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Sep 21, 2014
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE UNDER THE NAZI REGIME
William E. Stillman Principia College Elsah, Illinois
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo copying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright holder. Printed in the United States Copyright 1977
This paper is based on primary source material collected by the author. That source material came from the Archives of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA, from captured Nazi documents that are now part of the Nuremburg Trial Archives, Department of the Army Archives, the Library of Congress Archives, and from personal interviews with German citizens who were members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Germany during the time of the Third Reich. The contents of this article were first made public through a lecture delivered to the Principia College Adult Summer Session in 1977. The author is still in the process of collecting additional information and will supplement this publication at a later date.
Over the past century the world has evolved from a collection of stand alone nations with borders that kept people out, to a multi-national, multi-cultural association of countries connected by trade, educational exchanges, political and economic alliances, and a shared history caused by two world wars. Concurrently to this evolution, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the Christian Science church, has gone from being an American revelation to an international movement. As such, it must be viewed as multi-national and cannot be limited to a single people's history. In this paper I would like to share another facet of the multi-dimensional history of the Christian Science movement, that of the movement Germany under the Nazi regime. The early history of Christian Science in Germany began in 1897 when Frances Thurber Seal set sail from the United States for Hamburg. In Miss Seal's book, Christian Science in Germany, she relates a beautiful story of growth in the Christian Science Movement. Miss Seal began her mission in Dresden establishing an informal group of students. She later went to Berlin and established another group. It was not an easy road for Miss Seal; she spoke no German, had no understanding of German customs or law, and was faced with the strictly run government of the Imperial Kaiser. Miss Seal's story is a moving one and I encourage all to read her book on this subject. Germany was a logical country for Mrs. Eddy to send a missionary. It was the heart and soul of Protestant thought. It was here the spiritual elements of reformation lead Martin Luther to rebel against the materialistic, dogmatic structures of the Catholic Church. This "intrepid reformer's" 1 inspiration developed into the Protestant reformation which spread through Germany and other Western European countries. By the 20th Century, Germany was ready and eager for Christian Science. In the 34 years following Miss Seal's establishing two informal Christian Science1
Reference to Martin Luther by Mary Baker Eddy in Christian Healing
groups, the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Germany grew into 76 churches and societies with a following of over 50,000 people. (Nazi census, 1934.) The growth of the Christian Science Movement in Germany was not without obstacles. The ruling Prussian government under minister Bismarck was nationalistic and autocratic. Miss Seals efforts, as well as those of the early German church members, resulted in the changing of laws and police regulations. The Church began to grow and even gained support in the royal court. This nationalism, which swept Europe in the early 1900's, met the growing Christian Science movement head on. In 1906 a number of German and Swiss Christian Science branch churches, fearing that The Mother Church, 1st Church of Christ Scientist, Boston, Massachusetts, would dilute their national heritage through the infusion of English into their services and through its control of Christian Science publications, broke away from The Mother Church and formed a new organization, The German Church of Christ, Scientist. They proceeded to establish their own publishing society, weekly newspaper and the "German Christian Science Journal." In 1917 when the United States entered the First World War, the German government gave official recognition to the German Church of Christ, Scientist. At that point in time the German Church of Christ, Scientist, consisted of several churches in the state of Bavaria, Germany and in and around Zurich, Switzerland. The German Church of Christ, Scientist maintained its official government status through the Second World War, after which the organization seems to have faded into history. It was never affiliated with the First Church of Christ Scientist, Boston, the Mother Church that is the official headquarters for the Christian Science movement.
The signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 left Germany a crippled land. Germany had been blamed for a war, which it did not technically begin. Its industry was destroyed; its transportation systems were inoperable. The economic recession and political harassment which were soon to follow did anything but lift the spirits of the German people. They were trampled by the allied powers until they had as much self esteem as the dirt on which they walked. Richard J. Davis, a Christian Science lecturer and teacher, made the following observation while on a lecture tour in Germany: "As I study it, I believe this whole movement (Nazism) has developed because the rest of the world has by its attitude made Germany feel she was set apart, alone, a kind of mistreated stepchild, of the family of nations." Through all of the hardships imposed upon them by England, France, and the United States, the creative spirit of the German people survived. The quest for relief from the atmosphere of their human surroundings sent thousands of Germans to the doors of Christian Science churches throughout Germany. The period from 1920 through 1934 saw the greatest growth in the Christian Science movement in Germany. German government census figures would indicate a 400% growth in the membership of the church during this time frame (203,000 members). An Austrian Corporal, Adolf Hitler, caused the next great turn of events in Germany. On February 28, 1933, the Enabling Act for the Protection of the People and the State was signed. This act provided Hitler with supreme authority. It also would become the authority for eventually banning First Church of Christ, Scientist and the practice of Christian Science in Germany in 1941. Hitler seemed to be a light in the wilderness to many German people. From their position of economic collapse, they viewed him as a means to pull themselves up. In many ways the prophecy initially seemed to come true. Not only did he stabilize the inflated German currency, but he also greatly reduced unemployment, revitalized industry, and gave the German people a 7
sense of dignity and self-respect. For the first time in years the German family could afford such things as radios, washing machines, fur coats, and durable pots and pans. His promise of the Volkswagen, a car that was to be affordable to every family, further heightened hopes. It is little wonder that even some Christian Scientists warmed to join the Nazi Party. When Hitler first came into power, the good flowing forth from his government was so great that very few people saw the bad. Needless to say, he only delivered about 1,000 Volkswagens. It soon became evident to many that Hitler was not a perfect savior. In March, only a month after Hitler had gained full control of Germany, Richard J. Davis, a Christian Science lecturer and teacher, began a lecture tour in Germany. His lectures were filled to overflowing and were received with little if any antagonism or interference by the Nazis. In his report to The Mother Church, Mr. Davis did mention, however, that there was a great deal of fear among Christian Science workers in Germany. He appealed to The Mother Church that special prayer be done for the protection of German churches and the activities of the Publishing Society. "Those living out-side of Germany can work (pray) with greater freedom and less personal mesmerism than citizens of this country, who have so much fear of the police," stated Davis. Several members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Kassel, who were interviewed by the author about their experiences as members of the church during the Nazi era, reiterated the fear many Christian Scientist had for the secret police. Stories were related of brown shirts standing outside the church entrance visibly taking down the names of individuals as they entered the church on Sunday, or of Christian Science Reading Room attendants being harassed and literature taken and destroyed. On the other hand, the courage and love of these members also brought about healing. One Christian Scientist who was a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Koenigsberg in 1935, talked about how the members of her church knew the brown shirt that stood outside their church every Sunday. They would .greet
him with joy and love each Sunday and the congregation prayed to know that Gods Love and Gods Principle could be understood by all and that the members of their Church could not be subject to the human will and political will that was not apart of Gods Law. She went on to relate that after several months of having this brown shirt watch them every Sunday, he appeared in church one Sunday, in his Sunday best, explaining that he had left the Sicherheits Dienst (security service) and was interested in learning more about Christian Science.
Though Mr. Davis rep