Hitler and Martin Luther

todangst's picture

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:

Luther's Racism

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.)

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


I myself am an agnostic, I think it's foolish to believe there is no god with absolute certainty and I don't believe there is adequate evidence to support any particular god or supreme conciousness. My issue with this article is that I have quite a few Christian and Muslim friends, I have never heard any of them claim Hitler was an atheist, in fact what I do hear is that his actions and beliefs were contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine and by that I mean he was in opposition to Christ's teachings, but is very much in line with Darwinism. Not that Darwin taught extermination of the Jews, but Hitler was influenced by the science of eugenics which is an extension of Darwinian evolution in practice. There, I've said my peace. Keep up the good work and keep an open mind. Not all truth is knowable and it's foolish to think that you know more than you actually do.





Answers in Gene Simmons's picture

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Well, there is a fallacy of association present in your post. While it may well happen that you have never heard any of your friends make the claim that Hitler was an atheist, that is only true for those specific people.


The fact is that it is in the nature of who we are as a community, that we attract the very people who make such claims. We have heard that specific claim a great many times.


If we know anything surely, we know that Hitler was a megalomaniac who would take anything from any source if he thought it would be useful to his mad agenda. Christian thought where that was useful, biological science where that was useful and so on. Seriously, though, if you want to say that he was not working in line with Christian thought, well, that does not mean that he was working in in line with modern biological thought either.


Let me put this into some historical perspective though. Modern evolutionary biological thought has changed over time. When Hitler picked up his ideas, we were still working out a great many details which are now accepted as basic. The “modern synthesis”, which serves as the basic idea for the whole field was not even part of the concept of evolution until after the end of WW2. Even then, it was clear by the time that Hitler got moving that eugenics was well on it's way to being discredited as psuedoscience.


As far as your agnostic view on the nature of god goes, well, OK I cannot rule out that there are a race known as Vulcans living on a planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani. In fact, there is even valid astronomical reason to believe that there may be a habitable planet there.


However, the difference between Vulcans and gods is that there is coherent information which may point the way to Vulcans. We know quite a bit about Vulcans but rather less of what the term god even means.


Really, what sort of god and how many are there? The Japanese people largely have thousands of gods ans each of them has different areas of responsibility. The American Indians did not use a term that most people in the west would understand to mean anything like a god but they did have some ideas that kind of went in that general direction.


What we can know about certain specific concepts of gods is if they are logically inconsistent. Those ideas of gods just don't work.

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."


butterbattle's picture

Quote:My issue with this

My issue with this article is that I have quite a few Christian and Muslim friends, I have never heard any of them claim Hitler was an atheist

How is this an issue with the article? Many Christians and Muslims do make this claim. Hasty generalization fallacy. 

but is very much in line with Darwinism. Not that Darwin taught extermination of the Jews, but Hitler was influenced by the science of eugenics which is an extension of Darwinian evolution in practice.

Hitler was a "Darwinist".........if you redefine all Creationists to be "Darwinists."  


hitler wrote:
"If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile."


"This urge for the maintenance of the unmixed breed, which is a phenomenon that prevails throughout the whole of the natural world, results not only in the sharply defined outward distinction between one species and another but also in the internal similarity of characteristic qualities which are peculiar to each breed or species. The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. The only difference that can exist within the species must be in the various degrees of structural strength and active power, in the intelligence, efficiency, endurance, etc., with which the individual specimens are endowed." Mein Kampf, Vol I, XI

Like essentially all Creationists today, Hitler supported 'microevolution,' but not 'macroevolution.' Iow, he believed that organisms could adapt to their environment as long as they stayed within their own "kind." The term "kind," of course, being vague and continuously ad hoc'd. This simple idea, that the 'fit' remain after the 'unfit' is eliminated, is what is necessary for the extension to eugenics; macroevolution is irrelevant.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare