Publisher: Peter Lang AG
ISBN: 3-03901-192-7
US ISBN: 0-8204-7177-1
Published 2005
Price: £48.00

This book examines the secret role of British and German Christians in the Cold War, both as non-governmental envoys and as members of covert intelligence operations. Based on archival sources, including those of the Stasi together with interviews with some of those involved, it demonstrates the way in which religion was used as a tool of psychological warfare. During the 1960s, the concept of Christian-Marxist dialogue was espoused by Church leaders and appropriated by politicians. In the GDR, Ulbricht used Christian-Marxist dialogue to quell opposition to his regime; in the West, politicians encouraged a policy of détente which led to the erosion of communist ideology. As the seeds of Ostpolitik were sown, Christians tunnelled their way beneath the ideological barriers of the Cold War in the name of reconciliation, while secretly establishing subversive networks.

Merrilyn Thomas is an honorary research fellow at University College London.


… The historian Lewis Namier has been quoted as saying that ‘a great many profound secrets are somewhere in print, but are most easily detected when one knows what to seek’. This is indeed one of the paradoxes of researching events which brush against the intelligence world. In order to unearth the secrets it is frequently necessary to know what the secrets are. … In 2004, around 40 years after the events described in this book took place, Egon Bahr, the father of Ostpolitik, gave his judgement on the reasons why the communist world had imploded. Economic pressure, the arms race and deterrence all played a part, he said but

‘the fact of ideological collapse has been underestimated […] the dissolution of the ideological cement that kept the whole thing together was surely a central factor […] It is quite possible that, if the ideological structure had been firm, there would have been an explosion with ensuing massacre rather than an implosion.’

But the ‘ideological structure’ was not firm and one reason why this was so is because of the hidden contribution made by Christians who, through their secret work with politicians, governments and intelligence agencies, and the creation of far-reaching networks, worked towards a peaceful reconstruction of the world order.

… This book has sought to dispel some of the fog through which the Cold War is currently viewed. The intricacies of international relations during this period were reflected in the secret interaction of political leaders, intelligence agents and Christians described within its pages. These Cold War psychological warriors schemed, manipulated and deceived in the interests of their particular ideological battles. But they did so as an alternative to the use of the blunt weapon, aggression, which has once again found favour with political leaders in the post-Cold War era. Using words rather than weapons, dialogue rather than diktat, they succeeded in preserving peace and stability in Europe.

[the author draws on] archival sources, including those of the former East German State Security Ministry (Stasi). Her research included interviews with participants, from priests and politicians to secret agents, in the covert operations into which she delves. The result is meticulous scholarship spiced with mysterious characters from the murky depths of secret operations and espionage. Most important, the study provides detailed analyses and insights into the complex, multidimensional role accorded religion by all sides in the Cold War.

Dr Diane Kirby, Journal of Cold War Studies

Merrilyn Thomas puts us all in her debt with this fascinating book … She shows convincingly how behind the scenes, unbeknown to participants, a complex Cold War game was being played out at the levels of politics … and of covert operations.

Very Revd John Arnold, The Church Times