XXth century jubilees in Germany

In the XXth century, Luther’s jubilees often took on a patriotic or a political interpretation.

During the First world War

  • The battle of the Somme, 1st july to 18 november 1916 © Wikimedia Commons

1917: The 4th centenary of the date when Luther nailed his theses on the chapel door in Wittenberg was celebrated in the fourth year of the First World War. Luther was seen as a true German – his trust in God and unswerving determination to succeed in conflict were seen as an example for his fellow countrymen.

The Nazi regime

  • Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) © Wikimedia Commons
  • Professor Karl Barth © S.H.P.F.

1933: Luther’s 450th anniversary was celebrated in Germany. Although some pastors disagreed violently, the Deutsche Christen (German Christians) distorted his message to make it conform to the German Fuhrer’s slogan: Mit Luther, für Glaube und Rasse (with Luther and Hitler, for religion and race). However the Confessing Church in opposition to Hitler also took Luther as a model and forerunner of independentProtestant Churches in Germany.

The Luther year of 1983

The success of the Luther Year in 1983, for his 500th anniversary, was not only due to the large number of commemorations but also to the political situation in Germany at the time: it was divided between the RFA and the RDA in the twilight years of the communist regime which held sway in Eastern Europe. The historians of East Germany saw in Luther their own precursor of a modern revolution. This view contributed indirectly to the reunification of Germany as Luther was part of their common heritage.

 

Author: D'après Marianne Carbonnier-Burkard

Bibliography

  • Documents

    Associated notes

    • The First World War

      The « sacred union » brought together all strands of Protestantism. Should the war not be short ? But the slaughter resulted in cruel deception, which many Christians perceived as failure, but would...
    • Dietrich Bonhœffer (1906-1945)

      Dietrich Bonhœffer was a protestant German pastor and theologian, and also the co-founder of the confessing Church. He was opposed to the growing Nazi influence on protestant German churches. He...
    • Karl Barth (1886-1968), a detailed biography

      The strictness and deep originality of the theologian’s work ensured its rapid spread throughout Protestantism and among catholic theologians, and caused intense debates and long-lasting polemics.
    • French Jubilees of the Reformation

      In France commemorations of the Reformation only really began in the XIXth century. They celebrated mostly French Protestant historical events so as not to attract too much attention from the...
    • Jubilees in Germany from 1630 to 1717

      From 1630 onwards, jubilees were on a smaller scale because of the Thirty Years War which held sway in Germany at the time. The 1717 jubilee was on the same...

    Associated tours