This unit will expose students to the conflict that arose between the Nazi regime and the German Protestant Churches (the Kirchenkampf - ‘Church Struggle’) in the early 1930s. Students will explore both the theological and political causes of the Church Struggle, the differing ways in which the Nazi government dealt with Protestants and Catholics, and the divisions that emerged within German Protestantism itself. By analyzing texts from, on the one hand, the German Christian movement and on the other, the Confessing Church, students will assess theologically the ways in which both sides sought to justify their responses to Nazism. Finally, through critical study of the Barmen Declaration, students will be asked to consider the relevance of the Kirchenkampf for our own day.

Unit code: CH9800T

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Church History

Proposing College: Trinity College Theological School

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Learning outcomes


Explain the main causes of the German Kirchenkampf


Distinguish the ways in which the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant Churches in Germany, responded to Nazism


Articulate the key theological issues at stake


Critically assess the actions and attitudes of the Confessing Church


Analyse the Barmen Declaration and apply its principles in the modern world


Weekly lectures, seminars, online forum discussion, interaction with textual and visual artifacts

Indicative Bibliography

  • K. Barth, Theological Existence Today: A plea for theological freedom trans. R. Birch Hoyle, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1933).
  • D. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).


  • J.S. Conway, The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-1945, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968; repr. Regent College Publishing, 1997).
  • S. Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).
  • K. Scholder, The Churches and the Third Reich, 2 vols, (Fortress Press, 1988).
  • R. Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003; repr. 2005).
  • ‘The Barmen Declaration’, (1934).


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Essay (4,000 words)

0 50.0
Document Study

Document Study (1,000 words)

0 30.0
Seminar or Tutorial

Tutorial Presentation on one of the weekly topics

0 20.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 18 Oct, 2018

Unit record last updated: 2019-04-02 08:08:02 +1100