The German Church Crisis of the 1930s

Germany was economically weakened and nationally humiliated by its defeat in the Great War. Where the economies of other nations gradually began to recover in the 1920s, Germany remained locked into political and economic stagnation. Things were made worse by the reparations Germany was required to pay her former enemies, and the emergence of rampant inflation within the German economy. In the immediate post-war period, revolutionary socialism – inspired to some extent by the Russian Revolution – became influential, both as a critic of capitalism and religion. The militant secularist Adolph Hoff- mann, appointed Prussian Minister for Education and Public Worship in November 1918, unsuccessfully attempted to ban prayer and religious instruction from state schools, confiscate church property, and abolish theology from the academic curricu- lum of universities.


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Although parliamentary democracy had been established in Germany following the ending of the monarchy, the Weimar Republic failed to live up to public expectations and hopes. In March 1920, the first attempt by right-wing nationalists to overthrow the govern- ment took place, setting a pattern of instability that would continue into the 1930s. An attempt to seize power by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists in November 1923 – the famous “Beer Hall Putsch” – failed ignominiously.

Things went seriously wrong in 1929. The German economy was already slowing down early that year. The Wall Street Crash of October 1929 marked the beginning of a worldwide slump of unprecedented severity, which proved fatal for the political stability of the Weimar Republic. A chain of events was unleashed which led to the political triumph of Hitler’s



300 The Twentieth Century, 1914 to the Present

National Socialist German Workers’ Party, widely known as the “Nazis.” Adolf Hitler was installed as the German Chancellor in 1933.

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