Emanuel Hirsch

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Emanuel Hirsch (born June 14, 1888 in Bentwisch near Wittenberge ; † July 17, 1972 in Göttingen ) was a German Evangelical Lutheran theologian , German Christian and active supporter of the ideology and politics of the NSDAP , of which he was a member from 1937.


Theological career

Emanuel Hirsch was the son of a Brandenburg pastor. Hirsch spent all of his studies at the University of Berlin . His teachers were u. a. Karl Holl and Adolf von Harnack . He belonged to the Wingolfsbund , a Christian student association. There he met Paul Tillich , with whom he was also a friend for a short time. After his habilitation (1915) and time as a private lecturer at the University of Bonn , he was Professor of Church History at the University of Göttingen from 1921 , and from 1936 also of Systematic Theology .

He was a Luther and Kierkegaard specialist . He is known for his translations of Kierkegaard's works, which were in use for a long time. In addition, he was a good expert on German idealism , v. a. Spruce . Hirsch's approach is determined by the fact that there is no going back to the modern question of personal certainty. Against this background, theology cannot repeat traditionally authorized dogmas, but must address the individual's conscience. “Conscience” is a central concept in Hirsch's thinking. Hirsch also dealt with New Testament questions such as the history of the Gospel tradition or the nature of the Easter faith. In his later years he processed religious and theological experiences also literarily, for example in several novels.

Hirsch's work is extraordinarily varied and is still used today in theological and philosophical teaching. Nevertheless, the reception of his work fell short of his potential, which is clearly related to his active support of National Socialist ideology and politics.

Theological teachings

Particularly noteworthy is his book World Consciousness and Secret of Faith (1967). He comes up with two fundamentally different and contradicting types of Christians:

  • Some speak of the mystery of faith in the mythical, metaphysical and legendary sense.
  • The others therefore know that statements about God are always borderline statements with an antinomic character.

For these two groups, Hirsch calls for mutual, intra-Christian tolerance. It is important to him to fight intellectual fairness in work, because the secret of faith can only be had in a "floating position".

National Socialism

During the Weimar Republic , Hirsch was a supporter of the German national party leader Alfred Hugenberg . He became the spokesman for the German Christians and theological adviser to the later Reich Bishop Ludwig Müller . Although he did not initially call himself a National Socialist, he saw Hitler in the 1932 presidential election as the only hope of a national “rebirth”. After he came to power , he wrote:

“Not a single people in the world has a statesman like ours who is so serious about Christianity; When Adolf Hitler closed his great speech with a prayer on May 1st, the whole world felt the wonderful sincerity in it. "

- Hirsch, Emanuel : The Church Will of the German Christians. - Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1933, p. 24

On November 11, 1933, in Leipzig, he was one of the speakers at the event on the professors' commitment at German universities and colleges to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist state .

In 1937 Hirsch joined the NSDAP and became a supporting member of the SS . He also joined the Nazi teachers' association and the National Socialist People's Welfare .

Hirsch condemned those who were critical of Hitler and even went so far as to denounce colleagues and students . So he had z. B. played a decisive role in the dismissal of his Reformed colleague Karl Barth from his teaching post in Bonn. Shortly after the war he quit his job, which meant that he lost his right to a pension. He himself justified this with health problems. In fact, he has been almost blind since 1931, but it is widely believed that the main aim of retirement was to avoid the denazification process , which would likely have resulted in a ban on teaching.

Work edition

Emanuel Hirsch's “Collected Works” have been published by Hartmut Spenner (Kamen) since 1999. This edition, in which numerous well-known theologians have already contributed as volume editors, is supported by the foundation “Emanuel Hirsch: Edition of Works - Archive - Research Funding”. Its aim is to make the theological writings, some of which are difficult to access, available to a readership that is aware of the contradictions and hardships of Hirsch's thinking for critical discussion.

Theological writings

  • Fichte's philosophy of religion in the context of Fichte's overall philosophical development , 1914
  • Christianity and History in Fichte's Philosophy , 1920
  • Idealistic philosophy and Christianity. Collected Essays. (= Studies of the apologetic seminar. 14th issue. ), Published by C. Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1926.
  • Kierkegaard studies. Second issue. The poet. (= Studies of the apologetic seminar, 31st issue. ), Verlag von C. Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1930.
  • Kierkegaard studies. Third booklet. The Thinker. First Study: The Thinker To Be. (= Studies of the apologetic seminar, 32nd issue. ), Published by C. Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1931.
  • The current intellectual situation in the mirror of philosophical and theological reflection. Academic lectures to understand the German year 1933. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1934.
  • The transformation of Christian thought in modern times. A reader. Published by JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1938.
  • Guide to Christian Doctrine , 1938
  • Aid book for studying dogmatics , 1937 (4th edition 2002 ISBN 3-11-001242-1 )
  • Luther Studies , 2 volumes, 1954
  • History of the modern evangelical theology in connection with the general movements of European thought , 5 volumes, 1949–54 (5th edition 1975)

Fiction writings

  • The Dog Rose Walk: Roman . 1954 (reprint 1974 ISBN 3-78-060040-4 )
  • The notched walking stick . 1955
  • Nothnagel: Roman . 1956
  • Return to life: narration . 1957
  • The Relentless Graces: Narrative . 1958
  • Mrs. Ilsebill . 1959
  • The Bridal Ride and other whimsical stories . 1960
  • Stories from the medullary sheath. Narratives . 1963

Political Writings

  • Germany's fate . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1920.
  • The love of the fatherland . Fourth edition with an afterword, Verlag Hermann Beyer & Söhne, Langensalza 1930.


Web links


  1. Wilfried Härle (Ed.): Basic texts of the newer Protestant theology . Evangelische Verlags-Anstalt, Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-374-02469-8 .
  2. a b Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Second updated edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 258.
  3. Manfred Schlenke: Universities and professors in the Third Reich: The leader as a "finger tip of God". In: The time . 23/1987, May 29, 1987, accessed June 10, 2019 .
  4. Reinold Schmückler: Divine, folk: News on the controversy of the theologians Hirsch and Barth. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . September 28, 1994, p. N5 , archived from the original on December 20, 2007 ; accessed on June 10, 2019 (reproduced on the website of the University of Koblenz).
  5. ^ Robert P. Ericksen: Theologians under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanuel Hirsch.
    Martin Schuck: The historical awareness of Protestantism: The different view of history. (pdf, 295 kB) In: evangelical aspects . 1/2005, pp. 22-25 , archived from the original on September 29, 2007 ; accessed on June 10, 2019 .