Fatal Coincidences in 1933. Nazism’s Triumph and Martin Luther’s 450th Birthday


  • Hartmut Lehmann


Three matters are discussed in this essay: First, the question why the vast majority of German Protestants were so enthusiastic when Hitler came to power; second, how the German Christians who were closely associated with the Nazi party celebrated Martin Luther's 450th birthday in November 1933; third, the religious and political position of a young dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, during this turbulent year. While the Nazi party and the German Christians supported the creation of a "Germanic Christianity," Bonhoeffer rejected the introduction of an "Aryan paragraph" that excluded all those who had Jewish persons among their ancestors from Christian congregations; and while the German Christians celebrated Martin Luther as a Germanic hero and as the true forerunner of Adolf Hitler, Bonhoeffer, in the fall of 1933, decided to serve in a German congregation in London in order to be able to assist the resistance against Hitler and the Nazis from abroad. During 1933, therefore, the lines between both sides, between those blindly following Hitler and those, like Bonhoeffer, demanding Christian solidarity, were clearly drawn.