Bethel under National Socialism

How does Bethel view its past?

Memorial plaque at the Zion Church
Memorial plaque at the Zion Church

Since the 1980s, the differentiated debate about forced sterilisations, murders of the sick and disabled and the behaviour of doctors and theologians has been a constant topic at Bethel.

Previously, Bethel's actions under National Socialism were often glorified and stylised as an example of heroic resistance against "euthanasia". This gave rise to the accusation that Bethel did not want to take a critical look at its history and was concealing the events of that time: a view that is still held by some members of the public today.

However, scholars have been researching Bethel's history for almost 40 years. Ernst Klee's 1983 publication "Euthanasia in the Nazi State" and a commemorative event in 1989 provided the necessary impetus for coming to terms with the past. At the end of 1992, the endowed chair for modern church history at Bethel Church University was filled specifically for this entire subject area. In the book "Spurensuche. Eugenics, sterilisation, patient murders and the v. Bodelschwinghschen Anstalten Bethel 1929-1945" from 1997 already contains an extensive bibliography with around 80 essays and monographs. Since 2016, there has been an online bibliography with over 210 titles on the history of Bethel, which is constantly being updated. A project funded by the German Research Foundation is currently underway at the Ruhr University Bochum on the everyday lives of patients at Bethel between 1924 and 1949.


Bibliography on the topic (as of 2023) PDF