Claiming the Passion: American Fantasies of the Oberammergau Passion Play, 1923-1947

In 1934 the third centennial celebration of Oberammergau's famous passion play coincided with Adolph Hitler's rise to power. For American Jews, the Oberammergau Passion Play had long symbolized the Christian roots of Anti-Semitism. Ironically, American Jews' liberal Protestant allies viewed Oberammergau as a symbol of Christian ecumenism, capable of uniting Protestants, Catholics, and even Jews. "Claiming the Passion" traces Oberammergau in the rhetoric of American liberals from the American tour of Anton Lang, who portrayed the Christus in 1923, to his successor's trial for Nazi sympathies in 1947. It places the conflicting Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant views of Oberammergau in the context of the early goodwill or inferfaith movement. It argues that liberal Protestants' enthusiasm for Oberammergau arose from their effort to articulate a more inclusive national identity, in opposition to the Ku Klux Klan and other nativists. But the conflicts over Oberammergau also suggest that liberal Protestants had not yet come to terms with Jewish critiques of Christian Anti-Judaism.

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