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Book Review: The Origin of Heresy: A History of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity(March 1, 2015)

A Neglected Eucharistic Controversy: The Afterlife of John Wyclif's Eucharistic Thought in Bohemia in the Early Fifteenth Century(March 1, 2015)

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Publication: Church History
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 29101
ISSN: 00096407
Journal code: PCHH

IN 1 934 American Express invited American tourists to the Bavarian town of Oberammergau with the promise that the town's famous Passion play would introduce them "at low cost" to "a place on earth where piety and faith will live, it seems, forever."1 The accompanying drawing - Christ preaching to shepherds at the foot of the cross - promised the American tourist a Bible illustration come to life. Nothing in the advertisement hinted that the tourist would encounter the piety of Oberammergau under the Nazi flag; but the celebration of the play's jubilee year (its third centennial performance) coincided with Adolf Hitler's rise to power. The story of Hitler's first anti-Semitic acts shared the headlines with preparations for the Oberammergau Passion Play. In America, juxtaposition of swastika and cross sharpened long-standing debates between Christians and Jews concerning the extent of Christian responsibility for anti-Semitism, debates centered on the story of the crucifixión.

This article will follow those American debates, tracing Oberammergau hi the religious rhetoric of religious liberals - Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish - from the American tour of Anton Lang, who portrayed the Christus as an ambassador of goodwill in 1923, to the trial of his successor Alois Lang, judged a Nazi follower by a denazification tribunal in 1947. By confining this study to liberals, I have chosen Jews and Christians who resembled each other in their theological orientation, ritual behavior, and political ideals. American interest in Oberammergau peaked in the interwar years, just as liberal Protestants struggled to come to terms with tum-of-the-century immigration of Catholics and Jews. Confronted with this demographic challenge to Protestant hegemony, liberal Protestants were torn between their Christianity, which urged them to evangelize, and their liberalism, which urged them to tolerate and even to accommodate religious difference.

Praising Oberammergau as the embodiment of Christian ecumenism and goodwill, liberal Protestants resolved this tension, in fantasy, at least. Imagining Oberammergau, I will argue, liberal Protestants envisioned an expansive and triumphal Christian ecumenism - one whose embrace included Protestants, Catholics, and even Jews - as a liberal answer to the challenge of unprecedented religious diversity, on the one hand, and to the Ku KIux Klan's claim to represent Christian America, on the other. In practice, the term "Christian" barely concealed the tension between Protestants and Catholics; it could not stretch so far as to include Jews, a point mat the frequent irruption of conflict over Oberammergau drove home. Searching for unifying language as the United States entered World War ?, liberals were already speaking of a "Judéo-Christian" nation.2 But American Christian affection for Oberammergau suggests that liberal Christians had not yet come to terms with the extent of Jewish difference. Most liberal Protestants had not learned to recognize the anti-Judaism embedded in traditional representations of the crucifixion. Believing that true Christianity promoted tolerance and world peace, liberal Protestants saw in Oberammergau only their own aspirations to goodwill.


On December 13, 1923, Anton Lang and a troupe often artisan-actors from Oberammergau docked in New York for a six-month tour of the major American cities. Lang posed for reporters on deck, his Christ-like flowing locks blowing in the breeze. Lang's long hair, no mere wig, signified his dedication to the role of Christus. Always partîy in character, Lang delivered a Christ-like message of peace and goodwill. Lang found a receptive audience among liberal Protestante eager to restore the international ecumenical movement and to unite America's many religious and "racial" groups. Decades of immigration had brought the diversity of the world to America, rendering the United States a proving ground for Christianity's ability to foster unity.

To the horror of Uberai Protestants, the Ku Klux Klan declared itself the defender of Nordic, Protestant America against the influence of Jews and the power of Rome. From a liberal perspective, violent nativism threatened national coherence no less than had unchecked immigration. "He who cherishes hate," warned S. Parkes Cadman, honorary President and founding member of the Federal Council of Churches in Christ (Federal Council), "is part of a vast conspiracy that draw us into universal struggle. We have seen other empires and kingdoms, whose names were synonyms for stable government, scattered like !eaves in an Autumn gale by this strife."3

Goodwill was the liberal fortress against this gale of strife. In the interwar years, the term "goodwill" described everything from Anton Lang's tour to pulpit exchanges between ministers and rabbis or civic cooperation between Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant leaders. The Federal Council led many of these efforts at outreach across religious boundaries. Its many goodwill committees attempted to improve relations between the Protestant establishment and various minorities.4 Joining the Federal Council in these endeavors were prominent Reform rabbis and Jewish civic leaders as well as Catholic leaders such as Father Francis P. Duffy and the historian Carlton Hayes, among others. Liberals in all three religions hoped to create harmony between nations abroad and between America's many "races" and denominations at home. Goodwill was closely allied with the Protestant ecumenical movement, however. As a consequence, the distinction between Christian missionary outreach and invitation to dialogue was not always clear. After all, the Federal Council, as an umbrella organization, housed the Home Mission Society, which evangelized Jews as well as the Goodwill Committee, dedicated to improved relations between Christians and Jews.

When Lang arrived in New York, liberal Protestants were poised between goodwill dialogue and proselytism in their approach to Jews. Northern Baptist Alfred W. Anthony, who had taken the lead in dialogue with Reform rabbis in 1919, embodied this ambiguity. Anthony was also Executive Secretary of the Homes Missions Council, a position he resigned only in 1923.5 The rabbis never completely trusted Anthony, suspecting him of a covert missionary agenda. For his part, Anthony reluctantly admitted the "obvious failure" of Christian mission to Jews, which had inspired only "bitterness."6 In 1924 he ceded leadership on goodwill to the Jews to the Congregationalist John Herring, who had no association with Christian missions.7

Reflecting on the challenge facing the Christian church as it sought good relations with Jews, Herring concluded: "We are torn within a conflict between a universal teaching of brotherhood and an exclusive practice," evangelism. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."8 With the Protestant denominations increasingly divided against themselves on issues ranging from Darwin to eschatology, Herring defined evangelism as antithetical to the liberal goal of "brotherhood," placing goodwill squarely on the liberal side of the growing division between liberals and fundamentalists. Even so, liberal Protestants had not yet come to terms with Jewish polemics that indentified the traditional representations of the crucifixion as the root of violent, irrational anti-Semitism.

Struggling to understand each other, both Christians and Jews turned to the story of the crucifixion, the symbolic moment at which the two religions divided. Lang, the Christus of Oberammergau, unintentionally became a lightening rod for the differences between liberal Protestants and Jews. Lang addressed a nation in which Catholics and Jews were pushing back against the cultural and political hegemony of the Protestant majority even as they sought to ally themselves with liberal Protestants against reactionary nativism. American responses to Lang's tour - Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish - arose from this context. Ironically, Lang himself studiously avoided taking a position in these conflicts, focusing instead on enticing American tourists of any religious slripe to Bavaria. To this end, "the man who has lived a Christian life full of the inspiration of the Man of Sorrows," as one newspaper called Lang, described Oberammergau's mission: "to bring the nations together, to heal the wounds of war, and to promote brotherhood" by enacting the Passion of Christ.9


Lang's representation of Oberammergau as a bastion of goodwill, however sincere, happily deflected attention from the mundane but pressing issue of profit. By its very nature as a religious tourist site, Oberammergau belonged both to Christ and to Mammon, meeting the tourist's desire for postcards and knickknacks no less than the pilgrim's desire for religious experience. Of course, the tourist and the pilgrim were generally the same person, as Victor Turner femously observed, the "tourist is half a pilgrim, if the pilgrim is half a tourist."10 Tourist-pilgrims particularly demand an aesthetic experience of authenticity in which the commercial does not appear to taint the spiritual.1 ' Indeed, the overtly commercial performance of the Passion might appear not merely inauthentic but impious. A cartoon in one Munich newspaper took this cynical view of the matter, depicting Judas at Oberammergau refusing to sell Christ for a mere thirty pieces of silver when the play was capable of bringing in so much more.12

Fending off such criticism, Oberammergauers refused "to play Judas to our tradition," proudly declining an American offer to buy the rights to film the play for one million dollars.13 (Lang's tour would raise one hundred thousand dollars.)14 Lang depicted Oberammergau as a pious alternative to the "rubbish now fashionable on stage and screen," an offering to the Lord.15 According to the foundational myth of the Passion play, in 1633 the villagers of Oberammergau had pledged to perform Christ's Passion every ten years if God would spare their town from the plague.16 Invoking this foundation myth, Oberammergauers represented their play as a religious experience transcending mere entertainment. Americans who approved of the play likewise stressed the piety of the performers. The Indiana Farmer's Guide^ for instance, praised the actors in these terms: "These people are not artists. They are sincere men and women who do this work as a means of worship and not for the honor that ordinary actresses or actors seek."17

But artless sincerity would not put bread on the table. Oberammergau 's economy depended on tourists, who filled the village's inns and purchased its famous religious woodcarvings. Tourism had fallen off disastrously in the aftermath of the war, while inflation devoured the profits from the 1922 performance. One actor complained that in thirty performances he had not earned enough money to buy a decent pair of boots.18 Only a successful production of the Passion Play would revive the village's economy.

Fortunately for Lang, Americans were already familiar with Oberammergau, which been an established destination on sophisticated Americans' European tours since the middle of the nineteenth century.19 Traveling lecturers regularly brought slides of Oberammergau and its Passion p!ay to those Americans unable to make the trans-Atîantic journey.20 Half of the four thousand visitors to the 1922 Passion play were American.21 All the same, in the bitter aftermath of World War I, Americans had reason to hesitate before entering Germany.

American newspapers warned of rapacious Germans overcharging American tourists.22 Outraged ai being bilked, the wives of prominent American officials in Bavaria picketed Neuschwanstein, the castle of "Mad" King Ludwig.23 So common were American accounts of being fleeced that one satirical article listed among the unavoidable bores of travel the American lady who "can talk for hours of the battle field of Flanders where the guide overcharged her two francs; of Rheims, where she simply refused to pay 20 francs - positive blackmail - for a hotel room; of the Passion Play where she was charged double for a seat merely because she was an American, though how they knew, etc., etc., etc."24

This lady's experience notwithstanding, Oberammergau attempted to maintain its reputation for spiritual authenticity. To this end, Lang encouraged the conflation of his person and his role as Christus. A slight man with long, wavy, brown hair, blue eyes glowing "with spiritual fire," and a sad, gentle smile on his face, Lang looked the part of Jesus.25 Portraying Christ, he assured reporters, made him feel "lifted above the earth." 'It is as if one had taken up a priestly existence and could do nothing unworthy," he explained.26 The press adored him. They delighted in the Christus' endorsement of modish bobbed hau- and his charming American slang.27 They also reported that Lang had come to America with a message worthy of Christ, a message of peace.

Lang broadcast his simple peace plan on the radio in time for Christmas. World peace, he said, required only "faith, toil, and helping one another."28 Naive though this formula was, in the 1 92Os it was not outlandish, especially from one reputedly touched by the spirit of Christ. In the aftermath of World War I, the Christian denunciation of war became a staple of the social gospel. Later that decade, the United States would sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact, renouncing aggressive war as an instrument of national policy. Lang spoke of peace as an extension of Christianity, a hope that he shared with many liberal Protestants still horrified by World War I.29 Avoiding war and engaging foreign powers on Christian terms required understanding of a potentially hostile nation's legitimate fears and grievances in order to create a path to negotiated settlement.

The Christus had limitations as a diplomat, however, as Lang discovered at a White House reception for the Oberammergau players. Ludwig Nissen, chairman of the American Reception Committee that sponsored Lang's tour, pressed President Calvin Coolidge to intervene with the French in the matter of German war reparations. Offended, Coolidge ended the audience abruptly.30 The incident caused a minor scandal. Senator Clarence Dili, Democrat of Washington, reproached the Republican President for discourtesy to "one who in the eyes of the world embodied the Christ." Even Coolidge's Republican defenders admitted that he might have treated a "humble" yet "significant" visitor with greater delicacy.31 In a public exchange of letters, both men apologized, although Coolidge noted that it was inappropriate for a guest at the White House to petition the president on behalf of a foreign power.32 Lang hastily backtracked, denying that Nissen spoke for Oberammergau.33 He did not raise the question of war reparations directly again, advocating instead a broad program of cultural exchange and goodwill.

This kerfuffle did no apparent damage to Lang's efforts to promote Oberammergau as a force for Christian peace and understanding. If anything, Lang's diplomatic clumsiness matched his Christ-like simplicity. Lang presented Oberammergau as a village ruled by the Prince of Peace. Just as "the four corners of Christendom" assembled in Oberammergau in the aftermath of the war. Lang hoped that "the Passion Play will constitute a basis from which more friendly intercourse between nations will result hi better international understanding." "To me," he added, '*there would be no better place for a peace conference than Oberammergau with the teachings of its passion play."34 Such statements allowed advocates of goodwill to embrace Lang and Oberammergau as symbols of Christian harmony between nations and denominations.


Americans appropriated Lang the Christus for a number of liberal causes, including Christian ecumenism and opposition to the Ku Klux Klan. The Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, portrayed Oberammergau as a paradise free from the Klan and other forms of bigotry. "In Oberammergau," the Defender wrote, "they have no race problem, no color discrimination, no religious wars; the populace lives as near as possible like one big family."35 Liberal ministers extolled Oberammergau for preserving the simple harmony of Christendom before the wars of religion. Such views became the theme of a meeting of the Clergy Club of New York at the Hotel Astor, where the Vicar of the Episcopal Chapel of the Intercession hailed Lang as "an apostle for the future hope of the peace of the world." Cadman, a Congregationalist, rose to celebrate the ecumenical moment. Artists such as Lang, he declared, cut through the "great storm in dogmatic circles" to universal truth. "Those of all schools of religious thought," he added, "could unite about Oberammergau and its presentation of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord." In Lang, Cadman saw "the living link in the sixteen centuries of our Christianity before our catholicity was somewhat interrupted."36

This celebration of the "catholicity" of the Passion Play obscured the extent to which the production was actually Catholic with a capital "C." Although the play was under secular control, only practicing Catholics in good standing with thé Church were allowed to perform.37 Nevertheless, American Protestants who endorsed the play often denied its Catholic character. "The Passion Play is nontheological; it is nonecclesiastical," one Methodist observer wrote, noting that the play offered no obeisance to the Pope. He added that the play ended with a prayer to "reconcile every man to his God, unite all schismatic Christian communities, and conciliate all hostile communities," never considering the possibility that the prayer referred to a restoration of Christian unity within the Catholic Church.38 Lang likewise de-emphasized the Catholicism of the play, stressing instead its appeal to all denominations. "At Oberammergau," he told the New York Telegraph, "we have all kinds. There is a Catholic church and chapel that is used by Protestants - Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, all kinds."39 In this disarming statement, Lang portrayed Oberammergau as the embodiment of ecumenism and liberal goodwill. Ironically, however, Passion plays in America could still provoke Protestant suspicion.


In fact, the theatrical portrayal of Christ on the stage was still a markedly Catholic, immigrant practice of dubious legality in the early decades of the twentieth century. New Yorkers seeking the enactment of Christ's Passion during Lent, for instance, had to journey to "the poorest, grayest, smudgiest quarter" of West Hoboken, New Jersey. There, as in other centers of Catholic immigration, congregations performed Passion plays, sometimes writing their own scripts.40 Nevertheless, in many states blue laws preserved Christ from the indignity of being portrayed on stage, for money, by mere actors of (most likely) loose morals.41 On occasion, such laws provided Protestant cíergy with a weapon against Catholic practices, even inside Catholic churches.42

Scarcely a year before Lang's tour, for instance, a performance of the Passion became a flash point for Protestant-Catholic conflicts in Union Hill, New Jersey, where Italian Catholic immigrante were replacing the largely Protestant native-bora. The Lord's Day Alliance, an organization dedicated to enforcing a sober Protestant Sabbath free of theater, alcohol, or commerce, instigated the arrest of a priest for producing a Passion play on a Sunday. Undaunted, the priest proudly paid a one-dollar fine, declaring that the play would be performed next Sunday and the Sunday after that.43 The secular press ridiculed the effort to suppress the play as an act of blind intolerance. "They'll be arresting some Preacher next Sunday," the cowboy comedian Roy Rogers commented, "and claim he was doing the Monologue on the Sabbath."44

This mockery of the Lord's Day Alliance suggests the triumph of Cadman's interpretation of the Passion play: the play amounted to a sermon illustrating universal Christian truths, while opposition to it signaled dangerous (or ludicrous) intolerance. By the time Lang arrived in New York, however, conservative Protestant opponents of the Passion performance were on the defensive. The advent of moving pictures both whetted the public's appetite for action and, given the movies' proclivity for scandalous material, made live theater on religious themes palatable by comparison,45 One recent sign of this new respectability was the 1923 inauguration of the Scottish Rite Masons' Passion play in BIoomington, Illinois, though even that successful endeavor was first cautiously advertised as an "Easter Pageant."46 Oberammergau's artistic and religious prestige gave Passion plays an aura of respectability, making performances of the Passion a point of Catholic pride.

Lang brought attention to local Passion performances, even visiting Hoboken, New Jersey, to see me Passion play "Veronica's Veil" at St. Joseph's Church, which had a German Catholic congregation. On the church steps, the Mayor presented Lang with the key to the city before a crowd of thousands. Lang praised the production, urging the actors "to live in the spirit of the message if you would be true players. That's what we at Oberammergau try to do."47

The Oberammergau Passion Play bridged the aesthetic gap between Protestant and Catholic traditions of presenting Christ. Images of Oberammergau and the play were popular subjects for Protestant illustrated lectures, especially during Lent.48 Inspired by Oberammergau, even Protestants began to experiment with performances of the Passion as a new and compelling form of evangelism by the middle of the 1920s. The YMCA in Hartford, Connecticut, for instance, included a movie and lecture on the Passion play in its Easter-season activities in 1924.49 By 1931 the Methodist Review was praising the emotional power of drama to "make the gospel real" in contrast to Protestant sermons, the mere "dry bones which the saints gnaw with the dental remnants ruthless time has spared them for the same reason a dog gnaws a bone - there is nothing else."50

This denigration of modern Protestant "dry bones" owed much to the cultural prestige of the medieval in the period extending from the middle of the nineteenth century well into the first decades of the twentieth. Of course, by the time Lang visited New York, the Jazz Age was already starting to swing. (F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age, widely credited with popularizing the term, had been published a year before Lang's arrival.) But the scandalous new music and moving pictures only underlined the comparative respectability of "medieval" dramas such as the Oberammergau Passion Play. The medieval style signified religious seriousness in architecture: the soaring spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral dominated midiown Manhattan; on Wall Street, Trinity Church's gothic spire surmounted by a gold cross announced the presence of God even in the stronghold of Mammon; St. John the Divine, still under construction, already loomed on the West Side. As T. J. Jackson Lears has argued, American Protestants embraced the medieval in a romantic revolt against the dry rationalism of science, the cold calculations of capitalism, and the deracinating effects of modernity. They celebrated Catholic art forms such as the gothic cathedral as aesthetic triumph, while often retaining their traditional hostility toward Catholicism itself.51

As a consequence, the word "medieval" had a double valance in Protestant rhetoric. On the one hand, "medieval" connoted the despotism and corruption that Protestants had repudiated when they left the Catholic Church; on the other hand, "medieval" represented Christian passion and unity before the rise of modern scientific skepticism. Protestants who praised the Oberammergau Passion Play often described it as a journey back in time. Charmed by the play, for instance, Reinhold Níebuhr called it "an interesting relic of medievalism in the modem world," where every experience "from the very entrance into the city, . . . conspires to create a mood of eager expectancy in the heart of visitor and a feeling that one has entered a different world."52

But Protestant enthusiasm for the aesthetics of medieval Catholicism did not necessarily indicate any affection for modem Catholic immigrants or politicians. The 1928 presidential election, in which Catholic New Yorker Al Smith lost overwhelmingly to Herbert Hoover, reminded American Catholics that they had not yet achieved the status of "real" Americans.53 With the sting of Smith's defeat still fresh, Oberammergau served as a source of Catholic pride.


For Catholics, the Oberammergau Passion Play represented a modern embodiment of medieval, organic Christianity capable of resisting the forces of modernism and the secular state.54 In this sense, Oberammergau was particularly important for Commonweal, a lay Catholic journal modeled on the Republic and intended to foster a distinctly Catholic intellectual tradition capable of engaging the American mainstream on matters of politics and art.55 Contributors to Commonweal included sueh Catholic lay intellectuals as Dorothy Day, G. K. Chesterton, and the French Neo-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain. The editors Michael Williams and George Shuster sought to attract both Catholic and non-Catholic readers.56

In 1930, with the economic depression deepening and tensions rising in Europe, Commonweal sent two correspondents to Oberammergau, which seemed to offer communal harmony the Catholic way, free equally from the collectivism of the state and the individualism of unrestrained capitalism. In Oberammergau, Commonweal clamed, "degraded poverty, beggars, drunkenness, artificial gaiety simply cannot be found."57 Instead, the actors seemed to embody their roles at all times, even growing their hair long so that they resembled the longhaired heroes of Bible illustrations. For Commonweal, these men with their biblical flowing locks Over modem attire exemplified a typically Catholic sanctification of ordinary life. "To see obvious saints and biblical characters drinking in a tavern, have them carry your bag and sell you post-cards is at first a bit startling, yet soon appealing, and typically Catholic in pervading prosaic daily life with holy things."58

Those who argued that religion was losing its influence need only visit Oberammergau, editor James Walsh wrote. He described the extraordinary piety of the tourist-pilgrims who attended mass in the town's Baroque church. "The supreme moment of the morning," Walsh reported, "was that which followed the words: 'This is My Body. Do this for a commemoration of Me.' The silence that settled down for some moments over the vast crowd could almost be felt. Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, believers and unbelievers joined for a moment, it seemed, in an act of supreme worship."59 Like Lang, Walsh stressed that Oberammergau united all of humanity - Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant - at the enactment of Christ's redemptive sacrifice. In other words, Oberammergau embodied the Christian ecumenical ideal, extended even to include Jews as witnesses to Christ's promise of peace.

By 1930 both Protestants and Catholics embraced Oberammergau as an embodiment of Christian ecumenism: a place that replicated the best of the Middle Ages; a place where the sacred penetrated ordinary life; a place that transcended the modern fragmentation of Christianity; and a place mystically suffused by the peace of Christ. Of all religious liberals, only Jews dissented publicly from this celebration of Oberammergau. For them, Oberammergau represented the worst Christian "medievalism": violence, hatred, and superstition.


Several features of the Passion Play distressed these Jewish observers: Pilate was a sympathetic figure, while the guilt for Christ's death fell to the Jewish mob; the treacherous Judas - whose very name suggested his Jewish identity - groveled and gloated over his thirty pieces of silver. Worse, the Christus did not appear to be a Jew at all, being distinguished from the Jews on stage in demeanor and appearance. Reform rabbis seized particularly on the portrayal of Jesus because Jesus was already crucial to their representation of Judaism to outsiders. Abraham Geiger, one of the founders of liberal Judaism, had claimed the historical Jesus as a Pharisee in the middle of the nineteenth century.60 Heirs to the German tradition, Reform rabbis in America claimed Jesus as a fellow Jew even as they engaged Christians in goodwill ventures and refuted Christian anti- Judaism.

Liberal rabbis invoked Jesus in a polemic that traced the irrational hatred of Jews to the very heart of the Christian story of salvation, the recognition of Jesus as the Christ. The polemic ran like this: Christians had replaced the human and emphatically Jewish Jesus of history with the divine Christ of creed and myth, demonizing the true people of Jesus - his felJow Jews - as déicides.61 It followed from this polemic that hatred of Jews arose primarily from Christian teachings, even though this hatred might wear secular dress as racial conflict or as economic friction. This analysis of the situation was by no means obvious or universally accepted.

Many Americans in the ínterwar years presented prejudice against Jews as a natural reaction to an influx of poor, unassimilated immigrants, probably exacerbated by what they viewed as the Jews' own vulgarity and sharp dealing. For instance, Madison Grant warned that the "Asiatic Hebrew race" threatened America's racial impurity with its "dwarf stature, peculiar mentality, and ruthless concentration on self interest."62 Anti-Semitic articles in Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent accused Jews of undermining American morals through indecent movies and theater productions, jazz, and other corruptions.63

Even Protestants friendly to Jews might argue that Judaism needed substantial reformation in order to remove its "racial" or particularistic attributes. Still struggling to establish dialogue with Reform rabbis, for instance, Alfred W. Anthony argued that Jews inspired distrust by clinging to their cultural difference from other Americans. The Ku KJux Klan, he warned, exploited Americans' legitimate uneasiness with Jewish "racial peculiarities," "group isolation," "religious observances," and especially their "spiritual arrogance."64 Jews clung to their "national ideals," in their "dress, their beards, their food, their observance of feast and fast days," all of which, Anthony maintained, naturally subjected them to the suspicion of disloyalty to the nation in which they resided.65 Especially troubling to Anthony was Jewish self-understanding as possessing an inherited identity. "If the Jews could only make a real distinction between race and religion, as nearly all other peoples do," Anthony wrote, "more than half the trouble [that is, hostility toward Jews] would probably disappear."66

Even liberal Protestants, acknowledging that the historical Jesus had been a Jew, argued that Jesus had made a spiritual leap beyond Judaism into universal religion. As Unitarian Crawford Toy, who established Hebrew and Semitic Studies at Harvard University, explained, Jesus "avoided the grosser part of the Jewish national Messianic faith," while expressing its inner core, which Toy reduced to the Golden Rule. "National particularism," he maintained, "was too deeply ingrained in the Jewish life to permit the emergence of a purely religious principle of universal character."67 According to this common interpretation of the New Testament, the Jews had resisted Jesus' universalism, conniving at his execution rather than losing their national status as the chosen people. As a consequence, they had survived over the centuries as pariahs, never assimilating into the more universal culture of Christian Europe.

These interpretations of the crucifixion read back into the time of Jesus a vexed issue in the modem Jewish Question, the relationship between a minority and the "universal" culture of the majority. If liberal Jews hoped to shape American perceptions of the Jewish Question, therefore, they had to seize the meaning of the crucifixion from its Christian interpreters. Since the nineteenth century, Reform rabbis had done just that, stressing the Jewishness of Jesus in order ?? invert the story of Christian universalism breaking free from Jewish particularism. If Jesus advocated a universal religion, Reform leader Emil Hirsch asserted, Jesus was "so Jewish in all his expressions" that "you are at a loss to find any originality in him."68 By tracing anti-Semitism to Christian teaching, Jews argued that the doctrine of Christ's divinity - a Christian "particularism" - poisoned Christian attitudes toward Jews. In the middle of the 1920s, Professor Max Hunterberg, who founded his own league for better relations between Jews and Christians, popularized this argument in churches and on college campuses. His book The Crucified Jew underscored the irony of Russian mobs "carrying aloft the cross and images of the Crucified Jew and his Jewish mother" as they massacred Jews for killing Christ. Quoting Victor Hugo, Hunterberg warned that the long shadow of medieval hatreds threatened the modern age.69


For Reform rabbis eager to transform Christian attitudes toward Jews, Oberammergau epitomized everything that was wrong with Christian depictions of Christ and the crucifixion. As early as 1900, Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, one of the founders of the Jewish Publication Society, had pointed to Oberammergau to demonstrate the Christian origins of Jewhatred.70 By demolishing the "mythological fiction" of the divine Christ, as Krauskopf put it, the Reform rabbi hoped to unite Jews and Christians in a true understanding of the human - Jewish - Jesus.

Of all Reform rabbis, the irrepressible Stephen Samuel Wise was the most prominent and enthusiastic advocate of the Jewish Jesus as a bridge between Judaism and Christianity.71 A powerful and charismatic orator, Wise pursued public friendships with prominent liberal Protestants - including most notably Harry Emerson Fosdick and the radical Unitarian John Haynes Hohnes - as well as with progressive politicians such as Al Smith, Theodore Roosevelt, and, later, Franklin Roosevelt. Wise's natural ideological allies were liberal Protestants such as Cadman, who condemned religious intolerance while celebrating the simple Christianity of Oberammergau. (Indeed, Wise would later laud Cadman as "a smiling soul" who "spent his life seeking unity and tolerance among different creeds.")72 Despite these friendships, or because of them, Wise attacked Oberammergau repeatedly.

In the Lenten season of 1923, the year that Anton Lang promoted Oberammergau as the host for a religious peace conference, Rabbi Stephen Wise attended an interfaith service and workshop at the Madison Avenue Methodist Church in New York. The day was dedicated to the "Reconciliation of the Races," a phrase that referred to the "Nordic" and "Semitic" races among others. Reflecting on Christian enthusiasm for Oberammergau, Wise denounced the play as "cruelly unjust to Jews." Brushing aside any distinction between Christian anti-Judaism and racist anti-Semitism, Wise asserted that "there could be no reconciliation of the races" so long as one race asserted superiority over another.73 Wise reiterated this point from his own pulpit at the Free Synagogue. "The play," he declared, "is like a poisonous influence on the hundreds of thousands of Christians who see it, bringing the confirmation of every prejudice, the deepening of every bitterness and the justification of every manner of ill-wiJl against the Jews." Wise noted that the actors portraying Judas and other villains appeared "typically Jewish," whereas Jesus and his disciples were represented as "Nordic" or "Teutons."74

For Wise the racial issue of "Nordics" and "Teutons" was jusi a new iteration of the religious hostility between Jews and Christians. Like other Jewish leaders, Wise was pressing the American government to accept more Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, where nationalism, racist anti-Semitism, and religious prejudice formed a potent political mixture. He had reason, therefore, to stress the violence of anti-Semitism abroad. When Hollywood created its own, avowedly tasteful depiction of the crucifixion in Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings (1927), Wise denounced the film as "this Oberammergau of Hollywood." "The blood of the Jews will be upon the heads of the producers of 'The King of Kings,"' Wise thundered from the Free Synagogue, "if they attempt to show the picture in Eastern or Central Europe."75

With Eastern Europe in mind, Wise did not wish merely to excise a scene or two from a movie or to change the costumes of Oberammergau 's villains: he wanted to change Christianity. *The real difficulty," Wise argued "is that whatever is done at Oberammergau is sanctioned by the pages of the New Testament. The play is nothing more than a bit of pomp and pageantry surrounding the dramatization of all those errors and injustices which find classic and, I fear, eternal refuge in the pages of the New Testament."76 In such Jewish rhetoric, Oberammergau dramatized the violence and superstition at the heart of the Christian story of a divine and murdered Savior.

If such arguments reached Anton Lang during his triumphal tour as Christus, he ignored them. When asked about Jews and their response to the Oberammergau Passion Play, Lang just smiled enigmatically.77 Lang had successfully marketed Oberammergau as a symboí of Christian goodwill, a position that it held among both liberal Protestants and Catholics. After returning home, Lang continued to advocate better understanding across national boundaries. From Oberammergau, Lang urged Americans to engage in informal goodwill exchanges in order to avoid a second war with Germany. "Childhood knows no frontiers," Lang told the Youth 's Companion in 1927, inviting American children to send copies of the magazine to German children. "The best and the only way to avoid wars in the future, and to bring all mankind into the brotherhood that should be ours, is to make boys and girls friends of one another around the world."78 Such friendships would prove too slight to stem the rising tide of nationalism in the coming decade. But Oberammergau remained a symbol of interfaith harmony at the foot of the cross until Adolf Hitler's rise to power placed the village in a new light


As Adolf Hitler consolidated his hold on Germany in the spring of 1933, news of Nazi sadism reached the American press: Jews were thrown from moving trams; enemies of the new regime - Jews and Communists, especially - were found dead every morning in the German countryside; an elderly Jewish professor had been driven to a remote rural area in the middle of the night and forced to tender his resignation before finding his own way home; seven Jews, including a father and son, had been arrested and forced at gunpoint to flog each other bloody.79

"We must forgive them [the Nazis]," Stephen Wise preached, "though they know that which they do." Adapting the words of Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:34), Wise subtly removed the Jews from the mocking crowd at the foot of the cross - their position in the Oberammergau play - and identified them as the crucified, even as he reached out to Christian leaders. "Non-Jews and well as Jews must forgive them. I turn to the Christian churches of America, to Cardinal, Bishop, priest and minister, and I say 'gain for them forgiveness by moving them to a change of heart, to a consciousness of the sin they are committing."80

A broad alliance of labor, Christian veterans of goodwill exchanges, and progressive politicians answered Wise's call. Some one hundred thousand people joined protests across the nation on March 28, representatives of the American Federation of Labor standing with representatives of Protestant and Catholic churches.81 At a mass rally in Madison Square Garden, Senator Robert Wagner, Bishop William T. Manning, and Bishop Francis T. McConnell, former president of the Federal Council of Churches, all joined Wise at the podium. But it was Al Smith, no stranger to the sting of religious bigotry, who brought the somber crowd to its feet. "Hitlerism with its anti-Semitic propaganda," he cried, "must be dragged into the open and given the same treatment we gave the Ku Klux Klan."82 With this statement, Smith assimilated the denunciation of the Nazis to the struggle against intolerance in America that had spurred the creation of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and other forums of goodwill. American liberals had witnessed the frightening alliance of religion and nationalism in the Ku Klux KJan less than a decade before. For many, Hitler's national rituals looked disturbingly similar.

Watching newsreels of ecstatic German crowds saluting their Leader, American liberals recognized something disconcertingly like religion in Nazi nationalism. The Christian Century reported that German orators were hailing Adolf Hitler as "an incarnation of the Holy Ghost,"*3 Even before Hitler took power, American liberals had feared nationalism as a challenge to Christian ecumenism and its promise of international peace. Worse, they feared that nationalism arose fiora Christianity's failure to hold loyalty of the masses. On the American college lecture circuit, Edward Shilito, British correspondent for the Christian Century and veteran of the international ecumenical movement, had warned that nationalism substituted a violent tribalism for the universal love of Christ The Christian Century promoted his Nationalism; Man s Other Religion on its editorial pages. Likewise Carlton Hayes, the Catholic member of the triumvirate steering the National Conference of Christians and Jews, had warned that "the mob" would fill the spiritual void left by modern skepticism with "near-by nationalist gods and fervent nationalist cults rather than with faroff cosmopolitan deities and vague humanitarianism."84

If nationalism, that "flailing Titan," as the Christian Century called it, threatened Christianity with false religion, then surely Jewish and Christian advocates of goodwill and other forms of "vague humanitarianism" stood united on the side of true religion.85 Indeed, the protests against Nazi atrocities in Madison Square Garden and in major cities across the land testified to such an alliance. But nationalism was actually a complicated and divisive issue between Christians and Jews. European Jews were clearly victims of the Nazis* nationalism, yet, ironically, Jews represented nationalism (as opposed to Christian universalism) in liberal Christian interpretations of the crucifixion. As the Nazis reversed Jewish emancipation in the homeland of liberal Judaism, Jews and Christians in America debated the meaning of the crucifixion. The coincidence of Oberammergau's tetrecentenary celebrations, scheduled for 1934, and Hitler's rise to power placed the Oberammergau Passion Play at the heart of the debate.


Horrified by rising anti-Semitism, American Jews returned to a familiar polemics about the crucifixion. Grappling with nationalism's challenge to Christian ecumenism, the Christian Century and other liberal forums likewise revisited the crucifixion, which they understood as the primal confrontation between nationalism (Judaism) and universalism (emergent Christianity). The real subject of debate was the Jewish contention that Christianity actually taught anti-Semitism and the Christian contention that Christianity offered a moral improvement over Judaism. Jewish critics of the play drew a straight line from its harsh portrayal of Jews to Hitler's racist anti-Semitism. If Christianity fostered prejudice and injustice, then, even in its most ecumenical form, it was not truly universal. By implication, therefore, the social privilege that Christianity enjoyed in America contradicted liberal ideals such as democracy and equality.

Bringing this argument to the popular press, Rabbi Philip Bernstein denounced the Oberammergau Passion Play in Harper's Magazine in 1931. (Bernstein would later serve as Jewish Advisor to the American Military Governor in Bavaria after World War II.)86 According to Bernstein, Christian teachings about the crucifixion united anti-Semitism from Romania and Russia to France, Germany, and the United States. Americans who denied that American anti-Semitism existed, Bernstein maintained, nevertheless sent their children to schools where Jews were not admitted, patronized businesses that excluded Jews, and supported universities without a single Jewish student.87

This social discrimination, according to Bernstein, had nothing to do with Jewish vulgarity and everything to do with Christian teachings. "The basic cause of anti-Semitism," he argued, "lies in those attitudes toward the Jew which Christianity has fashioned and fostered." To prove his point, Bernstein had visited Oberammergau and interviewed Guido Mayer, who portrayed Judas. Mayer's Judas struck Bernstein as "the perfect illusion of the greedy, grasping, contemptible Jew." Mayer admitted that he believed Judas to be an eternal Jewish type, "is it not shocking," Bernstein concluded, "that not only Mr. Mayer, but all the Oberammergauers and probably nearly all the three hundred and forty million members of their religious fellowship, have been taught to associate this horrible person [Judas] with the Jewish people?"88

The play is a "harsh and ancient religious libel that belongs in the Dark Ages," claimed Esther Moyerman, editor of the Jewish Times. Touristpilgrims at Oberammergau, she imagined, assembled in the town's quaint pensions to "talk over the glories of the Passion Play and exchange personal animosities against the Christ-killers. What a triumph for Christendom!" The New York Jewish Tribune likewise regretted that the audience at Oberammergau did not have a "healthier experience of spiritual awakening and of greater religious consciousness," fearing instead that the play awakened "a burning hatred for the Jew." The Jewish Tribune contrasted the portrayal of Jesus, "the embodiment of goodness," to the "fawning, grasping Judas" and concluded that if Jesus was God, then Judas represented the devil, and so did the Jews.89

Indeed, "the play drips poison," Christian Century editor Charles Clayton Morrison agreed, but only to the extent that it retained a medieval emphasis on the blood of Christ. Having safely relegated the more troubling aspects of the play to a lingering medieval Catholic influence, Morrison rejected any connection between Oberammergau and liberal, educated Protestant interpretations of the crucifixion. Judas was no mòre Jewish than Jesus, Morrison insisted, so neither figure represented Jewry. Rather, Jesus, according to Morrison, represented all, from the Hebrew prophets to Sacco and Vanzetti, who "suffer for the sake of progress the criticism and penalty imposed by the guardians of the folkways and institutions."90 In other words, Jesus was the paradigmatic victim of intolerance; therefore, the story of the crucifixion could not foster intolerance.

Morrison made this point much more plainly in a 1933 editorial congratulating American Christians for protesting the abuse of Jews in Germany. He called on both Jews and Christians to acknowledge a single truth in the cause of goodwill: "It was not Jews as Jews who crucified [Jesus] but Jews as nationalists" Jesus, according to Morrison, had threatened the narrow nationalism of Judaism with a new theology of universal love. "Thus the ironic circle is complete: Jewish nationalism crucified Christ, and Christian nationalism is now and for centuries has been engaged in crucifying the Jews!" Morrison called on the Jews to reverse the error of their ancestors and return to the foot of the cross. "Let the great Jew again speak the gospel to his own, and let his own this time receive him. . . . He belongs to them because they gave him to mankind and because their age-long travail and tragedy of soul is the supreme illumination of his own tragedy. Israel needs Jesus to complete its own life."91

This statement, preceded by denunciation of Christian (especially Catholic and fundamentalist) anti-Judaism, was evidently intended to conciliate and inspire American Jews. It failed. The superior universalism and Americanism of Christianity was precisely the Christian claim that liberal Jews were most eager to refute. The editorial provoked a flood of mail, mostly from Reform rabbis. Rabbi Ferdinand lsserman of Temple Israel, St. Louis, for instance, reversed Morrison 's argument, claiming it was the imperialism of Rome that had crucified Jesus. "The Christian Century, too, suffers from imperialism," he concluded, "the imperialism concealed in the philosophy of the missionary."92

Exempting Jews from the attentions of Christian missionaries was among the primary goals of liberal rabbis in dialogue with Christians. Christian missions to the Jews symbolized the distance between Jews and real Americans with legitimate religions. After all, the denominations within the Federal Council did not evangelize each other. By accusing Christianity of imperialism, lsserman pressed Christians to admit the legitimacy of Judaism as a truly American religion. Rabbi Samuel Schwartz of Chicago, going one step further, called for the purification of Christianity. Goodwill exchanges "heal the wound of your people but lightly" so long as "the Christian child goes back to his Bible" and finds Jews depicted there as "Christ-killers." Like Jesus, Schwartz argued, modem Jews "preach the truths voiced by Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and Hillel." "Did Jesus have any other truths?"93

Jesus had been a Jew, on this point both Morrison and his Jewish critics agreed. For liberai Protestants such as Morrison, the Jewishness of Jesus demonstrated that rea! Christianity could not possibly preach hatred of the Jews: Christianity, therefore, could serve as a unifying ethical source for Americans of all faiths. For liberal Jews, the Jewishness of Jesus demonstrated that Judaism and Christianity both contained the universal essence of Judaism: Judaism, therefore, was already liberal, universal, and American.


Anton Lang had avoided confronting Jewish hostility to Oberammergau during his American tour, even as he had positioned Oberammergau as the epitome of Christian goodwill ecumenism. Crucial to Lang's promotion of Oberammergau was the apparent simplicity of Oberammergau's actor-citizens, their unstudied ability to embody the spirit of their biblical characters, on and off the stage. Liberal Protestants such as Morrison agreed that Jesus, Mary, and the apostles were Jewish, so i followed that the Oberammergau players somehow embodied a Jewish spirit. As Hitler's anti-Semitic regime tightened its hold on Germany, therefore, some Americans perceived a threat to the Passion Play, not only for the Christianity of its subject but for the Jewishness of its crucified hero. The New York Times even dispatched a reporter to Oberammergau because a regime "that has waged war against the Jews of Germany" could hardly fail "to concern itself with a town where, every tenth year, the death of Christ is re-enacted."94

As swastika banners from a Nazi rally the day before waved over head, reporter G. E. R. Gedye peered into shop windows and found no carvings of Hitler among statues of Jesus, Mary, and the saints. Reassured, he interviewed prominent citizens about the effect of the anti-Semitic regime on the famous play. Rooted in the American Christian conviction that the play expressed the Christian ideals of universal brotherhood and peace, Gedye's questions were bizarre in the context of Nazi Germany. Even if the regime accepted depicting Jews as villains, Gedye asked, would Oberammergauers be reluctant to play "such sympathetic, though equally Semitic parts, as the Disciples, or Mary and Joseph or Mary Magdalene - and of Christ Himself?" "The villagers," Gedye observed, "even in ordinary life, are the living images of what we imagine the Jews of biblical times to have been." Was there any Jewish blood in the village?

"We none of us feel any reluctance about playing Jewish roles," the actor portraying Priest Nathaniel told Gedye. Hewing to Anton Lang's old description of Oberammergau as a bastion of Christ's peace, the actor claimed that the play transcended politics: "The play proved one of the great influences in reconciling people after the great slaughter" of World War I. As for the supposedly Jewish appearance of the actors, Oberinspektor Raab, speaking for the municipal committee in charge of the play, had a spiritual explanation: three centuries of performing the Passion Play had "through mind and spirit affected facial appearance." There was no Jewish blood, he assured the reporter, in this village of "Bavarian peasants." Anton Lang left Gedye with these reassuring words: "Tell my kind friends in America that often write to me the spirit of Oberammergau is unchanged."95

Despite Lang's protestations of normalcy, the Nazis were asserting control over Oberammergau. The new regime dissolved the parish council in charge of the play and ordered the new council to reflect the distribution of political parties in the Reichstag. This arrangement gave the Nazi Party a majority of one over the Catholic Bavarian People's Party, while only one member represented the Social Democrats.96 Adolf Hitler himself visited Oberammergau in 1934, just two weeks before the August 19th plebiscite that would make Hitler Führer and Chancellor of Germany. Hitler may have visited Oberammergau to secure the Bavarian Catholic vote, but he also recognized the play's potential as anti-Semitic propaganda.97 "Never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the time of the Romans," he later commented. "There one sees in Pontius Pilate a Roman so racially and intellectually superior, and he stands like a firm, clean rock amid the muck and mire of Jewry."98

Likewise Bavarian State Minister Hermann Esser appreciated Oberammergau 's ability to present a respectable image of the new regime to a skeptical world. He promised the villagers that the Oberammergau Passion Play would serve the nation by countering the "misunderstanding of Germany abroad." To entice tourists, the German government cut railway fares to Oberammergau in half, reduced prices on Lufthansa and hotels by a third, and opened a new rail Une to the town.99 In the spirit of international goodwill, Anton Lang invited the New York Knights of Columbus to view the Passion Play.100 Oberammergau's American friends responded; the Catholic Travel League of New York advertized Oberamrnergau prominently in a thirty-one-day package tour to include Rome and Lourdes for $395, all expenses included,101

The council tried to prevent the swastika from overshadowing the cross on the streets of Oberammergau, yet many Oberammergauers joined the Nazis. Of the 714 actors, including children, who participated in the 1934 play, 152 had joined the Nazi Party by May of 1937.m2 One reporter noted "the odd combination of the brown shirt with the flowing locks and full-grown beard of the pre-Christian era" among the actor-citizens on the village streets.103 In the new political climate, Anton Lang, now sixty-three and ailing, stepped aside as Christus.

Alois Lang, the new Christus, emphasized Christ's "virility and strength,"104 "Never have Oberammergau's Jewish mobs been more virulent," noted a New York Times reporter, "never have the Pharisees and priests who invoke the mob been more vehement than this year. Piiate stands out pleading with the persecuting hierarchs - an Aryan who is their noble foe."105 Despite minor reservations, the reporter praised the performance and urged Americans to attend. The village still charmingly combined the biblical and the everyday, he noted, and how could a traveler miss the opportunity to purchase embroidery from the shop of Mary Magdalene?

Despite Alois Lang's virility and Mary Magdalene's needlework, the percentage of foreign tourists in the audience declined. In 1934 foreigners made up only a fifth of the record 410,000 in attendance. m6 By contrast, a third of the 380,000 who attended in 1930 had come from abroad, mostly from the United States and Britain.107 The Depression certainly reduced travel, as did the Nazis1 own tactics. The regime subjected tourists to humiliating searches - even, as one reporter noted indignantly, requiring travelers to remove their shoes - to prevent them from removing more than the legal limit of fifty marks from the country.108

Despite such inconveniences, it was still possible for American reporters to assert that Oberammergau had kept its essential spirit, even under the Nazis. American Christians continued to invoke Oberammergau as a symbol of Christian ecumenism and international peace. During the Lent, both Catholic and Protestant churches offered lectures on Oberammergau, with slides and musical accompaniment.109 In a goodwill gesture that faintly echoed Anton Lang's American tour, Mary Rutz, who played the Virgin Mary at Oberammergau, visited Bloomington, Illinois, to meet the American woman portraying Mary.110

So entrenched was Oberammergau 's reputation as an outpost of Christian civilization, even in Nazi Germany, that Commonweal feared for the safety of the village as relations between the German government and the Catholic Church deteriorated. In the fall of 1937, the German government closed Catholic schools in Bavaria, bringing education under state control. In response, Commonweal published a lament for Oberammergau under the title "Cross vs. Swasktika." "What stress and strain between God and Fuehrer, between Church and State! Behind those frescoed walls and flowering window boxes, what anxiety must be, what grieving!" Would school children in Oberammergau, wondered Commonweal, celebrate the "birth of one who would twist the extended arms of the cross into a crooked swastika?" Faced with this desecration, Commonweal predicted - perhaps hoped - that the village faced martyrdom. "That village once so peaceful, so Catholic in the full sense of that word, is being drawn closer to its Lord along the road He traveled, the road of cross-bearing."111


Commonweal's confident anticipation of the martyrdom of Oberammergau marked the apex of Oberammergau *s American reputation as a Christian fortress in an unfaithful world. With the end of the war, the villagers' true response to Nazism - pragmatic accommodation in some quarters and enthusiastic support in others - became apparent. Soon after entering Oberammergau in April of 1945, the U.S. Array arrested Passion Play director Georg Lang,"2 A member of the Nazi Party since 1934, Georg Lang was charged with creating Nazi propaganda posters. His arrest drew attention to ways in which Oberammergau's famous Passion play had supported Nazi ideology. Alois Lang, too, soon faced trial in a denazification court to determine the degree of his support for the Nazi Party.113

Nor was propaganda the village's only contribution to the German war effort. Qberammergau had also hosted a Messerschmitt research and development facility working on jet aircraft, which brought some of Germany's most valuable scientists to the village. Their number included rocket expert Werner von Braun, later crucial to the American space program, and Hans Kammler, who designed and built the crematoria at Auschwitz. Hoping to evade Soviet capture and fall into American hands, the two men whiled away the last days of the war at the Hotel Alois Lang, popularly known as the "Jesus House."1'4 The Christus had fallen into morally dubious company.

According/y, the Christian Century's correspondent Wiilard Heaps struck a new note of cynicism in his 1946 report from Oberammergau. Heaps portrayed the villagers as thoroughly complicit with the Nazi regime "though as usual immediately on occupation all the inhabitants became 'good Germans' who had been victims of Gestapo and nazi [sic] persecution." "No Oberammergauer can be found who knew anything about the concentration camps," he wrote, "though Dachau is but 75 miles away."115 In Oberammergau's Messerschmitt plant, he reported, "500 Hungarians" had been "literally worked to exhaustion." Sixty percent of the villagers in Oberammergau had been active members of the Nazi Party, a percentage that Heaps considered high compared to other parts of Germany. "Photographs reveal the obvious joy of Passion Play principals in the visit of the Führer," he added.1"* Likewise Walter Behr, the American Theater Control Officer in charge of reviving the play, was dismayed to find few actors without Nazi affiliations. "The whole village of Oberammergau," Behr later recalled, "had one of the highest percentages of Nazi followers" so that "almost all the members of the famous cast were members of the Nazi party since 1933. "l17

Heaps presented membership in the Nazi Party as a sign that Oberammergau had been "unfaithful to the Master" and succumbed to the seductions of nationalism. Oberammergau, according to Heaps, had utterly failed to live up to its status as a bastion of Christian love. "Affected by the moral degeneracy and debasement of nazism," Heaps concluded, "it was easy for them to forget the tradition of the village as a world-wide symbol of Christianity." Now, "like other Germans, the villagers look to the occupying Americans for forgiveness and absolution.""8

In the case of Alois Lang, that search for forgiveness was the literal truth. Before the denazification tribunal on May 27, 1947, Lang struck the familiar pose of Christ before Pilate, his "hands linked before him, his voice lowpitched and gentle." ' ' Lang testified that he had joined the Nazi Party in 1937, but only reluctantly, in order to obtain a license to operate his inn. Two Jews supported Lang: a woman who had once resided at the inn and Max-Peter Meyer. Oberammergau 's sole Jewish resident, Meyer had been expelled from the village by a mob right after Kristalnacht. The leader of that mob, Anton Preisinger, now stood accused beside Lang.120 Both witnesses testified that Lang had always been kind to them personally, implying that there was "no taint" of anti-Semitism or Nazism in him. The court found that Lang was a Nazi follower and fined him one thousand marks. Preisinger, who had played Lazarus in 1934, was fined two thousand marks and assessed part of the cost of the trial.121 By contrast, Hans Zwink stood out as an opponent to Nazism, reportedly even keeping a picture of Roosevelt on his wall during the war.122 In 1934, ironically enough, Zwink had played Judas Iscariot.

With the Christus a Nazi-of-convenience and Judas a lonely anti-Nazi, the journalistic convention of identifying the Passion players with their roles no longer flattered Oberammergau. Now Time Magazine conflated players and roles with malicious irony, reporting, "St. Peter, St. John, and St. Joseph are all due to come before the denazifying Spruchkammer [tribunal] at GarmishPartenkirchen within the next few weeks." Contending that many of Zwink 's fellow villagers regarded him as a traitor for his anti-Nazi stance, the article gave the last word to "Oberammergau 's twinkling-eyed Judas." As for "the paradox of his anti-Nazism and his role," Zwink said, "I find it pretty funny myself. One would expect at least the same [anti-Nazism] from Jesus Christ - but if it's not there, it's not there."123

Like Heap in the Christian Century, Time portrayed Nazism as faithlessness to Christ. Fortunately for American officials attempting to revive Oberammergau as a tourist destination, the metaphor of sin readily suggested redemption. In the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, a German Passion Play had economic, ideological, and religious value. Accordingly, the New York National Arts Foundation took an early step toward Oberammergau 's redemption when it invited Alois Lang and Georg Lang - convicted Nazis, both - to serve on its advisory committee in 1949.

Outraged, Behr wondered publicly if it was possible to pull "the veil of forgiveness" over Oberammergau when its leaders were "Nazi followers, Class IV." "Hitler's ideas about religion should be well known by now. And did not these two [Alois Lang and Georg Lang] follow him with party oath, etc.? How does all this fit together?"124 In reply, Carleton Smith, director of the National Arts Foundation, presented the forgiveness of Oberammergau as a triumph of Christianity. ''Whatever Hitler's ideas of religion, the Christian concept includes that of redemption," Smith wrote. "Should not those who believe in Christ's teachings bring them before a large German and international public? Or is it wiser to condemn forever and refuse to help Hitler's followers, Class IV, on their road back to full membership in the world community?"125

Accordingly, the 1 950 performance of the Passion Play began with the symbolic endorsement of the American and British governments. At a gala preview, the American and British High Commissioners sat in the balcony, very much on display, shoulder to shoulder with German President Theodore Huess and Chancellor Konrad Adenaur, all apparently spellbound by the first performance of the play since 1934. Anton Preisinger, so recently a Nazi, now played the Christus. Alois Lang, now the narrator, sang the closing hymn to a rapt audience.126

In the press coverage of the 1950 play, the question of anti-Semitism hardly arose. The Jewish press, pre-occupied with the new State of Israel, did not highlight the issue. Commonweal passed over without comment Oberammergau 's failure to achieve martyrdom under the Nazis. Pope Pius XII even praised the Oberammergau Passion Play as a "moral and religious" alternative to the "immoral, irreligious, and vulgar" offerings of the secular stage.127 Apparently, the trial of Alois Lang had allowed the world to draw the curtain over Oberammergau's Nazi past.


This polite amnesia would not survive the upheavals of the late 1 96Os and 1 97Os. During Second Vatican Council, the Church repudiated the depiction of the Jews as déicides and opened the door to religious dialogue. In this new context, Oberammergau's Passion play appeared theologically reactionary. Pope John ???? withheld the Vatican's official endorsement of the play.128 Among American Protestants, too, the approach to Jews became yet another symbolic issue dividing liberals from conservatives. Liberals chose dialogue over missions, affirming the continuity between Christianity and Judaism.129 Both Catholic and Protestant theologians began to re-examine Christian responsibility for the Holocaust.130 Emboldened, Jewish leaders called for a boycott of the Oberammergau Passion Play in 1970. This tune, the Christian Century concurred, denouncing a "bad scene" at Oberammergau.131

Despite several revisions, the Oberammergau Passion Play has never recovered its pre-war luster; most recently, the pedophile-priest scandal has rocked the village.132 DQ the interwar period, Anton Lang had been able to represent Oberammergau as the embodiment to Christian goodwill, transcending narrow and violent nationalism. Oberammergau's cooperation with the Nazis certainly undermined this image. Just as importantly, Black Nationalism and the ethnic identity movements of the 1960s and 1970s challenged the anti-nationalist, universalist claims of pre-war liberalism. Galvanized by the Six Day War, American Jews reclaimed the Holocaust as a marker of identity and the emotional fuel for a newly passionate attachment to Israel.133 Popular histories such as Arthur Morse's While Six Million Died (1968) denounced Franklyn Roosevelt and the liberal establishment as bystanders at the Holocaust. As a consequence of this shift in discourse, Oberammergau's American reputation in the interwar years as a bastion of Christian goodwill has all but vanished from memory. Yet between the wars, even S. Parkes Cadman, a founding member of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, saw hope for humanity in Oberammergau. In his own way, so did Adolf Hitier.

From our perspective three quarters of a century later, it seems that it was Hitler who understood the play more astutely. With a more virile Christus and the most minor revision, the Passion Play served the Nazis as respectable anti-Jewish propaganda.134 The Oberammergau of American Christians' imaginations had always been a chimera. But, then, the American debates about Oberammergau had never really been about that distant Bavarian village; they were about the future of an increasingly diverse American nation. Seen from this perspective, the fantasy of Oberammergau as an ecumenical paradise arose from liberal Protestants' most generous impulses. Embracing Oberammergau, they hoped to heal the wounds of the World War I - not though governments, but through Christ and art. They reached out to Catholics, even in an era when Protestants and Catholics distrusted each other and the Vatican frowned on interfaith dialogue. In their fantasies about Oberammergau, liberal Protestants imagined a simple ecumenism of peoples and denominations united by Christ.

Celebrating ecumenism and goodwill in this manner required eliding differences rather than exploring them. Lauding Oberararnergau, most liberal Protestants apparently never noticed that Catholics regarded Passion plays as points of dissent from Protestant culture. Insensitive to nuances in Catholic rhetoric, most liberal Protestants were surprisingly deaf to Jewish critiques of Oberammergau. But Jewish criticism of traditional teachings about the crucifixion would emerge again after World War ?. The Jewish-French historian Jules Isaac, in cooperation with the National Conference of Christians and Jews, pressed for these changes at the Second Vatican Council, arguing that all anti-Semitism, even the racist anti-Semitism of the Nazis, had its roots in Christian tradition.135 The debates over Oberammergau illuminate a particular moment in early interfaith dialogue before Christians engaged in goodwill had truly internalized these critiques and their consequences. The story of Oberammergau in the imaginations of Americans is a timely reminder of how profoundly people of goodwill can misunderstand each other. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, American Muslims, like Jews before them, find themselves portrayed as aliens in a Christian nation. As liberals search for a new language of unity that will acknowledge the nation's increasing religious pluralism, they would do well to remember the history of Oberammergau's reputation for goodwill, and its fall.

1"Oberammergau Passion Play" (ad), Review of Reviews 89 (April 1934), 56.

2 Mark Silk, "Notes on the Judéo-Christian Tradition," American Quarterly 36 (Spring 1 984): 66.

3 S. Parkes Cadman, "Unity Not Uniformity," in Christian and Jew: A Symposium for Better Understanding, ed. Isaac Laodman (New York: Horace Liverighl, 1929), 146.

4 Benny Kraut, "A Wary Collaboration: Jews, Protestants, and Catholics in the Early Goodwill Movement," in Between the Times: the Travail of the Protestant Estahl'tshment in America. 1900-1960, ed. William R. Huichinson (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1989), 193.

5 Kraut, "A Wary Collaboration," 193.

6 Alfred Williams Anthony. "The Jewish Problem: An Essay in Understanding and Goodwill," Christian Work (October 4, 1924), 374.

7 Benay Kraut, 'Toward the Establishment of the National Conference of Christians and Jews: The Tenuous Road to Religious Goodwill in the 1920s," American Jewish History 77 (March 1988): 402-3.

8 John Herring. "A Constructive Program for Goodwill between Jews and Christians," Federal Council Bulletin (November-December i925), 3J.

9 George Seldes, "Peace Has Come, But Little Good Will - 'Christus,"' Chicago Daily Tribune (December 25, 1921), 11.

10 Quoted in William Swatos, Jr., "Half and Half," in On the Road to Being There: Studies in Pilgrimage and Tourism in Late Modernity, ed. William Swatos, Jr. (Boston: Brill, 2006), xii.

11 Tilomas Bremer, Blessed wilk Tourists: The Borderlands ana Tourism in San Amonio f Chapel HiU: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 6-8.

12"Oberammergau's Traditions: By a Berlin Correspondent." The Living Age (May 27, 1922), 550.

13 "Won't Film Passion Play; Oberammergau Players Refuse American Offer," New York Times (November 19, 1921), 11.

14"Passion Players Homeward Bound," New York ?a?&? (May 16, 1924), 34.

15 AnIOn Lang, "Christus of Oberammergau," The Living Age (August 26, 1 922). 314. This article first appeared in the English Uberai Westminster Gazette on July 20, 1922.

16 For a discussion of the complex origins of the play and the story of the vow, see James Shapiro, Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World's Most Famous Passion Play (New York: Pantheon, 2000), 101-10.

17 "The Passion Play," indiana Farmer s Guide (December 17, 1923), 33, 55.

18"Life, Letters, and the Arts: Oberammergau in Distress," Living Age (May 1, 1926), 287.

19 Claire Sponsler, Ritual Imports: Performing Medieval Drama in America (Ithaca, N .Y. : Cornell University Press, 2004), 125.

20 Charies Musser, "Passions and the Passion Play; Theater, Film, and Religion in America, 1880-1900," Film History 5 (December 1993), 431-32.

21 "Liners Booked Up for Passion Play," New York Times (April 9, 1 922), 37; "First Public Day of Passion Play," New York Tmes (May 15, 1922), 1.

22 "Munich Is Plucking the Tourist Goose." New York Times (May 14, 1922), 1.

23"American Women Balk German Overcharging," New York Times (May 23, 1922), 22.

24"Tbe Tourist Homeward Plods His Weary Way," Life (September 22, 1922), 11.

25Seldes, "Peace Has Come," II; "Cast for Passion Play: Anton Lang again to Be Christus," New York Times (November 13, 1921), 17.

26 "Passion Players Land," New York Times (December 13, 1923), 25.

27"Lang Likes Bobbed Hair: Oberammergau Player Thinks Our Girls AU Right," New York Times (May 7, 1924); "Anton Lang's Slang Picked Up in U.S.," Washington Post (December 19, 1926), A3.

28 No Peace by Magic," Washington Pail (January Í6, 1924), 6; "Seven-Word Peace Plan Offered by Anton Lang," Washington Post (January 13, 1924), 19; "Anton Lang Radios His Blessing," New York Times (January 17, 1924), I.

29 Donald Meyer, The Protestant Search for Political Realism (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1988), 153-57.

30 "Coolidge Curtails Passion Players' Visit When Introducer Makes Political Speech," New York Times (March 16, 1924), L

31"President Explains to Passion Players," New York Times (March 18, 1924), 14.

32 "President Explains," 14.

33 "Lang Will Explain Incident to Coolidge," New York Times (March 17, 1924), 2.

34"Passion Seen as Omen of Peace," Washington Posi (May 1 5, 1 922), 8.

35 "Keeping the Faith," Chicago Defender (January 26, 1924), 12.

36 "Clergy Hail Apostle of Peace," New York Times (Januaiy 3, 1924), 7.

37 Shapiro, Oberammergau, 65-72.

38 JeSSe Dancey, "The Oberammergau Passion Play," Methodist Review (January 1923), 39.

39 Quoted in "Keeping the Faith," 12.

40 James Whittaker, "A Presentation of the Passion Play is Attempted by a Cast in Hoboken," Chicago Daily Tribune (February 20, 1921), Fl.

41 For a brief account of these laws, see Alan Nielson, The Great Victorian Sacrilege: Preachers, Politics, and the Passion, 1879-1884 (London: McFarland, 1 99 1 ), 8-28.

42 Musser, "Passions and the Passion Play," 434.

43 'Bishop Approves Fight on Blue Law," New York Times (February 16, 1923), 1 5; "Pastor Fined for Passion Play," Hartford Courant (February 12, 1923), ] 6; "Sunday Passion Play costs Priest Sl Fine," Washington Post (February 16, 1923), 1; "Sunday Passion Play Is To Be Permitted," Washington Posi (February Ig, 1923). 1; "May Seek Redress for Blue Law Fine," New York Times (February 19, 1923).

44 Will Rogers, "Slipping the Lariat Over," New York Times (February 25, 1 923), 2.

45 Musser, "Passions and the Passion Play," 421-22.

46 Louis Williams, The American Passion Play. A Study and a History (BIoomington, III.: The American Passion Play, 1970), 82-83.

47 "Anton Lang Sees Passion Play Here," New York Times (December 17, 1923), 17.

48 Musser, "Passions and Oie Passion Play," 422. For the checkered history of Passion plays in America before the 1920s, see Sponsler, Ritual Imports, 133-38.

49"Y.M.C.A. to Give Easter Messages," Hartford Courant (April 14, 1924), 7.

50 William J. Thompson, "Drama in the Service of Worship," Methodist Review (March 1931), 48.

51 T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Anti-Modernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 188Q-I92Q (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 198-203. See also Kim Moreland, The Medievalist Impulse in American Literature: Twain, Adams, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway (Charlottesvitte: University Press of Virginia, 1996), 1-26.

52 Remhold Niebuhr, "At Oberammergau," Christian Century (August 13, 1930), 983.

53 For a breakdown of the Catholic and Protestant vote suggesting that prejudice against Catholics was crucial to the election, see Alan J. Lich&nan, Prejudice and the Old Politics (Lanham, Md.: Lexington, 2000), 41.

54 FOr a more detailed discussion of this Catholic rniddJe way, see James Terence Fisher, TAe Catholic Counter-Culture in America: 1933-1962, in Studies in Religion, ed. Charles H. Long (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 43-47.

55 Margaret Mary Reher, Catholic Intellectual Life in America, ed. Christopher J. Kaufmann (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 118.

56 William Halsey, The Survival of American Innocence: Catholicism in an Era of Disillusionments. 1920-1940 (South Bend, Ind.: Notre Dame University Press, 1980), 63.

57 Richard Linn EdsaII, "Impressions of Oberammergau," Commonweal 13 (December 24, 1 930), 207.

58 Edsall, "Impressions of Oberammergau," 207.

59 James J. Wdsh, "Oberammergau," Commonweal 12 (August 20, 1930), 403.

60Susannah Heschel, Abraham Geiger and !he Jewish Jesus (Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1 998), 229-42.

61 For the role of this polemic in the German origins of Reform Judaism, see Heschel, Abraham Geiger, 78-83. For Jesus in Jewish art, see Ziva Amishai-Meisels, "The Jewish Jesus," Journal of Jewish Art 9 (1982), 86-104. For Jesus in American rabbinical rhetoric, see George Berlin, Defending the Faith: Nineteenth Century Jewish Writing on Christianity and Jesus, ed. Robert Neville (Albany: State University of New York, 1989). For this rhetoric in the goodwill movement, see Sonja Spear, Jesus the Jew (Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlang, 2009).

62 Madison Grant, The Passing of the Creai Race (New York: Charles Scribner, 1916), 14. For Madison Grant's place in the history of racism, see Jonathan Peter Spiro, Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grani (Burlington: University of Vermont Press, 2009).

63 Gulie Ne'eman Arad, America, fts Jews, and the Rise of Nazism (Blootnington: Indiana University Press, 2000), 66-67.

64 Alfred Williams Anthony, "Goodwill between Christians and Jews," Federal Council Bulletin (September/October 1924), 21.

65 Alfred Williams Anthony, '"The Jewish Problem': An Essay in Understanding and Goodwill," Christian Work (October 4, 1924), 370.

66 Anthony, "Goodwill," 21.

67 Crawford Toy, Judaism and Christianity: The Progress of Thought from Old Testament to New Testament (Boston: Little, Brown, 1901), 342, 349; Harold Weschlet, "Anti-Semitism in the Academy," American Jewish Archives (Spring/Summer 1990): IJ.

68 Quoted in Berlin, Defending the Faith, 67.

69Max Hunterberg, The Crucified Jew (New York: Bloch, 1927), 96. For Hunterberg 's influence, see Ziva Amshai-Maisels, "Faith, Ethics and the Holocaust: Christological Symbolism of the Holocaust," Holocaust and Genocide Studies 3 (1986), 457.

70Jonathan Sama, JPS: The Americanization of Jewish Culture, i888-1988 (New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 19; Martin Beifield Jr., "The Americanization of Reform Judaism - Joseph Kxauskopf, a Case Study," in When Philadelphia Was the Capital of Jewish America, ed. Murray Friedman (Philadelphia: Baldi Institute Press, 1993), 158.

71 Wise preached frequently on the Jewish character of Jesus and on Christianity's failure to embody the ideals of its founder. These sermons proved controversial, especially with Orthodox Jews. Wise's "Christmas Sermon" of 1925 provoked such a furor that an alliance of Orthodox rabbis and members of the Mizrachi Party challenged Wise's leadership of the United Palestine Appeal, the rundratsing arm of the American Zionist Organization. For a full account of the scandal, which owed as much to tensions between religious and secular Zionists as it did to Wise's views on Jesus, see Spear, Jesus the Jew, 76-87. See also Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How ihe Son of God Became a National Icon (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 199O)1 229-67.

72 Excerpts from Yesterday's Sermons," New York Times (October 12, 1936), 25.

73Wise founded the Free Synagogue in 1 907 so that he could preach without interference from a board of trustees concerning the social issues of his time, including the rights of workers. The Free Synagogue - "pewless and dueless," in the phrase of supporter Henry Morganthau Sr. - encouraged the attendance of Christians as well as Jews.

74"Dr. Wise Condemns Play," New York Times (May 19, 1923), 23.

7S"Dr. Wise Condemns 'King of Kings'" (December 5, 1927), 30. DeMiIIe made some revisions to the crucifixion scene to accommodate the concerns of the B'nai B'rith, see Yael Ohad-Kamy, "'Anticipating' Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The Controversy over Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings, " Jewish History 19, no. 2 (2005): 6.

76"Dr. Wise Condemns the Passion Play," New York Times (May 19, 1930), 23.

77 Keeping the Faith," Chicago Defender (January 26, 1924), 12.

78"The Youth's Companion in Oberammergau," Youth's Companion (March 3, 1927).

79'Terror in Germany Amazes Novelist," New York Times (March 21, 1933), U; "German Fugitives Tell of Atrocities at Hands of Nazis," New York Times (March 20, 1933), 1.

80 "Sorrows for Germany," New York Times (March 20, 1933), 13.

81 '"Other Faiths Join In," New York Times (March 28, 1933), 1 .

82 "Other Faiths," I,

83 "Germany Welcomes the Messiah," Christian Century (August 10, 1933), 1032. Justin W. Nixon, "The Churches' ] Nixon. "The Churches' Dilemma," Christian Century (October 25, 1933), 1333.

84 Carlton Hayes, The 84CaTiRm Hayes, The Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism (New Vori: Russelí and Russell, 1931), 298-99.

85Charles Clayton Morrison. "Nationalism: Man's Other Religion," Christian Century (May 1933), 672.

86 Shapiro, Oberammergau, 148.

87 Philip Bernstein, "Unchristian Christianity and the Jew," Harper's Magazine 1 62 (May 1 93 1 ), 671.

88 Berastein, "Unchristian Christianity," 663.

89 "Is the Passion Ptay Anti-Semitic?" Literary Digest 106 (September 13, 1930), 21.

90 "Charles Clayton Morrison, "Is the Passion Play Anti-Semitic?" Christian Ceñían (September 3, 1930), 21.

91 Charles Clayton Morrison, "Jews and Jesus," Christian Century (May 3, 1933). 584,

92 Correspondence," Christian Century (May 17, 1933), 660,

93 Correspondence," 659.

92 WO. E. R. Gedye. "Nazis Penetrate Oberammergau." New York Times (My 2, 1933), SM II.

95 Gedye, "Nazis Penetrate," SM 1 1 .

96 'Nazis Will Chose Cast for Passion Play at Oberammergau 's Tetrecenfenary Next Year," New York Times (April 25, 1933), 1.

97 Shapiro, Oberammergau, 153, 166-67.

98 '"Hitler made these comments at a dinner on July 5, 1942. Quoted in Shapiro, Oberammergau, 168.

99 Hugh Jedell, "Three Passion Playera to Have New Roles," New York Times (October 22, 1933), E2; "Germans Make Huge Drive for More Tourists," Chicago Tribune (May 27, 1934), 9.

100 "Group to Visit Oberammergau," New York Times (April 16, 1934), 35.

101 "Uhtilled advertisement, New York rimes (April 22, 1934), XX9.

102 Shapiro, Oberammergau, 149. During the de-nazification trials after the war, the American army regarded those who joined the Nazi Party before 1937 as pure Nazis by conviction, admitting that those who joined later might have done so under pressure.

103"Passion Play Opens Season on Sunday," WPW York Times (May 16, 1934), 10.

104 An(On and Alois Lang were probably cousins. In the wake of Alois Lang's (rial, however, Anton Lang, Jr., son of the famous Christus, maintained that the two men were related distantly "if at all." Anton Lang, Jr., who evidently shared his father's enthusiasm for the United States, was a professor at Georgetown University. "Not the Same Lang." New York limes (May 29, 1947), 23.

105 Frederick Birchau, "Give Passion Play in Obeiammeigau," New York Times (May IS, 1934), 12,

106 Shapiro, Oberamtnurgau, 157; "Oberammergau Draws 5000 tu Opening," New York Times (May 22, 1934). [ am following Shapiro's lower estimate of attendance here.

107 "Passion Play Opens Season," 10.

108 Frederick T. Birchall, "Germany Now Submits Traveler to Thorough Search on Leaving," New York Times (May 7, 1934), 1 .

109 For instance: "Lecture to Aid Children" New York Times (January 4, 1935), 25; "Church Programs in the City Today," New York Times (March 13, 1935), NlO; "Church Programs in the City Today," New York Times (October 20, 1935), N8; "Church Programs in the City Today," New York Times (18 April 1936), 16.

110 "Marys of Drama Meet,'1 New York Times (July 19, 1937), II.

111 Charles Carter Brodrick, "Cross vs. Swasika," Commonweal 26 (October, 1 1937), 515.

112 Will LangJr,, "Is It I?" Time Magazine (May 1 9, 1 947), retrieved from magazirie/article/0,9 1 71, 933678.00.html (accessed January 24, 2010).

113 Willard Heaps, "Oberammergau Today," Christian Century (December 4, 1946), 1468; Shapiro, Obet-ammergau, 1 70.

114 Dennis Piszkiewicz, The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crime,·; of War Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995), 207; Shapiro, Oberammergau, 170.

115 Heaps, "Oberammergau Today," 146S.

116 Heaps, "Oberammergau Today," 1468.

117 "Other Letters," New York Times (August 21, 1949), Xl.

118 Heaps, "Oberammergau Today," 1469.

119 "Alois Lang, Christus, Wins Mercy as Ex-Nazi on Testimony of Jews," New York Times (May 28, 1947), 7.

120 Shapiro, Oberammergau, 223.

121"Alois Lang, Christus, Wins Mercy," 7.

122 Lang, "Is It I?" 2.

123 LaUg, "Is It I?" 2.

124"Drama Posts for Längs," Nw York Times (August 1 1, 1949), 27; "Other Letters," New York Times (August 21, 1949), Xi.

125 "Oberanraiergau Players," New York Times (September 25, 1949), X2.

126 Kathleen McLaughlin, "Passion Play Given after Ban since "34," New York Times (May 19, i950), 29.

l27"Pope Pius Condemns Immorality on Stage," Ne\v York Times (September 21, 1950), 20.

128 Jeremy Cohen, Chris! Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 214-15.

129 Yaakov Ariel, Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews in America, 1880-2000 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 133-34.

130 Partly in response to the Vietnam lAkr, Christian theologians on the Uberai left criticized Christianity's history of violence, with particular emphasis on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. For Christian theologians' autobiographical reflections on this aspect of Jewish-Christian dialogue, see Carol Rittner and John K. Roth, eds., From the Unthinkable to the Unavoidable: American Christian and Jewish Scholars Encounter the Holocaust (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997).

l31 "Bad Scene at Oberammergau," Christian Century (May 27, 1970).

132 Nicholas KuUsh, "Church Crisis Shakes German Town Long Faithful to Tradition," New York Time! (May 15,2010), A4.

133 Marshall Sklare, "Lakeville and Israel: The Six-Day War and Ets Aftermath," Midstream 14 (October 1968). 4-28, Peter Novjck, The Holocaust in American Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 176-88.

134Before 1934, a speech calling on God to destroy the Jews, "who against Thee now rise up/in murderous league/in scorn of Thine Only Son," ends with an invocation of God's mercy; "Sinners through His Mercy shall inherit/Mercy, blessedness, and peace." In the 1934 version, lines invoking God's mercy were removed. Shapiro, Oberammergau, 1 57.

135 "Decree Reflects Jews' Long Woes," Nw York Times (October 29. 1 965), 20.

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