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Between the Home Front and the Battlefield – "Images of War" in Protestant Sermons and Devotional Literature of World War I

This project examined Protestant sermons and devotional writings from southwestern Germany (Palatinate, Baden, Württemberg, Hesse, Alsace-Lorraine) in the years 1914–1918.
These texts served as a basis for reconstructing the "images of war" disseminated by theologians during that period – both in their home communities as well as at the front. The rather uniform picture of war that was drawn by Protestant pastors in August 1914 took on different forms over the course of the war. These were shaped by the religious and political contexts of the time, but also by the personal wartime experiences of the pastors. In almost all cases, the war was seen as an important stage in the history of God`s relationship with the German people. Using biblical and church history references, Germany was depicted as the chosen, united people of God. The tensions between Catholics and Protestants, which had existed in Germany since the 16th century, seemed to dissipate. By contrast, confessional antagonism towards enemy nations was emphasized, and they were depicted as being morally and culturally inferior. These writings had two main purposes. On the one hand, they were meant to create a sense of identity on the home front and in the field. On the other hand, they served to strengthen people’s bonds to the church. The sources examined for this project clearly demonstrate the close interconnection between church and politics and, as a result of this, the creation of new political and confessional differences and the decline of existing ones.