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"American Churches to Hitler"

American Churches to Hitler
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Carl and Robert Gamer papers

Formed in the early 20th century, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (FCC)1 was made up of 32 American Protestant denominations working in cooperation. The FCC's goal was social and cultural reform, including the abolition of child labor, improved conditions for the poor, and workers' rights.

The rise of the Nazi regime prompted a debate within the FCC as to whether the Council should take a public stance on the activities of a foreign government. The organization ultimately was moved to action when the Nazi regime rejected passports for some German Christian leaders attempting to attend a religious conference. In June 1937, the Executive Committee of the FCC adopted a resolution criticizing the Nazi regime's treatment of Christians within Germany. The text of this resolution appears together in the featured booklet with a letter criticizing the regime for revoking German churches' independence. One FCC leader, Reverend Charles F. Macfarland,2 went on to accuse Hitler of curtailing religious freedom and persecuting German Jews. The booklet was printed and distributed to FCC members in August 1937.3

Like many observers in 1937, Church leaders could not have predicted that Nazi policies would lead to World War II and the Holocaust. The publication of this booklet, however, reflects their awareness that the Third Reich did not intend to allow Christians to worship freely in Germany. This document does not clarify how far American Christians were willing to go in denouncing the German government's oppression of German Jews.

Many Christian ecumenical organizations merged to form another organization, the National Council of Churches (NCC), in 1950. For more on the activities of the FCC, see the related items Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam at Buchenwald and "Personal View of the German Churches Under the Revolution."

Reverend Charles F. Macfarland was a member of the FCC executive committee and General Secretary Emeritus of the FCC. In the featured letter, Macfarland acknowledges once being sympathetic to Hitler, having met with the German leader in 1933 and accepted him as a man of his word.

Handwritten at the end of the booklet appears a note—"Aug 10. 37"—presumably in reference to the date that the booklet was received. The booklet also contains markings and other comments, likely from Carl Gamer, a Methodist minister who wrote a doctoral dissertation in the late 1930s on the Free Churches in Germany under National Socialism. For more, see the Carl and Robert Gamer Papers in the USHMM archive.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Carl and Robert Gamer papers
Source Number Gamer Papers, Box 6 Folder 4
Source Number 2013.528.1
Date Created
August 1937
Author / Creator
Reverend Charles F. Macfarland
New York, USA
Document Type Pamphlet
How to Cite Museum Materials

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