ABSTRACT

From 1933 to 1945, Christians all too often betrayed their heritage by failing to “love their neighbors.” They seemed to have only a murky understanding of the meaning of “neighbor.” Racism, ethnocentrism, and nationalism, therefore, had a constricting effect on the meaning of inclusivity for Christians in Germany. Even if not adequately practiced, “love of neighbor” has remained theoretically the very essence of the charism motivating the Catholic faith and shaping the current theological initiative in the human rights discourse. 1 The part played by the churches in the Third Reich still raises haunting concerns about their accommodation and adaptation as their faithful sought to fulfill their national aspirations as patriotic Germans. Over the years, specific questions have emerged. Is there a fatal flaw in Christianity itself that has historically made it so vulnerable in capitulating to political authorities? How can Christians, nurtured in specific cultures, define their faith commitments in a way that resonates with their so-called transformative faith in Jesus Christ? What are the sociopolitical dynamics that shape the moral reasoning of men and women in totalitarian and in democratic states? 2