As the Church of Scientology sees it, Germany today is a repressive and intolerant place, not much different from the Third Reich of more than half a century ago in its hostility toward racial and religious minorities.

As the German government sees it, the Church of Scientology is not a church at all, but rather a dangerous cult that uses religion to cloak its money-making schemes while exploiting gullible members and threatening local communities.

Of such contradictory viewpoints are titanic feuds made, and the bitter quarrel between Scientology and German officials is now approaching Hatfield-McCoy intensity.

Scientology, which celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding last month, is headquartered in Los Angeles and is based on the precepts of American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986. Particularly influential is Hubbard's "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," which Scientology officials say has sold more than 15 million copies. Through counseling and courses, Scientology professes to help adherents find inner harmony and awareness of the self "as a spiritual being."

More than two decades after Scientology brought its unorthodox brand of spiritual development to Germany, the uneasy relationship between church and state has degenerated into mutual name-calling and legal counterpunching.

Germany's 16 state premiers last month demanded concerted federal and state scrutiny of Scientology activities, as well as a European conference on the subject. Germany's main political organizations have banned Scientologists from membership, either nationally or in individual states. And state interior ministers last summer warned that Scientology -- which claims 30,000 members in Germany -- combines "economic activities with elements of economic criminality under the cover of a religious community."

Labor Minister Norbert Bluem has described Scientology as "a machine for manipulating human beings." Renate Rennebach, a Social Democrat member of Parliament, declared in an interview that Scientologists are "seeking political influence to dominate the world according to their view of things. . . . They're a danger to democracy."

Franz Riedl, a spokesman for Scientology in Germany, dismisses such claims as unfounded. "We are not political at all, despite all allegations to the contrary," Riedl said in a telephone interview from Hamburg.

Scientologists have fought back since September with a series of full-page advertisements in The Washington Post and the New York Times, which have cost "close to $1 million," according to Sylvia Stanard, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology's Washington office.

The ad campaign, which Stanard said was undertaken in the United States after German newspapers refused to print similar messages, asserts that Scientologists and other groups have been harassed relentlessly in Germany with government complicity. A recent ad contends that Scientologists have been discriminated against by German banks, schools and business firms.

An ad appearing in The Washington Post on Jan. 5 declared, "In Sept. 1938, Adolf Hitler enacted the infamous Nuremberg laws which gave formal assent to anti-Semitism. . . . A half century later, a similar scenario is being repeated in modern Germany."

Such allegations provoke outraged denials from German officials. Norbert Reinke, director of the sects department in Bonn's Ministry for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, said in an interview: "It's an unpleasant hate campaign, which has stepped way over the line."

Jewish groups also have denounced the campaign as exploiting the Holocaust. In an unpublished letter to The Washington Post, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, described one advertisement as "manipulation and hypocrisy of the first order."

Stanard defended the ads. "I think some people are missing the point," she said. "It's not similar to what happened to the Jews in the '40s when they were going to concentration camps. That's not happening in Germany. But it's similar to what happened to the Jews in the early '30s. . . . We're not on the trains yet, but a similar environment is starting against minority religions in Germany."

Estimates of Scientology's worldwide membership range from 50,000 to 8 million. Some former Scientologists have charged the organization with brainwashing and blackmailing its members, and with harassing defectors and critics. In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service, after a decades-long battle, awarded tax-exempt status in 1993 to Scientology's 150 American churches.

German officials suggest the ad campaign reflects Scientology's resentment of its inability to reap the tax benefits accruing to recognized churches here. Instead, the federal government classifies Scientology as a "youth cult." Germany's constitutional court has yet to rule on whether Scientology should be considered a church.

A document from the German Embassy in Washington states that the Bonn government "finds credible expert testimony that the organization's pseudo-scientific courses can seriously jeopardize individuals' mental and physical health. . . . The government concludes there are ample grounds to believe reports that membership can lead to psychological and physical dependence, and financial ruin."

Riedl, the Scientology spokesman in Hamburg, said members at the nine churches and 20 missions in Germany pay a 30 mark ($20) annual fee; to achieve Hubbard's enlightened state of "clear," which Riedl estimated would require three years of intensive "pastoral counseling," costs another 30,000 marks ($20,000).

Among the most relentless opponents of Scientology in Germany has been a task force created in 1992 by the Hamburg state government to examine the organization's operations. Hamburg real estate agents have alleged that Scientologists are buying residential properties, converting them to cooperatives and then coercing renters to buy their apartments or face eviction.

Ursula Caberta y Diaz, head of the Hamburg task force, said, "Scientology is not a religion; it's not about a world view. It's a political movement and a psychological dictatorship. In Germany, unfortunately we know what it means to live with this kind of system."

Riedl counters that the Church of Scientology owns only one property in all of Germany, a building in Munich. Even the church's five-story Hamburg headquarters is leased, he said, adding, "We are a nonprofit organization with idealistic purposes." But critics contend that ownership is masked through a complex web of firms and individuals.

Riedl also noted that a three-year criminal investigation of German Scientology by Hamburg prosecutors was dropped last year because of insufficient evidence.

Scientology officials say they have catalogued 400 cases in which German members were discriminated against, including individuals who on the basis of their religious beliefs have lost their jobs, been deemed unfit tenants by landlords or been unable to open bank accounts. Reinke, the federal ministry official, called such assertions "sheer nonsense."

"If you investigate these cases," he added, "you find that there's nothing behind them."

Independently verifying such claims is difficult, partly because Germany has strict privacy laws.

Riedl produced documentation on two cases. One in particular -- involving a western German furniture store owner named Paul Arenz -- illustrates the acrimony and suspicion provoked by Scientology.

In a telephone interview from his home town of Kommern, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Arenz said he has been a member of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Party for 25 years and a Scientologist since 1990. After buying a property in town and failing to win bank financing for construction of a hotel, Arenz said he contemplated building a drug-treatment center instead.

Arenz said he wrote a letter to the Scientology church in Duesseldorf in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the church to build and run the treatment center according to the principles of Hubbard. Last September, the letter became public and with it Arenz's intentions to give Scientology a foothold in Kommern. Citing the Christian Democrats' avowed opposition to Scientology, local party leader Dieter Pesch asked for Arenz's resignation from the party. He refused and was expelled in December.

Pesch, the party leader, said in a telephone interview that party membership is "incompatible" with Scientology because "it's known that Scientology is no religious sect but rather -- as {Labor Minister} Bluem has expressed it -- a criminal economic enterprise which bleeds its members."

Arenz said he is appealing his ouster from the party. "I've been badly damaged personally and in my business through all this," he said. "I'm shocked that something like this can happen in Germany."

Officials in Bonn charge that the Scientologists want to wear down the government until someone in authority agrees to meet with them, thus giving legitimacy to the organization.

But Scientology officials said they have the time and money necessary to keep pressing Bonn through American public opinion.

"We're going to keep running the ads until the German government is willing to realize that there's a problem," Stanard said. "We're trying to say, Wake up and smell the coffee. There is a problem.' " Special correspondent Petra Krischok contributed to this article. CAPTION: Church of Scientology ran this full-page ad in The Washington Post.