Northern Illinois University Press

Resisting the Third Reich

The Catholic Clergy in Hitler's Berlin

Kevin P. Spicer

"A valuable contribution to scholarship on the role and responsibility of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany. Spicer provides a fascinating insight into the perceptions, performance, and impact of the clergy in mediating between the demands of their faith and the totalitarian claims of the Nazi state."—Raymond C. Sun, Washington State University

"Compelling reading.... Catholic priests, Spicer demonstrates, played a significant and courageous role in resisting Nazi anti-religious aims."—Michael P. Phayer, Marquette University

"[An]important exploration of Berlin Catholicism."—The American Historical Review

When Nazism swept Germany, how did religious leaders respond to attacks not only on their fellow citizens and their government but on their faith as well? Despite charges of complacency, most of the Catholic clergy of the Berlin diocese in fact maintained a quiet resistance to the Nazi regime by offering their parishioners an alternative to National Socialism. In thus broadening the definition of resistance, Kevin Spicer shows why Nazism was so powerfully alluring in the first place. It provided—indeed demanded—a total way of life, encompassing rituals and social belonging, personal identity and charismatic leadership, moral values and a sense of purpose. In a word, it was a religion.

Spicer juxtaposes Catholicism and Nazism to provide a clear, balanced understanding of the challenges the clergy faced simply by celebrating the sacraments and teaching the faithful. By following individual priests in their day-to-day ministries, he documents how effectively they guarded their flock from a predatory ideology. Along the way, he highlights the leadership of Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin, who enabled the diocesan clergy to speak out against Nazi violations of Catholic doctrine and practice, and Monsignor Bernhard Lichtenberg, who was sentenced to prison for publicly praying for Jews and other victims of Nazi oppression.

Yet the clergy's opposition to Nazism did not, for the most part, inspire them to act on behalf of the oppressed. Spicer explores the reasons why one group—the so-called "Brown Priests"—even chose to support National Socialism and what that choice meant for the Church.

Resisting the Third Reich will appeal to historians, religious studies scholars, and readers with an interest in Germany during World War II and in the Catholic tradition.

(2004) 263 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-330-2
cloth $40.00

Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., is Assistant Professor of History at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

1. Initial Encounters
2. Guiding the Flock
3. Negotiating Pastoral Care
4. Serving the Home Front
5. Jews and the Diocese of Berlin
6. For the Glory of the Führer: Brown Priests
7. The Unique Path of Bernhard Lichtenberg
Works Cited

Shopping Cart Operations

ISBN: 978-0-87580-330-2
cloth $40.00