The morality trials of allegedly more than 1,000 priests and members of Catholic orders, which in 1936/37 provoked intense interest both in Germany and in international opinion, receive their first
thorough empirical examination in Hans Günter Hockerts’ book. The author examines the course of events and the trials' outcomes, as well as the question of the lawfulness of the proceedings,
which were widely dismissed as »show trials.« He also analyzes the methods and goals that governed efforts to instrumentalize the trials for propaganda purposes. In the process, Hockerts paints a
comprehensive picture of a propaganda campaign characterized by uncommon organizational perfection and unmitigated radicalism. Relying closely on his sources, Hockerts interprets this propaganda campaign
as an attack against one of the most significant obstacles to National Socialist totalitarianism: the Catholic Church’s claim to independence and the loyalty of its members.
Hockerts juxtaposes the Nazi propaganda offensive with the official church’s reactions and, especially, its resonance among the Catholic population at large. In the process, he formulatess an answer
to the question of how the Church and Catholicism survived this most spectacular episode in the National Socialist anti-church campaign, one that is closely tied to the content of his documentary sources.
Hockerts thus contributes to three fundamental areas of inquiry into the history of the »Third Reich«: the role of the judiciary in the system of totalitarian rule, Nazi
mechanisms of exercising power, and the »church struggle.«