Mothering the Fatherland: A Protestant Sisterhood Repents for the Holocaust
Oxford University Press
How should one respond, personally or theologically, to genocide committed on one's behalf? After the Allied bombing of Darmstadt, Germany, in 1944, some Lutheran young women perceived their city's destruction as an expression of God's wrath-a punishment for Hitler's murder of six million Jews, purportedly on behalf of the German people.
George Faithful tells the story of a number of these young women, who formed the Ecumenical Sisterhood of Mary in 1947 in order to embrace lives of radical repentance for the sins of the German people against God and against the Jews. Under Mother Basilea Schlink, the sisters embraced an ideology of collective national guilt. According to Schlink, a handful of true Christians were called to lead their nation in repentance, interceding and making spiritual sacrifices as priests on its behalf and saving it from looming destruction. Schlink explained that these ideas were rooted in her reading of the Hebrew Bible; in fact, Faithful discovers, they also bore the influence of German nationalism. Schlink's vision resulted in penitential practices that dominated the life of her community.
While the women of the sisterhood were subject to each other, they elevated themselves and their spiritual authority above that of any male leaders. They offered female and gender-neutral paradigms of self-sacrifice as normative for all Christians. Mothering the Fatherland shows how the sisters overturned German Protestant norms for gender roles, communal life, and nationalism in their pursuit of redemption.