Event—Scholarly Seminars

Brandon Bloch, University of Wisconsin Madison


"Democracy as an Interpretive Process: The Case of Protestant Conscientious Objectors in the Early Federal Republic of Germany," Brandon Bloch

This paper reexamines the sources of West German democracy on the ashes of Nazi dictatorship through the lens of the German Protestant Church. In contrast to prevailing narratives of a “learning process,” I suggest that we instead see democracy formation as an “interpretive process” by which West Germans repurposed longstanding cultural symbols as a basis for democratic practice. The paper highlights the Protestant campaign for the right of conscientious objection to military service during the 1950s, showing how an institution that had embraced Nazi militarism could become the locus of one of West Germany’s earliest human rights movements.