Hitler and Martin Luther
Some theists attempt to argue that Hitler was an atheist. While this claim is untrue, focusing on Hitler's religious beliefs is actually irrelevant: what matters is that Hitler called upon pre-existent, christian inspired hatred and persecution of Jews, and for this reason, christianity is one of the culprits for the holocaust:
The magazine Christian History, Issue 39, 1993 (published by Christianity Today) devoted a whole issue to Martin Luther's life and legacy. Pages 38-39 quote his work On the Jews and Their Lies which gives us an idea about how moral Luther's views were:
"Set fire to their synagogues and schools. Jewish houses should be razed and destroyed, and Jewish prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, curing, and blasphemy are taught, [should] be taken from them." Their rabbis [should] be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb."
This is a man held to be a moral authority? Luther also urged that "safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews," and that "all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them." What Jews could do was to have "a flail, an ax, a hole, a spade" put into their hands so "young, strong Jews and Jewesses" could "earn their bread in the sweat of their brow." Do you think any Fuhrer you may have heard of might have gleaned an idea or two from that last passage alone? In fact, think of Hitler while reading the next paragraph.
Luther proposed seven measures of "sharp mercy" that German princes could take against Jews: (1) burn their schools and synagogues; (2) transfer Jews to community settlements; (3) confiscate all Jewish literature, which was blasphemous; (4) prohibit rabbis to teach, on pain of death; (5) deny Jews safe conduct, so as to prevent the spread of Judaism; (6) appropriate their wealth and use it to support converts and to prevent the Jews' practice of usury; (7) assign Jews to manual labor as a form of penance.
Is there no clearer blueprint for the Final Solution than the works of one of christianity's greatest reformers and moralists?
Worse yet, Luther was no paper philosopher - he advised clergy, their congregations, and all government officials to help carry out these measures. Since most Jews had been expelled from Germany before 1536, Luther's counsel was implemented by few officials. Yet a harsh anti-Jewish measure in 1543 mentioned Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies.
Both Luther's friends and his foes criticized him for proposing these measures. His best friends begged him to stop his anti-Jewish raving, but Luther continued his attacks in other treatises. He repeated as true the worst anti-Semitic charges from medieval literature: that Jews killed Christian babies; they murdered Christ over and over again by stabbing eucharistic hosts; they poised wells. As usual, he did not allow facts to deter him from his emotionally driven lies.
Luther now thought what he had accused Catholics of thinking in 1523: Jews were dogs. "We are at fault for not slaying them!" he fumed shortly before his death. Yet one more hypocricy for the master of hypocrisy.
While my argument does not rely solely on demonstrating that the writings of Luther inspired the holocaust (Instead, it implicates Hitler's use of christianity's long history of christian persecution of jews), the following passages come from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_the_Jews help demonstrate Luther's role in the holocaust.
British historian Paul Johnson has called On the Jews and their Lies the "first work of modern anti-Semitism, and a giant step forward on the road to the Holocaust." (Johnson, A History of the Jews, p. 242.)
While some Lutherans deny the charge, the Nazis did cite Luther's treatise to justify the Final Solution (Egil Grislis, "Martin Luther and the Jews," Consensus 27 (2001) No. 1:64.).
The line of "anti-Semitic descent" from Luther to Hitler is "easy to draw," according to American historian Lucy Dawidowicz. In her "The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945", she writes that both Luther and Hitler were obsessed by the "demonologized universe" inhabited by Jews, with Hitler asserting that the later Luther, the author of On the Jews and Their Lies was the 'real Luther'.
Professor Robert Michael, Professor Emeritus of European History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, has argued that Luther scholars who try to tone down Luther's views on the Jews ignore the murderous implications of his antisemitism. Michael argues that there is a "strong parallel" between Luther's ideas and the anti-Semitism of most German Lutherans throughout the Holocaust. Like the Nazis, Luther mythologized the Jews as evil, he writes. They could be saved only if they converted to Christianity, but their hostility to the idea made it inconceivable (Robert Michael, "Luther, Luther Scholars, and the Jews," Encounter 46:4 (Autumn 1985), pp. 339-56.).
Luther's sentiments were widely echoed in the Germany of the 1930s, particularly within the Nazi party. Hitler's Education Minister, Bernhard Rust, was quoted by the Völkischer Beobachter as saying that: "Since Martin Luther closed his eyes, no such son of our people has appeared again. It has been decided that we shall be the first to witness his reappearance ... I think the time is past when one may not say the names of Hitler and Luther in the same breath. They belong together; they are of the same old stamp [Schrot und Korn]" (Volkischer Beobachter, August 25, 1933 cited in Steigmann-Gall, Richard. The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1991-1945. Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 136-7.).
Hans Hinkel, leader of the Luther League's magazine Deutsche Kultur-Wacht, and of the Berlin chapter of the Kampfbund, paid tribute to Luther in his acceptance speech as head of both the Jewish section and the film department of Goebbel's Chamber of Culture and Propaganda Ministry. "Through his acts and his spiritual attitude, he began the fight which we will wage today; with Luther, the revolution of German blood and feeling against alien elements of the Volk was begun. To continue and complete his Protestantism, nationalism must make the picture of Luther, of a German fighter, live as an example above the barriers of confession for all German blood comrades."
(Steigmann-Gall 2003, p. 137.).
According to Daniel Goldhagen, Bishop Martin Sasse, a leading Protestant churchman, published a compendium Luther's writings shortly after Kristallnacht in which Sasse "applauded the burning of the synagogues and the coincidence of the day, writing in the introduction, "On November 10, 1938, on Luther's birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany." The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words "of the greatest antisemite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews." (Bernd Nellessen, "Die schweigende Kirche: Katholiken und Judenverfolgung," in Büttner (ed), Die Deutchschen und die Jugendverfolg im Dritten Reich, p. 265, cited in Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners (Vintage, 1997)).
William Nichols, Professor of Religious Studies, recounts, "At his trial in Nuremberg after the Second World War, Julius Streicher, the notorious Nazi propagandist, editor of the scurrilous antisemitic weekly, Der Stürmer, argued that if he should be standing there arraigned on such charges, so should Martin Luther. Reading such passages, it is hard not to agree with him. Luther's proposals read like a program for the Nazis." (William Nichols, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1995), p. 271).
In the course of the Luthertag (Luther Day) festivities, the Nazis emphasized their connection to Luther as being both nationalist revolutionaries and the heirs of the German traditionalist past. An article in the Chemnitzer Tageblatt stated that "[t]he German Volk are united not only in loyalty and love for the Fatherland, but also once more in the old German beliefs of Luther [Lutherglauben]; a new epoch of strong, conscious religious life has dawned in Germany." Richard Steigmann-Gall wrote in his 2003 book The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945:
The leadership of the Protestant League espoused a similar view. Fahrenhorst, who was on the planning committee of the Luthertag, called Luther "the first German spiritual Führer" who spoke to all Germans regardless of clan or confession. In a letter to Hitler, Fahrenhorst reminded him that his "Old Fighters" were mostly Protestants and that it was precisely in the Protestant regions of our Fatherland" in which Nazism found its greatest strength. Promising that the celebration of Luther's birthday would not turn into a confessional affair, Fahrenhorst invited Hitler to become the official patron of the Luthertag. In subsequent correspondence, Fahrenhorst again voiced the notion that reverence for Luther could somehow cross confessional boundaries: "Luther is truly not only the founder of a Christian confession; much more, his ideas had a fruitful impact on all Christianity in Germany." Precisely because of Luther's political as well as religious significance, the Luthertag would serve as a confession both "to church and Volk." (Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, (Cambridge University Press, 2003), p.138.)
Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates