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Oral History

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Interview conducted by Dr. James Patrick Kelley with Ernest Gordon in Broome, England on January 27, 1986.

Pastor Ernest L. Gordon was a retired Church of England priest raised in Germany as the son of a father who was “non-Aryan” according to Nazi criteria although he had honorably served Germany as a decorated soldier in World War I. As a student at the University of Berlin he decided to seek training and approval as an ordained Pastor of the Church of the Old Prussian Union, the territorial church in Berlin-Brandenburg during the early years of the Kirchenkampf or "church struggle" between the Confessing Church and German Christians, who supported the Nazification of all aspects of life under Hitler as the unquestioned leader of the nation. After successful completion of university study and church examinations, Gordon found himself facing a Nazified church government who regarded him as unacceptable for ordination because of his Confessing Church sympathies.

From 1935 until 1938 he was fully qualified for ordination but still not ordained. With the help of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth, he emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1938 and was ordained, serving several parishes during his career, including some exchanges with parishes of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Illinois. His views of the Nazi takeover of the churches with various programs to persuade church members to support Nazism are detailed, highlighting the problematic relations between church and state in Hitler’s Germany and what broader lessons he had learned.