Reich during this conversation. Understanding that most northern Germans were Lutherans, the Nazis–themselves tipped more toward Catholicism or indeed Paganism–had no desire to alienate a large body of potential ‘Aryan’ support. Nevertheless, they saw Christianity in all its forms as a barrier to true dedication to National Socialism and Führerworship and therefore set about on a mission.
The Nazi effort to create a unified ‘Protestant Reich Church’ under Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller was thwarted by the Confessing Church of Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer–the central body of Protestant resistance to National Socialism. Together we will examine the case studies of those Protestants who supported Hitler and those who resisted, often paying the ultimate price in so doing. And we’ll tackle the thorny question of Martin Luther’s own sentiments about Judaism.
Led by an expert on modern German history, Dr. Finn Ballard, this conversation will explore a lesser-known chapter of Nazi history. Designed to inform curiosity and future travels, participants will come away with a nuanced understanding of the relationship between Protestantism and the Third Reich.
Finn grew up in Northern Ireland before moving to England to study and later teach in the department of Film and Literature at the University of Warwick. He completed his doctoral study on German folklore and popular cinema in 2012, and has published extensively in the fields of Film Studies and Gender Studies. Since 2008, he has been living and guiding in Berlin. He now works as a historical advisor for television and film productions set in Berlin, particularly during the Weimar era or Third Reich. He is a journalist for the 'Siegessauele', Europe's foremost Queer magazine, and organises events at Berlin's English-language bookstore 'Another Country'.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.