Religious views of Adolf Hitler
Hitler was born to a practicing Catholic mother, and was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1904, He was confirmed at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Linz, Austria, where the family lived. According to John Willard Toland, witnesses indicate that Hitler's confirmation sponsor had to "drag the words out of him ... almost as though the whole confirmation was repugnant to him". Rissmann notes that, according to several witnesses who lived with Hitler in a men's home in Vienna, Hitler never again attended Mass or received the sacraments after leaving home. Several eyewitnesses who lived with Hitler while he was in his late teens and early-to-mid 20s in Vienna state that he never attended church after leaving home at 18.
In his book Mein Kampf and in public speeches prior to and in the early years of his rule, Hitler expressed himself as a Christian. Hitler and the Nazi party promoted "Positive Christianity", a movement which rejected most traditional Christian doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus, as well as Jewish elements such as the Old Testament. In one widely quoted remark, he described Jesus as an "Aryan fighter" who struggled against "the power and pretensions of the corrupt Pharisees" and Jewish materialism. In his private diaries, Goebbels wrote in April 1941 that though Hitler was "a fierce opponent" of the Vatican and Christianity, "he forbids me to leave the church. For tactical reasons."
Hitler's regime launched an effort toward coordination of German Protestants under a unified Protestant Reich Church (but this was resisted by the Confessing Church), and moved early to eliminate political Catholicism. Hitler agreed to the Reich concordat with the Vatican, but then routinely ignored it, and permitted persecutions of the Catholic Church. Smaller religious minorities faced harsher repression, with the Jews of Germany expelled for extermination on the grounds of Nazi racial ideology. Jehovah's Witnesses were ruthlessly persecuted for refusing both military service and allegiance to Hitler's movement. Although he was prepared to delay conflicts for political reasons, historians conclude that he ultimately intended the destruction of Christianity in Germany, or at least its distortion or subjugation to a Nazi outlook.
- 1 Historiography
- 2 Hitler's remarks to confidants
- 3 Public and private evolution of Hitler's beliefs
- 3.1 Hitler's youth
- 3.2 Adulthood and political career
- 3.2.1 Hitler's public rhetoric and writings about religion
- 3.2.2 Hitler on mysticism and occultism
- 3.2.3 Hitler on atheism
- 3.2.4 Hitler on Ancient Indian religions
- 3.2.5 Hitler on Islam
- 3.2.6 Hitler on Judaism
- 3.2.7 Secular versus religious influences
- 4 Hitler's policies towards religion
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Alan Bullock wrote that Hitler had been raised Catholic, whom though impressed by its organizational powers, repudiated Christianity on what he considered to be rational and moral grounds. Bullock wrote that Hitler believed neither in "God nor conscience", but found both "justification and absolution" in a view of himself echoing Hegel's view that heroes were above conventional morality, and that the role of "world-historical individuals" as the agents by which the "Will of the World Spirit", the plan of Providence is carried out. Following his early military successes, Hitler "abandoned himself entirely to megalomania" and the "sin of hybris", an exaggerated self-pride, believing himself to be more than a man. Once the war was over, wrote Bullock, Hitler wanted to root out and destroy the influence of the churches, though until then he would be circumspect for political reasons:
In Hitler's eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest.
At the turn of the century, leading Hitler expert Ian Kershaw wrote an influential biography of Hitler which used new sources to expound on Hitler's religious views. He too concluded that Hitler was anti-Christian but spiritual:
...making the German Army ‘into the first army in the world, in training, in the raising of units, in armaments, and, above all, in spiritual education (in der geistigen Erziehung)’ was vital. If this did not happen,
then ‘Germany will be lost,’ [Hitler] declared.
However much Hitler on some occasions claimed to want a respite in the conflict [with the churches], his own inflammatory comments gave his underlings all the license they needed to turn up the heat on the 'Church Struggle', confident that they were working towards the Fuhrer...Hitler's impatience with the churches prompted frequent outbursts of hostility. In early 1937, he was declaring that 'Christianity was ripe for destruction' (Untergang), and that the churches must therefore yield to the 'primacy of the state', railing against 'the most horrible institution imaginable'
British historian Richard J. Evans, who writes primarily on Nazi Germany and World War II, noted Hitler claiming that Nazism is founded on science: "Science, he declared, would easily destroy the last remaining vestiges of superstition' Germany could not tolerate the intervention of foreign influences such as the Pope and 'Priests', he said, were 'black bugs', 'abortions in black cassocks'."
British historian Richard Overy, biographer of Hitler, sees Hitler as having been a skeptic of religion: "Both Stalin and Hitler wanted a neutered religion, subservient to the state, while the slow programme of scientific revelation destroyed the foundation of religious myth." Overy writes of Hitler as skeptical of all religious belief, but politically prudent enough not to "trumpet his scientific views publicly", partly in order to maintain the distinction between his own movement and the godlessness of Soviet Communism . In 2004, he wrote:
He was not a practising Christian but had somehow succeeded in masking his own religious skepticism from millions of German voters. Though Hitler has often been portrayed as a neo-pagan, or the centrepiece of a political religion in which he played the Godhead, his views had much more in common with the revolutionary iconoclasm of the Bolshevik enemy. His few private remarks on Christianity betray a profound contempt and indifference ... Hitler believed that all religions were now 'decadent'; in Europe it was the 'collapse of Christianity that we are now experiencing'. The reason for the crisis was science. Hitler, like Stalin took a very modern view of the incompatibility of religious and scientific explanation.— Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia
Historian Percy Ernst Schramm, describes Hitler's personal religious creed, after his rejection of the Christian beliefs of his youth, as "a variant of the monism so common before the First World War". According to Schramm, these views were indirectly influenced by the work of Ernst Haeckel and his disciple, Wilhelm Bölsche.
Schramm quotes Dr. Hanskarl von Hasselbach, one of Hitler's personal physicians, as saying that Hitler was a "religious person, or at least one who was struggling with religious clarity". According to von Hasselbach, Hitler did not share Martin Bormann's conception that Nazi ceremonies could become a substitute for church ceremonies, and was aware of the religious needs of the masses. "He went on for hours discussing the possibility of bridging the confessional division of the German people and helping them find a religion appropriate to their character and modern man's understanding of the world."
Hitler's personal conception of God was as "Providence" (divine providence). For instance, when he survived the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944, he ascribed it to Providence saving him to pursue his tasks. In fact, as time went on, Hitler's conception of Providence became more and more intertwined with his belief in his own inability to make an error of judgment. Alfred Jodl stated at Nuremberg that Hitler had "an almost mystical conviction of his infallibility as leader of the nation and of the war". Another of his physicians, Dr. Karl Brandt, said that Hitler saw himself as a "tool of Providence. He was ... consumed by the desire to give the German people everything and to help them out of their distress. He was possessed by the thought that this was his task and that only he could fulfill it."
BBC historian Laurence Rees characterises Hitler's relationship to religion as one of opportunism and pragmatism: "his relationship in public to Christianity—indeed his relationship to religion in general—was opportunistic. There is no evidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church". Considering the religious allusions found in Mein Kampf, Rees writes that "the most coherent reading of Mein Kampf" is that Hitler was prepared to believe in an initial creator God, but did "not accept the conventional Christian vision of heaven and hell, nor the survival of an individual 'soul'."
Max Domarus has written that Hitler replaced belief in the Judeo-Christian God with belief in a peculiarly German "god". He promoted the idea of this god as the creator of Germany, but Hitler "was not a Christian in any accepted meaning of that word." Domarus writes that Hitler neither believed in organized religion nor saw himself as a religious reformer. Hitler had fully discarded belief in the Judeo-Christian conception of God by 1937, writes Domarus, but continued to use the word "God" in speeches — but it was not the God "who has been worshiped for millennia", but a new and peculiarly German "god" who "let iron grow". Thus Hitler told the British journalist Ward Price in 1937: "I believe in God, and I am convinced that He will not desert 67 million Germans who have worked so hard to regain their rightful position in the world."
Although Hitler did not "abide by its commandments", Domarus believed that he retained elements of the Catholic thinking of his upbringing even into the initial years of his rule: "As late as 1933, he still described himself publicly as a Catholic. Only the spreading poison of his lust for power and self idolatry finally crowded out the memories of childhood beliefs and in 1937 he jettisoned the last of his personal religious convictions, declaring to comrades, 'Now I feel as fresh as a colt in the pasture'". Author Konrad Heiden has quoted Hitler as stating, "We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany." Derek Hastings considers it "eminently plausible" that Hitler was a believing Catholic as late as his trial in 1924, but writes that "there is little doubt that Hitler was a staunch opponent of Christianity throughout the duration of the Third Reich".
The biographer John Toland, recounts that in the aftermath of an attempted assassination in 1939, Hitler told dinner guests that Pope Pius XII would rather have seen the "plot succeed" and "was no friend of mine", but also writes that in 1941 Hitler was still "a member in good standing of the Church of Rome despite his detestation of its hierarchy" According to Guenter Lewy, Hitler was not excommunicated from the Catholic Church prior to his death. Yet, these authors seem to have missed the fact that Hitler was in fact excommunicated, along with all other Nazi leaders, in 1931. Although he had received the Catholic sacraments of Baptism, and Confirmation as an infant, there is little evidence he considered himself subject to the teaching of the Church from adolescence onward, whatever cultural affiliation he claimed, and the excommunication would have meant nothing to him.
Samuel Koehne of Deakin University wrote in 2012: "Was Hitler an atheist? Probably not. But it remains very difficult to ascertain his personal religious beliefs, and the debate rages on." While Hitler was emphatically not "Christian" by the traditional or orthodox notion of the term, he did speak of a deity whose work was nature and natural laws, "conflating God and nature to the extent that they became one and the same thing" and that "For this reason, some recent works have argued Hitler was a Deist". In his writings on Hitler's recurrent religious images and symbols, Kenneth Burke concluded that "Hitler's modes of thought are nothing more than perverted or caricatured forms of religious thought".
Richard Steigmann-Gall represents a small minority view, that Hitler was indeed a Christian. He wrote in 2003 that even after Hitler's rupture with institutional Christianity (which he dated to around 1937), he sees evidence that he continued to hold Jesus in high esteem, and never directed his attacks on Jesus himself. Use of the term "positive Christianity" in the Nazi Party Program of the 1920s is commonly regarded as a tactical measure, but Steigmann-Gall believes it may have had an "inner logic" and been "more than a political ploy". He considers that Hitler was religious at least in the 1920s and early 1930s, and that he saw Jesus as an Aryan opponent of the Jews.
Hitler's remarks to confidants
Speer on Hitler's religious beliefs
In his memoirs, Hitler's confidant, personal architect, and Minister of Armaments Albert Speer, wrote: "Amid his political associates in Berlin, Hitler made harsh pronouncements against the church", yet "he conceived of the church as an instrument that could be useful to him":
Around 1937, when Hitler heard that at the instigation of the party and the SS vast numbers of his followers had left the church because it was obstinately opposing his plans, he nevertheless ordered his chief associates, above all Goering and Goebbels, to remain members of the church. He too would remain a member of the Catholic Church he said, although he had no real attachment to it. And in fact he remained in the church until his suicide.
The Goebbels Diaries also remark on this policy. Goebbels wrote on 29 April 1941 that though Hitler was "a fierce opponent" of the Vatican and Christianity, "he forbids me to leave the church. For tactical reasons."
According to Speer, Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann, relished recording any harsh pronouncements by Hitler against the church. Speer considered Bormann to be the driving force behind the regime's campaign against the churches. Speer thought that Hitler approved of Bormann's aims, but was more pragmatic and wanted to "postpone this problem to a more favourable time":
"Once I have settled my other problem," [Hitler] occasionally declared, "I'll have my reckoning with the church. I'll have it reeling on the ropes." But Bormann did not want this reckoning postponed ... he would take out a document from his pocket and begin reading passages from a defiant sermon or pastoral letter. Frequently Hitler would become so worked up ... and vowed to punish the offending clergyman eventually ... That he could not immediately retaliate raised him to a white heat ...— Extract from Inside the Third Reich, the memoir of Albert Speer
Hitler, wrote Speer, viewed Christianity as the wrong religion for the "Germanic temperament": Speer wrote that Hitler would say: "You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?" Speer also wrote of observing in Hitler "quite a few examples", and that he held a negative view toward Himmler and Rosenberg's mystical notions.
Bormann on Hitler's religious beliefs
Martin Bormann, who was serving as Hitler's private secretary, persuaded Hitler to allow a team of specially picked officers to record in shorthand his private conversations for posterity. Between 1941 and 1944, Hitler's words were recorded in transcripts now known as Hitler's Table Talk. The transcripts concern not only Hitler's views on war and foreign affairs, but also his characteristic attitudes on religion, culture, philosophy, personal aspirations, and his feelings towards his enemies and friends. Speer noted in his memoirs that Bormann relished recording any harsh pronouncements made by Hitler against the church: "there was hardly anything he wrote down more eagerly than deprecating comments on the church". Within the transcripts, Hitler speaks of Christianity as "absurdity" and "humbug" founded on "lies" with which he could "never come personally to terms."
The widespread consensus among historians is that the views expressed in Trevor-Roper's translation of Table Talk, are credible and reliable, although as with all historical sources, a high level of critical awareness about its origins and purpose are advisable. The remarks from Table Talk accepted as genuine include such quotes as "Christianity is the prototype of Bolshevism: the mobillization by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society." Alan Bullock's seminal biography Hitler: A Study in Tyranny quotes Hitler as saying, "Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure"; found also in Table Talk, and repeats other views appearing in Table Talk such as: the teachings of Christianity are a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and survival of the fittest.
Michael Burleigh contrasted Hitler's public pronouncements on Christianity with those in Table Talk, suggesting that Hitler's real religious views were "a mixture of materialist biology, a faux-Nietzschean contempt for core, as distinct from secondary, Christian values, and a visceral anti-clericalism." Richard Evans also reiterated the view that Nazism was secular, scientific and anti-religious in outlook in the last volume of his trilogy on Nazi Germany: "Hitler's hostility to Christianity reached new heights, or depths, during the war;" his source for this was the 1953 English translation of Table Talk. Table Talk has the dictator often voicing stridently negative views of Christianity, such as: "The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity."
Transcripts contained in Table Talk have Hitler expressing faith that science would wear away religion. On 14 October 1941, in an entry concerning the fate of Christianity, Hitler says: "Science cannot lie, for it's always striving, according to the momentary state of knowledge, to deduce what is true. When it makes a mistake, it does so in good faith. It's Christianity that's the liar. It's in perpetual conflict with itself." Religion will crumble before scientific advances, says Hitler: "The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that's left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity."
Hitler wanted his movement aloof from religion, fearing a pact with the churches would collapse: "I'm convinced that any pact with the Church can offer only a provisional benefit, for sooner or later the scientific spirit will disclose the harmful character of such a compromise. Thus the State will have based its existence on a foundation that one day will collapse. An educated man retains the sense of the mysteries of nature and bows before the unknowable. An uneducated man, on the other hand, runs the risk of going over to atheism (which is a return to the state of the animal) as soon as he perceives that the State, in sheer opportunism, is making use of false ideas in the matter of religion, whilst in other fields it bases everything on pure science. That's why I've always kept the Party aloof from religious questions."
According to Table Talk, Hitler believed that Jesus' true Christian teachings had been corrupted by the apostle St Paul, who had transformed them into a kind of Jewish Bolshevism, which Hitler believed preached "the equality of all men amongst themselves, and their obedience to an only god. This is what caused the death of the Roman Empire."
In Table Talk, Hitler praised Julian the Apostate's Three Books Against the Galilaeans, an anti-Christian tract from AD 362, in the entry dated 21 October 1941, stating: "When one thinks of the opinions held concerning Christianity by our best minds a hundred, two hundred years ago, one is ashamed to realise how little we have since evolved. I didn't know that Julian the Apostate had passed judgment with such clear-sightedness on Christianity and Christians. ... Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism the destroyer. Nevertheless, the Galilean, who later was called the Christ, intended something quite different. He must be regarded as a popular leader who took up His position against Jewry.... and it's certain that Jesus was not a Jew. The Jews, by the way, regarded Him as the son of a whore—of a whore and a Roman soldier. The decisive falsification of Jesus's doctrine was the work of St. Paul. He gave himself to this work with subtlety and for purposes of personal exploitation. For the Galilean's object was to liberate His country from Jewish oppression. He set Himself against Jewish capitalism, and that's why the Jews liquidated Him. Paul of Tarsus (his name was Saul, before the road to Damascus) was one of those who persecuted Jesus most savagely."
Richard Carrier made some isolated comparisons of passages from the German, French and English editions of Table Talk, and found in each case that the English edition by Trevor-Roper was a translation of the French edition by Francois Genoud, rather than from the German editions; and also that the French translation contained significant distortions, which generally heightened the impression of Hitler's hatred for Christianity. Carrier concluded that "the Trevor-Roper edition is to be discarded as worthless." However, Carrier found that three German versions "have a common ancestor, which must be the actual bunker notes themselves", and recommended that scholars needed to work directly with the German editions.
In his introduction to a 2013 edition of Trevor-Roper's Table Talk, Gerhard Reinberg agreed that the Trevor-Roper edition "derives from Genoud's French edition and not from either of the German texts." After examining Trevor-Roper's personal correspondence and papers, Mikael Nilsson concluded that Trevor-Roper was fully aware of the fact that his edition was based on the French text, but failed to reveal the problems in public.
Goebbels on Hitler's religious beliefs
The Goebbels Diaries, written by Hitler's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, provide important insights into Hitler's thinking and actions. In a diary entry of 28 December 1939, Goebbels wrote that "the Fuhrer passionately rejects any thought of founding a religion. He has no intention of becoming a priest. His sole exclusive role is that of a politician." In an 8 April 1941 entry, Goebbels wrote "He hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity."
In 1937, Goebbels noted Hitler's approval of anti-Christian propaganda and the show trials of clergy. Hitler's impatience with the churches, wrote Kershaw, "prompted frequent outbursts of hostility. In early 1937 he was declaring that 'Christianity was ripe for destruction', and that the Churches must yield to the "primacy of the state", railing against any compromise with "the most horrible institution imaginable". In his entry for 29 April 1941, Goebbels noted long discussions about the Vatican and Christianity, and wrote: "The Fuhrer is a fierce opponent of all that humbug".
In 1939, Goebbels wrote that the Fuhrer knew that he would "have to get around to a conflict between church and state" but that in the meantime "The best way to deal with the churches is to claim to be a 'positive Christian'."
The Führer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of their religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end they will be destroyed. The Führer is a convinced vegetarian on principle.— Goebbels Diaries, 29 December 1939
Goebbels notes in a diary entry in 1939 a conversation in which Hitler had "expressed his revulsion against Christianity. He wished that the time were ripe for him to be able to openly express that. Christianity had corrupted and infected the entire world of antiquity." Hitler, wrote Goebbels, saw the pre-Christian Augustan Age as the high point of history, and could not relate to the Gothic mind nor to "brooding mysticism".
Ernst Hanfstaengl and Otto Strasser on Hitler's religious beliefs
Otto Strasser was a German politician and an early member of the Nazi Party, he together with his brother Gregor Strasser, was a leading member of the party's left-wing faction. During the conversation with his brother, he stated that he was disappointed with Hitler because:
We are Christians; without Christianity Europe is lost. Hitler is an atheist.— Otto Strasser
Ernst Hanfstaengl was a German-American businessman and intimate friend of Adolf Hitler. He eventually fell out of favour with Hitler, however, and defected from Nazi Germany to the United States. When he wrote down Hitler's religious views, he stated, like Otto Strasser, that Adolf Hitler was an atheist:
He was to all intents and purposes an atheist by the time.— Ernst Hanfstaengl
Other sources on Hitler's religious beliefs
The Anschluss saw the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in early 1938. The Austrian chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, had traveled to Germany to meet Hitler, who, according to Schuschnigg's later testimony, went into a threatening rage against the role of Austria in German history, saying, "Every national idea was sabotaged by Austria throughout history; and indeed all this sabotage was the chief activity of the Habsburgs and the Catholic Church." This ended in Hitler's ultimatum to end Austrian independence and hand the nation to the Nazis.
Following the 1944 assassination attempt in the "20 July plot", Hitler credited his survival to fate in a radio broadcast the following day. German deputy press chief Helmut Suendermann declared, "The German people must consider the failure of the attempt on Hitler's life as a sign that Hitler will complete his tasks under the protection of a divine power".
Following a meeting with Hitler, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, a man who had "courageously criticized the Nazi attacks on the Catholic Church—went away convinced that Hitler was deeply religious", noted Kershaw. In November 1936 the Roman Catholic prelate met Hitler at Berghof for a three-hour meeting. He left the meeting and wrote "The Reich Chancellor undoubtedly lives in belief in God. He recognises Christianity as the builder of Western culture". Kershaw cites Faulhaber's case as an example of Hitler's ability to "pull the wool over the eyes of even hardened critics", demonstrating Hitler's "evident ability to simulate, even to potentially critical church leaders, an image of a leader keen to uphold and protect Christianity".
Public and private evolution of Hitler's beliefs
Adolf Hitler was raised in a Roman Catholic family in Habsburg Austria. However, reliable historical details on his childhood are scarce. According to Hitler historian Ian Kershaw, the reflections Hitler provided on his own life in Mein Kampf are "inaccurate in detail and coloured in interpretation", while information that was given during the Nazi period is "dubious", as can be the postwar recollections of family and acquaintances.
Hitler was baptised as a Catholic in the same year he was born, 1889. Hitler's father Alois, though nominally a Catholic, was somewhat religiously skeptical and anticlerical, while his mother Klara was a devout practising Catholic. Wilson wrote: "Much is sometimes made of the Catholic upbringing of Hitler ... it was something to which Hitler himself often made allusion, and he was nearly always violently hostile. 'The biretta! The mere sight of these abortions in cassocks makes me wild!'" Hitler boasted of expressing skepticism to clergyman-teachers when taught religious instruction school. He attended several primary schools. For six months, the family lived opposite a Benedictine Monastery at Lambach, and on some afternoons, Hitler attended the choir school there. Hitler later wrote in Mein Kampf that at this time he dreamed of one day taking holy orders.
Hitler was confirmed on 22 May 1904. According to Rissmann, as a youth Hitler was influenced by Pan-Germanism and began to reject the Catholic Church, receiving confirmation only unwillingly. Biographer John Toland wrote of the 1904 ceremony at Linz Cathedral that Hitler's confirmation sponsor said he nearly had to "drag the words out of him... almost as though the whole confirmation was repugnant to him". Rissmann notes that, according to several witnesses who lived with Hitler in a men's home in Vienna, Hitler never again attended Mass or received the sacraments after leaving home.
In 1909, Hitler moved to Vienna and according to Bullock his intellectual interests there vacillated and his reading included "Ancient Rome, Eastern religions, Yoga, Occultism, Hypnotism, Astrology, Protestantism, each in turn excited his interest for a moment ... He struck people as unbalanced. He gave rein to his hatreds—against the Jews, the priests, the Social Democrats, the Habsburgs—without restraint".
In Percy Ernst Schramm's "The Anatomy of a Dictator", which was based on an analysis of the transcripts of the "Table Talk" recordings, Hitler is quoted as saying that "after a hard inner struggle" he had freed himself from the religious beliefs of his youth, so that he felt "as fresh as a foal in the pasture".
Adulthood and political career
Hitler's public rhetoric and writings about religion
Although personally skeptical, Hitler's public relationship to religion was one of opportunistic pragmatism. In religious affairs he readily adopted a strategy "that suited his immediate political purposes." He typically tailored his message to his audience's perceived sensibilities and Kershaw considers that few people could really claim to "know" Hitler, who was "a very private, even secretive individual", able to deceive "even hardened critics" as to his true beliefs. In private, he scorned Christianity, but when out campaigning for power in Germany, he made statements in favour of the religion.
Hitler's public utterances were peppered with references to "God" and "Spirit". In Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, Bullock wrote that Hitler, like Napoleon before him, frequently employed the language of "divine providence" in defence of his own personal myth, but ultimately shared with the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin "the same materialist outlook, based on the nineteenth century rationalists' certainty that the progress of science would destroy all myths and had already proved Christian doctrine to be an absurdity":
Hitler's own myth had to be protected, and this led him, like Napoleon, to speak frequently of Providence, as a necessary if unconscious projection of his sense of destiny which provided him with both justification and absolution. 'The Russians', he remarked on one occasion 'were entitled to attack their priests, but they had no right to assail the idea of a supreme force. It's a fact that we're feeble creatures and that a creative force exists'".— Excerpt from Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock
Hitler had an "ability to simulate, even to potentially critical Church leaders, an image of a leader keen to uphold and protect Christianity [from Bolshevism]" wrote Kershaw, which served to deflect direct criticism of him from Church leaders, who instead focused their condemnations on the known "anti-Christian party radicals".
Religion in Mein Kampf
Laurence Rees described the thrust of the work as "bleak nihilism" revealing a cold universe with no moral structure other than the fight between different people for supremacy: "What's missing from Mein Kampf", wrote Rees—"and this is a fact that has not received the acknowledgement it should—is any emphasis on Christianity"—though Germany, Rees noted, had been Christian for a thousand years. So, concluded Rees, "the most coherent reading of Mein Kampf is that whilst Hitler was prepared to believe in an initial creator God, he did not accept the conventional Christian vision of heaven and hell, nor the survival of an individual "soul" ... we are animals and just like animals we face the choice of destroying or being destroyed."
Paul Berben wrote that insofar as the Christian denominations were concerned, Hitler declared himself to be neutral in Mein Kampf—but argued for clear separation of church and state, and for the church not to concern itself with the earthly life of the people, which must be the domain of the state. According to William Shirer, Hitler "inveighed against political Catholicism in Mein Kampf and attacked the two main Christian churches for their failure to recognise the racial problem", while also warning that no political party could succeed in "producing a religious reformation".
In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote that Jesus "made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when necessary he even took the whip to drive from the temple of the Lord this adversary of all humanity, who then as always saw in religion nothing but an instrument for his business existence. In return, Christ was nailed to the cross."
Hitler wrote of the importance of a definite and uniformly accepted Weltanschauung (world view), and noted that the diminished position of religion in Europe had led to a decline in necessary certainties—"yet this human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of religious belief". The various substitutes hitherto offered could not "usefully replace the existing denominations".
The political leader should not estimate the worth of a religion by taking some of its shortcomings into account, but he should ask himself whether there be any practical substitute in a view which is demonstrably better. Until such a substitute be available, only fools and criminals would think of abolishing existing religion.— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
Examining how to establish a new order, Hitler argued that the greatness of powerful organizations was reliant on intolerance of all others, so that the greatness of Christianity arose from the "unrelenting and fanatical proclamation and defence of its own teaching". Hitler rejected a view that Christianity brought civilization to the Germanic peoples, however: "It is therefore outrageously unjust to speak of the pre-Christian Germans as barbarians who had no civilization. They never have been such." Foreshadowing his conflict with the Catholic Church over euthanasia in Nazi Germany, Hitler wrote that the churches should give up missionary work in Africa, and concentrate on convincing Europeans that is more pleasing to God if they adopt orphans rather than "give life to a sickly child that will be a cause of suffering and unhappiness to all". The Christian churches should forget about their own differences and focus on the issue of "racial contamination", he declared.
The two Christian denominations look on with indifference at the profanation and destruction of a noble and unique creature who was given to the world as a gift of God's grace. For the future of the world, however, it does not matter which of the two triumphs over the other, the Catholic or the Protestant. But it does matter whether Aryan humanity survives or perishes.— Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
When he arrived in Vienna as a young man, Hitler claimed, he was not yet anti-Semitic: "In the Jew I still saw only a man who was of a different religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I was against the idea that he should be attacked because he had a different faith." He thought that anti-Semitism based on religious, rather than racial grounds, was a mistake: "The anti-Semitism of the Christian-Socialists was based on religious instead of racial principles." Instead, Hitler argued that Jews should be deplored on the basis of their "race".
"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. Political parties are inclined to compromises; philosophies never. Political parties even reckon with opponents; philosophies proclaim their infallibility."
Elsewhere in Mein Kampf, Hitler speaks of the "creator of the universe" and "eternal Providence". He also states that the Aryan race was created by God, and that it would be a sin to dilute it through racial intermixing:
"The völkisch-minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God's will, and actually fulfill God's will, and not let God's word be desecrated. For God's will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord's creation, the divine will."
In Mein Kampf, Hitler saw Jesus as against the Jews rather than one of them: "And the founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of his estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary, He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God."
Derek Hastings writes that, according to Hitler's personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, the strongly anti-Semitic Hieronymite Catholic priest Bernhard Stempfle was a member of Hitler's inner circle in the early 1920s and frequently advised him on religious issues. He helped Hitler in the writing of Mein Kampf. He was killed by the SS in the 1934 purge.
Hitler on Christianity and "Positive Christianity"
Article 24 of Hitler's National Socialist Programme of 1920 had endorsed what it termed "Positive Christianity", but placed religion below party ideology by adding the caveat that it must not offend "the moral sense of the German race". Non-denominational, the term could be variously interpreted, but allayed fears among Germany's Christian majority as to the oft expressed anti-Christian convictions of large sections of the Nazi movement. It further proposed a definition of a "positive Christianity" which could combat the "Jewish-materialistic spirit".
In 1922, a decade before Hitler took power, former Prime Minister of Bavaria, Count von Lerchenfeld-Köfering stated in a speech before the Landtag of Bavaria, that his beliefs "as a man and a Christian" prevented him from being an anti-Semite or from pursuing anti-Semitic public policies. Hitler turned Lerchenfeld's perspective of Jesus on its head, telling a crowd in Munich:
"I would like here to appeal to a greater than I, Count Lerchenfeld. He said in the last session of the Landtag that his feeling 'as a man and a Christian' prevented him from being an anti-Semite. I say: My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were 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 at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian, I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice."
In a 1928 speech, he said: "We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity ... in fact our movement is Christian."
In light of later developments, Rees notes, "The most persuasive explanation of [Hitler's] statements is that Hitler, as a politician, simply recognised the practical reality of the world he inhabited ... Had Hitler distanced himself or his movement too much from Christianity it is all but impossible to see how he could ever have been successful in a free election. Thus his relationship in public to Christianity—indeed his relationship to religion in general—was opportunistic. There is no evidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church". Richard Evans considers that the gap between Hitler's public and private pronouncements was due to a desire not to cause a quarrel with the churches that might undermine national unity.
In 1932, Hitler came up with the name German Christians (Deutsche Christen) for a pro-Nazi group within Protestantism. "Hitler saw the relationship in political terms. He was not a praticising Christian, but had somehow succeeded in masking his own religious skepticism from millions of German voters", wrote Overy, who considered that Hitler found the arrangement useful for a time, but ultimately expected Christianity to wilt and die before "the advances of science". In this early period, the "German Christian" movement sought to make the Protestant churches in Germany an instrument of Nazi policy. Adherents promoted notions of racial superiority and race destiny. Hitler backed the formal establishment of the "German Christians" in 1932. It was nationalistic and anti-Semitic and some of its radicals called for repudiation of the Old Testament (the Hebrew Scriptures) and the Pauline epistles of the New Testament—because of their Jewish authorship.
Hitler's movement was not united on questions of religion. The consensus among historians is that Nazism as a whole was either unrelated to Christianity or actively opposed to it. Use of the term "positive Christianity" in the Nazi Party Program of the 1920s is generally regarded as a tactical measure, rooted in politics rather than religious conviction. Author Steigmann-Gall has put forward a minority interpretation, that positive Christianity had an "inner logic" and been "more than a political ploy". He believes Hitler saw Jesus as an Aryan opponent of the Jews. Though anti-Christians later fought to "expunge Christian influence from Nazism" and the movement became "increasingly hostile to the churches", Steigmann-Gall wrote that even in the end, it was not "uniformly anti-Christian".
Samuel Koehne, a Research Fellow at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, working on the official Nazi views on religion, answers the question Was Hitler a Christian? thus: "Emphatically not, if we consider Christianity in its traditional or orthodox form: Jesus as the son of God, dying for the redemption of the sins of all humankind. It is nonsense to state that Hitler (or any of the Nazis) adhered to Christianity of this form."
Nazi seizure of power
Prior to the Reichstag vote for the Enabling Act of 1933, under which Hitler gained the "temporary" dictatorial powers with which he went on to permanently dismantle the Weimar Republic, Hitler promised the German Parliament that he would not interfere with the rights of the churches. However, with power secured in Germany, Hitler quickly broke this promise.
Through 1933 and into 1934, the Nazi leader required a level of support from groups like the German conservatives and the Catholic Centre Party in the Reichstag, and of the conservative President von Hindenberg, in order to achieve his takeover of power with the "appearance of legality". In a proclamation on February 1, 1933, Hitler stated, "The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."
On 21 March 1933, the Reichstag assembled in the Potsdam Garrison Church, to show the "unity" of National Socialism with the old conservative Germany of President von Hindenburg. Two days later, the Nazis secured passage of the Enabling Act, granting Hitler dictatorial powers. Less than three months later all non-Nazi parties and organizations, including the Catholic Centre Party had ceased to exist.
Hitler sought to gain the votes of the Catholic Centre Party and German conservatives for the Enabling Act with a mix of intimidation, negotiation and conciliation. On 23 March 1933, just prior to the vote for the Enabling Act, he described the Christian faiths as "essential elements for safeguarding the soul of the German people" and "We hold the spiritual forces of Christianity to be indispensable elements in the moral uplift of most of the German people." "With an eye to the votes of the Catholic Centre Party", wrote Shirer, he added that he hoped to improve relations with the Holy See.
The Centre Party asked for guarantees of the rights of the churches. Hitler promised that the institutions of the Weimar Republic and churches would be protected, and said his government saw the churches as "the most important factors for upholding our nationhood". Amid threats and talk of civil war, the Centre Party voted for the Act. Hitler's false promises of protection for the churches and institutions of the republic were never kept.
In January 1934, Hitler angered the churches by appointing the neo-pagan Alfred Rosenberg as official Nazi ideologist. The Fuhrer launched an effort toward coordination of German Protestants under a unified Protestant Reich Church under the Deutsche Christen movement, but the attempt failed—resisted by the Confessing Church. In The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, Susannah Heschel noted that the Deutsche Christens differed from traditional Christians by rejecting the Hebrew origins of Christianity. In public statements made during his rule, Hitler continued to speak positively about a Nazi vision of Christian German culture, and his belief in an Aryan Christ. Hitler added that Saint Paul, as a Jew, had falsified Jesus' message—a theme Hitler repeated in private conversations, including, in October 1941, when he made the decision to murder the Jews.
The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity. It will be its honest endeavour to protect both the great Christian Confessions in their rights, to secure them from interference with their doctrines (Lehren), and in their duties to constitute a harmony with the views and the exigencies of the State of today.
In 1937, Hans Kerrl, Hitler's Minister for Church Affairs, explained "Positive Christianity" as not "dependent upon the Apostle's Creed", nor in "faith in Christ as the son of God", upon which Christianity relied, but rather, as being represented by the Nazi Party: "The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation", he said.
The propaganda machinery of the Nazi party actively promoted Hitler as a saviour of Christianity, and Nazi propaganda supported the German Christians in their formation of a single national church that could be controlled and manipulated.
If positive Christianity means love of one's neighbour, i.e. the tending of the sick, the clothing of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the giving of drink to those who are thirsty, then it is we who are the more positive Christians. For in these spheres the community of the people of National Socialist Germany has accomplished a prodigious work— Speech to the Old Guard at Munich 24 February 1939
Hitler on mysticism and occultism
According to Bullock, as an adolescent in Vienna, Hitler read widely, including books on Occultism, Hypnotism, Astrology. However, his interest in these subjects was fleeting, and there is no evidence that he ever subscribed to any of these schools of thought. Bullock found "no evidence to support the once popular belief that Hitler resorted to astrology" and wrote that Hitler ridiculed those like Himmler in his own party who wanted to re-establish pagan mythology, and Hess who believed in Astrology. Albert Speer wrote that Hitler had a negative view toward Himmler and Rosenberg's mystical notions. Speer quotes Hitler as having said of Himmler's attempt to mythologize the SS:
What nonsense! Here we have at last reached an age that has left all mysticism behind it, and now [Himmler] wants to start that all over again. We might just as well have stayed with the church. At least it had tradition. To think that I may, some day, be turned into an SS saint! Can you imagine it? I would turn over in my grave ...
In a 1938 speech in Nuremberg Hitler rejected any form of mysticism, but expressed his belief in God, and that the Nazi's work was to fulfill a divine will:
We will not allow mystically-minded occult folk with a passion for exploring the secrets of the world beyond to steal into our Movement. Such folk are not National Socialists, but something else – in any case, something which has nothing to do with us. At the head of our program there stand no secret surmisings but clear-cut perception and straightforward profession of belief. But since we set as the central point of this perception and of this profession of belief the maintenance and hence the security for the future of a being formed by God, we thus serve the maintenance of a divine work and fulfill a divine will - not in the secret twilight of a new house of worship, but openly before the face of the Lord.
According to Ron Rosenbaum, some scholars believe the young Hitler was strongly influenced, particularly in his racial views, by an abundance of occult works on the mystical superiority of the Germans, like the occult and anti-Semitic magazine Ostara, and give credence to the claim of its publisher Lanz von Liebenfels that Hitler visited him in 1909 and praised his work. John Toland wrote that evidence indicates Hitler was a regular reader of Ostara. Toland also included a poem that Hitler allegedly wrote while serving in the German Army on the Western Front in 1915.
The seminal work on Ariosophy, The Occult Roots of Nazism by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, devotes its last chapter the topic of Ariosophy and Adolf Hitler. Not at least due to the difficulty of sources, historians disagree about the importance of Ariosophy for Hitler's religious views. As noted in the foreword of The Occult Roots of Nazism by Rohan Butler, Goodrick-Clarke is more cautious in assessing the influence of Lanz von Liebenfels on Hitler than Joachim Fest in his biography of Hitler.
Comparing him to Erich Ludendorff, Fest writes: "Hitler had detached himself from such affections, in which he encountered the obscurantism of his early years, Lanz v. Liebenfels and the Thule Society, again, long ago and had, in Mein Kampf, formulated his scathing contempt for that völkish romanticism, which however his own cosmos of imagination preserved rudimentarily." Fest refers to the following passage from Mein Kampf:
"The characteristic thing about these people [modern-day followers of the early Germanic religion] is that they rave about the old Germanic heroism, about dim prehistory, stone axes, spear and shield, but in reality are the greatest cowards that can be imagined. For the same people who brandish scholarly imitations of old German tin swords, and wear a dressed bearskin with bull's horns over their heads, preach for the present nothing but struggle with spiritual weapons, and run away as fast as they can from every Communist blackjack.
It is not clear if this statement is an attack at anyone specific. It could have been aimed at Karl Harrer or at the Strasser group. According to Goodrick-Clarke, "In any case, the outburst clearly implies Hitler's contempt for conspiratorial circles and occult-racist studies and his preference for direct activism." Hitler also said something similar in public speeches.
Older literature states that Hitler had no intention of instituting worship of the ancient Germanic gods in contrast to the beliefs of some other Nazi officials. In Hitler's Table Talk one can find this quote:
"It seems to me that nothing would be more foolish than to re-establish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself. Nothing dies unless it is moribund.
Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles in an article published by the Simon Wiesenthal Center assert alleged influences of various portions of the teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, the founder of The Theosophical Society with doctrines as expounded by her book "The Secret Doctrine", and the adaptations of her ideas by her followers, through Ariosophy, the Germanenorden and the Thule Society, constituted a popularly unacknowledged but decisive influence over the developing mind of Hitler. The scholars state that Hitler himself may be responsible for turning historians from investigating his occult influences. While he publicly condemned and even persecuted occultists, Freemasons, and astrologers, his nightly private talks disclosed his belief in the ideas of these competing occult groups—demonstrated by his discussion of reincarnation, Atlantis, world ice theory, and his belief that esoteric myths and legends of cataclysm and battles between gods and titans were a vague collective memory of monumental early events.
In his childhood, Hitler had admired the pomp of Catholic ritual and the hierarchical organization of the clergy. Later he drew on these elements, organizing his party along hierarchical lines and including liturgical forms into events or using phraseology taken from hymns. Because of these liturgical elements, Daim's claim of Hitler's Messiah-like status and the ideology's totalitarian nature, the Nazi movement, like other fascist movements and Communism, is sometimes termed a "political religion" that is anti-ecclesiastical and anti-religious.
Although Hitler expressed negative views towards the mystical notions of some of his senior Nazi underlings in private, he nevertheless appointed Heinrich Himmler and Alfred Rosenberg to senior positions in the Nazi movement. William Shirer wrote that, "under the leadership of Rosenberg, Bormann and Himmler—backed by Hitler—the Nazi regime intended to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods with the new paganism of the Nazi extremists". The regime launched an effort toward coordination of German Protestants under a unified Protestant Reich Church (but this was resisted by the Confessing Church), and moved early to eliminate political Catholicism. Blainey wrote: "Nazism itself was a religion, a pagan religion, and Hitler was its high priest ... Its high altar [was] Germany itself and the German people, their soil and forests and language and traditions".
In 1924, during his imprisonment, Hitler had chosen Alfred Rosenberg to lead the Nazi movement in his absence. In his seminal 1930 work The Myth of the 20th Century, Rosenberg wrote: "We now realize that the central supreme values of the Roman and the Protestant Churches [-] hinder the organic powers of the peoples determined by their Nordic race, [-] they will have to be remodeled". Hitler had called his book "derivative, pastiche, illogical rubbish!" But in January 1934, Hitler appointed Rosenberg as the cultural and educational leader of the Reich - the official Nazi philosopher and ideologist. Rosenberg was notoriously anti-Christian. Church officials were perturbed by Hitler's appointment of Rosenberg as Nazi philosopher as it apparently endorsed Rosenberg's anti-church and neo-pagan philosophy. The Vatican banned Myth of the Twentieth Century in February, 1934. During the War, Rosenberg outlined the future he envisioned for religion in Germany. Among its articles: the National Reich Church of Germany was to claim exclusive control over all churches; publication of the Bible was to cease; crucifixes, Bibles and saints were to be removed from altars; and Mein Kampf was to be placed on altars as "to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book"; and the Christian Cross was to be removed from all churches and replaced with the swastika. But Rosenberg was in the end, a marginalised figure in the Hitler regime.
Hitler selected Heinrich Himmler to head the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) security forces. Himmler saw the main task of the SS to be that of "acting as the vanguard in overcoming Christianity and restoring a 'Germanic' way of living" in order to prepare for the coming conflict between "humans and subhumans": He set about making his SS the focus of a "cult of the Teutons". In 1937 he wrote that it was "the mission of the SS to give the German people in the next half century the non-Christian ideological foundations on which to lead and shape their lives. This task does not consist solely in overcoming an ideological opponent but must be accompanied at every step by a positive impetus: in this case that means the reconstruction of the German heritage in the widest and most comprehensive sense."
Hitler on atheism
During his career, and for a variety of reasons, Hitler made various comments against "atheistic" movements. He associated atheism with Bolshevism, Communism, and "Jewish materialism". Overy writes of Hitler as skeptical of all religious belief, though not a thorough atheist:
Hitler was politically prudent enough not to trumpet his scientific views publicly, not least because he wanted to maintain the distinction between his own movement and the godlessness of Soviet Communism. Nor was he a thorough atheist. His public utterances are peppered with references to 'God' and 'Spirit'. For Hitler the eschatological truths that he found in his perception of the race represented the real 'eternal will that rules the universe'; in the infinite value of the race and the struggle to sustain it men find what they might call God, an inner sense of the unity and purposiveness of nature and history ... What Hitler could not accept was that Christianity could offer anything other than false 'ideas' to sustain its claim to moral certitude.
The historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that Hitler courted and benefited from fear among German Christians of militant Communist atheism. "The aggressive spread of atheism in the Soviet Union alarmed many German Christians", wrote Blainey, and with the National Socialists becoming the main opponent of Communism in Germany: "[Hitler] himself saw Christianity as a temporary ally, for in his opinion 'one is either a Christian or a German'. To be both was impossible." In early 1933, Hitler publicly defended National Socialism against charges that it was anti-Christian. Responding to accusations by Eugen Bolz, the Catholic Centre Party Staatspräsident of Württemberg, that the National Socialist movement threatened the Christian faith, he said:
And now Staatspräsident Bolz says that Christianity and the Catholic faith are threatened by us. And to that charge I can answer: In the first place it is Christians and not international atheists who now stand at the head of Germany. I do not merely talk of Christianity, no, I also profess that I will never ally myself with the parties which destroy Christianity. If many wish today to take threatened Christianity under their protection, where, I would ask, was Christianity for them in these fourteen years when they went arm in arm with atheism? No, never and at no time was greater internal damage done to Christianity than in these fourteen years when a party, theoretically Christian, sat with those who denied God in one and the same Government.
Hitler's speech referred to the political alliances of the Catholic aligned Centre Party with parties of the Left, which he associated with Bolshevism, and thus, atheism. Eugen Bolz was forced from office soon after the Nazis took power, and imprisoned for a time. Later he was executed by the Nazi regime.
During negotiations leading to the Reichskonkordat with the Vatican, Hitler said, "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith." However, as Hitler consolidated his power, schools became a major battleground in the Nazi campaign against the churches. In 1937, the Nazis banned any member of the Hitler Youth from simultaneously belonging to a religious youth movement. Religious education was not permitted in the Hitler Youth and by 1939, clergymen teachers had been removed from virtually all state schools. Hitler sometimes allowed pressure to be placed on German parents to remove children from religious classes to be given ideological instruction in its place, while in elite Nazi schools, Christian prayers were replaced with Teutonic rituals and sun-worship. By 1939 all Catholic denominational schools had been disbanded or converted to public facilities.
In a radio address October 14, 1933 Hitler stated, "For eight months we have been waging a heroic battle against the Communist threat to our Volk, the decomposition of our culture, the subversion of our art, and the poisoning of our public morality. We have put an end to denial of God and abuse of religion. We owe Providence humble gratitude for not allowing us to lose our battle against the misery of unemployment and for the salvation of the German peasant."
In a speech delivered in Berlin, October 24, 1933, Hitler stated: "We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." In a speech delivered at Koblenz, August 26, 1934 Hitler said: "There may have been a time when even parties founded on the ecclesiastical basis were a necessity. At that time Liberalism was opposed to the Church, while Marxism was anti-religious. But that time is past. National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity. The Church's interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of today, in our fight against the Bolshevist culture, against an atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for the consciousness of a community in our national life, for the conquest of hatred and disunion between the classes, for the conquest of civil war and unrest, of strife and discord. These are not anti-Christian, these are Christian principles."
Hitler on Ancient Indian religions
Hitler's choice of the Swastika as the Nazis' main and official symbol was linked to the belief in the Aryan cultural descent of the German people. They considered the early Aryans to be the prototypical white invaders and the sign of the Swastika to be a symbol of the Aryan master race. The theory was inspired by the German archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna, who argued that the ancient Aryans were a superior Nordic race from northern Germany who expanded into the steppes of Eurasia, and from there into India, where they established the Vedic religion.
Hitler on Islam
Hitler's views on Islam are a matter of controversy. On the one hand, Hitler privately demeaned ethnic groups he associated with Islam, notably Arabs, as racially inferior. On the other hand, he also made private and public statements expressing admiration for what he perceived to be the militaristic nature of Islam and the political sharpness of the Prophet Muhammad.
Among eastern religions, Hitler described religious leaders such as "Confucius, Buddha, and Muhammad" as providers of "spiritual sustenance". In this context, Hitler's connection to Mohammad Amin al-Husseini, who served as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem until 1937 – which included his asylum in 1941, with the honorary rank of an SS Major-General, and recognition as an "honorary Aryan," – has been interpreted by some as a sign of respect, while others characterize it as a relationship born out of political expediency. Starting in 1933, al-Husseini, who had launched a campaign to free various parts of the Arab region from British control and expel Jews from both Egypt and Palestine, became impressed by the Jewish boycott policies which the Nazis were enforcing in Germany, and hoped that he could use the anti-semitic views which many in the Arab region shared with Hitler's regime in order to forge a strategic military alliance that would help him eliminate the Jews from Palestine. Despite al-Husseini's attempts to reach out to Germany, Hitler refused to form such an alliance with al-Husseini, fearing that it would weaken relations with Britain.
During the unsuccessful 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, Husseini and his allies took the opportunity to strengthen relations with Germany and enforced the spread of Nazi customs and propaganda throughout their strongholds in Palestine as a gesture of respect. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would follow al-Husseini's lead. Hitler's influence soon spread throughout the region, but it was not until 1937 that the Nazi government agreed to grant al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood's request for financial and military assistance.
During a meeting with a delegation of distinguished Arab figures, Hitler learned of how Islam motivated the Umayyad Caliphate during the Islamic invasion of Gaul. According to Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer, Hitler wished that the Caliphate had won the Battle of Tours against the Franks in 732: "The Mohammedan religion would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?" "Had Charles Martel not been victorious at Poitiers — already, you see, the world had fallen into the hands of the Jews, so gutless a thing was Christianity ! — then we should in all probability have been converted to Mohammedanism, that cult which glorifies heroism and which opens the seventh Heaven to the bold warrior alone. Then the Germanic races would have conquered the world. Christianity alone prevented them from doing so." According to Speer, Hitler was convinced that had Islam taken root in central Europe at this time, the Germanic people would have become the "heirs of that religion" with Islam being "perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament". Hitler said that while the Arabs, on account of their "racial inferiority", would have been unable to handle the harsh climate and conditions of the region, and that instead the Islamized Germans would have "stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire". A "religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and in subjugating all nations to that faith".
Notwithstanding Hitler's apparent admiration for Islam and Muhammad, and his willingness to work with Arab political leaders, he viewed Arabic people as racial and social inferiors. Speer acknowledged that in private, Hitler regarded Arabs as an inferior race and that the relationship he had with various Muslim figures was more political than personal.
Hitler was also quoted in the early war years stating, "We shall continue to make disturbances in the Far East and in Arabia. Let us think as men and let us see in these peoples at best lacquered half-apes who are anxious to experience the lash." Nevertheless, Hitler simultaneously made positive references about Muslim culture and Muslims as potential collaborators, such as: "The peoples of Islam will always be closer to us than, for example, France".
Hitler on Judaism
National Socialist ideology developed a racial hierarchy which placed minority groups – most especially the Jews – as subhuman. The categorization was based on the Nazi conception of race, and not on religion, thus Slavs and Poles (who were overwhelmingly Christian) were also grouped as inferior to the so-called "Aryan" peoples. Hitler espoused a ruthless policy of "negative eugenic selection", believing that world history consisted of a struggle for survival between races, in which the Jews plotted to undermine the Germans, and inferior groups like Slavs and defective individuals in the German gene pool, threatened the Aryan "master race". However, Hitler also had ideological objections to Judaism as a faith, and some of Hitler's antipathy towards Christianity flowed from its Jewish origins, as he saw Christianity as "indelibly Jewish in origin and character" and a "prototype of Bolshevism", which "violated the law of natural selection".
Writing for the public in Mein Kampf, Hitler described the Jews as enemies of all civilization and as materialistic, unspiritual beings: "His life is only of this world, and his spirit is inwardly as alien to true Christianity as his nature two thousand years previous was to the great founder of the new doctrine." In the work, he also described a supposedly divine mandate for his anti-Semitism: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
During negotiations for the Concordat between the Catholic Church and Germany in 1933, Hitler said to Bishop Wilhelm Berning: "I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc, because it recognised the Jews for what they were. In the epoch of liberalism the danger was no longer recognised. I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. I do not set race over religion, but I recognise the representatives of this race as pestilant for the state and for the church and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions".
Secular versus religious influences
Scholarly interest continues on the extent to which inherited, long-standing, cultural-religious notions of anti-Judaism in Christian Europe contributed to Hitler's personal racial anti-Semitism, and what influence a pseudo-scientific "primitive version of social-Darwinism", mixed with 19th century imperialist notions, brought to bear on his psychology. While Hitler's views on these subjects have often been called "social Darwinist", Hitler's grasp of the subject has been argued to have been incomplete, there is little agreement among historians as to what the term may mean, or how it transformed from its 19th-century scientific origins, to become a central component of a genocidal political ideology in the 20th century.
According to historian Lucy Dawidowicz, anti-Semitism has a long history within Christianity, and the line of "anti-Semitic descent" from Luther to Hitler is "easy to draw". In her The War Against the Jews, 1933–1945, she writes that Luther and Hitler were obsessed by the "demonologized universe" inhabited by Jews. Dawidowicz states that the similarities between Luther's anti-Semitic writings and modern anti-Semitism are no coincidence, because they derived from a common history of Judenhass which can be traced to Haman's advice to Ahasuerus, although modern German anti-Semitism also has its roots in German nationalism. Catholic historian José M. Sánchez argues that Hitler's anti-Semitism was explicitly rooted in Christianity. Writers including Heschel and Toland, have drawn links between Hitler's Catholic background and his anti-Semitism.
Laurence Rees in contrast, notes that there is little emphasis on Christianity in Mein Kampf, which presents a view of the universe conspicuously at odds with traditional Christian notions long established in Germany. Hitler's vision is ordered instead around principles of struggle between weak and strong. Rees argues that Hitler's "bleak and violent vision" and visceral hatred of the Jews had been influenced by sources outside the Christian tradition. The notion of life as struggle Hitler drew from Social Darwinism, the notion of the superiority of the "Aryan race" he drew from Arthur de Gobineau's The Inequality of the Human Races; from events following Russia's surrender in World War One when Germany seized agricultural lands in the East he formed the idea of colonising the Soviet Union; and from Alfred Rosenberg he took the idea of a link between Judaism and Bolshevism, writes Rees.
Richard J. Evans notes that Hitler "used his own version of the language of social Darwinism as a central element in the discursive practice of extermination...", and the language of Social Darwinism, in its Nazi variant, helped to remove all restraint from the directors of the "terroristic and exterminatory" policies of the regime, by "persuading them that what they were doing was justified by history, science and nature". Fest considers that Hitler simplified de Gobineau's elaborate ideas of struggle for survival among the different races, from which the Aryan race, guided by providence, was supposed to be the torchbearers of civilization.
In his rhetoric[when?] Hitler fed on the old accusation of Jewish deicide. It has been speculated that Christian anti-Judaism influenced Hitler's ideas, especially such works as Martin Luther's essay On the Jews and Their Lies and the writings of Paul de Lagarde. Others disagree with this view. Hitler biographer John Toland offers the opinion that Hitler "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 ..." Toland wrote that in 1941 Hitler was still "a member in good standing of the Church of Rome despite his detestation of its hierarchy" and "he carried within himself 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."
Hitler's policies towards religion
Role of religion in the Nazi state
Nazi ideology could not accept an autonomous establishment whose legitimacy did not spring from the government. It desired the subordination of church to state. Nevertheless, Nazi Germany was not formally atheist, and other than for Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses, religious observance was permitted. Julian Baggini wrote that Hitler's Germany was not a "straightforwardly atheist state", but one which "sacrilized" notions of blood and nation.
Hitler feared the results of overt attacks on the deep-rooted German churches, as around two thirds of Germans were Protestant and most of the rest were Roman Catholic. German conservative elements, such as the officer corps of the army, opposed Nazi efforts against the churches, and Hitler needed to show caution. The Hitler regime responded to the ideological challenge of Christian morality using political repression and persecution and by challenging Christian teachings through education and propaganda.
Kirchenkampf Church Struggle
Hitler possessed radical instincts in relation to the Nazi conflict with the Churches, and though he occasionally spoke of wanting to delay a struggle and was prepared to restrain his anti-clericalism out of political considerations, Kershaw considers that his "own inflammatory comments gave his immediate underlings all the license they needed to turn up the heat in the 'Church Struggle'".
Hitler "wanted to neutralise any political threat from organised religion", wrote Overy. "The first step was to reach agreement with the Roman Catholic Church, whose theology was not susceptible to the new nationalist trends ..." Hitler dispatched the Catholic conservative Franz von Papen to negotiate a Concordat with the Vatican. He obtained an agreement that clergy would refrain from politics, in return for guarantees of Church rights. Hitler was delighted, and received the congratulations of German Catholic leaders. However, violations of the treaty began almost as soon as it was signed. Hitler promulgated the sterilization law, and began work to dissolve the Catholic Youth League. Clergy, nuns and lay leaders began to be targeted, leading to thousands of arrests over the ensuing years, often on trumped up charges of currency smuggling or "immorality". Catholic publications were shut down. The Gestapo began to violate the sanctity of the confessional.
As Hitlers genocidal plans began to manifest, Catholic priests and bishops held no public protests. Instead, they prayed in support of Germany's cause, seeking to show that their support for Hitler was undimished.
By early 1937, the church hierarchy in Germany, which had initially attempted to co-operate with Hitler, had become highly disillusioned and Pope Pius XI issued the Mit brennender Sorge encyclical—accusing Germany of violations of the Concordat and of sowing the tares of "open fundamental hostility to Christ and His Church", and denounced the pagan myth of "blood and soil". Hitler's invasion of the predominantly Catholic Poland in 1939 ignited the Second World War. Kerhsaw wrote that, in Hitler's scheme for the Germanization of the East, "There would, he made clear, be no place in this utopia for the Christian Churches".
On Protestantism, Hitler proposed to unite Germany's 28 Protestant churches into one Reich Church. Steigmann-Gall wrote that Hitler demonstrated a preference for Protestantism over Catholicism, as Protestantism was more liable to reinterpretation and a non-traditional readings, more receptive to "positive Christianity", and because some of its liberal branches had held similar views. Hitler's interest was opportunistic: "From Hitler's point of view, a national church was of interest purely from a point of view of control and manipulation", wrote Kershaw. He installed his friend Ludwig Müller as leader of the movement and sought to establish a pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic unified Reich Church. Resistance quickly arose in the form of the Pastors' Emergency League, led by Martin Niemöller, which had 40% of clergy by 1934 and founded the Confessing Church, from which some clergymen opposed the Nazi regime.
When German Christians called for rejection of the Bible as "Jewish superstition" and of the Christian calling to "love thy neighbour", the movement lost still further support. Hitler's move to have Müller elected Bishop failed – despite intimidation. He then abandoned his efforts to unite the Protestant churches, appointed Hans Kerrl as Minister for Church Affairs in December 1934, and distanced himself permanently from the so-called "German Christians". According to Steigmann-Gall, he regretted that "the churches had failed to back him and his movement as he had hoped". Hitler stated to Albert Speer, "Through me the Protestant Church could become the established church, as in England." A relative moderate, Kerrl initially had some success but amid continuing protests by the Confessing Church against Nazi policies, he accused dissident churchmen of failing to appreciate the Nazi doctrine of "Race, blood and soil". Kerrl said Nazi Positive Christianity rejected the Apostle's Creed and Divinity of Christ as the basis of Christianity, and called Hitler the herald of a new revelation. Hitler had Neimoller sent to the Concentration Camps in 1938, where he remained until war's end. Hitler largely ignored Kerrl, who died in office in 1941 and was not replaced.
From the mid 1930s, the Nazi movement came increasingly to be led by vehement anti-Christians, whom Hitler appointed to key positions. As with the "Jewish question", the radicals pushed the Church struggle forward, especially in Catholic areas, so that by the winter of 1935–1936 there was growing dissatisfaction with the Nazis in those areas. Kershaw wrote that in early 1937, Hitler again told his inner circle that though he "did not want a 'Church struggle' at this juncture", he expected "the great world struggle in a few years' time". Nevertheless, wrote Kershaw, Hitler's impatience with the churches "prompted frequent outbursts of hostility. In early 1937 he was declaring that 'Christianity was ripe for destruction', and that the Churches must yield to the "primacy of the state", railing against any compromise with "the most horrible institution imaginable". Priests were frequently denounced, arrested and sent to concentration camps. At Dachau, the regime established a dedicated Clergy Barracks for church dissidents. The Confessing Church seminary was banned. Its leaders, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer were arrested. Implicated in the 1944 July Plot to assassinate Hitler, he was later executed.
Long term plans for the churches
Overy wrote that Christianity was ultimately as incompatible with National Socialism as it was with Soviet Communism and that "Hitler expected the end of the disease of Christianity to come about by itself once the falsehoods were self-evident. During the war he reflected that in the long run 'National Socialism and religion will no longer be able to exist together'." Other historians have written of a more active intent on the part of Hitler and the Nazi leadership. Kershaw noted that Hitler's scheme for the Germanization of Eastern Europe saw no place for Christian churches and that Goebbels wrote from conversations with Hitler that there was an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a Germanic-heroic world-view which would need settling after the war. Speer noted in his memoir that churches were not to receive building sites in Hitler's new Berlin. Bullock wrote "once the war was over, Hitler promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches". The Nazi plan was to "de-Christianise Germany after the final victory", writes historian of German Resistance Anton Gill. "By the latter part of the decade of the thirties church officials were well aware that the ultimate aim of Hitler and other Nazis was the total elimination of Catholicism and of the Christian religion. Since the overwhelming majority of Germans were either Catholic or Protestant this goal had to be a long-term rather than a short-term Nazi objective", wrote Michael Phayer.
In its brief of evidence for the Nuremberg Trials concerning the Nazi persecution of the churches, the American Office of Strategic Services (a forerunner to the CIA) compiled a report entitled "The Nazi Master Plan" which examined the Nazi persecution of the churches and found that the Hitler regime had a plan to subvert and destroy German Christianity. The investigator wrote:
National Socialism was by its very nature hostile to Christianity and the Christian churches [...] Conflict was inevitable [...] Important leaders of the National Socialist party would have liked to meet this situation by a complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion tailored to fit the needs of National Socialist policy. This radically anti-Christian position is most significantly presented in Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century...generally regarded after Mein Kampf as the most authoritative statement of National Socialist ideology. [...] Thus in a declaration of 5 November 1934, Baldur von Schirach, the German youth leader declared... 'the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognised as a purpose of the National Socialist movement'. Considerations of expediency made it impossible, however to adopt this radical anti-Christian policy officially. Thus the policy actually adopted was to reduce the influence of the Christian churches as far as possible through use of every available means, without provoking the difficulties of an open war of extermination.— OSS; The Nazi Master Plan; Annex 4: The Persecution of the Christian Churches, 6 July 1945
According to Kershaw, in 1937 Goebbels noted Hitler was becoming more radical on the 'Church Question', and indicated that, though current political circumstances required waiting, his long term plan was to eventually dissolve the Reich concordat with Rome, detach the church entirely from the state and turn the entire force of the party to 'the destruction of the clerics', and end the Peace of Westphalia in a 'great world showdown'. In 1941, when Bishop Count Galen protested against Nazi Euthanasia and seizures of church properties, although Hitler's sympathies lay with the radicals who wanted Galen dead and church properties seized, he calculated that this would turn Catholic areas still further against the regime. "Only the need for peace in relation with the churches to avoid deteriorating morale on the home front determined his stance", wrote Kershaw, "Events in the Warthegau (where by 1941 94% of churches and chapels in the Posen-Gnesen diocese were closed, 11 % of the clergy were murdered, and most of the remainder thrust into prisons and concentration camps) showed the face of the future."
The National Socialist movement was not formally atheist, and generally allowed religious observance. Julian Baggini wrote that Hitler's Germany was not a "straightforwardly atheist state", but one which "sacrilized" notions of blood and nation. On October 13, 1933, Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess issued a decree stating: "No National Socialist may suffer any detriment on the ground that he does not profess any particular faith or confession or on the ground that he does not make any religious profession at all." However, "The aggressive spread of atheism in the Soviet Union alarmed many German Christians", wrote Geoffrey Blainey and Hitler saw Christianity as a "temporary ally" against Bolshevism, and courted and benefited from fear among German Christians of militant Communist atheism. In that same year the regime banned most atheistic and freethinking groups in Germany—other than those that supported the Nazis.
When criticised for anti-Christian sentiments in February 1933, Hitler claimed that it was the Nazis not the Catholic Centre Party that had taken on atheist politics. When negotiating the concordat with the Catholic Church, Hitler said he supported religious education in schools. Once in office however, Hitler then pursued a policy of suppression of denominational schools and church youth organizations. Clergymen teachers were removed from virtually all state schools. By 1939 all denominational schools had been disbanded or converted to public facilities. In that year, Evans notes, some 95% of Germans still called themselves Protestant or Catholic, while only 3.5% "Deist" (gottgläubig) and 1.5% atheist. Most in these latter categories were "convinced Nazis who had left their Church at the behest of the Party, which had been trying since the mid 1930s to reduce the influence of Christianity in society".
John Conway notes that the majority of the three million Nazi Party members continued to pay their church taxes and register as either Roman Catholic or Protestant Christians, "despite all Rosenberg's efforts." Aggressive anti-Church radicals like Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann saw the kirchenkampf campaign against the Churches as a priority concern, and anti-church and anticlerical sentiments were strong among grassroots party activists. From 1938, writes Overy, "Martin Bormann, head of the Party Chancellery and a prominent party atheist, took a leading role in trying to sever all state financial support for the churches, and to limit their legal status and activities, but the need to mobilise church support for the war effort from September 1939 led, as it did in the Soviet Union after 1941, to a limited political truce between church and state." Speer considered Bormann to be the driving force behind the regime's campaign against the churches and thought that Hitler approved of his aims, but wanted to "postpone this problem to a more favourable time":
Jehovah's Witnesses numbered around 30,000 at the start of Hitler's rule in Germany. For refusing to declare loyalty to the Reich, and refusing conscription into the army, they were declared to be enemies of Germany and persecuted. About 6,000 were sent to the concentration camps.
Anti-Judaism as well as racial anti-Semitism were central planks of Hitler's philosophy. His regime perpetrated the Final Solution an effort to exterminate the Jews, which resulted in the largest-scale genocide in history. Hitler's ideology presented the Jews as a biological challenge to the "purity" of German blood.
- * Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; Harper Perennial Edition 1991; p. 219: "Hitler had been brought up a Catholic and was impressed by the organization and power of the Church... [but] to its teachings he showed only the sharpest hostility... he detested [Christianity]'s ethics in particular"
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler: A Biography; Norton; 2008 ed; pp. 295–297: "In early 1937 [Hitler] was declaring that 'Christianity was ripe for destruction', and that the Churches must yield to the 'primacy of the state', railing against any compromise with 'the most horrible institution imaginable'"
- Richard J. Evans; The Third Reich at War; Penguin Press; New York 2009, p. 547: Evans wrote that Hitler believed Germany could not tolerate the intervention of foreign influences such as the Pope and "Priests, he said, were 'black bugs', 'abortions in black cassocks'". Evans noted that Hitler saw Christianity as "indelibly Jewish in origin and character" and a "prototype of Bolshevism", which "violated the law of natural selection".
- Richard Overy: The Dictators Hitler's Germany Stalin's Russia; Allen Lane/Penguin; 2004.p 281: "[Hitler's] few private remarks on Christianity betray a profound contempt and indifference".
- A. N. Wilson; Hitler a Short Biography; Harper Press; 2012, p. 71.: "Much is sometimes made of the Catholic upbringing of Hitler... it was something to which Hitler himself often made allusion, and he was nearly always violently hostile. 'The biretta! The mere sight of these abortions in cassocks makes me wild!'"
- Laurence Rees; The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler; Ebury Press; 2012; p. 135.; "There is no evidence that Hitler himself, in his personal life, ever expressed any individual belief in the basic tenets of the Christian church"
- Derek Hastings (2010). Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 181 : Hastings considers it plausible that Hitler was a Catholic as late as his trial in 1924, but writes that "there is little doubt that Hitler was a staunch opponent of Christianity throughout the duration of the Third Reich."
- Joseph Goebbels (Fred Taylor Translation); The Goebbels Diaries 1939–41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4 : In his entry for 29 April 1941, Goebbels noted long discussions about the Vatican and Christianity, and wrote: "The Fuhrer is a fierce opponent of all that humbug".
- Albert Speer; Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs; Translation by Richard and Clara Winston; Macmillan; New York; 1970; p.123: "Once I have settled my other problem," [Hitler] occasionally declared, "I'll have my reckoning with the church. I'll have it reeling on the ropes." But Bormann did not want this reckoning postponed ... he would take out a document from his pocket and begin reading passages from a defiant sermon or pastoral letter. Frequently Hitler would become so worked up ... and vowed to punish the offending clergyman eventually ... That he could not immediately retaliate raised him to a white heat ..."
- Hitler's Table Talk: "The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that's left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity."
- Weikart, Richard (2016). Hitler's Religion: The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. unpaginated. ISBN 978-1621575511.
It's true that Hitler's public statements opposing atheism should not be given too much weight, since they obviously served Hitler's political purposes to tar political opponents. However, in his private monologues, he likewise rejected atheism, providing further evidence that this was indeed his personal conviction. In July 1941, he told his colleagues that humans do not really know where the laws of nature come from. He continued, "Thus people discovered the wonderful concept of the Almighty, whose rule they venerate. We do not want to train people in atheism." He then maintained that every person has a consciousness of what we call God. This God was apparently not the Christian God preached in the churches, however, since Hitler continued, "In the long run National Socialism and the church cannot continue to exist together." The monologue confirms that Hitler rejected atheism, but it also underscores the vagueness of his conception of God. [...] While confessing faith in an omnipotent being of some sort, however, Hitler denied we could know anything about it. [...] Despite his suggestion that God is inscrutable and unfathomable, Hitler did sometimes claim to know something about the workings of Providence. [...] Perhaps even more significantly, he had complete faith that Providence had chosen him to lead the German people to greatness.
- Bullock (1991), p.26
- John Toland; Hitler; Wordsworth Editions; 1997 Edn; pp. 18
- Rissmann, Michael (2001). Hitlers Gott: Vorsehungsglaube und Sendungsbewußtsein des deutschen Diktators. Zürich, München: Pendo, pp. 94–96; ISBN 978-3-85842-421-1.
- John S. Conway. Review of Steigmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945. H-German, H-Net Reviews. June, 2003: John S. Conway considered that Steigmann-Gall's analysis differed from earlier interpretations only by "degree and timing", but that if Hitler's early speeches evidenced a sincere appreciation of Christianity, "this Nazi Christianity was eviscerated of all the most essential orthodox dogmas" leaving only "the vaguest impression combined with anti-Jewish prejudice..." which few would recognize as "true Christianity".
- Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19–20, Oxford University Press, 1942
- Hitler, Adolf (1999). Mein Kampf. Ralph Mannheim, ed., New York: Mariner Books, pp. 65, 119, 152, 161, 214, 375, 383, 403, 436, 562, 565, 622, 632–633.
- from Norman H. Baynes, ed. (1969). The Speeches of Adolf Hitler: April 1922 – August 1939. 1. New York: Howard Fertig. p. 402.
- William L. Shirer; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; Secker & Warburg; London; 1990, p. 234.
- "Confessing Church" in Dictionary of the Christian Church, F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingston, eds.; William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), pp. 235 f.
- Schramm, Percy Ernst (1978) "The Anatomy of a Dictator" in Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader. Detwiler, Donald S., ed. Malabar, Florida: Robert E. Kreiger Publishing Company. pp.88-91. ISBN 0-89874-962-X; originally published as the introduction to Picker, Henry (1963) Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquarter ("Hitler's Table Talk")
- Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 13–50, 252
- Fred Taylor Translation; The Goebbels Diaries 1939–41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4; p.340
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler a Biography; 2008 Edn; W. W. Norton & Company; London; p. 290.
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler a Biography; 2008 Edition; W. W. Norton & Company; London p. 661."
- *Sharkey, Joe (13 January 2002). "Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler's Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler a Biography; 2008 Edn; WW Norton & Company; London p.661
- Alan Bullock; Hitler: A Study in Tyranny; HarperPerennial Edition 1991; p 219: "Once the war was over, [Hitler] promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches, but until then he would be circumspect"
- Michael Phayer; The Response of the German Catholic Church to National Socialism, published by Yad Vashem: "By the latter part of the decade of the Thirties church officials were well aware that the ultimate aim of Hitler and other Nazis was the total elimination of Catholicism and of the Christian religion. Since the overwhelming majority of Germans were either Catholic or Protestant this goal had to be a long-term rather than a short-term Nazi objective."
- Shirer, William L., Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, p. 240, Simon and Schuster, 1990: "under the leadership of Rosenberg, Bormann and Himmler—backed by Hitler—the Nazi regime intended to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists.”
- Gill, Anton (1994). An Honourable Defeat; A History of the German Resistance to Hitler. Heinemann Mandarin. 1995 paperback ISBN 978-0-434-29276-9, pp. 14–15: "[the Nazis planned to] de-Christianise Germany after the final victory".
- Richard Overy; ‘’The Dictators Hitler's Germany Stalin's Russia’’; Allen Lane/Penguin; 2004.pp.287: “During the War [Hitler] reflected that in the long run, ‘National Socialism and religion will no longer be able to exist together. Both Stalin and Hitler wanted a neutered religion, subservient to the state, while the slow programme of scientific revelation destroyed the foundation of religious myth.”
- Richard J. Evans; The Third Reich at War; Penguin Press; New York 2009, p. 547: wrote that Hitler believed that in the long run National Socialism and religion would not be able to co-exist, and stressed repeatedly that Nazism was a secular ideology, founded on modern science: "Science, he declared, would easily destroy the last remaining vestiges of superstition". Germany could not tolerate the intervention of foreign influences such as the Pope and "Priests, he said, were 'black bugs', 'abortions in black cassocks'".
- Griffin, Roger Fascism's relation to religion in Blamires, Cyprian, World fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1, p. 10, ABC-CLIO, 2006: "There is no doubt that in the long run Nazi leaders such as Hitler and Himmler intended to eradicate Christianity just as ruthlessly as any other rival ideology, even if in the short term they had to be content to make compromises with it."
- Mosse, George Lachmann, Nazi culture: intellectual, cultural and social life in the Third Reich, p. 240, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2003: "Had the Nazis won the war their ecclesiastical policies would have gone beyond those of the German Christians, to the utter destruction of both the Protestant and the Catholic Church."
- Fischel, Jack R., Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust , p. 123, Scarecrow Press, 2010: "The objective was to either destroy Christianity and restore the German gods of antiquity or to turn Jesus into an Aryan."
- Dill, Marshall, Germany: a modern history , p. 365, University of Michigan Press, 1970: "It seems no exaggeration to insist that the greatest challenge the Nazis had to face was their effort to eradicate Christianity in Germany or at least to subjugate it to their general world outlook."
- Wheaton, Eliot Barculo The Nazi revolution, 1933–1935: prelude to calamity:with a background survey of the Weimar era, p. 290, 363, Doubleday 1968: The Nazis sought "to eradicate Christianity in Germany root and branch."
- Bendersky, Joseph W., A concise history of Nazi Germany, p. 147, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007: "Consequently, it was Hitler's long range goal to eliminate the churches once he had consolidated control over his European empire.”
- The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches Archived 2013-09-26 at the Wayback Machine, Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Winter 2001, publishing evidence compiled by the O.S.S. for the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of 1945 and 1946
- Sharkey, Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler's Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity, New York Times, 13 January 2002
- Bendersky, Joseph W., A concise history of Nazi Germany, p. 147, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007: "Consequently, it was Hitler's long range goal to eliminate the churches once he had consolidated control over his European empire.”
- Alan Bullock; Hitler, a Study in Tyranny; Harper Perennial Edition, 1991; p. 219."
- Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; HarperPerennial Edition 1991; pp. 215–216"
- Alan Bullock; Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Harper Perennial Edition 1991, p. 216.
- Sir Ian Kershaw: Dissecting Hitler; BBC News; 14 June 2002.
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler 1936–1945 Nemesis; WW Norton & Company; 2000; pp. 20
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler 1936–1945 Nemesis; WW Norton & Company; 2000; pp. 39–40
- Richard J. Evans; The Third Reich at War; Penguin Press; New York 2009, p. 547
- Overy, Richard (2004) The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. Allen Lane/Penguin. pp. 281, 287
- Richard Overy; The Third Reich, A Chronicle; Quercus; 2010; p. 99
- Overy, Richard (2004)The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. Allen Lane/Penguin. pp. 280–281
- Schramm, Percy Ernst (1978) "The Anatomy of a Dictator" in Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader. Detwiler, Donald S., ed. Malabar, Florida: Robert E. Kreiger Publishing Company. p. 46. ISBN 0-89874-962-X; originally published as the introduction to Picker, Henry (1963) Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquarter ("Hitler's Table Talk")
- Laurence Rees; The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler; Ebury Press; 2012; p. 135.
- Laurence Rees; The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler; Ebury Press; 2012; p. 135
- Max Domarus (2007). The Essential Hitler: Speeches and Commentary. Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci, p. 21.
- Domarus, 2007, p. 427
- Heiden, Konrad (1935). A History of National Socialism. A. A. Knopf, p. 100.
- Hastings, Derek (2010). Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 181.
- John Toland. (1976). Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. New York: Anchor Books, pp. 589, 703.
- Guenter Lewy; The Catholic Church And Nazi Germany; 1964; p. 303
- Scholder, Klaus, The Churches and the Third Reich. 2 vols. Fortress Press, 1988 pp. 150-162
- Koehne, Samuel, Hitler's faith: The debate over Nazism and religion, ABC Religion and Ethics, 18 Apr. 2012
- Stephen McKnight; Glenn Hughes; Geoffrey Price (2001). Politics, Order and History: Essays on the Work of Eric Voegelin. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-84127-159-0.
- Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 118–20, 155–6. ISBN 0-521-82371-4.
- Steigmann-Gall 2003, p. 255
- Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 13–50, 252.
- Steigmann-Gall 2003, p. 26
- Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 95–96.
- Speer, Albert (1971). Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-684-82949-4.
- Albert Speer; Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs; Translation by Richard and Clara Winston; Macmillan; New York; 1970; p. 123
- Speer, Albert (1971). Inside the Third Reich. Trans. Richard Winston, Clara Winston, Eugene Davidson. New York: Macmillan, p. 143; Reprinted in 1997. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-684-82949-4.
- Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs of Albert Speer; New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 94
- Albert Speer; Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs; Translation by Richard and Clara Winston; Macmillan Publishing Company; New York; 1970; p. 49
- Trevor-Roper, H.R. (2000). Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. New York: Enigma Books, p. vii.
- Encyclopædia Britannica - Reflections on the Holocaust Archived 2013-12-24 at the Wayback Machine; Hitler, Adolf: Additional Reading - Writings and speeches; web May 2013.
- Cameron et al. 2007.
- Cameron et al. 2007, pp. 59, 342, 343.
- Kershaw, Ian (2001). Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris. London: Penguin. pp. xiv. ISBN 978-0-14-013363-9.
- Evans, Richard J. (2008). The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis led Germany from conquest to disaster. London: Penguin. pp. 547 (546–9). ISBN 978-0-14-101548-4.
- Cameron et al. 2007, p. 55.
- See Alan Bullock; Hitler: a Study in Tyranny; HarperPerennial Edition 1991; p219 & Cameron et al. 2007, p. 51
- Burleigh, Michael (2001). The Third Reich - A New History. London: Pan Books. pp. 716–717. ISBN 978-0-330-48757-3.
- Evans, Richard J. (2008). The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis led Germany from conquest to disaster. London: Penguin. pp. 547–8. ISBN 978-0-14-101548-4.
- Cameron et al. 2007, p. 8.
- Cameron et al. 2007, p. 48.
- Cameron et al. 2007, pp. 59–61.
- Trevor-Roper, Hugh, ed (2000). Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. Trans. N. Cameron and R. H. Stevens (3rd ed.). New York: Engima Books. Midday 14th October 1941: "I'm convinced that any pact with the Church can offer only a provisional benefit, for sooner or later the scientific spirit will disclose the harmful character of such a compromise. Thus the State will have based its existence on a foundation that one day will collapse. An educated man retains the sense of the mysteries of nature and bows before the unknowable. An uneducated man, on the other hand, runs the risk of going over to atheism (which is a return to the state of the animal) as soon as he perceives that the State, in sheer opportunism, is making use of false ideas in the matter of religion, whilst in other fields it bases everything on pure science. That's why I've always kept the Party aloof from religious questions."
- Cameron et al. 2007, p. 76.
- Cameron et al. 2007, pp. 721–722.
- Carrier, Richard (2003). "Hitler's Table Talk: Troubling Finds". German Studies Review. 26 (3): 561–576. doi:10.2307/1432747. JSTOR 1432747.
- Trevor-Roper, Hugh Redwald; Weinberg, Gerhard L. (2013-10-18). Hitler's Table Talk 1941-1944: Secret Conversations. Enigma Books. p. xi. ISBN 9781929631667.
- Nilsson, Mikael (2016-03-10). "Hugh Trevor-Roper and the English editions of Hitler's Table Talk and Testament". Journal of Contemporary History. 51 (4): 788–812. doi:10.1177/0022009415619689. ISSN 0022-0094.
- Ian Kershaw; Hitler 1889-1936 Hubris; Allen Lane/Penguin Press; 1998 p. xii
- Fred Taylor Translation; The Goebbels Diaries 1939–41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4; p.76
- Fred Taylor Translation; The Goebbels Diaries 1939–41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4; pp. 304 305: Goebbels wrote in 1941 that Hitler "hates Christianity" because it had made humans abject and weak, and also because the faith exalted the dignity of human life, while disregarding the rights and well-being of animals.
- Ian Kershaw; 'Hitler: a Biography; Norton; 2008 ed; pp. 295–297: "In early 1937 [Hitler] was declaring that 'Christianity was ripe for destruction', and that the Churches must yield to the 'primacy of the state', railing against any compromise with 'the most horrible institution imaginable'"
- Bonney, Richard (2009). Confronting the Nazi war on Christianity: the Kulturkampf newsletters, 1936–1939 Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang Pub., p. 20.
- Lang, Peter (2009). Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. New York: Anchor Books, p. 703.
- Fred Taylor Translation; The Goebbels Diaries 1939–41; Hamish Hamilton Ltd; London; 1982; ISBN 0-241-10893-4; p.77
- Elke Frölich. 1997–2008. Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels. Munich: K. G. Sauer. Teil I, v. 6, p. 272.
- Friedländer, Saul (2009). Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933–1945. New York: HarperCollins, p. 61.
- Weikart, Richard (2016). Hitler's Religion. Regenery History. pp. XI. ISBN 9781621575009.
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Hitler's evident ability to simulate, even to potentially critical Church leaders, an image of a leader keen to uphold and protect Christianity was crucial to the mediation of such an image to the church-going public by influential members of both major denominations. It was the reason why church-going Christians, so often encouraged by their 'opinion-leaders' in the Church hierarchies, were frequently able to exclude Hitler from their condemnation of the anti-Christian Party radicals, continuing to see in him the last hope of protecting Christianity from Bolshevism.
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Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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