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Cultural Confessionalism

Literary Resistance and the "Bekennende Kirche</I>


Grant Henley

Pastor Martin Niemöller, popular author Ernst Wiechert, and the young theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer were well known in the public sphere in Germany when Hitler came to power in 1933. As the decade of the 1930s progressed each of these figures became a vocal opponent of National Socialism. In the last twenty-eight sermons delivered before his arrest in 1937 Martin Niemöller revitalized Protestant homiletic discourse as a political tool in defiance of the regime. Having protested Niemöller’s imprisonment, Ernst Wiechert was arrested by the Gestapo and incarcerated at Buchenwald for three months during the summer of 1938. Wiechert chronicled his experiences in the fictional autobiography Der Totenwald (1939) – a text which marks the apex of Wiechert’s literary turn from Blut und Boden Dichter to outspoken critic of Nazism. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a member of the Pastors’ Emergency League and for a time pastoral assistant to Martin Niemöller, constructed a sphere of textual resistance in his prose and poetic writings composed while imprisoned in Tegel from 1943 to 1945. This study traces the emergence of cultural confessionalism as a new literary resistance paradigm that developed out of the ideological nexus of cultural Protestantism and the confessionalist trend of the Kirchenkampf. Through literary analysis of sermons by Niemöller and written texts by both Wiechert and Bonhoeffer the book demonstrates how the textual resistance strategies of the cultural confessionalists varied from the oppositional approaches of the ‘innere Emigration’, the political resistance, and the Christian humanist tradition.
Contents: Cultural Protestantism – Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Confessionalism and the Kirchenkampf – German literary «inner emigration» – Ernst Wiechert’s Das Einfache Leben – Resistance literature – Sermons of Martin Niemöller – Lutherdeutsch – Christian homiletic tradition – Georg Büchner’s Der Hessische Landbote – Ernst Wiechert’s Der Totenwald – Fictional autobiography – Ernst Wiechert’s Die Majorin – Adalbert Stifter’s Der Hochwald – Joseph Goebbels’ novel Michael – Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s fragmentary novel – Bildungsbürgertum – Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prison poems.