Latvian evangelical Lutheran theology during the German occupation, 1941–1944
Keywords: German occupation, theology, Ostland, University of Riga
Language: In English

The Faculty of Theology at the University of Latvia was liquidated in 1940 by the Soviet Communist regime, but after the beginning of war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, from June 1941, there was a great hope for re-opening the Faculty of Theology at the University of Riga. However, the situation was not simple. Even though some faculties received a restricted operational permit from the occupation government in the latter part of 1941, the position of the Faculty of Theology hung precariously in the balance.

After some disappoinments for the Lutheran Church and theologians, finally after several stages, the faculty could restore its operations. Full-scale operation began in the spring of 1943 and marked the return of the possibility of finishing degrees. The occupational government of Ostland defined the position of the Faculty in the beginning of December 1943 as the Theological College at the University of Riga (Teoloģijas augstskola Rīgas Universitātē). The Faculty could now accept new students. In practice this marked the restoration of the old Faculty, but its new description shows the attitude of the German occupation government towards theology as a science. Also, the earlier Roman Catholic Faculty of Theology was now opened as a special College at the University of Riga.

Eduards Zicāns was elected Dean in the summer of 1943. Of the Faculty’s old teachers, exegete Kārlis Kundziņš (Jr), Professor of Practical Theology, Archbishop Teodors Grīnbergs as well as Fēlikss Treijs (Treus), Arnolds Zviņģis, Haralds Biezais, and Leons Čuibe also continued their work. Lecturer Edgars Ķiploks replaced Ludvigs Adamovičs as the head teacher of Church History. It must be said that ever since Professor Adamovičs had been deported in 1941, Ķiploks was the best-known young academic researcher of church history in Latvia. He also served as a librarian in the Theological College. Ģertrūde Alksne served as an assistant (subasistente).

The new teachers, who had been selected to replace those who died or had been deported to Siberia already in 1941, also had a chance to partake in practical academic work between 1943 and 1944. The new members of the Faculty were Jānis Rozentāls, Lecturer of New Testament Exegetics; docents Edgars Bergs and Arturs Siļķe, who specialised in Practical Theology; and assistant (subasistents) Pēteris Martens. Professor Alberts Freijs was a leading systematic theologian during the German occupation. At the end of 1943, Edmunds Šmits was appointed Docent (Privatdozent) of Systematic Theology.

All in all, there were 39 men and women who graduated from the College of Theology between 1943 and 1944. Three students graduated from the Department of Orthodox Theology at the Theological College in 1943. Also, we must take into account that Aleksandrs Veinbergs and Fricis Ruperts obtained Licentiate degrees in theology in 1943–1944. Kārlis Bilzens and Edmunds Šmits also defended their dissertations in Systematic Theology in the spring of 1943.

Teachers of the Theological College were active writers on ecclesiastical and theological subjects in journals. Also, many of them did scientific work in the shadow of the war. However, the story of the College of Theology at the University of Latvia was short. The Red Army occupied Riga on 13 October 1944. There was no place for a Theological Faculty at the University of Latvia in the newly established Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.