Was Adolf Hitler A Christian? A Common Objection to Creationism
When speaking about the scientific problems with neo-Darwinism, during the Q and A session I am often asked “how could creation be true when Christianity has such poor fruits, such as Hitler, who was a believing Christian (some add a devout Christian or Catholic)”. Obviously, whether or not Hitler was a Christian is, at best, only indirectly related to the validity of creationism. Nonetheless, the question has come up so often that I thought I should respond. One example typical of the claims on this topic is as follows:
“My overall motivation is to help hasten the day when all religions will become extinct. I view them as being very harmful to society and to individuals. Their irrational nature allows for the justification of any belief and atrocity. After all, if the God of Christianity commits murder, torture, genocide, and advises cannibalism (still practiced today in the Eucharist), what is so terrible about killing a few more thousand people in a god’s name? The recent attack on the World Trade Center is but one example of the danger of such beliefs. The Nazi Holocaust is another — a direct consequence of centuries of Christian anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism by Christianity — primarily the Catholic and Lutheran churches. Hitler, a Roman Catholic Christian, finally carried it out — in the most Christian country in the world, with the willing support of the public, and with Swastika flags flying proudly in the churches.” (http://waynepaulson.topcities.com/DialogX1.htm 4/12/2005 emphasis mine)
This paragraph, although based on some valid observations, is as irresponsible as the Nazi movement reasoning itself. One evangelical atheist web site goes so far as to claim that Hitler was not only a Christian but “agreed with the modern ‘intelligent design’ creationists”, and was also “a religious fanatic, a Christian and a creationist” (Anonymous, 2005, pp. 3,9). Hitler made it clear that he “hated Christianity” and was going to eliminate it when the war ended (see Kershaw, 2000). One reason Hitler “hated Christianity” was because he believed that “it had crippled everything noble about humanity” (quoted in Kershaw, 2000, p. 936).
In Hitler’s words “the heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity” (Hitler, 1953, p. 6). The Jesuits were “swine,” and all of Christianity was “Jewish Christianity” which was comparable with “Jewish Bolshevism.” Hitler concluded that both were evil and both had to be destroyed (Kershaw, 2000, pp. 330, 488). His reasoning was based on his belief that Christianity was an “illegitimate” Jewish child and, as a Jewish child, was swine like its parent that must be eradicated. Hitler considered Christianity the “invention of the Jew Saul” (Azar, 1990, p. 154).
A major reason Hitler opposed Christianity was because Hitler saw Christianity and Science as diametrically opposed to each other (Azar, 1990, p. 154). He concluded science would win, and the Christian church would eventually in due time be destroyed. Hitler even believed science was the creation of the German race. Hitler was trying to use science — especially Darwinism — to create a utopia on Earth, and he made it absolutely clear that there would be “no place in this utopia for the Christian Churches” in his plans for the future of Germany. He realized that this was a long term goal and “was prepared to put off long-term ideological goals in favor of short-term advantage” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 238). Hitler had to fight one battle at a time — and elected to take on the fight with the churches in due time. The Christian church would be destroyed later, and for now it was needed. Only after the war would Germany be able to fully implement the “final solution” to the “Christian problem” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 516). In the meantime, “calm should be restored … in relations with the Churches” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 39). But it was
“‘clear,’ noted Geobbels, himself numbering among the most aggressive anti-Church radicals, ‘that after the war it has to find a general solution…. There is, namely, an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a Germanic-heroic world-view’” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 449).
The church, in turn, usually turned the other cheek to Hitler’s evil. The state’s conflict with the Churches was a source of great bitterness by church members, but, amazingly,
“Hitler was largely exempted from blame. Despite four years of fierce ‘Church struggle,’ the head of the Protestant Church in Bavaria, Bishop Meiser, publicly offered prayers for Hitler, thanking God ‘for every success which, through your grace, you have so far granted him for the good of our people.’ The negative features of daily life, most [people] imagined, were not of the Führer’s making. They were the fault of his underlinings, who frequently kept him in the dark about what was happening” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 28).
Many churchmen wanted to believe that Hitler was on their side, and a few were actually convinced by Hitler’s lies that he was on their side:
“Even for those within Germany known to be critical of the regime, Hitler could in a face-to-face meeting create a positive impression. He was good at attuning to the sensitivities of his conversation-partner, could be charming, and often appeared reasonable and accommodating. As always, he was a skilled dissembler. On a one-to-one basis, he could pull the wool over the eyes of hardened critics. After a three-hour meeting with him at the Berghof in early November 1936, the influential Catholic Archbishop of Munich-Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber — a man of sharp acumen, who had often courageously criticized the Nazi attacks on the Catholic Church — went away convinced that Hitler was deeply religious” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 29).
The fact that many Christians in Germany then were nominal cultural Christians who were indoctrinated into the Nazi world view helps to
“explain how the SS troops could perform monstrous acts of cruelty and yet return home for Christmas and attend church and still think of themselves as good Christians. They were not murderers, they were men who were building a race of supermen and helping the inferior people get on with their evolutionary journey” (Lutzer, 1995, p. 95).
Although Hitler fooled many in the church — the fact is, Hitler did not completely hide his strong contempt for Christianity. For example, when Germany invaded Poland, around 200 executions a day occurred — all without trials — which included especially, the “nobility, clerics, and Jews,” all which were eventually to be exterminated (Kershaw, 2000, p. 243). Furthermore, since the inception of Nazism, “Nazi fanatics” had openly conducted a “campaign against the church” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 702). The famous concordat Hitler signed in 1933 with the Vatican was designed to guarantee the freedom of the Catholic Church. In fact it was a ruse. Not long after the ink was dry the head of the Catholic Action organization, Dr. Erich Klausner, was
“murdered by Hitler’s stormtroopers. In an attempt to discredit the Church, monks were brought to trial on immorality charges. In 1935 the Protestant churches were placed under state control. Protesting ministers and priests were sent to concentration camps. They had become ‘supervisives’ on a par with the Jews and communists. Pope Pius XI, realizing the anti-Christian nature of Nazism, charged Hitler with ‘the threatening storm clouds of destructive religious wars … which have no other aim than … that of extermination.’ But the Nazi shouts of ‘Kill the Jews’ drowned out the warning voice of the Pope and the agonized cries of the tortured in the concentration camps” (Dimont, 1994, p. 397).
Institutional religion was declining and its replacement was seen by the party as Nazism (Kershaw, 2000, p. 840). To its detriment, in the end the church largely stayed out of politics — as most humanists think the church should also do in the USA. As a result:
“Never in history has such ruination — physical and moral — been associated with the name of one man. That the ruination had far deeper roots and far more profound causes than the aims and actions of this one man … the previously unprobed depths of inhumanity plumbed by the Nazi regime could draw upon wide-ranging complicity at all levels of society has been equally apparent. But Hitler’s name justifiably stands for all the time as that of the chief instigator of the most profound collapse of civilization in modern times. The extreme form of personal rule which an ill-educated beerhall demagogue and racist bigot, a narcissistic, megalomaniac, self-styled national saviour was allowed to acquire and exercise in a modern, economically advanced, and cultured land known for its philosophers and poets, was absolutely decisive in the terrible unfolding of events in those fateful twelve years.
“Hitler was the main author of a war leaving over 50 million dead and millions more grieving their lost ones and trying to put their shattered lives together again. Hitler was the chief inspiration of a genocide the likes of which the world had never known, rightly to be viewed in coming times as a defining episode of the twentieth century. The Reich whose glory he had sought lay at the end wrecked…. The arch-enemy, Bolshevism, stood in the Reich capital itself and presided over half of Europe … in its maelstrom of destruction Hitler’s rule had also conclusively demonstrated the utter bankruptcy of the hyper-nationalistic and racist world-power ambitions (and the social and political structures that upheld them) that had prevailed in Germany over the previous half a century and twice taken Europe and the wider world into calamitous war” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 841).
The churches’ sin was not in inspiring Hitler to commit his many crimes, but in not stopping him — the same sin that the churches are guilty of in the modern war against the Darwin doubters in the west today.
Actually, what drove Hitler was not his putative Christianity, but rather the goal of implementing social Darwinism. Eradicating “‘Jewish-Bolshevism’ was central, not peripheral, to what had been deliberately designated by him as a ‘war of annihilation’” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 461). The Jews were like tuberculosis from which a healthy body could become infected and, therefore, the germ must be destroyed lest it infect others (Kershaw, 2000, pp. 582-583). It was not Christianity that was central, but rather it was Darwinism that was central to Hitler and his regime. The Nazi regime’s leaders had sealed their fate with Hitler as a result of the
“regime’s genocide and other untold acts of inhumanity … the regime had only its own collective suicide in an inexorably lost war to contemplate. But like a mortally wounded wild beast at bay, it fought with the ferocity and ruthlessness that came from desperation. And its Leader, losing touch ever more with reality, hoping for miracles, kept tilting at windmills — ready in Wagnerian style in the event of ultimate apocalyptic catastrophe, and in line with his undiluted social-Darwinistic beliefs, to take his people down in flames with him if it proved incapable of producing the victory he had demanded” (Kershaw, 2000, p. 615).
Hitler saw Christians and the Church as weak, and, as Lutzer noted,
“Hitler spoke of both Protestants and Catholics with contempt, convinced that all Christians would betray their God when they were forced to choose between the swastika and the Cross: ‘Do you really believe the masses will be Christian again? Nonsense! Never again. That tale is finished. No one will listen to it again. But we can hasten matters. The parsons will dig their own graves. They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable jobs and incomes’” (1995, p. 104).
Hitler was largely proved correct here. The failure of Christianity was not that it produced the Nazi monster, but that it did too little to stop it. However, not all Christians did nothing. That the church was not totally silent, though, was testified by the great physicist Albert Einstein who said that as a
“lover of freedom, when the (Nazi) revolution came, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks…Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly” (cited by Wilhelm Niemoller in Kampi und Zeugnis der bekennenden Kirche — Struggle and Testimony of the Confessing Church, p. 526. and Cochrane).
The churches sin was less in commission than in omission. Nonetheless, most other institutions usually did far less to oppose Hitler than the Churches (Gerstenmaier, 2003). Nor did Hitler wait until the war ended to begin destroying Christianity. As Johnson concluded, although the
“resistance efforts of the clergy have been exaggerated, it is nonetheless no myth that after the first few years of Hitler’s rule the Gestapo and the Nazi Party singled out the clergy for heavy doses of repression to guarantee their silence and their parishioners’ obedience. Thousands of clergymen, both Catholic and Protestant, endured house searches, surveillance, Gestapo interrogations, jail and prison terms, fines, and worse” (1999, p. 224).
Altogether Hitler’s killing machine murdered 5 million Jews, and 7 million Christians — a little published fact that caused Jewish historian Max Dimont to declare that “the world blinded itself to the murder of Christians” by Nazi Germany (Dimont, 1994, pp. 391-392). In Poland alone 881 Catholic priests were annihilated (Azar, 1990, p. 154). In time many more priests would end up in concentration camps.
Christians in Dachau
Dachau concentration camp held the largest number of Catholic priests — over 2,400 — in the Nazi camp system. They came from about 24 nations, and included parish priests and prelates, monks and friars, teachers and missionaries. Over one third of the priests in Dachau alone were killed (Lenz, 2004). One Dachau survivor, Fr. Johannes Lenz, wrote an account of the Catholic holocaust. He claimed that the Catholic Church was the only steadfast fighter against the Nazis. Lenz tells the agony and martyrdom of the physical and mental tortures Dachau inmates experienced. Men and women were murdered by the thousands in Dachau, and those who survived were considered “missionaries in Hell.” The fact is, official Nazi works taught both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian doctrines:
“If one believes the anti-Semitic, one should also believe the anti-Christian, for both had a single purpose. Hitler’s aim was to eradicate all religious organizations within the state and to foster a return to paganism” (Dimont, 1994, p. 397).
More documents that prove Nazi’s planned to “eliminate Christianity and convert its followers to an Aryan philosophy” are now on the online version of Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion (Hotchkin, 2003, p. 3). The church did much to fight Nazism, but not nearly enough. Nonetheless, there is no way that they can they be held as the cause of Nazism.