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Hitler's First Cabinet
April 7, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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How Catholic Were the Nazis?

The Nazi Party, or National Socialist German Workers Party, was large and complex. Propagandists and often even honest journalists and historians may emphasize some part or another to misrepresent the whole. In America, in particular, getting an objective view of the Nazis as a whole is difficult.

One of the particular questions I have asked, and tried to answer, is the role of the Catholic Church in Germany and in the Nazi Party during this period.

Here I am going to give an overview of the members of Hitler's first cabinet, which formed on January 30, 1933. This cabinet was not picked by Hitler, but was negotiated between Hitler, the Catholic Church represented by Franz von Papen, the German military, and other political parties. In this case I believe the general consensus: it was meant to contain Hitler, not to allow him to rapidly become dictator.

After the Nazi Party established its supremacy, Hitler did make many changes in his cabinet. I won't go into those here, though the later cabinets may give a truer picture of the nature of the Nazis and religion within their power structure.

I will reserve further commentary until after this table:

Adolf Hitler's First Cabinet
Member Office Party religion
Adolf Hitler chancellor NSDAP Roman Catholic
Franz von Papen vice-chancellor Centre Roman Catholic
Konstantin von Neurath foreign affairs none* Protestant?
Wilhelm Frick interior NSDAP Evangelical Protestant
Lutz von Krosigk finance none* Lutheran
Franz Gurtner justice DNVP Roman Catholic
Werner von Blomberg defense (Reichswehr) none Lutheran
Alfred Hugenberg economics & agriculture DNVP ?
Franz Seldte labor NSDAP Lutheran?
Paul von Eltz-Rubeach postal service none Roman Catholic
*von Neurath and von Krosigk later joined the NSDAP

Given the role of religion in German politics and culture, it was a bit surprising that I could not find all the information I wanted easily. Perhaps because I don't read German. The information should be on birth and death certificates, so someday I will check those.

Franz von Papen was a "good Catholic" and personal friend of the popes. There were at least 2 Roman Catholics in the Hitler cabinet besides Adolf and von Papen. Lutherans were well-represented, but not to the two-thirds extent found in Germany in general. The Centre party was a Roman Catholic party, once led by von Papen, but he had resigned from it and was technically independent while he was vice-chancellor.


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