Ludwig Müller (born June 23, 1883 in Gütersloh, Westphalia, Germany; died July 31, 1945 in Berlin, Germany) was a German who headed the German Christians (German: Deutsche Christen) and was imposed by the Nazi government as Landesbischof (bishop) of the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union (6 July 1933) and Reich's Bishop (28 June 1933) of the German Evangelical Church (German: Deutsche Evangelische Kirche). He had been associated with Nazism since the 1920s. He supported a revisionist view of "Christ the Aryan" (or a "heroic Jesus") as well as a plan of purifying Christianity of what he deemed "Jewish corruption," including purging large parts of the Old Testament.
Müller had little real political experience and, as his actions would demonstrate to Adolf Hitler, little if any political aptitude. In the 1920s and early 1930s, before Hitler's assumption of the German Chancellorship in January 1933, he was a little known pastor who had been a military chaplain and a regional leader of the German Christians in East Prussia. However, he was an "old fighter" with Hitler (German: Alter Kämpfer) since 1931, and had a burning desire to assume more power. In 1932, Müller introduced Hitler to General von Blomberg when Müller was chaplain of the East Prussian Military District and Blomberg was the district's commander.
As part of the Nazi Gleichschaltung, the Nazi regime's plan was to "coordinate" all 28 separate Protestant regional church bodies into a single and unitary Reich Church (German: Reichskirche). Müller wanted to serve as the Reich's bishop (German: Reichsbischof) of this newly formed entity.
His first attempt to achieve his post ended in a miserable and embarrassing failure. Eventually, however, he was elected to bishop by a national synod through political machinations. This angered many Protestant pastors and congregations, who deemed his selection to be politically motivated and intrinsically anti-Christian.
He was supported by the Nationalist faction (German Christians) within the Church, who wanted to get rid of the Old Testament and create a German National Religion divorced from Jewish influenced ideas. They supported the introduction of the Aryan Paragraph into the Church. This controversy led to schism and the foundation of the competing Confessing Church, a situation that frustrated Hitler and led to the end of Müller's power.
Many of the German Protestant clergy supported the Confessing Church movement, which resisted the imposition of the state into Church affairs. Hitler's interest in the group had waned by 1937, when the party took up a more aggressive attitude toward the resistant Christian clergy, so Müller tried to revive his support by allowing the Gestapo to monitor churches and the Christian youth groups to consolidate with the Hitler Youth.
He remained committed to Nazism to the end. He committed suicide in 1945, soon after the Nazi defeat.
- Barnett p. 33.
- Shirer p. 235
- See article on Confessing Church for the background of the Protestant Church in Germany.
- Stackelberg, Roderick; Winkle, Sally A. (2002). The Nazi Germany sourcebook : an anthology of texts. London: Routledge. pp. 167–68. ISBN 0-415-22213-3.
- Rev. Howard Chandler Robbins (1876–1952), The Germanisation of the New Testament by Bishop Ludwig Müller and Bishop Weidemann, London, 1938
- Barnes, Kenneth C. (1991). Nazism, Liberalism, & Christianity: Protestant social thought in Germany & Great Britain, 1925-1937. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1729-1 (''Barnes'').
- Barnett, Victoria (1992). For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-512118-X (''Barnett'').
- Hockenos, Matthew D. (2004). A Church Divided: German Protestants Confront the Nazi Past. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34448-9 (''Hockenos'').