Preaching to Nazi Germany explores the history of Confessing Church preachers' engagement with the Nazi regime through an analysis of their sermons. William Skiles argues that clergy expressed various messages that aimed to limit Nazi interference in church affairs and at times even to undermine the Nazi state and its leaders and policies. Skiles demonstrates that pastors had limited freedom to publicly criticize the Nazi regime, its leaders, and its ideology, and that pastors often used Christian symbols to code their criticisms to remain inconspicuous to the Gestapo or Nazi informants. This book demonstrates how pastors used a sacred text and applied it to the problems of the churches in Nazi Germany.
William Skiles is associate professor of history and chair of General Education at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Chapter 1 The Church Divided: The Rise of National Socialism and the Question of Divine Revelation
Chapter 2 A Fettered Gospel
Chapter 3 The Confessing Church and the “New School” of Homiletics
Chapter 4 Challenging Nazi Ideology
Chapter 5 Against the Nazi Persecution of the Churches
Chapter 6 “The Bearers of Unholy Potential”
Chapter 7 In the Defense of Jews and Judaism
Chapter 8 Spying in God’s House
By sifting through and analyzing all the sermons of Confessing Church pastors during the Nazi regime that he could find—about 900 in all—William Skiles has provided us an interesting and nuanced understanding of the Confessing Church. He brilliantly explains the position the Confessing Church took vis-à-vis both the Nazi regime and the Jews. Anyone wanting to understand the response of the churches to Nazism needs to read this book.
How did church pastors preach the Gospel in Nazi Germany? William Skiles leads his readers through a careful examination of Third Reich sermons. Some pastors used the Bible to justify Hitler, while other pastors—just a few—sought to arouse the conscience of their congregations. A fascinating study of religious and political corruption with lessons for the present as well as insights into the past.
Drawing on the historical and theological analysis of over 900 sermons, William Skiles argues that Confessing Church preachers used sermons to express dissent from and opposition to the Nazi party-state for its idolatry and ideology, its persecution of Christians and churches, and its oppression of Jews (even as the preachers themselves expressed long-standing anti-Jewish prejudices). Skiles’s study taps into the vastly under-used source material of sermons and reminds us not only of the Confessing Church’s foundation in the Bible and Reformation Confessions of Faith but also of the fact that the Hitler regime regarded it as a significant opposition movement, despite its many shortcomings.