Is this perception accurate, that the Nazis acted in the name of Jesus?
"In his Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, John
Toland wrote of Hitler's religious position at the time of the
'final solution:' 'Still a member in good standing of the Church of
Rome despite detestation of its hierarchy, he carried within him its
teaching that the Jew was the killer of god. The extermination,
therefore, could be done without a twinge of conscience since he was
merely acting as the avenging hand of god — so long as it was done
impersonally, without cruelty.'" (Richard Dawkins, The God
Delusion, p. 311).
You would think Darwinians would be embarrassed to mention
Hitler, but these people know no embarrassment. This accusation, that Adolf Hitler was a devout Christian whose
crimes were motivated by zeal for Jesus, is oft repeated by
the New Atheists. Is it accurate? Given the unimaginable evil that Adolf
Hitler wrought in the world, melding him to those you wish to
discredit might seem a beautiful polemic strategy. And the case
starts promisingly enough: Hitler was baptized and raised in a Roman
Catholic home. Where it starts to falter is when he becomes able to
speak for himself.
Was Hitler's war against the Jews religiously based? Against this claim is the
inescapable fact that German Jews facing
annihilation could not save themselves through conversion, a historic escape route from
religious persecution wherever found. The Caesars spared those Christians
willing to offer a pinch of incense to the pagan gods, Muslim
conquerors have spared those Hindus willing to recite the Shahada;
but baptism was no escape route from Hitler's Holocaust. Adolf Hitler did not much care what a
person's religion was, rather he cared about racial background, which
is unaffected by present belief or confession. This focus on race was normal
for nineteenth century European antisemitism: "[Austrian Georg Ritter]
Schonerer was an uncompromising racial antisemite. 'Religion's all
the same, it's race that is to blame,' was one of his typically
catchy slogans." (Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich,
p. 44). The concept of 'race' was the last word in the 'scientific'
biology of the nineteenth century, as the reader can verify by
checking the sub-title of Charles Darwin's magnum opus. They went back to
"A week after the boycott, on 7 April 1933, the La for
the Restoration of a Professional Civil Service added Jews to
Communists and other politically unreliable individuals in state
employment as targets for dismissal. 'Non-Aryan' civil servants,
defined in a supplementary law on 11 April as people with one ore
more 'non-Aryan, particularly Jewish' grandparent, were to be
retired, unless (on Hindenburg's explicit insistence) they were war
veterans or had lost a father or son in combat, or had been in the
forces before the First World War." (Richard J. Evens, The Coming of
the Third Reich, p. 437).
It is apparent this definition would include persons who neither
self-identify as Jews, nor would be considered as such by the
Rabbis, nor who practice Judaism, under its umbrella. Far from
recognizing baptism as a valid means of changing group
identification, it stubbornly insists upon 'deconverting' those who converted to Christianity, even in prior
generations. How would it play out with an 'Aryan' who converted to
Judaism, like Elizabeth Taylor? I don't know, but it's not a religious definition.
Religion is irrelevant.
How is a 'Jew' defined, by Jews? Certainly not as 'non-Aryan,'
for the same reason there is no group which defines itself as
'non-white.' In modern-day secular Israel, many of
whose inhabitants are atheists or agnostics, a 'Jew' as defined
under the Law of Return nevertheless cannot be a Christian: "Judge Silberg (for
the majority) held that the Law of Return was a secular enactment.
For its purposes, a Jew was defined not according to halakhah but as
Jews in general understood the term: 'The answer to this question
is in my opinion sharp and clear — a Jew who has become a
Christian is not deemed a Jew.'" (Paul Johnson, A
History of the Jews, p. 539). Plainly this definition, in Rufeisen
v. Minister of the Interior, 1962, is anything but secular! Neither is
it racial. Converts of any racial background are counted as Jews. But
atheists are at no disadvantage, contrary to the ten commandments. The
Nazi definition was racial, not religious. This 'race science'
and 'racial hygiene' is bad science, not bad theology. These categories have
nothing to do with Christianity. If anyone should apologize for finding
'favored races,' and disfavored ones, it is those who hold today the same underlying
premises which led to these inhuman conclusions.
Hitler scapegoated the Jews for the German loss in World War I. The Jews,
he said, had stabbed the German armies in the field in the back. And
how had they done this? Jewish socialists like Rosa Luxemburg,
emboldened by Lenin's success, tried to parlay widespread
disenchantment with an endless war into the downfall of the
government and its replacement by a socialist regime. Fall the government
did; the Kaiser abdicated, but a brief but vicious civil war between
the Marxist revolutionaries and the 'Free Corps' led to a different
outcome than in Russia; the Germans were not about to submit to Bolshevik
slavery without a fight. But Jewish Marxists were by definition atheists. Who is
to blame for what Jewish atheists do? The mostly religious
inhabitants of the Jewish ghettos of Poland and Russia? Why? 'Race' has
never been a rational category for which a meaningful definition can
be given, not in twentieth century Germany, nor in its present-day use by the U.S. Census.
It is surprising that patriots searching for an explanation for
Germany's defeat in the first World War did not take notice of the widespread desertions on
the part of the German soldiery occurring at the close of
that conflict. One should not overlook the obvious. Nor is it apparent why
the millions of true-blue ethnic Germans voting for the Communist
Party, at least up until the point when Hitler outlawed it, were not
more of a threat to the future of Germany than the very small
number of Jews who held similar sentiments. In the election that brought the
Nazis to power, the two parties that followed an officially Marxist
line, the Social Democrats and the Communists, garnered more votes
than did the Nazis. What these voters wanted was wrong, not just
'mistaken' but a grievous moral wrong; the world had seen enough of
Bolshevism by that time to know it meant mass death. In the event, the eastern part
of Germany did end up going Communist, but only after Hitler had
reduced the prosperous land he inherited to a smoking ruin, with
scarcely a surviving German Jew in sight.
Thankfully, Social Darwinism is an extinct political position;
after the Holocaust, no one will admit to believing it, nor advocate it in
public. But it did once exist, and flourished, not only in Germany but in Great Britain and
the United States as well. And there remains an abundance of evidence as to the religious
convictions of the Nazis. They were religious in their own way,
though nothing so conventional as Christianity. How best to describe
their faith? Was it a new sect or variant of Christianity, or is it
better categorized as neo-Paganism? While showy devotion to the old pagan
gods seems more like play-acting than a serious belief or
commitment, and from the standpoint of uninvolved spectators in
the German populace probably just appeared laughable, Nazism was
what it was, and it was not Christian.
When challenged to defend their claim that Adolf Hitler was a
devout Christian, the atheists substitute a different
accusation, namely that those Europeans of the day who were
Christians, whether through cowardice, inertia, complicity, or indifference,
failed to do what was in their power to stop Hitler. This latter
accusation carries substantial weight, but it is different from the initial indictment.
Cowardice cropped up at epidemic levels in 1930's Germany; as Adolf
Hitler systematically transformed democratic Germany into a one-party police state, what did
people do? Stage a mass strike? March in the streets? No, they stampeded to join:
"Many civil servants did indeed rush to preserve their jobs by
becoming members of the Nazi Party, joining the army of those who
quickly became known mockingly as the 'March Fallen'. . .Between 30
January and 1 May 1933, 1.6 million people joined the Nazi Party,
dwarfing the existing Party membership, a Gadarene rush that
illustrated as few other things did the degree of the opportunism
and sauve qui peut that were gripping the German population." (Richard
J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, p.
Nazi electoral success peaked at 37.4% in the Reichstag election
of July 1932; in no free election did they win a majority of the
popular vote. Had the German people, who included in their number not only nominal
Christians, adherents of the 'liberalism' promoted by the state-run clerical
establishment, but real believers as well, been willing to stand up for
their convictions, they could have stopped it. Part of the problem,
though, is that their political convictions were all over the map. The
political spectrum ran from monarchists on the right to Communists
on the left; the people who actually wanted a democratic republic,
as anything other than a way station, were in the minority. No doubt
historical anti-Jewish agitation by Christian preachers
like Martin Luther contributed to the German public's callousness to the
plight of the Jews under Hitler,
but Christian preaching was not what moved or motivated the Nazis.
When it came time to assess blame, after the German
defeat in World War II, at first it fell on Hitler, dead by suicide, and his henchmen,
many of whom stood trial for war crimes. Then the penumbra of blame for the appalling mass killing of unarmed civilians was expanded, quite fairly, to include all those Germans who
passionately welcomed Hitler's dictatorship and who worked to bring it in.
Then the circle widened yet further to include all the Germans who
passively acquiesced in the Nazi power-grab, doing nothing to forestall
Hitler's atrocities. This was no doubt fair as well; but at this
point those pointing the finger were on a roll and could rest at no natural stopping
point. To expand the circle of blame beyond this
perimeter, even to draw in all Christians in the world, becomes
grotesque, because it sucks into the drag-net American G.I.'s who, at
great personal sacrifice, fought to bring Hitler down. Some critics
display a childish ingratitude, seeming unaware that it wasn't
Jewish atheists who ended Hitler's misrule. Looking to those brave men
who gave their lives to defeat Nazism, what more do these critics
expect, no, demand, them to have done? Those Germans who voted for Hitler
can answer for what they did, or what they thought they were doing.
But people who never had a vote to cast in any German election
cannot plausibly be blamed for Hitler's rise to power. And to blame men who
gave up years of their lives to fight Hitler, or lost an arm or a
leg, or even their lives, in the struggle, sails far beyond my comprehension.
There are 'good guys' in this story too.
To restore the focus where it
belongs, on the initial charge: what was the Nazis' religion? Were
their murders indeed motivated by their purportedly vibrant Christian faith, as is
alleged? I think the answer to that question has to be 'no,' based on the
Nazis' own testimony. Although German Christians must bear the blame
for a long history of ill-will and murderous misbehavior against Jews going back
to Peter the Hermit, that's just not what the Nazis were talking about. The
'science' that led to the classification of Jews as a degraded race
did not even exist until the nineteenth century. The pillars of this
world-view do not rise out of the Bible, rather, it is the same thing they keep foisting on us today.
Hitler took to heart the Darwinian world view. The 'Aryan'
Germans classed the Jews as a lower race for much the same reason as
the English Charles Darwin classed the Irish as a lower race:
because it's always the classifier who is of the higher race, the
people the classifier hates who are lower. It was that way from the start.
By the Nazis' own ideological writings, they espouse a
pagan nature mysticism with more affinity for the racist Social
Darwinism of their day than to Christianity. It involved a certain
amount of substitution: instead of the Bible, Mein Kampf. They had big plans for the churches of Germany: