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een1981's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by een1981

Sorry, but this speech contains a one-sided apologetic version of Hitler and Nazism's attitude to Christianity with selective use of evidence. I'm posting a smattering of evidence to show it's far more complex than that.

As historians of the Third Reich know, there is a mountain of primary sources showing the persecution of the churches that begged to differ from Nazi policies. Try, for example -

The ridiculous Nazi Protestant Reichskirche may have believed "Gott Mit Uns" but it also rejected the Old Testament, and dismissed pastors who wouldn't preach the Nazi-sanitised racist version of Christianity. Some sang hymns to Hitler, who was presented as Germany's redeemer and messiah. This is akin to atheists actually worshipping Kim Il-Sung, which happened in North Korea as Marxism transformed into Juche. Of course that makes them something other than atheists, in the same way that accepting these Nazified perversions of Christianity that put social Darwinism (the racist theory that had nothing to do with Darwinism) "über alles" made people something other than Christians.

Those who resisted this wildly twisted version of Christianity, the Confessing Churches, declared independence with the Barmen declaration in 1935 and became part of the German resistance. Leaders like Bonhoeffer and Niemöller were executed or sent to concentration camps.

Benedict’s predecessor, Pius XII, is not guiltless, as the Catholic writer John Cornwell devastatingly showed, in his book Hitler’s Pope.

Cornwell's biography of Pius XII is not "devastating" as it has been heavily criticised as a source. He has said himself "While I believe with many commentators that the pope might have done more to help the plight of the Jews, I now feel, 10 years after the publication of my book, that his scope for action was severely limited and I am prepared to state this"

Some Catholics did stand up to the Nazis. One of Pius XII's first acts was to publish an attack on racism; Pius XI's 1937 encyclical, addressed to the "German Reich", was an attack on racism, the "blasphemy" of the Nazi state, and expressed concern over the direction of the state since the 1933 Reichskonkordat. This was read in every Catholic church in Germany on the same day, and resulted in large numbers of arrests and a state-censored media blackout. Catholics were executed for distributing the Bishop of Munster's sermons. Catholics were murdered, sometimes en masse, in occupied countries.

Dawkins has slightly toned down his language about the everyday Germans here, but elsewhere, he accused "rank and file Christians" of the "attempted extermination of the Jews". No, the concentration camps were run by the SS, and the death squads (Einsatzgruppen) were SS. The SS were steeped in Nazi ideology that believed the Aryans to once have been rulers of the world (hence the archaeological expeditions). They were at least, as historians like Michael Burleigh have said, anticlerical. Their leader, Himmler, was in the Thule society (think a Nazi Atlantis).

As for Hitler, I don't believe he was an "atheist" either, but notice every reference but two on the list Dawkins posted is for public consumption (Mein Kampf/speeches/radio broadcasts). One is from Rauschning, who published a discredited book with fabricated conversations with Hitler and is rejected as a source by historians like Ian Kershaw. Like American presidential candidates today, it's political suicide NOT to pretend you share the belief of the majority of the electorate, if you actually don't. So of course Hitler endorsed "positive Christianity". He just redefined it into something acceptable to his "scientific" racist beliefs. As some sources (like Traudl Junge and some leaders' diaries) show, Hitler's public pronouncements on matters and his private views are different.

History is not black and white and shouldn't be reduced to convenient polemics.

Sun, 19 Sep 2010 15:53:50 UTC | #521297