Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Historical Theology

First Advisor

William W. Schumacher


Hellwege, John P., Jr. “Evaluating the Whirlwind: The American Lutheran Theological interpretations of Pre-War Nazi Germany.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2009. 295 pp.

This dissertation is an examination of how the Lutheran churches in America perceived the events in pre-war Nazi Germany, including the Kirchenkampf. In particular, this is a periodical study of 30 representative periodicals from 1932 to 1939, representing a variety of American Lutheran bodies and every language in which American Lutherans published during this era. This study evaluates the theological lenses that the American Lutherans used in order to evaluate and comment on the events in Germany. As such, it is a study of American Lutheranism during the 1930s, with the events of pre-war Nazi Germany as the backdrop.

The study is broken into two major parts. The first part is an examination of the various theological concerns that the American Lutherans raised when viewing Nazi Germany. These concerns included the preservation of orthodox Lutheranism, the fear of unionism, an insistence on the separation of Church and State, fears over threats to Christianity, theological trends used by Nazi supporters, and the “Jewish Question.” Related to the separation of Church and State, there was also a debate over the theological correctness of Just War doctrine.

The second part then looks at how the American Lutherans perceived the various groups involved in the Kirchenkampf. First there is an examination of how they responded to the Deutsche Christen movement. Then this study turns to how the American Lutherans viewed the Confessing Front. Finally, the study shows the American Lutherans’ affinity towards the Confessional Church in Germany.

The thesis of this study is that the American Lutherans’ primary concern was theological; and that this concern was for the preservation of orthodox Lutheranism, which they viewed as the truest form of Christianity, in Germany. This is shown in how this concern manifested itself throughout their evaluations of events in Nazi Germany, which very often took a decidedly theological hue. This is further shown in how the American Lutherans displayed a greater concern for those in Germany that they viewed as being the closest to being orthodox Lutherans and less concern for those who were not even Christian.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.