"... en Oase i Ørkenen"? Om Frederik Torms engagement i Luther-Akademie Sondershausen 1932-1939 belyst gennem hans brevveksling med Erling Eidem

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The article sheds light upon the experiences and considerations behind the Danish professor Frederik Torm’s (1870-1953) engagement, struggle for, but ultimately also discontinuation of the academic collaboration with German colleagues in Lutherakademie Sondershausen (LAS) from 1932-1939. The study uses unpublished source material, primarily his correspondence with Erling Eidem (1880-1972), but also with Carl Stange (1870-1959).The article first introduces Torm and briefly explains two of his perceptions central to this context. The first, his understanding of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, which is oriented towards history of salvation and motivated, among other things, his great work for Israelmissionen. The second, his interest in the relationship between church and state, which meant that he found efforts towards a German Reichskirche from 1933 were highly problematic.
Both ecumenical efforts and the Luther Renaissance were in vogue when the German Luther scholar Carl Stange (1870-1959) took the initiative to found the LAS in 1932. He wanted to create an international forum for Lutheran theology and strengthen relations between Lutheran theologians. Stange had studied in Sweden and considered the ties to the Nordic churches to be most valuable. From the beginning, Torm experienced a German desire for ecumenism and at the same time tensions in the German church. He saw both as good reasons to engage in cooperation with his colleagues in Germany.
The first convention in 1932 is held without significant influence from the political situation. Eidem and Torm are elected as Scandinavian members of the Academy’s board, and Torm is clearly given a significant leadership role from the beginning. In October 1933, at Torm’s request, Eidem becomes chairman of the LAS, a position he held until 1943. The correspondence shows how both are constantly thinking strategically about church politics in relation to the composition
of the academy, and how they actively make an effort to safeguard the academy’s ecumenical DNA as well as openness in the professional collaboration. At the same time, the letters emphasize Torm’s clear awareness of the issue of recognition in connection with the struggles in the German church. For example, it was crucial for Torm that he, as a foreigner, did not inadvertently add his name and title to an endorsement of the bishop of the Reichskirche, Ludwig Müller. Torm made
significant and courageous efforts to preserve the academy’s continued independence in relation to the new church authorities and the Nazi regime, and he consistently sought to work against weakening of LAS’s academic freedom.
Another instance is Torm’s celebratory speech in 1935, in which he presents his views on the current political situation, but in a way that does not risk undermining LAS’s continued work. The speech illustrates how Torm’s conservative church views and arguments for ecumenical work lead to a political critique of the system.
Torm’s experiences in LAS also has an influence back in Denmark. An example is Torm’s important contribution against anti-Semitism in 1936, when The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is republished in Denmark. His considerable efforts on this occation is markedly influenced by his experience with the German colleagues. In 1936, he gave the lecture Die erste Christliche Gemeinde in ihrem Verhältnis zum Judentum at LAS, and the letters document an increased tension
between the members internally, especially Torm and Stange. At the same time, they testify to strategic considerations in order to maintain contact with those German colleagues, who are critical of the system and working under increasing pressure. The tense atmosphere only escalates, and Torm reports several incidents that intimidates the Academy’s independence and embarrass the foreign participants.
From 1937, it becomes ever more difficult for Torm to hide his criticism of political developments. He tries to balance between making it clear to his German colleagues that he understands and supports them in their difficult situation, on the one hand, and not endangering those same colleagues on the other. At the same time, he experiences increasing pressure on the leadership from the German church authorities, and in 1939 he attends a convention for the last time.
A letter from Stange in December 1938 contributed to the breakup, and although Eidem tried to put pressure on Torm, he did not succeed in bridging the gap. On the contrary, Torm’s publication in 1939 of his Danish book on the so-called Church Struggle in Germany 1933-1939 cemented the final break. At the same time, the letters testify to Stange’s lack of political realism and understanding of the situation from the perspective of foreign colleagues. Torm’s work in the LAS thus proves both interesting in its own right and suitable as a prism for elucidating more general issues. The letters demonstrate Torm’s prominence in both the international academic and domestic ecclesiastical landscape of his time. However, as he was not on the side of the theological or political victors in the immediate post-war period, his efforts have tended to be either overlooked or underestimated.
TidsskriftKirkehistoriske Samlinger
Sider (fra-til)88-124
Antal sider37
StatusUdgivet - 2024

ID: 381146973