Gerhard Kittel

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Gerhard Kittel
Gerhard Kittel.jpg
Born(1888-09-23)23 September 1888
Breslau, Prussia, German Empire
Died11 July 1948(1948-07-11) (aged 59)
Tübingen, Germany
Political partyNazi Party
Hanna Untermeier
(m. 1914)
Parent(s)Rudolf Kittel
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Kiel[1]
ThesisDie Oden Salomos, überarbeitet oder einheitlich[1] (1912)
Doctoral advisorJohannes Leipoldt [arz; de][1]
Academic work
Sub-disciplineNew Testament studies
School or traditionLutheranism
InstitutionsUniversity of Tübingen
Doctoral studentsWalter Grundmann[2]

Gerhard Kittel (1888–1948) was a German Lutheran[1] theologian and lexicographer of biblical languages. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis[5] and an open antisemite.[6] He is known in the field of biblical studies for his Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament).[7]


Kittel was born on 23 September 1888 in Breslau.[citation needed] The son of Old Testament scholar Rudolf Kittel,[8] he married Hanna Untermeier in 1914, but there were no children from the union.[citation needed] In May 1933, he joined the Nazi Party.[7] He had had no previous involvement in politics but called the party "a völkisch renewal movement on a Christian, moral foundation".[9]

On 3 May 1945, after Adolf Hitler's Third Reich capitulated to the Allies, Kittel was arrested by the French occupying forces.[7] He was subsequently removed from office and interned at Balingen.[10] In his own defence, Kittel maintained his work was "scientific in method" and motivated by Christianity, although it may have appeared antisemitic to some.[11] He attempted to distinguish his work from the "vulgar antisemitism of Nazi propaganda" like Der Stürmer and Alfred Rosenberg,[11] who was known for his anti-Christian rhetoric, völkisch arguments and emphasis on Lebensraum.[12] Kittel characterized his work as an "attempt to grapple with the problem of Jewry and the Jewish question".[11]

Martin Dibelius, a theologian at Heidelberg, wrote that Kittel's works related to ancient Judaism "are of purely scientific character" and "do not serve the Party interpretation of Judaism".[13] He said further that Kittel deserved "the thanks of all who are interested in the scientific study of Judaism."[14]

Claus Schedl, who attended Kittel's lectures on the Jewish Question in the winter of 1941–1942 in Vienna, said that "one heard not a single word of malice" and that "Professor Kittel truly did not collaborate".[14] Schedl says that Kittel was one of very few scholars who promoted an opinion on the Jewish Question other than the official one.[14] Kittel himself said his goal was to combat the myths and distortions of extremist members of the Nazi Party.[11]

Annemarie Tugendhat was a Christian Jew whose father had been taken to the concentration camp Welzheim in 1938.[14] She testified that Kittel had strongly objected against the actions being taken against Jews. Kittel's work on the Jewish Question was not based on the racial theories of Nazism but upon theology.[15][page needed]

In 1946, Kittel was released pending his trial, but was forbidden to enter Tübingen until 1948. From 1946 to 1948 he was a pastor (Seelsorger) in Beuron. In 1948, he was allowed back into Tübingen, but died that year before the criminal proceedings against him could be resumed.[15][page needed] He died on 11 July 1948.[16]

Nazi Germany[edit]

A Professor of Evangelical Theology and New Testament at the University of Tübingen, he published studies depicting the Jewish people as the historical enemy of Germany, Christianity, and European culture in general. In a lecture of June 1933 Die Judenfrage (The Jewish Question), that soon appeared in print, he spoke for the stripping of citizenship from German Jews, their removal from medicine, law, teaching, and journalism, and to forbid marriage or sexual relations with non-Jews – thus anticipating by two years the Nazi government, which introduced its Nuremberg Racial Laws and took away Jewish rights of German citizenship in 1935.[17] A close friend of Walter Frank,[citation needed] Kittel joined Frank's Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands, a politicized organization that claimed to be involved in scholarship,[citation needed] upon its foundation[7] in 1935. Within this institute[citation needed] he was attached to the highly antisemitic[citation needed] Forschungsabteilung judenfrage.[7]

William F. Albright wrote that, "In view of the terrible viciousness of his attacks on Judaism and the Jews, which continues at least until 1943, Gerhard Kittel must bear the guilt of having contributed more, perhaps, than any other Christian theologian to the mass murder of Jews by Nazis."[18][page needed]

Literary works[edit]

Kittel's magnum opus
  • Die Oden Salomos überarbeitet oder einheitlich, 1914
  • Jesus und die Rabbinen, 1914
  • Die Probleme des palästinensischen Spätjudentums und das Urchristentum, 1926
  • Urchristentum, Spätjudentum, Hellenismus, 1926
  • Die Religionsgeschichte und das Urchristentum, 1932
  • Founder and co-editor of the Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, 5 vols., 1933–1979
  • Ein theologischer Briefwechsel mit Karl Barth (A theological correspondence with Karl Barth, 1934 with Karl Barth
  • Christus und Imperator, 1939
  • Das Antike Weltjudentum – Forschungen zur Judenfrage (World Jewry of Antiquity – Research on the Jewish Question), 1943 with Eugen Fischer

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d Gerdmar 2009, p. 419.
  2. ^ Head 2004, p. 71; Steinweis 2006, p. 66.
  3. ^ Challis, William (May 1979). "The Hand of God in the World". Third Way. Vol. 3 no. 5. London. p. 23. ISSN 0309-3492. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  4. ^ Ericksen 2004, p. 356.
  5. ^ Ericksen 2012, p. 8.
  6. ^ Ericksen 1985; Weinreich 1999.
  7. ^ a b c d e Ericksen 1977, p. 596.
  8. ^ Ericksen 2012, p. 31.
  9. ^ Ericksen 1977, p. 599.
  10. ^ Ericksen 1977, p. 616.
  11. ^ a b c d Ericksen 1977, p. 597.
  12. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  13. ^ Ericksen 1977, pp. 597–598.
  14. ^ a b c d Ericksen 1977, p. 598.
  15. ^ a b Ericksen 1977.
  16. ^ Ericksen 1977, p. 617.
  17. ^ Ericksen 2012, pp. 31–32.
  18. ^ Albright 1947.


Albright, W. F. (1947). "The War in Europe and the Future of Biblical Studies". In Willoughby, Harold (ed.). The Study of the Bible Today and Tomorrow. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Ericksen, Robert P. (1977). "Theologian in the Third Reich: The Case of Gerhard Kittel". Journal of Contemporary History. 12 (3): 595–622. doi:10.1177/002200947701200309. ISSN 1461-7250. JSTOR 260042.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
 ———  (1985). Theologians Under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanuel Hirsch. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
 ———  (2004). "Christians in the Nazi Era: A Problematic Story; A Comment on Papers by Annette Merz, Gerhard Besier, and Gerhard Lindemann". Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte. 17 (2): 352–358. ISSN 2196-808X. JSTOR 43100091.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
 ———  (2012). Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139059602. ISBN 978-1-139-05960-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Gerdmar, Anders (2009). Roots of Theological Anti-Semitism: German Biblical Interpretation and the Jews, from Herder and Semler to Kittel and Bultmann. Studies in Jewish History and Culture. 20. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. doi:10.1163/ej.9789004168510.i-678. ISBN 978-90-04-16851-0. ISSN 1568-5004.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Head, Peter M. (2004). "The Nazi Quest for an Aryan Jesus". Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. 2 (1): 55–89. ISSN 1476-8690.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Steinweis, Alan E. (2006). Studying the Jew: Scholarly Antisemitism in Nazi Germany. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-04399-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Alfred Rosenberg: Biography". Holocaust Encyclopedia. Washington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 15 September 2020.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Weinreich, Max (1999). Hitler Professors. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Further reading[edit]

Dahm, Christof (1992). "Kittel, Gerhard". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (in German). 3. Herzberg, Germany: Bautz. cols. 1544–1546. ISBN 978-3-88309-035-1. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2020.

External links[edit]