Was Hitler a Christian?

This is in reference to the Was Hitler a Christian? staff entry.

True, we must bear in mind that Hitler was a great manipulator and not above pandering to the masses, so we should ask ourselves at least this question. If Hitler did hate Christianity, where would we most likely find evidence of this? Germany was overwhelmingly Christian, so it’s unlikely we’d find anti-Christian sentiment in Hitler’s public speeches, and Hitler almost certainly knew that pretending to be a Christian would help him garner support. As the staff entry points out:

The best place to look for Hitler’s anti-Christian views, if he had any, would be to see what he said behind closed doors. And there we see strong evidence (that the staff member omitted) for Hitler hating Christianity. A book called Hitler’s Table Talk records a good deal of Hitler’s private conversations from 1941 to 1944. From the book:

“The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light, and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.” p. 75

“The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity.” p. 7

“Kerrl, with the noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don’t believe the thing’s possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself.” p. 145

“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.” p. 59

“It’s not desirable that the whole world of humanity should be stultified—and the only way of getting rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little. A movement like ours mustn’t let itself be drawn into metaphysical digressions. It must stick to the spirit of exact science.” p. 61

“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.” pp. 59-69

It seems highly probable then that Hitler was not a Christian. What dismayed me was the relatively weak evidence the entry provided for Hitler not being a Christian. I’m not saying there was no evidence, just that it wasn’t as nearly as strong as it could have been.

This is perhaps not too surprising, since the staff writer also believed that Hitler was a vegetarian (turns out that’s not entirely true; see also this snopes.com entry and especially here). From snopes, “Hitler’s diet was primarily vegetarian [he did eat meat sometimes] throughout the latter part of his life; however, he didn’t adopt a vegetarian diet for moral reasons, but because he suffered from gastric problems.”

Note that the Report was posted in 1999, and the book you reference was first published a year later. So the evidence in that book wasn’t so much “omitted” as unavailable. Staff Reports are rarely updated as new information becomes available, but you bring some interesting information to the question.

http://www.evilbible.com/hitler_was_christian.htm Yep he was a Christian.

IIRC, there was some kind of official Reich Church of Germany that was overseen by a “Reichsbishop,” or something. That guy was featured in a brief scene in Triumph of the Will.

And the statements in the OP are much more convincing, since Christianity is about what one believes, not how one acts.

Er, no. Hitler’s Table Talk was first published in the early 1950s and, yes, the Report’s failure to spot that such a well-known work was the ultimate source for the ‘Christianity and syphilis’ quote was indeed a shocking oversight.

However, there is a controversy over the accuracy of the different editions, particularly, as it happens, over the passages about religion.

So the soruces for Hitler being CHristan and not Christan contradict each other? Man thats confusing…

But if he was Christian, how could he critcise so dammingly? Doesn’t it seem more likely he just made deals with the church for his own ease?

Well gosh. I used to think that there was some merit to the argument that Hitler was not a Christian. But now that you’ve linked to a webpage by an anonymous internet hatemonger who cannot provide sources for his claims, I realize that Hitler must have been a Christian. After all, it’s not possible that untrue things are ever posted on the internet, is it?

Nonetheless, just to make sure that there’s never any dispute about this issue again, why don’t you post a link to somebody making the claim that Hitler is a Christian who can back up their claims with sources?

Hitler once remarked that the strength of his economic plan was that he had no plan.

The Nazis were like that in many ways - they often had quite contradictory policies, going with whatever appeared to “work”, or whatever the last Nazi party bigwig had to say.

Their policy on religion was no different. Hitler was fully capable of appearing to his supporters as the defender of Christian civilization against the barbaric hordes of undermen, while at the very same time condemning Christianity as a Jew superstition and turning a blind eye to or encouraging Germanic neo-paganism.

My “take” is that Hitler was perfectly happy to support the facade of Christianity - the order, symbols, hierarchy and rituals side - as long as it was useful and convenient to himself; unwillingness to support these things would be punished, just like any other form of independence and rebellion - unless of course it orgininated from the Nazis themselves. Similarly, he was perfectly willing to invoke Christian history as part of the ethno-nationalist ideology he supported. However, he most certainly had no use for the theology or morality of Christianity. Those priests and other convinced Christians who opposed him on moral grounds found themselves in the death camps just as quickly as non-Christians who opposed him. Had he won, no doubt he would have gradually replaced explicit Christian hierarchy, symbols and rituals with Nazi ones.

Well, if Hitler was not a Christian, that means we can blame liberals for Naziism, right?

And to back up what Malthus said, this thread has cites for the Nazi persecution of various Christian groups and clergymen.

Hitler wasn’t a careful thinker with a consistent world view, he was a raving maniac who spouted off whatever was in his head at the time. If it’s important to you that he should be an atheist or a Christian I’m sure you can cherry pick quotes that would put him in either camp.

Generally I agree with Malthus that he probably resented Christianity because it represented an authority other than the Nazi state, but that he knew he could not openly ban the religion so he worked to co-opt it with tame priests and ministers. Certainly Nazism and Christianity have very little in common.

http://www.nobeliefs.com/HitlerSources.htm

Summary:

To my mind, it is impossible to square Hitler tolerating (for example) replacing Christmas with a secular 'Germanic" holiday, or having notoriously anti-Christian bigwigs spouting off against the “Jew Religion”, with an actively Christian Hitler.

http://www.bytwerk.com/gpa/christmas1939.htm

Again, Hitler was certainly not consistent in stating his views on religion, or indeed on many topics. I do get the impression from his writings that he found the Germanic neo-pagans somewhat absurd, but tolerated them, as indeed he was willing to tolerate Muslims if they served his purpose (he was close to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem). He was quite willing to pose as the supporter of Germanic and Aryan Christendom against the evils of “atheist communism”, but his actual devotion to Christianity - as opposed to lip service - was questionable, to say the least.

To me, the question “was Hitler a Christian?” isn’t very interesting. While I lean toward the views Malthus gives about Hitler’s intellectual inconsistency, completely expedient view of truth, and slippery personality, he was the most extreme corner case.

More interesting to me is the question, was Nazi Germany explicitly Christian? And since I cannot read anyone’s mind – not Hitler’s, Billy Graham’s, nor the Pope’s, what that boils down to is: did the Nazis claim to be Christian?

This website of course has its own biases, and I found its arguments suspect and unconvincing. Consider for example the objection, “Nowhere does Hitler denounce Jesus or his own brand of Christianity.” Would Hitler ever denounce “his own brand of Christianity” if he was not a Christian? Furthermore, what about Hitler’s claim that the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity? The author never mentions that tidbit. H.R. Trevor-Roper is a distinguished historian, and I trust his judgment on the authenticity of the records (see e.g. page xiv of the book) more than an atheist on the Internet who wants to believe Hitler was a Christian.

Certainly there are some atheists on the Internet who question book’s authenticity. There are also atheists on the Internet who argue that Jesus of Nazareth never existed (mainstream scholarship be damned).

The problem here is that there is no one authoritative Nazi position. All depended on which Nazi bigwig was talking. However, judging by their actions, and by the overall tone of the Nazi leadership, the better view is that whatever Hitler’s personal views were, the majority of the Nazi higher-ups disliked Christianity and their attitute was one of co-opting its organizations and tolerating it until the time was ripe to get rid of it or replace it with a creature of their own.

I suspect most Nazi leaders were simply indifferent to it, or regarded it as traditional but unimportant, but the most vocal were those who clearly hated Christianity - notably, Bormann.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany#Nazi_Attitudes_towards_Christianity

They planned to, in effect, replace Christianity with a “nationalist church” which used Nazi symbols and eliminated the Bible.

Others wanted to impose some sort of neo-paganism on Germany, as a “nationalist religion”. Allegedly, Hitler himself found these guys a trifle crazy - or at least he said so in Mein Kampf - but tolerated them nonetheless because they were useful.

The Nazis suppressed churches and seminaries, though such measures may be as much to prevent rival accretions of power as because they hated Christianity.

OTOH, plenty of Nazis were also practicing Christians.

Overall, the attitude appeared to be pragmatic. The Nazis who were fired up by ideology wanted to get rid of Christianity because they hated everything about it - a “Jew slave religion” in the mixture of Nazi and Niechiean ideology popular among them - but Hitler himself, along with many Nazi leaders, considered the enthusiasts a bit nuts on the topic, particularly those who indulged in the sort of nordic pagan mysticism popular with the SS.

In summary, Nazi attitudes ranged from those who were Christians themselves (a distinct minority), through those who wished to co-opt Christian symbols and institutions, through those totally indifferent, through those who hated Christianity and wished to impose a “nationalist church” shorn of Christian symbols and ideology, through the most extreme - those who wished to effectively replace Christianity with neo-paganism.

Given that range of attitudes, the future of Christianity under a successful Nazi regime looked grim indeed. In my opinion, it would not long have survived.

Are you talking as individuals or as a group?

It is also possible that Hitler and other Nazi leaders had different views of Christianity (the religion) and the Christian churches (the social/political organizations). This would accord with the plan for a German national church, allowing for the religion to continue to be practiced within an organization which would not be a threat to the Party and its control.

It is certainly true that Nazis of all stripes, including some Christian ones, saw the Churches (as organizations) as potential threats, in that they offered a non-Nazi source of authority. The Nazis took active steps to co-opt or suppress existing church organizations for that reason.

However, the descriptions of the hypothetical national church sound as if they were going to have very little to do with Christianity (the religion). For example, the Bible was to be replaced by Mien Kampf, Christian icons and the like on the altar were to be replaced with a swastika and sword, etc.

None of that got beyond the planning stage … but the Nazis did take steps to eliminate and replace Christian symbolism and content from such holidays as Christmas, attempting to replace the holiday with one purely nationalist in tone (see article posted above).