Freethought Today, March 1997


Religion And The Holocaust

By Richard E. Smith

This was originally a response to a letter to the editor. The letter brought forth two questions.

Was Hitler a Christian?

Did religion have anything to do with the Holocaust?

  1. Hitler was baptized a Catholic and attended Catholic schools and churches in Austria.

  2. Hitler repeatedly wrote and said that he was on a divine mission from God to destroy the Jews.

  3. The Nazis made much of their interpretation that Jesus was not Jewish so they could retain him for a god.

  4. In 1941 Hitler told his army adjutant General Gerhard Engel: "I shall remain a Catholic forever."

  5. Hitler was heavily influenced by the forged book "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." This was a spurious attempt to demonstrate the Jews were conducting a conspiracy to dominate the world.

  6. Hitler grew up in culture where religious hatred of Jews was and is commonplace. From the time of Martin Luther, the first Protestant, when he spoke before the Diet at Worms ("All Jews should be driven from Germany") until today in the person of Lech Walesa, who won control of Poland on a platform, in part, of anti-Semitism, the religious hatred remains.

  7. Hitler's last offensive of WWII was what came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. The original code name Hitler gave this plan was Christrose. Hitler changed the name to Watch on the Rhine because he figured his enemies in the West, primarily Americans, English, and French, who were also primarily Christians, would be able to guess what it meant.

  8. At the end of WWII the Catholic Church was up to its eyeballs (some say its Vatican) helping Nazis escape Europe to South America, the most prominent being Adolf Eichmann.

  9. It is true that some Christians lost their lives helping Jews. But atheistic Communists did the same thing.

  10. The Catholic church was willingly blackmailed by Nazi Germany in the Concordat of 1933. In the document signed by the Pope and Hitler, the church agreed not to interfere with the state as long as the state collected a religious tax from all church members. This tax remains in effect today. It is 9 percent of the base income.

  11. The great Christian nation of America (as some would have it), legally, through strict immigration laws, turned its back on the Jews.

  12. Christians might try reading A Criminal History of Christianity. It will take a while. So far it's ten volumes. And by the way it's in German.

  13. Reichmarshall Herman Goering proclaimed of Hitler: "Only a Catholic could unite Germany."

  14. Nazi Party Secretary Martin Bormann's wife remarked "I hope the children realize Charlamagne came to save us from the Jews."

  15. After conquering the low countries and France, Hitler returned to Berlin in the summer of 1940. All the church bells in Germany rang for one hour.

  16. Upon hearing that World War I had begun, Hitler later stated, "I fell on my knees and thanked Almighty God."

  17. Before lunch the schoolchildren of Germany were required to recite an invocation which began: "Fuhrer, my Fuhrer, bequeathed to me by the Lord, . . ."

  18. During Hitler's fiftieth birthday celebration, special votive masses were held in every German church "to implore God's blessing upon Fuhrer and people," and the Bishop of Mainz called upon Catholics in his diocese to pray specifically for "the Fuhrer and Chancellor, the inspirer, enlarger and protector of the Reich." The Pope did not fail to send his congratulations.

  19. When the final decision was made to exterminate the Jews, Hitler specified they should be killed humanely but without a twinge of conscience. He was, after all, a member in good standing in the Church of Rome and carried within him its teaching that the Jew was the killer of God.

  20. "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by only a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they are and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love, as a Christian and as a man, I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord rose at last in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was the fight for the world against the Jewish poison." --Adolf Hitler

  21. In his closing speech at Nuremberg in September 1937, Hitler compared the clash between National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism to the struggle between Christianity and Mohammedanism. During the speech, with his always amazing logic and persuasion, Hitler had "proved" the Jewish world conspiracy and turned the Jews into Arabs.

  22. In the aforementioned "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel are said to have met with the Devil in a cemetery in Prague. Aaron is recognized as a specialist for his work in undermining Christianity by spreading freethinking and skepticism. Hitler absolutely insisted the Protocols were not a forgery.

  23. Hitler was all his life a borrower. He would take a little something from this person, a little something from that place. Ofttimes this had great effect, as when he read of the reservations for Indians in the Christian nation of America. Hitler applied this idea to Nazi Germany, his own Christian nation. Hitler, as always, used his own touch. The reservations, under Hitler, were called concentration and killing camps.

  24. The Pope's attitude was not at all vague. While taking no definite stand on the German invasion (of the Soviet Union) he made it clear that he backed the Nazi fight against Jewish Bolshevism, describing it as "high-minded gallantry in defense of Christian culture."

  25. "We want to prevent our Germany from suffering, as Another did, the death upon the Cross."--Adolf Hitler

  26. Speaking in Vienna in April, 1938, after Anschluss with Austria, Hitler said: "I believe that it was God's will to send a youth from here into the Reich, to let him grow up, to raise him to be the leader of the nation so as to enable him to lead back his homeland into the Reich . . . In three days the Lord has smitten them. . . . And to me the grace was given on the day of the betrayal to be able to unite my homeland with the Reich . . . I would now give thanks to Him who let me return to my homeland in order that I might now lead it into my German Reich. Tomorrow, may every German recognize the hour, and measure its import and bow in humility before the Almighty who in a few weeks has wrought a miracle upon us."

  27. "Great Britain . . . which [Hitler told Field Marshall Rundstedt] must be looked on, together with the Catholic Church, as one of the cornerstones of Western civilization."

  28. "I (Hitler) can only be grateful to Providence that it trusted me with the leadership in this historic struggle. . . . A historical revision on a unique scale has been imposed on us by the Creator."

  29. When writing to Prime Minister von Kahr of Bavaria in 1920, Rudolf Hess, the man who was to become Deputy Fuhrer, stated, "I know Herr Hitler very well personally and am quite close to him. He has a rarely honorable, pure character, full of profound kindness, is religious, a good Catholic."

  30. Hitler visited Berlin for six weeks in the summer of 1921. He came away deploring the mockery of family life, the decay of religion.

  31. The frequency of religious metaphors and motifs in his rhetoric reflects childhood emotions: recollections of his experience as acolyte in Lambach monastery, when he was stirred to the depths by images of suffering and despair against a background of triumphant belief in salvation.

  32. "By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord," Hitler declared in Mein Kampf.

  33. In his May 1923 speech at the Krone Circus in Munich, Hitler cried out: "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but not human. They cannot be human in the sense of being an image of God, the Eternal. The Jews are the image of the Devil."

  34. Hitler expounded the identity of Judaism, Christianity, and Bolshevism by reference to Isaiah 19:2-3 and Exodus 12:38. He said that the Jews had been expelled from Egypt because they had tried to produce a revolutionary mood by inciting the rabble with Humanitarian phrases. . . . From this it followed that Moses was the first leader of Bolshevism. . . . Thus, Hitler argued, the Old Testament already provided the pattern of the Jewish assault upon the superior, creative race, a pattern repeated again and again down the ages.

  35. At a Christmas party (about 1926) given by a Munich section of the NSDAP he raised morale by comparing the woes of the party with the situation of the early Christians. National Socialism, he went on--sustaining the parallel because he had been carried away by his own bold image and the Christmas mood of the gathering--would translate the ideals of Christ "into deeds." He, Hitler, would complete "the work which Christ had begun but could not finish."

  36. The National Socialist party was failing. . . . it was evident that Hitler could win power only if Germany herself suffered violent disasters. He prayed for disaster, and his prayers were answered.

  37. Institutionally as well psychologically the movement had at last prepared its members to fit into the totalitarian framework. Speaking to chosen party journalists Hitler sketched a picture of hierarchy and organization of the Catholic Church. The party must build its leadership pyramid after the model of the church, "on a broad pedestal of . . . political parish priests who stand in the midst of the people." The pyramid itself must "rise above the tiers of the Kreisleiter and Gauleiter to the body of Senators and finally to the Leader-Pope." He did not shy away from the comparison between gauleiters and bishops, and between future senators and cardinals, one of those present reported; and similarly he boldly transferred the concepts of authority, obedience, and faith from the spiritual to the secular realms in a series of bewildering parallels. He concluded by saying without a trace of irony, that he did not "wish to contest the Holy Father in Rome his claim to mental--or is the word spiritual--infallibility on questions of faith, I don't know much about that. But I think I know a great deal more about politics. Therefore I hope that the Holy Father henceforth will not contest my claim. And herewith I now lay claim, for myself and successors in the leadership of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, to infallibility. I hope the world will bow to that as quickly as it has bowed to the Holy Father's claim."

  38. A Hamburg schoolmistress wrote in April 1932 that she had witnessed scenes of "moving faith" and Hitler struck her as a religious rather than political leader. His success with the masses was above all a phenomenon of the psychology of religion. He spoke less to people's political convictions than to their spiritual state.

  39. Hitler assigned a high significance to space as well as time. The "artificially created, yet mysterious twilight in Catholic churches" was, he believed, (an) almost perfect example of places treated for their maximum psychological effect. This was, in his words, what all propaganda aimed at: to achieve "an encroachment upon man's freedom of will."

  40. During his February 1, 1933, radio speech, "Proclamation to German People" Hitler began by saying "the Almighty has withheld his blessing from our people" since the loss of World War I in November 1918. Beginning with the family, he went on to pledge a fostering of "Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of racial and political life." He went on to make a pious appeal (prayer) for God's blessing on the work.

  41. On February 4, 1933 Hitler's Decree For The Protection Of The German People went into effect. It was immediately used against a congress of leftist intellectuals and artists for purportedly making atheistic statements.

  42. Speaking in early 1933 in the Berlin Sportpalast, Hitler prayed the following: [he had the] "rock-hard conviction that sooner or later the hour will come in which the millions who hate us today will stand behind us and together with us will hail what we have jointly created, toilsomely struggled for, bitterly paid for: the new German Reich of greatness and honor and power and glory and justice. Amen!"

  43. Often today the word holocaust is used by those against abortion. This of course conjures up images of the slaughter of Jews and others (one group frequently overlooked in the killing are atheists) during World War II. Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, made plain his Catholic feelings on abortion. "I'll put an end to the idea that a women's body belongs to her . . . Nazi ideals demand that the practice of abortion shall be exterminated with a strong hand." Hitler sentenced so-called Aryan women who had abortions to hard labor after the first offense, to death after the second.

  44. The seed of hatred sown by Martin Luther would reach its horrible climax in the Third Reich, when German Protestants showed themselves to be particularly receptive to Nazi antiSemitism.

  45. Adolf Hitler, as an Austrian-born Catholic educated in Linz, who had arrived in Munich before the First World War, was the heir of an age-old tradition of Christian anti-Semitism which had become transmuted into biological racism, especially in the German-speaking world of Central Europe. The secular political faith of National Socialism which he propagated borrowed its motifs freely from Christian liturgy, from the hierarchical structure of the Catholic church and the demonological view of Judaism as a satanic force which had its roots in the Middle Ages. In his early years as political agitator in Bavaria he frequently played on the deicidal myth and on his own messianic role as a militant Germanic saviour bearing a sword rather than a crown of thorns, who would drive the Jewish capitalists from the Temple of the Lord. "The task which Christ began but did not finish," he told a Munich audience in 1926 , "I will complete." In Mein Kampf he had written, two years earlier, "that in defending myself against the Jews I am acting for the Lord." Without the irrational beliefs inculcated by centuries of Christian dogma--reinforced by xenophobic, nationalist and Germanic racial mythology--Hitler's anti-Semitism and the echo which it found throughout Europe would have been inconceivable.

Two questions.

Would the Holocaust have happened if Hitler had been a Buddhist?

If you were God would you have let the Holocaust happen?


Writes Kansas Foundation member Richard E. Smith: "I have been studying WWII for well over 20 years. I am currently working in the entertainment industry, in Wichita, Kansas. Last summer marked my 30th year as a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. I at this time am approaching the various communitty colleges and universities in the area in an attempt to give lectures on Hitler and religion."


Footnotes

1) Hitler, Bulluck, 26, 30, 388
3) Adolf Hitler, Toland, 507
4) ibid. 703
5) History of the SS, Graber, 76-77
6) Anti-Semitism, Wistrich, 66-67
7) Hitler, Toland, 830
11) While Six Million Died, Morse
15) The Eagle's Nest, Video, Volume III
16) Hitler, Bulluck, 50
17) Adolf Hitler, Toland, 404
18) ibid. 528
19) ibid. 703
20) Hitler, Fest, 152
21) Hitler, Bulluck, 365
22) History of the SS, Graber, 85
24) Adolf Hitler, Toland, 674-75
25) Hitler, Bulluck, 96
26) ibid. 435
27) ibid. 589
28) ibid. 663
29) Hitler, Fest, 131-32
30) ibid. 140
31) ibid. 140
32) Mein Kampf, Hitler, 296
33) Hitler, Fest, 212
34) ibid. 211
35) ibid. 252
36) Life And Death of Adolf Hitler, Payne, 221
37) Hitler, Fest, 283-284
38) ibid. 328-329
39) ibid. 325
40) ibid. 388-389
41) ibid. 391
42) ibid. 393
43) Mein Kampf, Hitler, 173
44) Antisemitism, Wistrich, 42
45) ibid. 66-67