Twisted Cross

The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich

By Doris L. Bergen

358 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 23 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4560-8
    Published: March 1996
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6034-2
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7306-4
    Published: November 2000

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How did Germany's Christians respond to Nazism? In Twisted Cross, Doris Bergen addresses one important element of this response by focusing on the 600,000 self-described 'German Christians,' who sought to expunge all Jewish elements from the Christian church. In a process that became more daring as Nazi plans for genocide unfolded, this group of Protestant lay people and clergy rejected the Old Testament, ousted people defined as non-Aryans from their congregations, denied the Jewish ancestry of Jesus, and removed Hebrew words like 'Hallelujah' from hymns. Bergen refutes the notion that the German Christians were a marginal group and demonstrates that members occupied key positions within the Protestant church even after their agenda was rejected by the Nazi leadership. Extending her analysis into the postwar period, Bergen shows how the German Christians were relatively easily reincorporated into mainstream church life after 1945. Throughout Twisted Cross, Bergen reveals the important role played by women and by the ideology of spiritual motherhood amid the German Christians' glorification of a 'manly' church.

About the Author

Doris L. Bergen is associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame.
For more information about Doris L. Bergen, visit the Author Page.


"This is a disturbing and an important book, highly relevant for many contemporary discussions concerning theology, religion and modern culture. It vividly illustrates the dangers of completely breaking with tradition and the reason why many people, especially Jewish leaders, are often worried about such things as the so-called 'New Age' movements."--Studies in Religion

"An outstanding, stylish, and timely assessment . . . of the German Christian Movement which tried to fuse Christianity with National Socialism."--German History

"Using the primary documents from every major archive in Germany and the available secondary sources, Bergen offers a study that explores how the German Christian Movement tried to synthesize Christianity and National Socialism. . . . A superb book."--Choice

"Doris Bergen's account stands as a trenchant warning about the dangers which so easily beset any church that forsakes doctrinal orthodoxy in pursuit of popular political favour, or cultivates nationalist ethnicity at the expense of the Gospel. She is to be congratulated on so vividly depicting this dismal story."--German Studies Review

"Bergen is to be congratulated for this scholarly, well-balanced account of the German Christian movement, which comes as a welcome addition to studies dealing with the Holocaust."--Theological Studies

"Doris Bergen has written a fine study of a crucial aspect of Nazi domestic success. Her examination of the German Christian movement is an important corrective to the widespread misunderstandings of the role of the Protestant church that have prevailed among theologians and historians."--Susannah Heschel, Case Western Reserve University