American Protestant Minister Henry Smith Leiper was an outspoken opponent of Nazism, Nazi Germany's foreign policy, and the Nazis' treatment of religion—a sphere of German life he feared was becoming too politicized.1 He took part in the unsuccessful efforts to convince the US Olympic Committee to boycott the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. From 1930 to 1945, he served as secretary for the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (FCC).2
This pamphlet, written by Leiper in 1933, was issued by the American Section of the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work.3 It recounts Leiper's personal experiences traveling in Germany and several other European countries in 1932 and 1933.4 Leiper describes the political situation in Germany and relates the activities of Church circles in the wake of Hitler's seizure of power in January 1933. The minister met with many leaders, including "prime ministers….ministers of education, college and university presidents, pastors, bishops, social workers, newspaper editors and correspondents, diplomats, writers, military men, business men and students."
Reflecting on his visit in this document, Leiper carefully explains his views: "Assessing praise or blame is not at the moment our concern. We want to understand what is going on and why it is going on. Then we may hope to gain clearer views as to what is right and what is wrong with the new Germany." The minister also describes a meeting with the new pro-Nazi national Protestant bishop, Ludwig Müller, whom he found to be "much less of a military type and more of a pastor" than he had assumed. In considering the religious landscape in Germany and the church struggle, Leiper addresses rumors that American audiences may have heard regarding Jewish persecution, everyday violence, censorship of the press, increased state control of the churches, and the potential for a communist revolution in Germany.
Like many Americans in the early 1930s, Leiper appears reluctant to draw broad conclusions about Nazism's impact in Germany. His observations reflect a broader lack of clarity over the future of Europe during the rise of Nazism, a reminder that historical actors could not foresee—or even imagine—how events would unfold over the next twelve years.5 Still, Leiper's pamphlet demonstrates Americans' desire to learn about developments in Germany, both within Church institutions and the society at large. What might have sparked this interest?