Third Reich Christendom: Church Anti-Semitism and Dejudaizing Jesus

Original guest piece submitted by Benjamin Taghov

As has been highlighted on Loonwatch, the radical anti-muslim vanguard, and specifically Pamela Geller, has been mouthing the idea of an unmistakable joinder between the ideology of National Socialism, coined by Adolf Hitler, and Islam. She has campaigned the notion that Hitler himself was spiritized by Islam and that the Muslim faith was used as an inspirational take-off point for the Nazi extermination program. According to her, the genocidal insanity of Hitler was strategically interlaced with the genocide of the Armenians. And as that may be true, Hitler also said that he was genuinely inspired by and admired the extermination of the Native Americans.

Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies in English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for Native Americans in the wild west; to his inner circle he often praised the efficiency of America’s extermination – by starvation and uneven combat – of the “red savages” who could not be tamed by captivity.[1]

Genocide at the hands of early Christian Americans supposedly stained the mind of Hitler. He had found a palpable source of inspiration for his extirpational plans. As far as Christianity is concerned though, Hitler did not accredit himself any particular Christian denomination. On the contrary, he found himself outside the fold of Christianity.

When Germany officially came under Nazi rule, the church found itself in a desperate need to redefine itself. In 1939, Protestant theologians, clergymen and other influencial characters within the Christian movement, as well as regular old congregants, joined forces to auspicate the grand opening of the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life. The advanced objectives were both political and theological in nature. Prof. Susannah Heschel, in her critically acclaimed work, The Aryan Jesus, says that:

Seeking to create a dejudaized church for Germany that was in the process of ridding Europe of all Jews, it developed new biblical interpretations and liturgical materials. In the six years of its existence, as the Nazi regime carried out its genocide of the Jews, the Institute redefined Christianity as a Germanic religion whose founder, Jesus, was no Jew but rather had fought valiantly to destroy Judaism, falling as victim to that struggle. Germans were now called upon to be the victors in Jesus’s own struggle against the Jews, who were said to be seeking Germany’s destruction.[2]

The institute gained a lot of success in winning support for its radical agenda from a broad spectrum of ecclesiastical representatives and scholars, who shared or came to share, a volition to weed out the very Judaic vertebra of Christian history and origins. The church under Nazi rule was however not homogeneous. Some adherents of Christian faith felt that the Tanakh should be pooh-poohed or completely expunged from the scripture since the Old Testament was regarded as a Jewish book. Others proposed that the opponents had failed at realizing that the Old Testament in all actuality was anti-Jewish in essence; that the prophets were at constant war with Israel’s sinful ways. By unreading the Bible’s Jewish core text, they suggested that it should be preserved as proof that the Jews were a violent enemy.

However serious the intrafaith quarrel seemed, none of them were in opposition to the Nazi regime. They were all outspokenly anti-Semitic and the rivalry was only preferably based on theological issues: on the one side for example, there were Christians who accepted baptism as a way to dejudaize the Jewish community, and the counterpart of the inter-religious fued – a majority assemblage – who did not regard the Jews as spiritually equal and therefore, always, unfit for Christian faith. As a rule, rather than as an exception, this was the status of Germanic Christendom. There were no real schismatic ”bail-outs”. Alternative views and large-scale opposition to the rabid racism of the church were almost unherad of. Gailus, in his Protestantimus und Nationalsozialismus, accentuates this and asseverates the low percentage of withdrawals from the church.

Without any doubt, one main reason for the Nazi regime’s success, was due to anti-Semitism. Other areas were left underachieved. Hitler and his minions did not reach their desiderated goals, neither militarily nor politically. The Nazi regime did nonetheless exploit the church’s prevailing anti-Semitic interpretations of the New Testament. The anti-Semitic resonance found its way through the church. Susannah Heschel explains why:

…its success can be credited in large measure to the unrelenting anti-Jewish Christian theological discourse that linked Nazi propaganda with the traditions and moral authority of the churches. That link was proclaimed with enthusiasm by Nazi Christians: ‘In the Nazi treatment of the Jews and its ideological stance, Luthers intentions, after centuries, are being fulfilled’[3]

As she also notes, Uriel Tal clearly demonstrates that anti-Semitism within Christianity was not a new phenomenon. He argues that it was utterly owing to Christian anti-Judaism for its success. He writes:

…it was not the economic crises that brought about this new political, racial anti-religious antisemitism, but completely the reverse, it was precisely the anti-Christian and antireligious ideology of racial antisemitism which hampered the first antisemitic parties in their efforts to utilize the economic crisis for their political development. . . [because] what still attracted the masses was the classical, traditional Christian anti-Judaism, however adapted it may have become to the new economic conditions.[4]

As a matter of fact, it can be stated that whatever the seriousness of the inter-religious dialogues, they ultimately came together, putting their frictions aside, due to their shared anti-Semitic attitudes. The church’s willingness to steward the neo-pagan Nazi rulers and conversely their adopted and appropriated Nazi rhetoric, combined with their volition to recognize Nazi symbolism, is what finally made Christendom a tolerable contestant from a Nazi standpoint. Hitler knew that he had to appeal to a Christian audience and thus his phraseology was painstakingly calculated. He delicately drew on Christian spirituality and was quoted saying that:

St. Paul transformed a local movement of Aryan opposition to Jewry into a super-temporal religion, which postulates the equality of all men…[causing] the death of the Roman empire. [5]

Christianity could not be rejected. The Nazi ideologists felt that a sudden forfeiture of Christianity would in fact offend the moral of Germans. Since the anti-Semitism of Germanic Christianity was utilized as a tool of propaganda, it became the basis for the Nazi party to lean on when appealing to the masses. Nazi ideologists exploited Christianity by colonizing and usurping its theology and its anti-Semitism, for self-fulfilling purposes. The Nazi party integrated key elements of Christian theology with its own ideology. In that way they figured they could boost the quantity of supporters, but they also argued that they needed to bolster their message with a cohesive resonance of Christian tradition, inasmuch as the teachings of the faith had been shaping European culture and thought for thousands of years.

As for liability, the church maintained their guiltlessness. In the aftermath, those people who participated in propagating an anti-Jewish message by disseminating the Christian outlook, justified it by waving the “non-complicity-card” in the actual mass murders. And here it gets really interesting. Firstly, the church propagated anti-Semitism during a time when Jews were being dissociated from the rest of the population. Secondly, they were being rounded up and killed. That is tantamount to giving the executors the go ahead. By suggesting genocide, or by agitating its exigency, they were compliant in murdering them off from a far. Heschel goes on fitting them with the term ‘desk murderers’, implying that they were culpable in promoting genocide from behind their pulpits.

Paralleling the German church to a contemporary context: this is exactly what Geller and Spencer are doing. The German Christians hid their Nazi anti-Semitism beneath the cloak of religion. Geller and Spencer are doing the same thing when they are hiding their true agendas behind a cloak of “civil rights activism.”

They can disassociate themselves from instigating hate all they want. But the fact of the matter is that they are propagating an ideology of hate. Consider for a moment if Geller went back in time with her desktop computer. She would sit there with a warm cup of tea and a cozy felt wrapped around her legs, indulging in and spreading hate and rationale for the dissociation of the Jewish people. Switch from “Islam and Muslims” to “Judaism and Jews” and she would be part of the the German hate-machinery of intellectuals who metaphrased the Nazi ideology into Christian theology: giving Nazism a religious significance by transforming the message into a seizable spiritual discourse. Like whitewashed tombs on the outside, but putrefactively dead inside. That is the true nature of charismatic hate demagogues.

The church and the Nazi movement envisaged their task as an act of self-defence. The Jews were regarded as violent enemies of the state: their agenda could not allow them to ever assimilate into society and they would never submit fully to German law.

…Institute statements regarding Jews and Judaism were mirrors, in Christianized language, of the official propaganda issued by the Reich during the course of the Holocaust: Jews were the aggressive enemies of Germans and Germany was fighting a defensive war against them. Even as the Nazis carried out the extermination of the European Jews, their propaganda argued that it was the Jews who were plotting to murder the Germans. [6]

The rationalization and the language of the Nazis are comparatively similar to that of the vanguard of Internet Islamophobia. With statements such as “the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim” (meaning that a muslim has to kill or maim, or by the use of creeping Jihad, overthrow the ruling apparatus and it’s majority population) they suggest that the West is in dire need to protect itself. It is, so they claim, an act of self-defence. A minority population in Europe and the United States, supposedly in a state of violent or passive aggressive opposition to the West: a Clash of Civilizations.

Furthermore, in terms of the machination of genocide, several high officials within the church actually furthered the notion of terminating Jewish life. A few months after the Nuremburg Laws were enacted, a group of representatives from German churches gathered in Dresden to discuss the merging of the church body. During this meeting, at that time the head of the Thuringian Ministry of Education, and later in 1939, approximately 3 years after the meeting in Dresden, the figurehead of the Institute, stated the following:

…In Christian life, the heart has to be disposed toward the Jew, and that’s how it has to be. As a Christian, I can, I must, and I ought always to have or to find a bridge to the Jew in my heart. But as a Christian, I also have to follow the laws of the nation [Volk], which are often presented in a very cruel way, so that again I am brought into the harshest of conflicts with ‘Thou shalt not kill the Jew’ because he too is a child of the eternal Father, I am able to know as well that I have to kill him, I have to shoot him, and I can only do that if I am permitted to say: Christ. [7]

Siegfried Leffler not only spoke of killing the Jews as early as in 1936, a few years prior to it actually being done, but the people attending the meeting did not at any time voice any discontent to what was being said. It was as if it had already become a customary discourse within German Christian congregations. The discussion continued as if the murder of Jews in the name of Christ was an acceptable iniquity. In other words, the murder of Jews was considered an option in dealing with the elimination of Jewish influence on German life and church.

Apologetics within the contemporary church downplay the role of the Christian movement, as it is an awkward moment in history, reminiscent of past atrocities committed in the name of Christ. But the documented history of the church’s influence on Nazi Germany and its crucial effect on public opinion, is so articulate that any attempt at brushing it off as an isolated event, or by claiming that the Protestant Christian movement were actually motivated by sectarian currents, in and by itself becomes inofficious. A stillborn attempt at trying to explain away history. The German Christian movement was a faction within the Protestant church, following in the footsteps of its founder, Martin Luther. They always connected their ideology and approach to the ‘Jewish question’ to him and expressly voiced that their agenda was an attempt to pick up where Luther had left off.

This makes Geller and her co-agitators brutally incoherent. They take something, that may very well be true, out of its context: by picking and choosing events in history, that strengthen their pre-determined panorama of hate. In point of fact, by drawing her conclusions, she is trying desperately to downplay or fully hide, the Christian interspersion on Nazi thought.

Hitler may have observed the game-plan of the Young Turks. This does not mean that Hitler was anymore influenced by Islam than he was by Christianity. As was mentioned at the top, Hitler did draw from the Christian American holocaust of Native Americans, and he did reference Christian spirituality in his speeches. Does that mean that he was Christian or that he was motivated by Christian theology? No, it doesn’t. It means that Hitler was looking for a way to streamline his operational murder and slave camps.

He was not ideologically influenced by any of the examples he was drawing on, he was just trying to find a way to advance his efforts. But that is obviously something that eludes Geller’s ratiocination. It does however show that religion, when hijacked, can get ugly. The German Christian movement is surpassingly good at proving this point.

[1]Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography, John Toland. p.202

[2]The Aryan Jesus, p6

[3]Ibid p7

[4]Religious and Anti-Religious roots of Modern Antisemitism, p177

[5]The Aryan Jesus, p8

[6]The Aryan Jesus p14

[7] ThHStA A 1400, 239, February 24-25, 1936. Attedning the meeting: Paul Althaus, Martin Doerne, Erich Fascher, Wolf Meyer-Erlach, Dedo Müller, pastors and senior ministers; Leffler, Leutheuser, Hugo Hahn, The Aryan Jesus, p10.

*Disclaimer: We are by no means endorsing the idea that Christianity is an anti-Semitic religion. We are only exploring the Islamophobic claim that Hitler was inspired by Islam, as well as the relationship between the Third Reich and the German Christian Church.

Benjamin Taghiov is the nom de plum of a Swedish author, specializing in the fields of Political Science and Oriental studies.  A long time admirer of Loonwatch, he plans on contributing more articles in the future.

6 thoughts on “Third Reich Christendom: Church Anti-Semitism and Dejudaizing Jesus

  1. Pingback: Vatican and Barabbas | Death Penalty and Vatican Officials

  2. Who helped Hitler most to exterminate Jews? The grand mufti of Jerusalem who made up Muslims SS battalions in Bosnia uniting all Muslims in the Balkans. There’s nobody who ever hated us Jews more than the followers of the self-appointed prophet who killed the Jews of Yathrib.

  3. “Who helped Hitler most to exterminate Jews?”

    I don’t know who to pick. The millions of non-Muslims (primarily Christians) who voted for the Nazis, the millions of non-Muslims who served in Hitler’s army, the countless generals and officers who commanded the police, Gestapo and the SS, or one irrelevant Mufti who lived hundreds of miles away.

    Only an Islamophobe so consumed with hatred for Muslims such as yourself could blame Islam/Muslims for the Holocaust. Let’s say you’re right about the Bosnian SS and the Mufti, but even then for every Muslim who may have served in that army there were thousands upon thousands of other Muslims who fought against the Germans in Europe, Africa and beyond. There are cemeteries in England and France filled with Muslims who died defending the free world.

    And then we have this:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16190541

    Find me one respected historian who claims that the Mufti helped Hitler more than Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Joseph Goebbels or any of the other countless (non-Muslim) members of the Nazi Party. Face it, Islam had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

  4. Pingback: Protestant Reich Church - Pagina 6

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