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The Twisted Beliefs that Drove the Third Reich

jan peczkis|Sunday, January 15, 2017

I focus only on Hitler’s apparent supportive statements of God and religion my review, and, owing to space limitations, do not discuss his many anti-religious statements and acts (e. g, see p. 130).

Weikart takes a balanced but critical view of the sources that he uses. For instance, when it comes to HITLER'S TABLE TALK and its content that portrays Hitler as an atheist, Weikart points out that the accepted Picker and Jochmann German-language editions show Hitler to be as anti-Christian as do the veracity-challenged editions. (p. 282). When it comes to Hermann Rauschning, Richard Weikart is willing to tentatively accept many of Rauschning's statements on Hitler. (pp. 283-284; See also p. 380).



WHICH HITLER?

Hitler’s statements on God are contradictory. This is not surprising. He had to hide his antireligious views, and posture as a theist, for political purposes (e. g, p. 8, 218), and later needed to avoid antagonizing the German population in wartime. The Fuhrer was also sobered by the experiences of the proto-Nazi Georg von Schonerer’s Pan-German Party decades earlier. It had foundered because of the overtness of its anti-Catholicism. (pp. 4-5).

In addition to all this, Hitler had a penchant of telling different members, of his inner circle, what they wanted to hear. Finally, owing to the fact that Hitler had been raised Catholic, and had grown up in a Catholic environment, it is unremarkable that he occasionally drifted into Christian modes of thinking. (p. 18). In fact, even the most hardcore secularists commonly retain religious influences. (p. xxiii).

Church membership by itself proves nothing. Ernst Haeckel, famous biologist and a militant atheist, despite having rejected Christianity in the 1860s, had continued his membership in a Protestant church, and had continued paying his church taxes, until 1910. (p. xxvii).

HITLER USES “GOD” NOT IN THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN SENSE OF A TRANSCENDENT, PERSONAL SUPREME BEING

The informed reader probably realizes that God can be redefined from its traditional usage. One can, for example, use “God” to refer to ultimate reality, as “the ground of being” (Paul Tillich), or some other construct. Cults regularly redefine Christian terms to mean something quite different from their normative usage. Liberal theology redefines “life after death” to mean the remembrance of the achievements of the deceased, and not the continued existence of the Self after physical death. Hitler likewise disbelieved in an afterlife, except in the re-defined sense of the continuation of the VOLK. (p. 49-50, 52, 64).

So what did Hitler mean by “God”? Weikart comments, “[Alfred] Rosenberg noted that Hitler often referred to Providence and the Almighty in his speeches, but he thought Hitler probably only meant an impersonal fate. Hans Frank agreed with Rosenberg, claiming that Hitler adopted an ancient Greek notion of fate that is superior even to divine beings.” (p. 57).

Owing to the facility of the redefinition of words, one should not be surprised by Hitler’s oft-quoted statement of reference to Jesus as “My Lord and Savior”. (p. xi). In fact, when Hitler spoke of "fighting for the work of the Lord" he was, in context, using "Lord" to mean nature deified. (pp. 195-196). As a matter of fact, Hitler deified nature on many occasions (e. g, pp. 206-207; 248), and even wanted Christmas to be redefined as a feast of homage to nature. (p. 212). Likewise, when Hitler used the term "Creator", he was not thinking in theistic or deistic terms. He was referring to deified nature. (p. 223). His statement about man created "in the image of God" referred to man made in the image of deified nature. (p. 242).

The author adds that, “…the architect Albert Speer, claimed that Hitler was ‘by nature a religious man, but his capacity for belief had been perverted into belief in himself.’” (p. 61).

HITLER WAS NO CHRISTIAN

Hitler claimed to be a Christian. However, professions and realities can be two different things. To assess Hitler’s real position on God and religion, one must look at the PREPONDERANCE of Hitler’s statements, and, based on the premise that actions speak louder than words, pay special attention to Hitler’s conduct against Christians. All this is done by Richard Weikart in a masterful, comprehensive manner.

Let us begin with cardinal Christian teachings. Otto Wagener, a high-ranking Nazi official who knew Hitler well, reported that Hitler denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (p. 83). Furthermore, as noted earlier, Hitler did not believe in life after death. In fact, Hitler rejected virtually all the essential Christian doctrines. (p. 277).

At times, Hitler did make it sound as though he believed in some kind of Entity that guided history. (p. 64). [However, even a hard-core atheist can lapse into such thinking when an impending catastrophe is averted (e. g, “Someone up there must have been looking out for me.”)] At times, Hitler did claim to offer sincere prayers of thanks to God when undergoing an overwhelming experience (p. x) [then again, sometimes even hard-core atheists do likewise]. Most of the time, however, Hitler disparaged intercessory prayer, and understood prayer to be a rallying point for people to solve their own problems. (pp. 63-64). Weikart concludes that, (quote) Hitler did not construe prayer as talking to a personal God. Rather, he thought that knowing and following the laws of nature paved the true path to success…God’s judgment was not the decision of a personal God, but simply people getting the results of their own efforts. (unquote). (p. 64).

It all adds up. Weikart concludes that, “Most historians today agree that Hitler was not a Christian in any meaningful sense.” (p. 69).

HITLER THE PANTHEIST. HITLER THE ATHEIST. BOTH?

One striking feature of Weikart’s work is the many times that Hitler repeated standard atheistic lines of attack on religion: Religion as a cause of wars and the Inquisition; religion as something discredited by science and reason; and religion as a hindrance to human progress. For instance, Christa Schroeder, the Fuehrer's secretary, said, "' He [Hitler] considered the Christian religion as outdated, hypocritical and human-ensnaring institution. His religion was the laws of nature.'" (p. 216).

On the other hand, it is not surprising that Hitler mixed anti- and pro-Enlightenment themes, selectively invoked the ideas of Nietzsche and other thinkers, and used a blend of rationalist (reason) and irrationalist (the will, emotions, or intuition) considerations. Such a "cafeteria of ideas" was common even for intellectuals in Austria and Germany at the time. (p. 43).

Hitler spoke against the atheism of the Communists. However, Weikart does not consider the following: Was Hitler rejecting atheism itself, or was he rejecting, at least as a temporary expedient, the Communist brand of ideologically-prominent ultra-militant atheism? Otherwise, Weikart acknowledges that Hitler was negative to the atheism of the Bolsheviks because of its heavy Jewish presence. (p. 277).

Interestingly, some individuals who knew Hitler well concluded that Hitler was indeed an atheist, at least in the sense of not believing in a personal God. These included Otto Strasser (p. xi) and Walter Schellenberg, a prominent SS official. (p. 49).

Based on Hitler’s frequent allusions to God, Weikart concludes that Hitler was not an atheist. Weikart concludes that Hitler was a pantheist. (e. g, pp. xii-xiii, 52, 197-198, 217-219, 279). But isn’t it a matter of semantics? Isn't a pantheist essentially an atheist—in that he rejects the existence of, or at least has an absence of belief in, a personal, transcendent Supreme Being? Furthermore, if "Everything is God", then nothing in particular is God. Pointedly, Schopenhauer, a philosopher much esteemed by Hitler, had dismissed pantheism as just another name for atheism. (p. 20).

Even if Hitler was actually a panentheist, it would not change the foregoing picture. There would still be absence of belief in a personal, transcendent Supreme Being. This, by definition, is atheism.

THE GERMANS (NOT JEWS) AS THE CHOSEN PEOPLE OF “GOD”

Weikart writes, “Of course, Hitler believed that God existed everywhere, but he also believed the VOLK was God’s special people with a special mission, and he tried to instill this faith in his fellow Germans.” (p. 59).

HITLER’S ANTI-SEMITISM WAS NOT BASED ON CHRISTIAN THEMES

Weikart comments (quote) Only rarely between 1919-1923 did Hitler trot out Christian tropes in his anti-Semitic invective. He occasionally mentioned the Jews killing Jesus, but his main point was usually not so much religious as economic. The reason they killed Jesus, in Hitler’s telling was because Jesus preached against their greed and materialism, and they retaliated to defend their materialistic lifestyles…Indeed, as we have seen, Hitler thought the Jews reinvented Christianity after Jesus’ death, which would make them responsibility for the advent of Christian churches. (unquote). (p. 162).

The author adds that, (quote) It is apparent that Hitler’s own reasons for embracing anti-Semitism had little or nothing to do with Christianity or religion. He continually denied that the Jews were a religion, viewing themselves instead as a race. He rarely invoked Christian themes when railing at the Jews, but he often invoked science, nature, and reason. (unquote). (p. 171).

Richard Weikart does repeat the standard Judeocentric meme that Nazi anti-Semitism, while different from Christian anti-Semitism, had been a successor of, even a retooling of, the latter. However, since history cannot be replayed, this time without Christian anti-Semitism, to determine if Nazism and the Holocaust would have happened anyway, it is an unverifiable accusation against Christianity. And even if it is correct, it is not the full story. [See first comment under this review.] As noted earlier, the “Germans are Chosen” meme of Nazism had been a retooling of the Jewish belief that they are the Chosen People of God. One must also consider the centuries-old hatreds against Jews that had been provoked by the racist and Jewish supremacist aspects of Jewish religion, notably those in the Talmud. Please click on, and read my detailed review, of Jewish Identity in Early Rabbinic Writings (Arbeiten Zur Geschichte Des Antiken Judentums Und Des Urchristentums, Vol 23).

CORRECTING MISTAKEN ASSOCIATIONS OF HITLER WITH CHRISTIANITY

Author Weikart does a valuable service in exposing the fallacies of some authors. He takes Robert Michael (and his HOLY HATRED) to task for making Wagner, Hitler’s favorite composer, out to be a Christian. Robert Michael does this by embellishing Wagner’s scattered positive references to Christianity. (pp. 28-29, in conjunction with reference 54, p. 33). In actuality, Wagner’s pro-Christian pronouncements were not nearly as intense and numerous as his anti-Christian ones. Weikart shows that Wagner, at best, held to a totally hollowed-out "Christianity" that was de-Judaized, which denied Jesus as the unique Son of God, and which repudiated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (p. 29).

Weikart also takes Richard Steigmann-Gall (and his THE HOLY REICH) to task for its errors. For instance, Steigmann-Gall ignores the fact of the redefinition of Christian terms as he calls Hitler a sincere Christian, at least until 1937. Steigmann-Gall’s usage of the term “Christian” is so broad that even Muhammed or Nietzsche would fit it. (p. 71). The author also points out that Steigmann-Gall relies on a mistranslation of Hitler to fallaciously argue that Hitler believed in the Deity of Jesus Christ. (pp. 84-85).
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