For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the documentation centre “Topography of Terror” presents an exhibition on how Martin Luther was taken over by the National Socialists. It is the first comprehensive exhibition on the reception of Luther during the Nazi period and focuses on how the state and the church referred to the Reformer, explains the director of the Foundation Topography of Terror, Andreas Nachama, on Thursday in Berlin.
On differently designed boards, rarely displayed photographies, written and audio documents as well as reproductions of printings and objects are presented. Thereby, Luther appears time and again as a “nationally unifying leader”, as he was stylised by the Nazis, curator Ulrich Prehn emphasises. The ethno-nationalist religious movement “German Christians” within the Evangelical State Churches saw the Nazi regime as “the completion of the German Reformation in the spirit of Martin Luther”.
Insight into the development of the Churches in the Nazi dictatorship
The documentation offers an insight into the key developments of the Christian Churches in the Nazi dictatorship, Prehn continues. It is placed under the motto “Luther’s words are everywhere ...”, which is a reference to an observation made in 1937 by the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed in 1945 in a concentration camp. “Luther's words are everywhere, but turned upside down from truth to self-deception.” A few years later he asked himself, “why such consequences arose from Luther’s action, which were the exact opposite of what he wanted.”
The exhibition, which will also be travelling in the future, addresses the Church construction, flourishing under the Nazis as well as the sacred art under National Socialism and the November pogroms of 1938 on the eve of Luther’s birthday on the 10th of November.