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What About Hitler?
A Nazi concentration camp entry form. A category for
 Christian clergy (Geistliche) is included alongside
 other "undesirables", including Jewish persons.

Was Hitler a
Christian or a Nazi?

"What about Hitler, wasn't he a Christian?"

This question is asked of us in various ways, sometimes by Westerners who tend to view all religion monolithically and negatively; other times by anti-Christian bigots or Muslim apologists who think they've discovered a way to trivialize the violence produced by Islamic radicals.  The premise is that Christianity must be responsible for the horrible crimes of Hitler, since Germany is a demographically Christian country.

This reasoning is both logically inconsistent and historically inaccurate.

It's true that Germany is a Christian country, in the same way that every nation on the planet is identified with some form of religion, irrespective of whether a majority of those living within its borders actually strive to live a life that is congruent with the teachings of the faith.  This hardly bestows religious sanction on the actions of every citizen or elected official.

Indeed, the leadership and direction of a country is very often at odds with its nominal religion.  When the Syrian dictator, Hafez al-Assad, slaughtered thousands of religious fundamentalists in 1982, he did it for the very secular purpose of retaining power.  Saddam Hussein engaged in brutal acts of torture against political dissidents - and their families.  Like all Arab leaders at one time or another, both men hid behind the cloak of Islam when it became convenient. 

So, the fact that Hitler occasionally referenced Christianity is not necessarily a sign of personal religious devotion (nor an indication of religious sanction).  There is no compelling reason to believe it to be anything more than the same cynical ploy used by most leaders to appeal to the deepest passions of their people at critical moments, regardless of the inconsistency of their personal goals with religious teachings.

It is more honest to ask what motivated Hitler and whether his actions were justified by Christian teachings.

These questions are rarely explored by those who make allegations of a "Christian Holocaust" in hit-and-run fashion.  Part of this is because people believe what they prefer to believe.  They see no point to discovering whether a belief is right or wrong, as long as it serves a personal interest or provides comfort (ironically, the very charge made by critics of religion).  Another reason is the seductive appeal of useful clichés over intellectual inquiry, which requires greater effort.

As an example of the perils of this sort of mental laziness, TROP often notes that the same people alleging that the Nazis were a 'Christian' army in World War II are also prone to accuse the Americans of being a 'Christian' army in Iraq.  Perhaps they are dimly aware that the Americans destroyed the Nazi war machine in 1945 (and helped liberate the concentration camps), but the bulb never seems to burn brightly enough to illuminate the contradiction.

Today's Muslims also like to forget that Hitler was well received in the Islamic world, where his legacy of killing Jews for the sake of killing Jews is still alive and well.  And, although Mein Kamph certainly rovides the philosophical underpinnings of the slaughter that followed, it doesn't actually order killings in the way that the Quran bluntly commands the slaying of non-submissive Christians and Jews.

Those scratching the surface discover that, rather than being motivated by Christianity, Hitler was very much a Nazi.  His entire philosophy was built around German nationalism and Aryan supremacy, which were fundamental planks of his National Socialist Party.  In his own words: "One is either a Christian or a German. You can't be both."

Indeed, the Christian faith is based on the New Testament, which may justify pacifism, but not mass murder.  Unlike the Quran, there are no open-ended passages ordering the death of those who reject the founder, or directing a worldly conquest by the sword.  Instead, believers are told to "turn the other cheek," "bless them that curse you," and warned that "those who live by the sword shall die by the sword."

World War II was hardly a scheme to spread Christianity (or Lutheranism, since Hitler invaded other "Christian countries" for the most part).  The war was the result of a quest for political and economic power by the Germans and the Japanese - the same motives that drive most wars.  Even the Nazi act of killing Jewish people was mostly racial, as Hitler made clear in Mein Kampf by insisting that Jewish people  were a race and not a religion. 

The insufficiency of Christian resistance to the purge of Jewish people was shameful.  However, those who did follow Christian teachings in Nazi Germany also wound up in the concentrations camps.  In fact, during WWII, the largest community of Christian clerics in Europe was to be found in these death camps - surpassing even the Vatican in strength of numbers.  The Nazis listed 'Geistliche' (pastors, priests and clergymen) alongside 'Juden' and 'Homosexueller' as categories on concentration camp forms.

Although the Protestant and Catholic traditions in Germany limited the Fuehrer's public comments about religion (and also made necessary the elaborate measures taken to keep the existence of gas chambers concealed from the German public) he was quite candid in his personal observations.  "It is through the peasantry that we will really be able to destroy Christianity, because there is in them a true religion rooted in nature and blood."

It's easy to isolate a few statements of political convenience made by Hitler, particularly if one has an ulterior agenda.  But a man is revealed by what he does, and Hitler's deeds prove that he was very much a pagan whose vision of the future did not include a role for token Christianity.

When the Nazis stormed Poland in 1939, Christian clergy were hunted almost as relentlessly as were the Jewish.  By 1940 only 3% remained in their parishes.  Thousands were slaughtered, along with fellow church workers and nuns.  Those who remained were strictly forbidden to evangelize, own property, or preach uncensored from the New Testament.  In other words, they had to live much like dhimmis do under Islam.

To his closest advisors, Hitler reviled Christianity, calling in an "invention of the Jew," a product of "sick brains" and "gutless."   He also referred to it as "the worst of the regressions that mankind can every have undergone."  (see Robert Spencer's Religion of Peace?).

The contempt that Nazis had for Christians was not softened by the fact that most of those Europeans involved in sheltering Jewish refugees were strong believers who acted according to Christian teachings.  Jesus was a gentle man who never hurt anyone.  He disapproved of violence. 

By contrast, Muhammad was a military leader who conducted raids on caravans, supervised mass slaughter - of Jewish tribes -  and even advised his fighting men to rape women captured in battle.  For this reason, perhaps, Hitler openly admired Islam, saying that that it would have been a more appropriate choice for Nazism, given its propensity for violence: "The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity."

Given that Christianity neither motivated Hitler nor justified his actions, and that Christians and Jews were amply represented among his victims, particularly those who lived consistently with the teachings of their faith, it is certainly puzzling that anyone should want to suppose otherwise.  After all, what's really gained by believing a lie? 

Is a U.S. Post Office shooting a 'Christian crime' because the killer was born a Presbyterian?  If a mentally deranged individual shoots up a mosque in Yemen before turning the gun on himself, or if a member of the Kurdistan Workers Party plants a bomb, is this really motivated by Islam?  Who would make the irrational assumption that any crime committed by a nominal member of a faith must be attributed to that religion?

Ironically, those who try to hold Christianity responsible for Hitler employ the same bigoted logic that fuels anti-Semitism - the idea that an entire religion or race is to blame for the actions of a nominal member of the identity group.  (Anti-Semitism in Europe owes much to this sort of collectivist thinking, as well as class envy).

In this case, the teachings of Christianity directly contradict the the crimes of the Nazis.  Jesus was born Jewish, loved Jewish people and surrounded himself with them.  Unlike Muhammad, he never advocated violence.

Hitler was not a religious man.  The nominal religion of the vast majority of people that he killed was Christian.  There is no evidence that he had any interest in imitating Christ or spreading religion, and there is every reason to believe exactly the opposite.

By contrast, Islamic terrorists quote from the Quran and praise Allah as they videotape themselves beheading an "infidel."  Serving Islam is clearly their prime motivator.  This simply wasn't the case when Germany invaded Poland (or even when Iraq invaded Kuwait).

Don't be fooled by sleight-of-hand: the historical record is clear and the logic is sound.  Christianity neither motivated nor sanctioned Adolph Hitler and his demented pagan dreams.


Important Notes:

Over the years, many Christian leaders have offered apologies to the Jewish people for the Holocaust.  This is not a case of misplaced responsibility.  Hitler may not have been a product of Christianity, but the Christian world did not do everything that they should have at the time to stop him.  Even if most didn't know of the gas chambers, there should have been far stronger opposition to his explicit anti-Semitism.


Second Note:

Since posting this article, several people have reminded TROP that Hitler bemoaned the fact that Germany was a Christian rather than Muslim nation, since it made it made his genocidal campaign against Jewish people that much harder.

There is strong evidence that anti-Semitism in Germany prior to the Nazis was not as widespread as is commonly thought.  Thomas Sowell argues that it was more of a political phenomenon than cultural.  He notes (in Wealth, Poverty and Politics) that about 1 out of 5 Jews in Germany prior to rise of Hitler were refugees fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe.  Also, in the 1920's, about half of all Jewish persons in Germany married outside the faith.


Third Note:

Interestingly, the Quran of Medina (the part that was composed in Muhammad's later years) devotes more text toward hatred of Jews than does Mein Kampf (10.6% to 6.8% according to CSPI).


TROP is not a religious site.  The purpose of this article is to counter an erroneous argument.   

Further Reading



Kevin's Articles: Was Hitler a Christian?

Palestine Facts - The Grand Mufti and Hitler

No, Hitler was Not a Christian (Town Hall)

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