It was at the beginning of the 19th century that committed Protestant Christians founded the organized Diakonie. Going by the name “Inner Mission” (Innere Mission) they drafted a program fighting poverty, in material as well as in spiritual terms.
In 1823, the “Stuttgart Private Society of Volunteers and Friends for the Poor” (Stuttgarter Privatgesellschaft freiwilliger Armenfreunde) had founded the first rescue home for girls and boys who had suffered the loss of their parents and their homestead. Soon after, care for blind and deaf people, and for sick and handicapped people, was set up. In the towns and villages, deaconesses were entrusted with the community care for the sick.
In 1914, the services in Württemberg merged into a single association under the name “Regional Network of Inner Mission” (Landesverband der Inneren Mission).
The period between 1933 and 1945 saw the institution of Diakonie burdening itself of grave guilt. Initially, even leading men of the Church and of the Inner Mission welcomed the “new times”. However, as time went on, resistance within the Church and Diakonie began to form against the Nazi regime. Yet, 10,000 mentally handicapped people were murdered in Württemberg. They fell victim to the program run by the national socialist leaders called “Program to exterminate unworthy life” (Programm zur Vernichtung unwerten Lebens).
After the Second World War, so many Germans suffered great hardship. This misery prompted committed Christians to start the second diaconal aid agency. In 1945, the “Evangelisches Hilfswerk”(Protestant Aid Organization) was founded. The task was huge as 14 million refugees and displaced persons needed assistance, those who had to flee the bombings, the children and old people threatened with hunger. Old peoples’ homes and houses for families were built, young people were provided with a place to stay, with work and food. Church district services distributed food, clothing, and medication.
In 1970, the Regional Network “Landesverband” and the Protestant Aid Organization merged to become the association “Diakonisches Werk der evangelischen Kirche in Württem berg e.V.“ which is the Social Welfare Service of the Protestant Churches in Württemberg.
For social problems to be alleviated and solved more effectively, the German government typically does not offer social services run by the government itself but rather commissions independent, non-governmental agencies and services with these tasks. Diakonie is one of such services and thus is a partner when it comes to designing and framing the German social welfare state. The German government allocates financial resources for carrying out these tasks. This system is known in Europe as the principle of “subsidiarity”.