WHO WAS HITLER ! A RELIGIOUS OR NON RELIGIOUS PERSON?
Adolf Hitler – Christian, Atheist, or Neither?
In my wanderings through the Web, I have sometimes come across statements from Christians saying that Adolf Hitler was an atheist, and more often, statements from atheists saying that Hitler was a devout Christian. He seems to be a guy that nobody wants on their team, which I guess is fair enough, given the part that he played in humanity’s bloodiest endeavour. However since some of the “Hitler was a Christian” comments have been occasionally directed at me, I thought it would be wise to investigate the matter for myself and see just what I could come up with.My conclusion is that Hitler, although he was brought up and confirmed as a Catholic, had abandoned Christianity by the time he was in control of Germany. Importantly though, he was not an atheist either. Read on to find out more…
Some Quotes Used to Establish Hitler’s Christianity
The Internet is awash with many quotes from Hitler that could be used in support of the idea that he considered himself Christian, or thought he was acting in accord with God’s will, or something like that. I have collected a number of such citations myself. But bear in mind that these are mostly public sayings, so you have to be careful about how much you trust them. A good one is this from Mein Kampf:
“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.”
Another popular one is this, from a speech in 1922:
“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded 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.”
The idea of Jesus being greatest as a fighter rather than a sufferer is of course a long way from orthodox Christianity. To quote Kevin Davids, author of an excellent article on Hitler,
“When one looks at the atrocities committed under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler and compares them to the teacher of universal love, Jesus of Nazareth, one might come to the immediate conclusion that the notion that Hitler was a Christian is absurd”.
An example that springs to mind of the contrast between Jesus and Hitler is that Christ said the meek shall inherit the earth. Hitler on the other hand called the Nazis “lords of the earth” because of “the genius and the courage with which they can conquer and defend it” (Mein Kampf, Vol 2, Ch 14).
Regardless of what Hitler published, his actions put himself outside the Church, in a similar manner to the way an outspoken atheist would not really be an atheist if at the same time he regularly attended church, studied the Bible, and prayed the rosary.
It is important to be able to identify the difference between Hitler’s public speeches and writing and what he really thought. A devious politician leading a nominally Christian country like 1930s Germany will say lots of Christian-sounding stuff to maintain popularity. Mein Kampf illustrates Hitler’s views on propaganda:
“To whom should propaganda be addressed? … It must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses… The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses’ attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision. The whole art consists in doing this so skilfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc. But since propaganda is not and cannot be the necessity in itself … its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect… it’s soundness is to be measured exclusively by its effective result”. (Main Kampf, Vol 1, Ch 6 and Ch 12)
As an example of Hitler’s honesty, consider the following from a letter by Hitler to the French fascist Hervé and published in the Nazi Völkischer Beobachter on October 26, 1930 [Heiden,Der Fuehrer, p. 414] :
“I think I can assure you that there is no one in Germany who will not with all his heart approve any honest attempt at an improvement of relations between Germany and France. My own feelings force me to take the same attitude… The German people has the solemn intention of living in peace and friendship with all civilized nations and powers… And I regard the maintenance of peace in Europe as especially desirable and at the same time secured, if France and Germany, on the basis of equal sharing of natural human rights, arrive at a real inner understanding… The young Germany, that is led by me and that finds its expression in the National Socialist Movement, has only the most heartfelt desire for an understanding with other European nations.”
This is from the guy who started World War II.
In a similar vein, consider this, from a speech in the Reichstag on 30 Jan. 1939:
“Amongst the accusations which are directed against Germany in the so called democracies is the charge that the National Socialist State is hostile to religion. In answer to that charge I should like to make before the German people the following solemn declaration:
1. No one in Germany has in the past been persecuted because of his religious views, nor will anyone in the future be so persecuted…”
Hmm… would you trust this guy’s public announcements?
Hitler may in public have claimed to be doing the will of God, but records of his private conversations show otherwise. Many of these were recorded by his secretary and published in a book called Hitler’s Table Talk (Adolf Hitler, London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1953). I have lifted the text of these from the soc.religion.christian newsgroup’s Hitler FAQ.
Night of 11th-12th July, 1941
“National Socialism and religion cannot exist together….
“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….
“Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things.” (p 6 & 7)
10th October, 1941, midday
“Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.” (p 43)
14th October, 1941, midday
“The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death…. When understanding of the universe has become widespread… Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity….
“Christianity has reached the peak of absurdity…. And that’s why someday its structure will collapse….
“…the only way to get rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little…. “Christianity <is> the liar….
“We’ll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State.” (p 49-52)
19th October, 1941, night
“The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.”
21st October, 1941, midday
“Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism, the destroyer….
“The decisive falsification of Jesus’ <who he asserts many times was never a Jew> doctrine was the work of St.Paul. He gave himself to this work… for the purposes of personal exploitation….
“Didn’t the world see, carried on right into the Middle Ages, the same old system of martyrs, tortures, faggots? Of old, it was in the name of Christianity. Today, it’s in the name of Bolshevism. Yesterday the instigator was Saul: the instigator today, Mardochai. Saul was changed into St.Paul, and Mardochai into Karl Marx. By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea.” (p 63-65)
13th December, 1941, midnight
“Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery…. <here insults people who believe transubstantiation>….
“When all is said, we have no reason to wish that the Italians and Spaniards should free themselves from the drug of Christianity. Let’s be the only people who are immunised against the disease.” (p 118-119)
14th December, 1941, midday
“Kerrl, with noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don’t believe the thing’s possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself….
“Pure Christianity– the Christianity of the catacombs– is concerned with translating Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics.” (p 119 & 120)
9th April, 1942, dinner
“There is something very unhealthy about Christianity.” (p 339)
27th February, 1942, midday
“It would always be disagreeable for me to go down to posterity as a man who made concessions in this field. I realize that man, in his imperfection, can commit innumerable errors– but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie.”
“Our epoch in the next 200 years will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity…. My regret will have been that I couldn’t… behold <its demise>.” (p 278)
“We were convinced that the people need and require 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”.
“For their interests [the Church’s] cannot fail to coincide with ours [the National Socialists] alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of to-day, in our fight against a Bolshevist culture, against atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for a consciousness of a community in our national life”.
Both of these quotes are from Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, Oxford University Press, 1942, cited in an Internet article by Doug Krueger.
Another interesting quote from Hitler is found in a book by Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments:
“I often feel that we will have to undergo all the trials the devil and hell can devise before we achieve Final Victory….I may be no pious churchgoer, but deep within me I am nevertheless a devout man. That is to say, I believe that he who fights valiantly obeying the laws which a god has established and who never capitulates but instead gathers his forces time after time and always pushes forward—such a man will not be abandoned by the Lawgiver. Rather he will ultimately receive the blessing of Providence. And that blessing has been imparted to all great spirits in history.” (Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich : Memoirs. Bonanza Books ; Distributed by Crown Publishers, 1982, cited in an Internet article by Kevin Davids).
These sentiments are obviously neither atheist nor Christian.
In conclusion, I think that Hitler was not an atheist, but he was not a Christian either. While he was materialist and rationalist in a lot of things, he also talked a lot about “Providence”, or “Nature”, as a sort of mystical force of fate, and he saw himself as somehow destined for victory even when the war was going badly for him, simply because of the purity of his purpose, his strength of will, and his feeling of destiny. I have even read that he believed in reincarnation. To me, some of his quotes and writings make it sound like he worshipped the German national identity; some make it seem like instead of God he worshipped or idealised or divinised Providence / Nature / Fate, with his glorious destiny assured no matter what; and in some ways it seems to me like he worshipped himself.
For a more detailed analysis of Hitler’s thinking and his Christianity or otherwise, I strongly recommend Kevin Davids’ excellent article on the subject.
Finally, two last points. The first is not very compelling, but I found it interesting. The first time I found Hitler’s Mein Kampf on-line was at a White Supremacy hate site whose homepage had a litany of Hitler’s anti-Christian quotes.
The second point is that even the Atheism Web highlights the difference between Hitler’s public speeches before he came to power, and his attitude after 1935 when he saw Christianity as a threat to Nazi domination.