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Hitler’s Religion: Chapter 3

(excerpts)

by Richard Weikart

In many of his private conversations and monologues, as well as in some of his public speeches, Hitler sounded like a rationalist, using science to undermine religion. Also, he denied a personal afterlife…

Hitler’s freethinking bent seems to go back to his youth and may have come from his father, who was also disgruntled with the church. When reflecting back on his childhood religion classes in a January 1942 monologue, Hitler claimed that he “was the eternal questioner.” He read a lot of freethinking literature, and he challenged his religion teacher with his findings, allegedly driving his teacher to despair. He would continually ask his teacher about doubtful themes in the Bible, but the teacher’s answers were always evasive. One day Hitler’s teacher asked him if he prayed, and he responded, “No, Sir, I do not pray; I do not believe that the dear God has an interest if a pupil prays!” Hitler also reported that he hated the mendacity of his religion instructor, who once told Hitler’s mother in front of him that Hitler’s soul was lost. Hitler responded by telling his teacher that some scholars doubt there is an afterlife. In February 1942, Hitler confessed that he had not believed in Christianity since he was about thirteen to fifteen years old. According to Hitler, “None of my [school] comrades believed in the so-called communion any longer.” Hitler regaled his secretaries with accounts of his youthful exploits, including stories about embarrassing his religion teacher, whom he considered unkempt and filthy. He told his secretaries that he developed an aversion to clergymen from his earliest youth…

This was not the only time Hitler praised Enlightenment philosophers. During a monologue in October 1941, he lamented that current discussions about religion were in a miserable state compared to the writings of the French Enlightenment or to Frederick the Great’s discussions with Voltaire. Nine months later, he told Bormann that of the books that Bormann had given him to look at, he was especially interested in Frederick the Great’s books, Briefe über die Religion (Letters on Religion) and Theologische Streitschriften (Theological Polemics). Hitler commented that it would be valuable if all Germans, especially leaders and military officers, could read these works by Frederick, because then they would see that Hitler was not alone in his “heretical thoughts.” Hitler obviously thought highly of Frederick, not only for his military exploits and tenacity but also for his Enlightened religious views. Hans Frank noticed this tendency, too, testifying that Hitler increasingly identified with Frederick the Great’s Enlightened rationalism, which completely suppressed his childhood faith. The theologian Paul Hinlicky claims that Hitler’s conception of God was shaped by Enlightenment thought, asserting, “Hitler embraced the rationalist, watch-maker God typical of deistic (not ‘theistic’) thought whose stern and ruthless law he discovered anew in Darwinian natural selection. In this way, Hitler renounced the God identified by biblical narrative”…

In 1927, Hitler corresponded with a Catholic priest who had previously supported Nazism but by this time had some misgivings. Hitler contradicted the priest’s claim that Christianity had brought an end to Roman barbarism. Instead, Hitler insisted that Christianity was even more barbaric than the Romans had been, killing hundreds of thousands for their heretical beliefs…

Hitler attacked those in the churches who opposed his regime, indignantly claiming that their resistance was “nothing more than the continuation of the crime of the Inquisition and the burning of witches, by which the Jewish-Roman world exterminated whatever offered resistance to that shameful parasitism.” In a February 1942 monologue, Hitler mocked the Christian story of God sending His Son to die for humanity. Then, after Christianity became established, Hitler complained, Christians used violence to force everyone to believe…

Another way that Hitler paralleled Enlightenment rationalism was by stressing the variety of religions in the world. Hitler saw the presence of numerous religions in the world as a major hurdle to believing in any particular one. The basic idea was that since there were so many different religions, each claiming to be the sole and exclusive truth, most religions were necessarily wrong. Why, then, believe in one particular religion, just because by accident you happened to be raised in the society that embraced it? In a monologue in October 1941, Hitler expressed this point clearly. Where he got his statistics from is uncertain, but he claimed that there were 170 large religions in the world, so at least 169 must be wrong. The implication, however, was that all 170 were probably wrong. Then he claimed that no religion still being practiced was older than 2,500 years, while humans have existed for at least 300,000 years (having evolved from primates). This implied that religions were temporary phenomena of questionable validity. A few months later, he made similar remarks, claiming that human conceptions of Providence are constantly shifting. Only about 10 percent of people in the world believed in Catholicism, he claimed, and the rest of humanity had many different beliefs. This time, he gave the figure of 500,000 years for the existence of the human species, noting that Christianity only existed during an “extremely short epoch of humanity.”

In his 1935 speech to the Nuremberg Party Rally, he argued that religious ideas and institutions are inseparably linked to the continued existence of its practitioners and thus are not eternal truths. Religions, according to Hitler, are only valid to the extent that they contribute to the survival of the people (Volk) practicing them…

Five years earlier, he had given his first Nuremberg Party Rally speech after taking power and at the time presented his racial ideology as scientific. “In nature,” he explained, “there are no inexplicable accidents…. Every development proceeds according to cause and effect.” Therefore, in order to triumph as a Volk, Germans needed to discover the “eternal laws of life” and conform to them. Some of the most important laws of nature, Hitler explained, are that races are unequal and culture depends on the biological quality of the people, not on their environment. These two ideas—racial inequality and biological determinism—were prominent among German biologists and anthropologists, so in this case Hitler’s views were consistent with the science of his day…

After coming to power, Hitler continued to prioritize science over religion. When meeting with Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, Hitler reminded him that the world was changing, and he thought the Catholic Church should change with it. He reminded the cardinal of the Church’s past conflicts with science over its belief in a six-day creation and the geocentric theory of the solar system. Then he told Faulhaber that the Church must abandon its opposition to Nazi racial and eugenics legislation, because such policies “rest on absolute scientific research”…

When he was a boy, his religion teachers would teach the creation story from the Bible, while his science teachers would teach the theory of evolution. As a pupil, he recognized that these teachings were completely contradictory. He admitted that the churches in recent times had saved face somewhat by retreating to the position that biblical stories could be interpreted symbolically. However, he took the side of science and evolutionary theory against religion and the churches’ doctrines.

Another reason that some people might mistake Hitler for an atheist was his aforementioned rejection of a personal afterlife. Based on his interaction with Hitler, Walter Schellenberg, one of the most influential SS officers during World War II, testified the following:

Hitler did not believe in a personal god. He believed only in the bond of blood between succeeding generations and in a vague conception of fate or providence. Nor did he believe in a life after death. In this connection he often quoted a sentence from the Edda, that remarkable collection of ancient Icelandic literature, which to him represented the profoundest Nordic wisdom: “All things will pass away, nothing will remain but death and the glory of deeds.”

In his New Year’s Proclamation in 1943, Hitler publicly insinuated that he did not believe in an individual afterlife, telling his fellow Germans, “The individual must and will pass away, as in all times, but the Volk must live on.” According to Albert Speer, one of Hitler’s closest friends who met with him not long before he committed suicide, Hitler faced his own death without any hope of an afterlife. Hitler told him, “Believe me, Speer, it is easy for me to end my life. A brief moment and I’m free of everything, liberated from this painful existence.” Hitler clearly did not think there was any kind of personal afterlife and certainly had no inkling of any divine judgment after death…

In February 1942, in the midst of a screed accusing Christianity of destroying the noble, ancient world, Hitler blamed the Jews for introducing the “beastly idea” that one’s life continues in a future world. The Jews used this promise of life after death as an excuse, according to Hitler, to exterminate life in the present world. Hitler contradicted this allegedly Jewish view, asserting that persons cease to exist at death…

In Mein Kampf, Hitler claimed that true Aryan religion must uphold “the conviction of survival after death in some form.” This, however, still underscores the fuzziness of his conception of the afterlife, since “in some form” is rather vague and openended. It could mean a personal afterlife, but it could also simply mean continuing to exist in one’s descendants or in matter rearranged. The latter seems closer to the position Hitler stated elsewhere…

He reiterated this point in a January 1928 speech, where he posed the question crucial to all religions, “Why is the individual in the world at all?” He answered that we do not know why we are living, but we do know that we have an instinct not only to live, but also to continue our existence in to the future. This is “the yearning to immortalize oneself in the body of a child.” The highest humans—and Hitler clearly thought the Aryans were the highest—extend this desire to preserving the entire species, not just one’s own children.

The view that Hitler saw the afterlife as an impersonal return to nature or the Volk is reinforced by an entry in Goebbels’ diary during December 1941. The entry is especially intriguing because it was one of the only times that Goebbels noted a point of disagreement between Hitler and himself about religion. Goebbels claimed that in his view—but not in Hitler’s—the average German needs to regard the afterlife as a continuation of the individual. “One cannot make do by saying, he goes again into his Volk (people) or into his native soil (Mutterboden).” In this discussion, Goebbels states that Hitler did not believe in an individual afterlife, and he implies that Hitler took the position that afterlife simply means returning to the blood and soil from which one came.

The view that the afterlife is simply a continuation of life in future generations was reflected in an SS pamphlet on funerals. It quoted Himmler, who stated that death held no terror, because it found meaning in the continuation of life. He explained, “The individual dies, but in his children his people (Volk) grow beyond him even during his life. Because we love the future of the life of our people (Volk) more than ourselves, we freely and bravely consent to go to the death, wherever it must be.” This notion of an impersonal afterlife was not uncommon in Nazi circles. It was so widespread that Pope Pius XI criticized the Nazi view of the afterlife in his 1937 encyclical. Pius complained, “Immortality in a Christian sense means the survival of man after his terrestrial death, for the purpose of eternal reward or punishment. Whoever only means by the term, the collective survival here on earth of his people for an indefinite length of time, distorts one of the fundamental notions of the Christian Faith and tampers with the very foundations of the religious concept of the universe, which requires a moral order”…

Hitler’s vague notion of God inspired him because he considered God the creator and sustainer of the German Volk. When Hitler used the term Volk, he was referring to the Germanic people as a racial entity, so Volk was synonymous with the Aryan or Nordic race (terms also used interchangeably). But it was also conveniently ambiguous, making it a great propaganda tool appealing to Germans who might differ in their interpretations of it. It could mean all the German people belonging to the unified German nation, or it could mean all those who were ethnically German, or it could even mean all those having Nordic racial characteristics, even if they were ethnically Danish or Dutch or Norwegian or Polish. Hitler preferred this last definition and tried during World War II to construct a Greater Germanic Reich that incorporated all those identified as members of the Nordic race, no matter their nationality. However, most Germans opted for one of the first two definitions…

Hitler made the connection between God and the German Volk so often that Max Domarus, who edited a massive four-volume collection of Hitler’s speeches, claimed Hitler’s God was a “peculiarly German God,” not the God worshipped by most other people throughout the ages…

Domarus added this insightful footnote to the passage: “In this context as well it is evident that Hitler understood the term ‘Almighty’ to refer to a god that existed exclusively for the German people.” 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. Rather frequently Hitler encouraged his fellow Germans to believe that their work and struggle on behalf of their people was assured of success, because God was with them. In June 1937, while boasting of his achievements and preparing for future conquest, Hitler exhorted his compatriots to expect that God would bless them if they tenaciously worked for Germany…

 

______ 卐 ______

 

Note of the Editor:

Here is, with the honourable exception of GLR, the astronomical failure of American racialism. Only if they worked to restore Germany’s honour—the exact reverse of the anti-Nazi West of our day—could God help them.

Let us remember the words of Michael O’Meara: ‘The greatest of the “conservative” thinkers, Joseph de Maistre, pointed out long ago that the French Revolution led the revolutionaries rather than was led by them. For he believed that certain Providential forces rule our lives. These forces he saw in Christian terms, but others, like Heidegger, for instance, saw them in terms of Being, over which humans have no control. In either case, the force of Providence or Being or Destiny has a power that has often made itself felt in our history. For this reason, I have little doubt that Europeans will eventually throw off the Judeo-liberal system programming their destruction. I’m less confident about we Americans, given the greater weakness of our collective identity and destiny. But nevertheless even we might be saved from ourselves by this force—as long as we do what is still in our power to do’.

But O’Meara failed in one of his articles to honour the German Chancellor and his Reich because of, I suspect, the Catholicism of his Irish parents. Like many other Americans, he clung somehow to the Semitic god of the Christians.

The salvation of the Aryan consists in honouring Hitler and no longer Jesus. Then, and only then, the true God will help them.

Nicht in kalten Marmorsteinen,
Nicht in Tempeln, dumpf und tot:
In den frischen Eichenhainen
Webt und rauscht der deutsche Gott.

 
 
 
 
 

Not in cold marble stones,
Not in temples dull and dead:
In the fresh oak groves
Weaves and rustles the German god.

1 Reply on “Hitler’s Religion: Chapter 3

  1. And remember that the overall title of my books in my mother tongue is Hojas susurrantes (Whispering Leaves).