- Originated: 29 May 2005
Additions: 29 Sep. 2010
- The following provides a brief explanation for some of the most common misconceptions about Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately in today's 'Faith-based' culture, rarely do people look closely at the reasons or evidence of Hitler's belief, many times confusing the beliefs of other prominent Nazis for Hitler's views.
- Myth 1: Hitler was not a Christian
- Myth 2: Hitler pretended his Christianity only for political purposes
- Myth 3: Hitler got his ideas of Aryan superiority and Jewish hatred from Darwinian evolution
- Myth 4: Hitler followed Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy
Myth 1: Hitler was not a Christian
The entire section on Hitler's Christianity provides ample evidence for his brand of Christianity. The evidence itself destroys any opinions or beliefs about Hitler's alleged apostasy.
The evidence shows that:
Hitler was born and baptized into Catholicism
His Jewish antisemitism came from his Christian background.
His early personal notes shows his interest in religion and Biblical views.
He believed that the Bible represented the history of mankind.
His Nazi party platform (their version of a constitution) included a section on Positive Christianity, and he never removed it.
He confessed his Christianity.
He tried to establish a united Reich German Church.
Hitler allowed the destruction of Jewish synagogues and temples, but not Christian churches.
He encouraged Nazis to worship in Christian churches.
He spoke of his Christian beliefs in his speeches and proclamations.
His contemporaries, friends, Protestant ministers and Catholics priests, including the Vatican, thought of Hitler as a Christian.
The Catholic Church never excommunicated Hitler. He died a Catholic.
To ignore the evidence of Hitler's Christianity demonstrates how power of belief can obscure the facts.
Myth 2: Hitler pretended his Christianity only for political purposes
This one represents one of the most persistent constructions about Hitler's Christianity. Revealingly, proponents of this myth never provide evidence for this hypothesis. If he, indeed, pretended himself as a Christian, then on what evidential material does it stand on? If Hitler acted as a pretend Christian, then were does he disown his belief in Christ? Does he write in his private notes that he used religion only for political purposes? Did any of his close associates or friends think so? Where?
Of course Hitler did try to use political force to control Christianity and he tried to establish a unified Reich Christian Church, but this only supports his stand on his view of "positive Christianity" as described in the Nazi party platform (their version of a constitution). And yes, he criticized the Catholic and Protestant hierarchy, but so what? So do Popes and Protestant leaders. Martin Luther himself strongly condemned the Catholic religion and thought of it as the work of the Devil.
I suspect that those who propagate this myth rely on mainly one source: the dubious reliability of Hitler's table talk (a second-hand source that allegedly records the words of Hitler). The table-talk got edited by the anti-Catholic Martin Bormann (Hitler's secretary) and describes political views against the hierarchy of orthodox Christianity (just as Bormann would have liked) but even here, Hitler never speaks against Jesus Christ, but rather in favor of him. (See Hitler's table talk and other extraneous sources). And we now know, thanks to Richard Carrier's discovery, that the anti-Christian phrases in the the English version of the table talk (which came from the French translated version) were forged, most likely by the French translator of the table-talk, Francois Genoud, who was a known forger. (source). Note, the German version of table-talk does not contain the anti-Christian phrases!
What obliterates this theory comes from the fact that Hitler continued to express his "positive" Christian views, well after his rise to power. If, indeed, he needed Christianity only for political purposes, then why-oh-why does he continue with the charade after he has established himself as absolute dictator?
But just for the sake of argument, lets pretend that Hitler really did pretend his Christianity; that his sole aim went to politically winning over German Christians so that he could gain their confidence. How in the world does that improve your argument in protecting Christianity from Hitler? If that proved the case, then who should get the blame, Hitler or the gullible Christian German citizens who believed him? And what does that say for the integrity of Christianity if the most Christianized country in the world could not distinguish a member of their own belief system? Think about it. If the most pious Christians and clergymen could not tell if Hitler practiced false or "real" Christianity, then how in the world could anyone tell? I submit that the only way to tell comes from the very words from those who make the claim. Indeed, this constitutes the very flaw of any religion because there never has existed a testable way to determine the truthfulness of a belief in the supernatural. And if you cannot tell by the words of your fellow Christians, then anyone with minimal acting talent can deceive anyone, including monks, bishops, or popes. In fact, monks, bishops and popes themselves, could fall prey to falsehood. I submit to you that a false Christian and a real Christian makes absolutely no difference. Why? Because if I have it right (and I think I do) then Christianity never represented reality, thus an honest believing Christian and a dishonest believing Christian fall on equal turf: they both have it wrong, and they both practice falsehoods!
The only evidence we have, or could ever have, about people who call themselves Christian comes from the very confession of those making the claim. And since Hitler makes his claim to Christianity abundantly and clearly, we can only rely on his claim, regardless of whether he actually believed in Christ or not. False Christianity has as just much validity as any claim to Christianity, even if you could prove dishonesty.
But regardless of how you view a person's claim to their religion, to say Hitler used Christianity only for political forces has absolutely no historical basis to back it up. To simply rely on belief or opinion says absolutely nothing about historical fact.
Myth 3: Hitler got his ideas of Aryan superiority and Jewish hatred from Darwinian evolution
Hitler showed no knowledge of Darwinian evolution or natural selection. Nowhere in Mein Kampf does he mention Darwin, natural-selection or even the word "evolution" (in the context of natural selection).
As for Aryan superiority and his Jewish hatred, Hitler clearly describes in Mein Kampf how he slowly began to change his mind about the Jews from the influence of the anti-Semitic movement of the Christian Social Party. His views with regard to anti-Semitism he said, "succumbed to the passage of time, and this was my greatest transformation of all." (read volume 1, chapter 2). Nowhere does he explain his anti-Jewish beliefs in Darwinian terms.
In his private notes, where he describes the Bible as a "Monumental History of Mankind," Hitler outlines his views of the Aryan and the Jew, all in the context of Bible reasoning, never in the context of Darwinian natural selection.
Moreover, Hitler viewed progeny, not in regards to evolution but in terms of blood lines (a Biblical view). He peppered his writings and speeches with "blood" words. Examples in Mein Kampf include:
"One blood demands one Reich."
"Bavarian by blood, technically Austrian, lived my parents..."
...the German in Austria had really been of the best blood..."
"...the weakness of leadership will not cause a hibernation of the state, but an awakening of all the individual instincts which are present in the blood..."
Clearly, Hitler had no scientific sophistication or an understanding of Darwin's theory of evolution and his "blood-line" explanation of human "progress" reveals a Biblical view, not a Darwinian view. He did, however, at times express ideas, not from Darwin, but rather from Herbert Spencer's concept of Social Darwinism, which has little to do with natural selection and served as an adjunct to his already established religious views. Spencer's Social Darwinism tried to connect Darwin's biological theory with the field of social relations. The result of Social Darwinism resulted in many eugenics programs that began in America and adopted by the Nazis. [Note that Darwin never expressed the idea that natural selection could extend from biological systems to social systems.]
Hitler best sums up his belief of Aryan superiority and his stand against the Jews with his declaration in Mein Kampf:
"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.."
Nor can Christains accuse the Nazis of promting Darwinism or claim that the Holocaust came as a result of Darwinist thinking. In fact, the Nazi Germans banned writings about Darwinist philosophy. The Lists of Banned Books, 1932-1939 included the banning of:
"Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel)." [translated]
"All writings that ridicule, belittle or besmirch the Christian religion and its institution, faith in God, or other things that are holy to the healthy sentiments of the Volk." [translated]
Myth 4: Hitler followed Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy
If Hitler followed Nietzschian philosophy or even admired his work, then where does he describe him or his philosophy?
Nowhere in Mein Kampf does Hitler even mention Nietzsche, or Nietzchian terms such as superman (uberman), or super race. Of course Hitler did think the Aryan's represented a superior race to the Jews, but never in Nietzchian terms.
Note that Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau invented the theory of the superior Aryan race in the 1800s in his book, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. Gobineau believed that racial mixture would bring about the decline of "superior" peoples. Gobineau influenced Richard Wagner (beloved by Hitler), and Houston Stewart Chamberlain (whom Hitler read and met), both of who influenced early National Socialism (and both mentioned in Mein Kampf). Popular in Germany in the 1900s, many Germans accepted Gobineau's ideas and, no doubt, influenced Hitler either directly or indirectly. Moreover, Hitler's "superior" race ideas sound like a combination of Biblical race laws and Gobineau's Aryan race ideas, but not at all like Nietzsche.
Nor does it make sense that the Christian Hitler would admire an atheistic Nietzsche. Hitler loathed atheism. In his writings and speeches, he admonished atheists. For example:We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out. -Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Berlin on 24 Oct. 1933
Perhaps the most notorious misrepresentation of connecting Hitler and Nietzsche came from a photo-op of Hitler visiting the Nietzsche archive. Many have incorrectly believed that Hitler visited the archive on his own volition. Not so. The photo-op idea came from Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster, a wealthy Nazi supporter, who established the Nietzsche Archive in 1933, It was she who invited Hitler (after much persuasion) to visit the archive for publicity purposes. Hitler visited the archive to appease Nietzsche's anti-Semite sister. The event appeared in the German newspapers and William Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) briefly mentioned the event as if Hitler often visited the archive because he admired Nietzsche. Shirer probably got his information from the German propaganda article rather than from the facts of the event. (Note, scholars have criticized Shirer for his lack of scholarship and poor source material.) Elisabeth Förster also misrepresented Nietzsche by making her brother look like an anti-Semite and a proto-Nazi (Nietzsche's philosophy had little resemblance to the National Socialist German Workers' Party). Unfortunately many Germans fell for the Nietzsche-Nazi connection including many members of the Thule society.
The pre-Nazi Thule society began in the early 1900s. Rudolf von Serbottendorff became the driving force of this order which practiced occultism and an admiration of Nietzsche. Many members of the Thule society later became Nazis and did influence Nazi literature. However, Hitler never showed any interest in the Thule cult or in its pagan practices.
Anyone who uses such material to justify a Hitler-Nietzsche link simply lacks historical depth (laziness of research) and has no understanding of Hitler.
Let's face it; Hitler showed no philosophical sophistication. If any philosopher had an influence on him, it probably came from Schopenhuer (which he does briefly mention in Mein Kampf). Hans Frank, Hitler's personal lawyer, recalled that Hitler carried a copy of Schopenhauer's World as Will and Representation with him throughout World War I, but Hitler never revealed any appreciation of Friedrich Nietzsche or his philosophy.
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