Negotiating the Cross and the Swastika: Catholic Priests and Seminarians as German Soldiers, 1935-1945

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Overview

Title
Negotiating the Cross and the Swastika: Catholic Priests and Seminarians as German Soldiers, 1935-1945
Contributors
Faulkner, Lauren N. (creator)
Bartov, Omer (director)
Cohen, Deborah (reader)
Gleason, Abbott (reader)
Bergen, Doris (reader)
Brown University. History (sponsor)
Doi
10.7301/Z0DR2SPM
Copyright Date
2009
Abstract
More than 17,000 Catholic priests and seminarians were conscripted into the German armed forces during World War II. 500 of them served as chaplains, the rest as medical orderlies; the latter were officially forbidden to administer to others as priests. However, many of them defied this policy because they felt morally impelled to provide emotional and spiritual support for their fellow (Catholic, German) soldiers. These men embraced two integral elements of their identity ? religious affiliation as Catholics, and national pride as Germans ? and, in doing so, supplied German soldiers and the Nazi regime with an invaluable service through the sustenance they gave, although the vast majority of them claimed to abhor the Nazi regime. The ways in which these priests and seminarians justified their actions, both during and after the war, and the manner in which they navigated loyalties to religious and secular authorities, offer a new perspective on the association between Nazi ideology and German Catholic identity. The convictions that they carried into the postwar years, that their presence in the army was vital and that the men they served were disconnected from that army's criminal activities, stimulate questions about the role of, as well as the challenges facing, clergy in an environment of total war. Their experiences and their understanding of the war opens an important perspective about the natures of Catholicism and Nazism: it shows that they were very compatible in the hearts and minds of many individuals. Using wartime journals, reports by chaplains and military officers, personal correspondence, postwar memoirs, newspaper articles and interviews, I have reconstructed the world in which these priests and seminarians lived between 1935 and 1945, concentrating on the issues most pertinent to them and how they made sense of the war and its effects on German soldiers. Methodologically, this work focuses on the intersection of religious and national identity, and incorporates military history, religious history, and social and cultural history into an exercise that raises questions about the meaning of moral collaboration and its political and spiritual ramifications for Christians living in extreme times.
Keywords
German history
Catholicism
atrocity
Church history
Religion
Nationalism
Chaplains
Notes
Thesis (Ph.D.) -- Brown University (2009)
Extent
vi, 342 p.

Citation

Faulkner, Lauren N., "Negotiating the Cross and the Swastika: Catholic Priests and Seminarians as German Soldiers, 1935-1945" (2009). History Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z0DR2SPM

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