Kyle Jantzen, PhD
I'm not sure when I first became interested in history. Perhaps it was when my junior high teacher drew a diagram of Hadrian's Wall on the chalkboard, then play-acted Roman soldiers sword-fighting. Maybe it was when my parents took me to see the film The Hiding Place, the story of how Corrie Ten Boom and her Dutch family rescued Jews during the Holocaust. And it might have been when I read Robert K. Massie’s massive biographies of Peter the Great and other Russian tsars during my high school years. At any rate, after a year at Bodenseehof (Capernwray Bible Institute in Friedrichshafen, West Germany), I ended up at the University of Saskatchewan, where I completed a BA (high honours) in history.
I remained in Saskatoon to study for an MA degree in history under Dr. Peter Bietenholz, an eminent Erasmus scholar whose seminar courses I had enjoyed immensely. (Dr. Bietenholz held several of his courses in his charming old home, where a handful of us would sit among his five-hundred-year-old books, drink coffee and read Dante or Erasmus!). Anyway, my MA thesis (Guilds and Reformation: Basel in the 1520s) examined the relationship between the religious and political aspects of the Protestant Reformation in the Swiss city of Basel. It traced events from the infiltration of Lutheran ideas into local monasteries and churches before 1520 to the heated and sometimes violent debates about religion and politics throughout the 1520s, culminating in the eventual victory (at cannon point!) of the Reformation in Basel in early 1529.
Along the way, I began to grow interested in the "German Church Struggle," the conflict between church and state (and within the churches) of Nazi Germany. As a result, I completed a PhD in history at McGill University in Montreal, under the guidance of Dr. Peter Hoffmann, FRSC, a leading authority on the German Resistance to Hitler. In my dissertation, I examined the relationship between religion and nationalism in National Socialist Germany "from the bottom up," analyzing the upheaval in numerous parish churches through the eyes of pastors and parishioners in three different regions of Hitler`s Germany. Eventually, that grew into my first book: Faith and Fatherland: Parish Politics in Hitler's Germany (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008).
At Ambrose, I teach various courses in European, world, and religious history. One of my favourite (though difficult) courses to teach is on the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust. My goal is to introduce students to the long and complex history of antisemitism and to help them understand the detailed process through which Hitler and his Nazi regime moved from the policies of persecution to an organized quest to annihilate the Jews of Europe. I'm convinced that when we study those events, the students and I also learn more about the ways in which political extremism operates in our world today, through political violence, the violation of human rights, and even so-called "ethnic cleansing." In courses like "Antisemitism and the Holocaust" or "Racism and Genocide in the Modern World," there's more to studying history than just explaining the past--we also want to become compassionate, principled, responsive advocates for justice in our world today.
Outside of academics, my wife and best friend Colleen and I have been married almost 30 years. We have four children: three have graduated from high school and one is still in high school. I watch sports of all kinds (football, Euro soccer, hockey, etc.) and play some too, listen to all kinds of music (U2 is at the top of the list), serve in my local church, lead history trips to Europe, and (try to) play bass.
For more information about my academic life, including historical travel and my blog, please visit my website.
PhD (McGill University)
MA (University of Saskatchewan)
BA (Honours) (University of Saskatchewan)
Religion and Nationalism in Nazi Germany
I've been researching and writing about religion and nationalism in Nazi Germany for about twenty years now. I first grew interested in the field from reading about leaders in the Confessing Church, men like Martin Niemöller, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed the campaign to nazify the German Protestant churches. Along the way, I grew more interested in looking at the German Church Struggle from the perspective of local history (or what historians call Alltagsgeschichte, the history of everyday life). I began to investigate the goings on in parishes in three regions of Nazi Germany (Brandenburg, Saxony, and Württemberg), focusing on topics like pastors and German nationalism, parish life under National Socialism, pastoral appointments (a key battleground between the pro-Nazi Protestants and those who wanted to keep the churches out of politics), church responses to Nazi racial policy, and the ins and outs of local church politics during the time of the Third Reich. All this is now published in my book: Faith and Fatherland: Parish Politics in Hitler's Germany (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008). You can see what other scholars are saying about it at Contemporary Church History Quarterly or at H-German (part of H-Net, the Humanities and Social Sciences Online).
I'm now working on a few article-length projects on religion and nationalism in Nazi Germany:
- Responses of parish clergy to Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century, a racial and pagan theory of history
- A Christian-Nazi parish organization in Berlin
- A Berlin church building filled with Nazi symbolism
Christian Responses to the Holocaust
Over time, I began to wonder not only about the Christian responses to Nazism and the Holocaust in Germany, but also in North America. In 2007, I got the opportunity to begin a research project on this question when I was invited to join a group of scholars from the United States and Britain for a two-week summer research workshop on "American Religious Responses to Kristallnacht," hosted by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We were considering the way that Jews, Catholics, and Protestants all reacted to the terrible antisemitic pogrom of November 1938, when synagogues throughout Germany were burnt down, Jewish shop-windows were smashed, Jewish homes were invaded, and roughly 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and placed in concentration camps. Out of that workshop, I published a chapter ("'The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man': Mainline American Protestants and the Kristallnacht Pogrom") in American Religious Responses to Kristallnacht (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
A few years ago, I co-wrote a conference paper with former student Jonathan Durance, called "'Our Jewish Brethren': Christian Responses to Kristallnacht in Canadian Mass Media," for the 40th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, in 2010. That paper was subsequently published as an article in a special issue of The Journal of Ecumenical Studies in fall 2011.
Most recently, I have been working with a number of my undergraduates to analyze various denominational periodicals from 1938 and 1939. We are trying to understand more about the responses of American church leaders and Christians to the Nazi persecution of the Jews and consequent European refugee crisis in 1938 and 1939. I plan to publish the results of this work soon.
Evil Places as Sacred Spaces
Recently, I've been working on a question that has been dogging me for quite awhile: what is the power of sites of evil, such as the concentration and death camps of the Holocaust? I have begun to research this question of genocide, memory, and place, by drawing on disciplines as diverse as history, geography, theology, sociology, archaeology, and education. I'm trying to understand what makes sites of evil such powerful places of memory and memorialization, and searching for language with which to properly conceptualize, describe, and explain the atrocities I study and teach about.
Scholarly & Professional Activity
Managing Editor, Contemporary Church History Quarterly (2010-present).
Member, Heritage Advisory Board, Town of High River, AB (2013-present).
Speaker, Holocaust Education Symposium, Mount Royal University, May 2014.
Guide, “Reformation Tour.” Study trip to Czech Republic and Germany, Western Canadian District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, June 2013.
Member, High School Flexibility Enhancement Pilot Project External Advisory Committee, Alberta Education (2009-2013).
External Reviewer, book manuscripts, book proposals, and journal articles, for Purdue University Press, Wilfred Laurier University Press, Routledge/Taylor & Francis, Bloomsbury Press, The Historian, and Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations.
Presenter, “Lessons from the History of Church-State Relations,” Public Lecture at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, Calgary, AB, November 2012.
Assistant Translator, Behind Valkyrie: German Resistance to Hitler: Related Documents. Edited by Peter Hoffmann. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011.
Instructor, "The Expansion of the Christian Movement," for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, Saskatoon, SK (2010, 2011).
Recent Conference Presentations
“The Memory of Genocide: Evil Places as Sacred Spaces,” Paper presented at Understanding Atrocities: Remembering, Representing and Teaching Genocide, Calgary, AB, February 2014.
“Myths of the German Church Struggle: German Churches in the Third Reich,” Paper presented at the Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte/Contemporary Church History Conference on “Myths—National Borders—Religions,” Flensburg, Germany, and Sønderborg, Denmark, September 2013.
“Preaching Towards the Führer: Johannes Boy, the Christian Unity Movement of Germany, and the Debate about Nazism as a Political Religion,” Paper presented at the German Studies Association Conference, Milwaukee, WI, October 2012.
“‘Echoes of a Voice’: Reflections on the Utility of Christian Paradigms in History,” Paper presented at The Humanities and the Christian Faith Conference, Canadian Centre for Scholarship and the Christian Faith, Concordia University College, Edmonton, AB, May 2012.
“Our Jewish Brethren: Christian Responses to Kristallnacht in Canadian Mass Media,” Paper co-presented with Jonathan Durance at the 40th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA, March 2010, and at the Tolle Lege Lecture Series, Prairie Bible College, Three Hills, AB, March 2010.