Cross and swastika

Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust, edited by Robert P. Ericksen and Susannah Heschel

On the cover of this stunning and disquieting collection of essays is an image that, however familiar, never loses its power to jolt. On the steps of a church stands Ludwig Müller, draped in ecclesiastical robes, a crucifix dangling from his neck. He is surrounded by a group of storm troopers and, like them, he has his right arm raised in homage to the Führer. He is thanking Hitler for elevating him to the coveted position of "Reich Bishop."

In Germany in the 1930s so outrageous a synthesis of Nazi gesture and ecclesiastical symbolism was hardly unique, or even uncommon. In church on Sunday morning, a swastika often rested on the altar, right next to the cross. The arms of pastors and parishioners were banded by swastikas as they processed, bearing banners of crosses.

 

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