National Lutheran News

Martin Luther a big hit in Germany once again

Reformation leader makes a comeback after years of neglect

During the Nazi period, Martin Luther was co-opted as a surrogate for Hitler’s “national church” program. Flags with swastikas showed up in worship spaces in Germany.

Following WW II, the great reformer was neglected in the western zone, while in the east the communists proclaimed him a champion of the revolution, having heroically resisted decadent powers.

When the Iron Curtain was dismantled, Luther was neglected by some Germans, despised by others. The decline in church life in Europe didn’t help the standing of the man whose statues still appear everywhere in his homeland.

That’s begun to change.

In an article written for the LCMS national magazine, Lutheran Witness, Uwe Siemon-Netto, religion editor for United Press International, and a member of a Lutheran congregation in Washington, D.C., writes that the recent Martin Luther movie, funded in part by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, is getting a lot of attention in Europe.

Says Siemon-Netto, “No film has ever hit German cinemas in a more timely manner.” He reported that, in the six weeks after the movie was first shown, on Ref-ormation Day 2003, two million Germans saw it. “Almost instantly,” he said, “the movie soared to fourth place in the prestigious ‘top ten’ list of box office hits.”

It’s striking that Luther is still a focus of great interest in a land that some now consider to be “de-Christian-ized.”
A German newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel, featured Luther on its front cover in December, and included several articles about him.

Sieman-Netto maintains that Germany is “rediscovering its history,” turning away from generations of hedonism and materialism. In a turnaround, many Germans now express great respect for pastors and priests (only medical doctors rank higher).

Still, a poll taken by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, ranks the church near the bottom of German institutions. (Ranked highest: police and the military.)