Between 'National Community' and 'Milieu': German Catholics at War, 1939-1945

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This article examines German Catholics’ sense of community and identity during the Second World War. It analyses how far they were able to reconcile their religious faith with support for Nazism and the German war effort and questions the extent to which Catholicism in the Rhineland and Westphalia represented either a sealed confessional subculture or a homogenising Nazified ‘national community’ (Volksgemeinschaft). The article argues that, in their pure forms, neither of these analytical paradigms accounts for the complexities of German Catholics’ attitudes during this period, which were far more contested and diverse than outlined by much existing historiography. Religious socialisation, Nazi propaganda and older nationalist traditions shaped Catholics’ mentalities during the Third Reich, creating a spectrum of opinion concerning the appropriate relationship between these influences and loyalties. At the level of lived experience, Catholics’ memberships of religious and national communities revealed themselves to be highly compatible, a tendency which in turn exerted a restraining influence on church–state conflict in wartime Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-440
Number of pages19
JournalContemporary European History
Issue number3
Early online date29 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


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