(This post is an edited version of part 5 of my series, “War, Religion and Atheism”).
Why write a post on a question which to most people has an obvious answer? When I first read the claim that Hitler was a Christian, I almost laughed, because I thought it was a joke. I soon learned that there are many, particularly atheists, who are jumping onto a bandwagon of opportunity to strike a below-the–belt blow at the Church. History is being systematically revised, in the light of “new findings”. This is my small contribution to the battle against such attacks against the name of Jesus Christ and his Church.
HITLER’S GOD: “ETERNAL NATURE” AND THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Hitler’s own writings and doctrines betray his beliefs, which were anything but Biblical. William Shirer wrote that “Hitler saw all of life as an eternal struggle and the world as a jungle where the fittest survived and the strongest ruled” 1. Hitler’s views therefore conformed far more readily to Darwinian evolution and not to the Bible: Jesus said that the “meek” (and not the strongest) will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Shirer considered the roots of Hitler’s philosophy: – the people who had shaped his thinking. One of these was the originator of the famous “God is dead” phrase. Nietzche’s view of Christianity was that it was “the one great curse, the enormous blemish of mankind…” 2.
On the subject of morality, Nietzche said:
Society has never regarded virtue as anything else than a means to strength, power and order”.
This is consistent with Hitler’s view as outlined in “Mein Kampf”: he wrongly thought that religion was all about morality and order.
On the value of life, Nietzche said:
“There is no such thing as the right to live (sound familiar?), the right to work, or the right to be happy: in this respect man is no different from the meanest worm” 3.
Hitler did speak of “the eternal will that dominates this universe” 4 and even put terms such as “God” or “the Lord” into the mix, but Hitler’s God was not the Biblical, universe – ruling Person of the Bible, it was his personification of “Nature”.
The Bible of National Socialism was “Mein Kampf”. Abraham Foxman, in his introduction to Mein Kampf, wrote that the glue which held together all the disparate themes of Hitler, which he had outlined, was:
“An extreme form of race-oriented social-Darwinism” 5.
Foxman explained how the modern “science” of race had evolved with the Enlightenment. It held that certain races were inherently “primitive”, and so white men were able to justify their continued toleration of black slavery and their continuing imperialist control over places such as Africa.
“Differences between races were scientifically ‘proven’…the races were then ranked on some arbitrary scale, with modern European man always holding the highest spot”.
Racial theories became increasingly radical as they incorporated aspects of Darwinism, which swept the Western World in the mid to late 1800s.
You don’t have to read very far into Hitler’s own writing in Mein Kampf, the Bible of National Socialism, before coming across his own application of the implications of evolutionary theory.
In Hitler’s view his own nation was home to a large number of the strongest and most perfect race: “unmixed stocks of Nordic-German people” 6. At the other end of Hitler’s scale was the Jew, and on the subject of those of African descent, while considering culture in the hands of the “weaker” races, he said:
“in a bastardized and niggerized world all the concepts of the humanly beautiful and sublime, as well as all ideas of an idealized future of our humanity would be lost forever” 7.
Written well before WWII, Mein Kampf makes Hitler’s hatred for the Jew known very early on. Warning of the dangers of Marxism, which he saw as a Jewish plot to take over the world, he said that if the Jew were to be “victorious over the other peoples of the world” (as if the Jew were trying to be) “his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men”
“Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands.” 8.
Hitler mysteriously claims that he is acting in accordance with the will of the “Almighty Creator”, and “fighting for the work of the Lord”. However, his own words have already demonstrated in several ways a total non-compliance with the Biblical God. First, there is no mention in the Bible or in History of the Jew attempting to take over the world. Marx’s socialism was nothing to do with the Bible or religion or with ethnic or national origin: it was entirely atheistic and “international”, as Marx himself had declared (see Part 2 of my series). Secondly, Hitler’s “Almighty” is “Eternal Nature”. This is much closer to being a Pantheistic view of the universe than a Biblical one. Thirdly, while it’s true that the European Church was largely anti-Semitic through the centuries, it’s also plain that there is no command in the New Testament or anywhere in the Bible for anyone to attempt to wipe out the Jew, and certainly there is no command for Hitler to do so. I am a Christian and I see no reason to do so. In fact, I want to bless the Jew, because, (and Hitler missed this fundamental principle) God said of the nation which would descend from Abraham:
“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:2-3).
Fourth, Hitler demonstrates his evolutionary view of the universe by saying that it was devoid of men for millennia (and the second edition replaced the word “thousands” with “millions”). The Bible sees man on the earth six days after its creation.
Fifth, he envisages, in an attempt to foster hatred of the Jew, the world once again being devoid of men for millennia after the Jews destroy it. Biblically speaking, God really is “Almighty”: He could not and would not allow such a thing to happen, and if Hitler had taken any notice of the Bible at all, he would have noticed that entire chapters and books of the Bible declare He will not. The Savior of the world is Jesus Christ, not Adolph Hitler. Hitler’s warning speaks of an empty universe without a creator, except for the theoretical one from whom he wishes to borrow justification.
In attempting to worry his readers with his projection of a booming population and consequential shortage of resources (sound familiar?), Hitler describes a ruling force in the universe which sounds far more like Gaia than Jehovah. The Pagans must have loved his repeated reference to the “Eternal Almighty” as a “she”:
“Nature herself in times of great poverty or bad climatic conditions, as well as poor harvest, intervenes to restrict the increase of population of certain countries or races….all those who are less strong and less healthy are forced back into the womb of the eternal unknown…she keeps the race and species strong, in fact, raises them to the highest accomplishments” 9.
As we know, Hitler wanted to give “Eternal Nature” a helping hand in this regard. Hitler declares that it is a fatal weakness to help the weak.
Notice the contrast in Christ’s attitude:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me (Matthew 25:43).
Jesus healed, loved and fed the sick, the weak and the deformed: Hitler killed them. His view was in total agreement with the “survival of the fittest” mentality which you should also subscribe to if you really believe Darwinian evolution to be true.
Helping the weaker races, according to Hitler, people are making a “mockery of nature”….Ultimately “Nature …destroys the weak to give his place to the strong”.
Getting to the real crux of his argument – the need for violence – Hitler declares:
“Never yet has a state been founded by peaceful economic means, but always and exclusively by the instincts of preservation of the species…” 10.
Philosophies and beliefs do make a difference in the way people act. The fact that Hitler believed in evolution, and that to him some humans were not really humans but no better than rats which were destroying the strength and purity of the human race, must have something to do with the fact that he wiped out millions of people: he stated as much in Mein Kampf. This is undeniable.
Our friend the ape-man makes his appearance in Hitler’s book. He calls man “THE DEAR LITTLE APE OF THE ALMIGHTY” 11.
HITLER’S VIEW OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
To an extent Hitler created a façade of religiosity, in order to buy himself some respectability in a European nation which was largely Christian. In those days, the majority of people in Europe considered themselves to be “Christians” even if they never went to church or believed anything. Hitler sometimes used religious terms and concepts to illustrate his points. He even put forward his own vision of a future religion, in which the state would be the one to be worshipped and served. Of course, as the state’s Fuehrer, and putting himself in the place of God, Hitler gladly received that worship. The word “anti” can mean “in place of”, and in this sense Hitler was indeed “anti-Christ”.
In a section of William Shirer’s book titled “The persecution of the Christian Churches”, he outlines how both the Catholic church in Germany and the Protestant church were pressured into towing Hitler’s Aryan race line, and he called this pressure the “Nazi war on the Christian Churches…”12.
A leader of the church opposition to Nazi policies, Pastor Niemoeller, was the guiding spirit in both the “confessional Church” and the “Pastor’s Emergency League”. This was in distinction to the church movement which had sided with Nazism, headed by Reich Bishop Mueller 13.
At the end of 1935, the Gestapo arrested seven hundred Confessional Church pastors. This was the first large-scale move against the church. Niemoeller resigned his position. In July of 1935 he was arrested and confined in prison. Eight hundred pastors and leading laymen of the Confessional Church were arrested in 1937, and hundreds more over the next couple of years 14.
One pastor commonly discussed these days in the western Christian church is Dietrich Bonhoffer. He calmly but firmly expressed his opposition to Nazism, and ended up being executed in a concentration camp shortly before the end of the war
Hitler’s vision for Germanywas set out in a thirty point program for the “National Reich Church”, drawn up during the war by Rosenberg, an outspoken pagan. Here are a few of those points:
13 The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany…
18 The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles, and pictures of saints.
19 On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf…. And to the left of the altar a sword.
20 On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels…and it must be superseded by only the unconquerable symbol, the swastika 15.
In Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) Hitler tells us quite clearly how he felt about Christianity. He said that in order to build its own altar, “it was forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars…This type of intolerance and fanaticism positively embodies the Jewish nature…” (and we know how Hitler felt about the Jews)…”we may deeply regret this fact and establish with justifiable loathing that its appearance in the history of mankind is something that was previously alien to history” He continues:
“A philosophy filled with infernal intolerance will only be broken by a new idea…”
Interestingly, while Stiegmann-Gall aims to link Hitler and Jesus Christ with the word “intolerance” (see the section below), it’s Hitler and Gall who seem to be in agreement on this one. Hitler continues:
“The individual may establish with pain today that with the appearance of Christianity the first spiritual terror entered into the far freer ancient world, but he will not be able to contest the fact that since then the world has been afflicted and dominated by this coercion, and that coercion is broken only by coercion, and terror only by terror. Only then can a new state of affairs be constructively created” 16.
THE REAL REASON FOR HITLER’S ASSOCIATION WITH RELIGION
In July of 1935 Hitler appointed a Nazi lawyer friend, Dr. Hans Kerrl, to be Minister for Church Affairs, in a second attempt to bring the entire church into line. In 1937 Kerrl made the following speech:
“Positive Christianity is National Socialism…God’s will reveals itself in German blood…Dr. Zoellner and Count Galen (bishops) have tried to make clear to me that Christianity consists of faith in Christ as the Son of God. That makes me laugh…True Christianity is represented by the party…The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation 17.
To Nazis Socialism and Christianity were synonyms, and the National Socialist German Workers Party was expressing competition with Marxist themes for the support of German workers (Hitler hated Marx, who he condemned as a Jew).
Hegel, whose ideas also influenced Hitler’s thinking, had once said that the state was “God walking on earth”, and that the will of the state must take precedence over the will of the individual 18.
According to Steigmann-Gall Hitler maintained that the movement’s goal was to “translate the ideals of Christ into deeds” 19. To the Nazis, Christianity was socialism – the kind of socialism represented by the party. One of their mottos was “public need before private greed”, which seems like a very noble ideal, but Christianity is not about socialism, it is about Jesus Christ. Christ’s aim was to facilitate a relationship between God and man, not to coerce people into passing money around, or government control of its citizens, and certainly not exterminating opposition.
Hitler had a plan to hijack the church and take it in his direction. He wrote:
“Take away from present day mankind its education-based, religious-dogmatic principles or, practically speaking, ethical-moral principles…but without replacing it by an equivalent and the result will be a grave shock to the foundations of their existence” 20.
Here we see that to Hitler religion was about morality. Also we see that he did not intend to wipe away the church or “religion”, since this would be a “grave shock” to society Instead he intended to replace it: to rebuild it in his image. Hitler said that his “folkish state” must set race in the center of all life”.
“Anyone who speaks of a mission of the German people on earth must know that it can exist only in the formation of a state which sees its highest task in the preservation and promotion of the most noble elements of our nationality…” 21.
The church was to be just another tool in the state’s hands.
WAS HITLER REALLY A CHRISTIAN?
After reading one book promoting the idea that many of the Nazis were Christians, I have to say I felt as though I had somehow been violated. I had to have a shower. Not content to highlight party members’ mention of certain Christian terms or aspects of the Christian faith, Steigman-Gall descends to the slime by associating Nazi anti-Semitism with the words of Christ:
“Especially evident in Hitler’s case, the Nazi’s consistent association with the person of Jesus and his message reveals a religious dimension to Nazi anti-Semitism…” 22.
I cannot help stating here very plainly that Jesus’ message was exactly opposite to that of Hitler’s, that the two names should not even be mentioned in the same breath, and that attempting to paint a link between the two is, in the case of a Professor of History who should know better and probably does, blasphemy.
Again, he says that “among wide circles Nazism was infused with key elements of Christian belief” I am going to demonstrate why this is not a true statement.
Dismissing the many anti Christian and anti Church rantings and actions of the Nazis as irrelevant, Gall’s book is cleverly formulated to make Hitler and other party officials appear to have been card-carrying, hymn-singing, pious members of the universal Church of Jesus Christ while the Son of God smiled on.
Finally, in his conclusion, Steigmann-Gall manages to get onto the subject of intolerance, relating it to Christianity. I believe this is the motivating force behind his book. I had the feeling that given just one more page the author would have been discussing “gay rights” and not Nazi beliefs.
One thing that puzzles me is this:
If beliefs do not drive actions, as atheists want us to think in the case of atheists like Lenin, Stalin and Mao, then what is the point of Steigmann-Gall’s book?
Jesus said that we are to watch out for “wolves in sheep’s’ clothing”, and he said “by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:35-40). We don’t believe that someone is an atheist if we see him praying and praising the Lord, no matter how many times he tells us that he admires Richard Dawkins. In the same way, we look at Hitler’s teachings and his “fruit” of destruction and death and we know without doubt that he was not a prophet of God, no matter what he might have said on the odd occasion which made him appear to the atheist or the uninformed as a Christian. He was not a Christian.
Even before the Nazis came to power, Hitler boasted:
“Will the masses ever again become Christian? Nonsense. Never again. That film is worn out. Nobody wants to see it anymore” 23.
Hitler was confident that “liberal priestlings, who have no belief any longer…will substitute our Hakenkreuz (swastika) for their own cross” 24.
Hitler designed the swastika. It symbolized the struggle and mission of “Aryan Man”23.
COMPARING HITLER’S GOD WITH THE BIBLICAL GOD
I’ve shown that Hitler’s God was more of a Pantheistic force than anything, to which he applied a few Biblical sounding names and phrases because that was the culture he lived in. He made mention of Jesus indirectly, as though afraid to use his name. However, Hitler’s Christ was nothing like the real one.
Over and over again Hitler demonstrates either his complete ignorance of – or intentional rejection of – Biblical content and doctrines: he was in no way a practicing or a believing Christian, Biblically speaking. For example, in an attack on the Jew, he says:
“…the Jew never possessed a state with definite territorial limits and therefore never called a culture his own” 25.
In truth you can find Israel and its unique culture all through the entire Old Testament and New Testament from Genesis chapter 12 onwards, not to mention plenty of history and archeology.
People like Steigmann-Gall sneer at the remarks of believers that “real Christians” don’t do things like slaughtering millions of people. Hitler did it, and he was a Christian, so there’s the proof that they do, right?
Hitler’s folkish state was to set race at the center of all life. The state’s interests were to be supreme. In contrast, Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God first (Matthew 22: 37-38). Hitler was also obviously unaware of the second most important commandment, which was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 39). How could a follower of Christ completely miss what he said were the two greatest commandments?
While Jesus did drive money changers out of the temple, he didn’t kill any of them, or encourage anyone else to do so.
Hitler was after conquest and blood: Jesus Christ said “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews” (John 18: 36).
Hitler hated the Jews, the people who are central to the entire Old Testament and most of the New. Jesus quoted extensively from the Old Testament and believed it to be all true. Jesus was Jewish and descended, humanly speaking, from the tribe of Judah and from Abraham Luke 3:23-38. His disciples were Jewish. Hitler hated Paul, the Jew who wrote a large portion of the New Testament. If Hitler had read the Bible at all, he would have had to remove ninety-five percent of its content if he wanted to remove all traces of Jewishness. It’s obvious that he in fact did that – and replaced it with Mein Kampf.
Jesus refused the kingdoms of this world when offered them by Satan (Matthew 4:8-10). Hitler wished to accept, nay snatch them for himself.
Nazis may have shared the concept with Christians that there is good and evil in the world, but their definitions of good and evil were not in agreement with Biblical definitions.
Which characteristic did Hitler have in common with Jesus Christ? Was it compassion, love, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, self-sacrifice, humility, meekness? Of course, none of these qualities apply to Hitler, and all of them apply to Christ. How, then can Hitler be considered a “Christ-one”?
1 Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder By R.J. Rummel New Brunswick, N.J.:Transaction Publishers, 1992
2 William L. Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY., first S&S hardcover edition, 1960) p. 97
3 Ibid, p. 97-100.
4 Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf (Mariner Books,New York. First Mariner Edition 1999, Translated by Ralph Manheim)
5 Abraham Foxman Introduction to Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf (Mariner Books, New York. First Mariner Edition 1999, Translated by Ralph Manheim) p. xx
6 Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf (Mariner Books,New York. First Mariner Edition 1999, Translated by Ralph Manheim) p. 397.
7 Ibid, p. 383.
8 Ibid, p. 65.
9 Ibid, p. 131-132.
10 Ibid, p. 153.
11 Ibid, p. 132.
12 William L. Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany (Simon andSchuster,New York, NY., first S&S hardcover edition, 1960) p. 234
13 Ibid, p. 238
14 Ibid, p.239
15 William L Shirer etc From Stuart W. Herman Jr., It’s Your Souls We Want pp. 297-300; also in the New York Times of January 3rd, 1942. Herman was the pastor of theAmericanChurch inBerlin from 1936 to 1941.
16 Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf (Mariner Books,New York. First Mariner Edition 1999, Translated by Ralph Manheim) p. 454-455.
17 William L. Shirer etc.p. 240 From Stuart W. Herman Jr., It’s Your Souls We Want pp. 157-158
18 Arthur W. Hunt III The Vanishing Word (Crossway Books,Wheaton Il.) p. 218
19 Richard Steigmann-Gall The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY c 2003) p. 27
20 Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf (Mariner Books,New York. First Mariner Edition 1999, Translated by Ralph Manheim) p. 379.
21 Ibid, p. 397.
22 Richard Steigmann-Gall The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 (Cambridge University Press,New York,NY c 2003) p. 265
23 Robert Gellately Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage Books,New York,NY, First Ed., Aug. 2008)
24 Hermann Rauschning Talks With Hitler, in Memoirs of Alfred Rosenberg (New York: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company 1949) p. 89
25 Adolph Hitler Mein Kampf (Mariner Books,New York. First Mariner Edition 1999, Translated by Ralph Manheim) p. 303.