The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:06 am

Part 2 of 3

Miracles and Miraculous Faith

On a warm East Prussian day in July 1926, Elder William Porter and a companion missionary were going door to door in the city of Tilsit, preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.77 When they entered a yard, a large, agitated dog—frothing at the mouth—attempted to pounce on them but found its range limited by the chain attached to its collar. Assuming that the beast was adequately restrained, the two Mormon missionaries approached the house when, suddenly, the raging dog broke free of its chain and pounced on Elder Porter’s companion. As it tried to tear into the young man’s flesh, the dog discovered that its mouth would not open. Frustrated, the enraged animal then turned on Elder Porter, but again it could not open its mouth to bite. Having survived the attack unharmed, the two emissaries of Joseph Smith’s restored gospel delivered their message to the house’s human inhabitants and then departed, giving thanks for the divine intervention that held closed the jaws of the savage canine.78

Stories like this appear regularly in the chronicles of young Americans who ministered in the Mormon missions of the Weimar Republic. They served to buttress the faith of post-adolescent foreigners, far from home with few possessions and often short of money, promoting conversion to a strange New World religion in a tradition-bound Germany hostile to the concept, and in a German tongue that most of them were still learning. For their German congregants, whose choice to abandon their childhood Catholicism or Lutheranism often estranged them from neighbors and sometimes from their relatives, such miracles discussed during weekly meetings provided the hope that they would, one day, be able to immigrate to the American Zion, where they expected miraculous happenings to become commonplace, and where their adopted Mormonism would place them into the majority.

In most cases, according to the records of the German-Austrian Mission of Dresden/Berlin and the Swiss-German Mission of Basel, recorded “miracles” occurred after a German church member sought a blessing of comfort and healing from missionaries or the mission president. The liturgical procedure required one missionary to apply a few drops of consecrated oil, usually high-grade olive oil that had been blessed previously during prayer, to the forehead of an afflicted believer. The other missionary would then place his hands upon the head of the ill or otherwise troubled congregant, say a prayer, and thus “seal the anointing.” Such a Mormon priesthood ordinance could be counted upon to heal both sickness and injury, and to be effective on all age groups from children suffering the onset of infantile paralysis to those afflicted with the maladies of old age.79 Sometimes, the records indicate only that the missionaries prayed with their congregants, but that healings were nevertheless achieved.

In July 1927, a Sister Schüler of the Hohenstein Branch felt so near death that she called all her close relatives in order to say goodbye. She had been vomiting blood continuously for three days and had been unable to sleep. When the missionaries arrived and blessed her, she fell asleep immediately. Within fifteen minutes, she awoke refreshed, “was without pain and was not troubled with further vomiting.” She made a complete recovery.80

On several occasions, missionaries helped cure faithful members who had been sick for much longer periods. On April 30, 1926, the mission president, Frederick Tadje, blessed a female member of the Leipzig Branch who had undergone several surgical procedures and had been bedridden for one year. Within two weeks of his visit, she had regained her health.81 In the Chemnitz Central Branch in July 1927, a lady who had been confined to bed for six months summoned Elder Ray H. Adams and his companion. Within one day of their blessing, “she was up and doing her washing,” and the healing was “a topic of conversation in her neighborhood for some time.”82

Often, records indicate that the healing actions of Mormon missionaries confounded and amazed German medical practitioners. When Frau Ackermann, who was considering joining a church congregation in Chemnitz, called upon the elders to help her with a troubled pregnancy, the result caused her obstetrician to cancel plans for surgical delivery of her baby. “The doctor examined her and to his great surprise,” the mission records state, “found the unborn child in proper position and the mother in perfect condition.” Reportedly, when she told her physician of the blessing, he took the names of the ministering elders and set out to investigate this “supernatural method of healing.”83 When Sister Kant of Stettin suffered from the infirmities of aging, her doctors prescribed steady doses of morphine as the only remedy for her constant, excruciating pain. When the missionaries blessed her, however, “the pain left her body” and she was able to attend church services the next day. Additional commentary in the mission records noted: “The power of the Lord can go a lot further than the best of doctors.”84 In Berne in July 1931, doctors had given up hope for the recovery of an ill child who had not eaten in ten days. According to mission historical records, the next day the missionaries administered a blessing to the famished youth, which subsequently caused the same doctors to concede that a miracle had happened and predict that the child would fully recuperate.85

Mormon missionaries periodically claimed to have cured congregants of multiple maladies. At the end of October 1932, elders visiting the German-speaking Polish district of Masuren encountered a five-year-old child “with practically no mental ability whatsoever” who had also contracted a skin disease that covered her face with infectious scabs that did not respond to a salve prescribed by her doctors.86 Two days after they administered a blessing, “all signs of inflammation had disappeared,” and subsequently “the child showed mental improvement and commenced to talk.”87 In the city of Barmen of the Westphalia region, the young daughter of Johanne Becker had been blind for four and one-half months. When the missionaries blessed her in March 1930, she regained her eyesight within eight days. However, she subsequently became “afflicted with a long spell of dropsy,” which caused her to be bedridden for sixteen weeks. Her mother once again called the elders, who bestowed another blessing. Within one day, the mission records recount, she was completely healed and left her sickbed.88

Occasionally, members did not need to call the missionaries. Instead, these young ministers of the gospel received spiritual “promptings” or premonitions that their priesthood powers were needed. In the Schleswig-Holstein city of Husum in October 1927, Elders Edwin H. Calder and Norman W. Forsberg borrowed bicycles in order to visit the rural home of a church member. On the way, one claimed to have received a prompting that they should visit a different member. His companion protested that they would be late for their original appointment, but the young man who felt divine direction prevailed. When they arrived at the home of Sister Albertsen, they found her seven-year- old child “laid out on the table, having just fallen from an upstairs window to the stone below.” The elders applied consecrated oil and gave the child a blessing. When they returned the next day, they found the youngster playing normally. A story about the miraculous healing subsequently appeared in a local newspaper.89 In the Baden- Württemberg city of Reutlingen in March 1931, native German missionaries Dermond Madsen and Gustav Adam “felt inspired” to visit a young woman named Link. When they entered her house, they discovered that she had been in a state of cardiac arrest for a period of three hours. The pair blessed her “and in a remarkably short time she had fully regained her strength.”90

From time to time, mission records mention other miraculous interventions that did not require intercession with consecrated oil. In one case, all that was required was the waters of baptism. In Salzburg, Austria, a recently baptized woman called the missionaries to her house to attend to her husband, who was confined to bed with a severe case of rheumatism. He told the missionaries that he should be baptized at once. When he came out of the water, “he shook his feet like a person who had never felt pain, and said he felt like a new man.” He gave away the two walking sticks that he had been using and told his wife that he felt many years younger. The mission historical chronology says he never felt the pain of rheumatism again.91

Missionaries in Silesian city of Schweidnitz needed neither oil nor water to successfully intercede after an enraged Brother H. Popel attempted to cut his girlfriend’s throat one Sunday afternoon after church. When they arrived on the scene, Walter Rathke and Ossman Elgren deduced that this was not a case of domestic abuse, but rather possession by the Devil. “Brother Rathke recognized the condition and immediately demanded ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ that the spirit leave Herr Popel’s body. Immediately, Brother Popel fell limp on the sofa and later came to consciousness.”92 Likewise, when a “poison fly” flew into the chapel during services of the Chemnitz Central Branch and stung a female congregant, recovery from her allergic reaction required neither medicine nor consecrated oil. Instead, elders John Roderick and Theron Covey simply “commanded” her to begin using her paralyzed arm and hand. She did so almost immediately.93

Even when ministerial efforts on behalf of an ailing member did not produce a healing, mission records still dutifully recorded a miracle. For almost eleven months, a male church member named Platz had been “bed-fast” as the result of unceasing headaches and constant throat pain. Sensing the grave state of his weakened condition, Elders Herman Babbel and Darrel Crockett pronounced a prayerful blessing that pleaded with God to “heal him or take him away with as little pain as possible.” According to the missionaries’ subsequent account, “Herr Platz fell into a sleep after the blessing and slept on until his death, with seemingly no pain whatsoever.”94

Stories like these, however fanciful, fell into the Mormon pattern of “expect a miracle.” Mormon history is replete with tales of divine delivery from the dual threats posed by nature on the trek to the American West, and by the persecution of neighbors who felt threatened by the Mormons’ economic collectivism and practice of polygamy. Faithful members who strove to live in obedience to the gospel and to the church leadership expected God to take care of them.

Thus, it is no surprise that when German-Austrian Mission President Fred Tadje summoned his elders to a mission-wide conference in August 1926, he did not tell the missionaries how to travel to Dresden. He had faith that they would find a way, and that God would protect them on their journey. Although some missionaries from wealthier families in Utah were able to ride the train, some seventy-five percent of the young men walked, some taking as long a two weeks to arrive at mission headquarters, “spreading the gospel message without purse or script, relying totally upon the hospitality of the people among whom they traveled.”95 They set out, “traversing countryside and villages where no Mormon has ever been seen,” with the expectation that God would provide food and lodging. When they reached Dresden, “not one man was missing on account of sickness or any other disturbing factor.” Attendance reports for the event, which was the first mission-wide conference in Europe in twenty years, list a total of 750 persons— members, their guests, and the entire missionary roster.96

In August of 1927, Mission President Tadje ordered his missionaries to forsake their supervisory duties over local branches and districts for a six-week period from July 20 through August 31. The twofold purpose afforded native Germans the privilege of running their own church affairs and gave the missionaries the opportunity to proselyte in towns and countryside communities where the LDS gospel had not been preached. Tadje ordered all Berlin-based missionaries to set up headquarters in towns without Mormon congregations: Frankfurt am Oder, Brandenburg, Eberswalde, Luckenswalde, Stendhal, and others. In other areas, missionaries pursued an itinerant schedule, holding meetings while walking from town to town. Many missionaries again “traveled without purse or script,” with little money and the barest of provisions. One missionary recalls that when he left his assigned base with no money, he was “able to get all of his meals and also all of his beds free, although it meant ‘we had to humble ourselves considerably.’” Another missionary reported that at the end of his journey, he and his companion “had ten extra Pfennigs and two more lard sandwiches than when we started.”97

Winter weather can be uncomfortably cold in the northeastern German city of Neubrandenburg, some 35 miles inland from the Baltic Sea. However, gray skies, blustery winds, and subfreezing temperatures could not dissuade six members of a German family from entering the waters of baptism on February 14, 1931, in the partially frozen Tollensee River. Nor did it discourage their young American missionary baptizer, G. A. Elbert. Baptism, regardless of water temperature, is the ultimate goal of a proselyting missionary.98 Likewise, the motivation of faith trumped considerations of personal safety when, some sixty miles away and three months later, German elders Amalie Dyck and Otto Swatski baptized two converts during a raging storm of thunder and lightning in the coastal town of Barth.99

The twin pillars of ecclesiastical discipline and unbridled faith, combined with less harassment from civil authorities, functioned to help the Mormons maintain a steady growth of membership numbers during the fourteen-year duration of the Weimar Republic. In 1920, with 9,100 members, Germany ranked third among the world’s nations in total number of Mormons residing within its borders. By 1930, with 11,596 members, Germany had surpassed Canada and ranked second only to the United States in the number of registered LDS Church members.100 That number is deceiving, however. It does not account for a steady stream of emigration, which paradoxically represents a triumph of faith over obedience to the church hierarchy. At a time when Salt Lake City was proclaiming the end of “the gathering,” and instead encouraging Mormons to build the church organization at home, German Mormons immigrated to the United States in record numbers.

German Mormon Emigration During the Weimar Republic

Prior to the LDS Church’s abandonment of polygamy in 1890, religious reasons drove most European converts to migrate to the American Zion. The opportunity for a fresh start in America, perhaps with a grant of farmland, played an important but secondary role. Celestial Marriage as part of a polygamous family was a necessary rite of “exaltation.” For many, it was an earthly sacrifice undertaken with the goal of a heavenly reward. Missionary messages and church periodicals delivered the same message: God commanded his children to build a new Zion and threatened punishment for not gathering on the American continent. University of Utah researcher Douglas Alder cites a Mormon German-language pamphlet of the 1860s, Die Reform, that warned:

It is an undeniable fact, that there are many in this land and other lands who claim to be Latter-day Saints, who, if they were so inclined to make the effort, could have already gathered with the Saints in Zion. How can this be? It comes simply from the fact that despite their assertions, they don’t actually believe the message which God has declared unto them. These people have been repeatedly warned during the last thirty years concerning the suffering and devastation that would come over the peoples of the earth and would also include the Latter-day Saints if they were not obedient to the voice from the heavens to flee out of Babylon.101


Once monogamy became the standard, German Mormons no longer had to immigrate to the United States in order to attain the highest degree of a stratified heavenly afterlife. The definition of Celestial Marriage changed. Mormons could enjoy the greatest blessing of God’s grace in the afterlife and the opportunity to achieve godhood in their own right, through faithful adherence to monogamous marriage vows sealed in the Holy Temple. If European couples could not make the pilgrimage to the temple during their lifetimes, the LDS doctrine of vicarious baptism and temple sealing would occur after their deaths.102 That, however, was not good enough for most Mormons conditioned by a sixty-year-old culture of yearning to immigrate to Zion. Most did not wish to trust survivors to submit their names for posthumous temple ordinances. They wanted the joy of temple marriage, albeit a monogamous union, unachievable outside of the United States until 1955, when the Swiss Temple opened in Berne.

Alder divides church policy on immigration into three distinct periods: immigration encouraged, 1830-1890, when missionaries told new converts to gather in America as a test of their newfound faith; the interim, 1891-1921, when church leaders issued ambivalent and contradictory guidance regarding emigration from foreign lands; and immigration discouraged, 1922 to the present, when it became church policy to encourage converts to remain in their home countries and build up the church organization locally.103

After the turn of the twentieth century, as the availability of affordably priced farmland in the Mormon Culture Region lessened and a series of late nineteenth century immigration laws tightened standards for admission to the United States, pronouncements from the Mormon hierarchy regarding the necessity for emigration became more ambivalent. Nevertheless, after the discontinuance of polygamy in 1890 and Utah’s achievement of statehood in 1896, German Latter-day Saints continued to migrate across the Atlantic. An average of 139 German speakers per year came to the Mormon Culture Region during Alder’s “interim” period (1891-1921, when church leaders could not manage a consistent message regarding the desirability of uprooting new converts from their native lands and sending them to the American Zion.104

In 1910, as the church president, Joseph F. Smith, traveled in Europe, he deemphasized the need to emigrate and promised proxy temple ordinances for those concerned about the necessity for Celestial Marriage:

We do not desire, my brethren and sisters, that you trouble yourselves too much about emigration. At present, we do not advise you to emigrate. We would rather that you remain until you have been well established in the faith in the Gospel and until each one of you has been an instrument, through the help of our Lord, in bringing one or more of our fellow men into the Church. Be not troubled about the Temple ordinances, but live in faith and confidence in the truths, and wait patiently, and if death should call before the ordinances are attended to, your children will see to it that the work will be done, and even if you have no opportunity in this life to receive these ordinances, the Lord will open the way so that it will be done in the future.105


The Prophet chose his words carefully, stressing soft admonitions such as “at present” and “until” to send a message that gently discouraged but did not prohibit emigration. Undoubtedly, he realized that several generations of tradition would be difficult to reverse. As Smith spoke, Mormon agents in Liverpool continued to assist émigrés with the logistics of coming to the United States.106 Despite tightening of American immigration laws, the death of the Perpetual Emigration Fund in 1887, and uncertain economic conditions in the United States, the rate of German-speaking emigration increased throughout the period that spanned the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth—even as German immigration as a whole declined substantially.

This can be attributed, in part, to the steady growth of Mormon congregations in Germany, plus the attraction and financial support available from an increasing German- American population in Utah and surrounding states and territories. The 1900 U. S. census had recorded 4,074 native-born German-speaking persons in the State of Utah.107 By the next decennial census in 1910, that number had increased to 7,524. This placed German speakers third among foreign immigrants in the State of Utah, following only those whose native tongues had been English and the Scandinavian languages.108 In the first decade of the twentieth century, recently converted German Mormons arriving in Utah could find LDS congregations that conducted services in German. They could read several locally edited German-language periodicals, including the weekly newspaper, The Salt Lake Beobachter, which was published until 1935.109 They could choose from among four Holy Temples, located in Salt Lake City, St. George, Logan, and Manti, where they and their spouses could go to be blessed, albeit monogamously, with the ordinance of Celestial Marriage.

In the 1920s, American xenophobia and the perceived threat of mass immigration from war-ravaged Europe spawned tough new immigration laws that strictly limited migration from certain parts of the world. The restrictions adopted in 1921 and 1924 against southern European immigration did not impede migration from Germany, except for a limit on the total number of immigrants admitted to the United States. However, by the post-World War I era, the same prejudices that influenced American public opinion nationwide were affecting attitudes in the Mormon Culture Region. As Thomas Alexander notes, by 1921, as Utahns celebrated twenty-five years of self-governing statehood, their politics moved toward the American mainstream.110 That included fear of how immigration would affect the domestic economy. Thus began the period Alder described as “immigration discouraged.”

Formal discouragement of German emigration first surfaced in a 1921 article in the Millennial Star, the English language publication of the European Mission based in Liverpool. Rather than reflecting growing American opposition to immigration, the author, Mission President Orson F. Whitney, concentrated on economic difficulties encountered in the United States by many recent immigrants:

Now is not a time to migrate to the Rocky Mountains. Abnormal industrial conditions prevail in that nation, as in other parts of the world. Many of our people are out of work and cannot find employment, and those who go there now, hoping to better their lot, are liable to be disappointed and become disheartened.111


Church leaders left the task of admonishing perspective emigrants to the church’s German-language periodical, Der Stern. Its author, a Swiss Mormon who would later serve as a mission president during the Second World War, warned:

No missionary, and certainly no officer in the church, is justified in spreading any emigration propaganda. We admonish our brothers and sisters and friends specifically to remain here and build up the church in this land. Any person who in any way encourages another person to leave his homeland does so in direct opposition to our church leaders and should be taken into account for his actions by his superiors. 112


Max Zimmer remained an ardent foe of Mormon emigration in the years that followed World War I, but he chose to relocate to Utah after the Second World War. His eventual choice demonstrates that emigration to the American Zion had an almost irresistible hold on the consciousness of German converts—one that would test their obedience to their ecclesiastical leaders. Although LDS Church leaders strove to make consistent statements that discouraged emigration after 1920, some contradictory policies still sent mixed signals. For example, in August 1927, local German youth who were completing full-time missionary service were offered free passage to Utah if they wished to immigrate at the conclusion of their terms. A subsequent clarification denied enterprising inquirers the cash equivalent if they elected to stay at home.113 As a result of ambiguous guidance that defied strong church doctrine and a historical precedent, Mormons from the Weimar Republic prepared to migrate in record numbers. See Table 4.

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Table 4: German-Speaking LDS Immigration to the United States During the Weimar Republic

During the fourteen years of the Weimar Republic, German Mormons took advantage of their newfound constitutional liberties and precipitously disregarded the anti-emigration warnings of their ecclesiastical leaders, in order to migrate to Utah at an unprecedented pace. A total of 2,827 Latter-day Saints made the passage. When one discounts two periods of economic hardship, the first associated with the end of the First World War through the end of hyperinflation (1918-23), and the second beginning with the Great Depression and ending with the advent of the National Socialist regime (1929- 1933), an average of 343 Latter-day Saints per year left the German-speaking missions.

The emigration of German Mormons during the Weimar Republic illustrates an important limit of obedience by Latter-day Saints. Mormons struggled to tolerate a mandate that conflicted with longstanding Church tradition on emigration, in much the same way that many found the abolition of polygamy impossible to accept decades earlier. Failure to discontinue blessing new polygamous marriages resulted in many individual excommunications and several schismatic movements, but no record exists of any attempt to discipline a Mormon for emigrating once church leaders changed their stance. Church leaders learned when it was important to enforce conformity in order to save the church organization from government reprisal, and conversely, when enforcement of lockstep obedience might temper spiritual enthusiasm.

In the next section, as illustrated in Table 5, this study examines the degree to which Mormons who stayed in Germany, and their American missionaries, conformed to civil authority when challenged hostile public officials or religious leaders.

Recorded Instances of Mormon-State and Mormon-Ecclesiastical Conflict During the Weimar Republic

Date / Place / Incident / Source


Jan. 1925 / Berlin / Mass missionary expulsion and facility denial. / S&GM MH116
Mar. 1925 / Selbongen Police expel all missionaries after accusation against one for sexual impropriety. / S&GM MH
Apr. 1925 / Braunschweig Police refused to let missionary live in Hanover suburb. / S&GM MH
May 1925 / Stadthagen Pastors hold anti-Mormon rally that LDS members attend. / S&GM MH
May 1925 / Minden Jeering spectators interrupt baptism in Weser River. / S&GM MH
May 1925 / Hanover Police question missionaries on three separate occasions. / S&GM MH
June 1925 / Dresden Police order missionaries to leave. / S&GM MH
June 1925 / Stadthagen Catholic priest attempts to deny deceased Mormon burial in town’s only graveyard and use of the only hearse. / S&GM MH, S&GM MH
Oct. 1925 / Nürnberg Missionary jailed for three days after refusing police order to leave town. Upon release, he transferred to another city. / S-G MH117
Nov. 1925 / Saarbrücken Permission to do missionary work denied by municipal officials who later reverse their ban. / S-G MH
Dec. 1925 / Schleswig Schoolhouse rental for Sunday meetings refused. / S-G MH
Jan. 1926 / Elberfeld Local minister holds series of anti-Mormon meetings. / S-G MH
Feb. 1926 / Chemnitz “Sectarian” pastor holds widely advertised anti-Mormon meeting. Mormons attend and receive favorable publicity. / G-A MH118
Mar. 1926 / Fürth Two elders arrested and tracts seized. They are released but banned from subsequent ministry in the town. / S-G MH
Mar. 1926 / Augsburg Catholic and Protestant ministers publish anti-Mormon newspaper articles. / S-G MH
Apr. 1926 / Frankfurt-Main Two missionaries questioned by police but later released. / S-G MH
Apr. 1926 / Schleswig Protestant clergy combine to author many unfavorable articles that appear in the local press. / S-G MH
June 1926 / Selbongen A “crowd of antagonists” blocks a planned baptismal service. / G-A MH
Aug. 1926 / Hameln Two missionaries “arrested as American spies.” Released. / S-G MH
Sept. 1926 / Hildesheim Lutheran minister protests lease of schoolroom for Sunday meetings. Requires two-week search for a replacement. / S-G MH
Dec. 1926 / Kassel Police arrest two missionaries on the basis of an accusation by a local pastor that Mormons were enticing young German women to emigrate. American embassy becomes involved. / S-G MH
Dec. 1926 / Bielefeld Police question and release two missionaries. / S-G MH
Feb. 1927 / Kolberg Local group of unknown origin disrupts Sunday services. / G-A MH
Mar. 1927 / Schwabelweis Bishop of Regensburg warns local citizens to boycott Mormon informational meeting. It would be “mortal sin.” / S-G MH
Mar. 1927 / Heiligenbeil Local pastors unite to oppose Mormon organizational meeting, but 500 attend including some opposing clergy. / G-A MH
Apr. 1927 / Regensburg Elders warned to leave town by concerned citizens. One family wishing to join relents because of threats. / S-G MH
Apr. 1927 / Reutlingen Missionaries subjected to “bitter opposition” by residents. / S-G MH
Apr. 1927 / Greiz Three local pastors disrupt church meeting; ask for “sign.” / G-A QR119
Apr. 1927 / Angerbert Local authorities prohibit public meetings based on grounds that the elders “were Mormons.” / G-A QR
Apr. 1927 / Euba Permission to rent local hall withdrawn after having used it since last April. / G-A QR
Apr. 1927 / Ludwigsburg Adventist minister stalks missionaries who are making their daily visits, intruding upon appointments to warn citizenry. / S-G MH
June 1927 / Mülhausen Missionaries allowed to use a school room free of charge provided that they tip the janitor. / S-G MH
June 1927 / Augsburg Bible class established despite “trouble with Adventists.” / S-G MH
Aug. 1927 / Flensburg Mormons hold special meeting to confront opposition. / S-G MH
Aug. 1927 / Munich American embassy helps attain reinstatement for missionary banished from Bavaria. / S-G MH
Nov. 1927 / Detmold Anti-Mormon heckler interrupts Sunday services. / S-G MH
Nov. 1927 / Hanover Local Lutheran Church newspaper warns faithful against “female seeking” Mormons. / S-G MH
Dec. 1927 / Weissenfels American counsel in Dresden assists when local police forbid missionaries from establishing residence. / G-A MH
Apr. 1928 / Oberschlesien Local Catholic organization publishes book unfavorable to the Mormons that sells “thousands of copies.” / G-A MH
Apr. 1928 / Ratibor Effort of Catholic priests results in eviction of the missionaries from their apartment. / G-A MH
Jun. 1928 / Beuthen A “burly Catholic” employs physical violence in removing proselytizing missionary from his home. / G-A MH
July 1928 / Ratibor Catholic priests unsuccessfully try to dissuade a landlord from renting meeting space to the local Mormon branch. / G-A MH
July 1928 / Hildesheim “Sectarian opponents” erect a tent mission and distribute anti-Mormon literature. / S-G MH
July 1928 / Gliewitz Public bathhouses organize to oppose rental for baptisms. / G-A MH
Aug. 1928 / Ratibor Catholic clergy lobby rental property owners not to rent to Mormons, threatening a Catholic boycott. Six changes of location for services necessary in a six-month period. / G-A MH
Oct. 1928 / Halle After a three-month effort, permission to rent a classroom in a local school for Sunday services is obtained. / G-A MH
Nov. 1928 / Ratibor Local Catholic priests cause change in Mormon lecture location when they prevail upon owner to cancel the lease at the last minute. / G-A MH
Dec. 1928 / Hindenburg Catholic clergy threatens rental property owners with business boycott if they rent to Mormons. / G-A MH
Jan. 1929 / Hindenburg A Jesuit priest claiming to be an American citizen interrupts numerous LDS meetings with admonitions and heckling. He claims to have “done research” on the LDS. / G-A MH
Feb. 1929 / Bamberg First meeting of new congregation closed early “on account of disturbances.” / S-A MH
Feb. 1929 / Bonn New missionaries encounter hostility and cannot find an apartment to rent. / S-A MH
Apr. 1929 / Hindenburg “The Catholics” are “doing all they can to break up the meetings.” An anti-Mormon campaign enjoys limited success but missionaries continue to conduct services. / G-A MH
May 1929 / Bamberg Unknown provocateurs disrupt a Sunday meeting with “laughter, smoking, talking as if they were on the street, and mixing politics with religion.” / S-G MH
Aug. 1929 / Berlin Members of a breakaway Mormon sect, the Reorganized Church, seek converts from mainline LDS Church. / G-A MH
Sep. 1929 / Mittweida Permission to meet in a school withdrawn because school administrator wanted to “nip Mormonism in the bud.” / G-A MH
Sep. 1929 / Forst (Brandenburg) / Mormons enjoy an unprecedented welcome from town officials. They are afforded free use of schoolrooms and their youth organizations are included in the municipal athletic and cultural leagues. / G-A MH
Oct. 1929 / Hanover Local Lutheran church opens its facilities for Mormons to meet and town officials allow free use of municipal swimming pool for baptisms. / S-G MH
Dec. 1929 / Flensburg (German-speaking Denmark, bordering Schleswig- Holstein) / A rare case of reported domestic violence in a Mormon family, the murder of a devout woman by her “apostate” husband, becomes a sensation in the German-language press when it is reported that the source of their troubles was disagreement over her continued church membership. / S-G MH
Jun. 1930 / Coburg Two elders injured when attacked by occupants of a house where they went to visit members. One assailant strikes missionary in the face with a cane. Police investigate and take statements from members who insist missionaries were invited guests. / S-G MH
Sep. 1930 / Bernau Lutheran ministers bring their congregations to Mormon services, which then walk out en masse. / G-A MH
Dec. 1930 / Mühlhausen Two missionaries arrested after they presented a tract at the home of the police commissioner. Vagrancy charges dismissed. Subsequent local meetings banned. / S-G MH
Dec. 1930 / Hamburg American consul erroneously refuses to extend passport of missionary, an American citizen, because he was born in Germany. Error corrected after elder transferred to Switzerland. / S-G MH
Jan. 1931 / Mühlhausen Two missionaries banished from province. / S-G MH
Jan. 1931 / Augsburg Reorganized Church, in an effort to recruit German LDS, offers “land plots in Zion” as inducement to conversion. / S-G QR
Jan. 1931 / Peine A Lutheran prelate writes an unfavorable newspaper article concerning the Mormons. / S-G QR
Mar. 1931 / Glückstadt A citizen accused LDS church of attempting to defraud him in a land purchase deal. Municipal officials warn church they will not afford protection to members. / S-G MH
Apr. 1931 / Mühlhausen Missionary leaves city “to avoid police difficulties.” / S-G MH
May 1931 / Mühlhausen Replacement missionary refused permission to live in city. / S-G MH
May 1931 / Regensburg Missionary expelled because his “pass was not in order.” A second missionary ordered to leave town for failing to apply for extended residency on a timely basis. / S-G MH
May 1931 / Hamm Missionaries told to purchase a permit to remain in town and subsequently expelled because of “opposition.” / S-G MH
Jun. 1931 / Mühlhausen Because of recent difficulties, church closes local branch. / S-G MH
Jun. 1931 / Ulm Policeman tells missionaries to leave town by 5 p.m. / S-G MH
Jul. 1931 / Wesermünde Police question missionaries’ residence permits. / S-G MH
Jul. 1931 / Ludwigsburg Police arrest missionaries for dealing in illegal commerce. / S-G MH
Jul. 1931 / Augsburg Reorganized Church succeeds in converting several LDS. / S-G MH
Aug. 1931 / Oberhausen Missionaries threaten force to remove man causing a disturbance in a meeting. / S-G MH
Sep. 1931 / Stettin Owner of church-rented meetinghouse assaults missionary, who requires days to recover from injuries. / G-A QR
Oct. 1931 / Belgard Pastors hold meeting to protest presence of Mormons. / G-A QR
Oct. 1931 / Coburg Local school prohibits children from affiliating with Mormon-sponsored scout troops / S-G MH
Dec. 1931 / Ratibor Missionary arrested and searched for weapons. Local elders endure constant police surveillance. / G-A MH
Jan. 1931 / Bruchsal City refuses to allow elders to perform a funeral service. / S-G MH
Feb. 1932 / Offenbach Ex-member files civil suit to regain tithing paid. / S-G MH


Table 5: Recorded Instances of Mormon-State and Mormon-Ecclesiastical Conflict During the Weimar Republic

Church-State and Ecclesiastical Relations during the Weimar Republic

When Karoline Uder, a member of the Stadthagen congregation near Hanover, died during the summer of 1925, her family wanted to bury her in the local municipal graveyard. They also asked the local Mormon missionaries, who held leadership positions in the Stadthagen Branch, to officiate at the funeral. However, because of the blurred lines of authority that marked church-state relations in Germany, a local pastor felt free to deny Uder not only a final resting place in the city’s cemetery, but also use of the only hearse in town. In the minister’s view, she had apostatized her cradle faith in favor of a scandalous foreign-based religion, for which he felt justified in denying her burial in a Christian graveyard and transportation in the hearse that had carried so many faithful believers to their graves. Under no circumstances would he allow heretical young missionaries from a controversial overseas sect to conduct a religious service in her honor.

This is where the story would have ended in Imperial Germany; there would have been no avenue of appeal. Given their newfound Weimar Republic constitutional liberties, however, Uder’s family and its Mormon spiritual advisers petitioned to overturn the autocratic pastor’s decree. A spirited debate occurred in the town council and a compromise ensued. Frau Uder would be allowed burial in the town cemetery and a ride to her grave in the municipally owned hearse. The Mormon missionaries would be permitted to pray silently at the gravesite if they agreed not to perform any kind of liturgical funeral service. To insure the tranquil dignity of the burial, free from trouble caused by religious antagonists, the council dispatched local police to the cemetery on the day of Uder’s funeral.121

As the previous chapter relates, from the establishment of Mormonism in Germany until the First World War, pastors, policemen, and politicians colluded to harass, suppress, and expel representatives of a foreign sect that encouraged Germans to abandon the faith of their birth and immigrate to a strange land. After the establishment of the Weimar Republic, as Table 5 demonstrates, Mormons still faced opposition from all three of these traditional nemeses, but their newfound constitutional liberties allowed them to exploit statutory divisions of authority between religious and governmental officials, often with the assistance of American consular officials or embassy diplomats. This freedom allowed the Mormons to pick their battles and sometimes isolate and wear down their antagonists. The Mormons did not win every confrontation; sometimes they chose to withdraw missionaries from a particular town as they had done in the nineteenth century. But on many occasions during the Weimar period, surrender was not the only option.

In Imperial Germany, established German Mormon congregations could offer limited help to missionaries that many officials saw as being in the country illegally. After the constitutional changes that followed the First World War, the presence of German citizens as missionary companions to young American elders provided a legal basis for local officials and police to assert the right of the LDS Church to proselytize and organize congregations in German municipalities. For example, in December 1926, police in Kassel responded to the complaint of a local pastor that the missionaries were in town “to entice young girls to go to America.” They arrested Elder Otto Seifart, an American citizen of German extraction, but released him when they found his passport and visa to be in order. They could find no evidence of illegal activity regarding his companion, Albert Schmuhl, who asserted his rights as a German citizen. When the American consul in Hanover intervened on behalf of Seifart, the authorities dropped all charges, much to the annoyance of the local pastor who continued to warn his congregation that the Mormons were engaged in the white slave trade.122

Often, local ministers resorted to campaigns against resident Mormon elders without the help of the civil government. Catholic priests threatened boycotts and other economic retaliation against townspeople and parishioners who rented apartments where missionaries stayed or meeting halls where they held church services. In the town of Ratibor in Silesia, such economic blackmail caused landlords to cancel six different rental agreements during a six-month period in 1928, but in each case the missionaries persevered and found new meeting places for their small congregation.123 Earlier that year, the same priest had succeeded in having the local missionaries evicted from their apartment, but the elders were able to exploit changing attitudes among the populace and obtain other accommodations.124

Often, during Sunday services, a lone heckler who would suddenly interrupt the speaker, such as when a man claiming to be a Jesuit priest lodged a loud protest one Sunday morning in Hindenburg. He claimed to be an American citizen who had “studied Mormonism.”125 Usually, local congregants were able to escort such malefactors out of the building. On one occasion, several local Lutheran ministers in the Berlin suburb of Bernau attended Mormon Sunday services accompanied by members of their congregations. Upon a prearranged signal, their parishioners all stood up and walked out of the meeting while their ministers filibustered loudly.126 Once, in the Bavarian city of Bamburg, opponents apparently employed a gang of hooligans and ne’er-do-wells who proceeded to disrupt Sunday worship by carrying on in an irreverent manner, “smoking, stalking, and laughing as if they were on the street, and mixing politics with religion.” When the missionaries visited the local police department the next day, they received assurances of protection from subsequent boorish behavior.127

Sometimes, Mormons stood their ground when opposing pastors disrupted worship services or organized municipal opposition. In the East Prussian town of Heiligenbeil, visiting elders from Königsberg spent days preaching and distributing literature on the street. Some five hundred local residents attended subsequent Sunday meeting, as did several local ministers who tried to disrupt the service. However, the visiting elders successfully engaged their interlocutors in debate.128 In the Thuringian town of Greiz, local ministers attending a Mormon Sunday service disrupted the proceeding by demanding a “sign,” to which the missionaries replied by quoting the New Testament admonition against “a wicked and adulterous generation [that] looks for a miraculous sign.”129

On other occasions, Mormons staged their own counter protests. In the Schleswig-Holstein city of Flensburg, a Protestant pastor named Lensch and several colleagues had been writing anti-Mormon articles for the local press and organizing opposition among the churches. LDS missionaries from the region gathered to hold a week of intensive proselytizing, followed by a worship service. Some ten elders, aided by German congregants, distributed more than eight thousand tracts—fliers that had been specially prepared to counter recent unfavorable newspaper editorials. Then, when more than one hundred people attended an open-air rally, they acquiesced to the troublesome pastor’s demand to speak. The compromise “averted a near riot,” after which several missionaries provided rebuttals. In the end, after an hour of orderly debate, Rev. Lensch stomped out of the meeting in frustration.130

Disruptive activities also manifested themselves outside of church services, such as attempts to prevent missionaries from conducting baptisms. In the East Prussian village of Selbongen, a hostile crowd broke up a baptism in June 1926.131 In the Upper Silesian city of Gleiwitz two years later, a coalition of ministers successfully petitioned the local bathhouse owners’ association to deny rentals for Mormon baptismal services.132

One of the more effective instances of ecclesiastical opposition came from a fellow American sect, a breakaway Mormon denomination know as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Founded in 1860 by followers of Joseph Smith who refused to accept the leadership of Brigham Young, and who remained in the American Midwest while the larger body of Mormons trekked to Utah, this group of Mormons began establishing small congregations in Germany shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. German RLDS membership numbered less than one thousand in the early 1930s, compared to LDS membership more than ten times as numerous. However, before the ascension of Hitler to the chancellorship in 1933, Reorganized Church missions or congregations existed in Berlin, Brandenburg, Breslau, Augsburg, Hanover, Offenbach, Einbeck, Plauen, Braunschweig, Elmshorn, Tilsit, Groß- Wartenberg, and Großräschen.133

From time to time, LDS missionaries encountered difficulties with the professional ministers and missionaries sent to Germany by RLDS officials intent on convincing already-baptized Mormons that their breakaway church had inherited the true mantle of restored gospel preached by Joseph Smith. In the early 1930s, this resulted in a running battle for the loyalty of converted Mormons in a few strategically selected places, one of which was the southwestern Bavarian city of Augsburg. Records of the local LDS congregation reveal a concentrated effort in January of 1931, during which RLDS missionaries convinced several Latter-day Saints to switch allegiances, allegedly based on an inducement involving plots of land in the United States.134 By July of that year, RLDS activity had driven a wedge into the existing LDS branch in Augsburg, which reported several more “apostasies” of German Mormons who changed their membership to the Reorganized Church.135

Despite the fact that records of both LDS missions in Germany reveal numerous instances of conflict with civil and religious authorities in Weimer Germany, not all such incidents had unfavorable endings. The same police who arrested Mormon missionaries on trumped-up charges occasionally became their friends and allies, or at least neutral arbiters of disputes. Police in the northern Rhineland city of Bielefeld, acting on a tip from law enforcement officers in another jurisdiction, investigated the missionaries in late 1926. They found no evidence of illegal activity, and in fact became so impressed with the young Americans that the officers helped the missionaries locate a suitable place for the fledgling congregation to hold its Sunday meetings.136 In July 1931, police in Ludwigsburg arrested two missionaries on charges of engaging in illegal commerce, more than likely the sale of Books of Mormon or other religious materials. When local citizens intervened on the young Americans’ behalf, the police officers “apologized and withdrew.”137 Even when two American missionaries committed the faux pas of trying to present a religious tract at the home of the police commissioner of the city of Mühlhausen in Thuringia, police soon dropped the ensuing vagrancy charges and helped negotiate a settlement with local citizenry in a town where the Mormons’ relationship with the local populace had been strained.138 No such compromise was necessary in the Brandenburg city of Forst, where the town council gave the Mormons free use of school buildings for religious meetings and invited the church’s youth organizations to participate in municipal leagues—membership in which allowed the use of civic libraries, gymnasiums, and other facilities.139
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Wed Jul 04, 2018 3:09 am

Part 3 of 3

Consular Officials Befriend the Mormons

The Mormons did not have to go it alone when they faced opposition from German government officials. As early as the mid-nineteenth century, mission presidents sought the help of the American State Department, the American embassy, and American consular officials in major German cities when its missionaries ran afoul of local authorities. Daniel Carn, the first mission president in Germany, sought the first such assistance from the American consul in Hamburg after having been imprisoned in 1852.140 Such diplomatic interaction proved generally ineffective, as German officials justifiably reasoned that a small foreign religious sect that was at odds with its own government regarding the issue of polygamy had little justification to argue it would obey the laws of the land where its missionaries were guests. Even after the church officially abandoned polygamy with the 1890 Manifesto, appeals through American diplomatic channels enjoyed limited success, owing to opposition from the established German churches and the nefarious reputation that the Mormons had earned over the years. When in 1902 Prussian state officials expelled two missionaries from Berlin, the intervention of American Ambassador Charlemagne Tower, Jr. proved not only ineffective, but it also aggravated the situation. The German foreign ministry imposed a more extensive ban in the form of a memorandum entitled Ausweisung der Mormonen, Banishment of Mormons, which contributed to the end of a six-year experiment with the establishment of a mission situated entirely on German soil.141 The mission headquarters returned to Basel, Switzerland. Not until 1925 would the Mormons again feel secure enough to establish a mission headquarters entirely within the political borders of Germany.

When Swiss and German Mission President Hyrum Valentine exchanged periodic social engagements with Philip Holland, the American consul in Basel during the First World War, it represented one of the first attempts by a Mormon official overseas to forge a prolonged professional relationship with an American diplomat. Previously, the Mormons had appealed to American diplomatic legates only when a missionary encountered trouble. The rapport they developed later helped a successor mission president, Angus Cannon, when, he appealed to leaders of the American Expeditionary Forces for help in purchasing surplus military rations for postwar relief of beleaguered German Latter-day Saints. 142

After the war ended and Germany adopted a democratic government, the Mormons began building friendships with the American consular officials who would intercede on their behalf when old German prejudices conflicted with the new Germany’s legal code. When in 1925 the Swiss and German Mission divided into two separate entitities, leaders of the new German-Austrian mission headquartered in Dresden developed a particularly close relationship with the American consul general. Arminius T. Haeberle, who served in that position for eleven years (1925-36), proved to be a valuable contact when the Mormons faced the challenge of dealing with the National Socialist government. The German-Austrian Mission leadership took an interest in consular affairs and apparently looked for ways to help the new American diplomat with mutually beneficial projects.

For example, in 1927, the missionaries staged a lecture and visual presentation at a municipal auditorium in Dresden, extolling the natural beauty of Utah and the American West, for which they charged admission and drew a handsome crowd. They donated the proceeds to the consul’s fund “for the benefit of destitute Americans in Saxony.”143 Noting the success of this illustrated lecture, entitled “Utah, the Scenic Wonder of America and Home of the Mormons,” a particularly talented bilingual American missionary named Arthur Gaeth scheduled this presentation at various places in eastern Germany. A notation from mission records in 1928 shows that Consul Haeberle, his wife, and “all seven members of the American consulate in Dresden” attended a subsequent presentation.144 The American Consul for Silesia, Lester Schnarre, attended Gaeth’s lecture in Breslau.145 On another occasion that year the Dresden consul, Haeberle, participated in a missionary convocation when it devoted a portion of the program to a secular subject, a distinguished German immigrant to America, Karl Maeser, who later became the president of Brigham Young Academy.146

Haeberle’s influence helped the Mormons whenever they encountered a particularly difficult situation with German civil authorities, such as in December 1927, when police in the city of Weissenfels in Prussian Saxony prohibited American missionaries from opening a ministry there. The dispatch of a native German missionary and assistance from Consul Haeberle soon overcame police opposition, and Mormons were subsequently allowed to do missionary work there. On another occasion, Haeberle intervened to counter the deliberate efforts of a German official who had attempted to limit the stay of American missionaries in Germany. The German Consul in Montreal, from whom many Mormon missionaries obtained their visas, had issued only documents of one year’s duration. When those approached expiration, Haeberle interceded with officials in Saxony to have the visas extended.147

Haeberle’s influence also helped the Mormons interact in an official capacity with the German government when opportunities arose that allowed the faith to be presented in a favorable light. The Dresden International Hygiene Exposition that opened in the spring of 1930 contained an exhibit run entirely by Mormon missionaries. It focused on the Word of Wisdom, the church code that prohibits faithful members from smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol, and counsels against eating an overabundance of red meat.148 The exhibition, replete with printed literature in English and German, took place inside the front entrance to the League of Nations Building in Dresden and lasted through the entire summer, stretching on into the autumn. An average of five thousand visitors per day visited the Mormon exhibition, with a high of thirty thousands visitors on one single day. Missionaries handed out a quarter-million religious brochures. The degree of Haeberle’s participation can be surmised by the following passage in one of the mission’s quarterly reports:

Consul Haeberle, active in enlisting support and participation for the exposition, suggested that in his opinion there would be no more remarkable exhibit than one by our church, primarily about the Word of Wisdom. Through the intervention of these men, the directors of the exhibition extended the invitation in January to the church to present an exhibit.149


Consequently, when the American consulate in Dresden needed to draw upon the American expatriate community for its events, Haeberle knew he would find a willing group of volunteers from the local Mormon contingent. In February 1932, American diplomatic missions worldwide were charged with commemorating George Washington week, the two hundredth anniversary of the first American president’s birth. Some 450 invitees attended the consulate’s banquet at the Exhibition Building in Dresden. Mormons provided most of the musical entertainment, which included the services of a soloist who traveled 540 miles from his missionary station in East Prussia.150

Haeberle’s assistance to the Mormon missionary efforts became so well known among the church hierarchy that U. S. Senator William H. King of Utah came to the consul’s assistance during a congressional inquiry in 1928. A senate subcommittee investigated charges that Haeberle sold, for personal gain, a seized ship’s cargo during his previous diplomatic assignment in Rio de Janeiro. King investigated, found the evidence of malfeasance to be weak, and helped quash the investigation.151

The Mormons’ transition to legal status in Germany and the United States did not eliminate all instances of diplomatic difficulty. In December 1930, the U. S. consul general in Hamburg refused to extend the expiration date of Elder Ernest J. Eberhard’s American passport, citing the young man’s German birth in contending that the missionary did not intend to return to the United States. Eberhard accepted a transfer to Switzerland, where American diplomats had no objection to reissuing his passport. Eberhard nevertheless pursued an appeal, and its successful resolution cited his employment in a religious endeavor for an American organization as a qualifying exception to the Hamburg consul’s criteria for denial.152

Likewise, Elder Marvin E. Anderson had to appeal his banishment from Munich by Bavarian authorities during the summer of 1931. This task required the intervention of Frederic M. Sackett, the United States Ambassador to Germany. Paradoxically, mission authorities transferred Anderson to Hamburg, where a predecessor, Eberhard, had encountered legal difficulty in remaining. The ambassador’s successful intercession with the Bavarian government quashed the young’s man’s banishment orders, but as in the case of Eberhard, Anderson remained in his new post.153

The ability to forge relationships with diplomatic officials, and to call on the help of trusting consular officials during conflict with civil authorities, can be regarded, from a historical vantage point, as another stage in the Mormons’ preparation to survive and prosper under the National Socialist regime. They learned valuable lessons under the Weimar democracy that helped markedly in dealing with the fascist government that followed. As the next chapter demonstrates, when Hitler’s forces came to power, conflict between the Mormons and the German churches diminished. All the Mormons had to appease was the enforcement arm of a tyrannical regime, which cared little about religious dogma and suspected the small American sect only because it was led by foreigners. Furthermore, the criminal police, the Gestapo, and various apparatuses of the Nazi Party, e.g., the brown-shirted SA, each operated under a discernable chain of command and, more or less, according to a prescribed policy. Since the Mormons themselves were a hierarchical organization that respected centralized authority, their accommodationist strategy was well suited to forge a successful coexistence with the Nazis.

In the Weimar World; Not of the Weimar World

Mormons are fond of quoting biblical scriptures that guide their spiritual outlook while they live in a secular world. At least five New Testament passages admonish faithful church members who live “in the world” not to adopt the selfish, materialistic desires “of the world.”154 Such advice cautions young Mormon missionaries to live a somewhat cloistered life while preaching the gospel and working with ordinary congregants in a less-than-ideal spiritual environment. Because young LDS missionaries in Germany generally adhered to a strict code of missionary rules that discouraged temporal pleasures, the records of the Mormon missions in Germany provide scant evidence of how Mormonism fit into the rich cultural fabric of the Weimar Republic. Those records also do not show a complete picture of how Mormons interacted with the turbulent economic and political life of that fourteen-year period.

For example, one finds neither mention of the Bauhaus movement nor any other cultural innovation. Missionaries and working-class German Mormons lived in simple dwellings in ordinary neighborhoods, and their workaday activities brought them into little contact with artistic or architectural refinement. Scant mention of stage plays or the cinematography of the period can be found in missionary journals or church publications. Missionaries were not expected to attend such events. When they were not holding spiritual “cottage meetings” at night, they were presumed to be preparing the next day’s lessons. Certainly, their conservative code of behavior and the limitations of the Word of Wisdom’s dietary guidelines prevented first-hand appreciation of Berlin’s cabaret nightlife. Albert Einstein and Max Weber held little intellectual appeal for young men who arrived in the mission field with a Utah high school education, and who spent their days among church members who were lucky to have been educated at the Realschule. Although the aftereffects of the First World War permeated everyday life, the records contain no mention of popular literature that the war inspired, such as Erich Remarque’s antiwar All Quiet on the Western Front or Ernst Jünger’s militaristic The Storm of Steel.

Observations of economic life occur only slightly more frequently. For example, during the hyperinflation of 1923, the fact that missionaries carried hard currency in their pocketbooks “made them millionaires” in comparison with their German congregants. According to one missionary:

A dollar would buy them anything they needed for a week. Where the great majority of people in Germany were freezing because they could not find means to buy coal, the elders could easily maintain a warm hall or meeting house. During that period, German money had no practical value at all, for between the time people received it and the time they spent it, even if it were only two hours later, it may have inflated markedly. Therefore, hundreds came to meetings to get warm and some joined the church, perhaps, in the hope it might bring them economic as well as spiritual salvation.155


This observer, a young missionary who served for a prolonged period in Germany and later became president of the German-speaking mission in Czechoslovakia, writes with levity about missionaries who “decorated their rooms and the inside of trunks with German bank notes, using up several millions of marks worth,” and who:

were in a position to take a bus load of these people to town or to the neighboring restaurant, and for a dollar or two, feed them all and send them home contented for the time being . . . but unwittingly created conditions which later became difficult to rectify when times became normal again and people did not need to come to the meeting to get warm and be fed.156


Another young pair of American missionaries learned a harsher lesson about the effect of hyperinflation. The two young Americans decided to relocate to another apartment, and after giving their former landlady the required two weeks’ notice, they moved out. The next day, they received a visit from homicide detectives representing the local police department who informed them that later in the afternoon of their departure their former landlady, a war widow, had committed suicide by sealing her apartment and turning on the gas. Apparently, the detectives explained, galloping inflation had depleted the once-substantial savings her husband had put aside for them before the war. Presumably, the loss of the young missionaries as paying tenants had been the final trigger in her act of despair.157

From the issuance of the Rentenmark that broke hyperinflation in 1923 until the advent of the Great Depression in 1929, economic issues disappear from records of the German missions. Instead, the chronology documents the mundane arrival of American missionaries, their assignment to new locations for proselyting work, the growth of church auxiliaries such as Boy Scout troops and corresponding Beehive chapters for young German girls, and the seemingly never-ending pace of baptisms, excommunications, confrontation with established churches, and emigration of Germans who could afford passage to the American Zion. When worldwide depression caught up with industrialized Germany shortly after the Wall Street crash of October 1929, the slowing arrival rates of American missionaries corresponded with reports of diminished financial contributions by members of German congregations suffering from horrific rates of unemployment.

At first, mission authorities, who did not understand the gravity of the worldwide economic crisis, attempted to shift the blame. At the end of 1929, three months into the depression, the year-end report of the German-Austrian Mission blamed the decrease in tithing on “the large number of branches in charge of local brethren, where it requires time for the Saints to have the same feeling toward them as they did toward the American missionaries.” The report nevertheless admitted that the membership suffered “from the unsettled economical [sic] condition of the country, and the great amount of unemployment and poverty resulting therefrom.”158 In January 1931, church officials in Salt Lake City cited the financial pressure the church was experiencing because of the depression when they required congregations worldwide to enter into rental contracts for their meetinghouses, rather than approve new construction.159 An entry in a 1931 midyear report complained of the hardship imposed on the mission by a two-week, government-imposed bank holiday.160

At the beginning of 1931, the Swiss-German mission president told of one congregation in which only two male members remained employed. His report complained that “these conditions are directly affecting the attitudes of the people. In many places they are becoming more and more cynical and are less inclined to believe anything.”161 The 1932 year-end report of the Berlin-based German-Austrian Mission noted the third suicide of the year by a German member within the mission’s boundaries.162 By 1932, on the eve of the Nazi takeover, one Swiss-German Mission’s status report commented on “the serious problem of obtaining sufficient financial means to meet current demands” and blamed that on “ever-increasing unemployment and repeated reduction in government doles.”163 In 1932 in Switzerland, the church’s women’s auxiliary, the Relief Society, began collecting “clothing and other serviceable” supplies for distribution to beleaguered coreligionists in Germany. By December of that year, the same source cited “missionary shortage” as the rationale for closing several branches.164 Not only was the Great Depression affecting the ability of German Mormons to pay tithes to support their local congregations, but the economy also hindered the ability of American parents to dispatch their sons overseas to minister to those congregants.

In his published research on Mormons in the Third Reich, Brigham Young University historian Douglas Tobler has emphasized the apolitical nature of German Mormons, the majority of whom came from modest, working-class backgrounds. As much as they might have tried, any desire to remain apart from politics seemed to elude ordinary Germans as the Nazi era approached. Especially after the 1932 national elections, in which Hitler’s National Socialists captured thirty-eight percent of the vote and 230 seats in the Reichstag, politics appeared as an unwelcomed, uninvited, and unruly guest in their modest neighborhoods.

Berlin missionary Arthur Gaeth recalled thousands of Communist Party (KPD) members marching every other week on the Frankfurterallee, a main artery which ran through the eastern quarter of the city.165 A missionary dispatch from Kassel in the state of Hesse reported that two policemen were shot dead and several spectators wounded during a KPD street demonstration.166 Missionaries in Munich reported thousands of “Hitlerites” gathered to counter Communist Party demonstrators during May Day celebrations and that a large contingent of police was mobilized to preserve order.167 As a young child, Rudi Wobbe attended the St. Georg Mormon congregation in the Hamburg suburbs. He recalled regular street violence that accompanied the political upheavals during the waning years of the Weimar Republic:

One night my parents were standing in front of our courtyard talking with neighbors while we children were playing nearby. Above our heads was a display from the Communist Party, illuminated by a couple of spotlights. All of a sudden, a car with a group of Nazis came around the corner with brakes screeching. They . . . jumped in front of us and started beating up on the people standing there, even innocent bystanders. They didn’t even stop for children. We got our share of whacks, too.


One month later, according to Wobbe’s recollection, the violence turned deadly:

There was a torchlight parade on our street, about an hour long. The marchers were from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), but the Nazis had to interfere. They . . . stationed a machine gun on the roof. They started shooting the marchers from above, killing and injuring a number of them. The marchers scattered quickly, but a group of them raced up the stairs where the Nazis were, and a short battle ensued. Shortly thereafter, I saw the machine gun and several bodies lying on the roof. With the Nazis disposed of, the marchers regrouped and the demonstration continued.



Later, young Wobbe and his parents witnessed a gunfight in the street between Nazis and their political opponents. Afterward, his father counseled Rudi: “Son, don’t ever get mixed up with these people, the Nazis. They are bad people.”168 Rudi Wobbe apparently took to heart his father’s opinion, although he violated the admonition against involvement. Years later, as an older adolescent, he engaged in uncharacteristic behavior for Mormons during the National Socialist period; he became a resister. Wobbe and three other teenagers constituted the Helmuth Hübener group, whose story unfolds in chapter ten of this narrative.

Numerous other reports commenting on political conditions, and noting the activism of both communists and National Socialist adherents, appear in mission records—sandwiched between routine accounts of Scout jamborees, missionary transfers, and confrontations with Catholic and Lutheran ministers who remained intent on harassing Mormon missionary activity as they had always done.

As the catastrophe of Nazi rule approached, Mormons went about their affairs as usual. On January 31, 1933, the president of Zwickau District in the German-Austrian Mission convened a church court in Auerbach “to settle some trouble and gossip between members and friends of the church.” That date marks a significant and ominous benchmark in German history, of which the young missionary, now president and judge, was probably unaware. Adolf Hitler’s first full day as chancellor seemed a faraway and irrelevant occurrence to the young American charged with resolving “difficulty of a childish nature” that nevertheless “was a decided menace to the welfare of the branch.”169 No surviving records document the result of the disciplinary hearing held that day. However, that a small American religious sect with approximately twelve thousand German members routinely carried on its business at the same time that eight hundred thousand card-carrying Nazi party members prepared for a seizure of power that would change history served as a testimony to the Latter-day Saints’ inherent strength and potential vulnerability.

Mormons would survive their Third Reich experience relatively unscathed while adherents of other new religions, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, would suffer incredible persecution. In doing so, however, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be challenged beyond its ability to adhere to its “in the world but not of the world” philosophy. Survival would demand definitive accommodationist, and in some cases collaborative, behavior that would prove to be problematic to authors who, in later years, wished to write faith-promoting historical accounts.

________________

Notes:

1 Rose Ellen Bywater Valentine Diary in Swiss and German Mission Manuscript  Histories, 25-26 Jul. 1914.
 
2 Anderson, "Mormons and Germany, 1914-1933,” 40.
 
3 Ibid., 40n4.
 
4 George H. Risenmay Diary, 2 Aug. 1914, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
5 Anderson, "Mormons and Germany, 1914-1933,” 42-43.
 
6 Ibid., 44-45.
 
7 Ibid., 44-45. An exception occurred near in the Prussian town of Tilsit, where the advancing Russian army captured an American missionary named Hunter and his Swiss companion. They remained prisoners for several weeks before being released.
 
8 Der Stern, 15 Oct. 1914.
 
9 Rose Ellen Bywater Valentine Diary, 14 Aug. 1914.
 
10 Ibid., 25 Jun. 1915.
 
11 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 2 Jan. 1916.
 
12 Ibid., 23 Apr. 1916.
 
13 Ibid., 31 Dec. 1915.
 
14 Jeffery L. Anderson. “Brothers Across Enemy Lines: A Mission President and a German Soldier Correspond During World War I,” BYU Studies 41-1 (2002): 127-128.
 
15 Ibid., 131.
 
16 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1 Jul. 1916.
 
17 Ibid.
 
18 Hyrum Valentine, Conference Reports (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1917), 8 Apr. 1917.
 
19 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1914-18.
 
20 Der Stern, 1 Dec. 1919.
 
21 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1 Dec. 1919.
 
22 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories (year-end report), 1920.
 
23 Anderson, “Mormons in Germany, 1914-1933,” 51.
 
24 Ibid., 83. As Anderson speculates, the pronounced rise in the number of baptisms during the year 1920 may be attributable to Germans joining the church in order to receive relief supplies. The German LDS Church also experienced a similar spike in interest in the immediate post-World War II period, when it became obvious that civilians in the war-torn country and were joining the church specifically to take advantage of the extensive relief provided to members. They became known as “Kartoffel Mormonen.”
 
25 Anderson, “Mormons in Germany, 1914-1933,” 90.
 
26 “Der Dank des Kaisers,” Der Stern, 1 Feb. 1918.
 
27 Alfons Finck, “Fieldpostbrief,” Der Stern, 15 Sep. 1917.
 
28 Mormons are required to be certified as “full tithe payers” as a prerequisite for temple worship, but since there were no LDS Temples in Europe until 1955, that restriction did not affect the German members during the First World War. Receipt of the Sacrament (Eucharist) is only contingent on a member’s faith and good conduct.
 
29 Hamburg Branch Manuscript History, 1914-18, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
30 Frank Heiss, interviewed by Matthew Heiss, 9 Apr. 1987, transcript, 17-18,  James B. Moyle Oral History Project, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
31 Eberhart Kolb, The Weimar Republic, trans. P. S. Falla (London: Unwin  Hyman, 1988), 4.
 
32 Mitchelle, "Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 147.
 
33 Anderson, “Mormons in Germany, 1914-1933,” 116.
 
34 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 216.
 
35 Ibid., 215-216.
 
36 Ibid., 215.
 
37 Present-day Mormon missionaries called from North America to domestic missions attend a three-week missionary preparation course at the Missionary Training Center on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Those assigned to foreign language missions undergo a two-month program of total immersion training at the same facility.
 
38 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 23 Jan. 1927, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
39 Oliver H. Budge, My Story (Logan, Utah: privately printed, n.d., ca. 1950).

40 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, Archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 8 Oct 1930.

41 A relevant parallel occurred with the “Third Convention,” a group of rebellious Mexican Mormons who broke from the LDS Church in the 1930s, demanding a mission president of “pure race and blood.” The rebels reconciled with the Salt Lake City leadership in the 1940s. See F. Lamond Tullis and Elizabeth Hernandez, "Mormons in Mexico: Leadership, Nationalism, and the Case of the Third Convention," 1987. http://www.orsonprattbrown.com/MexicanM ... ntion.html.
 
42 Budge, My Story, 30.
 
43 A “stake” is a basic ecclesiastical unit of the LDS Church, approximately equivalent to a Catholic diocese. The word’s usage originates from a tent stake used to secure the foundation of the Jewish Tabernacle of the Old Testament. Stakes and their affiliated wards, the equivalent of parishes, exist where the Mormons are numerous enough to support a full-fledged church organization. Stake presidents and ward bishops are lay leaders who devote considerable personal time to ministering to their members. In the foreign mission fields, congregations called branches are grouped into mission districts. (Prior to the 1920s, mission districts were called conferences.) Branch and district presidents may be local members, or they may be missionaries, all of whom report to the mission president, who is the senior ecclesiastical authority. Stakes and wards did not exist in Germany until after the Second World War, when church membership grew sufficiently large enough to free the mission president from the responsibility of overseeing day-to-day religious activities of the local members.
 
44 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Oct. 1930; Budge, My Story, 37.
 
45 Latter-day Saints embrace the concept of a universal lay male priesthood, customarily bestowed upon spiritually worthy boys at the age of twelve. German Mormons of this epoch generally held priesthood office in the lower of two levels, the Aaronic Priesthood, named for the brother of Moses. Within that level, members held ranks of Deacon, Teacher, or Priest, customarily occupied by adolescent boys in the Mormon Culture Region. The American missionaries, although younger in age, arrived in Germany already ordained to the adult priesthood level, the Melchezidek—named for an Old Testament priest who appears in Genesis and Psalms, the New Testament book of Hebrews, the Book of Mormon book of Alma, various apocryphal writings, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although often much younger than the German congregants, these “Elders” exercised greater authority by virtue of both their priesthood office and their appointed position as ecclesiastical leaders.
 
46 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Oct 1930; Budge, My Story, 38.
 
47 Budge, My Story, 38.
 
48 For a discussion of how excommunication affects a Mormon’s status in the present life and in the afterlife, see Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “excommunication.” Also see Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 258.
 
49 Budge, My Story, 38-39.
 
50 Ibid., 39.
 
51 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Oct. 1930.
 
52 Ibid., 19 Jun. 1934.
 
53 Ibid., 3 Dec. 1926.
 
54 Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 139-143.
 
55 D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City, Signature, 1994), 89.
 
56 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 19 Feb. 1927.

57 “Obituary: Zora LeSieur Galli Newman,” Deseret News, 31 Jan. 2003, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/9622 ... ewman.html

58 “Salt Lake City Cemetery,” Names in Stone Cemetery Maps, Reed Galli gravesite, X 2_152_1W, http://www.namesinstone.com/ViewMap.aspx? deceasedId=560151.

59 State of Utah Death Certificate, Reed Galli, 17 Aug. 1935, Salt Lake Valley Health Department, Salt Lake City, Utah.

60 “Trench mouth,” Medline Plus, U. S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency ... 01044.html.
 
61 “Social Security Death Index,” Rootsweb, Rulon W. Jenkins,  http://ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi; “Obituary: Rulon Wieter Jenkins.”  Deseret News, 30 May 1992.
 
62 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 19 Feb. 1928; German- Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 28 Mar. 1928.
 
63 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 28 Mar. 1928. Present-day responsibility for releasing missionaries from their assignments defers to the young person’s home-ward bishop, who interviews the returned missionary and issues a certificate of release once he has returned to his congregation of origin.
 
64 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 28 Jan. 1928.
 
65 Ibid., 19 Feb. 1928.
 
66 Ibid., 19 Nov. 1930.
 
67 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 29 Aug. 1928.
 
68 Ibid., 5 May 1930.
 
69 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 29 May 1929.
 
70 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 May 1929.
 
71 Ibid., 17 Sep. 1930.
 
72 Ibid.
 
73 Ibid., 4 Apr. 1928
 
74 Ibid., 19 Dec. 31
 
75 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 31 Jan. 1932.
 
76 Ibid.
 
77 Tilsit is now the city of Sovetsk in the Russian Federation.
 
78 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 22 Jul. 1926.
 
79 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 11 Jan. and 9 Sep. 1929.
 
80 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jun. 1927.
 
81 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Apr. 1926.
 
82 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jul. 1927.
 
83 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Mar. 1926.
 
84 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Sep. 1931.
 
85 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Reports, Jul. 1931.
 
86 Masuren (Mazury) is located in the northeastern part of contemporary Poland.
 
87 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Oct. 1932.
 
88 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 15 Mar. 1930.
 
89 Ibid., 31 Oct. 1927.
 
90 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Reports, Mar. 1931.
 
91 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Sep. 1928.
 
92 Ibid., 28 Feb. 1932.
 
93 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jul.1927.
 
94 Ibid., Jul. 1926.
 
95 “Without purse or script,” derived from the New Testament book of Matthew (10: 9-10), refers to Jesus’ instruction to his disciples regarding missionary work after his death. They were to travel without money, depending on the receipt of food and shelter from those they encountered during their travels.
 
96 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 15 Aug. 1926.
 
97 Ibid.
 
98 Ibid., 14 Feb. 1931.
 
99 Ibid., 18 May 1931.
 
100 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, xiv., table 1.
 
101 “Why Have So Many Saints Not Yet Emigrated?” Die Reform, 1 Nov. 1862,  37-41 in Alder, “German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” Appx. E, 111.
 
102 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v. “Baptism for the Dead.”
 
103 Alder, “German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” 71.
 
104 Alder’s study notes the loss of LDS church immigration records for the years 1907 through 1910, and no record of immigration from within wartime Germany in the period 1915-18.
 
105 Alder, “German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” 69.
 
106 Millenial Star, LXIX, 329.
 
107 “Foreign Born Population, Distributed According to Principal Countries of Birth,” U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1900, Vol. 1, Part I, p. clxxiii, Table LXXXII.
 
108 “Composition and Characteristics of the Population for the State and Counties, Population,” U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1910, p. 882, Table 1.
 
109 Thomas L. Broadbent. “The Salt Lake Beobachter; Mirror of an Immigration.” Utah Historical Quarterly 26 (Oct. 1958), 329-52. Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 236, appx. B. The Salt Lake Beobachter published weekly issues for forty-five years. Other Utah-published, German-language periodicals included were the Afzneiger, which published three issues in 1881; the Mormonen Zeitung, four issues in 1882; Intelligenz Blatt, ten issues in four months during 1890; Utah Beobachter, one issue in 1936; and Wie Geht’s, a literary magazine that appeared several times in 1936.
 
110 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 37-59.
 
111 Millenial Star, LXXXIII, 600.
 
112 Der Stern, LIV, 80.
 
113 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Aug. 1927.
 
114 Courtesy LDS Church Archives staff. Presiding Bishopric Financial,  Statistical, and Historical Reports of Wards, Stakes, and Missions, 1845-1955.
 
116 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories (1904-25).
 
117 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories (1925-37).
 
118 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories (1925-37).

119 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports.
 
120. None.
 
121 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Jun. 1925.
 
122 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 3 Dec. 1926.
 
123 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Aug. 1928.
 
124 Ibid., 30 Apr. 1928
 
125 Ibid., 31 Jan. 1929
 
126 Ibid., 30 Sept. 1930
 
127 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 16 May 1929.
 
128 Ibid., 27 Mar. 1927
 
129 See the New Testament scripture, Matthew 16:4; German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 27 Apr. 1927.
 
130 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 12 Aug. 1927.
 
131 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 30 Jun. 1926.
 
132 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 21 Jul. 1928.
 
133 R. Ben Madison, “National Socialists and Social Idealists: The RLDS Church in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945.” The John Whitmer Historical Society Journal 16 (1996).
 
134 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Jan. 1931
 
135 Ibid., 26 Jul. 1931.
 
136 Anderson, Mormons in Germany, 1914-1933, 116.
 
137 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 26 Jun. 1931.
 
138 Ibid., 20 Dec. 1930.
 
139 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 29 Sep. 1929.
 
140 Schariffs, Mormonism in Germany, 9-11.
 
141 Mitchelle, "Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 112-13; Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 227-228.
 
142 Swiss and German Mission Manuscript Histories, 12 Jul. and 18 Nov. 1915.
 
143 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 27 Sep. 1927.
 
144 Ibid., 28 Dec. 1928.
 
145 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 18 Nov. 1928.
 
146 Ibid., 14 Jan. 1928.
 
147 Mitchelle, "Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 115.
 
148 The Word of Wisdom is found in Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, one of four books of scripture recognized by the LDS Church.
 
149 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 17 May 1930.
 
150 Ibid., 25 Feb. 1932.
 
151 Mitchelle, "Mormons in Wilhelmine Germany,” 116.
 
152 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Dec. 1930.
 
153 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Aug. 1931. Mission records erroneously refer to the name of the American ambassador to Germany as Jacob Gould Schurman. Ambassador Schurman was Ambassador Sackett’s predecessor. Sackett, who interceded on behalf the Mormons in Elder Anderson’s affair in 1931, presented his credentials on 12 Feb. 1930.
 
154 Various admonitions to live righteously “in the world” while not adopting the hedonistic values “of the world” can be found in the New Testament passages of John 15:19 and 17:14, James 1:27 and 4:4, and 1 John 2:15.
 
155 Arthur Gaeth, “Your Missionary Tells About German Inflation,” Deseret News, 2 Nov. 1935.
 
156 Ibid.
 
157 Ibid.
 
158 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 29 Dec. 1929.
 
159 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Jan. 1931
 
160 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 31 Jul. 1931.
 
161 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 28 Feb. 1931.
 
162 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Dec. 1931. Reports of suicides among Mormons seldom occurred, as church doctrine stressed the detrimental effect on one’s eternal salvation that would result from the inability to repent of the sin of taking one’s own life.
 
163 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Sep. 1932.
 
164 Ibid., 31 Dec. 1932.
 
165 Arthur Gaeth, interview by Douglas F. Tobler, 19 Apr. 1980, transcript, 3, James Moyle Oral History Program, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
166 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1 Jul. 1931.
 
167 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Reports, May 1932.
 
168 Rudolf G. Wobbe, interview by Matthew Heiss, Jul.-Aug. 1988, transcript, 5- 6, James Moyle Oral History Program, Archives, Historical Department,The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman, Before the Blood Tribunal (Salt Lake City: Covenant, 1992), 2-3.

169 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Jan. 1933.
 
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:43 am

Part 1 of 4

CHAPTER IV. THE PRE-WAR NAZI YEARS, 1933-1939: ACCOMMODATION, INGRATIATION, AND THE HITLER MYTH

On a mild September day in 1933, a Nazi secret policeman visited the stately headquarters mansion of the German-Austrian Mission on Händelstrasse, a tree-lined boulevard in central Berlin. [1] As a gentle autumn breeze rustled leaves in the Tiergarten, the picturesque city park across the street, Mission President Oliver Budge engaged in cordial conversation with the Gestapo agent—who inquired about the Mormons’ attitude toward the National Socialist government. Budge assured him that his coreligionists “were living in keeping with their claims, namely, to place members of the church subject to Kings, Presidents, Rulers, Magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the laws of the land.” [2]

Those words correspond almost exactly with the text of Joseph Smith’s Twelfth Article of Faith, one of thirteen catechismal statements pronounced in 1842 as a response to a Chicago newspaper’s request for a concise statement of Mormonism’s foundational beliefs. [3] The Twelfth Article constitutes the Latter-day Saints’ equivalent of the New Testament’s admonition, found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for Christians to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” [4] Used in conjunction with Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which defines the LDS Church’s relationship with civil government, [5] the Twelfth Article of Faith provided a doctrinal basis for Budge to assure the Gestapo agent of the Mormons’ willingness to obey the law—even in a godless state like Nazi Germany. [6]

The next day, following a suggestion made by the secret policeman, Budge addressed a multipage letter to the Gestapo’s infamous Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse address, the citadel of torture that housed adjacent command posts of Heinrich Himmler’s SS and Reinhard Heydrich’s SD. [7] One passage points out a Mormon belief that coincided with an aspect of National Socialist dogma. Budge said, “It is expected that every eligible member of this Church marry and live the first great commandment—‘multiply to replenish the earth,’” a statement that comported with early-Nazi period natalist policies. [8] Budge was stressing the Mormons’ historic preference for large families, which corresponded with natalist policies common to several European countries after the First World War, but which the Nazis strove to exceed. [9]

Other paragraphs in Budge’s letter stressed the self-reliance of American missionaries and the care taken not to burden German members with missionary support. He emphasized the benefit to the German economy derived from the missionaries’ spending:

Considerable amounts of money come in from America every year and are spent by the missionaries of this Church for their traveling, board, and living expense. Not a cent is received by these missionaries from the mission, but they’re supported by themselves or by their parents in America.


Budge emphasized his missionary service as a young man during the 1890s, his “nearly 40 years” spent studying the German people and their culture, his appreciation of the country’s natural beauty, and the industry of its citizenry.

I have been a friend and a supporter of the German people in their righteous endeavors. I have seen this country at its best and again at its worst. And throughout it all I can say that the Germans possess a personal pride that is seldom found in other countries. They’re full of vitality and ambition and are workers of the first class. . . . Their personal appearance is kept up to the highest degree, clothes pressed, shoes polished, hair combed . . . and those who desire to live the good life are wholesome to look upon.


When he addressed the Mormons’ neutrality in politics and obedience to civil authority, Budge wrote a twentieth-century corollary to the Twelfth Article of Faith:

[Mormons] are taught, especially, to be able to class themselves with the best citizens of the country, and to support, in the full sense of the word, the ordinances and laws of the town, the state, and the country in which they live. The authorities of our Church have no advice to give regarding party politics . . . we teach that the present party in power, and the laws governing the country, be supported by the members of the church.


Never missing an opportunity to proselytize, even to the Gestapo, Budge finished his written appeal for Nazi approval by enclosing a number of printed cards containing the Thirteen Articles of Faith, and several recent copies of Der Stern the church’s German-language church periodical distributed in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. He noted several articles that the Gestapo might be interested in reading.10

Budge’s letter, and the approach he took toward ingratiating his Mormon mission with the Nazi secret police, contrasted markedly with a totally different kind of letter written by another American-based religious body to the National Socialist government. On October 7, 1934, every Jehovah’s Witness congregation in the country sent the same, exactly worded written message to the central government. Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses collectively notified the Nazis that:

there is a direct conflict between your law and God’s law. . . . We have no interest in political affairs, but are wholly devoted to God’s Kingdom under Christ his King. We will do no injury or harm to anyone. We would delight to dwell in peace and do good to all men, as we have opportunity, but since your government and its officers continue to attempt to force us to disobey the highest law of the universe, we are compelled to now give you notice that we, by His Grace, obey Jehovah God and fully trust him to deliver us from all oppression and oppressors.11


The letter codified the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ previously informal practice of refusing to render the Hitler salute to individuals or to the swastika flag. It effectively served notice that they would decline service in the paramilitary Nazi labor corps and conscription into the German armed forces. Witnesses would continue to abstain from voting in national elections.

Mission President Budge’s memoirs express the belief that his September 8, 1933 letter to the Gestapo “influenced the government to recognize our [Mormon] Church as a Land Church.” By contrast, the “Jehovah’s Witness Statement of Principles,” written eleven months later, had exactly the opposite effect.12 The Witnesses’ rigid doctrinal adherence allowed no flexibility that could have forged the kind of compromises with National Socialism that the Mormons would achieve. Thus, in the words of Staffordshire University historian Christine Elizabeth King, the Witnesses threw themselves “into a fully pitched battle with authorities . . . and [resulting in] a campaign of total persecution, designed to destroy them completely.”13

Unlike the Mormons, Germany’s Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered tremendously. The government criminalized the conduct of Jehovah’s Witness religious services and missionary work. Witnesses lost civil service jobs and employment in positions that were dependent on good standing within Nazi Labor Front. Of an estimated twenty thousand German members, almost half served terms in prisons or concentration camps; in the latter, they wore purple triangles. Some 2,500 to 5,000, according to different sources, died during incarceration from hunger, exhaustion, exposure, or abuse—or after release as a result of injuries received or illness contracted. More than two hundred tried by Nazi tribunals were subsequently executed.14 The burden of caring for Jehovah’s Witness children became so great on the German state that, at one point, judges who pronounced sentences on couples alternated the terms of imprisonment for the mother and father so that they could care for their children. Later, SS officers forcibly adopted Jehovah’s Witnesses children who bore acceptable Aryan phenotypes.15

All the while, few Witnesses availed themselves of a standing offer from the government that was unnecessary for a cooperating sect such as the Mormons: If any Jehovah’s Witness signed a pledge renouncing his religious beliefs, that person could be released from confinement immediately. Instead, believers continued their church activities and missionary work within prison walls or concentration camp fences, attempting to convert other prisoners and even the guards. In Buchenwald, they set up an underground printing press to produce religious pamphlets. They refused to attempt to escape or to take hostile action against their captors, to the point that they became the camps’ most trusted prisoners.16 Their nonviolent nature gave rise to the legend that a particular concentration camp commandant would consent to be shaved only by a Jehovah’s Witness barber, the only class of prisoner he would allow to hold a straight razor to his neck.17 Outside of confinement, Witnesses continued the dangerous practice of smuggling their banned literature into Germany from Switzerland, and they attempted to win converts under the vigilant observation of the Nazi police apparatus. Their attitude caused Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to speak of the “unshakable faith” of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said that SS men should adopt the same faith in Adolf Hitler.18 As historian Christine King observed: “The real reason for the clash between [the Jehovah’s Witnesses] and the Nazi state lies not in the areas of practical concern, propaganda, refusal to fight, vote or give the salute, but in a clash of two totalitarian systems” (my emphasis).19

The term “totalitarian” seems excessive when used in a twentieth-century religious context, when congregants enjoyed the freedom to disassociate themselves from churches at will. If one substitutes the word “authoritarian,” King’s views are particularly relevant when a third illiberal system, Mormonism, enters consideration. In her scholarship that compares the response of small “new religions” to the rise of the Nazi state, King theorized that the Mormons and the Nazis shared a common Weltanschauung, a conjunction of worldviews.20 Within their ecclesiastical leadership, the Latter-day Saints were every bit as authoritarian and intolerant of internal dissent among ordinary members as were the National Socialists regarding rebellion within their ranks.

However, unlike the Witnesses, whose leaders were constrained by immutable dogma, the Mormons’ hierarchical leadership allowed designated prelates, the mission presidents, a greater degree of flexibility to meet contemporary challenges. This freedom of action allowed these skilled American leaders to construct a plan that enabled the Mormons not only to survive National Socialism, but also to prosper during this challenging period to a much greater extent than other small religious denominations that were banned or persecuted by the National Socialist government.21

Henderson State University scholar Steven E. Carter calls that Mormon survival strategy “accommodation.”22 Such a strategy worked because the tenets of Mormonism, unlike those of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, contained no doctrinal proscriptions that would inevitably cause the Latter-day Saints to clash with the Nazis. Jehovah’s Witnesses were not pacifists, per se, but instead considered themselves to be enlisted in God’s army, a position that forbade taking up arms for civil governments. By contrast, nothing in LDS doctrine prohibited service in Germany’s armed forces, as Mormons had fought proudly for the Kaiser during the First World War. Patriotic pronouncements, including saluting the flag, were acceptable and actually encouraged in Mormon society. That did not change for German Mormons when the black, red, and gold tricolor gave way to a black swastika on a white circle, centered in a field of bright red. Thus, in the face of intractable insistence by the Nazis, the Latter-day Saints could compromise regarding a few lesser traditions of their faith. Those included striking references to Israel from hymnals, prayers, and lesson manuals, and the suspension of Boy Scouting activities in favor of mandatory Hitler Youth membership.23

Accommodation worked well for the Mormons because Germany’s National Socialist government never forbade religious practices that the Mormons considered essential. For example, while the Nazis eventually prohibited congregational worship for the Christian Scientists, another American sect, they never stopped the Mormons from meeting on Sundays.24 Just as Jehovah’s Witnesses could not agree to salute the swastika without abandoning one of their foundational principles, Latter-day Saints could not have been true to their faith without regularly scheduled Sunday church services. Latter-day Saints survived in the Third Reich unscathed because their core beliefs allowed them to accommodate the Nazis; Witnesses died because theirs did not.

The Mormons did not stop with accommodation. Merely surviving the Nazis was not sufficient. In the course of living in Hitler’s world, the common Weltanschauung the Mormons shared with the Nazis compelled the Latter-day Saints to pursue a strategy that promised greater rewards. In the process of accommodating themselves to the Nazi worldview, the Mormons often went a step beyond and attempted to ingratiate themselves with the National Socialist government.

The Mormons sought to appease the Nazis to a degree that exceeded what was necessity for their survival as individuals and as a church. Two other American sectarian groups, the Christian Scientists and the Seventh-Day Adventists did only what was necessary to survive. Christian Scientists accepted a ban on collective worship; Adventists willingly acquiesced when the government removed its Saturday work exemption for civil service employees and military servicemen.25 A third American sect, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, resisted. The Mormons, by contrast, looked for new opportunities to exploit National Socialism for the benefit of their church. It was one thing to purge lesson manuals and hymns of any reference to Judaism to accommodate Nazi anti-Semitism. It became another matter when a Mormon branch president in Hamburg attempted to court favoritism for his religion with his political party by erecting a sign outside of the church’s meetinghouse: “Jews are not allowed here!”26 That served as public humiliation for his lone congregant who had converted from a Jewish background.27

Because the Mormons and the Nazis embraced genealogical research, albeit for different reasons, accommodation in this area became inevitable. The Mormons wished to identify their ancestors by name, so that they could provide posthumous temple ordinances that would enhance their relatives’ status in the afterlife; the Nazis wanted to purge their society of Jews and other perceived racial Untermenschen. When the LDS Church-owned and editorially controlled daily newspaper in Salt Lake City ran articles praising Hitler’s government for opening many long-forbidden church genealogical records, it crossed the line into ingratiation—especially when one article admitted Germans used genealogy to prove that “one’s grandmother was not a Jewess.”28

Because of the Nazis’ interest in physical fitness and competitive sports and the Mormons’ expertise in basketball, the Mormons exploited the opportunity to open university campuses, Wehrmacht posts, and Luftwaffe bases to conversion-minded missionaries. Then the Mormons ignored the worldwide outcry against the 1936 “Hitler Olympics.” The same church-owned daily published a six-column picture showing a basketball team rendering the Hitler salute, along with an article that bragged that the Mormons were training the German Olympic team “to achieve a Nordic victory.” The Mormons were engaged in more than a survival exercise when they helped prepare the German Olympic basketball squad for Hitler’s Olympic showcase of Aryan supremacy.29

By the time Hitler assumed power in 1933, the Mormons had been in Germany for eighty-two years. Yet the LDS Church exhibited its greatest degree of conformity with German civil authority during the Nazi period. That is understandable in one respect. The penalties for disobedience to the Nazi government were much more severe than what the Mormons faced in Imperial or Weimar Germany. Simply put, Hitler or any of his higher-level minions could have banished American Mormons from Germany and confined German Mormons to concentration camps. Those recourses were unavailable in Germany’s fractured, federal system that existed before the First World War or the constitutional democracy that prevailed afterward. Under the totalitarian Nazis, the Mormons dusted off the ninety-one-year-old Twelfth Article of Faith in 1933, after having flaunted civil authority at home and abroad during the polygamy era. That illustrated a flexible concept of duty to country. The Mormons chose to obey the law when the law prescribed penalties severe enough to mandate obedience, regardless of the nature of that law or how such obedience reflected on the character of the church. With regard to moral ambiguity, this argues—more than any example such as manual wording, genealogy, or sports—that historian Christine King was an astute observer of both LDS and Nazi character when she said both sides shared a conjunction of worldviews.

Early Efforts Toward Accommodation Buy Time for Later Ingratiation

The Mormons began their campaign to survive the Nazis almost immediately upon the ascension of Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship of Germany on January 30, 1933, but steps taken during the last three years of the Weimar Republic laid important groundwork for that effort. Records of both the German-Austrian Mission and the Swiss-German Mission indicate that the American mission presidents, the senior ecclesiastical leaders of the LDS Church in Germany, were hardly cloistered religious prelates. They did not isolate themselves from civil affairs. Instead, their reports to superiors in Salt Lake City indicated that they were keen observers of the Nazis’ rising political fortunes. Those early letters and memoranda expressed angst regarding the violence-prone politics of both the National Socialists and the Communists, and the consequences of eventual political domination by either of those extreme political parties. If either the Nazis or the Communists prevailed, the mission presidents worried, the new extremist government might eliminate missionary work by Americans. No written record suggests apprehension that the German LDS Church would be dissolved. The mission presidents feared loss of control.

Obviously mindful of the election results in September 1930, when the Nazis finished second in the voting and won 107 seats in the Reichstag, the Swiss-German Mission’s 1930 annual report informed superiors in Salt Lake City that:

There are frequent Communistic and Nationalistic demonstrations in Germany that often result in street battles and bloodshed. Should the Hitlerites (Nationalists) win out and put their projected program into effect, all preaching and teaching by other than natives might cease in Germany, which might mean the expulsion of American missionaries.30


Two years later, with twenty percent of the work force unemployed, the Nazis captured a plurality of Reichstag seats in the summertime elections. The Swiss-German Mission’s 1932 report noted that the Nazis had achieved a decided advantage over the Communists: “During the year, Germany has been in a very agitated and uncertain political situation. . . The National Socialists, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, are generally gaining ground over rival parties.”31

Reports dispatched to Utah also reflected awareness of significant events that occurred after Hitler rose to power. After the Reichstag fire in late February 1933 and the Nazis’ achievement of a parliamentary majority after a mid-March election, Hitler pushed through a set of decrees and laws that suspended numerous individual rights and civil liberties guaranteed under the Weimar Constitution.32 Commenting on State President Paul Hindenburg’s Reichstag Fire Decree and the new Reichstag’s Enabling Law, a report of the Swiss-German mission told church leaders in Salt Lake City:

Hitler soon did away with the forms of republican government which had been introduced at the close of the World War. Radical changes were undertaken on every hand. Governmental institutions and systems, as old as Germany itself, were changed overnight. Almost before the people knew it, the republican Constitution had been chucked into the relic-chest, and fascism took the government reins. Government by decree rather than by constitutional rights was introduced.33


When Hindenburg died seventeen months later, the same mission’s report to the LDS hierarchy said:

At 9 a.m. on the morning of August 2nd, the German President, Paul von Hindenburg, died, leaving the nation entirely in the control of Adolf Hitler, [the] dictatorially minded Chancellor. The date which denotes the outbreak of the World War, also marks the end of the German Republic and the beginning of the dictatorial regime.34


Mindful of the perceived threat that the Nazis presented to the conduct of their missionary work and church activity before Hitler came to power, and the constitutional rights he curtailed afterward, the Mormons began to change their style of ecclesiastical governance. Two factors—the rising degree of political uncertainty in Germany and the shortage of American missionaries caused by the Great Depression—prompted the American mission leadership to appoint native Germans to positions of congregational leadership that had formerly been held by young American elders. On December 31, 1930, only two months after Mission President Oliver Budge had put down the congregational rebellion in Breslau caused by the members’ desire for local leadership (see chapter three), the year-end report of the German-Austrian mission admitted:

We are placing branches in the hands of local brethren whenever possible. We have some difficulty in training the brethren to be conservative and not misuse their authority given them. It will only be a matter of time before the branches will be much better taken care of under local brethren, and besides, they understand their own people better than we, the elders from Utah.35


That constituted a profound shift of opinion for the American leadership, and undoubtedly provoked a degree of internal discomfort for American missionaries who aspired to fill the leadership positions that would be turned over to German members. Arthur Gaeth, an American missionary in Germany and later president of the Czechoslovakian mission, who served overseas for almost a decade during the Weimar period, described the aspirations of ambitious young Americans. They strove to be promoted from an ordinary proselyting position “to branch president, then district president, and then to positions of responsibility in the mission home such as leadership in auxiliary organizations, and then mission secretary.”36 As late as 1934, the advancement of native Germans to positions of responsibility within the mission was still being hindered by an American conception of a stereotypically authoritarian German personality. In his year-end report for 1934, Swiss-German Mission President Francis Salzner, a native German who had immigrated to the United States, obtained naturalized citizenship, and later returned for missionary service, wrote:

We are putting every effort into the work of preparing our Saints to take over greater responsibilities. As fast as we can find men and women qualified to take over some part of the work we appoint them to a position. The German way is to drive rather than to lead. The spirit among the [American] elders is one of seriousness and humility (my emphasis).37


Because the Great Depression hindered the ability of American parents from the Mormon Culture Region to support their sons on overseas missions, it became inevitable that German believers would undertake more congregational responsibility—regardless of the political situation. As membership grew while emigration slowed to a crawl during the latter Weimar years, and practically stopped during the Nazi period, more spiritually attuned German members became available to fill positions. The burgeoning population of the larger branches allowed the expansion of auxiliary leadership positions, such as Sunday school teachers, clerks, and youth leaders.38 In September 1932, the Swiss-German Mission reported filling thirty-seven vacant positions that had occurred in the previous three months with German branch members. Even though all but four of those were lower-level auxiliary positions, the experience gained by native Germans provided credentials that qualified them to fill the important branch (parish) and district (diocesan) presidency positions that soon followed.39 Within months of the Nazi assumption of power in 1933, the American mission presidents realized that when a Gestapo agent called upon the leader of a German Mormon congregation, the church would fare better if he talked to an older, more mature German member, rather than a fresh-faced, puerile American lad in his early twenties. However, that process took time. In the Swiss-German Mission, the complete replacement of American missionaries as district presidents occurred under the mission presidency of Philemon M. Kelly, who served in that position from 1935 through 1937.40

A great deal of work remained to be done by the mission presidents and higherlevel officials in Salt Lake City to insure that Mormonism would survive the Third Reich. Those closest to the threat in 1933, Mission Presidents Oliver Budge in Berlin and Francis Salzner in Basel, coordinated their efforts through messages and periodic personal meetings.41 Within two months of Hitler’s assumption of power, Budge issued “Circular Letter #2” to the elders of the German-Austrian Mission, which warned against expressions of political opinion.

By this country’s officials and citizens we have been and are still being treated with respect. You are hereby notified to refrain from discussing or giving your opinion concerning the political situation, either in private or in public. You are also warned against writing anything whatsoever concerning politics or concerning the present situation in any of your local or foreign correspondence, including letters to your parents or friends. Any one of you who fails to take this advice will have occasion to regret it (emphasis in original). 42


Salzer, based in Basel, Switzerland, made a more public appeal to his missionaries and congregants in the western portion of Germany in a July issue of Der Stern, in which he included the text of a letter he had written to city officials in Darmstadt. He was responding to a magistrate’s request for information about the Mormons’ attitude toward the civil government after a missionary had been temporarily banned. As did Budge in his “Circular Letter #2,” Salzner urged American missionaries and German church members to refrain from expressing political opinions.43

Several months afterward, Budge convened a meeting of the German-Austrian Mission Association. This was a group of German Latter-day Saints whose government-recognized Verein allowed the Mormons to conduct financial transactions and own property in Germany. It was essentially an organization whose German members wielded no power. Its endorsement allowed the American mission president to control the German branches of the Mormon Church, and was composed of faithful German members whom Budge trusted to act in conformity with his advice. According to the minutes, Budge “instructed those present as to the attitude of the Church toward the government.” No detail of Budge’s remarks survive in the records, but it is likely that the American mission president instructed his German charges to remain silent and apolitical.

When the government found something objectionable in a Mormon publication or exhibit, the mission presidents did not hesitate to withdraw or modify the offending material. Early in 1934, two “police officers” called at German-Austrian Mission headquarters in Berlin. They had come to confiscate all stocks of the missionary pamphlet, “Signs of the Great Apostasy.” Budge surrendered every copy he had and promised that the balance of the tracts would be withdrawn from the field. Shortly thereafter, the government notified the mission office to recall another pamphlet, “Divine Authority.” Subsequent investigation revealed that neither brochure contained language offensive to the Nazis. Instead, the police were acting on a complaint from an association of local ministers, who found the wording spiritually offensive.44 Officials of the Swiss-German Mission also voluntarily recalled the same pamphlets.45 During the Weimar period, the Mormons would have ignored the protests of rival pastors, and would have contested the authority of police who acted on behalf of sectarian opponents.

The decision to promote more German citizens to branch and district leadership paid off when a Chemnitz city councilman, identified as Herr Loser, objected to a Book of Mormon display in a local department store window. The district president, a native German, responded. The councilman had concluded “that the Mormons must be Jews, since they used the Israel [sic] and Hebrew languages, and so on.” Chemnitz District President Karl Gockeritz clarified the fact that the Mormons were not Jewish. He assured Loser “that the LDS are always ready to support the law of the land.” Mission records indicate “the matter was cleaned up.”46

On other occasions, the Mormons policed themselves when the wording of church hymns or religious instructional material threatened to offend the Nazis. According to one missionary, mission presidents instructed congregations not to sing certain songs in the church hymnal, such as “Israel, Israel, God is Calling” or “Hope of Israel.” Nor should sermons include references to the Lost Tribes of Israel or other topics that could be construed as relating to Judaism.47 When the Relief Society, the women’s auxiliary organization, published a manual that contained a lesson entitled, “Christ and the Gathering of Israel,” the mission office instructed all local leaders to “cut these pages out and paste the adjoining two together.” According to the wording of the accompanying memorandum, “It is our belief that any subject even remotely connected with the Jewish race would be better unexpressed in Germany today.”48

Genealogy: Promoting a Common Worldview on Earth and in the Afterlife

When Joseph Smith formulated the tenets of Mormon theology during his early adulthood, he enjoyed one advantage over the framers of primitive Christianity. He understood the doctrinal disagreements that provoked hotly debated theological arguments among Christians on the early-nineteenth century American frontier. He sought to imbed in his new sect’s dogma the answers to some of the questions that must have confronted the circuit-riding preachers and itinerant evangelists who crisscrossed western New York’s “Burned-Over District” during his childhood. Two of those spiritual mysteries directly influenced the foundational theology of nascent Mormonism: First, could those who had never heard the message of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice go to heaven? Second, must a believer be baptized in order to achieve salvation?

His answers to those queries help define Mormonism’s theological uniqueness. They also later played an important role, one hundred years after the church’s founding, in the Latter-day Saints’ relationship with the German government during the National Socialist epoch. By exploiting a common interest in genealogical research, the Mormons discovered another tool by which they could accommodate the Nazi worldview. For some Latter-day Saints, however, including the religion editors of the church-owned daily in Salt Lake City, the Deseret News, finding a piece of common ground with Hitler was not sufficient. They had to make it clear that their coreligionists in Nazi Germany were enjoying a better reception than other American sectarians, and demonstratively better treatment than Germany’s Jews.49 This is where the Mormons, once again, crossed the line between accommodation and ingratiation.

Mormons and Nazis were enthusiastic genealogists, but each group conducted its archival research for markedly different reasons. Born during the Second Great Awakening, an American revolt against Calvinism’s salvation of the elect, Mormonism taught that any believer could enter heaven after a life of faith and good works, but only after having been baptized by immersion. Joseph Smith’s innovation accounted for souls who never had the opportunity to learn of Jesus Christ. They could hear the gospel preached in the afterlife, in a place called “spirit paradise.” Having adopted the Christian faith after death, the converted could then proceed to paradise. One more problem challenged Smith’s groundbreaking theology: How could a dead person enter the waters of baptism? Smith’s imagination, which biographer Fawn Brodie said, “spilled over like a spring freshet,” provided the answer.50 Living Mormons could perform “saving ordinances” by proxy, that is, baptisms for the dead, in the Holy Temple.51 Only one obstacle remained, identifying those deceased spirits still waiting in spirit paradise for someone to do their temple baptism.52 Genealogical research solved that problem.53

Germans living under Hitler’s governance became interested in genealogy for totally different reasons. Salvation from National Socialist damnation lay in proving one’s biological purity, free of “racial pollution” or the “corrupting blood” of Jews or others whom Hitler considered to be inferior. Some Germans did not require certification from a genealogist or reference librarian to merit exclusion from Nazi society. The “Rhineland Bastards,” products of unions between German women and black French occupation soldiers after the First World War, bore distinguishing pigmentation.54 Others became the focus of the Nazi racial machinery as well. In 1936, the government opened an “Office to Combat the Gypsy Nuisance,” which maintained a national data database on Roma and Sinti. Thousands of Gypsies were eventually deported to concentration camps, where they wore black triangles, denoting “work shy,” or green triangles as common criminals.55 For Germans seeking to prove they were not Jews, genealogical research promised redemption.

That need for pure ancestral lineage manifested itself shortly after Hitler became chancellor. On April 7, 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service disqualified non-Aryans, effectively Jews, from civil service employment. A series of laws that followed barred Jewish practitioners from most of the liberal professions. Jews employed in industrial trades also lost their jobs when their labor unions fell victim to the “coordination, ” Gleichschaltung, or co-option by the Nazi Labor Front.

If there had been a trade group for professional genealogists, however, its membership would have been delighted with the business provided by passage of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. One statute outlawed “racial pollution,” i.e., marriage or sexual relationships between Aryans and Jews. Another required a medical examination and counseling before marriage—ostensibly to prohibit miscegenation by Aryans.57 A third law limited German citizenship to those having no Jewish grandparents, and classified others as “subjects,” effectively depriving a segment of native-born Germans of their citizenship. This statute classified a “full Jew” as someone who had three or four Jewish grandparents. Others were designated as mixed-breeds, Mischlings, of the first degree if they had two Jewish grandparents, or of the second degree for having one Jewish grandparent.59 With regard to genealogical research, historian Klaus P. Fischer wrote that the Nuremberg laws

produced a bureaucratic nightmare because [they] involved scores of “family researchers” hunting down uncertain records. The determination of who was a Mischling, nevertheless, was of vital importance because it could mean life or death once the decision had been made to exterminate the Jews.60


When the Mormons brought their genealogical research capabilities to the mission field and taught those techniques to the Germans they converted, they intended to enable deceased coreligionists to go to heaven as a reward for a lifetime of faithful, righteous living. Instead, Latter-day Saints stumbled into a life-or-death situation where their skills in the archives could be used to identify “racially inferior” members or to condemn a German congregant of bizarre new kinds of crime: racial betrayal or racial dishonor, Rassenverrat or Rassenschande.

It is worthwhile, at this point, to note three arguments in defense of the Mormons. First, LDS missionaries enjoyed little success proselytizing among German Jews and thus made few Jewish converts. Therefore, they had few Jewish convert members to betray. Second, genealogical research as a hobby was already well established in Germany; the Nazis did not need the Mormons to teach them genealogical research skills. Third, the Mormons began their genealogical research in Germany before Hitler came to power, in fact, before anyone could have imagined the catastrophic result of National Socialism.

Latter-day Saints began conducting family history research in the United States shortly after the church’s founding in the early nineteenth century. The first evidence of Mormon genealogical inquiry in Germany, however, surfaced during the Weimar Republic.62 The LDS Church experienced strong membership growth during the period of economic prosperity between the end of hyperinflation and the onset of the Great Depression. As congregations grew in the larger cities, more members could be directed toward duties in the church “auxiliary” organizations, such as Sunday schools, youth activities, and genealogical classes. By 1928, eight German LDS districts (dioceses) had established genealogical societies to promote research within their ecclesiastical boundaries.63 Nevertheless, the growth of church-sponsored genealogical work in Germany remained proportional to the growth of other auxiliary organizations: Boy Scouts, Beehives and Gleaner Girls for teenage girls, M Men for older teenage boys, the Mutual Improvement Association for all adolescents, various priesthood “quorums” for men, and the Relief Society for women. Completing one’s pedigree chart during the relatively stable Weimar period received more emphasis than it did in the unstable days of Imperial Germany, when the missionaries leading Mormon congregations were always in danger of being expelled from town, rendering leaderless the Germans they directed. Before the Nazis, however, a “calling” or church job to help other members research their genealogy was no more important than any other church auxiliary duty.

After Hitler came to power, priorities changed. When Deseret News religion writer Fay Ollerton visited the German-Austrian mission early in the autumn of 1933, she noted that that one of the mission’s stalwart young elders had been appointed to serve, in conjunction with his other duties, as a mission-wide genealogy supervisor. “[He] goes from branch to branch with a great Book of Remembrance—Buch der Errinerung—persuading German Saints to keep their family records.”64 By the end of the year, the number of LDS genealogical societies in the Swiss-German mission had multiplied to thirty-five. Some 575 members from that mission, which at the time numbered slightly more than 6,500 people, were engaged in genealogical research as a church “calling” or job by the end of Hitler’s first year as chancellor. That mission’s year-end report noted that 15,217 names had been researched and forwarded to Salt Lake City for temple ordinances. Those names appeared on 339 pedigree charts, 5,224 family group records, and 1,008 sealing sheets. The same report noted that a native German, presumably one of unquestionable racial heritage, has been chosen as the Swiss-German Mission’s genealogical leader, the first such mission-wide appointment in that mission’s history.65

It could be asserted that the Mormons, in that first year of Nazi rule, adapted a customary church practice to the toxic racial environment in which they suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves living. In doing so, they arguably protected themselves from one of the most onerous policies promulgated by Germany’s new fanatical dictator. When the church-owned Deseret News published its second story that year about how the Mormons were faring under Hitler, the author and editors of “Mormonism in the New Germany” seemed to have had no moral objection to pointing out which group suffered at the expense of the Latter-day Saints’ good fortune:

Many of those who felt the greatest anxiety about being able to carry on their religious activities are finding that at least one branch of their church work has received its greatest boon since Germany’s adoption of Hitlerism. It was always difficult for the genealogical workers to get into the archives of the recognized churches to trace back family records. When the pastor learned of the intention, access was often denied. Now, due to the importance given to the racial question, and the almost necessity of proving that one’s grandmother was not a Jewess, the old record books have been dusted off and stand ready and waiting for use. No questions are asked. In fact, some of the Saints, instead of being refused by the pastors have now received letters of encouragement complimenting them for their patriotism (my emphasis).66


As the Mormons continued to use an aspect of their unique theology to accommodate National Socialist dogma, it became more difficult to resist being drawn into a deepening abyss. In January 1934, one of the Swiss-German mission’s genealogical lay leaders accepted an invitation to speak before a group of Social Darwinists, one that had existed for years prior to the formation of the Nazi Party. Walter Pohlsander, a member of the Hanover district, appeared before the German Society for Racial Hygiene, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, which had begun agitating in 1905 for selective reproduction and enforced sterilization.68 Pohlsander spoke on the topic of “Pedigree Seeking” and explained the genealogical program of the LDS Church. According to the mission records, he “succeeded in creating great interest for our cause.”69 An enthusiastic Mormon with no discernible academic credentials, Pohlsander probably did not realize that he was addressing a group that owed its beginnings to professors and other members of the academic community who had embraced a bad idea. By the time the Mormon genealogical leader spoke in January 1934, he was addressing a group that had become infested by Nazis who embraced many unconscionable ideas.70

Both missions cooperated in February 1934 to publish the first German-language guide to Mormon genealogical practices. “A Practical Guide for Genealogical and Temple Work, Ein Praktisch Führer für Genealogie und Temple Arbeit,” prescribed research methodologies and contained specific instructions for completing each of the approved church genealogical forms.72 In the Swiss-German Mission, President Francis Salzner delivered the same Sunday sermon at four different district conferences, held on successive weekends in March before assembled congregations, in Hanover, Nuremberg, Berne, and the Ruhr. His topic, “Three Generations,” stressed the need to prepare one’s genealogical pedigree chart to include all four grandparents.73

As Salzner delivered his sermon, urging his fellow Mormons to put their genealogical research into writing, it was becoming more important in Nazi Germany to record a formal certification of one’s ancestry. A statement of religious affiliation, signed by one’s pastor or priest, may have been sufficient to prove the absence of Jewish heritage shortly after the Civil Service Law of 1933 passed. Even before adoption of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, the Nazis were constructing a byzantine labyrinth of new racial laws and regulations. According to Eric Ehrenreich, a fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the twelve years of National Socialism saw adoption of “approximately two thousand statutes, ordinances, and regulations establishing legal rights on the basis of ‘racial’ status.”74

This caused a potential problem for the state bureaucracy that would have to certify compliance with the bewildering volume of new race laws. Civil servants, worried that they would be inundated with requests for assistance with genealogical research, devised a tool that required German citizens to do most of the work. Members of the Reich Foundation of Civil Registrars developed the Ahnenpass, a small multipage, pocket-sized, folded document that resembled a passport. Applicants would fill in their own ancestral religious lineage, going back the required number of generations. For most trades or professions in Nazi Germany, being free of Jewish heritage for three generations was sufficient. Then, the applicant would take the completed Ahnenpass to a registrar of civil records, or to a custodian of church records, who would verify the accuracy of the primary documentation and then affix an official seal.75 For Germans fortunate to be free of Jewish heritage, the Ahnenpass acted as a type of internal visa, allowing them to navigate life in Nazi Germany without suspicion of being a racial alien.

No record found in the LDS Church historical archives documents that Mormon genealogists or ecclesiastical leaders ever certified an Ahnenpass. If congregants heeded Mission President Salzner’s advice to prepare their genealogical records in a format that would be accepted by the state, they may have had experiences similar to at least one member’s. According to one account, “a Mormon official was arrested and charged with being Jewish.” Interviewed after the war, he recalled the incident:

I had to prove that I was an Aryan. I only needed to show the investigating officers my lines for three generations. Were they surprised when I showed them my family group sheets going back eight generations! I passed with flying colors.76


By late 1934, it became apparent that genealogy had assumed a position of greater importance within the organization of Mormon districts and branches in Germany. Regardless of whether a congregation enjoyed sufficient numerical strength to fill all open positions in its auxiliary organizations, finding capable genealogical volunteers became a priority. During the Weimar period, a single teacher of genealogical methods might be appointed for a congregation. By 1935, branch and district presidents were appointing complete genealogical staffs, to include a president, two counselors, and a secretary, even at the branch (congregational) level.77 The yearend report of the Swiss-German Mission noted that “the members are showing an increasing interest in genealogical work. This mission is now one of the leaders in sending genealogical work to America.”78

A new method of motivating German members to perform ancestral research surfaced in the form of “genealogical conventions.” In the Weimar District in the autumn of 1934, fifty-two members attended the first LDS Church convention solely devoted to genealogical research held in Germany, one of several venues within the German-Austrian mission where such conventions occurred.79 By 1936, genealogical conventions were occurring on the branch level. In Breslau, Gleiwitz, Hindenburg, Leignitz, and the Saxon city of Waldenburg, all congregations within each district held genealogical conferences during the month of September 1936.80 Editors of Der Stern, the German-language church periodical, devoted their entire September 1, 1936 issue to the subject of genealogy. Three weeks later, on September 20, the Swiss-German mission coordinated “Genealogical Sunday,” requiring each congregation within that mission’s jurisdiction to devote the weekly sacrament meeting (main service) to the subject of researching one’s family tree.81

By 1938, Mormons in Germany were experimenting with new methods in order to convince members to research more names for posthumous temple ordinances. Those innovations included genealogical youth activities and discounted prices for family record forms. The October 15, 1938 issue of Der Stern said:

Genealogy is gaining more and more attention. Therefore, more time is to be made available which we will try to find by means of starting genealogy research classes in the Mutual, for the Senior classes, the M Men and the Gleaners. The meeting is to be conducted under the direction of the Mutual, however the class time is used for genealogical work. . . . It is the intention of the mission officers to make the program attractive to the youth of the church.


In order to make the required materials more attractive for purchase, the article announced:

Surely, no one has an excuse for staying inactive in this work, while other thousands are going forward enthusiastically, especially since the cost of genealogical supplies has been cut considerably. The price for family group sheets and pedigree charts has been cut by a third, the prices of books cut by a fourth.82


In February 1938, the director of the Genealogical Society of Utah, the LDS Church’s non-profit corporation established in 1894 to preserve vital records and encourage genealogical research, embarked upon on a European tour. He came to assess the degree of difficulty that faced Latter-day Saints in conducting genealogical research in various countries.83 When he got to Germany, he liked what he saw. In James M. Kirkham’s subsequent article in the Deseret News, he said:

Mr. Hitler, through government agencies, is helping the Germans to find their ancestors. . . . Many magazines are published in different parts of Germany in the interest of genealogy. Space in nearly all of the papers is allowed a person who is seeking an ancestor. Also, over the radio, notice is given for persons seeking the information they wanted. Because of the great interest in genealogy among the Germans, there seemed to be a desire for one person to help the other with their [sic] problems. To prove that he is a pure blood German for at least four generations or back to 1800 is the desire of each resident.


The remainder of Kirkham’s article spanned four columns of the Friday afternoon religion section and included two large, three-column-wide pictures.84 It praised the technological progress made by the German government with regard to photographic reproduction of parish and civil records on thirty-five millimeter, fireproof film. It described a forerunner of the microfilm viewer, which allowed researchers to enlarge images for easier reading. Then it expressed appreciation for the “vast amount of genealogical research” being conducted and “made available to persons of German descent.”85

Such verbiage provokes discomfort in today’s reader, especially in light of how the Third Reich ultimately used the workaday labor of ordinary Germans to foster its murderous agenda. Legions of clerks who coordinated railroad schedules for boxcars of Jews shipped to Auschwitz gave rise to the term “desk genocide,” Schreibtischtäter Philosopher Hannah Arendt characterized this kind of remote, detached, bloodless contribution to the machinery of murder as the “banality of evil.”87 Likewise, the thousands of Germans who studiously researched their ancestral lines in musty church archives or well-lighted municipal libraries, even if they did so in the fervent hope of proving they were not Jews, deserve appropriate scrutiny. How did their assiduous efforts to save themselves facilitate the fate, in the years that followed, of those who could not produce a “racially pure” pedigree chart? In the scholarly debates that classify Germans who lived during the Third Reich as perpetrators, victims, or bystanders, how should history look upon those who devoted countless hours to genealogical research?

For the Mormons, their religious obligation to perform the same genealogical duties presented a complicating factor. Apologetic author Gilbert Scharffs dismissed the connection between Mormon and Nazi genealogical research as “probably only a coincidence.”88 For the ordinary congregant who sat on the back pew, Scharffs’ argument could have a limited degree of merit. For Mission President Salzner, however, a native German who was serving his second tour of duty as a missionary after having immigrated to the United States, the distinction between God’s work and Hitler’s work must have been more apparent. He did not preach four consecutive weekly sermons in 1934, exhorting his congregants to complete their three-generation genealogical records, exclusively as an appeal to save the souls of deceased ancestors. He was in a position to know more, and to appreciate the racial connotations of the government’s mandate.

Regarding the way the Deseret News reported on the church’s activity in Nazi Germany, the best critique was a contemporary one. It came in 1939 from the pen of Fawn McKay Brodie, who enjoyed a unique vantage point. She was the daughter of Swiss-Austrian Mission President Thomas E. McKay, who at that time was serving his third mission among the German-speaking congregations in Europe. Her brother, Thomas, Jr., had recently returned from a mission in Nazi Germany. A former boyfriend, Dilworth Jensen, had served a mission in Germany when Hitler rose to power. In the late 1930s, Fawn corresponded regularly with her mother, the “mission matron,” who like Fawn was undergoing a crisis of faith. According to Brodie’s biographer, Newell Bringhurst, when Fawn’s mother returned from the Swiss-Austrian Mission, her daughter considered her mother to be “a thorough heretic.”89 Presumably, the mother’s letters to Fawn from the mission field did not sugarcoat the Mormons’ relationship with the Nazis. [90]

Brodie had the advantage of another informed perspective. Against her parents’ wishes, she had married a secular Jewish scholar she met at the University of Chicago, where she earned a master’s degree in English. Bernard Brodie was a specialist in international relations. His observations, and the couple’s circle of intellectual friends, insured that Fawn kept abreast of the latest developments in Hitler’s Germany.91 In a letter to her uncle, Dean Brimhall, in which she accused the church-owned Salt Lake City daily newspaper of “falling over backwards” not to offend Nazi Germany, she added:

Aside from the fact that the missions are not prospering and the church can ill afford persecution at this moment, I think there are other reasons why the Deseret News does not publish editorials about refugees. Of course, there is the latent anti-Semitism that exists in every area as provincial as Utah and which is not dispelled by the church doctrine that we are all ‘of the blood of Israel.’ Add to this the fact that the persecution of the Jews has made 80 million people ‘genealogy minded’—so much so that according to a recent campus acquaintance, a former Berlin lawyer, genealogy is the first subject for conversation in Germany. I can just hear the good brethren in the Genealogical Society at home saying, ‘Of course, the persecution of the Jews is terrible, but God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.’92


Boasts regarding the Mormons’ genealogical research, and how it protected the Latter-day Saints from being misidentified as Jews, disappear from the archival records and the pages of church-sponsored newspapers after Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938. It may have taken this horrific, nationwide pogrom to stoke Mormon consciences. Enjoyable hours spent in the company of fellow church members, combing through dusty archival records, may have been regarded differently after “the night of broken glass.” Likewise, writers, editors, and readers of the Deseret News may have finally been shocked into awareness of what was going on in Nazi Germany. Perhaps both groups then began to take another view of genealogical research in Hitler’s Reich.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:45 am

Part 2 of 4

Mormons Practice Basketball Diplomacy in Hitler’s Reich

One Friday afternoon in late January 1936, readers of the Salt Lake City’s Deseret News encountered an unusual, sports-themed picture in the weekly religion section. The six-column photograph showed two groups of athletes lined up in a military-style formation. A basketball lay positioned on the ground between each team. The squad of eight young men in the foreground, dressed in white athletic shirts, shorts, and sneakers, stood upright at the position of attention, their right arms extended rigidly forward and upward, rendering the Hitler salute.93 In the accompanying article that discussed innovative ways to preach the gospel of Mormonism, the writer declared: “In Germany Herr Hitler has sought the services of the Elders to teach basketball to the teams he hopes will achieve a Nordic victory at the Olympic games to be held this year in Berlin.”94

With that brazen declaration, the Mormons interjected themselves into the most controversial sports story of the year, one replete with impassioned moral arguments that had international diplomatic reverberations. Subscribers to the Deseret News, the largest general-circulation, broadsheet, daily newspaper operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of a religious denomination west of the Mississippi River, were familiar with that debate.95 Only weeks before, readers followed a blow-by-blow description of the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) December meeting in New York City. Two articles, which appeared in the Deseret News several days apart, defined the issue: Would the United States send athletic teams to the Olympic Games in Germany?96 The opposition, led by New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Walter White of the NAACP, and William Green, President of the AFL, received widespread publicity in wire-service news articles transmitted across the country. The AAU meeting itself pitted the proboycott forces of Judge Jeremiah T. Mahoney, president of the AAU, against the antiboycott side headed by American Olympic Committee Chairman Avery Brundage.97 When Brundage’s forces won the decisive showdown, it forced Mahoney’s resignation as head of the AAU. That proved to be a decisive blow against an international effort to boycott the games of the eleventh Olympiad in protest of Hitler’s treatment of Germany’s Jews.”98

Probably no Mormon attended that pivotal AAU meeting in New York, nor does any account record LDS attitudes regarding the proposed Olympic boycott. Because German-Americans enthusiastically supported American participation in the 1936 Olympics, it is almost certain that their cousins in the Mormon Culture Region did so also.99 In subsequent days, no letters to the editor protesting the brash pictorial rendering of the Hitler salute appeared in the Deseret News, nor did any condemnation of the appeal for a “Nordic victory.” If the article and accompanying picture had any effect on the readership, it probably stoked pride in the church’s unconventional attempts to win converts.

Mormon missionaries played a small but significant role in the German national basketball team’s 1936 Olympic efforts. It was not enough to help a hopelessly overmatched team win even a single game, but it helped Mormons win friends among government officials and assert that the American-based sect was no foe of National Socialism. Young elders introduced basketball fundamentals to some of the athletes who had been picked to play on the German team before a professional coach could be hired. Four missionaries kept the official score books for the first round of Olympic basketball play.

The roots of Germany’s desire to host the Olympic Games, and the origin of the Mormons’ infatuation with basketball, both lie in the beginning of the twentieth century. Imperial Germany had anxiously sought to host an Olympiad since the Athens games in 1896 marked the beginning of the modern Olympic movement. Shortly after the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, the IOC awarded the 1916 games to Germany. Germany greeted the news with such enthusiasm that it completed the Olympic track and field stadium three years early. However, the First World War caused cancellation of the sixth Olympiad, and lingering Allied bitterness disqualified Germany from participating in the 1920 games in Antwerp and 1924 games in Paris. Finally, in the chaos that prevailed during the waning months of the Weimar Republic in 1932, the persistence of a few of the original organizers succeeded when the IOC awarded the 1936 games to Germany.100 The winter games would be held in January in the Bavarian municipality of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the summer games in August in Berlin. Defenders of the IOC later maintained that the international body awarded the games to a struggling democracy, and would not have done so if it could have anticipated the Nazis seizure of power and Hitler’s exploitation of the games as a showcase for Aryan supremacy.”101

As a political candidate in 1932, Hitler had criticized the German Olympic effort as “an invention of Jews and Freemasons” and “a play inspired by Judaism which can not possibly be put on in a Reich ruled by National Socialists.”102 After he assumed power in early 1933, however, he made the Berlin Olympics a centerpiece of propaganda for German fascism and a weapon against the Jews. The Nazis not only purged Jews from the civil service and the liberal professions, but also from Germany’s sporting community. Germany’s national teams dismissed their Jewish athletes, making them ineligible for Olympic competition, but the ban eventually excluded Jews from the lowest level of recreational activity.103

On April 1, 1933, on the same day that the Nazis launched a nationwide boycott of Jewish-owned businesses, the German boxing federation announced that Jewish pugilists and referees would no longer be allowed in the ring.104 In June, the ministry of education proclaimed that Jewish children could no longer enter gymnasiums nor enroll in recreational organizations. By July, municipalities in Germany were closing swimming pools to Jews and prohibiting their employment as lifeguards.105 Julius Streicher, editor of the anti-Semitic journal, Der Stürmer, explained unapologetically: “Jews are Jews and there is no place for them in German sports. Germany is the fatherland of Germans and not Jews, and Germans have every right to do what they want in their own country.”106

The first few decades of the twentieth century also saw the Mormons begin a basketball tradition that has remained a distinct part of life in LDS Church youth organizations until the present time. Less than two decades after the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, tacked two peach baskets to gymnasium walls in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, the Mormons adopted basketball as a youth activity, and subsequently as a proselytizing tool. The effect of that decision can still be observed one hundred years later, when almost every Mormon chapel and “stake center” in North America has a large multi-use auditorium that includes basketball goals and floor markings. In 1931, when many of the young missionaries who eventually served in Germany were preparing to go overseas, the all-church basketball tournament in Salt Lake City drew eight thousand players. 107

Mormon missionaries may have brought basketball with them to Germany as a way to blow off steam during rare opportunities for recreation. They soon found it to be a tool that would help them meet groups of potential converts where access would otherwise have been difficult or impossible, such as university campuses and military posts. In early August 1935, two elders, William Skidmore and Heber Hawkes, accepted an invitation to instruct “a select group of students in basketball” at a university in Neustrelitz. The training session lasted for several weeks, during which the missionaries “were treated with much respect,” but found that their students had no interest in religious matters. “Churches are for the soul-saving aspect of life,” their students told them, “and the state should develop youth without interference from churches.”108 That same month, Skidmore and another elder, David M. Morrell, visited several military posts, where they were welcomed as basketball instructors but not religious missionaries. They were not allowed to address Wehrmacht soldiers on spiritual topics.109 Several months later in the city of Gera, town officials invited a group of missionaries to play a challenge game against a local team. Unlike their experiences on military posts and at the university, the elders were allowed to hold a post-game “illustrated lecture,” after which “tracts were passed out; the mayor of the city helping to pass them out.”110

At some point between the late summer of 1935 and January 1936, the Mormons agreed to furnish rudimentary basketball instruction to the German Olympic team. The catalyst seems to have been the Germans’ realization that it would have to field an Olympic team in an unfamiliar sport, with a limited budget to fund the teaching of basic basketball skills. Basketball had appeared in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis and again in the 1932 games in Los Angeles as a “display sport” an event which the host country can stage in order to call attention to emerging local sports, but in which medals won do not count in the official standings.111 Basketball exhibitions, but not full-fledged competition, occurred as part of the 1924 games in Paris and the 1928 games in Amsterdam. In 1936, however, basketball became a regular Olympic medal sport, and the German hosts felt obligated to field a team to compete in every sport. The problem was that almost no one in Germany knew anything about the game, except for a few foreigners attending German universities and the Mormon missionaries.

According to Professor Arnd Krueger of the Institut für Sportswissenschaften at the University of Göettingen, the Germans met the challenge by designating the second-string national handball team, not to be confused with American handball, as their Olympic basketball squad. The decision was theoretically sound. The handball players were accomplished athletes. Eight of the ten who eventually played in the Olympics had been students at either the Army Sports School at Wünsdonf or the Air Force Sports School at Spandau. However, they were not considered talented enough to make the Olympic team in their own sport. In fact, handball was not a German priority in the games. It was governed as a neglected subsection of the German track and field federation. Since the Germans had no expectations for Olympic glory in handball, no decision maker feared criticism for diverting second-line players from one unimportant sport to another.112

The Germans eventually hired a professional coach. Hermann Niebuhr had learned basketball as a teacher at a German secondary school in Istanbul, where he associated with American faculty members who coached the game. However, budget considerations left no money for player development prior to the beginning of Niebuhr’s contract.113 When the team assembled in eastern Germany in the autumn of 1935, probably at the army post in Wünsdonf or the air force base in Brandenburg, a group of Mormon elders greeted them. It was the task of the missionaries not to save the German players’ souls, but instead to teach a group of handball players how to dribble, pass, and shoot prior to meeting their new basketball coach. Vinton M. Merrill, one of those basketball tutors, recalled the development of the German Olympic players that he “coached”:

A bunch of broken down missionaries beat the Germans handily at first, but as time went on, they got better and better. After a while, they got so good that they could take the ball away from us easily. They were in superb physical condition.


Merrill said that after the training camp, he and his fellow missionaries played weekly games against the German team, some of them at the Olympic venue. 114

A short entry in the German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories in August 1936 comments on the beginning of the Olympic Games, the enthusiasm of the opening-day crowd, and the participation of one Mormon athlete, a student at Brigham Young University who occupied a spot on the American track and field team. It also notes briefly the role of four young American missionaries, some of whom had participated in teaching basic basketball skills to the German Olympic team:

Four of the Mormon missionaries were asked to be basketball officials in the basketball arena and were given official coats and badges to be worn at this time. They were Vinton M. Merrill, Charles A. Perschon, Jerome J. Christensen, and Edward G. Judd.115


One author misread that passage and overstated the role of those “officials.” In modern basketball vernacular, an official is usually a referee. Thus, it is not surprising that Gilbert Scharffs, in Mormonism in Germany, said the missionaries were Olympic basketball referees.116 In actuality, referees from the International Basketball Federation officiated the games. Instead, the four Mormons were the designated keepers of the official scorebooks, which recorded the outcome of the game and tracked each player’s points and fouls. They served in that capacity only for the games of the first and second rounds on August 7 and 8, after which other scorers worked the remaining games. Undoubtedly, as a result of the missionaries’ efforts to prepare the German team, four American missionaries were invited to offer their services as scorers. However, the official box score of each game recorded each young man’s nationality as “German.”117

The Mormons’ experience with the 1936 Olympic basketball competition serves as an example of their tendency to both accommodate and ingratiate themselves with Germany’s National Socialist government. By the time the Summer Olympics began, Germany’s exclusion of its Jewish population from both athletic competition and most rights of citizenship had become well known. The Olympic boycott movement had failed, but its circumstances were familiar to anyone who read a general-circulation daily newspaper. Mormon missionaries in Berlin during that era saw anti-Semitic signs and banners disappear during the three weeks of the eleventh Olympiad in August 1936. Then, the same elders undoubtedly noticed the reemergence of that signage after foreign visitors departed.118 No evidence suggests that even one German associated with the basketball effort converted to Mormonism. Thus, as a missionary effort, it did not succeed. However, it served as one more reminder that, in addition to “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law,” as the Twelfth Article of Faith pledged, this American sect would also support the Nazi system that imposed an onerous legal system.

Boy Scouting: The Mormons’ Only Unconditional Surrender to the Nazis

On March 4, 1940, six months after the beginning of the Second World War, the ocean liner SS Washington docked in New York Harbor after a fourteen-day voyage from Genoa.119 A New York Times reporter interviewed several arriving passengers, including French and British diplomats, an international banker, and the last Mormon missionaries to evacuate Europe. A former Swiss-Austrian Mission president who became the senior LDS prelate in Europe after the war began, Thomas E. McKay, spoke with the journalist as he disembarked with his wife, daughter, and four young elders.

McKay expressed regret for having to leave Europe, where he had served three Mormon missions, two as a mission president. Then he summarized how his coreligionists had been received by Hitler’s regime: “The Mormons have never been molested in Germany,” McKay told the reporter. He continued,” We couldn’t ask for better treatment. The only way the Nazis have affected our work is that our Boy Scout movement has been curtailed by the Hitler Youth movement.”120

McKay’s comment regarding the suspension of Boy Scout activities, which had occurred some six years earlier in 1934, focused on the only unconditional Mormon surrender to the Nazis. His disappointment was understandable to anyone who knew the special role that Scouting played in Mormonism during the first decades of the twentieth century. As the activities arm of the Aaronic Priesthood, Scouting performed a role unmatched in other church denominations that sponsored troops.121 Attainment of merit badges and promotion in Scouting rank marked significant mileposts in a Mormon boy’s advancement toward ordination in the senior Melchizedek Priesthood. In the LDS view, the lessons in sacrifice and endurance learned on hikes and wilderness campouts were building blocks for successful missionary service and adult church leadership. Boy Scouting was not an optional activity once a faithful Latter-day Saint reached the age of twelve; it was a boot camp, albeit an enjoyable one, that drilled the future shock troops of Mormonism.

The Boy Scout issue illuminates one important aspect of the survival strategy employed by skilled American mission presidents to protect the congregations they considered vulnerable and the missionary program they treasured. When Mormons decided to contest a Nazi decision, they usually did so locally.122 They were cautious regarding which issues they allowed to reach authorities above the Gau level. Mormons decided to forego an appeal to save their Scouting program that would have to be made to the higher echelons of the of the National Socialist government. Because scout troops across Germany were being absorbed by the Hitler Youth, they knew they would lose this battle.123 Mission presidents also terminated the German Scouting movement because any kind of compromise forged with the Hitler Youth would have surrendered control of a church-based program to outsiders.

By contrast, the Mormons maintained their traditional female youth organizations because challenges posed on behalf of the Nazi girls’ organizations never escalated beyond the local level, and because LDS adult leaders could maintain control.124 When a Gauleiter or other official ordered the cessation of local Beehive or Gleaner Girl activity, the Mormons obediently suspended meetings of the contested local youth organization.125 Then they quietly worked behind the scenes, or in some cases tactfully appealed to the official’s immediate supervisor, in order to mitigate the sanction.

The Mormons also became skilled at not drawing Nazi attention to the youth programs that survived. Unlike the Girl Scouts or Campfire Girls, who wore uniforms, the LDS girls’ programs did not prescribe military attire. Bund deutscher Mädel girls wore Hitler Youth uniforms. Unlike the Boy Scouts, other Mormon youth programs did not affiliate with an international organization, and thus did not provoke Nazi suspicions of foreign interference. Local congregational leaders also took care to comply with the exact wording of an official’s banning order without exceeding its specifications. In 1938, for example, police in Zwickau forbade the local district’s Mutual Improvement Association (MIA) from holding an Easter commemoration, ostensibly a dramatic production that would be open to the public.126 However, the order did not prohibit the boys and girls who belonged to the MIA chapter from meeting together for other customary activities, which the Zwickau youngsters presumably continued doing. As a last resort, Mormon congregations learned how to disguise youth activities. In October 1938, the East German Mission replaced separate MIA meetings with an “Evening Hour” program. All auxiliary organizations, for adults as well as for juveniles, met at the church meetinghouse at one time.127 With so many adults in the building, the gathering must have resembled regular congregational worship, which the Nazis almost never banned.

Nevertheless, the disappearance of church-controlled Scout troops, and the mandatory attendance at Hitler Youth activities required by the Nazi state, caused significant angst among Germany’s Mormons. In order to understand why Scouting was so important, it is necessary to examine the roots of LDS Church-sanctioned youth activity in Utah during the first years of the twentieth century. Scouring in Utah evolved from the Mutual Improvement Association, founded through the direction of Brigham Young in 1875 as an educational and cultural association for adolescents. Over the next decades, it developed a wide-ranging but physically sedentary program of intellectual activities and spiritual guidance for Mormon adolescents. Church-wide competitions occurred in poetry reading, debate, public speaking, and other subjects.128

In 1911, a well-developed syllabus of instruction, which contained discussions about contemporary political and socials issues, underwent a strong challenge from a former speaker of Utah’s state house of representatives. Thomas Hull complained to the church’s ruling triumvirate, the First Presidency, that a number of those lessons promoted socialism. Brigham Young University historian Thomas Alexander wrote that Hull might have been concerned about lesson plans that concerned public ownership of utilities, compulsory arbitration, higher wages, and women’s suffrage.129 Hull’s complaint, which caused a major rewriting of the MIA curriculum, may have also contributed to momentum within the organization for expansion into more physical youth activities. In 1908, the MIA had adopted basketball as a church-wide youth activity. In the next few years, the MIA added gymnastics and track meets to the agenda.130 Scouting, with its emphasis on hiking, camping, and other rugged outdoor skills, seemed to be another candidate that fit the new model.

The first step toward Mormon involvement in Scouting, however, occurred in England, where Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell held the first Boy Scout campout in 1907.131 In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) emerged under the guidance of Chicago publisher William Boyce.132 Just one year later, the LDS church leadership started a derivative of that organization, the MIA Scouts.133 For the remainder of the next decade, while Scouting became increasingly popular in Utah, church leaders debated the degree to which Mormon troops would affiliate with the national council of the BSA. John H. Taylor, a member of the MIA General Board, wrote:

At first the Church hesitated about this affiliation because it was not sure how far the National organization would take over the leadership of the boy. No program was of sufficient importance if it in any way interfered with the relationship between the boy and his Church.134


According to Alexander, the BYU historian, the potential loss of power to appoint scoutmasters drove the leadership’s initial reluctance. Heber J. Grant, who became Prophet, Seer, and Revelator in 1918, feared “losing control to men who believed in smoking and drinking.”135

One of those obstacles, drinking, disappeared in 1919 with the ratification of Prohibition, the Eighteenth Amendment, and the other, smoking, ceased to be an issue in 1921 when Utah’s legislature adopted a short-lived ban on tobacco sales.136 Shortly thereafter, assured of church control of their own Scouting troops, the name MIA Scouts disappeared when all LDS Church troops joined the national organization.137 In the late 1920s, the leadership designated Boy Scouting as the “activity program for the deacons and teachers of the Aaronic Priesthood.”138 Because of emphasis by the church’s ecclesiastical leadership, Scouting in the Mormon Culture Region took on the sense of a religious obligation, rather than a voluntary activity. In 1926, one in three teenage boys in Utah belonged to a Scout troop. The national average that year was one in five.139

Although the beginnings of Scouting in the English-speaking world can be traced definitively to Baden-Powell’s campout on Brownsea Island in 1907, the origins of German Scouting are obscured in the evolution of the Wandervogel movement in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Conceived by middle-class youth who sought temporary escape from the rigidity of Wilhelmine society, Wandervogel groups staged hiking expeditions that lasted as long a month—adventures such as traversing the Harz and Bavarian mountain ranges and trekking along the banks of the Rhine River. Illinois State University scholar Lawrence D. Walker found several characteristics of Wandervogel groups that the scouting movement later emulated. Members of each faction, called a Gruppe or Horde, numbered from as few as seven or eight to a maximum in the twenties. Most established a Nest or Heim, a clubhouse of sort that served as both an escapist refuge and a place for planning future adventures. In the case of Scouting, that functioned as a place to store the troop’s flags, emblems, and streamers. Ages ranged from twelve to nineteen, except in the case of young adults who undertook university studies and formed on-campus chapters. Finally, Wandervogel leadership tended to be young, often only two or three years older than the average age of each member of the Heim.140

Boy Scouting in Germany, the Pfadfinder (Path Finder) movement, emerged in 1909 when Dr. Alexander Lion, a physician and Bavarian Army veteran, spent several days in London with Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts. Shortly thereafter, he published Das Pfadfinderbuch, the first German-language Scouting manual. Lion founded the Pfadfinder organization in 1910, and by 1914 it had attracted as many as eighty thousand members. As Walker notes, it maintained a separate identity from the Wandervogel in the pre-war period:

Youth led the Wandervogel; adults led the scouts. The Wandervogel concentrated on rambles; the scouts on woodcraft and paramilitary training. The Wandervogel wore bizarre clothing and strolled; the scouts wore uniforms and marched.141


Young veterans of the pre-war Wandervogel and Pfadfinder movements returned after the First World War to find expanding opportunities for German young people to affiliate with a variety of organizations. According to the Reich Board of German Youth Associations, 4.3 million young people, out of a total of nine million, associated with some kind of youth organization in the mid-1920s. Some 1.6 million youth joined a sports club and 1.2 million belonged to a church youth group. The freewheeling days of the Wandervogel, during which young people ran their own organization, had disappeared. University of Essen historian Detlev Peukert wrote, “Both in [their] aims and the way [they were] run,” Weimar Republic youth organizations were “largely controlled from the outside,” meaning that they were directed by adults.142 That included Pfadfinder troops, which divided mostly into rival sponsorship groups by the Catholic and Evangelical/Protestant Churches. The nature of German Scouting had changed, however, to amalgamate the handicraft and paramilitary aspects of the pre-war Pfadfinder organizations with the hiking and camping activities of the Wandervogel.

This was the situation confronted by Swiss and German Mission President Fred Tadje in 1924 when he founded the LDS Church’s Scouting program in Germany. He based the system of Scout ranks and merit badges upon the American model, but borrowed the German name Pfadfinder. In 1927, the Mormons changed that name to the LDS Boy Scouts. 143 Participation in Scouting appeared to grow steadily. In December 1927, the German-Austrian Mission held a three-day scoutmaster training conference.144 LDS Scouts and their equivalent Mormon girls’ organization, the Beehives, participated in the MIA’s annual Green and Gold Echo of Joy banquet in 1927 and 1928. In the latter year, several thousand church members and their invited guests attended. They witnessed a flag ceremony staged by thirty Mormon Boy Scout troops.

Although German Mormons apparently embraced Scouting enthusiastically, one problem remained. The German LDS Boy Scouts lacked affiliation with the national and worldwide Scouting movement, and thus could not take part in meetings and jamborees alongside the German Pfadfinder organizations sponsored by the mainline churches. The dilemma seemed similar to the one the church hierarchy confronted less than a decade earlier, when it debated amalgamating the American Scout troop organizations with the Boy Scouts of America. Mormons feared losing control. Given the religious nature of Mormon Scouting, the American mission presidents could not tolerate the thought of a Catholic or Lutheran scoutmaster being placed in command of an LDS troop. Nor would Mormon Scoutmasters wish to take directives from senior Scout executives of another faith. The mission presidents sought a twofold solution: First, find a German Scouting organization with no ties to an established church, but with existing bonds to the national and international Boy Scout movements. Second, gain control of it.

On November 6, 1928, President Hyrum Valentine of the German-Austrian Mission, accompanied by LDS Scouting leaders from both German missions, met in Leipzig with Otto Stollbert, whom the mission records describe as “a representative of the Späher Bund of Scouting.” They agreed to a merger between the LDS Boy Scouts and Stollbert’s organization, which was not affiliated with either the Catholic or Lutheran Pfadfinder movement. They synchronized the details of membership, such as registration procedures and age limits. They standardized the ritualistic and symbolic aspects of Scouting: the pledge, oath of allegiance, rank structure, and design of merit badges. When the meeting approached its end, the new “Baden-Powell Council,” as one Mormon Scout official called it, elected its leadership. Herr Stollbert, who had entered the meeting as an equal, representing his own Scouting council, found himself relegated to drafting a constitution for the new organization, to be known in Germany as the Deutscher Scoutverbund, the German Scouting Association.145 Valentine, who ostensibly had come to Leipzig to ride the coattails of an established German Scouting council to achieve national and international recognition for his Mormon Boy Scouts, emerged as Council President. That did not occur by happenstance. As Steven E. Carter of Henderson State University wrote, “By 1930, the Mormon Church had become a primary sponsor of the German Scout Association.”146 Mission presidents in Germany wanted access to national and international Scouting events while maintaining rigid control of their organizations. They were willing to pay for the privilege.

Less than one month later, on December 3, Stollbert and the Mormons met again, this time in Hamburg. According to mission records, “A representative of the international Scouting organization” accompanied the Späher Bund leader, along with delegates who represented “various Scout and Pfadfinder organizations in Germany.”147 Apparently, these were delegates from other small, unaffiliated German Scouting organizations who perhaps were attracted by offers of Mormon financial support. The German-Austrian Mission historical records—prepared for review by the Salt Lake City hierarchy—overstate the accomplishments at this meeting, e.g., “Attempts were made to standardize all scouting activities in the country.” Because no representatives of the larger Catholic or Protestant Pfadfinder councils were invited, German Boy Scouting procedures could hardly have been standardized at a meeting of several relatively insignificant organizations. Some dissention within the German Scouting community arose from this meeting, which probably originated from those Pfadfinder organizations that attended the second meeting but chose not to affiliate with the new council. Negative articles appeared in several newspapers, which the mission records attribute to “various large Pfadfinder organizations in Germany.”148 Nevertheless, the February 3, 1929 issue of Der Stern, the German-language Mormon periodical, published a picture of officials signing the Deutscher Scoutverbund agreement. The accompanying article said the new organization had received international recognition. On March 3, an Amtsgericht, a local district court in Dresden, registered the new Scouting council as a legal organization under Weimar Republic statutes.149 The Mormons had joined the German Boy Scouting movement on their own terms.

For Mormon Boy Scouting in Germany, the last years of Weimar democracy served as a prolonged Indian summer: campouts in the Harz Mountains, international Scouting jamborees in England, and steady growth in membership numbers. More than 600 boys belonged to the scout troops affiliated with the Berlin-based German-Austrian mission in 1930.150 Many more participated in troops sponsored by the Swiss-German mission. A Scouting superintendent reported the existence of forty-four troops in both missions.151 Scouting engendered great enthusiasm among teenagers and adults alike. One boy, presumably a member of an outlying congregation that did have a troop, rode a bicycle for 1,000 kilometers in order to reach the site of a camping trip.152 A visiting official from the Salt Lake City hierarchy, Oscar A. Kirkham, extolled the virtues of Scouting before an assemblage of 300 Mormons in Berlin. He wore an Indian costume with a feathered headdress.153

As the Great Depression’s economic calamity worsened, the blustery winds of a National Socialist winter threatened. While Mormon Scout troops patrolled the wilds, Hitler Youth joined brown-shirted adults demonstrating in Germany’s cities. Hitler appointed a dynamic young follower to lead the Hitler Youth in 1931. The Fuhrer’s equivalent of a “scoutmaster” was a handsome and fair-haired but ethically challenged, young man who joined the Nazi Party at age seventeen and then became the Reich Youth Leader, the Reichsjugendführer, at twenty-four. Baldur van Schirach was hardly a street brawler; he had descended from an aristocratic background. His father was a German army officer turned theatre director. His mother was an American whose lineage included two signers of the Declaration of Independence. Young Baldur did not speak German until the age of five, but by the time he completed German language studies at the University of Munich, he had mastered the vocabulary of virulent anti- Semitism. He devoured the works of Adolf Bartels and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and he read Henry Ford’s The International Jew. He met Hitler though his wife, the daughter of the Führer’s personal photographer, and became part of the Nazi inner circle early in the Party’s history. Prior to his assignment to lead the Hitler Youth, Schirach devoted boundless energy to organizing university students.154 Thanks in part to his efforts, Nazi student groups organized at Germany’s universities more effectively than those of any other political party.

When Hitler rose to power in January 1933, Schirach launched his own version of Gleichschaltung, the forced consolidation of German youth groups, with the characteristic energy of a recently appointed Scout patrol leader. His purpose was simple, to destroy anything that remained of the German Youth Movement, Die deutsche Jugendbewegung, that started with the Wandervogel in the late nineteenth century, and included all other youth groups that followed.155 A combination of Schirach’s infectious enthusiasm, the ruthlessness of Nazi officialdom, and the ambitions of Reichsbishop Ludwig Müller led to the forced rolling of all Protestant youth groups in Germany into the Hitler Youth on December 19, 1933. That included all Pfadfinder troops. Hitler’s Concordat with the Catholic Church made absorption of Catholic youth groups more difficult, but the irresistible Nazi force caused eventual capitulation to occur in stages. By November 1936, the St. Georg Pfadfinderschaft, the Scouting subdivision of the main Catholic youth organization, had changed its name and suspended its Scout troop organizations.156

By the time that the Nazis exerted pressure on the Mormons to disband their Scouting program, the heady days of frolicking on campouts and basking in adult approval at merit badge ceremonies appeared to be as fleeting as were the memories of Weimar democracy. As P. D. Stachura of the University of Stirling wrote:

In the widespread euphoria which accompanied Hitler’s accession to power, tens of thousands of new members swept into the NSDAP and the SA. German youth were not immune to the prevailing atmosphere with the result that the most immediate consequence of the Machtergreifung in the youth sector was the overnight expansion of the HJ.157


The Mormon historical records assiduously avoid documenting the number of members who enrolled in Nazi auxiliary organizations such as the SA or Hitler Youth. Likewise, individual Mormons, like their fellow Germans who lived through the National Socialist period, are reluctant to volunteer their recollections of a brown shirt-clad adolescence or young adulthood. Yet enough data seeps through those filters to suggest that when the Mormons finally surrendered their cherished Scouting program to the HJ, many Mormon youth donned khaki shirts adorned with different badges and accouterments.

In an article that appeared in the Deseret News in October 1933, religion writer Fay Ollerton noted, “Some of the brethren now wear the brown uniform, and others have fallen away.”158 As Steven E. Carter documents, “Many Mormon youngsters joined the Hitler Youth. Some became active participants in the Nazi organization and fondly recalled the experience.”159 Brigham Young University scholars Douglas F. Tobler and Alan F. Keele wrote, “The women’s auxiliary of the Party and the Hitler Youth were regarded by some [German members] as secular equivalents to the Church’s Relief Society, MIA, and Scouting programs.”160 Jared H. B. Kobs, who moved to Utah after the Second World War, recalled several years spent in the Hitler Youth’s auxiliary for ten- to fourteen-year olds, the Deutches Jungvolk. He proudly added that he was able to avoid participation in the older auxiliary, the Hitlerjugend, because of an approved vocational apprenticeship.161 Likewise, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe was expelled from the Hitler Youth and Rudy Wobbe quit. Their disparaging testimonies of the HJ were atypical; they later became involved with the Helmuth Hübener group of resisters.162

Enrollment numbers found in LDS Church historical records indicate a decline in Scouting membership concomitant with rising interest in the HJ after the Nazi seizure of power. In 1930, the German-Austrian mission reported an enrollment of six hundred boys in its Scouting organization. That number would not have included the Scouting enrollment of the Swiss-German Mission, in which ninety percent of the members were German citizens. Arthur Gaeth, that mission’s first Scouting superintendent, recalled the existence of forty-four troops in both missions.163 By April 1934, when Mormon Scouting ended, the mission records reported a combined enrollment of 150, and in addition “about 100 boys [were] doing Scout work, but they were not registered.”164

The Mormons successfully delayed the inevitable in 1933 when Protestant Pfadfinder troops dissolved. A notation in December of that year said:

The Hitler Jugen [sic], a youth’s organization sponsored by the national government of Germany, has influenced quite a number of our boys to join them. The permanent continuation of our Boy Scout organization in Germany does not look good.165


The end came over a period of two months during the spring of 1934. On March 2, a Mormon scoutmaster in Freiberg, Saxony, Erich Kleinert, received a letter inquiring about the Boy Scout program from the Nazi youth leader for Saxony. After his response, the district president in Dresden, Robert Hoehle, received correspondence from another Saxon Nazi youth official, dated March 13:

As I am informed you are the District President of the LDS Boy Scouts, a group of path finders, which is neither approved nor registered by the Youth Leader of the German Empire. I request, therefore, an immediate explanation of from what source you claim authorization for your organization, and to what extent you belong to another organization. At the same time, I would like to have a list of all existing troops in Saxony with the names of the troop leaders, not later than the sixth of the month, because, as already mentioned, I have nothing in my files concerning your organization. . . . [signed]Heil Hitler! The Youth Leader of the Saxony Free State, G. Gorschig.


The district president responded promptly, after which Herr Gorschig replied:

I am well informed about the work and organization of the LDS Boy Scouts of Germany. I consider it of no value to allow groups to exist in Saxony that are functioning, to a certain degree, in the work that really belongs in the scope of the ‘Hitler Jugend’ and thereby disturb the latter more or less. I, therefore, inform you that the further existence of the LDS Boy Scouts in Saxony is not desired, and ask for notification before the 11th [of April] as to what time the groups in Saxony expect to be dissolved, or when you will be willing to transfer your members over to the Hitler Youth. After the uniting of the entire German youth in the Hitler Youth it is an absurdity to allow small sects to exist for any particular reason. . . . [signed]Heil Hitler! The Youth Leader of the Free State of Saxony, G. Gorschig.


The Mormon Scouting leadership in Saxony took its case to the mission office in Berlin. Helmuth Plath, who served as the German-Austrian Mission’s scouting superintendent, wrote a letter of appeal to Gorschig’s supervisor in the Hitler Youth but received no response. The mission office did, however, receive a visit from “an officer of the secret service.” At that point, mission officials became concerned that the Nazis could seize the church’s property. The decision was made. On April 21, 1934 the mission issued a “circular letter” announcing the discountenance of all Scouting activity at the end of the month.

On April 28, the German-Austrian Mission dispatched a letter to the “Youth Leader of the German Empire” in Berlin.166 Baldur van Schirach may not have seen the correspondence, but if he did, it would have been regarded as one more small win in a year of victories for the Hitler Youth. “Coordination” of youth groups in Nazi Germany had resulted in the casualty of another small, independent organization amid burgeoning enrollment in the HJ. In the year 1934, when the Mormons gave up their small scouting organization, Hitler Youth membership increased by sixty-four percent over the previous year, to a total enrollment of 3,577,565.167

The Mormons’ one-sentence surrender revealed capitulation in more than one respect:

In compliance with the wish of the German Youth Leaders, the German Scout Organization was dissolved April 30, 1934. . . . [signed]With the German salutation, Helmuth Plath, Chairman.168


The letter’s closing appears to have been an after-the-fact, euphemistic redaction of mission historical records by sensitive LDS Church archivists. It is doubtful that the original letter contained the words, “With the German salutation.”

It would not be the last time the Mormons said “Heil Hitler!”
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:47 am

Part 3 of 4

The Führer’s Chosen People? The Mormons’ Hitler Myth

On July 31, 1934, almost exactly a year and a half after Adolf Hitler came to power, Senator Elbert Thomas of Utah visited the American Embassy in Berlin. Thomas, a former college professor, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a Democrat, was enjoying a triumphant second year of his own. In the November 1932 elections, he had ridden Franklin Roosevelt’s political tidal wave that swept the Democratic Party into a commanding congressional majority and swept out, in the case of Utah, Senator Reed Smoot, a Mormon Apostle and three-decade GOP senatorial veteran. Thomas’ 1934 visit to Berlin was not a government-funded junket; he was traveling in Germany on the strength of his academic credentials. Before the election, Thomas’ accomplishments as a professor of history and political science at the University of Utah had won him an Oberlaender Fellowship, in recognition of a distinguished career that also included the teaching of Latin, Greek, and Japanese culture and civilization. A five-year Mormon mission to Japan at the turn of the twentieth century had taught Thomas to speak fluent Japanese.169

The United States Ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, was an accomplished scholar in his own right. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig and subsequently taught American history for thirty-three years at Randolph Macon College and the University of Chicago. He published a biography of Thomas Jefferson in German. When the two distinguished former professors sat down to talk that Tuesday at the American embassy on Pariser Platz, the ambassador seemed surprised regarding the senator’s concerns. Dodd wrote:

I was favorably impressed, although it is hard for me to understand how a man of intellectual distinction can be interested in Mormon missionary work. There are a number of Mormons in Germany and Hitler has not dissolved their organizations or expelled their active preachers. There are other than religious aspects to Hitler’s let-up on the Mormons.170


When Dodd wrote in his diary, it had been only three months since the Mormons agreed to suspend their Boy Scout activities, a development that the ambassador may not have known. Other than the Scouting ban, Latter-day Saints had little justification for complaint. Dodd’s observations about Hitler’s “let-up on the Mormons” probably resulted from his dealings with other small, American religious sects in Germany who, unlike the Mormons, were indeed experiencing varying degrees of Nazi persecution. Christine King refers to Dodd’s work on behalf of Christian Scientists, a denomination with powerful friends in the United States and Europe, which eventually saw the Nazis ban its congregational worship.171 Dodd had received visits from prominent Christian Scientists, including Viscount Waldorf Astor, in September 1933 after the arrest of church members in Thuringia. By the summer of 1934, Seventh-Day Adventists, headquartered in Washington, D. C, had also experienced the temporary banning of church meetings in various German municipalities.172 The Jehovah’s Witnesses, based in Brooklyn, were already undergoing severe persecution. Many of their members had lost their jobs and some were in jail because they refused military service and would not salute the Nazi flag. Thus, when Senator Thomas expressed concern regarding Mormon missionary work, Ambassador Dodd was perplexed. The Nazis were treating Thomas’ Latter-day Saints better than any other small sectarian group with foreign origins. Dodd wondered why.

Others, including many rank-and-file Latter-day Saints, also wondered why the Mormons seemed to be enjoying a respite from persecution. The perceived “let-up” had little to do with Hitler; the Mormons had given the Nazis little reason to find fault. That did not stop many German Mormons from embracing contrived connections between the Führer and their church, and between many Nazi policies and Mormon customs. Most Germans, including Latter-day Saints, embraced what historian Ian Kershaw called the “Hitler Myth.” Kershaw defined that fallacy as a series of artificial images, cultivated by propaganda, that resulted in the Führer’s widespread adulation by the German populace.173 By comparison as a religious culture, Mormonism encourages veneration and idolization of its church leaders. Thus, German Latter-day Saints were the ideal subjects to ingest, unquestioningly, the large doses of fanciful secular and spiritual elixir that both the Nazi Party and the Mormon Church prescribed. In doing so, they managed to customize their own version of the Hitler Myth.

In 1896, the Mormon Prophet, Joseph F. Smith, had changed the church’s monthly fast day to the first Sunday of each month. Members would abstain from eating two meals and donate the money saved, called a “fast offering,” to the church’s charity fund.174 Missionaries brought this custom with them to Germany. In October 1933, as part of the Nazis’ Winter Relief program, the Winterhilfswerk , the government urged Germans to eat a simple meal on the second Sunday of each month. Newspapers published recipes and bookstores sold cookbooks devoted to “One-Pot Sunday,” Eintopfsonntag. Nazi block and precinct captains went door-to-door to collect the money that families saved, the difference between the cost of stew and more elaborate fare. Presumably, when greeted at the door by enthusiastic gentlemen wearing swastika lapel pins or armbands, few householders found themselves unwilling to produce the fifty Pfennigs or so that were expected.175 From time to time, Hitler appeared at a public feeding for the needy, “humbled” himself by consuming the unpretentious cuisine, and then consented to be photographed by the “surprised” newspaper cameraman who had “coincidently” been assigned to that location. As historian Klaus P. Fischer stated, “Joseph Goebbels was the undisputed master of exploiting genuine benevolent impulses for ulterior, political ends.”176

Among German Mormons and their American missionaries, a widespread belief quickly developed that Hitler had originated his welfare scheme by emulating the LDS Fast Sunday.177 The Mormons’ weekly Millennial Star, published in London, pounced upon the story by reporting that the Mormons’ custom “may have either directly or indirectly [been] the inspiration and the model for the new scheme adopted by the German government—perhaps not.”178 By the time the Deseret News recounted the story, all doubt had evaporated:

A friend of the Church in Danzig tells of how a number of his Nazi friends were trying to high-pressure him into getting on the bandwagon under the Swastika. Their trump card to show the originality and political genius of the Hitler party was the brilliant method they have undertaken to put over the charity drive for this winter. To them it was phenomenal; to the friend, however, it was just another application of the effective method that has been used in the Mormon Church for decades. The Nazis have introduced Fast Sunday. . . . On this day a meal consisting of a one-bowl portion is all there is to be eaten and the price of a meal is expected to be donated to the winter charity fund. . . . It is designed not only to alleviate acute poverty, but it has the important purpose of developing that spirit of sacrifice that is now being addressed in the new Germany and also of creating a feeling of unity and brotherhood through voluntary mutual help.179


These religion writers, who were always angling for a faith-promoting story, did not have to spend all of their reporting time dredging for grass-roots rumors. Sometimes the idea came from the top; in this case, at least one mission president embraced the myth. Roy A. Welker, president of the Berlin-based German-Austrian Mission from 1934 to 1937, told an oral history interviewer late in his life:

My personal opinion was that Hitler was very much impressed with the LDS faith and church and its practices, and I’ve always felt that this fast day he established, that’s what it amounted to, and the contributions for aiding the poor and so forth, he borrowed from the church.180


According to a privately published biography of Roy Welker, written by his eldest daughter Rhoda, “The whole Welker family believed that Hitler had acquired this idea from the Mormons.”181

The same way of thinking led many Mormons to assume a connection between the propagandized image of Hitler as a non-drinking, non-smoking advocate of clean living and the Mormons’ health code, the Word of Wisdom. The latter originated in 1833 when Joseph Smith lived in Kirtland, Ohio and taught a spiritual adult-education course he called the School of the Prophets, ostensibly to train missionaries and future church leaders. Classes met in an upstairs room of a dry goods store owned by one of his bishops, Newel K. Whitney, where Smith lived at the time. The gathered men would smoke, chew, and spit tobacco, without ashtrays or spittoons, during Smith’s lessons. According to Brigham Young’s account, Emma Smith, the Prophet’s first wife, complained about having to clean the filthy floor. Smith himself experienced some discomfort from “a cloud of tobacco smoke” during lectures.182 The experience caused Smith to issue a “revelation” from God, classified as Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, that prohibits the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and “hot drinks,” and additionally, urges moderation in the consumption of red meat. Although the Word of Wisdom underwent a period of interpretation and inconsistent enforcement during the nineteenth century, by the time the Mormons began attracting a flood of new converts during the Weimar Republic years, it clearly prohibited alcohol consumption in a beer-friendly nation like Germany.183

Although Hitler indeed consumed little alcohol and did not smoke, his image as a vegetarian teetotaler was carefully crafted propaganda used, in the words of Ian Kershaw, to evoke the image of a “Führer without sin.”184 Such a cultivated reputation was one element in an effort to portray Hitler as the sober, well-intentioned, moderate leader of a Nazi state that took extreme actions. It helps to explain why Hitler’s personal popularity remained elevated when Germans’ opinion of the Nazi Party began to decline. Although Hitler did not allow himself to be seen drinking, he never avoided association with the trappings of alcohol that make up everyday German life, and which devout Mormons avoided by the early twentieth century. Faithful Latter-day Saints would not be seen in a tavern, but Hitler gave one of his most famous speeches at the Bürgerbräukeller beer hall in Munich 1923. After the Beer Hall Putsch that followed, and Hitler’s subsequent trial and conviction for treason, authorities at Landsberg Prison allowed Hitler to maintain stocks of wine in his cell.185 Hitler served copious amounts of alcohol at dinners with Party officials and visiting dignitaries.

Regardless of how Hitler’s teetotaler image was framed, the Latter-day Saints seemed anxious to draw upon it as another parallel between Hitlerism and Mormonism. The same Deseret News article that proclaimed the Mormon Fast Sunday as the model for the Nazi Winter Relief campaign also told its readers that:

There is another noticeable trend in the Mormon direction. It is a very well known fact that Hitler observes a form of living which Mormons term the Word of Wisdom. He will not take alcohol, does not smoke, and is very strict about his diet, insisting on plain and wholesome foods, largely vegetarian. A specimen of physical endurance, Hitler can easily take his place alongside the athletes who are usually taken as classic examples.


Then, including Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels as another physical specimen to be admired, the article continues:

These two colorful leaders of the new Germany, in their gigantic struggle for political supremacy, have needed capable bodies and clear brains and have trained like athletes. Their very popularity is making intemperance more unpopular. The fact that they are worshiped may be one big reason for a growing dislike for smoking and drinking in Germany today. Posters from youth organizations fighting the use of tobacco actually appeared on the street.186


The absurd comparison of Hitler to a trained athlete illustrated how the Deseret News regarded fact versus fairy tale. Instead of stifling unsubstantiated rumors, it fell in line with the Mormon’s practice of accommodation and ingratiation with the Nazi regime. The same held true for the highest LDS officials in Germany at the time. In his work on the Mormons in Nazi Germany, Steven E. Carter maintains that at least one American mission president expressed the view that the Word of Wisdom and Hitler’s abstinence from alcohol and tobacco were related.187

In such an atmosphere, it was inevitable that some believers would imagine a closer church connection with the Führer, to the point that one popular rumor said that Hitler “so admired the Mormon hierarchical structure that he patterned his party after it.”188 Others believed Hitler “had attended the funeral of an LDS Church member in his native Austria.”189 Some believed Hitler was a “secret Mormon.”190 In the 1980s, a Latter-day Saint from Hamburg told Brigham Young University researchers about a picture taken of him surrounded by his church friends in the 1930s. The mustached man in the middle of the picture was Hitler, the gentleman claimed. Another popular rumor maintained that during the First World War, when Hitler served as an army messenger with the rank of corporal, a friend and fellow solider saved his life. That friend was a Mormon, and his actions on the battlefield that day convinced Hitler to be favorably disposed toward Mormonism.191 One Mormon missionary during the Weimar period claimed to have personally encountered Hitler and preached the Gospel to him.192 Other beliefs surfaced as a result of actions taken by church leaders to elevate its profile with the Nazi government. In 1935, missionaries mailed copies of the Book of Mormon and several other religious texts to Hitler and other high-level officials of the Nazi Party.193 To some, this was justification to proclaim that Hitler had read the Book of Mormon.194

Others have sought a more reasoned explanation for German Mormons’ early infatuation with Hitler. In his work on the LDS Church during the Weimar Republic, Brigham Young University graduate student Jeffery L. Anderson connects LDS social attitudes with the misguided perception that Hitler was cleaning up ethical decay in Germany.

Mormons were also pleased with Hitler’s attempts to institute what they perceived to be a higher morality in Germany. Prostitutes and homosexuals were arrested, and many of the decadent cabarets, for which Weimar Berlin was famous, were closed or closely monitored.195


Reports of sexual misconduct seem to have been the impetus for the only highlevel contact between Hitler and a Mormon Church official. In 1936, the wife of German-Austrian Mission President Roy Welker became concerned about lax moral standards in the Bund deutscher Mädel, the League of German Girls, in which many Mormon youth participated. In her official capacity as the overseer of all LDS women’s organizations in the mission, Elizabeth Hoge Welker received reports, one from as far away as a church member in England, about sexual promiscuity in Nazi youth camps.196 Indeed, Elizabeth Welker had a legitimate basis for concern, given the widespread rumors that emerged concerning the eighth annual Nazi Party Congress at Nuremberg in the summer of 1936. Some one hundred thousand German youth participated in that year’s glitzy festival of Nazism, paradoxically named the “Rally for Honor,” Reichsparteitag der Ehre, to commemorate the German remilitarization of the Rhineland.197 Welker may have seen nothing honorable in accounts that nine hundred young women, ages fifteen though eighteen, returned home pregnant. When the official investigation failed to establish paternity in four hundred of those cases, societal reverberations within Germany were surprisingly strong for a police state.198

Elizabeth Welker’s bold move resulted in meeting Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Women’s Leader, Reichsfrauenführeren Gertrud Scholtz-Klink. According to a private family history published by Welker’s daughter, and the recollections of Roy Welker during an oral history interview late in his life, Elizabeth Welker used an intermediary to deliver her protest to the Nazi Women’s League. She questioned the competency of adult supervisors at BDM camps, as well as the moral underpinnings of the organization.199 Her brash approach could have been ignored, or conceivably it could have brought the Mormons attention they did not desire, the kind that could have triggered recriminations.

Instead, Elizabeth Welker received a polite response, followed by an invitation to meet with two of Scholtz-Klink’s underlings at the offices of the National Socialist Women’s League, the Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft. Records of the German- Austrian Mission say Welker conversed with “Mrs. Daniels,” who referred Welker to a subsequent meeting with a superior, “Dr. Unger.”200 The Welker family’s biography describes two unnamed Nazi women with whom Welker met, “one who had received schooling in New York and another who as a linguist who spoke several languages fluently.”201 At Welker’s invitation, “Mrs. Daniels” attended a lecture on “Utah and the Mormons.” Subsequently, on September 30, 1936, Elizabeth Welker and her daughter Rhoda met again with both women at the NS-Frauenschaft headquarters where they give the Nazi women copies of two German-language church publications, “The Aims and Ideals of Relief Society Work” and “Hand Book of the Bee Hives.”202 The meetings led Elizabeth Welker to visit a Hitler Youth girls’ camp. One morning, a black government limousine arrived at the mission office, accompanied by “two Nazi soldiers in full uniform in the front seat” and an English-speaking female representative who acted as Welker’s tour guide. Elizabeth Welker not only satisfied herself regarding the moral suitability of the BDM camp, but she also took the opportunity to lecture her tour guide regarding the danger of the lady’s smoking habit.203

For reasons not conclusively explained by surviving source material, Elizabeth Welker’s outing to the BDM camp resulted in several subsequent trips in the company of Hitler and Scholtz-Klink.204 In each case, she rode in the government limousine to Hitler Youth rallies with the Fuhrer and the Nazi Women’s Leader.205 According to Roy Welker, his wife Elizabeth was “face to face with Hitler quite a lot.” Not much direct communication ensued, as Hitler did not speak English and Elizabeth Welker’s command of German at the time was limited. However, Roy Welker notes that Scholtz- Klink spoke excellent English. “She seemed to take a notation to Mother,” Roy Welker told historian Richard L. Jensen, “and that helped us a great deal.” Welker also said:

When Mother got involved with this national women’s organization, and was indirectly involved with Hitler, it was a great relief to us, I tell you. Things went along very well. We didn’t have any trouble to speak of.


With regard to finding a powerful ally for the Mormons, Elizabeth Welker chose her friends well. With regard to evaluating the character of this particular friend, Welker was less successful. Scholtz-Klink was no minor, servile minion who managed to snuggle up to the Führer for a few rides in a black, Nazi limousine. According to historian Mary Beard, by 1941 Scholtz-Klink

was governing some thirty million German women and tightening her grip on some twenty million other women in lands occupied by German troops. The dictatorial authority of this ‘Lady Führer über Alles’ was vividly described by Peter Engelmann. ‘Frau Klink,’ wrote Engelmann, ‘rules the lives of women in all things. She tells them how many children they shall have, and when; what they shall wear, what they shall cook and how. What they shall say, laughing to their husbands and sons marching to war. How they shall behave, smiling, when their men are killed. Here is the responsibility for the home spirit, the core of national morale.’206


Scholtz-Klink was neither a feminist, a moralist, nor a children’s advocate. She promoted the servility of women and the traditional role of the supportive, unquestioning wife and nurturing mother. With her third husband, SS-Obergruppenführer August Heissmeyer, she frequently visited women interned as political prisoners in concentration camps, preaching the gospel of National Socialist redemption.207 Hitler once referred to her as “the perfect woman.” 208

Roy Welker, the German-Austrian Mission President, described Scholtz-Klink’s physical appearance as “striking.”209 Another American woman who conversed with the Führerin at approximately the same time as Welker did told the New York Times:

One meets her surrounded by Nazi flags and uniforms. Her gentle femininity is a startling contrast to the military atmosphere. She is a friendly woman in her middle thirties, blonde, blue-eyed, regular featured, slender. She sits in her wicker chair on her little balcony and chats with her visitor. Her complexion is so fresh and clear that she dares to do without powder and rouge. . . . How does she feel about the possibility of going to war? She glances up at the swastikas and across at the black boots of the uniformed men beyond the doorway and she turns quickly away to hide the tears in her eyes. “I have sons,” she says quietly. Her eyes are as sad as the eyes of so many other German mothers who know so well the German Labor Camp motto which says so plainly that sons must “fight stubbornly and die laughing.”210


As the mother of five children and stepmother of six, Scholtz-Klink was an attractive candidate for Mormon adoration, but she never learned the Christian virtue of repentance. After escaping from Russian custody at the end of the Second World War, she spent three years hiding from the authorities. She worked as a baker in a Black Forest village before a resident turned her in. Adjudged a “major offender” by an Allied tribunal, she initially received an eighteen-month sentence, but an appeals court lengthened her imprisonment an additional thirty months. By 1949, however, a denazification commission proclaimed her rehabilitated, and years later at retirement age she collected a civil service pension.211 In 1978 she emerged from obscurity to write an unapologetic book about her experiences as Hitler’s women’s leader.212 In the 1980s, Duke University historian Claudia Koonz, with the help of Scholtz-Klink’s publisher, located the former Führerin in Tübingen and arranged an interview. In spite of Scholtz- Klink’s unapologetic book, Koonz had hoped to hear a degree of contrition, perhaps something similar to Albert Speer’s:

In political life, there is a responsibility for a man's own sector. For that he is of course fully responsible. But beyond that there is a collective responsibility when he has been one of the leaders. Who else is to be held responsible for the course of events, if not the closest associates around the Chief of State?213


Instead, the historian sat through a long, frustrating interview in which Scholtz- Klink glorified her past and disparaged post-war limitations on her ability to continue proselytizing her faith in Nazism. Koonz wrote:

This woman, who for twelve years imposed utter orthodoxy on her staff and dispatched Nazi propaganda to millions of German women, now castigated the current German government for limiting her freedom to extol the Nazi past. She did not care about preventing the rise of another murderous political system, but felt, on the contrary, deeply committed to vindicating the one she had supported.214


Toward the end of the interview, Scholtz-Klink revealed that her “aesthetic sensibilities were offended” by the appearance of so many yellow Stars of David on Berlin’s streets. She expressed no remorse for what the Nazis did to the Jews, only disgust at how the appearance of so many armbands ruined the capital city’s ambiance. Koonz—normally the dispassionate, analytical academic historian—recounts, “I repressed my only reaction: a fantasy, her face turning blue as hands closed tightly around her throat.”215

No choking fingers, but instead the handshakes and backslaps of adoration for a job well done, greeted Roy and Elizabeth Welker upon their return to Utah in 1937. When a Salt Lake Tribune reporter interviewed Roy Welker in Salt Lake City, the former mission president unashamedly proclaimed: “Jews are safer in Germany today than in many other parts of the world.”216 Perhaps Welker had fallen victim to a myth promulgated shortly after adoption of the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935 deprived Jews of their German citizenship. As historian Saul Friedländer wrote, many Germans, including many Jews, initially believed that the “subject” status granted to Germany’s Jewish population provided a degree of protection as an officially recognized national minority.217 They naively hoped that the law would stop street attacks by Nazi thugs and Nazi Party-proclaimed boycotts of Jewish businesses. This belief quickly dissipated among Germany’s Jews, as no protected status developed, and by 1937 only an observer as obtuse as the former German-Austrian mission president could utter such things with a straight face. Roy Welker went on to explain:

It is true that the Nazis are working to segregate the Jews, but they are treated well otherwise. Nazi dislike of Jews and hatred of communism are at the root of most propaganda against the nation.218


Roy Welker subsequently told a packed Salt Lake Tabernacle audience at the LDS Church’s 1937 Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City that: “Mr. Hitler has learned of us and has said that the Mormon people are doing the German government no harm and he wants them left alone.”219

Roy Welker allowed his version of the Hitler Myth, augmented with a brimming tablespoon of Goebbels’ propaganda, to narcotize his view of Nazi Germany. Elizabeth Welker simply allowed herself to be bamboozled by Gertrud Scholtz-Klink and her minions. She told the same Salt Lake Tribune reporter that Mormon women’s organizations in Germany enjoyed “excellent cooperation from the Nazi women’s division,” which she described as “a combination Red Cross and diversified activities organization.”220 Then, in an article written for the Mormon youth magazine, Improvement Era, she pontificated on the self-sufficiency and healthy living of German adolescent females, ostensibly in comparison with what she might have seen as the consumer-driven culture that engulfed spoiled American teenagers. The article mixes homey admonitions regarding sensible nutrition and modest dress with disquieting references to German racial superiority. “If [a German girl] goes to town,” Welker wrote, “she carries a sandwich, not a sweet and not an ice.” With regard to clothing, Welker lauds the choice of shoes that “permit her to walk ten miles a day,” woolen sweaters rather than silk, and “underclothing [that] has a purpose, and that purpose is not to be seen.” Then, in the same tone, Welker lauds the German girl who knows, “To build a superior race, she is doing all in her power to build a strong, vigorous body.” The article then discusses the dating habits of German teenagers, and the priority placed upon selecting ethnically proper and physically attractive breeding stock for the next generation of German children:

I have read ‘when a German youth comes to court a German girl he finds her pedigree chart hung in the front hall,’ but long before he comes to call he has looked her over as a possible mother for his children, and unless she measures up to his ideal of a perfect body, he does not call. Motherhood is the ideal of this entire people.


Welker concludes her article with a salute to the young German woman whose “wholesome outlook on life” propels a determination to “do her full part to develop a ‘superior race.”’221

By the time the Welkers returned from Germany in 1937, the Mormons’ strategy of accommodation and ingratiation had experienced success that would have pleased its architects, Oliver Budge and Francis Salzner, the early-Nazi era mission presidents. However, the last few years of the Mormons’ American missionary effort in Nazi Germany, 1938-39. would require a degree of expertise that exceeded the capabilities of relatively unsophisticated leaders such as Roy and Elizabeth Welker. To insure that Hitler’s “let-up” on the Mormons continued, the church enlisted the services of skilled intermediaries: a former American ambassador and undersecretary of state who dealt regularly with Hitler’s Reichsbank chairman, a former United States senator who wrote a racially charged German-language article, a Hitler salute-rendering mission president, and even a Prophet of God who preached the Gospel while standing underneath a large swastika.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:53 am

Part 4 of 4

_______________

Notes:

1 For a description of the mission headquarters building in Berlin and its environs, see Fay Ollerton, “A Visit to the German-Austrian Mission,” Deseret News, 21 Oct. 1933.
 
2 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 7 Sep. 1933.
 
3 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v., “Articles of Faith.”
 
4 Matthew 22:20-22, Mark 12:17, and Luke 20:25 (King James Version).
 
5 Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the Mormons’ equivalent of the Book of Romans 13:1-7, a set of statements written by the Apostle Paul to define the relationship between the Christian church and civil government.
 
6 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 85; Budge, My Story, 50. Scharffs maintains that Budge “had to appear before the Gestapo,” and in 85n17 states that he was “questioned and released.” No documentation maintains that Budge was taken into custody, nor was he required to appear at the Gestapo office. On the contrary, the records of the German-Austrian mission recount a polite conversation at the mission office. Budge’s autobiography also describes a cordial dialogue with the visiting gentleman he called the “Chief of the Secret Service.”
 
7 Today, the German government’s Topology of Terror Museum stands at the former No. 8 Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse address. In the Nazi years, the complex of buildings housed an underground Gestapo prison, as well as the desks of Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, and Reinhard Heydrich, director of the SD, the intelligence branch of the Gestapo and the Nazi Party.
 
8 For an overview of Nazi natalist attitudes, see Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family, and Nazi Policies (New York: St. Martin’s, 1987), 14, 185-186, 189, 192, 196; Gisela Bock, “Antinatalism, Maternity and Paternity in National Socialist Racism,” in Nazism and German Society, ed. David F. Crews (London: Routledge, 1994), 121-128.
 
9 King, Mothers in the Fatherland, 149. Regarding Nazi natalism, King said:  “Pro-natalist policies in Nazi Germany quickly surpassed similar programs in other  nations in terms of funding, the number of people affected, and the policy makers’  ingenuity. In underlying goals, too, Nazi planners departed from precedent. Whereas  policy makers in the United States and Europe justified their programs in terms of  individual happiness and social health, Nazi pamphlets explicitly told Germans, ‘Your  body does not belong to you but to blood brethren.’”
 
10 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Dec. 1933. The text of Budge’s  letter posted to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, dated 8 Sep. 1933, also  appears in Budge’s autobiography, My Story, and in Steven E. Carter, “The Mormons  and the Third Reich,” 1933-1946 (Ph.D. diss., University of Arkansas, 2003), 219-220.  It is included as Appendix B in this work.
 
11 Jehovah’s Witnesses, Victims of the Nazi Era (Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1995), 6.
 
12 Budge, My Story, 55. In using the term “Land Church,” Budge was referring to the large denominations in Germany, the Catholic and Evangelical (Lutheran) Churches, and his hope that the Nazi government would see the Mormons as their equals.
 
13 King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 158.
 
14 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 10-14.
 
15 King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 160.
 
16 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 10-11, 13.
 
17 Hans Hesse, “Forward,” and Sybil Milton, “Jehovah’s Witnesses as Forgotten Victims,” in Hans Hesse, ed., Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah’s Witnesses During the Nazi Regime, 1933-1945 (Chicago: Courier, 2001), 10, 145.
 
18 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 13.
 
19 King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 176.
 
20 Ibid., 71.
 
21 King, “Strategies for Survival. 211-34; King, Nazi State and New Religions, ixxv; Report of the 1937 Semiannual General Conference, 59. Roy Welker, when he returned from his term as a mission president in Berlin (1934-1937), reported that the Nazi Government had banned thirty-four small religious denominations. King’s research, accomplished decades later, lists forty-two.
 
22 Carter, “Mormons in the Third Reich,” 58. Carter likens the Mormons’ reaction to the National Socialists to a similar church policy practiced by the Mormon colonists during the Mexican Revolution, when they chose neither side in combat and accommodated the eventual winners.
 
23 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, May 1934, Oct. 1936; German- Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Apr. 1934; Donald M. Petty, interview by Douglas F. Tobler, 6 Aug. 1985, transcript, 26, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
24 King, “Strategies for Survival,” 223; King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 40, 54. Christian Scientists were eventually banned from worshiping together, but according to King, “A Christian Scientist could remain cut off from his fellow believers, obey the law and not attend church meetings and yet still retain his faith intact.” Loss of congregational worship was not as critical for the Christian Scientists as it would have been for the Mormons.
 
25. King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 40, 97-98.
 
26. “Juden ist der eintritt verboten!”
 
27 The story of Solomon Schwarz, one of Mormonism’s few Jewish converts is told in chapters nine and ten.
 
28 Dale Clark, “Mormonism in the New Germany,” Deseret News, 9 Dec. 1933.
 
29 Glynn Bennion, “New Ways of Proselyting and the Reason Therefor,” Deseret  News, 25 Jan. 1936.
 
30 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 31. Dec. 1930. This entry, although obviously referring to the National Socialists, seems to blur the boundary between the Nazis and Alfred Hugenberg’s right-wing National German People’s Party (DNVP), informally referred to as the “Nationalists,” whose paramilitary equivalent to the Nazis’ S.A. “storm troopers” was the Stahlheim (Steel Helmet) League. The confusion was understandable. The two right-wing parties later forged political cooperation in an alliance called the Harzburg front, which allowed the Nazis a voting majority in the Reichstag and made Nazism more tolerable to the DNVP’s bourgeois right-wing supporters.
 
31 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Reports, 1932 (year-end summary).
 
32 The Nazis fell slightly short of a majority of Reichstag seats in the March 1933 election, but through coalition building with other parties, they managed to achieve a parliamentary voting majority.
 
33 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, March 1933.
 
34 Ibid., Aug. 1934.
 
35 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Dec. 1930.
 
36 Gaeth, interview, transcript, 3.
 
37 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Report, Sep. 1934.
 
38 Ibid., 31 Dec. 1930; German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Report, Dec. 1930. For example, within the Swiss-German Mission at the end of 1930, the Hamburg District reported 1,094 members and Frankfurt am Main listed 503. In the German-Austrian Mission, Chemnitz enrolled 1,097 while Berlin had 1,082.
 
39 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Sep. 1932.
 
40. Philemon M. Kelly to Richard R. Lyman, 21 Oct. 1937, in Ralph S. Kelly and Connie Kelly Swan, Philemon Merril Kelly: A Collection of Memories (n.d., ca. 1965),  
175, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
41 Swiss-German Manuscript Histories, May 1933.
 
42 Carter, “Mormons and the Third Reich,” 58.
 
43 “Ein aufklärender Brief,” Der Stern, 14 Jul.1933.
 
44 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 29 Jan. 1934; German- Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jan. 1934.
 
45 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Jan. 1934.
 
46 German-Austrian Manuscript Histories, 7 May 1935.
 
47 Petty, interview, transcript, 26.
 
48 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Oct. 1936.
 
49 Dale Clark, “Mormonism in the New Germany,” Deseret News, 9 Dec. 1933; James M Kirkham, “Record Keeping in Germany,” Deseret News, 16 Jul. 1938.
 
50 Brodie, No Man Knows My History. 27.
 
51 Quinn, Extensions of Power, 163. In 1838, Smith declared that those who never heard of Christianity during their lifetime will get a chance to become a Christian in the afterlife: “All those who have not had an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, and being administered to by an inspired man in the flesh, must have it hereafter, before they  
can finally be judged.” On January 19, 1841, Smith declared a revelation from God that authorized posthumous baptisms.
 
52 Mormons often refer to a verse in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians (15:29) for biblical justification regarding baptisms for the dead. It says, in the King James Version, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”
 
53 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.vv. “Baptism for the Dead,” “Spirit World,” “Temples.”
 
54 See Hans J. Massaquoi, Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1999).
 
55 Sinti and Roma: Victims of the Nazi Era (Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), http://www.ushmm.org/education/resource /roma.roma/php.

56. None.
 
57 The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor criminalized  marriage or sexual contact between German citizens and Jews, forbade Jews from  displaying the national flag, and prohibited Jews from employing female German  citizens under the age of 45. Ostensibly, the latter “protected” German women of  childbearing age from being impregnated by a Jew. The Law for the Protection of  Genetic Health of the German People issued certificates authorizing marriage to couples  whom it certified as being neither biracial nor afflicted with mental deformities or  specified physical diseases.
 
59 A first-degree Mischling could be reclassified as a “full Jew” for affiliating with a Jewish synagogue or marrying a Jewish partner. Illegitimately born first-degree Mischlings could also be reclassified as full Jews. The legitimate child of a Mischling could be classified as a “full Jew” if his parents married after June 15, 1935. The latter provision was obviously intended to discourage partial Jews from procreating.
 
60 Klaus P. Fischer, Nazi Germany: A New History (New York: Continuum, 1995), 386.
 
61. None.

62 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Mar. 1926. In the early months of 1926, “Sister Baird of Salt Lake City” traveled through both the German- Austrian and Swiss-German missions, giving instructions with regard to genealogical work.
 
63 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Jan. 1928. A genealogical “society” was so named because it encouraged its Mormon members to seek participation from non-members who did genealogical work as a hobby. Even if nonmembers never joined the LDS Church, the names they researched could be submitted for temple ordinances; thus, their deceased relatives could become Mormons.
 
64 Ollerton, “Visit to the German-Austrian Mission,” 21 Oct. 1933.
 
65 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Dec. 1933 (year-end report).
 
66 Clark, “Mormonism in the New Germany”, 9 Dec. 1933. This article is  included in Appendix C.

67. None.
 
68 Gretchen E. Schafft, From Racism to Genocide: Anthropology in the Third Reich (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 2004), 43.
 
69 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Jan. 1934.
 
70 See Elof A. Carlson, The Unfit: the History of a Bad Idea (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Cold Spring Harbor Lab Press, 2001).
 
71. None.

72 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Jan. 1934.
 
73 Ibid., Mar. 1934.
 
74 Eric Ehrenreich, The Nazi Proof of Genealogy, Race Science, and the Final Solution. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), 58.
 
75 Ibid., 68.
 
76 West German Mission Manuscript History, 1 Dec. 1945 in Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 88. The speaker is Hamburg District President Otto Berndt, who was interrogated by the Gestapo after the arrest of the Helmuth Hübener group of resisters in 1942. See Chapter Ten.
 
77 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Sept. 1934; 6 Mar. 1935; 24 Mar. 1935; 12 Jan. 1936; 1 Mar. 1936; 3 May 1936; 23 Jun. 1936.
 
78 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Reports, Dec. 1935 (year-end report).
 
79 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Sep. 1934.
 
80 Ibid., 6 Sep. 1936.
 
81 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 15. Oct. 1936.
 
82 West German Mission Manuscript Histories., 25 Oct. 1938.
 
83 West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 26 Jan. 1938.
 
84 The article included short notes at the end regarding genealogical work done in Tonga and Argentina.
 
85 James M. Kirkham, “Record Keeping in Germany,” Deseret News, 16 Jul. 1938.
 
86. None.

87 See Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York, Viking, 1963). Arendt focused on Eichmann as the subject of her booklength condemnation of those who practiced desk genocide, but she referred to all such complicity as the “banality of evil.”
 
88 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 84.
 
89 Newell G. Bringhurst, Fawn McKay Brodie: A Biographer’s Life (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 75.
 
90 Fawn McKay Brodie to Everett Coolie, 16 Nov. 1980, Fawn Brodie Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately, letters exchanged by Fawn Brodie with members of her immediate family were excluded from the papers Fawn Brodie bequeathed to the University of Utah. Correspondence between Brodie and her extended family and intellectual colleagues, in which she expressed skepticism of the Mormons’ aims in Germany, survived.
 
91 Bringhurst, Fawn McKay Brodie, 57-64. Fawn’s uncle, David O. McKay, who would later become the Mormon’s Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, went to Chicago in 1936 in a futile effort to dissuade Fawn from marrying outside her religion. Her father, Thomas E. McKay, wrote her a letter of discouragement that contained anti-Semitic references. After Fawn published her skeptical biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, her uncle became one of the leading proponents of her 1946 excommunication from the LDS Church. That book has never gone out of print. Brodie went on to write critically acclaimed biographies of Thomas Jefferson, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Thaddeus Stevens, and Richard Nixon. Brodie was the first twentieth historian to reintroduce the controversial topic of Jefferson’s paternity of Sally Hemings’ six children. On the strength of her record as a biographer, Fawn Brodie joined the history faculty at UCLA and eventually achieved the rank of full professor—despite the fact that her highest academic degree was an M.A. in English.
 
92 Fawn McKay Brodie to Dean Brimhall, 14 Jun. 1939, Dean Brimhall Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
93 See Appendix D.
 
94 Bennion, “New Ways of Proselyting,” Deseret News, 25 Jan. 1936.
 
95 Standard Rate & Data Service, Newspaper Section 18-5 (Chicago: B & B Service Corporation, May1936): 108, 267; Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals (Philadelphia: W. Ayer & Son, Inc., 1936), 911. The Christian Science Monitor had the highest circulation among daily newspapers that were wholly owned subsidiaries of a religious organization; it had 130,779 paid subscribers in 1936. The Deseret News, owned by the LDS Church’s Corporation of the President, had 36,735 according to figures published by B & B Service Corporation. W. Ayer & Sons’ directory, which used different criteria for determining daily circulation data, listed the Deseret News’ circulation in 1936 as 36,015.
 
96 Michael J. Foster, “Judge May Lose Sports Job; Boycott Forces to Carry On— Fund Block Hinted,” Deseret News, 7 Dec. 1935; Alan Gould, “Olympic Boycott Faction Will Continue to Fight Against U.S. Participation,” Deseret News, 9 Dec. 1935.
 
97 The American Olympic Committee (AOC) was the forerunner to the presentday United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The AAU was the predominant governing body of amateur athletics in the United States in the era before the National Collegiate Athletic Association wielded significant influence.
 
98 S. Wenn, “The Commodore Hotel Revisited: An Analysis of the 1935 AAU Convention,” Proceedings—Sixth Canadian Symposium on the History of Sport and Physical Education (London, Ontario: University of Western Ontario, 1988), 188-201. In those days, the Amateur Athletic Union was the sole authority that certified an athlete’s amateur status, and thus eligibility for the Olympic Games. While the AAU had a permanent structure, a new American Olympic Committee formed for every Olympiad. When AOC Chairman Brundage forced Mahoney’s resignation as AAU president, Brundage obtained that position, which gave him dictatorial power over which American athletes could compete in the Olympics.
 
99 Wendy Gray and Robert Knight Barney, “Devotion to Whom?: German- American Loyalty on the Issue of Participation in the 1936 Olympic Games,” Journal of Sports History 17-2 (Summer 1990): 214-231.
 
100 Dr. Theodor Lewald, president of the German Olympic Committee in the early 1930s, was one those organizers who put so much effort into the successful German bids for the 1916 and 1936 Olympics. Shortly after Hitler’s forced Gleichschaltung (coordination) of German sports policies, Lewald was dismissed from his post as head of the Olympic committee. One of his grandmothers was Jewish.
 
101 Duff Hart-Davis, Hitler’s Games (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), 44.
 
102 Ibid., 45-46.
 
103 In an effort to mitigate criticism of its exclusion of Jews from the German Olympic team, Reich sports authorities arranged for Helene Mayer, a blue-eyed, blonde-haired daughter of a Christian mother and Jewish father, to compete for Germany on its Olympic fencing team. Like many Jews who were able to flee Nazi Germany, Mayer was living abroad at the time, in Los Angeles, but Mayer agreed to compete for Germany. After she won a silver medal, she mounted the victory stand wearing a swastika and rendered a stiff-arm salute. She later explained that she thought her effort would lead to a greater degree of tolerance for Jews in Germany.
 
104 Hart-Davis, Hitler’s Games, 15.
 
105 Richard D. Mandell, The Nazi Olympics (New York: McMillian, 1971), 58- 59; Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews, Vol. 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-39 (New York: HarperCollins, 1977), 117.
 
106 Der Stürmer, 1 Aug. 1933 in, 234.
 
107 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 141.
 
108 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Aug. 1935.
 
109 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Oct. 1935.
 
110 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 2 Nov. 1935.
 
111 In later years, the term “display” sports changed to “demonstration” sports.
 
112 Arnd Krueger, akruege1@gwdg.de, “REPLY: 1936 ‘Nazi’ Olympics,” in HARETE, h-arete@h-net. msu.edu, 22 Apr. 2000.
 
113 “Basket-Ball,” Die Olympischen Spiele in Berlin und Garmish-Partenkirchen 1936 (Hamburg, 1936), 132-133.
 
114 Vinton M. Merrill, telephone interview with David C. Nelson, 24 Jul. 2001, notes in my possession.
 
115 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 1 Aug. 1936.
 
116 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 86.
 
117 Organisationskomitee für die XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936 E.V., The XIth Olympic Games, Berlin, 1936: Official Report, Vol. II (Berlin: Wilhelme Limpert, 1936), 1078-1079.
 
118 Stanford H. Bingham, interview by Douglas F. Tobler and Alan F. Keele, 1974, transcript, 3, James Moyle Oral History Program, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 117.
 
119 Thomas E. McKay Papers, Desk Diary, 19 Feb.-4 Mar. 1940, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. McKay, his wife and daughter, and four Mormon missionaries had steamed from Genoa to New York, with intermediate stops in Naples and Gibraltar. Before the war, that trip would have been much shorter. In December 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt evoked provisions of the Neutrality Act, causing the SS Washington to abandon its traditional Hamburg to New York passage.
 
120 “2 Here to Minimize Blockade Friction,” New York Times, 5 Mar. 1940.
 
121 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v., “Boy Scouting.”
 
122 George R. Blake Oral History, interviewed by Michael Van Wagenen, 8 Jan. 1992, transcript, 5, Missionary Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 
123 The Hitler Youth boys’ auxiliaries included the Deutches Jungvolk, the German Young Folk for ages ten through fourteen, and the Hitlerjugend, the Hitler Youth for fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds.
 
124 The Hitler Youth girls’ auxiliaries included the Jungmädelbund, the League of Young Girls for ages ten to fourteen, and the Bund deutscher Mädel, the League of German Girls for fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds.
 
125 Beehive groups enrolled Mormon girls ages ten through fourteen. At fifteen, they graduated to the Gleaner Girls.
 
126 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Mar. 1938.
 
127 Ibid., Oct. 1938.
 
128 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 140-141.
 
129 Ibid., 143.
 
130 Ibid., 141-142.
 
131 Michael Rosenthal, The Character Factory: Baden Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement (London: Collins, 1986), 85-86.
 
132 See Robert Peterson, The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure (New York: American Heritage, 1984).
 
133 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v., “Scouting.”
 
134 Leon M. Strong, “A History of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association: 1875-1938,” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1939), 119.
 
135 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 143-144.
 
136 Jacob Sullum, For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of the Public Sector (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 37.
 
137 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 143.
 
138 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v., “Scouting.” Within the Aaronic Priesthood, boys are ordained deacons at age twelve and teachers at fourteen. In 1949, Explorer Scouting became the official activities organization for priests, the Aaronic Priesthood ordination bestowed on sixteen-year-old boys.
 
139 Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 144, 145.
 
140 Lawrence D. Walker, Hitler Youth and Catholic Youth 1933-1936 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1970), 6.
 
141 Ibid., 8.
 
142 Detlev J. K. Peukert, The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical Modernity. trans. Richard Deveson (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989), 90.
 
143 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 3 Sep. 1928; German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 23 Oct. 1928.
 
144 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 15 Dec. 1927.
 
145 Ibid., 6 Nov. 1928; Gaeth, interview. The German-Austrian Mission historical records record the name of the new Scouting organization as the Deutscher Scoutverbund. Arthur Gaeth, interviewed by BYU’s Douglas Tobler in 1980, was the superintendent of Scouting for the German-Austrian Mission in 1928. He attended the formative meeting and recalls that the Americans agreed to call the new organization the Baden-Powell Council. For registration purposes, the German name prevailed in the official documentation.
 
146 Carter, “Mormons and the Third Reich,” 65.
 
147 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 3 Dec. 1928; Gaeth, interview. Arthur Gaeth recalled that two small, unaffiliated Scouting councils joined the Mormons in forming the Deutscher Scoutverbund.
 
148 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 3 Dec. 1928.
 
149 Ibid., 3 Feb 1929; 6 Mar. 1929.
 
150 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports (year-end report), Dec. 1930. Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 16 Aug. 1929; Jul. 193l; 23 Jul. 1932.
 
151 Gaeth, interview.
 
152 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 23 Jul. 1932.
 
153 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 18 Aug. 1929. Kirkham served as president of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association.
 
154 Fischer, Nazi Germany, 662; Robert S. Wistrich, Who’s Who in Nazi Germany (London: Routledge, 1995), 222.
 
155 P. D. Stachura, “The National Socialist Machtergreifung and the German Youth Movement: Co-ordination and Reorganization, 1933-34,” Journal of European Studies 5 (1975): 255.
 
156 Walker, Hitler Youth and Catholic Youth, 93, 154.
 
157 Stachura, “National Socialist Machtergreifung and the German Youth Movement,” 256.
 
158 Ollerton, “Visit to the German-Austrian Mission,” 21 Oct. 1933.
 
159 Carter, “Mormons and the Third Reich,” 67. Carter also said: “Other boys either did not participate or, under pressure, merely went through the motions.”
 
160 Alan F. Keele and Douglas F. Tobler, “The Fuhrer’s New Clothes: Helmuth Hübener and the Mormons in the Third Reich,” Sunstone 24 (Nov.-Dec. 1980): 27.
 
161 Jared H. B. Kobs, interview with David C. Nelson, 20 Jul. 2006, notes in my possession.
 
162 Blair R. Holmes and Alan F. Keele, When Truth was Treason: German Youth Against Hitler (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 21, 321n30.
 
163. German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports (year-end report), Dec. 1930; Gaith, interview.
 
164 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 30 Apr. 1934.
 
165 Swiss-German Mission Quarterly Reports, Dec. 1933.
 
166 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 30 Jun. 1934.
 
167 Gerhard Rempel, Hitler’s Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 266.
 
168 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 30 Jun. 1934.
 
169 Utah History Encyclopedia, s.v., “Elbert Thomas,” http://www. media.  utah.edu/ UHE/t/THOMAS,ELBERT.html;
 
170 Ambassador Dodd’s Diary: 1933-1938, ed. William E. Dodd, Jr. and Martha Dodd (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1941), ix, 4, 135-136.
 
171. King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 33-34.
 
172. Ibid., 96.
 
173 Ian Kershaw, The Hitler Myth: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 1-10.
 
174 Henry D. Taylor, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign (Nov. 1974), http://www. lds.org/ensign/1974/11/the-law-of-the-fast?lang=eng. Joseph Smith established a monthly fast day in order to support church welfare projects in the 1830s. It occurred on a designated Thursday once each month. In the 1890s, because of the experience of English coal miners who would go without pay if they missed work to participate in devotional services held to coincide with the fast day, the LDS Church moved the day and established Fast Sunday.
 
175 Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany, 49, 60, 83. Historian Detlev Peukert said that refusal to prepare the Eintopf was one of the few avenues of protest available in Nazi Germany. That protest, however, unfolded within the secrecy of the family home. Few openly refused to contribute if they could afford to do so.
 
176 Fischer, Nazi Germany, 343.
 
177 Donald M. Petty, interview, transcript, 65; Joseph F. Dixon, “Mormons in the Third Reich: 1933-1945,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 7-1 (1972): 70; Keele and Tobler, “Hitler’s New Clothes,” 1980.
 
178 Richard S. Bennett, “All Germany Will Fast,” Millennial Star 95 (28 Sep. 1933): 638-639.
 
179 Clark, “Mormonism in the New Germany,” 9 Dec. 1933.
 
180 Roy Ansen Welker Oral History, interview by Richard L. Jensen, 2-3 Feb. 1973, transcript, 58, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
181. Ruth Welker Pugmire and Rhoda Babbel, Roy Anson and Elizabeth Hoge Welker: Their History (n.d., ca. 1960), 23, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
182. Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1854-1886), 12:157-158.
 
183. Doctrine and Covenants 89; Robert J. McCue, “Did the Word of Wisdom Become a Commandment in 1851?” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 (Autumn 1981): 66-77; Quinn, Extensions of Power, 474n18; Leonard J. Arrington, “An Economic Interpretation of the Word of Wisdom,” Brigham Young Universities 1 (Winter 1959): 37-49; Thomas G. Alexander, “The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 (Autumn 1981): 47-65. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 258-271; Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1, Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), 192. The Word of Wisdom changed in both its interpretation and obligatory status during the nineteenth century. Originally it prohibited neither beer nor wine, and allowed the use of sacramental wine for several decades after its issuance in 1833. As numerous historians have documented, church members considered it guidance rather than a commandment until the early twentieth century. Leonard J. Arrington provoked a firestorm of controversy when he suggested in a Brigham Young University scholarly journal that there were economic implications attendant to the varying degrees of enforcement by church elders. Alarmed university officials suspended the journal BYU Studies for a period of time after Arrington’s article appeared. Thomas Alexander suggested that the Word of Wisdom became an example of Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigmatic shifts when Mormons searched for doctrine that would define their church after the demise of polygamy. The LDS Church’s Handbook of Instructions instructs bishops and stake presidents that the only approved definition of prohibited “hot drinks” is coffee and tea. Many Mormons consider caffeinated sodas to be prohibited in the church’s health code.
 
184. Kershaw, The Hitler Myth, 3-6, 83-104.
 
185 Ernst Hanfstaengl, Unheard Witness (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957), 145; Fischer, Nazi Germany, 119.
 
186 Clark, “Mormonism in the New Germany,” 9 Dec. 1933.
 
187 Carter, Mormons and the Third Reich, 95.
 
188 Dixon, “Mormons in the Third Reich,” 70.
 
189 Blake, interview, transcript, 5.
 
190 Bingham, interview, transcript, 29.
 
191 Ibid.
 
192 Anderson, “Mormons in Germany, 1914-1933,” 154.
 
193 King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 70.
 
194 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 87, 110.
 
195 Anderson, “Mormons in Germany, 1914-1933,” 155.
 
196 Pugmire and Babbel, Their History, 23-24.

197 Randall Bytwerk, “The Party Rally of Honor (1936),” German Propaganda Archive: Calvin College, http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/pt36.htm.

198 Richard Grauberger, The 12-Year Reich; a Social History of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 (New York: Ballantine, 1971), 280.

199 Pugmire and Babbel, Their History, 25; Welker, interview.
 
200 “Mrs. Daniels” was probably an Anglicized spelling, recorded by a mission office clerk who did not speak German.
 
201 Pugmire and Babbel, Their History, 24.
 
202 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 103.
 
203 Pugmire and Babbel, Their History, 25.
 
204 During his 1980s-era research on the Helmuth Hübener story, Brigham Young University historian Douglas F. Tobler cited information from Roy A. Welker’s personal diary which Tobler read at the archives of the LDS Church’s Historian’s office in Salt Lake City. Dr. Tobler confirmed the existence of a Welker diary during a phone conversation I had with him on July 17, 2001. The diary contained comments about Elizabeth Welker’s interaction with Hitler and Scholtz-Klink. When I tried to access the same diary at the LDS archives, the staff said it could no longer be found, and in fact they could find no record that it had ever been archived there. However, they did produce a volume of Roy Welker’s diary that ended on March 22, 1935, and another that began in 1937 after Welker’s return to the United States.
 
205 Welker, interview, transcript, 2-3. The surviving documentation of the limousine rides taken by Elizabeth Welker with Hitler and Scholtz-Klink is contained in this oral history interview conducted by Richard L. Jensen, then a member of the LDS Church Historical Department and subsequently a faculty member at Brigham Young University, where he served on the staff of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History.
 
206 Mary R. Beard, Women as a Force in History: A Study in Traditions and Realities (New York: Collier, 1971), 23 in Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, xvii.
 
207. Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, xxxii.
 
208 “Perfect Woman a Major Nazi,” New York Times, 18 Nov. 1949.
 
209 Welker, interview, transcript, 3.
 
210 Dorris Kirkpatrick, “Role of Women,” New York Times, 26 Sep. 1937 in Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, xxi.
 
211 “Perfect Woman a Major Nazi,” New York Times, 18 Nov. 1949; Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, xxxiii.
 
212 Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Die Frau im Dritten Reich (Tübingen, Grabert, 1978).
 
213 Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970), 513; Also see Dan van der Vat, The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer (New York: Haughton-Mifflin, 1997). Speer was dubbed “the Devil’s Architect” for his close association with Hitler as the designer of the Third Reich’s grandiose building projects. He later became head of Germany’s wartime production. The Nuremberg tribunal sentenced Speer to twenty years in Spandau Prison for his use of slave labor in wartime industry. After his release in 1966 and until his death in 1981, he embarked upon a publishing career and cultivated an image as “the only Nazi who said sorry.”
 
214 Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, xxii.
 
215 Ibid., xxxi.
 
216 “Europe War Scares Discounted; L.D.S. Officers tell of Nazi Desire to Prevent Strife,” Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Sep. 1937.
 
217 Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 162.
 
218 “Europe War Scares Discounted,” Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Sep. 1937.

219 Report of the 1937 Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1937), 59.
 
220 “Europe War Scares Discounted,” Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Sep. 1937.
 
221 Elizabeth H. Welker, “The German Girl of Today,” Improvement Era 40 (May  1934): 294-295. See Appendix E.
 
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

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Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER V. THE PRE-WAR NAZI YEARS, 1933-1939: THE MYTH OF NAZI PERSECUTION OF THE MORMONS

In April 1933 a “uniformed Nazi” assaulted two American Mormon missionaries, P. Blair Ellsworth and Preston C. Allen, while the pair was walking door-to-door, seeking converts in the small town of Hindenburg, located in the Stendal district of northern Germany. The assailant, either an SA “storm trooper” or an older member of the Hitler Youth, removed his belt and began hitting Elder Ellsworth with the buckle end. The attack severely lacerated Ellsworth’s scalp. When the perpetrator and his two victims arrived at the police station, and later when they appeared in court, the Mormon missionaries declined to press charges. After consultation with their mission president, they decided it was “better not to arouse trouble.” The magistrate ordered the Nazi thug to apologize. He refused but received no penalty for either the assault or for violating the court’s order. [1]

This incident marks the only instance recorded in official Mormon mission records of an unprovoked, physical attack on representatives of the LDS Church by anyone connected with the National Socialist government or Nazi Party auxiliary organizations.2 The belt-whipping assault, which appears in the writings of faith- promoting author Gilbert Scharffs and Henderson State University historian Steven Carter, has become part of the lore that involves the Mormons in Nazi Germany.3 Together with the celebrated case of resister Helmuth Hübener and a few other incidents that occurred during wartime, it buttresses the myth that the Mormons were persecuted in Nazi Germany. Quite to the contrary, the Mormon survival strategy of accommodation and ingratiation made life as Latter-day Saints in Nazi Germany as tolerable as it was for other Christians who owed allegiances to both a church and the state.

From January 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor until August 1939 when the American missionaries evacuated before the Second World War, the mission historical records document 112 particular cases of interaction between the Mormons and either the government or clerics.4 Only six of those chronicled instances involved hostile actions by clerical opponents, although it is likely that some police or Gestapo investigations of the Mormons were initiated by complaints from mainline churches. During Imperial Germany and the Weimar Republic, most opposition to the Latter-day Saints emanated from priests or ministers. In Nazi Germany, those Catholic and Protestant ministers had their own problems with the state. In the opinion of BYU scholars Douglas Tobler and Alan Keele, that caused the Mormons to exhibit a certain degree of Schadenfreude, malicious glee that their clerical tormentors were themselves undergoing the scrutiny of the Nazi state.5

Freed of most ecclesiastical opposition, the Mormons could concentrate on challenges posed by the Nazis. Most confrontations with the government were innocuous; on thirty-one occasions, local police or Gestapo agents merely requested information, examined a congregation’s financial records, or seized reading material. In all cases except for a few banned pamphlets, the confiscated items were returned. During the pre-war Nazi period, brown-shirted hooligans or police interrupted Mormon worship services or private devotionals on only three occasions. The government periodically suspended youth activities on the grounds that they interfered with the prerogative of the Hitler Youth, but this occurred on a local basis and was usually temporary. Nazis never banned congregational worship. Nine missionaries or German members were taken into custody but only two victims spent more than three nights in confinement. One American missionary endured three weeks in a municipal jail and three German members went to concentration camps but were later released. Most arrested missionaries or local church members were released the same day when police investigations or judicial proceedings found them to be free of wrongdoing. Often, their alleged infractions had little to do with their church work, but instead reflected individual transgressions, either real or perceived.

For example, in March 1935, police in the Silesian town of Liegnitz arrested and jailed American missionary Daniel H. Lehmann and his German companion, Hans W. Schultz. Someone had accused them of stealing Winter Relief cards from the doorways of houses. A judge heard their testimony that day, dismissed the charges, and authorized continued missionary work. That same month, American missionary James H. Riley, Jr. and his German cohort, Erich Heismann, ran afoul of the authorities while taking photographs of a coal mine near Beuthen in Lower Silesia. Police accused them of “being American spies,” put them in separate jail cells, and thoroughly searched their living quarters. Later that day, the two missionaries “left the police station in good standing, but not before they had preached the Gospel to the officers.”6

One month later, a Berlin-based missionary assigned to the headquarters of the German-Austrian Missions was visiting friends in the East Prussian city of Lötzen. On the morning of April 3, 1935, Lawrence A. Sessions set out on foot toward the town of Odoyen, where he intended to preach the Gospel for a period of ten days. En route, he encountered a contingent of soldiers engaged in marksmanship practice. When his accent revealed him to be an American, he was arrested, searched, and accused of being a spy. Military authorities investigated by contacting the hotel in which he had stayed the night before. They subsequently released him, but not before they gave him instructions to leave East Prussia within forty-eight hours. Military officers seized his camera and exposed the film before they returned it to him.7

In each of these cases, the missionaries’ clerical affiliation played no role in their difficulties with civilian or military authorities. Timing, especially with regard to the incidents involving the coal mine and the military exercises, seems to have been much more important. In early 1935, Germany was in the process of unshackling itself from limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. In January, Germany regained possession of the Saar Valley after winning an overwhelming vote in a plebiscite. On successive weekends in March, Hitler announced steps in remilitarizing Germany that defied terms of the Treaty. On March 8, he proclaimed that Germany would once again have an air force. Then, one week later on March 16, he instituted military conscription and announced plans to expand the Wehrmacht to thirty-six divisions with a total strength of 550,000 troops. The Treaty of Versailles had disbanded the air force and limited the German army to one hundred thousand soldiers. In June 1935, Joachim von Ribbentrop, upon whom Hitler had recently bestowed the title of Reich Minister Ambassador-Plenipotentiary at Large, negotiated an agreement with Great Britain that began German naval rearmament.8

In the months leading up to Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland, the pressure to maintain military secrecy and guard key parts of the infrastructure must have profoundly affected military officers. Indeed, when Hitler sent troops into the Rhinelandin March 1936, he described the two days after his twenty-two thousand soldiers entered the forbidden zone as:

the most nerve-racking of my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with out tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate even for a moderate resistance.9


In such a climate of anxiety, it would not have been unusual to suspect malevolent intentions from young English-speaking foreigners who appeared suddenly in the midst of remote, rural military maneuvers, or who were observed photographing mining operations. The Mormon elders who stumbled into such trouble were fortunate to have encountered civil policemen and military officers, rather than hotheaded, brown-shirted thugs who may have reacted less judiciously.

One of the reasons that the Mormons were so successful in navigating Nazi Germany’s bureaucratic labyrinth was that members, missionaries, and mission presidents learned how to deal with the different levels of government authority they encountered. George R. Blake was a promising undergraduate scholar at Brigham Young University in 1937 when one of his professors suggested that serving a mission in Germany, and his acquisition of German language skills, would help him in graduate school. He described how astute missionaries would seek approval from the right official, and how they skillfully pursued appeals up the chain of command:

We were interacting with minor officials in the government all the time. They turned out to be of two kinds. There were those of the old German bureaucracy, the civil servants who had trained in school and had a fine tradition of efficiency prior to the ascent of the Nazis. Superimposed on them was a group of minor Nazi officials who were usually their inferiors in terms of education or understanding, but their superiors in terms of authority and power [that] was used with arrogance and lack of civility. . . . [Then] there was a [another] hierarchy reaching from the newly empowered ‘Klein Hitlers’ through the ranks to the reasonable, capable, and educated officials. . . . We would try to get past that [first Nazi] rung, up the ladder a little bit.10


Patience and persistence indeed prevailed when negotiating to overturn onerous, low-level decisions that limited congregational activity or missionary proselytizing. In June 1936, Elders Vergil Stucki and Norville Fluckiger arrived in the Schleswig- Holstein town of Neumünster “to open a new field of labor.” When they applied to the local police for permission to live there, as all missionaries had been required to do for decades, their application was rejected on the grounds that “polygamy is not allowed in Germany.” The official who denied their residence permit nevertheless helped the two missionaries file an appeal of his decision to a regional office in Kiel.11 On July 9, a “representative of the secret police” informed the two missionaries that their appeal had been granted conditionally. The Mormons could establish a congregation in Neumünster but only church members could attend services. Prospective converts could not be invited.

The Mormons found this compromise unacceptable, as presumably only a few members lived in town and the new congregation was intended to act as a magnet to attract converts. Nevertheless, the small Neumünster branch began its meetings under the imposed restrictions. On two consecutive Sundays, the Gestapo agent who delivered the notice of their appeal attended the services “with his assistant, apparently to . . . make sure those in attendance were members.”12 Having satisfied the local secret police with their willingness to comply, the two American missionaries, Stucki and Fluckiger, accompanied by a German citizen, Elder August A. Dittmer, arranged a meeting in August 1937 at the regional Gestapo headquarters in Kiel. There, they pleaded their case to be allowed to host prospective converts at Sunday church services. They learned that such a dispensation would have to be granted by the national office in Berlin. By October, the dispute had not yet been settled, as another Neumünster-based missionary wrote a letter to the Gestapo, asking once again to be allowed to invite guests to church services.

At this point the archival trail goes cold. No final resolution to the dispute in Neumünster can be found in the historical records of the Mormon missions, nor is one necessary to illustrate an important point. Several years after the Nazi assumption of power, the Mormons were not afraid to interact with the Gestapo, military authorities, or local police whenever the government imposed a policy that disrupted their ecclesiastical activities. Nor were the Mormons afraid to disobey in carefully calculated situations. In fact, selective defiance of local government leaders continued to occur and was directed, at times, from the level of the mission president. When German-Austrian Mission President Roy Welker, who supervised Mormon missionary work in the eastern half of Germany, returned to the United States in 1937, he told a General Conference audience in the Salt Lake Tabernacle: “We played strongly upon our Twelfth Article of Faith, declaring that we meant it when we said that we believe in sustaining and upholding the government.” Then he said:

There [was] a law in Germany that the small religious denominations should not scatter their literature from door to door. We debated for a long time whether we should stop tracting, but we had been tracting; in most places we had never ceased tracting, and we felt that inasmuch as we had been doing it we could continue, and we did continue. And in only a few places were prevented from tracting.13


In other words, the Mormons told everyone they obeyed the law, even when they did not. Another incident illustrates how the Mormons pushed the limits of legal compliance. In the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany near Stuttgart, an unspecified number of missionaries went before a judge in April 1935, charged with violating the law by “passing out tracts” in the towns of Mannheim and Pforzheim. The judge sentenced each to their choice of a twenty Reichsmark fine or five days in jail. Police searched the missionaries’ rooms and confiscated pamphlets and other reading material. A note in the mission records commented: “We hope they read it all.” The mission office paid the elders’ fines and arranged a compromise. The missionaries would continue to proselytize, going door to door, but would issue personal invitations to meetings rather than distribute literature.14 Based on Welker’s remarks in Salt Lake City in 1937, that restriction applied only in that judge’s jurisdiction. Elsewhere, they continued passing out leaflets in defiance of the law. The Mormons believed in “obeying and sustaining the law” as long as it did not conflict with their church duties. If that kind of conflict arose, they abided by restrictions only to the extent that they could avoid significant consequences for disobedience.

The unfortunate reality of life in a police state, however, made unintentional violations and thoughtless behavior as hazardous as deliberate disobedience. The situation became more complicated when pettiness or enmity led to denunciations by fellow Germans motivated more by spite than genuine interest in national security. In a country of approximately sixty-six million inhabitants, the existence of only twenty thousand Gestapo agents limited the investigative power of the secret police.15 Historian Eric A. Johnson of Central Michigan University described the propensity for Germans to fill the void by reporting each other for perceived political crimes during the Third Reich:

Because average citizens were so often willing to keep watch over and denounce fellow citizens whenever they stepped out of line, and many times when they had not stepped out of line, relatively few secret police officers were needed to control a German population that was quite ready and able to control itself.16


Mormons were not targets of the Third Reich, as were Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nevertheless, an inadvertent mistake reported by a third party could result in government reprisal, especially because of the church’s connections with foreign missionaries and leadership. Such was the case in April 1935, when an anonymous source in Stuttgart reported an ordinary German LDS member for making a “hostile remark” regarding the government. The Swiss-German Mission’s historical documents did not record the member’s fate, but police summoned and admonished American missionaries against making political statements. The branch president, Erwin Ruf, underwent police questioning about an allegation that he had accepted a tithing payment from an unemployed member. Probably, the police confused the Mormon system of voluntary tithing with the Protestant and Catholic “church tax,” which would not have been assessed on an unemployed parishioner. As the mission’s report stated, “It was obvious that someone in that city was endeavoring to make trouble for the Church.”17

Another such incident occurred as the result of naive remarks uttered by a German Mormon, the head of the Sunday school section of the Görlitz congregation, during an outdoor worship service in July 1935. “Two officers of the National Party” overheard references he made regarding Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller, Hitler’s designated Protestant leader. The two Party members “arrested” the Sunday school president and presented their captive to the city’s police commissioner, who maintained that he had no authority in the matter.18 Several weeks later, a notation in the mission’s quarterly report said the matter had not yet been settled.19 Probably, the passage of time did. No further developments in the case rated mention in the mission’s chronology.

The magnitude of governmental reaction to a provocation often depended on which branch of Nazi Germany’s security apparatus dealt with the case. A serious set of consequences resulted from a well-intentioned local effort to communicate with Mormon members of Germany’s armed forces. In January 1937, a district (diocesan) youth leader asked for the mailing addresses of all young Mormon men from Hamburg who had enlisted in the military. This request triggered a virulent reaction, neither from the understaffed Gestapo nor the local criminal police, but instead from military counterintelligence. Since the Latter-day Saints were an American-based religious denomination, officers suspected foreign espionage.20 Police arrested and jailed Hermann Noack, a German citizen. The mission records state that he was charged with “high treason” and subjected to “treatment as one of the worst criminals.” Apparently, his attempt to mail copies of Der Stern and a church youth newsletter, Geh Voran, was characterized as “betraying Germany by sending military secrets and information to foreign points.” After Noack spent three nights in jail, authorities released him to home confinement, monitored his mail, and kept his family under surveillance. The inquiry expanded to the district president, Alwin Brey, whom the police summoned for “the severest questioning.” Police fingerprinted and photographed Brey and then detained him for two days. They confiscated all of his church publications and records and forbade him from communicating with mission headquarters in Basel.21

For the Mormon hierarchy, having its members jailed for carrying out church duties was unfortunate. Inability to communicate with underlings in the field posed a more serious problem, lack of control. By March 1937, although tensions had diminished somewhat, the mission office in Switzerland was still not receiving Hamburg’s periodic financial and activity reports, which were required from all districts and branches. Mail sent to Brey and a missionary, Alphonse Pia, was arriving late and showed evidence of having been opened. Authorities kept Brey under surveillance and required him to report regularly on church activities. They ordered suspension of all youth meetings, a measure they eventually relaxed, along with a ban on communication with higher headquarters. Cooler heads finally realized that the youth leader’s actions were religiously motivated.22

Reverberations from the incident appear to have been restricted to the Hamburg district. When Hitler invaded Austria in the Anschluss of March 1938, annexed the Sudetenland in October 1938, and subsequently occupied all of Czechoslovakia by March 1939, Mormon congregants across Germany wrote letters and sent packages to their fathers and sons in the Wehrmacht without fear of a Hamburg-style reprisal. Nevertheless, the Hamburg incident may have played an instrumental part in the Salt Lake City hierarchy’s decision, announced in the summer of 1937, to place all German missions and ecclesiastical units under the control of mission presidents stationed on German territory.23 At the end of 1937, before the Anschluss, the two German-speaking missions reorganized into three. Responsibility for Austria and Switzerland shifted to the new Swiss-Austrian mission headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. The West German Mission, based in Frankfurt am Main, and the East German Mission, headquartered in Berlin, exercised administrative control over Mormons in Germany.24 Part of the justification may have stemmed from the reluctance of German authorities to allow Hamburg Mormons to seek guidance from an American mission president based in Switzerland.

Considering the Hamburg experience, the need to be careful with correspondence should have become apparent to everyone involved with the Mormon missions in Germany. However, a young elder who spent most of his missionary career in Switzerland did not heed that lesson when he transferred to duty in Germany. Alvin J. Schoenhals had developed a reputation for efficiency early in his missionary service, and as a result he had been rewarded with an administrative position in the Swiss-German Mission headquarters in Basel. An observer of world affairs, he became accustomed to expressing his disapproval of the Nazi regime in his letters dispatched from Switzerland to his family in Utah. Toward the end of his term in the mission field, as is customary with “office missionaries,” he transferred to proselytizing duties, ostensibly in an effort to make a few conversions before he went home.25 The fondest memories of one’s missionary days, and the faith-promoting accounts that are told and retold for the rest of a former missionary’s life, usually involve spiritual experiences while saving souls. Maintaining financial records as the mission’s bookkeeper or correspondence as the president’s secretary does not provide a wealth of inspiration for future Sunday school lessons.26 Unfortunately for Schoenhals, his failure to realize the need for behavioral discretion as a foreigner in the Nazi state provided him with a trove of unpleasant stories to tell in future years. It also constituted one of the significant crises of Mission President Philemon Kelly’s term.

On June 14, 1937, Mission Secretary Stanford Bingham in Basel received an urgent letter from a young missionary in Nuremberg, an Elder Christensen, who reported that Shoenhals, his roommate, had been arrested and that police searched their apartment. Three other missionaries serving in the city tried without success to visit their companion in jail. Kelly, the mission president, contacted the American consul in Bern, who relayed the concern to his counterpart in Munich. Kelly responded in another reasoned manner when he employed an attorney on the young missionary’s behalf.27

Three days later, American diplomats reported that Schoenhals was being held for a violation of the “Law Against Malicious Attacks on the State and the Party and for Protection of the Party Uniform,” a Nazi-era statute adopted in December 1934. The young missionary had written a letter home that had been intercepted and read by a postal censor before it left Germany. In the words of the American consul, “It would appear that Mr. Schoenhals has unwisely expressed opinions of internal political matters.”28 Kelly went to Munich, where he visited Schoenhals in jail. The young man apologized for the trouble he had caused the mission. At one point during the interview with his superior, he broke down crying, not for fear of his fate but instead because of shame for the trouble he caused.29 After three weeks in jail, authorities released Schoenhals and expelled him from Germany.

Fortunately for Schoenhals, his case had been referred to the state prosecutors, the Staatsanwaltschaft, rather than a brutal agency of the Nazi Party. He was imprisoned in a municipal jail, not a concentration camp.30 When the young missionary returned to Switzerland after deportation from Germany, he reported generally favorable conditions of confinement. Said Mission Secretary Bingham:

He had been treated very subtly and politely. The food was good and he was given books to read. . . . The cell he occupied was very clean, larger than our jails. His clothing and bedding was changed every week. [There was] a toilet in each room and one window. In the morning they had running exercises in the prison yard.31


Another case illustrated the different treatment afforded American missionaries and their German congregants when they ran afoul of the Nazi state. Sometime in 1938, while serving in Schleswig-Holstein, Elders Royal V. Wolters and Allen Lute posed for photographs of themselves wearing a Nazi flag as a breechcloth. They waited until their transfer to Saarbrücken, a city on the border with France and one where political sensitiveness were heightened, to submit the undeveloped film for processing. They sent it to a German Mormon, Johann Kiefer, who owned a photography business.

No adverse consequences resulted from the first batch of photographs that Kiefer processed. However, after Wolters and Lute transferred to a third post, they showed the pictures to friends, who asked for copies. This time, when they mailed the negatives back to Kiefer to obtain more prints, the photographer’s employees reported him to the authorities.32 If the two American missionaries had still been based in Saarbrücken, they probably would have been arrested. However, the mission was able to rush the two puerile young men across the Swiss border before Gestapo agents caught them. According to one account:

They traveled by rail towards Switzerland, and they would go so far on one type of train, so that they weren’t on an express train that was going straight through. They finally reached the city of Basel, where the railroad station on one side of the border is German and the other side is Swiss. As they were hurrying through the station, these Gestapo agents were right behind them. As soon as they passed over to the Swiss side, the Gestapo stopped because it didn’t want to go into Switzerland and cause problems there.33


Because Donald M. Petty, who recounted this story many years later in an oral history interview, did not personally observe the chase scene, this possibly embellished account is more significant for its contribution to the folklore of Mormon missionary work in Germany. If one desires to make a case for persecution of the Mormons by the Nazis, narratives like this reinforce the argument. Nevertheless, as the mission records reveal, “Quite some trouble was made of it,” which necessitated the precautionary step of removing the Mormon missionaries from Saarbrücken temporarily. The German photographer, Johann Kiefer, did not fare so well. He was arrested and dispatched to a concentration camp.34 The real significance of this case, as with several others during this period, is that the Nazi government focused on finding and punishing individual perpetrators and did not ban church activity because of occasional renegade activity by American missionaries or German Mormons.

Not every Mormon confrontation with the Nazi State resulted from either calculated disobedience, reasoned appeals of unfavorable decisions by lower-ranking bureaucrats, or inadvertent brushes with authority resulting from poor judgment. Sometimes the Mormons deliberately took on the government when they felt they could win a straightforward legal case. Parts of the Weimar Republic’s judicial framework survived the Nazi seizure of power, so that a legal challenge could be mounted if the petitioner were not Jewish, a Gypsy, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a member of another disfavored class. For German citizens and foreigners who maintained favorable relations with the Nazis, the government still provided forums where grievances could be adjudicated. Tax court was one of those places where justice could prevail.

In January 1937, the government served the German-Austrian Mission in Berlin with a bill for delinquent taxes assessed for the past three years. The dispute involved the Mormons’ contention that they enjoyed a tax-exempt status, as any other church would. The government maintained otherwise, contending that the Latter-day Saints operated in Germany through the medium of a Verein, a club or a society, which unlike a church would be required to pay taxes on its profits.35 The Mormons had received their legal recognition as a Verein in 1923 after an unsuccessful attempt to convince the Weimar government to grant certification as a church. This status allowed the Latter-day Saints to rent and purchase property, establish savings and credit relationships with banks and businesses, and enter into legally binding contracts.36

The government served the German-Austrian Mission with a tax bill of approximately ten thousand Reichsmarks per year to cover the three years from 1934 through 1936. Obligations were due on tithing collection receipts, profits derived from the sale of publications, and taxes owed for church-owned buildings in Chemnitz and Selbongen. The exact state of the Mission’s finances cannot be ascertained from surviving records. Nevertheless, the church undoubtedly collected a substantial amount of money. Mormons desiring to maintain good standing were urged to pay “ten percent of their increase annually,”37 and Swiss-German Mission President Philemon Kelly maintained: “Our tithing is the highest in all European missions.”38 The German- Austrian Mission’s tithing collections, which Kelly compared to own mission, were very close to the value cited in Kelly’s letter.

That constituted an inviting target for Germany’s tax collectors, who struggled to provide revenue to offset considerable deficit spending that had occurred since onset of the Great Depression. When Hitler assumed power in 1933, Germany’s unemployment rate stood at thirty percent. The government used Keynesian fiscal policy in response to the crisis. To create jobs, it built the Autobahn and undertook other large public works projects. Price controls and business-friendly Nazi labor unions limited price and wage inflation. However, large increases in military spending exacerbated the national debt. By 1936, German military spending exceeded ten percent of the gross national product, making it the highest in Europe.39

The Mormons had no intention of mitigating the German budget deficit. They reacted as most targets of the tax collector would under similar circumstances; they hired a tax law firm. Dr. Wirth, an American lawyer certified to practice in German courts, in partnership with a German attorney, Dr. Turnheim, approached the government. They negotiated a settlement on terms quite favorable to the Mormons. The government settled for RM 386 for the year 1934, no liability for 1935, and RM 680 for 1936. Furthermore, the Mormons agreed to pay only RM 170 per quarter in future years, plus thirty percent of the profit derived from selling publications and from the rental of church property. The German-Austrian Mission paid its lawyers RM 1,500 in fees. “It was a large sum,” the mission reported to Salt Lake City headquarters, “but small in comparison to the amount the mission will save each year.” Furthermore, the Mormons won their point regarding donations. They would pay no income tax on tithing because those donations were voluntary, not an assessment.40

The settlement apparently had favorable implications regarding local taxation. In February 1938, East German Mission President Alfred C. Rees refused to pay a municipal tax assessed upon Mormon missionaries in the Brandenburg town of Guben. He submitted a written appeal of that assessment and promptly received a favorable reply from a “taxing official” employed by the city government.41

The Mormons became so skilled in dealing with the various levels of bureaucracy in Nazi Germany that they learned to exploit glitches in the system— sometimes with humorous results. Six months after arriving in Germany, after having lived his entire life in Utah, American missionary George R. Blake was astonished to learn that he was being conscripted into the Germany army. A terse letter instructed him to appear immediately before the local military commandant in the Rhineland city of Hearne. He was two months past due in reporting for induction, the letter warned. Blake was worried because, in his words: “I didn’t speak German well and understood it with difficulty.” His missionary companion, who had been in Germany much longer, told him: “You let me handle it. You say nothing!” Blake continued:

We went to the office, and I passed my summons to the officer, an army lieutenant. He looked at it and began immediately to chew me out for not having reported. . . . After briskly telling me I was in jeopardy for having delayed, the lieutenant asked for my pass. I gave him my American passport, which was quite different from the German pass. He looked at it, became quite befuddled, and went in the back room. After a few minutes he came out very apologetic that he had made this outburst against an American. It was obvious that he was not himself a Nazi or he wouldn’t have been embarrassed by the situation.42


Occasionally, Nazis were indeed embarrassed. A pair of young American Mormon missionaries extracted an apology from a boorish local SA leader after they reported him to a higher-ranking Nazi authority for an abuse of his power. In the Rhineland town of Bad Homburg, missionary Donald R. Petty had a modest sign painted that marked the rented meeting hall used for Sunday services. The local leader of an SA contingent objected, claiming the sign was too large. He filed a complaint with the police department, who advised the missionaries to seek a ruling from government authorities in Frankfurt regarding the sign’s legality. Petty arranged a meeting with a Gestapo supervisor in Frankfurt, who received him politely. The official requested details about the sign and the storm trooper who complained. After assuring the secret police that the sign listed only the name of the congregation and its meeting times, Petty overheard the Gestapo supervisor’s phone call to the local police in Bad Homberg. The agent said:

Call in this man who made the complaint and we’ll send papers to you. . . . He is to be removed from the Party register and he’ll no longer be in charge of the storm troopers in Bad Homberg, because he has exceeded his authority in making this complaint.


Later, the demoted SA leader came to the missionaries and pleaded for help, “Can you do anything to get me reinstated, because this position I had was the highest in town. My friends will make fun of me!” As Petty explained, because the man lost his party affiliation, he also lost his right to be promoted at work or to attain better jobs. Petty concluded:

It was a sad blow for him. I thought at the time, well maybe the Nazi Party does have glimmers of democracy in it, under certain conditions. It gave me a better feeling toward the Nazi officers in their official capacity, because if a person had a legitimate complaint, it could be resolved.43


Presumably, Petty’s observations regarding incipient democracy in the Nazi Party did not include justice for Jews or other Untermenschen. His day-to-day missionary activity gave him no reason to be concerned about Germany’s disfavored classes. Mormons did not seek converts among ethnic or religious minorities. The LDS proscription against ordaining blacks to the universal male priesthood, which was not lifted until 1978, prevented Elder Petty from proselytizing among nearby “Rhineland Bastards”—descendants of white German women and black African French occupation troops.44 Not one mention of Gypsies appears in the historical records of the German mission. Mormons may have recognized the Jews as God’s chosen people of the Old Testament, but that commission had expired. Mormons considered themselves to be God’s new chosen people. They were the disciples of Joseph Smith’s restored Gospel that cleansed Christianity from the “Great Apostasy” that occurred between the death of Christ and the Roman Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity.45 Despite pronounced theological differences the Mormons had with mainstream Christianity, few distinguishing temporal attributes set German Mormons apart from other Germans. They behaved as ordinary citizens.

If a gang of Nazi hooligans interrupted their worship, as was the case in the Westphalian town of Minden in May 1933, Mormons maintained their composure, explained that they were conducting a devotional service, and watched the uniformed thugs leave.46 When the police forbade door-to-door proselytizing in the Ruhr city of Bochum in January 1936, the missionaries instead conducted a secular educational seminar. They showed an audiovisual presentation about the scenic wonders of Utah, invited the police, made friends, and saw their privileges restored.47 If authorities challenged the “Jewish nature” of certain religious pamphlets, as they did in September 1936 in Berlin, the Mormons destroyed the questionable material and replaced it with five freshly edited and newly printed tracts.48 When members of the Forst Branch in Bavaria deliberated whether they should attend Sunday services or a Nazi procession in their town on one Sabbath Day in 1933, their collective decision was a sensible one. Some of them went to church; others marched.49

The Mormons’ reasoned response to provocation even won them some admirers among those who were least likely to express sympathy. Missionary Donald M. Petty, who had provoked the apology from the SA leader in Bad Homburg, recounted the experience of a colleague, an American missionary named Curtis who had served in Bremen. Curtis “became very friendly with” a Gestapo agent sent to monitor Mormon Sunday services:

The Gestapo man told Brother Curtis . . . that he knew the Church was true. He said however, “I can’t join because of my position and because of the situation I’m in. I want you to know that my feelings are such that if I could join, I would join your church.”50


The Mormons were not persecuted in Nazi Germany. They felt the hot lash of Nazi disfavor only to the extent that other, ordinary Germans may have experienced harassment if they attracted attention or consorted with foreigners. The incidents described in Table 6 could have occurred in any secular or spiritual realm during the Third Reich. Considering the perceived divine nature of the Mormons’ undertaking and their history of being persecuted, an occasional, nonlethal squabble with the Nazi state was a small price to pay in order to reap God’s eventual glory. In the nineteenth century, because of the specter of polygamy, universal opposition by clerics, and hostility regarding the emigration of marriageable young women and draft-age men, Mormons seemed distinctly out of place in Germany. Weimar democracy gave constitutional rights to both the Mormons and their clerical antagonists, and the Mormons gained a grudging acceptance of their right to coexist in the shadow of the Catholics and Protestants. Under Nazi rule, when ecclesiastical opposition faded, Mormons finally became the kind of ordinary Germans that historian Eric Johnson described:

Most Germans . . . slept soundly at night, worked productively by day and enjoyed their lives during the peacetime years of National Socialist rule. Why should they not have? The economy was improving, most were finding employment, and their country was regaining its pride and was still at peace. . . . They knew there was a strong police presence, a surfeit of laws placing limitations on personal freedom, and potential danger for those who refused to comply with Hitler’s wishes. Many grumbled and complained privately, but most found little difficulty in conforming. . . . Nazi terror posed no real threat to most ordinary Germans.51


In the twilight of his life, during an oral history interview in 1992, former missionary George R. Blake still supported the Mormons’ policy of accommodation and ingratiation with a ruthless Nazi state:

We indeed came to the understanding that as evil as it was the government guaranteed our safety on the streets, preserved order and guaranteed a supply of food and shelter. The basic wants and needs of people were being met and protected by the government even though it was the Nazi government. To that extent we could and did sustain the government.52


For that reason, no climate of fear existed among Mormons who lived under Nazi governance. By contrast, Christine Elizabeth King describes the plight of a Christian Scientist in Munich who buried her Bible and other religious material in the garden for fear of being discovered as a faith-healing practitioner. When she needed scriptural inspiration, she dug it up, read it, and then reburied it before her neighbors could denounce her to the Nazis.53 When Mormons encountered problems with publications that could offend the Nazis, such as those that contained references to Judaism, they did not think to hide the material as contraband. Instead, they rewrote it and carried on.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:50 am

Part 2 of 2

Recorded Instances of Mormon-State and Mormon-Ecclesiastical Conflict Contained in Official LDS Church Historical Records For the Pre-War National Socialist Period, 1933-1939

Date / Place / Incident / Source


Jan. 1933 / Bünde / Some 600 attended an anti-Mormon lecture held by a Protestant pastor. LDS missionaries allowed a twenty-minute rebuttal. / SGMH54
Mar. 1933 / Altona Sister Jahn, a German member, shot dead by “stray bullet” fired during a political disturbance. / SG-MH
Mar. 1933 / Bünde Two missionaries withdrawn from town because of “clerical opposition.” / SG-MH
Apr. 1933 / Hindenburg Two missionaries “attacked and beaten” by “uniformed Nazi.” Police investigated and court ordered assailant to apologize. Mission President Budge declined to press charges. / GAMH55
May 1933 / Stargard Permission to hold services in school buildings revoked. / GA-MH
May 1933 / Minden Several “brown shirts” entered a private residence where a devotional was being held. They held a gun on the attendees. After being assured it was only a church meeting, they left. / SG-MH
May 1933 / Hanau School rental denied because of “political suspicion.” / GA-MH
Jun. 1933 / Minden Police assured elders of protection from an “unfriendly pastor.” / SG-MH
Jun. 1933 / Darmstadt Missionaries successfully appealed a municipal “order of banishment” upon assurances that church would not engage in politics. / SG-MH
Jul. 1933 / Celle Police ordered the removal of a Book of Mormon display in meeting hall window after anonymous complaint that it was “offensive to the National Socialist government.” / SG-MH
Jul. 1933 / Selbongen Police confiscated a congregation’s financial records, but returned them six weeks later without comment. / GA-MH
Aug. 1933 / Munich Local police prohibited distribution of printed church material. SG-MH Sep. 1933 Berlin Gestapo agent visited Mission President Budge at mission headquarters. Budge drafted letter, sent the next day, outlined the church’s desire to cooperate with the government. / GA-MH, GAQR56
Sep. 1933 / Forst Internal debate occurred among members of a local congregation concerning whether to march in a Nazi political procession on Sunday. Some decided to show loyalty to government by marching; others declined on the basis that it might violate the Sabbath. / GA-QR
Sep. 1933 / Forst Internal debate occurred among members of a local congregation concerning whether to march in a Nazi political procession on Sunday. Some decided to show loyalty to government by marching; others declined on the basis that it might violate the Sabbath. / GA-QR
Oct. 1933 / Beuthen Police raided a private devotional, took all participants into custody, and seized printed material. After questioning, all were released and the material was returned. No subsequent harassment occurred. / GA-MH
Nov. 1933 / Brandenburg Use of public school buildings prohibited. Suspecting this eventuality, missionaries had made alternative arrangements. / GA-MH
Jan. 1934 / Rendsburg Kiel Police in both cities summoned all congregational records. After several days, all records were returned without comment. / SG-MH
Jan. 1934 / Freiburg im Breisgau Police summoned president of the Freiburg branch to explain the purpose and activity of his church. Officers apparently satisfied. / SG-MH
Jan. 1934 / Berlin Gestapo banned two LDS tracts, “Divine Authority,” and “Signs of the Great Apostasy.” Mission authorities cooperated by recalling all copies from both missions. The complaint originated with a local organization of pastors. / SG-MH, GA-MH
Jan. 1934 / Berlin Police asked a German branch president to identify photographs of Mormon missionaries. / GA-QR
Jan. 1934 / Eberswalde Police questioned local branch president about Mormon activities. / GA-QR
Jan. 1934 / Winterburg (Rhineland) Police visited local elders to confiscate copies of a banned tract, “Divine Authority.” There were no copies in their possession. / SG-QR
Mar. 1934 / Grünau Police responded to a “complaint” regarding a baptismal service. Several members detained, questioned, and released. Permission for subsequent baptisms at this location was denied. / GA-MH
Apr. 1934 / Berlin German Scouting Association and all German Mormon Boy Scout troops were dissolved. / GA-MH
Apr. 1934 / Karlsruhe Postal authorities refused to accept deposits to the local branch’s post office checking account. / SG-MH
May 1934 / Coburg Local police banned meetings of the LDS children’s organization, the Primary. Children were allowed to attend ordinary church services. / SG-MH
Jul. 1934 / Coburg Police arrested a missionary but released him the same day. / SG-MH
Jul. 1934 / Bremen Police forbade door-to-door proselyting, stating it is banned in all of the state of Baden. / SG-MH
Jul. 1934 / Minden Acting “on the complaint of a woman,” police visited missionaries and examined their identification. Satisfied, the police departed. / SG-MG
Aug. 1934 / Gumbinnen A “group of women” disturbed a church meeting and “caused a great deal of trouble.” An unfavorable religious article had appeared that week in the local newspaper. / GA-MH
Aug. 1934 / Bielefeld Police visit missionaries, examine their literature, and inquire about church financial disbursements. / SG-MH
Sep. 1934 / Plauen Police asked the branch president to furnish a list of his members to include their political party affiliation. They also asked whether the Mormons were affiliated with German Christian Movement. / GA-MH
Sep. 1934 / Berlin Church temporarily lost the right to purchase Registered Reichmarks, German currency purchased at a discounted exchange rate overseas and used to fund missionary activities. / SG-MH, GA-QR
Oct. 1934 / Hamburg Gestapo agents summoned the Swiss-German mission president to their office, where he was interviewed regarding recent newspaper articles about the Mormons. Agents were reported to have been “courteous.” / SG-MH
Nov. 1934/ Bielefeld Upon appeal, Mormons won the right to resume door-to-door proselytizing in the state of Baden. / SG-MH
Dec. 1934 / Altona Police confiscated but later returned church books and literature. / SG-MH
Dec. 1934 / Göppingen Police summoned all members of the local branch to appear, individually, between the 10th and 16th of the month. The purpose was to “learn the meaning” of Mormon services. / SG-MH
Jan. 1935 / Celle Police inquired regarding the size of a congregation and the activity of its members. / SG-MH
Jan. 1935 / Chemnitz Missionaries required to furnish the text of a graveside sermon before permission was granted to hold the funeral of an eighty-year-old member. / GA-MH
Jan. 1935 / Plauen US consul successfully intervened to overturn a police directive banning the missionaries from living in the city. / GA-MH
Jan. 1935 / Essen Police prohibited missionary work and visitors at services. / SG-MH
Mar. 1935 / Karlsruhe District conference postponed because Joseph Goebbels is scheduled to speak at a Nazi Party rally that weekend. / SG-MH
Mar. 1935 / Liegnitz Two missionaries accused of stealing Winterhelfe Werke cards from doorways. Arrested, they spent part of the day in jail before appearing before a judge, who questioned and then released them, citing no proof of guilt. He returned their passports and authorized their continued missionary work. / GA-MH
Mar. 1935 / Beuthen Two missionaries jailed as “American spies” after they took pictures of a coal mine. Living quarters searched. After questioning, they were released, “but not before they had preached the gospel to the officers.” / GA-MH
Mar. 1935 / Lötzen While walking from one East Prussian town to another, an elder stumbled across a military marksmanship exercise and was arrested as a spy. After being searched and questioned, he was released. / GA-MH, GA-QR
Apr. 1935 / Chemnitz Police asked local district president for LDS reading material. / GA-MH
Apr. 1935 / Weimar Acting on the complaint of a non-member, police questioned a branch president. They request “all books on the Articles of Faith.” / GA-MH
Apr. 1935 / Stuttgart When a member made a “hostile” remark about the government, police summoned the missionaries and cautioned them never to utter a negative political statement. Branch president also questioned about receiving tithing payments from an unemployed member. / GA-MH
Apr. 1935 / Hasum Police seized branch records but returned them in two weeks. / SG-MH
Apr. 1935 / Bielefeld Police questioned elders regarding charges of selling missionary tracts. / GA-MH
Apr. 1935 / Mannheim Pforzheim Missionaries fined RM 20 (or five days in jail) for “passing out tracts.” Police searched their rooms and confiscated all pamphlets. A note in mission records said: “We hope they read it all.” Church paid their fine and compromised with the police: henceforth, instead of distributing literature, missionaries would go door to door and issue personal invitations to church meetings. / SG-MH
Apr. 1935 / Chemnitz Police questioned local branch president about an application to hold a funeral. Initial police hostility transformed into “very friendly” attitude toward the church. / GA-QR
Apr. 1935 / Dresden Police requested a copy of “each of the main books of the church.” / GA-MH
Apr. 1935 / Breslau Police required 24-hour notification of all planned illustrated lectures and cottage meetings. / GA-MH
May 1935 / Augsburg Police searched meeting house for “forbidden literature” but found none. / SG-MH
May 1935 / Chemnitz A city councilman objected to a Book of Mormon exhibit on the grounds that “the Mormons must be Jews since they used the Israel [sic] and Hebrew languages.” The district president gave a copy of the Book of Mormon to the objecting councilman, and assured him that Mormons always obeyed the law of the land. / GA-MH
May 1935 / Dresden Mission President Roy Welker conferred with American counsel in Dresden regarding four missionaries, two in Plauen and two in Schwarzenberg, who received local banning orders. Welker also met with a “police president” from an unspecified jurisdiction, who told Welker he is reading Mormon scripture so he “could pass unbiased judgment on the Mormon question.” / GA-MH
Jul. 1935 / Görlitz Two members of the “National Party” arrested the local Mormon Sunday school superintendent—a German citizen— after hearing his remarks, allegedly about Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller, at an outdoor picnic. The local police commissioner maintained he had no authority in the matter, and records do not specify the outcome. / GA-MH, GA-QR
Aug. 1935 / Dortmund An elder banned from the city was transferred to another location, where he continued his missionary duties. / SG-MH
Aug. 1935/ Wolgast Public meetings banned, but worship services in private residents allowed if notice is given three days ahead of time. / GA-MH
Sep. 1935 / Kassel, Darmstadt (Frankfurt am Main) and others. In these and other locations in the Swiss-German mission, police called in branch presidents for “thorough questioning about our faith . . . and our attitudes toward the Jews.” Police warned them not to show interest in political matters. / SG-MH
Sep. 1935 / Wobeade (Pomerania) Police limited the number of attendees at Fall Conference. / GA-MH
Sep. 1935 / Schwarzenberg Mormon elders banned from town because “there are too many sects here.” Mission president seeks help of American counsel. / GA-MH
Sep. 1935 / Berlin European Mission President Joseph F. Merrill and German- Austrian Mission President Roy Welker met with U. S. Ambassador to Germany, Thomas Dodd. / GA-MH
Oct. 1935 / Magdeburg Missionaries regained the right to proselytize in this Saxon city. / GA-MH
Oct. 1935 / Stralsund Upon appeal to higher authority in Berlin, Mormons were granted the right to resume previously banned missionary work. / GA-MH, GA-QR
Nov. 1935 / Munich/Ulm Permission for door-to-door proselytizing withdrawn by local government authorities. / SG-MH
Nov. 1935 / Potsdam Municipal government prohibited distribution of “tracts or any kind of propaganda.” / GA-MH
Dec. 1935 / Zittau Local government officials told two missionaries that they must leave town because “there are too many sects and they are only stirring up trouble.” / GA-MH
Jan. 1936 / Bochum After being denied permission to conduct door-to-door proselytizing, a missionary arranged to give an illustrated lecture entitled, “Utah, the Wonderland of America.” Some “40 to 50 police officials” attended, listened to the lecture, and participated in the question-and-answer session. Permission to resume missionary work was soon restored. / SG-MH
Apr. 1936 / Chemnitz “A big dance and entertainment evening” scheduled in conjunction with a district conference, was cancelled because of a “new law” that limits secular entertainment by churches. / GA-QR
Jun. 1936 / Neumünster When two new missionaries attempted to register with the local police, they were denied permission to conduct meetings because “polygamy is not allowed in Germany.” Elders appealed to higher authority in Kiel. / SG-QR
Jun. 1936 / Augsburg Local librarian gladly accepted copies of Mormon scriptures and several other LDS theological books. / --
Jul. 1936 / Breslau Gestapo agents summoned district president to their office and pose questions about the church. Records indicated he “was treated kindly and respectfully.” / GA-MH
Jul. 1936 / Elbing The popular Mormon book, Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage was banned in this municipality. All existing copies were ordered burned or sent out of the city. / GA-MH, GA-QR
Jul. 1936 / Hindenburg Police demanded a written promise from the missionaries that they would not do any “propaganda work” in the city. / GA-MH
July 1936 / Neumünster Last month’s banning of Mormon meetings was reversed, provided that church services are restricted to members. A Gestapo agent attended two subsequent services in order to “satisfy himself as to the character of the meetings and verify that only registered members attend.” / SG-QR
Aug. 1936 / Neumünster Two missionaries visited the Gestapo office in Keil in order to seek modification of the order banning “visitors,” i.e., prospective converts, from attending services in Neumünster. Gestapo offices promised to consult Berlin. / SG-MH
Sep. 1936 / Berlin Basel After difficulty with certain religious pamphlets that could have been considered tainted by references to Judaism, the two German missions printed five new tracts for distribution to prospective members, all of which ostensibly had been cleansed of any reference that would offend the Nazi state. / SG-MH
Sep. 1936 / Berlin The president of Utah State Agricultural College visited Berlin, where he met with “government officials” and “accomplishes much good for the church.” Among these was Dr. Julius Stahn, a mid-level official of the ministry of religion whom the mission records describe as: “Ecclesiastical Minister of Germany.” / GA-MS
Oct. 1936 / unspecified The Gestapo interviewed two missionaries regarding their activities since arriving in Germany. At the conclusion of the interview, officers told the missionaries they would be notified by postal letter if more information was required. / SG-MS
Oct. 1936 / Neumünster In an effort to lift the ban on non-members attending church meetings in this city, a missionary wrote a letter to the Gestapo. / SG-MH
Nov. 1936 / Lübeck The Gestapo informed a pair of missionaries that they had two weeks to leave town. The influence of rival churches was suspected. / SG-MH
Nov. 1936 / Breslau The “state police” required the district president to provide a list of all missionaries and branch presidents, and the location and time of all church services. / GA-MH
Nov. 1936 / Waldenburg Police in this Saxon town limited the number of visitors (prospective members) at Mormon church services to two, in conformance with an existing ban on open meetings. / GA-MH
Dec. 1936 / Gotha Mission President Roy Welker met with local police for two hours prior to holding a devotional service. They discussed the church’s attitude toward the central government. / GA-MH
Jan. 1937 / Kassel “Authorities” told missionaries that it would be “inadvisable” to continue door-to-door proselytizing, but that pre-arranged home visits would be acceptable. / SG-MH
Jan. 1937 / Waldenburg Mission authorities closed this small branch, partially because of police restrictions placed on meetings, but also because of the small number of congregants. / GA-MH
Jan. 1937 / Neubrandenburg A local German missionary was denied the privilege of distributing printed material because “other churches did not have this privilege.” / GA-MH
Jan. 1937 / Berlin The mission office employed legal counsel to fight a tax bill of RM 10,000 per year. Because the Latter-day Saints were not recognized as a church in Germany, the government taxed them on tithing receipts and other income. Attorneys negotiate a reduced settlement of less than ten percent. / GA-QR
Jan. 1937 / Hamburg When a Mormon youth group leader, a native German, requested permission to send church publications to active-duty Mormons in the German military, he was arrested, interrogated, and spent two nights in jail. District president was also summoned to the police station, where he was fingerprinted, photographed, interrogated, and incarcerated. / SG-MH
Feb. 1937 / Danzig Police summoned an American missionary and his German companion for questioning after they requested permission to hold a public street meeting. / GA-MH
Mar. 1937 / Hamburg Local congregations continued to suffer repercussions of January’s attempt to mail literature to members in the military. The local district president was forbidden to correspond with mission authorities in Basel and several missionaries were “under surveillance.” Youth activities cancelled. / GA-MH
Apr. 1937 / Breslau Local authorities prohibited church meetings in public school buildings. They cited a recently enacted national law prohibiting religious use of schools, but Breslau appeared to be the only municipality that enforces it. / GA-MH
Apr. 1937 / Hamburg Local government authorizes requested a complete financial accounting of all recent branch and auxiliary organization spending, and yearly financial reports since 1935. These appeared to be reverberations from the January incident. / SG-MH
May 1937 / Breslau Citing a law first applied in April, local officials continued to withhold permission for two branches to meet in school buildings. Meetings were held in private homes while church officials sought to rent meeting space on the private market. / GA-MH
Jun. 1937 / Schöneberg Selective enforcement of a law prohibiting church meetings in school buildings affected this branch near Berlin. Mormons were evicted from a location in which they had met for sixteen years. No other Berlin congregations are affected. / GA-MH
Jun. 1937 / Prenzlau Branch president, a native German, summoned to police headquarters to answer questions about the church’s activities, its membership, and its attitude toward the Jews. He “was received with kindness by the chief of police.” / GA-MH
Jun. 1937 / Breslau Banned from meeting in public school buildings, church members conducted a “special program” at the homes of the members who comprise the two congregations. / GA-MH
Jun. 1937 / Nuremberg Missionary Albert Schoenhals, an American, arrested and jailed for three weeks for “unwisely expressing opinions of internal political matters.” Upon the intercession of American diplomats and his legal counsel, he was released and expelled from Germany. / SG-MH
Jul. 1937 / Breslau Although banned from meeting in public buildings, Mormons in this city hosted the visiting American “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Heber J. Grant, in a rented hall. Grant spoke in front of a large swastika banner. Some 500 attended Grant’s address. / GA-MH
Jul. 1937 / Wobesde A “field marshal” of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the paramilitary Nazi labor corps, tried to confiscate the meetinghouse rented by this small Pomeranian Mormon congregation. “No harm resulted from this action.” / GA-MH
Jul. 1937 / Plauen A court found two German Mormon youth leaders guilty of promoting church-sponsored activities “which were an infringement on the work of the government youth organizations.” Each sentenced to a fine or five days in jail. Church officials announced an appeal, but suspended the contested youth activities pending the decision of a higher court. / GA-MH
Jul. 1937 / Wobesde Grosshartmannsdorf The government confiscated the Wobesde congregation’s meetinghouse in Pomerania. At the same time, a Saxon branch in Grosshartmannsdorf is allowed to remodel its meetinghouse and continue services there. / GA-MH
Sep. 1937 / Breslau Municipal police department investigated dances and other social events staged by LDS congregations / GA-MH
Nov. 1937 / Schleswig- Holstein Unusually low attendance at the district conference was attributed to difficulties with governmental authorities, who prohibited all advertisement and promotional activity for the event. / SG-MH
Feb. 1938 / Guben When the town’s taxing authority presented the Mormon missionaries with a bill, Mission President Alfred C. Rees responded with a letter that insisted the missionaries were exempt from taxation. Authorities withdrew the bill and agreed to the tax exemption. / EG-MH57
Feb. 1938 / Dresden Guben When local officials asked the Mormon missionaries to leave both of these towns, without stating a justification for their request, Mission President Alfred C. Rees ordered them to remain in place. No adverse consequences ensued. / EG-MH
Mar. 1938 / Offenbach am Main Local police required the branch president, a native German, to furnish a list of members. / WGMH58
Mar. 1938 / Zwickau Police forbade a Mormon youth group, the Mutual Improvement Association, from staging an Easter commemoration. / EG-MH
Jun. 1938 / Breslau Gestapo agents questioned the local district president about the missionaries. They warned him about the elders’ “activities.” / EG-MH
Sep. 1938 / Leipzig Police prohibited door-to-door proselytizing and required approval for scheduled baptismal services. / EG-MH
Oct. 1938 / Saarbrücken Two missionaries, while serving a previous assignment, took pictures of themselves draped in a Nazi flag. When negatives were sent to a German member, a professional photographer, to have prints made, authorities arrested the member and attempted to find the missionaries, deeming the photographs disrespectful. The missionary pair was evacuated to Switzerland only slightly ahead of police pursuit, and uninvolved elders serving in the city were transferred “until things quiet down somewhat.” The German who developed the pictures was sent to a concentration camp. / WG-MH
Oct. 1938 / Stettin Local district president summoned by the police in order to discuss the recent district conference. / EG-MH
Nov. 1938 / Rostock Two American missionaries register to reside in this city, after having been denied permission to register in Barth and Stralsund. / EG-MH


 Table 6: Recorded Instances of Mormon-State and Mormon-Ecclesiastical Conflict Contained in Official LDS  Church Historical Records for the Pre-War National Socialist Period, 1933-1939.

_______________

Notes:

1 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 3 Apr. 1933; German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Dec. 1933 (year-end report).
 
2 Carter, “Mormons in the Third Reich,” 73. Steven Carter, using an unpublished paper authored by Brigham Young University’s Douglas Tobler, cites an undated incident that did not appear in the official records of the two Mormon missions, a reference to a missionary named Reed Bradford whom “Party members . . . nearly beat to death for refusal to salute the Nazi flag.” The citation also does not reveal the location of that attack.
 
3 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 84; Carter, “Mormons in the Third Reich,” 73. With regard to the belt whipping of missionaries Ellsworth and Allen, Scharffs’ account differs from the contents of the German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories and Quarterly Reports. Scharffs said: “Police refused to do anything about it.” The records show that the victims and the assailant appeared before a judge or a magistrate, and that the Mormons declined to press charges.
 
4 See Table 6 which follows.
 
5 Tobler and Keele, “The Führer’s New Clothes,” 27; Petty, interview, transcript, 59. Missionary Donald M. Petty recalls the frustration of seeing a Catholic priest “cast out evil spirits” with consecrated oil after Mormon elders had visited the home of a parishioner. He also remembers dying Mormon converts who were humiliated into seeking forgiveness from their former priest or minister in order to regain the right to be buried in a church-controlled cemetery. Such clerical opposition lessened during the course of Petty’s mission to Germany. 
 
6 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 31 Mar. 1935.
 
7 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 2 Apr. 1935; German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Apr. 1935.
 
8 Fischer, Nazi Germany, 408-409. 
 
9 Alan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny (New York: Bantam, 1958), 345.
 
10 Blake, interview, transcript, 6.
 
11 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 26 Jun. 1936. 
 
12 Ibid., Jul., Aug., Oct. 1936.
 
13 Report of the 1937 Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, 1937), 59.
 
14 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Apr. 1935. 
 
15 Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Gerhard Paul, “Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent? Gestapo, Society, and Resistance,” in Nazism and German Society, ed. David F. Crews (London: Routledge, 1994), 176.
 
16 Eric A. Johnson, Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 48. 
 
17 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Apr. 1935.
 
18 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 14 Jul. 1935.
 
19 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jul. 1935. 
 
20 Bingham, interview, transcript, 5.
 
21 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Feb. 1937. 
 
22 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Mar. 1937.
 
23 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 29 Jul. 1937.
 
24 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1 Jan. 1938; West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Jan. 1938. 
 
25 Bingham, interview, transcript, 8.
 
26 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Feb. 1936; Bingham, interview, transcript, 8. 
 
27 Bingham, interview, transcript, 9.
 
28 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, June 1937.
 
29 Bingham, interview, transcript, 9. 
 
30 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, June 1937.
 
31 Bingham, interview, transcript, 10-11. 
 
32 Dixon, Mormons in the Third Reich, 73, 77n13. Dixon’s account varies slightly from other sources. Based on an interview he conducted with M. Douglas Wood, the West German Mission President in 1938, a different photographic processor received the second batch of negatives and was the source of denunciation to the Gestapo.
 
33 Petty, interview, transcript, 51.
 
34 West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 14 Oct. 1938; Petty, interview, transcript, 49. 
 
35 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jan. 1937.
 
36 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 4 Apr. 1928.
 
37 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v., “Tithing;” Doctrine and Covenants 119:4.
 
38 Kelly to Lyman, 21 Oct. 1937, 176. 
 
39 Hans-Joachim Braun, The German Economy in the Twentieth Century (London: Routledge, 1990), 84-85.
 
40 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Jan. 1937. 
 
41 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 28 Feb. 1938.
 
42 Blake, interview, transcript, 7. 
 
43 Petty, interview, transcript, 51-52.
 
44 Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 76; “The South American Mission,” Ensign (Feb. 1975): http://www.lds.org/ensign/1975/02/the-s ... ?lang=eng; “Council Meeting, Jan. 25, 1940,” George Albert Smith Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. When Mormons began missionary activity in Brazil in 1925, they restricted their efforts to German-speaking inhabitants. In their judgment, this alleviated a concern regarding the inadvertent baptism of Brazilians who had been born as the result of miscegenation between whites and the descendants of black slaves. As late as 1940, minutes of a First Presidency meeting express First Counselor J. Reuben Clark’s concern as to “whether or not one drop of negro blood deprives a man of the right to receive the priesthood.”
 
45 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, s.v., “Apostasy.” 
 
46 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, May 1933.
 
47 Ibid., Jan. 1936.
 
48 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, Sep. 1936.
 
49 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Oct. 1933.
 
50 Petty, interview, transcript, 40. 
 
51 Johnson, Nazi Terror, 254.
 
52 Blake, interview, transcript, 6.
 
53 King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 44. 
 
54 SG-MH—Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1925-37.
 
55 GA-MH—German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 1925-37.
 
56 GA-QR—German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, 1925-37. 
 
57 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1938-47.
 
58 West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 1938-39.
 
 
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:25 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER VI. THE PRE-WAR NAZI YEARS, 1933-1939: GOD’S OBERFÜHRER, THE MORMON MISSION PRESIDENT

Copenhagen’s regal Palace Hotel, glimmering in its recently remodeled splendor, hosted a brash newcomer at the annual meeting of European Mormon mission presidents in May1938.1 Among the eleven middle-aged men who attended with their wives, the most popular discussion topic concerned an energetic, aggressive former businessman and political activist from Salt Lake City who had won his position as the Berlin-based East German Mission President in a power struggle with a rival missionary leader.2 Before the conference began, Alfred C. Rees had intrigued but mystified his colleagues with a cryptic memorandum that claimed he had extracted “some important, unprecedented concessions from the German government,” actions he “couldn’t mention specifically” in writing but would discuss at the meeting.3

Franklin J. Murdock, the president of the Netherlands Mission in 1938, recalled that a number of his contemporaries expressed discomfort with reports of close collaboration between Rees and the government of the Third Reich. Some, mindful of the way the Nazis were regarded around the world, believed that such an unsavory association would sully the church’s reputation. Others, thinking pragmatically, maintained that Hitler’s government could not be trusted to live up to any bargain it struck with the Mormons. Rees appealed for his colleagues’ patience and trust, a vote of confidence most eventually gave. Murdock, however, employed his own method for assessing Rees’ devotion to Adolf Hitler. One morning, while the mission presidents were descending the long, ornate staircase in the Palace Hotel’s lobby, Murdock stealthily positioned himself behind the Berlin mission leader. Murdock recounted: “He didn’t see me. I put my hand on his right shoulder quickly, and I said ‘Heil Hitler!’” Murdock described Rees’ sudden, startled reaction:

He swung around [and said] ‘Heil Hitler!’ showing that he was used to that, and that he would go along with that. I did it just jokingly, to scare him, you see. And after [he recovered], he said, ‘Oh, you’d better be careful; I’ve got a weak heart.’ . . . But I wanted to test him out, to see if you could get him, unsolicited and unbeknownst to him. How quickly he responded, ‘Heil Hitler!’ Of course, that wasn’t the thing for an American to do unless you were in favor of the regime.4


Rees’ colleagues had sufficient reason to suspect him of an unprecedented degree of collaboration with the Nazis; his reputation had preceded him. During twenty-three months as a mission president in Germany, Alfred C. Rees did more to ingratiate the Mormon Church with the National Socialists than any predecessor prelate. He rode black government limousines to meetings with important business and state officials. He forged an agreement with Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda ministry to purge daily newspapers of anti-Mormon articles, and arranged for his missionaries to publish positive accounts of the LDS Church in municipal newspapers throughout Germany.5 When the most important Nazi party daily subsequently printed an article about the Mormons that Rees did not like, he arranged for the Völkischer Beobachter to publish an article he had written that drew numerous parallels between Mormonism and Nazism, and between Utah and Germany.6 In the weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War, Rees’ savvy media relations skills prompted a Nazi-controlled radio station to broadcast a shortwave radio program on Mormon topics intended for a Utah audience.7 His excellent command of the German language allowed him to cultivate business and government contacts that a speaker with less fluency could not have accomplished.8 In the autumn of 1937, Rees and his wife traveled to the annual Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, where they enjoyed torchlight parades, fireworks displays, and other spectacular swastika-themed pageantry in the company of local Mormon missionaries.9 When Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini visited Berlin, Rees posed as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times in order to receive a prominent viewing place.11 Based on his response to his colleague’s surprise prank in the Danish hotel, Rees presumably rendered the “HeilHitler” greeting with shameless regularity.

With regard to promoting synergies between Mormonism and Nazism, Rees was undoubtedly the most energetic of all Mormon mission presidents, but he was not alonein his enthusiasm. Many others—LDS Church leaders, United States senators, diplomats, and American college professors—wrote key articles or strategically timed visits to cultivate favor with the Nazis. They staged a coordinated effort to show Hitler’s government that powerful and influential Americans backed politically astute Mormon mission presidents, their enthusiastic American missionaries, and the loyal German members who loved their church. More than eighty years of contentious experiences with civil government and mainline church leaders had taught the LDS hierarchy to marshal its forces effectively in Germany.

Mission Presidents During the Pre-War National Socialist Period, 1933-1939 Profession and Prior Missionary Service in Germany

Years / President / Mission / Profession / Earlier Mission


1930-34 / Oliver H. Budge / German-Austrian / oral surgeon / 1896-98
1931-35/ Franz “Francis” Salzner / Swiss-German / carpenter / 1896-98
1934-37 / Roy A. Welker / German-Austrian / school principal, religion teacher / 1901-04
1935-37, 1937, 1937-38 / Philemon M. Kelley / Swiss-German, East German, West German / physician / 1900-03
1937, 1938-39 / Alfred C. Rees / West German, East German / newspaper executive, civic leader / 1899-1902
1938-39 / M. Douglas Wood / West German / school principal / 1925-27
1938, 1938-39, 1939-45 / Thomas E. McKay / East German, Swiss-Austrian, All German Missions / state legislator, utility commissioner, school administrator / 1899-1902, 1909-1912*

** President of the Swiss and German mission from 1909-12.


Table 7: Mission Presidents During the Pre-War National Socialist Period, 1933-1939 – Profession and Prior Missionary Service in Germany

When National Socialism became the latest surmountable challenge, the Salt Lake City leadership drew upon a small pool of linguistically skilled, experienced, educated, and spiritually committed men who were willing to uproot their families and interrupt their professional lives. See Table 7. Seven men, all married with children, answered the call to become mission presidents. All had labored as church missionaries in German-speaking lands as young men. One had served two prior missions, the second time as a mission president. Six of the seven were college graduates; two of those, an oral surgeon and a physician, had graduated from professional schools. Three were educators; one of those had served in the state legislature. Another was a prominent newspaper executive and official of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce. The only skilled tradesman in the group compensated for his lack of college education with the cultural understanding that could only come from having been born and reared in Germany. If the young missionaries they directed were the shock troops of Mormonism who fought spiritual battles in Hitler’s godless world, each mission president served as a divinely anointed Oberführer.

Philemon M. Kelly, Rees’ rival, was an example of that kind of Mormon stalwart. As a young man of twenty-three who was planning to study medicine, he postponed his ambitions to answer his stake president’s call to serve a three-year mission in Germany beginning in 1900. He proselytized mostly in the western half of the country and kept a diary that recorded numerous faith-inspiring experiences. Before he departed in 1903, he vowed to return to Germany as a mission president. He repeated that determination to his wife after the couple wed in 1905, and he continued to hold onto the dream throughout medical school at Northwestern University and for decades in private practice as a family physician and general surgeon in southern Idaho. At Christmas dinner in 1934, he “prophesied” to his guests that he would soon “preside over the German mission.”12

One week later, a prophet of God called. After attending to his patients on New Year’s Day 1935, Kelly left St. Anthony, Idaho, at six o’clock in the evening and drove all night on country roads, arriving in Salt Lake City at seven in the morning. Wearing a new suit for the first time, he called upon Heber J. Grant, the Mormons’ prophet, seer, and revelator, who said: “Brother Kelly, I would like you to preside over the Swiss- German Mission.” By February 27, Kelly had sold his house, furniture, and medical practice to another doctor for $6,500. With his only other assets being $2,250 in a passbook savings account, Kelly, his wife Sue, and his daughter Connie embarked aboard the ocean liner SS Manhattan on April 24, 1935. At a time when other middleaged professionals were shoring up their personal finances in anticipation of retirement, fifty-eight-year-old Kelly was garnering spiritual capital.13

The first two years of his mission presidency established Kelly’s reputation as a kind yet firm ecclesiastical leader, based in the tranquil sanctuary of Basel, Switzerland, who taught his missionaries in Germany to eschew politics in an effort to coexist with the Nazi state.14 His handling of the Albert Schoenhals case provides a textbook example of how to use German lawyers; he skillfully used American diplomats and patient persistence to mitigate the wrath of an offended dictatorship. The young missionary had spent three weeks in custody for criticizing the Nazi state in a letter intercepted by postal censors. Likewise, Kelly’s serene perseverance helped the Mormons endure the subsequent crisis in Hamburg when military officials ordered the arrest of a German LDS leader because he asked to send church material to Mormons in the Wehrmacht. By the time that the Salt Lake City leadership decided to reorganize the missions in 1937; however, merely avoiding trouble with the Nazis had become secondary to reaping the benefits of a favorable, active relationship. Kelly’s plodding, non-confrontational approach was no longer the desired tactic for the mission president who would serve in Germany’s capital city.

A power struggle ensued for control of the crown jewel of Mormonism in Hitler’s Reich, the newly established East German Mission in Berlin. The events of autumn 1937 reveal a glimpse of rare dysfunction within the Latter-day Saints’ ruling triumvirate, the First Presidency. For knowledgeable observers within the German-speaking missions, it also provided an unaccustomed opportunity to witness jealousy and competition between mission presidents. That Kelly first won the coveted Berlin position, and subsequently lost it to a more politically savvy and skilled Nazi appeaser, Alfred C. Rees, also bespeaks the importance that the Mormon hierarchy placed on ingratiating its church with Hitler’s government. In the Mormon mission field of Nazi Germany, winning powerful friends trumped winning souls.

German-Speaking Emigration During the Pre-War Nazi Years, 1933-193916

Year / Swiss-German Mission / German-Austrian Mission


1933 / 0 / 9
1934 / 7 / 6
1935 / 16 / 6
1936 / 3 / 4
1937 / 14 / 5

-- / West German Mission / East German Mission

1938 / 8 / 1
1939 / 4 / 7
Total / 91 (includes one Swiss citizen in 1939)


Table 8: German-Speaking Emigration During the Pre-War Nazi Years, 1933-1939

At some point in the late spring or early summer of 1937, the Salt Lake City leadership decided to expand the number of German-speaking missions from two to three. Part of that reasoning may have emanated from the difficulties in Hamburg that spring, when the Nazi government prohibited German citizens leading LDS congregations from communicating with the American mission president based in Switzerland. Although the church hierarchy was not ready to appoint anyone other than an American to lead its missions, the necessity for establishing the West German mission based in Frankfurt am Main became obvious. Another justification may have been the burgeoning number of German-speaking Latter-day Saints, who had become difficult to govern with only one mission president in Berlin and a second in Switzerland. German speakers in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany comprised the largest contingent of Latter-day Saints outside the United States during the 1930s. Some 14,307 Mormons resided in those three countries in 1933; by 1939, within the borders of Germany itself, there were 15,677 Mormons.17 The Nazi government made it difficult for Aryans, especially skilled workers or young men eligible for military service, to emigrate from the Third Reich. See Table 8. That, combined with the Mormons’ desire to discourage immigration to the American Zion, resulted in the migration of only ninety-one German-speaking Latter-day Saints from the German-speaking missions from 1933 to 1939.18 With Roy Welker’s term as president of the German-Austrian Mission ending in 1937, and Kelly embarking upon the third and customarily last year of his mission presidency, the Salt Lake City leadership faced the need to find extraordinarily skilled leaders to fill these critical positions.

One obviously qualified candidate was Thomas E. McKay, who had served two previous German-speaking missions, the latter as president of the Swiss and German Mission from 1909 to 1912. McKay also needed a job. According to biographer Newell Bringhurst, the “changing political environment in Utah” caused McKay to lose his long-term salaried position on the Utah Public Utilities Commission in the spring of 1937.19 Fortunately, Thomas McKay enjoyed an advantageous connection: his brother David O. McKay, who as Second Counselor to the First Presidency occupied the third- ranking position in the Mormon Church. Unfortunately, once McKay arrived in Germany, destined to assume command of the West German Mission in Frankfurt, a matter from his past surfaced to disqualify him from missionary leadership in the Third Reich. According to Donald M. Petty, who was secretary of the Swiss-German Mission in the late 1930s, Thomas McKay “had been expelled from Germany years before; that ban was still recognized by the German government.”20 Instead, McKay took charge of the newly created Swiss-Austrian mission, headquartered in the familiar Mormon outpost of Basel.

That pitted the veteran Kelly against the newcomer Rees for the coveted position in Berlin. The runner-up would receive the consolation prize in Frankfurt. Kelly’s incumbency as leader of the Swiss-German Mission gave him a natural advantage, one augmented by the visit of the prophet, seer, and revelator, Heber J. Grant, to Kelly’s mission in late June and early July 1937. Grant, age eighty-one, was the last Mormon Church president to have practiced polygamy.21 He was beginning a three-month tour of Europe, the highlight of which would be the centennial celebration of the British Mission’s founding in 1837.22 When Kelly met Grant and his entourage at the Basel train station on June 28, the two began to discuss the planned realignment of the German-speaking missions and the position in Berlin. Grant spent a week in Switzerland, during which he stayed for several days at the mission home in Basel. By the time Grant, Kelly, and European Mission President Richard Lyman addressed eight hundred German Mormons below a large swastika banner in Frankfurt on July 8, Kelly had secured his appointment to head the new mission in the Third Reich’s capital.23 “While on his trip to Europe and before Brother Rees arrived in Germany,” Kelly’s memoirs said, “President Grant requested President Kelly go to Berlin and preside over that mission, and President Rees to open up the West German Mission in Frankfurt.”24

Kelly wasted no time in moving to Berlin. Kelly appears to have embraced the adage that defined possession as nine-tenths of the law. Ida May Davis Rees, in a diary entry dated August 6, wrote that when she and her husband Alfred C. Rees stepped out of a taxicab at the Händelstasse mission headquarters in Berlin, they found “President and Mrs. Kelly already installed in the office.”25 Kelly dispatched a press release in another effort to entrench himself in his new position. In early September, a notice appeared in the St. Anthony News, announcing that the town’s favorite son “has been appointed head of the large German-Austrian Mission of the LDS Church in Europe.”26 The German-Austrian Mission’s manuscript histories, which Kelly controlled at this time, identified his nemesis Alfred C. Rees as president “of the newly organized Germany-West Mission.”27

Rees would not be intimidated into accepting a lesser assignment. His duty, as he described it to anyone who would listen, was not limited to supervising missionaries and church members. According to Donald M. Petty, a missionary who served under Rees, “Alfred C. Rees was sent to Berlin for the express purpose of establishing relationships with the central (Nazi) government.”28 Stanford H. Bingham, who later was Rees’ secretary, said: “He was called and set apart . . . to work with the government as well as to be a mission president.”29 Ralph Mark Lindsey, who became Rees’ mission secretary after Bingham, said of his president: “You could certainly tell from his every action that his main objective was to break down the dislike the Nazi regime would have against the church, and to permit us to work.”30

Lack of coordination within the First Presidency had caused Grant to offer the Berlin job to Kelly while the prophet’s assistants had another candidate in mind. It is probable that First Counselor J. Reuben Clark, a retired ambassador and undersecretary of state, recruited Rees to represent the Mormons in the capital of Hitler’s empire. Another member of the Mormons’ ruling troika, Second Counselor David O. McKay, anointed Rees to his Berlin position. According to Ida Rees’ diary, “Alf was set apart by President McKay to preside over part of the German Mission with headquarters in Berlin.” That entry was dated June 21, 1937, after Grant had left Germany to visit the British Mission. The Rees family then sailed to Germany in the company of Thomas E. McKay, who was David O. McKay’s brother. When they left, there was no confusion on the American side of the Atlantic as to who had been designated to serve in Berlin. A Deseret News article described Rees as the designated German Mormon mission leader “in the north,” meaning Berlin.31 A farewell editorial two weeks later contained the Deseret News’ speculation that Rees would lead the “North German Mission.”32 The Millennial Star, published in London at the European Mission headquarters, said in its July 15 edition that Rees would preside over “the northern division” while McKay would govern in the south and Kelly would move to the Swiss-Austrian mission.33

Neither antagonist was willing to let go of Mormonism’s brass ring in Nazi Germany. On August 13, 1937, two weeks after Kelly moved to Berlin and one week after Rees arrived, the LDS Prophet, Seer, and Revelator interrupted his scheduled trip to northern Europe to referee a squabble between mission leaders. After visiting Mormons in Scandinavia, Grant had been enjoying a Boy Scout jamboree in the Netherlands when he made a sudden, unscheduled visit to Hamburg.34 Grant, Rees, Kelly, McKay, and the European mission president, Richard R. Lyman, attended. What transpired at that meeting remains unclear, as the records of each existing German mission conflict. The German-Austrian Mission’s manuscript histories reveal Kelly’s confirmation as president of the East German Mission and Rees’ assignment to head the West German contingent.35 By contrast, the Swiss-German Mission’s records stated that both Rees and Kelly would be stationed in Berlin pending the final determination of each mission president’s jurisdiction.36 It appears that the octogenarian Mormon prophet tired of mediating a conflict between a pair of petulant men in their sixties. He returned to his Dutch scout jamboree and left it to Lyman, his European mission president, to restore order at the top of the German missions.

Rees, having no intention of being exiled to Frankfurt, responded by establishing himself in Berlin and spending the mission’s money. As someone who would interact with the Nazi officialdom in the Third Reich’s capital city, he needed an impressive residence as a pickup point for government limousines. The Mormons’ headquarters mansion across the street from Berlin’s tranquil Tiergarten city park was occupied. Ida Rees’ journal describes their house hunt:

Such a hopeless task . . . we went into some awful holes and some houses that must have belonged to the very well to do. One had about six great rooms in heavy carved furniture, oriental rugs, a chest of solid silver, great silver pieces on the sideboard. So was the home of a Jew; we would have to keep his housekeeper. One place had a big zebra skin rug and a great lion skin rug with the big heads on. Some places had immense carved figures on the house fronts, great marble staircases with life size figures in armor or statues of iron and bronze (my emphasis).


When Ida Rees attended her first church service in Germany, she “didn’t understand one word of what was said” and “sang the American words to hymns.” Although she did not comprehend German, she probably understood why a Jewish owner had to vacate his property. However, the need to employ his servant seemed to be a greater consideration than the owner’s fate. A Mormon mission matron did not express concern for Jews in those days; such an intemperate observation could have hindered her husband’s task. The Reeses eventually settled on a house on Kürfurstendamm, “a fashionable street, wide and busy,” often referred to as the Champs Elysees of Berlin. Ida Rees said their new abode had “a marble hall and two rooms in the back opening on a court.”37 After one month, the Reeses tired of this house and found another, which Ida described in her diary:

We have a room with a big desk bookcase, washstand, grandfather clock, two beds with an oriental rug and hand-woven rug for covers, two stands, two easy chairs, a leather one with a lion’s head looking over each shoulder as we sit in it, a big stove and a balcony—all in shabby genteel make up, and 13 oil pictures of ancestors on the walls, also three sets of large deer horns and an iron figure on horseback on the desk. In the hall are iron figures and in the dining room there are over thirty oil paintings on the walls, also an immense wild boar’s head with tusks, a wild turkey, two large grouse, a grand piano, etc.38


By the middle of October 1937, undoubtedly in part because of the Reeses’ extravagant lifestyle, it was becoming expensive and inefficient to maintain two mission presidents in Berlin. Stanford H. Bingham remembered that Kelly ran the day-to-day affairs of the German-Austrian Mission while Rees concentrated on relations with the government. Bingham wrote in his diary:

President Rees hasn’t been here three months yet but already has spent nearly 2,600 Reichsmarks, almost one thousand dollars. Of course, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it has been wasted, but let’s not talk about it. That along with other expenses in the last few months has lowered the balance in the German-Austrian mission from about 20,000 Reichsmarks to 5,000. No one needs to be an accountant to see where this is heading, in the very near future, to help from the mother church, something we haven’t done in many years. I’m just thankful that I won’t be held accountable.39


Meanwhile, with Thomas E. McKay safely sequestered across the border in Basel but cognizant of the old banning order that prevented him from living in Germany, no progress was being made in establishing a Frankfurt-based mission to administer church units and missionary work in the western part of the country.

On October 5, 1937, the three mission presidents—Rees, Kelly, and McKay— met in Frankfurt. The Swiss-German Mission’s manuscript histories reported that the disagreement had been resolved. The three men determined the geographical boundaries and proper names of each mission. Kelly relented by agreeing to relinquish control over the Berlin mission and move to Frankfurt at the beginning of 1938.40 Kelly’s memoirs indicate, in contrast to the mission’s report, that the dispute had not yet been settled. It became the task of Richard R. Lyman, president of the European mission in London, to resolve the issue by convincing Kelly to move to the less prestigious post. In a series of letters in the autumn of 1937, Lyman employed a combination of flattery and a threat to Kelly’s legacy if he did not accept the move. Over two consecutive days in early October, Lyman wrote three letters to Kelly. Lyman told Kelly that church authorities would never require him to move to Frankfurt, but that Kelly was the most qualified man for the job. He implored Kelly to do so, citing the satisfaction that previous presidents had achieved by opening a new mission. Finally, Lyman warned of the consequences for failure to move to Frankfurt:

You are the master of the situation. Let everyone know that it is your right and you may remain in Berlin if you so desire. You can certainly do this and you will be backed up by the President of the Church up to the point of your being released. Of course if the situation is not harmonious, the probabilities are, a release might come, as it did to President Joseph J. Cannon at the end of about 2 years and 9 months.41


In referring to a fellow mission president whose inability to achieve consensus with his peers caused his dismissal, Lyman referred to Kelly’s legacy. Would he wish to be remembered as the spiritual leader who successfully presided over three German-speaking missions, and whose final assignment included opening a new field of labor? Or would Kelly’s tarnished legacy be that of a president who was prematurely discharged from his assignment because he could not get along?

On October 21, 1937, Kelly fired one last salvo, a four-page “report” of his success in the Swiss-German Mission. It took the form of a line-by-line comparison of his mission’s performance with that of the German-Austrian Mission under Roy Welker’s stewardship. In six different categories, pamphlets distributed, gospel conversations (lessons taught), convert baptisms, total baptisms, tithing, and fast offerings (charitable donations), his mission enjoyed a statistical advantage over Welker’s. He devoted a page to his development of “priesthood quorums” within his mission. As a result, all fourteen districts (dioceses) within the Swiss-German Mission had been removed from the control of American missionaries and placed instead under “local supervision.” Finally, Kelly emphasized that his call to become president of the Berlin-based mission had come from God’s anointed representative on earth.

July 7th, 1937, President Grant, in company with President Lyman, called me into the sitting room of the Basel Mission Home and said, ‘President Kelly, how would you like to take charge of the mission with headquarters in Berlin? We would like to have you do so.’ I assured them I would be pleased to meet their request and began the necessary preparations to direct the mission.42


In a joint letter to Lyman dated October 26, 1937, the three American mission presidents in Germany—Rees, Kelly, and McKay—agreed to let the First Presidency in Salt Lake City make the final assignment. They reported their agreement on the need for three German-speaking missions and boundary lines that defined each. They also stated their willingness “to accept such assignments, and to preside over such mission as the First Presidency may designate.”43 In other words, they could not agree on who should lead the Berlin mission and deferred to higher authority.

Finally, a prophet of God spoke. In a letter to Kelly dated November 3, 1937, the prophet, seer, and revelator, Heber J. Grant, stated

While it is true that for some reason, justifiable no doubt, you were appointed to take charge of the Eastern German Mission just prior to the arrival of President Rees, the fact remains that President Rees is the only one of the three presidents of German missions who has been specifically set apart to preside over ‘that division of the German-Austrian Mission with headquarters in Berlin.’44


In the end, the prophet deferred to a liturgical “ordinance.” Although Grant himself had asked Kelly to serve in the Berlin post, his underling, David O. McKay, had performed a “setting apart” ceremony, which involved the “laying on of hands” to commission Rees as the Berlin mission president. Nothing in Kelly’s personal correspondence indicates that he realized Grant’s ultimate decision was based on political reality, rather than a sacred anointing. When faced with his prophet’s decision, Kelly obediently surrendered. In subsequent correspondence to a friend in Idaho, Kelly spun his own version of events: “My competitor was so determined to remain in Berlin and this mission so needed help that I wrote the First Presidency, volunteering to establish this mission on a proper basis.”45

On December 8, 1937, Kelly and his wife departed for a month-long trip to southern Europe and Palestine. Kelly had served in the coveted Berlin mission presidency for five months. He arrived in Frankfurt on January 6, 1938, and by January 22 he had signed a contract to rent a stately mansion as the new West German Mission’s headquarters. It lay on Allee Schaumainkai on the banks of the River Main in the midst of Frankfurt’s art galleries and in its museum district.46

Kelly remained on the job until early July 1938, when he departed for “two months of intensive study of medicine” in Vienna prior to his return to the United States. Kelly had the opportunity to view the Nazification of Austria from a first-hand perspective. Four months had transpired since Hitler launched the Anschluss, the German occupation of Austria in March 1938. The chance to observe the Nazi conquest gave Kelly one final opportunity to influence LDS policy in the German-speaking missions. On August 20, 1938, having returned from Vienna, he met with Rees and his successor as president of the West German Mission, M. Douglas Wood. Kelly’s impressions, and his subsequent personal report to the First Presidency in Salt Lake City, may have materially affected another reorganization of the missions.47 On September 28, the First Presidency directed, “in view of recent political changes,” that all church units in Austria be detached from the Swiss-Austrian Mission and assigned to the West German Mission in Frankfurt. The remaining mission was renamed the Swiss Mission.48 Thomas E. McKay’s reorganized Swiss-Austrian Mission, established to meet the political conditions prevalent prior to the Anschluss, had lasted for ten months.

Freed of the burden of having a competing mission president on his territory, Alfred C. Rees began his vigorous effort to ingratiate the Mormon Church with the Nazi government. If Kelly was a shining example of a spiritual mission president, Rees’ background made him the quintessential political president. The exercise of political influence had played an important role in his adult life. Rees began his working life as a printer’s apprentice in the late nineteenth century before undergoing his formal education at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. While a missionary in Switzerland at the turn of the century, he attended classes at the Université de Neuchâtel. After a brief period as a high school language teacher and principal, he pursued a career in newspaper circulation and advertising. Prior to his mission presidency, he was the advertising manager of the Deseret News. He was active in the Utah Manufacturers Association, an industrial trade group formed in the early 1920s, and its successor, Utah Associated Industries. He served the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce in various leadership positions and appeared in Who’s Who in American Business.49

Rees’ interest in conservative political causes developed concomitantly with his business experience. In 1923 he became a founding member of the Utah Taxpayers Association, a “watchdog” group whose first newsletter proclaimed “there is an incessant demand within the state for a reduction of taxes.”50 Newspaper articles that announced his appointment to the Berlin mission presidency, and the obituaries published after his death in 1941, proclaimed him to be an “expert on taxation.”51 He was; he opposed it. Rees was also an early proponent of rolling back the gains made by trade unionism in the 1920s. He served as chairman of the Council of American Industries, a successor group to the American Plan Open Shop Conference—which proposed to outlaw union security agreements that required employers to hire union members.52

His combination of conservative political activism and stalwart church service undoubtedly brought Rees to the attention of J. Reuben Clark, the Mormons’ number-two man in the First Presidency. Both men had atypical backgrounds for the church positions they occupied, and they shared convergent political views that sometimes differed from their fellow Utahns. Rees became a mission president after a career of business management and political advocacy, rather than the traditional proving grounds—education or the liberal professions. Clark joined the First Presidency after a lifetime of private legal practice during Democratic administrations and State Department service when Republicans occupied the White House. Clark was only the second member in the history of LDS Church’s ruling triumvirate, the First Presidency, who had not enjoyed a long career as a Mormon apostle.53

Rees, as an executive with the Deseret News, may have been aware that Clark was the author of an unsigned editorial that ran in the church-owned newspaper before the 1936 presidential election, in which the newspaper endorsed the candidacy of Republican Alf Landon against incumbent Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. According to historian D. Michael Quinn, after the editorial ran, 1,200 Deseret News readers cancelled their subscriptions.54 Utah voted with forty-five other states in reelecting FDR in a landslide. Utahns in the 1930s were devoutly LDS in their religious leanings, but both Rees and Clark found themselves in the minority with regard to Depression-era national politics. If Clark drove Rees’ selection as Berlin mission president, he was nominating a kindred political spirit.

Another ability made Rees attractive as Mormonism’s most important mission leader. While other mission presidents, including Kelly, had acquired sufficient linguistic skill to function effectively in a German-speaking nation, Rees had developed a command of the language unmatched by his peers. While serving as a young missionary in Switzerland at the turn of the twentieth century, Rees authored a German-language history of the LDS Church. German ecclesiastical units used it as a textbook for decades. Just before Rees departed for Germany, the Deseret News wrote: “He has been a lifetime student of the German language and has completely mastered it in both writing and conversation.”55 Ralph Mark Lindsey, Rees’ personal secretary for eighteen months, said of his boss: “He spoke excellent German and was always practicing his umlauts. I can see him now, manipulating his lips and his mouth, so that he could better enunciate all of the German diphthongs.” An entry in Ida Rees’ diary said: “Men came to me and asked if Alf was born in Germany. They [said] that otherwise he could not speak so well.”56 Actually, Rees was trilingual. On another occasion, Rees had the opportunity to speak French at a banquet in Berlin, where he had been seated next to the speaker, a native Frenchman. “He could talk French there as well as German,” Ida wrote.57 When Rees took academic coursework at the Université de Neuchâtel at the turn of the twentieth century, he was studying at a French-language university.

Undaunted determination, combined with political acumen and linguistic skill, made him highly effective in his new position. Alfred Cornelius Rees was a driven man. “He was a man of small stature,” said Lindsey, “but in reality he was a human dynamo. . . he would always speak his mind and speak it properly.”58 Another missionary, Sterling Ryser, characterized Rees as “a very dynamic, energetic, full-of-life, go get ‘em-type of person. We got the impression that he was going to stir things up.”59 At first, that meant making contacts among Germany’s industrial elite and influential foreign firms doing business in Germany—in much the same way Rees had functioned as a business executive, trade association leader, and chamber of commerce officer in Utah. An entry in Ida Rees’ diary reflected a typical week’s schedule for her husband:

Today Alf went to see Mr. Otto Haas of the Carl Schurz Foundation and before that [this week] he had conferences with Mr. Mann of Brown Brothers Harriman Co., the head of the American Institute, the head of foreign languages at the University of Berlin, the head of the foreign ministry in charge of relations with America. Yesterday, he met a minister of the Reichstag and was present at a businessmen’s luncheon.60


Meetings with Nazi party officials also received a high priority. Ida Rees wrote of consultations Rees had with officials of the government ministry of religion. Her diary entries may have misspelled their names and furnished incomplete identification of their positions within the ministry. Nevertheless, the reader can understand the value that Alfred Rees placed on hobnobbing with any Nazi official who would grant him an interview:

Alf met with Dr. Stahn and Dr. Haupt of the church ministry who consented to give a written statement that he could use with the local police that they refer all controversies between them and the elders to Alf. Through the courtesy of Dr. Hausberger he met Dr. Böhmens who controls the press affairs. He surprised all of us with his cordiality and invited him to a meeting at the Adlon [Hotel] to be his guest and sit at his table. At this affair the diplomats will be present to hear Dr. Rosenberg, a distinguished member of the Nazi [Party], explain the aims and purposes of that organization. Dr. Böhmes asked Alf to explain to him what Mormonism is. Has the promise of a future introduction.61


If the “Dr. Rosenberg” that Alfred Rees arranged to hear was Alfred Rosenberg, he would have met a true Nazi ideologue. Rosenberg had been an important adviser to Adolf Hitler since the 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch, and he was one of the eminent “philosophers” of National Socialism. He was a leading proponent of racial pseudoscience, which he promulgated in writing and speeches. He embraced the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and issued numerous anti-Semitic pamphlets of his own, including one as early as 1919, entitled The Tracks of the Jew Throughout the Ages. In 1934 he established “The Institute for the Investigation of the Jewish Question” and declared that “Germany will regard the Jewish question as solved only after the last Jew has left the Greater German living space.” In reality, the “Institute” served as a base for looting Jewish art collections, books, and other intellectual treasures as Jews fled Germany during the pre-war years.62 What may have interested Rees the most was Rosenberg’s position as editor of the Völkischer Beobachter in the late 1930s, the official Nazi Party daily newspaper that the Berlin mission president eventually influenced. Rees did not live long enough to learn the fate of some of the Nazis whose favor he courted on behalf of the Mormon Church. In 1946 Alfred Rosenberg was hanged as a war criminal at Nuremberg.

Alfred and Ida Rees also tried to attend as many public Nazi Party events as they could fit into their schedule, especially if a meeting with church congregations could be incorporated. When they went to the 1937 Party Congress at Nuremberg, Ida wrote about attending the:

biggest show: soldiers, cannon, tanks, horses, bands, airplanes, bridge builders, search lights, guns, bombs . . . all went through various maneuvers which lasted three to four hours and showed precision, exactitude, obedience, and strength to a marked degree.


Then, without skipping a line in her journal, she added: “In the evening, we went to the Relief Society and were introduced and spoke.” In the afternoon, the Reeses had spent hours witnessing a military procession staged by a godless state at its annual, bombastic party rally, at which the swastika replaced the cross and the Nazis extolled their liturgy of blood and soil. That evening, they attended a meeting of the LDS Church’s women’s auxiliary and spoke of the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. In their diaries, articles, and correspondence, the Reeses never expressed the slightest degree of dissonance between the church they served and the state they wished to accommodate. The same lack of editorial comment characterized their encounters with anti-Semitism. At the same 1937 Nazi Party Congress, Ida’s diary entry mentioned that one day they “visited a show depicting the contention that the Jews had caused all of the ills in the world.” Without beginning a new paragraph, she described that night’s fireworks extravaganza: “Beautiful but hard to [watch]” because of its intense brightness.63 She made no comment regarding whether the anti-Semitic exhibit was hard to watch.

Alfred C. Rees particularly seemed to enjoy the pageantry that surrounded one of Hitler’s speeches, especially during the September 1937 visit of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Alfred and Ida waited for hours to get a glimpse of Il Duce and the Führer during a joint public appearance at Maifeld, a large open field adjacent to Berlin’s Olympic stadium. “We tried to see Mussolini but the crowd was so great that after standing a long time we barely glimpsed his blue uniform,” Ida Rees wrote.64 That was understandable; the Reeses were competing with 800,000 other Berliners to watch the two fascist despots exchange trite verbal pleasantries.65 Alfred Rees had an easier time when Hitler and Mussolini spoke to a capacity crowd inside the same stadium that evening. Earlier in the year, Rees had written a religiously themed article for the Los Angeles Times. Based on that single piece of journalism, Rees had obtained a press credential as a “stringer” or part-time correspondent for the newspaper. His secretary at the time, Stanford H. Bingham, wrote in his diary: “President Rees managed to get one ticket . . . to the big Olympic stadium to hear Hitler and Mussolini talk tonight. It was right in the front row, so he felt pretty proud of that.”66

Once Philemon Kelly left Berlin in December 1937, Rees had to balance his quest to cultivate influential Nazi friends with the day-to-day responsibilities of running a mission that utilized more than one hundred American and German missionaries and served thousands of congregants. Although Rees proved to be a competent mission president and ecclesiastical leader, there was never any doubt that he focused more on winning influence rather than winning souls. According to Ralph Mark Lindsey, his secretary, “He held conferences that were fantastic . . . but in and around Berlin [the members] did not understand him. He did not attempt to go out and speak too frequently with the Saints in the local area.”67

The description of Berlin’s Nazified social scene and business climate contained in Ida Rees’ diary provides an important suggestion as to why Alfred Rees fought so hard to obtain the Berlin posting. Frankfurt would never have provided the level of official recognition, the access to power brokers, or the excitement that could be felt in Berlin during those heady years of National Socialism prior to the Second World War. Also, Frankfurt would have never furnished the opportunity for Rees’ most noteworthy achievement, the one-time cooption of the Völkischer Beobachter as a vehicle to promote Mormonism in the Third Reich.

In November 1938, the Völkischer Beobachter published a front-page article entitled “A State Within a State: The American Parallel to the Question of the Jews in Germany.”68 Based on an 1857 book by Moritz Busch, Die Mormonen, it told the story of the Mormons’ expulsion from Missouri and Illinois in the 1830s and 40s from the perspective of the hostile residents and officials who ejected them.69 Previous mission presidents would have dismissed the article as merely another anti-Mormon story in the German press, but Rees saw an opportunity. Although the article did not depict nineteenth-century Mormons in a positive light, German Mormons of the twentieth century were not its target. Instead, the author panned American criticism of Germany for the way the Jews were being treated. If nineteenth-century Americans could drive out their “undesirable element,” the Mormons, why shouldn’t twentieth-century Germany be able to excise itself of the Jews? Rees may have seen a way to use the article as an opening to Goebbels’ propaganda ministry, with which he had been trying to cultivate contacts.

According to the mission secretary, Ralph Mark Lindsey, Rees pointedly removed the words “Jews, Israel, Zion, a promised land, our relationship with the Jews, etc.,” from existing Mormon pamphlets and presented the revised editions to the government for comparison and approval. He also maintained that Mormon congregations had stopped singing certain hymns that the Nazis found objectionable. Previous mission presidents would have removed such wording from tracts and hymnals as a defensive measure, after having received notification from the government. Rees, instead, took the offensive and presented the changes to the government, presumably as a united front against Judaism. According to Lindsey, Rees forged an agreement with the propaganda ministry: “President Rees was told that the Church would be given good press in the Völkischer Beobachter . . . Hitler’s newspaper and mouthpiece for the Nazi government.”70

Contrary to that promise, and to Rees’ surprise and indignation, in April 1939 the Völkischer Beobachter ran an old-style anti-Mormon article, one based on polygamy that could have appeared in a nineteenth-century German newspaper. Rees saw it as an opportunity. Said Lindsey:

This infuriated President Rees, and he said: ‘I’m going to make hay out of this article.’ He donned his hat and coat and marched right out of the mission office . . . and down to the propaganda ministry. He confronted them with the article and reminded them that they had agreed not to print any more anti-Mormon articles in their newspaper. President Rees was told he could write an article complimentary to the Mormons, and that they would print it in the most desirable location in the newspaper, either on the last page of the first section or the first page of the second section.71


For someone who had no moral objection to writing an article about his church for publication in the largest circulation Nazi daily newspaper, this was an ideal opportunity. Rees authored “In the Land of the Mormons,” which began with a flattering description of the Salt Lake Valley and the courageous Mormons who escaped persecution by settling there in the late 1840s. Rees then depicted the Mormons as “a practical people . . . who can appreciate what the German people have endured as they passed through their hardships.” Rees played upon German resentment of the allied blockade after the First World War, postwar occupation, and the Treaty of Versailles. Using a misquoted passage from Psalm 23, he wrote, “The German people have gone through the shadow of the valley [sic] since the World War.” Rees linked the Mormon health code with the German government’s “bold declaration of war against the use of alcohol and tobacco by the youth of Germany.” In another passage, mindful of Nazi pro-natalist policies, he stated that the Mormon people “are universally opposed to birth control, which they view as a contributing factor to the destruction of any race.” He cited the LDS tithing system, which he likened to “the German ideal: community welfare before personal welfare.” He paid tribute to Karl Maeser, the German who served as the first president of Brigham Young University. He then reminded his readers that J. Reuben Clark, a former American diplomat and the Mormons’ second-incommand, often visited Germany and met with government banking officials in the interest of foreign creditors.72

Rees’ article filled a whole page in the April 14, 1939 edition of the Völkischer Beobachter. It contained an aerial photograph of downtown Salt Lake City, showing the Mormon Temple, the stately church-owned hotel, the Hotel Utah, and the LDS Church headquarters building. Other pictures featured a portrait of Brigham Young, a map of the states that comprised the Mormon Culture Region, a picturesque scene from the campus of Brigham Young University, and the impressively lit Salt Lake Temple at night.

In 1939, the Völkischer Beobachter’s circulation approached one million copies per day. That was not enough exposure for Rees. According to Lindsey, “We clipped and pasted the article, making it a multi-page, five-by-seven inch pamphlet.” Rees then took the new brochure back to the Völkischer Beobachter office, “and convinced them to print thousands of copies without charge, which were used in our mission as well as the West German Mission, as an extremely valuable mission tool.”73 The pamphlet bore the masthead logo of the Nazi daily newspaper, complete with a swastika surrounded by an oak wreath, clutched in the talons of an eagle with its wings spread. Above that symbol, in seventy-two-point type, the article’s headline, “Im Lande der Mormonen,” provided the enduring linkage between Mormonism and Nazism that Rees had so fervently sought.

When Alfred C. Rees first appeared at the mission presidents’ conference in Copenhagen in May 1938, he could only speak in vague generalities about “important, unprecedented concessions” he had extracted from the Nazis. When he returned for the 1939 summer conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, he could boast not only of how his agreement with the propaganda ministry had resulted in the Völkischer Beobachter article, but also of articles written by his missionaries and placed in smaller newspapers in Germany.74 In a newsletter sent to his missionaries, Rees had been able to write enthusiastically about such local efforts:

Many of us, who only a few weeks ago, thought it impossible or of little value to reach the public press, are now glowing with satisfaction and pride in the fact that we have ‘met the enemy and he is ours.’ Already a number of your splendid articles have appeared, and others are in the course of preparation. In this way, hundreds of thousands are going to hear something good of ‘Mormonism.’ If your request has not already come in for help on your article, may we await it in the next few days? We are tingling in anticipation of a ‘newspaper article in every field.’75


According to an entry in Ida Rees’ diary dated May 1, 1938, two weeks after the Völkischer Beobachter article:

All of the mission is rejoicing over the page Alf finally got in the Beobachter. It has taken lots of patient and persistent work to finally get in there. About twenty papers in other towns have also printed articles which were furnished from the office here.76


For one missionary stationed in Germany, Rees’ article was literally something to write home about. Paul H. Lambert wrote a letter to the editor of the Deseret News, which the newspaper published in its weekly religion section: “Every Mormon missionary is fairly walking on air, head high” because of the article, the young man said.77

Some of Rees’ colleagues remained skeptical. M. Douglas Wood, who replaced Philemon Kelly as president of the West German Mission in Frankfurt, disagreed with Rees’ approach to the Nazis. Wood was a schoolteacher and principal who came from an intellectual environment. His wife, Evelyn Wood, would later become nationally prominent as the speed reading coach for John F. Kennedy, through her Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program. At the 1939 mission presidents’ conference in Lucerne, Franklin J. Murdock noted frequent disagreement between Rees and Wood: “I would notice that these two men would converse and that they were quite opposed to each other’s viewpoint. They couldn’t agree on some of the things that were going on.” Wallace F. Toronto, president of the Czechoslovakian Mission, told Rees about difficulties faced by his congregants and missionaries when the Wehrmacht occupied the Sudetenland in September 1938, and again in March 1939 when the Germans overran the rest of Czechoslovakia. Murdock said:

Here was Brother Toronto who had two missionaries in jail for six months . . . and he gave us the inside information on why those missionaries were put in jail, and the tremendous effort that he and the American embassy had put forth to get these boys out of jail.78 So, Brother Toronto would listen to President Rees and then he’d say, ‘Well, I couldn’t trust them. That’s the way I understand it. You’d better be careful, President Rees!’79


Although he emphasized winning influential Nazi friends over winning converts, Rees did not neglect his administrative duties as a mission president. He enforced church discipline on errant members and missionaries. In December 1938, Rees called a special meeting of the Berlin East Branch in order to “discuss with several members of the branch, who had been causing a disturbance, the necessity of sustaining and supporting the authorities.”80 Routine excommunications continued to occur, such as in March 1938 when Paul Max Burkardt of Dresden lost his membership “for immorality.”81 In order to appease Nazi sensitivities, Rees cautioned his missionaries not to wear “tokens, badges, school pins, or emblems of any description. We are not to display our connection with any organization or association, school club or society.” He admonished missionaries to “put your Kodaks aside until further notice,” ostensibly to avoid conflicts that could be caused by American citizens photographing German soldiers. Then, he broached a subject that would become sensitive in the LDS and other Christian churches in the latter decades of the twentieth century.

If you will open your Missionary Handbooks on page 19 and read line 22, you will note that the authorities have issued a special warning. We love the little ones; we can express that love to them without touching or fondling them, without putting them on our knees. Let us accept and follow these instructions literally and unfailingly. Hands off!82


Alfred C. Rees can be considered the most successful of Mormon mission presidents of the Nazi era because of the different approach he took to accommodating and ingratiating the Mormons with the Nazis. Prior to his arrival, mission presidents tried to avoid contact with the higher echelons of Hitler’s government. They preferred to deal with lower-level police and party officials, to exploit differences in local enforcement of national laws, and to take advantage of rivalries between civil service officials and the new Nazi bureaucracy. If a local police commissioner or Gauleiter made a decision unfavorable to the Latter-day Saints, his ruling might be appealed to the next level. If the Mormons were still unsuccessful, they would comply with the edict and wait for a change of officials. Then, they would try again. Alfred C. Rees, confident of his ability to interact with the highest levels of Nazi officialdom, overhauled this strategy. While he still dealt with city and regional officials on a case-by-case basis, he did not hesitate to appeal to the most senior official in the Nazi Party with whom he could be granted an audience. Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda ministry and the editors of the national Nazi Party daily newspaper were merely his most successful targets.
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Re: The Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson

Postby admin » Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:28 am

Part 2 of 2

J. Reuben Clark: Mormon Ambassador Plenipotentiary and His Entourage

When Nazi Germany’s Reichsbank president, Hjalmar Schacht, seated himself across from a thick-jowled American lawyer in August 1937, the colorless but cunning minister knew he faced a formidable adversary. One month before Great Britain and France appeased Hitler in Munich, the Führer’s financial wizard negotiated carefully with a well-connected representative of Germany’s American creditors. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., a former undersecretary of state and U. S. ambassador to Mexico, had come to Berlin on a dual mission. By day, the retiring president of the Foreign Bondholders Protective Council represented the fleeting hopes of desperate small investors, who saw their life savings imperiled by a worldwide depression and a swaggering Teutonic behemoth that threatened to cast off its debts. By night, as second-in-command of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Clark encouraged and cajoled German Mormons and their American missionaries, whose fervent belief in Christ’s impending millennial reign drove their determination to proselytize in Hitler’s thousand-year Reich.

Clark, as First Counselor in the church’s three-man First Presidency, led a procession of well-connected Americans who made their interests in Mormonism known to the leaders of Nazi Germany. No other foreign-based “new religion” in Germany was able to parade such an all-star cast in front of the Third Reich’s powerbrokers. Politicians, church officers, and university administrators came to Germany from the Mormon Culture Region bearing the same tidings. For Latter-day Saints, their message was direct: Obey civil authority; one can be a good Latter-day Saint and a good citizen of Nazi Germany. For Hitler’s government, their message was implied: Mormons are no threat to the Nazi rule, but they have influential friends abroad. Clark’s legal, professional, and spiritual background made him the ideal emissary for this task.

One of Clark’s biographers, Frank Fox, characterized the Utah farm boy turned international lawyer and statesman as a Mormon “stranger in Babylon.”83 Clark entered Columbia University Law School in 1903. At that time, many of his coreligionists regarded American territory east of the Wasatch Front as a godless republic that had murdered the prophet Joseph Smith. In 1906, in the midst of the U. S. Senate’s confirmation battle regarding the seating of Mormon Apostle Reed Smoot, Clark joined Philander Knox’s State Department as an assistant solicitor. By 1910, he had risen to the position of solicitor of state. Upon Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration in 1913, Clark, a partisan Republican, entered private law practice. Eventually, he established offices in New York, Washington, D. C., and Salt Lake City.

Clark then embarked upon a series of multiyear arbitrations with foreign governments that qualified him to represent the interests of America’s foreign bondholders—and to confront Hjalmar Schacht—two decades later. As State Department solicitor during the Taft administration, Clark conducted an arbitration that eventually settled more accumulated claims between the United States and Great Britain valued at more than ten billion dollars. Some dated back as far as the War of 1812. After the change of presidential administrations, as a lawyer in private practice, he became chief counsel for the American side. Following service as a major in the judge advocate general’s office during World War I, Clark assumed responsibility for an arbitration board that tackled a stickier mess, American claims resulting from the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17.

In 1926, Clark’s experience with the Mexican-American Claims Commission led to his appointment as Ambassador Dwight Morrow’s legal advisor at the embassy in Mexico City. Clark’s yearlong stint as undersecretary of state began in 1928, just in time to pen the document for which he is best known among diplomatic historians. The “Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine” served as a necessary precursor to Senate ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. It freed the Coolidge administration from military obligations in accordance with the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.84 Earlier, Clark had written another historically significant but lesser-known paper, “Right to Protect Citizens in Foreign Countries by Landing Forces,” in his capacity as solicitor of state in 1912. Drafted to justify William Howard Taft’s desire to send troops south of the border during the first years of the Mexican Revolution, an intervention that would not take place until Woodrow Wilson’s administration, it became a standard reference for subsequent presidents—including John F. Kennedy, who consulted it during the Cuban Missile Crisis the year after Clark’s death.85

Clark’s experience as a lawyer in government service and private practice, as undersecretary of state, and later as Herbert Hoover’s ambassador to Mexico, wrote an attractive resume that impressed both the ruling triumvirate of the LDS Church and FDR’s new administration, which kept a campaign promise by chartering the Foreign Bondholders Protective Council. The Mormon Church had never before sought the services of such a well-connected and experienced civil servant to fill a top leadership position. When Roosevelt’s election in 1932 swept Republican political appointees out of office, Church President Heber J. Grant saw an unprecedented opportunity to enlist Clark for the task of modernizing church governance. As historian D. Michael Quinn wrote: “Clark drew upon his secular background to introduce outside research, position papers, and extended discussion” into a previously informal church decision making process.86 For legions of beleaguered American small bondholders, J. Reuben Clark represented their last, desperate hope of recouping investments precipitously made during the helter-skelter, deregulated financial climate of the Roaring Twenties. Grant allowed Clark to split his time between professionalizing church administrative procedures in Salt Lake City and attending to the needs of the nation’s small investors from the Council’s Washington, D. C. office.

As one who would deal with high-level officials of the German finance ministry, and visit Germany periodically, Clark was positioned to watch over and attend to the needs of the Mormon missions in Germany. Clark visited Germany twice during the Nazi period, in August 1937 and June 1938, but his interaction with Germany’s government extended back to 1934 when Hjalmar Schacht threatened that Germany would repudiate its foreign debt.87 It was the responsibility of more prominent American diplomats, such as Ambassador Thomas Dodd, to advocate the interests of Wall Street, particularly the investment banks that had loaned hundreds of millions to Germany as part of the Dawes and Young rescue plans.88 It was up to J. Reuben Clark to protect the millions of Main Street investors who had unwisely risked less substantial sums, often their meager life savings, to purchase financial instruments with nebulous prospects for profitability—such as Weimar Republic municipal swimming pool bonds.89 The Council’s constant advocacy on behalf of America’s small investors made J. Reuben Clark a familiar name in the German ministry of finance. That not only warned the Nazis that the Mormons had powerful friends in America, but it also provided more tangible benefits.

Clark was able to help the Mormon hierarchy fight a Reichsbank decision in October 1934, when the Germans suddenly revoked a privilege enjoyed by parents in the Mormon Culture Region who had been able to finance their sons’ missions by purchasing German currency at a discounted rate. 90 When the American Express Company notified the German Mormon missions that American parents could no longer purchase “Registered Reichsmarks,” the First Presidency in Salt Lake City appealed to its colleague who was temporarily situated on the East Coast, attending to the bondholders’ interests.91 Clark used his contacts in the State Department to effect a solution. He urged Grant to write to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and he informed the appropriate undersecretary that Grant’s appeal was on its way.92 Hull subsequently instructed Ambassador Thomas Dodd to intervene.93 In June 1935, the secretary of state informed Grant that the American influence with the Reichsbank had prevailed. The parents of American Mormon missionaries could, once again, purchase German Marks at a discounted rate of thirty-three percent.94 Throughout the process, Clark corresponded with his old colleagues in the State Department, who made sure that the church’s request was taken seriously and that the paperwork flowed efficiently.95

J. Reuben Clark’s memorandum of his August 5, 1937, meeting with Hjalmar Schacht reveals no mention of Clark’s interest in the German Mormon Church. Instead, Schacht assured Clark that Germany desired to pay its foreign obligations, provided that a new trade agreement between his country and the United States could be negotiated— one that would include most favored nation status and advantageous terms for debt payment. Schacht struck a disquieting note when he launched what Clark described as “a dissertation upon the situation in Germany,” which stressed his country’s need for additional land to grow food and extract minerals. Schacht said that he favored reacquisition of German colonies, removed at the end of the First World War by the Treaty of Versailles.96 Read in the context of history, however, Schacht seemed to have been warning the well-connected American of Germany’s militaristic and genocidal intentions to acquire Lebensraum, an idea Hitler advanced fifteen years earlier in Mein Kampf.

In addition to the August 5, 1937 meeting, Clark held several other conferences regarding bonded indebtedness with important German officials, such as Rulolf Brinkmann, a state secretary in the ministry of economic affairs, and Karl Blessing, a Reichsbank executive board member.97 While Clark focused on convincing his German hosts to pay their financial obligations, he could not lose sight of other visiting Americans who served as his rivals in the debt collection process. Representatives of large investment banks, such as Henry Mann of National City Bank, argued for the Wall Street contingent of Germany’s foreign creditors, whose proposed solution to Germany’s debt problems would not have necessarily coincided with Main Street’s. For example, Clark argued strongly with Schacht and Blessing that Germany should settle its bonded indebtedness prior to seeking a trade agreement with the United States.98 The larger banks, unconcerned with an ordinary American who may have risked several thousand dollars during the helter-skelter investment environment of the 1920s, would have profited from a more expeditiously negotiated trade treaty.

Clark did not have to discuss religion with any of these officials in order to advance the cause of Mormonism in Nazi Germany. When he was not admonishing his German hosts to pay their debts, or watching closely the actions of rival debt collectors, Clark found the time to preach the gospel of obedience to German Mormons and their American missionaries. While in Berlin, Clark spoke at two different Mormon Sunday sacrament meetings conducted at the Central and Moabit Branches. His message was the same at each: According to the mission’s records, “He stressed the necessity of harmony among the Germany Saints and the admonition to remain in this goodly land and build up the Kingdom of God.”99 In other words, German Mormons should forget about emigrating to the American Zion, and instead build a Mormon Zion in Nazi Germany. Like America’s bondholders, the Mormon Church had equity in Nazi Germany that its leadership did not want to write off.

Clark returned to Nazi Germany the next June, and on this occasion he divided his time equally between bondholder and church business. He conferred with U. S. Ambassador William E. Dodd at the American embassy. He held meetings with Rulolf Brinkmann from the German ministry of economic affairs and spoke with Reichsbank Chairman Hjalmar Schacht by telephone.100 Germany, aggressively building its military might and pursuing a bombastic, expansionist foreign policy, had shown little desire to settle its foreign debts. This was the summer between the Anschluss, Germany’s forceful occupation of Austria in March 1938, and the Munich Conference the following September, when Great Britain and France capitulated to Hitler and allowed the German occupation of the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland. Thus, Clark set about preparing Germany’s Mormons to survive on their own while making sure that if war came, the American missionaries would evacuate in an orderly fashion. The lessons of the First World War, when Mission President Hyrum Valentine had to make a hazardous trip into wartime Germany carrying a suitcase stuffed with cash to fund the evacuation of his missionaries, were not lost on this astute lawyer, diplomat, and prelate.

On the evening of June 25, 1938, Clark assembled the mission presidents from Berlin, Frankfurt, Prague, Amsterdam, and Basel. After dinner at the stately Kaiserhoff Hotel on Wilhelmplatz, they gathered for Clark’s briefing.101 Clark presented an evacuation plan that would dispatch the missionaries to temporary safe havens in nonbelligerent countries should war break out. He chose the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark as staging points, from which the missionaries would proceed to port cities for their transatlantic passage to the United States.

That evacuation plan received an early test, an event that missionaries later called the “fire drill evacuation.”102 On September 13, 1938, after a provocative speech by Adolf Hitler, the Czechoslovakian government declared martial law to quell civil disorder in the rapidly escalating dispute with Germany over the Sudetenland. The next day, the State Department issued an advisory that urged all Americans to leave the potential war zone. Clark, back in the United States and monitoring the crisis with the help of his former State Department colleagues, was probably a driving force behind the First Presidency’s telegram that ordered all missionaries in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria to evacuate.103 In Berlin, Mission President Alfred C. Rees received notification of the church hierarchy’s decision through the American embassy.104

On September 15, 1938, as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met Hitler in Berchtesgaden, Americans began leaving the German-speaking missions. Those assigned to the Berlin-based East German Mission went to Copenhagen, where Mission President Mark B. Graff had arranged housing.105 Some twenty-four elders from the Frankfurt-based West German Mission also went to Copenhagen. The remaining forty-one sought refuge in the Netherlands, where Mission President Franklin J. Murdock provided accommodations in The Hague.106 Czechoslovakian Mission personnel went to Basel where they received lodging from Swiss-Austrian Mission President Thomas E. McKay.107 Most remained in their countries of refuge until the end of September, when Chamberlain proclaimed on the steps of 10 Downing Street: “Peace for our time.”108

The next day, as Hitler’s troops marched into the Sudetenland, the Mormon hierarchy began to sound the all-clear signal. By October 4, all missionaries assigned to the West German Mission had returned to their posts.109 One day later, all missionaries from the East German Mission were back after almost three weeks in Copenhagen.110 In their absence, church business had transpired routinely. Acting East German Mission President Herbert Klopfer, substituting for Alfred C. Rees, conducted a district conference in Schneidemühl. Local German priesthood leaders successfully ran weekend conferences in the Chemnitz Central and Mittweida branches and in the Berlin- East branch. In the West German Mission, Frederick L. Biehl of the Ruhr District reported to mission headquarters in Frankfurt, ready to assume the mission presidency as the designated replacement for M. Douglas Wood, if the Americans did not return.

Some returning missionaries encountered a skeptical reception from their German congregants. “We were criticized rather roundly by some of the members for being babies and having to leave,” said Ralph Mark Lindsey. He said the German members did not understand that the American State Department could no longer guarantee their safety in Germany and that church authorities in Salt Lake City, such as J. Reuben Clark, had made the decision.111 Part of that resentment may have resulted from the patriotic feelings expressed by German members. “Upon our return,” Donald M. Petty said, “there was this feeling of jubilation among the Germans as a whole because of their success in negotiating the Sudeten ‘Anschluss.’”112

J. Reuben Clark had come to Germany twice, each time with a dual agenda. Although his pursuit of relief for America’s small bondholders had met with disappointment, his advocacy of his Mormon coreligionists produced unqualified success. Although Clark once expressed the fear that Mormon missionaries would be “thrown into concentration camps,” no such concerns prompted an early withdrawal from Hitler’s Reich.113 As soon as it became clear that the missionaries would not be caught in a battle zone, Clark approved their redeployment to their German bases—from where they did not budge until Clark’s former State Department colleagues warned him that war was imminent five days before the Wehrmacht invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.

An appreciation for the Mormons’ successful campaign to accommodate and ingratiate themselves with the Nazi government can best be attained by comparing Clark’s success in Germany with that of a rival American sectarian leader who visited the Third Reich. In June 1933, five months after Hitler assumed power, the leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, visited Berlin. He assembled a convention of seven thousand Witnesses who unanimously adopted a defiant document they called “A Declaration of Facts.” The Witnesses sent copies to every official, highor low-ranking, in the government whom they could identify, and they had more than two and one-half million copies printed. Reaction was swift and virulent, and Rutherford became persona non grata in Germany while his German coreligionists suffered immense persecution.114

By contrast, when the Mormons’ J. Reuben Clark traveled to Germany in 1937 and 1938, he expeditiously cleared customs because of his diplomatic passport—a perquisite from his days as an ambassador and undersecretary of state.115 He was equally welcome in the offices of the American ambassador and the Reichsbank chairman. Representatives of the world’s largest investment banks and brokerage houses respected him as a worthy competitor. At the end of a day’s meetings, he was free to use the American embassy transcription equipment to record the memoranda of his meetings.116 Management of the Kaiserhoff Hotel, the upper floors of which served as Nazi Party headquarters in 1932-33 and which Hitler frequented afterward, was happy to accept his dinner reservation and rent a room that he used to meet with mission presidents.117 He was welcome to speak at any assembly of the German Mormon Church without interference from, but undoubtedly with the knowledge of, the Gestapo and the civil police. He, like others in the parade of Mormon Church and American government officials who visited Nazi Germany, were welcome guests of the state.

The prophet, seer, and revelator, Heber J. Grant, was also an appreciated visitor when he spoke to an assembly of one thousand Mormons in front of a large swastika banner at a rented banquet hall in Frankfurt on July 8, 1937.118 The building belonged to the National Socialist Teacher’s League, the Nationalsozialistische Lehrerbund. Like any meeting place available for rental in Nazi Germany, it came equipped with a large national flag, this one red with a black swastika in the center of a white circle. Prudent tenants did not take down Nazi flags during this period in German history, although the German Mormons probably would not have been motivated to do so. Grant spoke of spiritual topics but encouraged the faithful to pray and be persistent in their daily work.119 The message was consistent with others delivered to Latter-day Saints outside of the United States during the Great Depression. Work hard, obey the law of the land, and build up the church at home—rather than emigrating. One year earlier in Berlin, on May 30, 1936, approximately seven hundred of the faithful had heard European Mission President Joseph F. Merrill speak to a combined assemblage of the boys’ and girls’ church youth groups, the Mutual Improvement Association. Likewise, Merrill had spoken in front of a large swastika flag.120

On both occasions, the Mormon-owned Salt Lake City daily newspaper, the Deseret News, ran prominent pictures of the speakers at the rostrum with the Nazi flag in the background. The message was abundantly clear: At a time when the same newspaper was publishing wire service articles describing the plight of Jews in Hitler’s regime, the church-controlled, general circulation newspaper had no reservations about associating Mormonism’s spiritual message with Nazism’s stark symbolism. If the prophet or another esteemed church leader appeared in a picture, it presumably mitigated the potentially objectionable message sent by including the banner of Hitler’s party.

Two veterans of the United States Senate, Reed Smoot and his successor, Elbert Thomas, also left their marks on the Mormons’ effort in Nazi Germany. One wrote a German-language article, under the guise of spiritual guidance that urged his fellow believers to participate in an important activity that crossed the boundary between the LDS Church and the Nazi state. The other, visiting the Germany on an academic fellowship earned during his years as a university professor, toured the country talking to as many influential people as he could and showed the flag of Mormonism in a swastikabannered nation, but gathering information that would profoundly affect his opinion later.

On March 1, 1935, the LDS bimonthly periodical, Der Stern, contained an article written by Reed Smoot, “A Friend of Germany,” in which the Mormon apostle who served five senatorial terms seemed to pontificate mostly on spiritual themes. Embedded within his message, a religiously aware Mormon could detect familiar verbiage that encouraged genealogical research—which was also a priority among the Nazis. In quoting from the Old Testament book of Malachi (4:6), Smoot cited a verse that Mormons interpret differently from Jews and mainline Christians. When Smoot urged his readers to follow the admonition of the prophet Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to their children,” he was urging his coreligionists to do the family history research necessary to fill our their pedigree charts and family group records.121 When Smoot said, “in the Temples of the Latter-day Saints and among this people, the decrees of the Gospels regarding the sanctity of the living and the dead will be carried out,” he was exhorting German Mormons to submit the results of their ancestral research to the Holy Temple so that deceased relatives could receive the ordinances of salvation.122 In case a spiritual neophyte did not understand those hints, he also stated, bluntly:

That the Prophet Elijah has come shortly after the opening of this last dispensation of the Gospels about one hundred years ago and that in connection to this coming the number of genealogists who are seeking their forefathers has risen to 100,000.123


That referred to the founding of the LDS Church in 1830 and Joseph Smith’s subsequent emphasis on genealogical research and temple ordinances.

Having stated his message in scriptural terms familiar to his LDS readers, Smoot faced one additional problem. The Nazis who read the article, who valued genealogical research for different reasons, probably would not comprehend his spiritual code language. Smoot solved that problem by introducing an appeal to German resentment regarding the settlement of the First World War, plus a bit of old-fashioned anti- Semitism, into his biographical profile that accompanied the article. It described the former senator’s “unremitting and energetic [work] for the freeing of Germany from the unjust demands of the Versailles Treaty.” Smoot continued: “France was acting like the Jew, Shylock, in demanding the last pound of flesh . . . of Germany.”124

Smoot’s appeal for German Mormons to do their genealogical research occurred more than a year and a half after Hitler’s rubber-stamp Reichstag disqualified Jews from civil service employment but several months prior to adoption of the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws that stripped Germany’s Jewish population of its citizenship. It transpired in the midst of what historian Eric Ehrenreich identified as the adoption of a plethora of new racial laws, numbering more than two thousand.125 It appeared in the official German-language newspaper of the Mormon missions one full year after Swiss-German Mission President Francis Salzner delivered four consecutive weekly sermons at various district conferences on the topic of “Three Generations,” an appeal for his congregants to perform and submit the results of their genealogical research.126

Before Smoot’s successor, Senator Elbert Thomas, toured Germany in 1934 on an Oberlander fellowship, he had spoken with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The president urged Thomas to use the ten-week trip, which was his reward for a distinguished academic career at the University of Utah prior to his Senate election, as a fact-finding mission. “We are doing just what President Roosevelt told us to do,” wrote his wife, Edna Harker Thomas, “meet and talk with the educated people.” Although the notes Edna Thomas made during their trip lack detail, they reflect the seriousness with which Elbert Thomas undertook his assignment.

By the end of his first week in Berlin, Thomas had spoken not only with U. S. Ambassador Thomas Dodd, but also with academic and political colleagues on the Saar issue, women’s rights, and “religious questions.” On his third day in Germany, Thomas “called upon a German Jew, Dr. Newman.” 127 He made the rounds of local Mormon congregations, spoke during services, conferred with German-Austrian Mission President Oliver Budge, and took young missionaries to dinner. However, unlike some other prominent Mormons who visited the Third Reich, Thomas appears to have pursued additional interests. The seriousness with which he approached his study of Nazi Germany is evident by the travelogue provided by Edna Thomas’ notes. When in Dresden, they visited the International Hygiene Exposition, at which the Mormon missionaries had staged an exhibit on the Word of Wisdom, the LDS health code, in 1930. By the time Thomas visited in 1934, the Nazis had transformed the museum into a propaganda exhibition for its racial policies and for the promotion of eugenics. Elbert and Edna also toured men’s and women’s labor camps run by the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the Nazi Labor Front, and noted comparisons with the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps.128

Thomas visited hospitals, spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce, consulted with the U. S. consulate generals in the other German cities he visited, and conferred with academic colleagues at the University of Heidelberg. When they saw Hitler at the Oberammergau Passion Play in the Bavarian mountains, Edna Thomas noted the sighting in her diary. But the couple did not exhibit the fascination with the Führer that Albert C. Rees demonstrated several years later in Berlin.129 In fact, once Elbert Thomas returned to the United States in late September 1934, he became a rare Mormon critic of the Third Reich. While in Germany, at the time the Third Reich was intensifying its crackdown on another American sect, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Senator Elbert Thomas served as a reminder that powerful and influential Americans backed the Mormons.

The most unusual ambassador for Mormonism in Nazi Germany, and one who made some of the most vivid comparisons between the Mormons and the National Socialists, was a native German who had once befriended a member of the LDS Church’s governing troika. Dr. Max Haenle, who introduced himself as a sociology faculty member at Tübingen University, presented a series of illustrated lectures in 1935 and 1936 at various cities in Germany, mostly at Mormon religious meetings. Entitled “Utah and the Mormons,” the presentations drew parallels between Mormon Church governance and welfare programs and similar Nazi social programs and Party organization. In February 1936, the Deseret News introduced Haenle as a member of a “special commission” sent to the United States by his government to “study social conditions in Utah.” While in Utah, the article said, Haenle had accepted employment at Brigham Young University, where he taught classes for one summer semester. During his time in Utah, Haenle developed a strong friendship with Anthony Ivins, who had preceded J. Reuben Clark as First Counselor in the LDS Church’s First Presidency. When Ivins died in 1934, Haenle sent a wreath to place on Ivins’ grave by way of a transient American missionary. 130

Records of both German missions document seven different lectures Haenle conducted between October 1935 and September 1936, in Breslau, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Stuttgart, Munich, and at Königsburg University.131 In September 1936, Elizabeth Welker, wife of German-Austrian Mission leader Roy Welker, hosted several staff members of Gertrude Scholtz-Klink’s Nazi women’s organization at one of Haenle’s lectures in Berlin. An article in Der Stern stated that when Haenle lectured in Dresden, American consulate officials and several unnamed German government officials attended.132 Said the Deseret News, Haenle’s lectures:

Told the congregations of the high order of morality, educational system, church organization, and civic conditions found in Utah. The German government had adopted a number of the methods found in the Mormon community, one of them the policy of fasting as a social benefit.133


According to Steven Carter, Haenle “praised the Mormons for their accomplishments in taming the American West and defended the Mormon practice of plural marriage.” Haenle argued that women were not coerced into “plural marriages” and that only two percent of Mormon marriages were polygamous. Haenle also referred to the Mormons “as the Prussians of the United States.” He said Hitler obtained some of his ideas for organization of the Nazi Party from the Mormons, including the winter relief one-pot meal.134

Haenle undoubtedly conducted these lectures and made such remarks. Six hundred attended his lecture at the spring 1936 district conference in Breslau and several hundred heard Haenle speak elsewhere. Many Latter-day Saints at the time found it comforting to have such a learned individual validate their beliefs, and to make favorable comparisons to the Nazi government. It was flattering to think that their small American sect may have influenced the way Hitler chose to run his country, as preposterous as it sounded to an ear uninfluenced by a steady stream of religious parlance.

Beyond that, the validity of Haenle’s credentials is questionable. Brigham Young University German linguist Alan Keele found no evidence that Haenle had ever published an academic article or monograph.135 Likewise, no verification of his employment at either Tübingen University or BYU has been found. The question of who funded this series of lectures has never been resolved, except for a doubtful comment by German-Austrian Mission President Roy Welker, who maintained that Haenle paid his own expenses.136 As for the scholar’s motives, Steven Carter posits, “Haenle, like many in the German intellectual community, had been dazzled by Hitler’s ‘national awakening’ and sought to advance his own career by glorifying the Nazis.”137 In the anti-intellectual environment of the Third Reich, bombastic pronouncements of loyalty to the regime indeed trumped a record of scholarly publication. In this case, though, Haenle may have undertaken a risky endeavor. Saying that Hitler’s programs were influenced by a small, American religious sect may have been a harmless fantasy for believing Mormons. For a member of the German academic community during that era, it might not have been considered career enhancing.

Haenle was an unusual, if not a bizarre, example of support within the academic community for the Latter-day Saints in Nazi Germany. It became customary, however, for American Mormon university professors and college administrators touring Germany to appear in church meetings, call on mission presidents, or even take up the case for Mormonism with governmental officials. These visits appeared in the historical records of the LDS missions dating back to the nineteenth century and continued through the National Socialist epoch. In August of 1936, for example, E. G. Peterson, the president of Utah State Agricultural College, toured Europe “to study economic conditions.” He allowed German-Austrian Mission President Roy Welker to accompany him during “meetings with some government officials in Berlin.”138 One year earlier, a faculty member at Ohio University identified only as “Dr. Russell” had toured northern Germany and attended meetings of various Mormon congregations.139 He conferred with the mission president when he visited Berlin. In 1938, Ralph V. Chamberlin, a professor of zoology at the University of Utah, visited the East German Mission in Berlin, called on the mission office, and attended religious services.140

In part because of its association with influential people, Mormonism fared well in Germany in comparison with other small, American-based religious sects. By the time Alfred C. Rees was comfortably interacting with Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda ministry, the Nazi government was openly waging war on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One half of Germany’s Witnesses eventually languished in jails or concentration camps, having been sentenced to a total of twenty thousand years of imprisonment. Thousands of others died.141 Even those denominations that tried to cooperate with the Nazi regime were never able to make the number of influential friends that the Mormons won. Although Christian Science congregational worship was not banned until 1941, adherents in the pre-war Nazi period were already running afoul of the Nazi doctors’ association because of their faith healing practices, and with the government because some of their American leaders were Freemasons. This occurred despite the fact that German members successfully prevailed upon the Christian Science Monitor to tone down its criticism of Hitler.142 By the time that Max Haenle was extolling the Mormon origins of the Eintopf meal, another small American sect in Germany, the Seventh-Day Adventists, had surrendered part of its unique identity. In the mid-1930s, the Adventists lost the exemption they had enjoyed from Saturday employment for civil servants and military personnel.143 All that remained of distinctive Seventh-Day Adventist religious customs was a unique dietary code.

As the chapter nine relates, the Mormons took care to avoid association with one particular group of Germans, those of Jewish origin. Although less anti-Semitic than many Christian denominations, the Mormons effectively cleansed themselves from all association with Judaism in Nazi Germany. That was an effort that began at the congregational level but received support from the highest levels of the LDS hierarchy.

_______________

Notes:

1 “The Palace Hotel, Copenhagen: A Modern History,” http:// palacehotelcopenhagen.com/history.jsp; “European Mission Presidents Hold Conference,” Deseret News, 16 Jul. 1938.
 
2 Present in Copenhagen were the Mormon mission presidents and “mission matrons” for Great Britain, Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Switzerland-Austria, the two German missions, and their overseer, the European mission president. Leaders of the Palestine-Syrian and South African missions did not attend because of the distance involved.
 
3 Franklin J. Murdock, interview by Richard L. Jensen, 21-27 Mar. 1973, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Used by permission of Church Historical Department.
 
4 Ibid.
 
5 Ralph Mark Lindsey, interview with Matthew K. Heiss, 22 Apr. 1990, transcript, 1, James Moyle Oral History Program, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Bingham, interview, transcript, 20.
 
6 Alfred C. Rees, "Im Lande Der Mormonen." Völkischer Boebachter, 14 Apr. 1939; Sterling Ryser, interview by Douglas F. Tobler, 1975, transcript, 17, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Bingham, interview, transcript., 2; Petty, interview, transcript, 38. Dixon, Mormons in the Third Reich, 72.
 
7 “Germany to Send Broadcast to Utah: Church Leaders to Speak,” Deseret News, 19 Aug. 1939.
 
8 Ida May Davis Rees Diary, 21 Nov. 1937, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; Lindsey, interview, transcript, 1.
 
9. Ibid., 9-13 Sep. 1937. 
 
10. None.

11 Bingham, interview, transcript, 7.
 
12 Kelly, A Collection of Memories, 39-53, 132.
 
13 Ibid., 132, 135.
 
14 Ryser, interview, transcript, 9.
 
15. None.
 
16 Presiding Bishopric Financial, Statistical, and Historical Reports of Wards,  Stakes, and Missions, 1884-1955, provided by LDS Church Archives staff; Alder, “The  German-Speaking Immigration to Utah,” 123. Alder’s study conflicts with material  provided by LDS Church archivists for the year 1939. Alder’s study records eleven  emigrants from Germany for that year and one from Switzerland; the church archives  have no report for 1939. I have used Alder’s numbers for 1939.
 
17 Dixon, Mormons in the Third Reich, 71.
 
18 Presiding Bishopric Financial, Statistical, and Historical Reports of Wards, Stakes, and Missions, 1884-1955. Provided by LDS Church Archives staff.
 
19 Bringhurst, Fawn McKay Brodie, 89, 282n72. 
 
20 Petty, interview, transcript, 75.
 
21 Grant married for the first time in 1877 and took two additional wives on successive days in May 1884. By the time Grant became Church President in 1918, only Augusta Winters, his second wife, remained living.
 
22 Richard N. Holzapfel and Marc A. Bohn, “The Long-Awaited Visit: President Heber J. Grant in Switzerland and Germany, 1937,” BYU Studies 42-3 (2003): 5. 
 
23 Ibid., 14; Albert E. Blasser, “A Sketch of President Grant’s Visit and its Benefit to the Swiss-German Mission,” in Kelly, “A Collection of Memories, 165-167; “President Grant in Frankfurt, Germany,” Deseret News, 7 Aug. 1937.
 
24 Kelly, “A Collection of Memories,” 171.
 
25 Ida May Davis Rees diary, 6 Aug. 1937.
 
26 “Dr. and Mrs. Kelly Are Transferred to Berlin,” St. Anthony News, 9 Sep. 1937.
 
27 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Aug. 1937. 
 
28 Petty, interview, transcript, 64.
 
29 Bingham, interview, transcript, 2.
 
30 Lindsey, interview, transcript, 2.
  
31 “A. C. Rees: S. L. Industrial Leader To Preside Over New German Division,” Deseret News, 23 Jul. 1937.
 
32. “Elder A. C. Rees Honored,” Deseret News, 6 Jul. 1937.
 
33 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 29 Sep. 1937.
 
34 Holzapfel and Bond, “The Long-Awaited Visit,” 6.
 
35 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 13 Aug. 1937.
 
36 Swiss-German Mission’s Manuscript Histories, Aug. 1937.
 
37 Ida May Davis Rees diary, 7-8, 16-19 Aug. 1937.
 
38 Ibid., 18 Sept. 1937.
 
39. Bingham, interview, transcript, 17. During the interview, Bingham read from his diary. 
 
40 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Oct. 1937.
 
41 Richard M. Lyman to Philemon M. Kelly (second of three letters), 7-8 April  1937 in Kelly, A Collection of Memories, 171-174.
 
42 Philemon M. Kelly to Richard R. Lyman, 21 Oct. 1937 in Kelly, A Collection of Memories, 175-179.
 
43 Philemon M. Kelly, A. C. Rees, and Thomas E. McKay to Richard R. Lyman, 26 Oct. 1937 in Kelly, A Collection of Memories, 180.
 
44 Heber J. Grant and David O. McKay to Philemon M. Kelly, 3 Nov. 1937 in Kelly, A Collection of Memories, 198. 
 
45 Philemon M. Kelly to Valdo D. Benson, 29 Jan. 1938, in Kelly, A Collection of Memories, 207.
 
46 West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 6, 22 Jan. 1938. 
 
47 Ibid., 2 July, 20 Aug. 1938.
 
48 Swiss Mission Quarterly Reports, 28 Sep. 1939. 
 
49 “Heart Attack Causes Death of A. C. Rees: Became Known as LDS and Business Leader,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Jul. 1941.
 
50 “History of the Association,” Utah Taxpayers Association: Your Tax Watchdog, http://www.utahtaxpayers.org/?page_id=2113. The association Rees founded still exists today; its website logo features a bulldog with protruding lower teeth.
 
51 “Editorials: Elder A. C. Rees Honored,” Deseret News, 6 Jul. 1937; “Heart Attack,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Jul. 1941; “Editorials: Alfred Cornelius Rees,” Deseret News, 29 Jul. 1941.
 
52 “Heart Attack,” Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Jul. 1941. In 1947, six years after Rees’ death, Congress overrode President Truman’s veto of the Taft-Hartley Act, thus fulfilling Rees’ dream of outlawing the closed shop labor contract.
 
53 An apostle is a member of the Council of the Twelve. Traditionally, the senior apostle in years of service ascends to the position of prophet, seer, and revelator upon the death of an incumbent church president. When Heber J. Grant invited Clark to become his first counselor in 1934, both men knew Clark would never enjoy the seniority necessary to become the prophet.
 
54 Quinn, Elder Statesman, 82. FDR received 69.3 percent? of Utah’s vote in the 1936 presidential election. 
 
55. “S. L. Industrial Leader to Preside over New German Division,” Deseret News, 23 Jun. 1937.
 
56 Ida May Davis Rees Diary, 21 Nov. 1937.
 
57 Ibid., 28 Oct. 1937. 
 
58 Lindsey, interview, transcript, 1.
 
59. Ryser, interview, transcript, 18.
 
60 Ida May Davis Rees Diary, 21 Sep. 1937. 
 
61 Ibid., 27 Oct. 1937.
 
62 “Alfred Rosenberg,” Who’s Who in Nazi Germany, 209-212. 
 
63 Ida May Davis Rees Diary, 11 Sep. 1937.
 
64 Ibid., 28 Sep. 1937.
 
65 Charles Callan Tansill, Backdoor to War: The Roosevelt Foreign Policy, 1933- 41 (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1952), 348.
 
66 Bingham, interview, transcript, 15.
 
67 Lindsey, interview, transcript, 2.
 
68 “Der Staat im Staate: Eine amerikanische Parallele zur Jugenfrage im Deutschland,” Völkischer Beobachter, 22 Nov. 1938.
 
69 Julius Hermann Moritz Busch wrote Die Mormonen upon his return from a trip to the United States in the 1850s. Busch gained fame later in life as Otto Von Bismarck’s publicist.
 
70 Lindsey, interview, transcript, 2.
 
71 Ibid.
 
72 “Im Lande der Mormonen,” Völkischer Beobachter, 14 Apr. 1939. See Appendix F.
 
73 Lindsey, interview, transcript 2. 
 
74 “Missionary Letter No. 14,” 1 Sep. 1938, East German Mission Office Files, Archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
75 “Missionary Letter No. 15, 14 Oct. 1938, East German Mission Office Files.
 
76 Ida May Davis Rees Diary, 1 May 1939.
 
77 Quinn, Elder Statesman, 287, 538n69. 
 
78 The six-month period of incarceration was probably an exaggeration on Murdock’s part. Toronto possibly referred to the arrest of four missionaries for violations of currency exchange regulations, and their confinement in Pankrác Prison in Prague for several months. After returning from Lucerne, Toronto was able to obtain their release by proffering a bribe. Brigham Young University religious history scholar David F. Boone describes their ordeal in “The Evacuation of the Czechoslovakian and German Missions at the Outbreak of World War II,” BYU Studies 40-3 (2001): 128-131.
 
79 Murdock, interview, transcript, 114.
 
80 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 18 Dec. 1938.
 
81 Ibid., 5 Mar. 1939 
 
82 “Missionary Letter No. 16,” 2 Dec. 1938, East German Mission Office Files.
 
83 Frank W. Fox, J. Reuben Clark: The Public Years (Provo: Brigham Young  University Press, 1980), 429. 
 
84 Fox, Public Years, 513-518; Gene A. Sessions, Prophesying Upon the Bones: J.  Reuben Clark and the Foreign Debt Crisis, 1933-39 (Chicago: University of Illinois  Press, 1992), 46-47. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 warned European powers against  recolonizing or establishing spheres of influence in the Americas. By the time of  Theodore Roosevelt’s administration at the turn of the twentieth century, Europe no  longer threatened the political independence of Latin American republics, but its  considerable financial investment in the Americas seemed to invite armed intervention to  collect debts. The Roosevelt Corollary asserted the right of the United States to rebuff  such European intercession, and went so far as to proclaim the right of preemptory  American action in cases of governmental instability in the Americas. When Secretary of  State Frank Kellogg concluded negotiations on the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1929, a treaty  that ostensibly outlawed war, Kellogg worried that “Monroe Doctrine cultists” would  mount an effort to prevent Senate ratification—similar to the campaign that defeated  ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. Kellogg assigned his  undersecretary, J. Reuben Clark, to write a position paper that repudiated the Roosevelt  Corollary, claiming that the United States never stated the right to interfere militarily in  the internal affairs of sovereign nations.
 
85 Fox, Public Years, 196.
 
86 D. Michael Quinn, Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark (Salt Lake City: Signature, 2002), 427, cover. 
 
87 German-Austrian Manuscript Histories, 8 Aug. 1937; East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 24 Jun. 1938.
 
88. Dodd, Ambassador Dodd’s Diary, 83-84.
 
89. Sessions, Prophesying Upon the Bones, 16.
 
90 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 6 Oct. 1934; German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Oct. 1934; Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Oct. 1934. 
 
91 Heber J. Grant and David O. McKay to J. Reuben Clark, 23 Mar. 1935, Clarkana Papers of Joshua Reuben Clark, Jr., L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Marriott Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 
92 Heber J. Grant to Cordell Hull, 3 Apr. 1935, Clarkana Papers.
 
93 Cordell Hull to Heber J. Grant, 13 Apr. 1935, Clarkana Papers.
 
94 Cordell Hull to Heber J. Grant, 21 Jun. 1935, Clarkana Papers.
 
95 Wilbur John Clark, Assistant Secretary of State, to J. Reuben Clark, 15 Apr. 1935 and J. Reuben Clark to Wilbur J. Clark, 24 Apr. 1935, Clarkana Papers.
  
96 “Memorandum of Conversation of Mr. J. Reuben Clark with Dr. Schacht on August 5, 1937,” Clarkana Papers.
 
97 “Memorandum of Conversation of Mr. J. Reuben Clark, Dr. Blessing and Other Reichsbank Officials on August 4, 1937” and “Memorandum of Conversation at the Lunch Given to J. Reuben Clark by Reischsbank Officials on Thursday, August 5, 1937,” Clarkana Papers. 
 
98. “Conversation at the Lunch,” and “Conversation between J. Reuben Clark and Dr. Schacht,” Clarkana Papers.
 
99 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 8 Aug. 1937. 
 
100 J. Reuben Clark diary, 25 Jun. 1938, Clarkana Papers.
 
101 Ibid.; German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 24 Jun. 1938.
 
102 Boone, “Evacuation of Missionaries,” 65-66. 
 
103 Swiss-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, Sep. 1939.
 
104 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 14 Sep. 1938.
 
105 Ibid.
 
106 West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 14 Sep. 1938.
 
107 Swiss-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, Sep. 1938. 
 
108 Chamberlain is often misquoted as having said: “Peace in our time.” Those words, found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, were spoken by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli when he returned from the Congress of Berlin in 1878.
 
109 West German Mission Manuscript Histories, 4 Oct. 1938
 
110 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 5 Oct. 1938
 
111 Lindsey, interview, transcript, 14. 
 
112 Petty, interview, transcript, 14.
 
113 Quinn, Elder Statesman, 332. 
 
114 King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 151-153

115 J. Reuben Clark diary, 9 Aug. 1937, Clarkana Papers.

116 Ibid., 6-7 Aug. 1937, 25 Jun. 1938.

117 “An Original 1942 Letter from the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin to Reichsleiter Baldur Von Schirach in Wien,” http://www.usmbooks.com/kaiserhof_schirach.html 
 
118 See Appendix G.
 
119 “President Grant in Frankfurt Germany,” Deseret News, 7 Aug. 1937.
 
120 “Germany Holds M. I. A. ‘Echo of Joy’ Festival,” Deseret News, 18 Jul. 1936. 
 
121 David A Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Ensign (Oct. 2011): http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2 ... -shallturn? lang=eng.

122. Russell M. Nelson, “A New Harvest Time,” Ensign (May 1998): http://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/05/a-new ... e?lang=eng.

123 Reed Smoot, “Ein Freund von Deutschland,” Der Stern, 1 Mar. 1935. 
 
124 Ibid.
 
125 Ehrenreich, Nazi Proof of Genealogy, 58.
 
126 Swiss-German Mission Manuscript Histories, Mar. 1934. 
 
127 Edna Harker Thomas diary, 20-24 Jul. 1934, Elbert D. Thomas Papers, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
128 Ibid., 23, 31 Jul., 5, 30 Aug. 1934. 
 
129 Ibid., 13 Aug. 1934.
 
130 “German Scholar Sends Tribute to Pres. Ivins,” Deseret News, 15 Feb. 1935.
 
131 Swiss-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, Oct-Nov. 1935, Sep. 1936; German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 15 Feb, 10, 17 May, 6 Sep. 1936; German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Sep. 1936.
 
132 “Ein Deutscher Gelehrter ehrt seinen verstorbenen Freund,” Der Stern, Jun. 1936.
 
133 “German Scholar Sends Tribute,” Deseret News, 15 Feb. 1936. 
 
134 Carter, “Mormons and the Third Reich,” 96, 96n91, 98.
 
135 Bingham, interview, transcript, 7. During this oral history interview, BYU scholars Douglas Tobler and Alan Keele discussed the research they had conducted into Haenle’s background and concluded that there was not much to be found.
 
136. Roy Welker, “How Fares the Church in Germany?” Improvement Era (Oct. 1936): 609. 
 
137 Ibid.
 
138 German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Reports, Oct. 1936.
 
139 German-Austrian Mission Manuscript Histories, 9 Sep. 1935. 
 
140 East German Mission Manuscript Histories, 14 Aug. 1938.
 
141. King, Nazi State and the New Religions, 169.
 
142. Ibid., 32, 39-40, 42.
 
143 Ibid., 92, 98.
 
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