When Nazism swept Germany, how did religious leaders respond to attacks not only on their fellow citizens and their government but on their faith as well? Despite charges of complacency, the Catholic clergy of the Berlin diocese in fact maintained a quiet resistance to the Nazi regime by offering their parishioners an alternative to National Socialism. In thus broadening the definition of resistance, Kevin Spicer shows why Nazism was so powerfully alluring in the first place. It provided - indeed demanded - a total way of life, encompassing rituals and social belonging, personal identity and charismatic leadership, moral values and a sense of purpose. In a word, it was a religion. Spicer juxtaposes Catholicism and Nazism to provide a clear, balanced understanding of the challenges the lay clergy faced simply by celebrating the sacraments and teaching the faithful. By following individual priests in their day-to-day ministries, he documents how effectively they guarded the sheep from a predatory ideology.
Along the way, he highlights the leadership of Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin, who enabled the diocesan clergy to speak out against Nazi violations of Catholic doctrine and practice, and Monsignor Bernhard Lichtenberg, who was sentenced to prison for publicly praying for Jews and other victims of Nazi oppression. Yet the clergy's opposition to Nazism did not, for the most part, inspire them to act on behalf of the oppressed. Spicer explores the reasons why one group - the so-called "Brown Priests" - chose to support National Socialism and what that choice meant for the Church. Resisting the Third Reich will appeal to historians, religious studies scholars, and readers with an interest in the Catholic tradition.