The Truth About Hitler
There is an old adage about online discussions called Godwin’s Law:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
What’s true in the case of political discourse is even more true when it comes to discussions of religion. The statement “Hitler was a Christian”, ironically, is almost an article of faith among faith-averse individuals. Here are a few atheist web sites making this claim:
- Hitler Was a Christian – evilbible.com
- Hitler’s Christianity – nobeliefs.com
- On the Trail of Bogus Quotes – Freedom From Religion Foundation
- The Religious Views of Adolf Hitler – stephenjaygould.org
- Adolph Hitler & Christian Nationalism – about.com
Most such sites offer the same set of quotes and arguments. To be fair, there are an equal number of Christian sites arguing that Hitler was not a Christian. This really is a frequently discussed topic on the web.
Aside from atheist sites arguing Hitler was a Christian, there are many more which merely seek to refute the charge that Hitler was an atheist. It is actually much easier to find atheists refuting the charge than it is to find Christian websites making it. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, only that the denials far outweigh the positive claims.
Let me say up front, I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to be associated with Hitler. If nothing else, atheists’ desire to rebut the suggestion demonstrates that — as they are often wont to prove — they are moral people too. No one likes to be called a Nazi. My purpose here is decidedly not to claim Hitler was an atheist, nor to try and tar atheists with being Hitlerian.
Having read much of this material, I’m convinced the truth of this controversial matter lies somewhere in the middle, i.e. Hitler was certainly not an atheist. He was baptized in the Catholic church and seems to have believed in a form of theism his whole life. If anything, he seems to have been motivated by a desire to destroy atheism, which he associated with Marxist Communism. Hitler was no atheist, but neither was he a Christian.
Despite frequent use of faith metaphors and bastardized biblical language, he despised the Jewish scriptures, St. Paul, and Jesus the suffering servant. In reality, his views on human life were obviously derived more from Darwin than from Christ. Hitler’s God was a that of a deist. He was a creator who set the principles of nature in motion. All else was left to man, whose struggle for existence was key both to human survival and the betterment of Aryan peoples.
That’s the short version. In order to make my case, I’m going to examine the evidence carefully. Not fully mind you, since that would be a full time career. But I’ve created several pages which you can look at in turn or peruse however you choose to help settle the question.
Hitler frequently used religious language. Some of the atheist sites linked above offer pages of quotations which demonstrate this. The question is not whether Hitler talked about God, but rather what God he had in mind when he did so.
For instance, here is a page on an atheist website full of quotes from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Let’s examine a few and see what we find.
“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.”
This quote is given as proof of Hitler’s faith. This is the last sentence in Volume 1, chapter 2 of Mein Kampf. In this chapter, Hitler is describing his personal apotheosis of anti-Semitism. He explains that as he studied Marxism he came to the belief that it was a doctrine destined (perhaps intentionally created) to leave the earth destitute of life. He came to believe that the only solution was to fight. Note the issue on which Hitler’s rejection of Marxism turns:
Have we an objective right to struggle for our self-preservation, or is this justified only subjectively within ourselves?
As I delved more deeply into the teachings of Marxism and thus in tranquil clarity submitted the deeds of the Jewish people to contemplation, Fate itself gave me its answer.
The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight. Thus it denies the value of personality in man, contests the significance of nationality and race, and thereby withdraws from humanity the premise of its existence and its culture. As a foundation of the universe, this doctrine would bring about the end of any order intellectually conceivable to man. And as, in this greatest of ail recognizable organisms, the result of an application of such a law could only be chaos, on earth it could only be destruction for the inhabitants of this planet.
If, with the help of his Marxist creed, the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands l of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men.
Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands. 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.
So it is the principle of survival of the strong that Hitler believes is the key to human culture and survival. The last sentence, which sounded somewhat convincing in excerpted form, has little connection to the God of the Abraham. On the contrary, it is a theistic gloss on a passage replete with references to Darwinian struggle for existence. Hitler’s reference to “Eternal Nature” and the “aristocratic principle of Nature” are both references to this struggle.
As Hitler sees it, the strong survive. This, he believes, is the true nature of “the Almighty Creator.” This is diametrically opposed to Jesus statement, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”
Consider another example from the same web page:
“What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.”
So again, Hitler is a theist. But look at the quote in context from Vol. 1, chapter 8:
[T]he following should be noted: every idea, even the best, becomes a danger if it parades as a purpose in itself, being in reality only a means to one. For me and all true National Socialists there is but one doctrine: people and fatherland.
What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.
Every thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility. Then no theory will stiffen into a dead doctrine, since it is life alone that all things must serve.
Once again, Hitler is talking about an existential struggle for survival. The creator is not the source of this doctrine, nor is the Bible. This is Hitler’s own understanding of God and what God would want. Specifically, that is that the strong should continue to operate according to the principle of nature.
Let’s look at one more before moving on. Again from the same web page:
“The result of all racial crossing is therefore in brief always the following: (a) Lowering of the level of the higher race; (b) Physical and intellectual regression and hence the beginning of a slowly but surely progressing sickness. To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator.”
Again, this is Christian language. As an excerpt, one can read Christian ideas into it and from there into Hitler’s head. But here it is in context from Volume 1, chapter 11:
Any crossing of two beings not at exactly the same level produces a medium between the level of the two parents. This means: the offspring will probably stand higher than the racially lower parent, but not as high as the higher one. Consequently, it will later succumb in the struggle against the higher level. Such mating is contrary to the will of Nature for a higher breeding of all life. The precondition for this does not lie in associating superior and inferior, but in the total victory of the former. The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. Only the born weakling can view this as cruel, but he after all is only a weak and limited man; for if this law did not prevail, any conceivable higher development of organic living beings would be unthinkable.
The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in Nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races, but their uniform character in themselves. The fox is always a fox, the goose a goose, the tiger a tiger, etc., and the difference can lie at most in the varying measure of force, strength, intelligence, dexterity, endurance, etc., of the individual specimens. But you will never find a fox who in his inner attitude might, for example, show humanitarian tendencies toward geese, as similarly there is no cat with a friendly inclination toward mice.
Therefore, here, too, the struggle among themselves arises less from inner aversion than from hunger and love. In both cases, Nature looks on calmly, with satisfaction, in fact. In the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest. And struggle is always a means for improving a species’ health and power of resistance and, therefore, a cause of its higher development.
If the process were different, all further and higher development would cease and the opposite would occur. For, since the inferior always predominates numerically over the best, if both had the same possibility of preserving life and propagating, the inferior would multiply so much more rapidly that in the end the best would inevitably be driven into the background, unless a correction of this state of affairs were undertaken. Nature does just this by subjecting the weaker part to such severe living conditions that by them alone the number is limited, and by not permitting the remainder to increase promiscuously, but making a new and ruthless choice according to strength and health.
No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she desire the blending of a higher with a lower race, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, night be ruined with one blow.
Historical experience offers countless proofs of this. It shows with terrifying clarity that in every mingling of Aryan blood with that of lower peoples the result was the end of the cultured people. North America, whose population consists in by far the largest part of Germanic elements who mixed but little with the lower colored peoples, shows a different humanity and culture from Central and South America, where the predominantly Latin immigrants often mixed with the aborigines on a large scale. By this one example, we can clearly and distinctly recognize the effect of racial mixture. The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent, who has remained racially pure and unmixed, rose to be master of the continent; he will remain the master as long as he does not fall a victim to defilement of the blood.
The result of all racial crossing is therefore in brief always the following:
- Lowering of the level of the higher race;
- Physical and intellectual regression and hence the beginning of a slowly but surely progressing sickness.
To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator. And as a sin this act is rewarded. When man attempts to rebel against the iron logic of Nature, he comes into struggle with the principles to which he himself owes his existence as a man. And this attack I must lead to his own doom.
So this passage begins with Darwin’s survival of the fittest, transitions to a personification of nature and ends by suggesting that inter-marriage between races is a sin against the will of the eternal creator. But note carefully who this creator is. Read that penultimate line again: “When man attempts to rebel against the iron logic of Nature, he comes into struggle with the principles to which he himself owes his existence as a man.”
Again, we are not talking about the Biblical God of Abraham. Hitler is personifying the work of nature in much the same way Darwin himself did in Origin of the Species. This is not to suggest Hitler didn’t believe in God, rather that the God he believes in was a deist’s God, a Creator who has set in motion certain unalterable laws of strength and survival.
Before moving on from Mein Kampf, I want to emphasize once more that Hitler’s religious language is often a gloss on Darwinian concepts. For instance, this section form chapter 11:
The Aryan gave up the purity of his blood and, therefore, lost his sojourn in the paradise which he had made for himself. He became submerged in the racial mixture, and gradually, more and more, lost his cultural capacity, until at last, not only mentally but also physically, he began to resemble the subjected aborigines more than his own ancestors. For a time he could live on the existing cultural benefits, but then petrifaction set in and he fell a prey to oblivion.
Thus cultures and empires collapsed to make place for new formations. Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is contained only in pure blood.
All who are not of good race in this world are chaff. And all occurrences in world history are only the expression of the races’ instinct of self-preservation, in the good or bad sense.
Note that Hitler has here absorbed two Christian concepts into his narrative of racial struggle. First, paradise is defined as that culture where Aryans ruled and kept their blood pure. This is a distinctly earthbound paradise, not a heavenly one.
Secondly, Hitler borrows Jesus reference to “the wheat and the chaff” and transforms it into a statement on Aryan purity. Notice too how he ends this passage, with a sweeping application of Darwinian theory to all historical global conflict.
Hitler’s Table Talk
From July 1941 to November 1944 the conversations of Adolph Hitler were recorded for posterity. Because these were semi-private conversations with supporters, Hitler was free to express himself openly. The resultant conversations have been published as Hitler’s Table Talk. An online version of the book is available here.
Reliability of Table Talk
Although this volume contains references to Hitler’s disdain for atheism, atheists are at pains to discredit it because it also contains Hitler’s most dismissive talk about the church. Some have even suggested that the entire thing might be a fraud. More sober observers agree that the recording of Hitler’s thoughts seems to be on firm ground. For instance, this article by atheist historian Richard Carrier states:
It is likely these notes were real. Six original pages from the notebook still exist in the Adolf Hitler Collection at the Library of Congress, which should be authentic. There are also two completely independent manuscripts that agree in such a way as to corroborate the existence of a genuine original, and historian Werner Jochmann, in his edition of one of these, cites several notes and letters confirming that the Table Talk was indeed being made and collated by Bormann during the war. And one of the note-takers, Henry Picker, kept his copy of the notes and published them soon after the war, swearing to their authenticity. He later procured sworn testimonials to this by fellow bunker officers, even arch-Nazi Engel himself.
Despite this, Carrier (and others) have raised problems with some specific quotations from the Table Talk. The question is whether the English translation is accurate to the original German. Carrier demonstrates that in at least a few cases, it is not. For example, the statement “I shall never come to terms with the Christian lie,” appears to be a poor translation from a possibly corrupt French rendering. Here is what Carrier has to say:
Here is what Picker/Jochmann [the most authoritative editions] says (the preceding three sentences must be included now for context, though all but the first of these sentences are completely missing from Trevor-Roper and Genoud):
I have never found pleasure in maltreating others, even if I know it isn’t possible to maintain oneself in the world without force. Life is granted only to those who fight the hardest. It is the law of life: Defend yourself!
The time in which we live has the appearance of the collapse of this idea. It can still take 100 or 200 years. I am sorry that, like Moses, I can only see the Promised Land from a distance.
At once you can see the English endorsed by Trevor-Roper and used by Glover (and everyone else: this is the only English translation in print) is a lie. There is no “disease of Christianity.” Rather, in place of that phrase is a reference to what Hitler says in the preceding sentences, which Trevor-Roper’s English doesn’t even include: the idea of expediency, survival of the fittest, the “necessary evil” of using force to implement your will. That is what Hitler wishes will end (and he certainly believed it would, when the Third Reich finally became the utopian state of every Nazi’s dreams).
So there is some question about the table talk, not about its existence or accuracy in the German but about specific quotes and whether or not they have been fairly rendered into English. Unfortunately, I am unable to find a German source available on the web in order to verify the translation of what follows. However, I think it unlikely that the sense of all the quotes I reference hereafter could have been corrupted, especially since the meaning fits perfectly with what we’ve already seen from Mein Kampf.
Dated October 24th, 1941 (link):
Religion is in perpetual conflict with the spirit of free research. The Church’s opposition to science was sometimes so violent that it struck off sparks. The Church, with a clear awareness ofher interests, has made a strategic retreat, with the result that science has lost some of its aggressiveness. The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at eleven a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before-and I remember that I drove them to despair.
The Christian religion tries to get out of it by explaining that one must attach a symbolic value to the images of Holy Writ. Any man who made the same claim four hundred years ago would have ended his career at the stake, with an accompaniment of Hosannas. By joining in the game of tolerance, religion has won back ground by comparison with bygone centuries. Religion draws all the profit that can be drawn from the fact that science postulates the search for, and not the certain knowledge of, the truth. Let’s compare science to a ladder. On every rung, one beholds a wider landscape. But science does not claim to know the essence of things. When science finds that it has to revise one or another notion that it had believed to be definitive, at once religion gloats and declares: “We told you so!” To say that is to forget that it’s in the nature of science to behave itself thus. For if it decided to assume a dogmatic air, it would itself become a church.
I interrupt here just to point out Hitler’s plain disdain for religion (by which he means Christianity) in opposition to science. He sounds remarkably like Richard Dawkins in this passage. This theme of scientific triumphalism will be repeated over and over in Table Talk. Hitler continues just where we left off (link):
When one says that God provokes the lightning, that’s true in a sense; but what is certain is that God does not direct the thunderbolt, as the Church claims. The Church’s explanation of natural phenomena is an abuse, for the Church has ulterior interests. True piety is the characteristic of the being who is aware of his weakness and ignorance. Whoever sees God only in an oak or in a tabernacle, instead of seeing Him everywhere, is not truly pious. He remains attached to appearancesâ€”and when the sky thunders and the lightning strikes, he trembles simply from fear of being struck as a punishment for the sin he’s just committed.
Here it begins to look as if Hitler is reversing course and endorsing Christian faith of a sort. But this view can hardly be sustained given what he says next (note that I have not edited anything from this section thus far, only inserted commentary):
A reading of the polemical writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, or of the conversations between Frederick 11 and Voltaire, inspires one with shame at our low intellectual level, especially amongst the military.One day finally, under the battering-ram of science, dogma will collapse. – Hitler
From now on, one may consider that there is no gap between the organic and inorganic worlds. Recent experiments make it possible for one to wonder what distinguishes live bodies from inanimate matter. In the face of this discovery, the Church will begin by rising in revolt, then it will continue to teach its “truths”. One day finally, under the battering-ram of science, dogma will collapse. It is logical that it should be so, for the human spirit cannot remorselessly apply itself to raising the veil of mystery without peoples’ one day drawing the conclusions.
Hitler’s embrace of Voltaire and his statement about the collapse of dogma make his earlier statements much clearer. He clearly believed in God, but it was a God who did not direct the lightning bolt. In sum, he has embraced a deist view like Voltaire.
Hitler goes on to say that the 10 commandments “are a code of living to which there’s no refutation.” Please refer to the next section for more on this topic. Hitler was not as committed to the 10 commandments as he claims.
Dated October 14th 1941 (link):
It may be asked whether concluding a concordat with the churches wouldn’t facilitate our exercise of power.
On this subject one may make the following remarks: Firstly, in this way the authority of the State would be vitiated by the fact of the intervention of a third power concerning which it is impossible to say how long it would remain reliable. In the case of the Anglican Church, this objection does not arise, for England knows she can depend on her Church. But what about the Catholic Church? Wouldn’t we be running the risk of her one day going into reverse after having put herself at the service of the State solely in order to safeguard her power? If one day the State’s policy ceased to suit Rome or the clergy, the priests would turn against the State, as they are doing now. History provides examples that should make us careful.
Secondly, there is also a question of principle. Trying to take a long view of things, is it conceivable that one could found anything durable on falsehood? When I think of our people’s future, I must look further than immediate advantages, even if these advantages were to last three hundred, five hundred years or more. 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.
It seem very clear that once again Hitler views science as eventually fatal to the “falsehood” of Christianity. This next section (again nothing has been edited) is interesting for its insight into Hitler’s religious strategy:
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.[T]he main thing is to be clever in this matter and not to look for a struggle where it can be avoided. – Hitler
That’s why I’ve always kept the Party aloof from religious questions. I’ve thus prevented my Catholic and Protestant supporters from forming groups against one another, and inadvertently knocking each other out with the Bible and the sprinkler. So we never became involved with these Churches’ forms of worship. And if that has momentarily made my task a little more difficult, at least I’ve never run the risk of carrying grist to my opponents’ mill. The help we would have provisionally obtained from a concordat would have quickly become a burden on us. In any case, the main thing is to be clever in this matter and not to look for a struggle where it can be avoided.
Here again we note Hitler’s clear rejection of atheism. In the second paragraph, note Hitler’s use of “these churches.” He is speaking of protestants and Catholics and their “forms of worship.” He does not speak as an insider but as an outsider. In addition, the last sentence is key. Hitler’s goal is to avoid trouble where it can be avoided.
Hitler continues (again no edits), offering one of his clearest statements about the conflict between Christianity and science (link):
Being weighed down by a superstitious past, men are afraid of things that can’t, or can’t yet, be explainedâ€”that is to say, of the unknown. If anyone has needs of a metaphysical nature, I can’t satisfy them with the Party’s programme. Time will go by until the moment when science can answer all the questions.The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. – Hitler
So it’s not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the Churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. 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.
I have noted several times Hitler’s rejection of atheism, but it’s hard to ignore how much this sounds like it has been cribbed from Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins with a bit of Carl Sagan thrown in for good measure. That’s not the case of course, but it does show how far Hitler was from embracing any form of orthodox Christian faith.
Note that the issue for Hitler wasn’t the truth of Christianity, which he assumed to be a myth but the wisdom of engaging in a direct struggle with it. The latter is his concern and explains his refusal to attack the church publicly.
Finally, if this passage has been mistranslated, I would like to know how it could possibly be rendered anything but a condemnation of the Christian faith. One simply does not wish for the slow death of one’s own cherished belief system. It is absurd to suggest Hitler was a Christian.
Moving on, Hitler gives a little evolutionary psychology lecture on the rise of religion:
Originally, religion was merely a prop for human communities. It was a means, not an end in itself. It’s only gradually that it became transformed in this direction, with the object of maintaining the rule of the priests, who can live only to the detriment of society collectively.Science has already impregnated humanity…the more Christianity clings to its dogmas, the quicker it will decline. – Hitler
The instructions of a hygienic nature that most religions gave, contributed to the foundation of organised communities. The precepts ordering people to wash, to avoid certain drinks, to fast at appointed dates, to take exercise, to rise with the sun, to climb to the top of the minaret â€”all these were obligations invented by intelligent people. The exhortation to fight courageously is also self-explanatory. Observe, by the way,that, as a corollary, the Mussulman was promised a paradise peopled with houris, where wine flowed in streamsâ€”a real earthly paradise. The Christians, on the other hand, declare themselves satisfied if after their death they are allowed to sing Hallelujahs! All these elements contributed to form human communities. It is to these private customs that peoples owe their present characters.
Christianity, of course, has reached the peak of absurdity in this respect. And that’s why one day its structure will collapse. Science has already impregnated humanity. Consequently, the more Christianity clings to its dogmas, the quicker it will decline.
The next paragraph gives some insight into Hitler’s own views as well as further condemnation of Christianity:
But one must continue to pay attention to another aspect of the problem. It’s possible to satisfy the needs of the inner life by an intimate communion with nature, or by knowledge of the past. Only a minority, however, at the present stage of the mind’s development, can feel the respect inspired by the unknown, and thus satisfy the metaphysical needs of the soul.
No doubt Hitler puts himself in this class…
The average human being has the same needs, but can satisfy them only by elementary means. That’s particularly true of women, as also of peasants who impoter.tly watch the destruction of their crops. The person whose life tends to simplification is thirsty for belief, and he dimly clings to it with all his strength.
Nobody has the right to deprive simple people of their childish certainties until they’ve acquired others that are more reasonable. Indeed, it’s most important that the higher belief should be well established in them before the lower belief has been removed. We must finally achieve this. But it would serve no purpose to replace an old belief by a new one that would merely fill the place left vacant by its predecessor.[T]he only way of getting rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little. – Hitler
It seems to me that nothing would be more foolish than to re-establish the worship of Wotan. Our old mythology had ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself. Nothing dies unless it is moribund. At that period the ancient world was divided between the systems of philosophy and the worship of idols. It’s not desirable that the whole of humanity should be stultifiedâ€”and the only way of getting rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little.
The second paragraph provides another reason for not challenging the churches head on. Hitler believes “the higher belief” i.e. science has not established itself firmly enough yet. The average person is not ready for his brand of dogma free belief, i.e. deism.
One final bit (link) and we’ll have finished this excerpt. This follows immediately from above (as have all the excerpts) and contains some more relevant material:
A movement like ours mustn’t let itself be drawn into meta-physical digressions. It must stick to the spirit of exact science. It’s not the Party’s function to be a counterfeit for religion.Science cannot lie…It’s Christianity that’s the liar. – Hitler
If, in the course of a thousand or two thousand years, science arrives at the necessity of renewing its points of view, that will not mean that science is a liar. 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.
One may ask whether the disappearance of Christianity would entail the disappearance of belief in God. That’s not to be desired. The notion of divinity gives most men the opportunity to concretise the feeling they have of supernatural realities. Why should we destroy this wonderful power they have of incarnating the feeling for the divine that is within them?
The man who lives in communion with nature necessarily finds himself in opposition to the Churches. And that’s why they’re heading for ruinâ€”for science is bound to win.
I especially wouldn’t want our movement to acquire a religious character and institute a form of worship. It would be appalling for me, and I would wish I’d never lived, if I were to end up in the skin of a Buddha!
Dated December 13th, 1941 (link):
[T]here’s room for a little subtlety. The rotten branch falls of itself. – Hitler
When I was younger, I thought it was necessary to set about matters with dynamite. I’ve since realized that there’s room for a little subtlety. The rotten branch falls of itself. The final state must be: in St. Peter’s Chair, a senile officiant; facing him, a few sinister old women, as gaga and as poor in spirit as anyone could wish. The young and healthy are on our side. Against a Church that identifies itself with the State, as in England, I have nothing to say. But, even so, it’s impossible eternally to hold humanity in bondage with lies. After all, it was only between the sixth and eighth centuries that Christianity was imposed on our peoples by princes who had an alliance of interests with the shavelings. Our peoples had previously succeeded in living all right without this religion. I have six divisions of SS composed of men absolutely indifferent in matters of religion. It doesn’t prevent them from going to their deaths with serenity in their souls.
Again the equivalence of Christianity and lies. Hitler even suggests Germany was fine without it. This is absolutely irreconcilable with the suggestion that Hitler himself was a believer.
Dated February 20, 1942 (link):
Christianity is the worst of the regressions that mankind can ever have undergone. – Hitler
Man seizes hold, here and there, of a few scraps of truth, but he couldn’t rule nature. He must know that, on the contrary, he is dependent on Creation. And this attitude leads further than the superstitions maintained by the Church. Christianity is the worst of the regressions that mankind can ever have undergone, and it’s the Jew who, thanks to this diabolic invention, has thrown him back fifteen centuries. The only thing that would be still worse would be victory for the Jew through Bolshevism. If Bolshevism triumphed, mankind would lose the gift of laughter and joy. It would become merely a shapeless mass, doomed to greyness and despair.
The priests of antiquity were closer to nature, and they sought modestly for the meaning of things. Instead of that, Christianity promulgates its inconsistent dogmas and imposes them by force. Such a religion carries within it intolerance and persecution. It’s the bloodiest conceivable.
Dated October 1941 (link):
War has returned to its primitive form. The war of people against people is giving place to another warâ€”a war for the possession of the great spaces.Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. – Hitler
Originally war was nothing but a struggle for pasture-grounds. To-day war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them.
The great migrations set out from the East. With us begins the ebb, from West to East.
That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the Ã©lites are continually renewed.
The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. 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.
Here we see again the setting of Christianity against natural law (i.e. Darwinian natural selection) which Hitler suggested repeatedly in Mein Kampf.
Dated May 16th, 1944 (link):
I do not agree with the idea that liberty of research should be restricted solely to the fields of natural science. It should embrace also the domain of thought and philosophy, which, in essence, are themselves but the logical prolongation of scientific research. By taking the data furnished by science and placing them under the microscope of reason, philosophy gives us a logical conception of the universe as it is.
No mention of faith, Christianity or God in this statement. Once again, this confirms that Hitler’s view of truth is completely divorced from faith.
Conclusions About Table Talk
Hitler believes Christianity and science are in perpetual conflict (a view very popular around the turn of the 20th century) and states repeatedly that science is the real source of truth and destined to triumph. Christianity will die a slow death as people are able to accept the “higher truth.”
Hitler’s numerous statements present a clear division between his own views and those of historic Christianity, nor can one attribute so many plain statements to translator error. Either the whole book must be thrown out or one must accept that Hitler was not a Christian.
Hitler and the Bible
Reinterpreting the Bible
The No Beliefs website, which has probably argued the hardest for Hitler’s Christianity, has a whole page devoted to a note written by Hitler about the Bible. The argument being made is that this somehow proves Hitler’s faith:
Of course Hitler wrote many other notes and letters, but this particular outline based on the Bible represents, perhaps, the most revealing of his private thoughts in regards to his religious beliefs at a time before he came into power.
In truth, the note only confirms and supports what we’ve already seen from Mein Kampf and Hitler’s Table Talk. Here is the bulk of the note as reported by no beliefs:
The Bible — Monumental History of Mankind–
Nothing without cause– History is made by men– 2 human types–
Workers and drones– Builders and destroyers—–Children of God and Men
confused and muddled– (Lord Disraeli) Basic Race Law–
1st consequence. Purification of the Bible– what of its spirit remains?
2nd consequence. Critical examination of the remainder-
. . . . . . greater clarification
First people’s history (based on) the race law–
Eternal course of History–
Nature’s course from half-knowledge via instinct to clear understanding of its laws
Weakness of the half-baked Nature is quite unbending, which means: Victory of the stronger whose strength or will gives him a greater claim to victory Privilege through strength the basis of all Nature The prerequisite of the world’s existence. the man of genius in tune with nature does not try to test this law which also informs his own ideas about the world but performs all his actions in accordance with it.
Here we see Hitler reinterpreting the Bible as a history of blood purity. Beyond this, his statements about the eternal course of history itself comport with everything else we’ve seen so far. According to Hitler, the basis of Nature (which he capitalizes) is that the strong triumph. What we have here is an application of Darwinian theory to history, not a proclamation of Christian faith.
Rewriting the Bible
I wrote about this back when it hit the press in August of 2006. Because online news sources sometimes delete older material, I’m going to excerpt the stories here (with proper links and attribution).
From The Mirror (UK):
HITLER’S 12 COMMANDMENTS
Nazi Bible demanded ‘love Adolf
By Mark Ellis Foreign EditorHITLER rewrote the Bible with TWELVE Nazi commandments, it has emerged.
New demands included “Honour your FŸhrer” and “Keep the blood pure and your honour holy”.
Just one of about 100,000 Third Reich Bibles has been discovered in dusty archives.
Aimed at boosting the Nazi vision, it is called Germans with God.
All Jewish words, such as Hallelujah and Jehovah, and all sentiments of compassion are erased.
The 10 Commandments are rewritten and two more added. “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal” are scrapped.
Hitler ordered race theorists to rewrite the Bible so he could harness the power of the religion he hated to his cause.
Thousands of churches received copies in 1941. It is believed most were destroyed by Christians.
The surviving copy was discovered in church offices in Hamburg.
Note that thousands of copies were distributed but most were destroyed. That should tell you something about what parish priests thought of the Reich.
from The Daily Mail (UK)
An institute in Germany has unearthed a Nazi bible ordered by Adolf Hitler to replace the old and new testaments expunged of all references to Jews.
Hitler’s race theorists even rewrote the 10 commandments and added two more for good measure in the book called German with God which was – alongside Hitler’s autobiography – meant to be required reading in every home in his Third Reich.
Thou shalt not kill, coveting one’s neighbour’s wife, thou shalt not steal and all other others were scrapped by a regime that stole, murdered and plundered its way across the world.
Hitler admired the ceremony and majesty of the church – he admitted as much in Mein Kampf – but hated its teachings which had no place in his vision of Germanic supermen ruling lesser races devoid of ‘outdated’ concepts such as mercy and love.
But he knew the power of the church in Germany and even he could not banish it overnight. He was even forced to abandon the systematic murder of the handicapped and insane before the war when outspoken bishops began to speak against it.
Instead his plan was to gradually ‘Nazify’ the church beginning with a theological centre he set up in 1939 to rewrite the Holy Bible. He appointed lackey professors to work on a thoroughly Nazi version that would remove all references to Jews and all compassion.
Their brief: ‘The cleanse church texts of all non-Ayran influences.’ The first to go were the 10 Commandments. The Nazi 12 run: “Honour God and believe in him wholeheartedly. Seek out the peace of God. Avoid all hypocrisy. Holy is your health and life! Holy is your wellbeing and honour! Holy is your truth and fidelity! Honour your father and mother – your children are your aid and your example. Keep the blood pure and your honour holy! Maintain and multiply the heritage of your forefathers. Always be ready to help and to forgive. Honour your Fuehrer and master! Joyously serve the people with work and sacrifice. That is what God wants from us!” More important for Hitler, however, was the eradication of Jewish words, including Hallelulja, Jehova and even Jerusalem – it was instead termed the “the eternal city of God.” “The book will have to serve the fight against the immortal Jewish enemy!” said Hitler in a memorandum to the institute in Eisenach.
Hansjoerg Buss of the Nordelbischen Church Office discovered the Bible in an archive search.
It was printed in 1941 by a company in Weimar and was shipped out to thousands of churches across Nazi-occupied Europe. It is understood most have been destroyed.
The name of the office Hitler created to shape the Bible in his image was the ‘Institute for the research and removal of the Jewish influence on German church life.’ One of the major tasks was to ignore Jesus’ Jewish roots and turn him into an Ayran. Other words specifically banned by Hitler’s race-haters were Zion, Hosanna, Galilee and Moses.
One order found in the archives for a special exhibition in Eisenach of the institute’s bizarre work came from Walter Grundmann, the anti-Semitic director appointed by Hitler.>
He wrote in 1941: “The Bible must become Jew-free and the German people must see that the Jews are the mortal enemy who threaten their very existence.”
Hymn books were also trawled and ‘Ayranised’ with no references to make the party elite balk during the few times they were ever likely to find themselves in a Christian church.
At its height, a team of 50 worked on re-writing hymn books and the Bible. But it was all a charade as far as Hitler and his S.S. chief Heinrich Himmler were concerned.
Both dreamed of being overlords of an essentially pagan society where the only virtues to be praised were iron hardness and a capability to obey any order, no matter what. “Human kindess and the moral compass as set by the Bible were laughable to them,” said Ulrich Messner, a Nazi expert.
The King James Bible is a little under 800 pages in paperback form. The Nazi ‘Bible’ was 750 pages, after the references to Jews had been banished and Nazi “improvements” added.
Nazis vs. the Church – Excerpts from the Donovan Collection
Since 2001, Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion has published portions of the Donovan Collection online. As the RJLR website explains:
The documents come from the personal archive of General William J. Donovan, who served as special assistant to the chief of counsel during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The International Military Tribunal was convened following the conclusion of World War II to hold accountable the principal perpetrators of the Holocaust.
The first part published was a special report put together by the Office of Strategic Services. The report, dated July 6,1945 was titled “The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches.” It is available as a pdf document in four parts on the RJLR website.
The report goes a long way to demonstrating the Nazi distaste for the church and suggests that, even prior to taking power, the Nazis had a plan to marginalize and weaken the church. What follows are a few excerpts from these documents.
Here is how the report begins:
Throughout the period of National Socialist rule, religious liberties in Germany and in the occupied areas were seriously impaired. The various Christian Churches were systematically cut off from effective communication with the people. They were confined as far as possible to the performance of narrowly religious functions, and even within this narrow sphere were subjected to as many hindrances as the Nazi’s dared to impose.
Under the heading “The Basic National Socialist Attitude Toward Christian Churches”:
National Socialism by its very nature was hostile to Christianity and the Christian Churches. The purpose of the National Socialist movement was to convert the German people into a homogeneous racial group united in all its energies for prosecution of aggressive warfare. Innumerable indications of this fact are to be found in the speeches of Hitler and other responsible Nazi leaders. The following statements by Hitler may be taken as indicative.
“Every truly national idea is in the last resort social, i.e. he who is prepared so completely to adopt the cause of his people that he really knows no higher ideal than the prosperity of this — his own people, he who has so taken to heart the meaning of the great song ‘Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles’ that nothing in the world stand for him higher than this Germany, people and land, land and people, he is a socialist!” (Speech given in Munich, July 28, 1922, translation from Adolph Hitler, My New Order, edited by Raoul de Roussy de Sales, Reynal and Hitchcock, New York, 1941, p. 39)
The Nazis had a plan to co-opt the Protestant churches with the help of a group of Reich supporters who became known as the German Christians. The first step was to create a call for unity which would allow them to centralize the power of the Evangelical Churches. This was accomplished in April 1933. The Nazis then set created a new position of Reich Bishop and set about having their man elected to the position:
Typical Nazi pressures were therefore used to control the election of the first Reich Bishop. Before the election, German Christian control of the Evangelical Church in Prussia was insured by the appointment by Dr. Rust, Prussian Kulturminister, of a State Commissioner for Church Affairs in Prussia. This official, Dr. Jaeger, was a German Christian, and through his sub-commissioners for the church provinces of Prussia he took the administration of the church virtually out of its own hands. In preparing the elections for the national synod which was in turn to elect the Reich Bishop, it is said that the clergy were not allowed to exercise their traditional right to limit the voters to active church members.
The night before the election Hitler intervened with a radio address strongly supporting the German Christians. The result was a victory for the German Christians. On 5 September their candidate Muller was elected to the entirely new office of Bishop of Prussia by a general synod of the Protestant church of Prussia in a session dominated by a German Christian majority, and in which 75 members of the opposition who desired to protest were not allowed the floor and withdrew from the synod. On 27 September Muller was elected Reich Bishop by the National Synod, and proceeded to fill the central administration with other German Christians, such as Bishop Schoffel of Hamburg, and Pastor Rossenfelder of Elberfeld, leader of the German Christians and Vice President of the Prussian Supreme Church Council.
Muller then proceeded to consolidate power, but ultimately failed:
On 9 August 1934 Muller summoned a National Synod packed with Nazis to Berlin. It transferred all its powers to Muller and prescribed a form of oath for all pastors and church officials.
In spite of the formidable legal powers vested in the Reich Bishop, the attempt to control the Evangelical Church by these means failed. The Churches of Hannover, Wurttemberg and Bavaria, under the leadership of their respective bishiops Marahrens, Wurm and Meiser refused to yield to pressure, and were supported by a vast majority of their pastors. When Wurm and Meiser were placed under house arrest, public demonstrations occurred in their support. ON 28 October 1934 a civil court declared all of Jager’s [installed head of the Church Chancery] acts in Bavaria to have been illegal. Opposition finally crystallized in the so called Confessional Church, made up of the Churches of Bavaria and Wurttemberg and representatives of protesting Evangelical clergymen in other parts of Germany. On 29-31 May 1934 and 20 October 1934 the first and second Confessional Synods of the Evangelical Church of Germany were held at Barmen and at Dahlem respectively, and succeeded in uniting a large part of the German Evangelical Church in protest against the doctrines and Church policies of the Reich Bishop. Obviously the attempt to make the Church a united agency for the accomplishment of Nazi purposes had failed. Thus Reich Bishop Muller, although never being forced officially to resign his position, was gradually superseded by other agencies of Nazi control, and faded from the scene.
While the Nazis had to act cautiously with regard to seizing control of churches inside Germany, they were less subtle in occupied territories such as Poland and Norway. Resistance by these churches was also more aggressive, as the case of Norway demonstrates:
The Evangelical Lutheran State Church, to which 98.6 percent of the population adhered, was a state church established by a royal decree. Church affairs were handled by the department of Church and Education. When the Germans invaded the country and set up a Reichskommisar for the occupied Norwegian territories, they gained control over this central organization. Pro Nazi Norwegians were placed in charge of the department of Church and Education, subsequently replaced by the Ministry for Culture and Enlightenment. These powers were exercised in such a way that the entire Norwegian pastorate, with insignificant exception, decided on Easter Sunday, 1942, to make joint resignation of their public offices and salaries, thus proclaiming their conviction that the central institutions of the state church were no longer available for the accomplishment of Christian purposes.
The following excerpt deals with the closing of Christian seminaries:
Direct evidence of the Nazi attitude toward Catholic seminaries is provided in a recently captured Gestapo document (Top Secret Survey of the Fulda Bishops Synod, circulated by Heydrich in January, 1941 as published by the Supreme Headquarters, Psychological Warfare Division, Intelligence Section, Reference: DE 384/DIS 202) which gives the reduction of the education level of the Catholic priesthood as a deliberate Nazi objective. The Nazi attitude can also be inferred from the following cases of suppression directed against Catholic and Protestant theological seminaries in all parts of Nazi controlled Europe.
Case 62 At the third meeting of the Confessional Synod at Augsburg (4 June 1935) it was decided to avoid the contamination of Nazi theology by setting up independent theological seminaries for the training of the Confessional ministry. Establishments of this sort were set up at Elberfelde, Bielefeld, Naumberg, Findenwalde and Bloestau. From December 1936 onward these institutions were persistently searched and otherwise harried by the Gestapo, in an attempt to force them to close down.
Case 63 In May 1939 the theological faculty of the University of Munich was closed. The Reich Minister for public instruction, Dr. Rust, appointed two professors who were decisively rejected by Cardinal Faulhaber. When Rust maintained his appointments, Faulhaber forbade the students to attend their lectures. Rush and Reich Minster for Church Affairs Kerrly replied by closing the University.
Case 64 Early in 1939 the Theological Faculty in the University of Graz was closed. The lesser seminaries, in which those who aspire to the priesthood study the humanities before proceeding to the higher studies in philosophy and theology, were without exception closed down throughout the whole of Austria. The same fate befell the lesser seminaries in Mariaschein in the Sudeten district.
Case 65 In 1938, by order of the Minister of the Interior in Vienna, the theological faculty at the University of Innsbruck was closed down. At the same time the Canisiamm, the Seminary connected with this faculty, was shut.
Case 66 In 1938 the theological faculty in Salzburg was closed down.
Similar to excerpt 5 above, this deals with the closing of denominational schools:
This purpose [closing denominational schools] was implemented by a systematic and protracted campaign, combining legal and illegal pressures.
Early in 1935 a sort of trial attack on the Catholic schools was staged in Munich with the result that at the beginning of school on 13 February only 65 percent of the children (as against 84 percent in 1934) were entered for denominational schools. Meetings of Catholic parents were forbidden. Violent propaganda was immediately launched throughout the Reich. In some districts, such as the diocese of Hildensheim and Paderborn, the authorities even dared to convert denominational schools into National Community schools by decree and without consulting the parents.
The main assault however started in 1936. Attacks were concentrated against the many schools which were directed by religious orders, especially in the field of secondary education. The Catholic orders and congregations had altogether 12 secondary schools for boys and 188 for girls.
Sixty four percent of the Catholic girls attending secondary schools were studying at private Catholic institutions. Gradually these schools were eliminated. Nazi authorities exerted strong pressure on the Reich, state, and municipal officials to send their children only to public schools.
The main base from which pupils for the private schools were recruited was thus removed. It was further decided that the so-called preparatory classes would be suppressed. Most private schools had derived the majority of their pupils from the preparatory classes of Catholic convent schools. Finally, the lower classes of the Catholic secondary schools were suppressed, a death sentence for the schools themselves. In 1939 The Bavarian Ministry of Public Instruction forbade the clergy to exercise any function or activity in secondary schools. In the official gazette of the Reich Ministry of Education, early in 1937, a notice was published stating:
“In about 400 public elementary schools for girls the instruction of the pupils was confined to Catholic religious or congregations of women. The dispersal of such teachers is provided for in the by-law of 16 November 1936 to the school Provision Law. Of about 1,600 teaching posts occupied by members of religious orders at the beginning of this year, 300 already have been made over to lay teachers. The remaining posts are to be vacated in the course of this year, so that the entire elimination of teachers belonging to religious orders is in prospect.”
[Two paragraphs omitted]
Therefore in 1938 and 1939, the Nazi fell back on the decree as a means of converting denominational schools into National Community schools. They started in the smaller states like Oldenburg and in rural communities and finally extended over the whole of Greater Germany. At the time of the outbreak of the war, the abolition of the Catholic denominational schools was complete.
Dealing with elimination of religious instruction from other schools:
A certain amount of religious instruction was provided, for those who wished it, in the public schools of Germany under the Weimar Republic. The continuance of this system was guaranteed, so far as the Catholic church is concerned, by Aritcle 21…and Article 22…of the Concordant. In spite of this guarantee, steps were taken to eliminate instruction of this sort as rapidly as possible. The purpose of the Nazis was indicated in 14 June 1939 in a statement by Bauer, Munich city school inspector, who declared:
“Religious instruction must disappear from the schools. We make our demand: Instruction in the German faith by German teachers in German schools. The man who is tied to the dogmas of the Churches need look for nothing from us in the future.”
Nazis treatment of the Christian youth movement in Germany:
One of the principal means whereby the various Christian Churches exerted influence over the youth of Germany was through the activities of the various Christian youth organizations. As rivals to the Hitler Jugend they were particularly obnoxious to the National Socialist authorities, who sought to abolish them completely. On December 17, 1933 this was effectively accomplished so far as the Protestant Church was concerned by the order of Reich Bishop Muller, who placed the entire Evangelical Youth Movement, with more than 700,000 members, under the leadership of Baldur von Shirach, leader of the Hitler Youth.
Although the Catholic Youth Movement was protected by article 31 of the Concordat, the campaign for its destruction was rapidly begun. As early as January 1934 the staff leader of the Hitler Youth, Lauterbacher, declared in Koblenz: “The Hitler Youth will not compromise but will go on its own way, which must necessarily lead to the destruction of all other youth organizations.”
On March 27 1934 the Reich Youth Leader, Baldur von Shirach declared: “The incorporation of the Protestant Youth associations will some time or other be followed, and necessarily followed, by that of the Catholic Youth. At a time when all are abandoning their private interest, Catholic Youth no longer has any right to lead a separate existence.”
These declarations heralded a difficult period for the Catholic Youth Associations, which tried with all means of diplomacy and endurance to retain their rights as guaranteed by the Concordat, confirmed in the decree of Hitler, and now curtailed almost daily through new restrictions and persecutions. A decree of Shirach forbade on 30 July 1933 simultaneous membership in the Hitler Youth and in denominations youth organizations.
Two years later  all activity which was not of purely ecclesiastical or religious nature was forbidden to denominational youth organizations. Finally the Catholic Youth associations were simply forbidden in entire districts of the Reich. Physical terrorization did the rest. The number of incidents increased rapidly, and the police and courts were always on the side of the Hitler Youth.
Hitler clearly rejects atheism, paganism and also Christianity. He embraces the deism of Voltaire and the science of Darwin. His own metaphysical views — what few glimpses we have of them — appear to be deist with a hint of pantheism. God is a creator who set the natural world in motion and then has little more to do with it. God doesn’t do anything but he can be seen in everything.
In addition to his plain statements, Hitler also undertook actions which confirm the reality of his beliefs. For instance, rewriting the Bible and creating new commandments is not something a Christian would do. It does however make perfect sense for someone who believed Christianity was a useful fiction. Similarly, closing the seminaries, denominational schools and putting an end to Christian Youth movements does not make sense if Hitler was a believer. All the evidence lines up against such a conclusion.
There is a great deal of irony in Hitler’s views of religion. For while he frequently rejects atheism and Bolshevism (which he saw as a natural outgrowth of atheism), he has essentially accepted Marx’s view of religion as the opiate of the masses (though Marx went on to say that the opiate must be destroyed, whereas Hitler took a more laissez faire approach.) Furthermore, despite his belief in a distant deist god who favored the strong, Hitler essentially accepted the materialist view of history on which Marx’s views also rested.
- Video: From Darwin to Hitler – Speech by Richard Weikart for UCTV (58 mins)
- PDF Documents: “The Nazi Master Plan: Persecution of the Christian Churches” – from the Gen. Donovan Collection at Rutgers
- Article: The Nazis and Christianity by Bruce Walker
- Article: Further Thoughts on Nazis and Christianity by Greg Richards
- Article: The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics by Edwin Black