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Religion played a role in Nazi Germany but as with so many other


aspects of life in the state, religion became the property of the
government with the introduction of the Reich Church. While +Hitler had been brought up as a Roman Catholic, he rejected
Christian beliefs as an adult. He wrote in Mein Kampf that
antiquity was better than modern times because it did not know
Christianity and syphilis. Hitler also forwarded other reasons in
Mein Kampf as to why Christianity should be rejected.

1. It protected the weak and the low.

2. Christianity was Jewish and Oriental in origin and it forced people


to bends their backs to the sound of the church bells and crawl to
the cross of a foreign God.

3. Christianity began 2000 years previous among sick, exhausted


and despairing men who had lost their belief in life.

4. The Christian tenets of forgiveness of sin, resurrection and


salvation were plain nonsense.

5. The Christian idea of mercy was a dangerous idea and unGerman.

6. Christian love was a silly idea because love paralyzed men.

7. The Christian idea of equality protected the racially inferior, the


ill, the weak and the crippled.

Alfred Rosenberg was considered to be the Nazi Partys main


philosopher and he put his faith inPositiveChristianity. This replaced
the Oriental aspects of Christianity that Hitler disapproved of and
replaced them with positive aspects such as racialism, the
reintroduction of old Nordic values, the supremacy of the Aryan race
and the importance of the individual heroic figure. However, a great
deal of Positive Christianity as purported by Rosenberg came across
to Hitler as nonsense in itself and he did not shy away from telling
his inner circle such.

When Hitler became Chancellor on January 30th 1933, he took a


more pragmatic approach to the churches that existed in Germany
at the time. There were those in Nazi Germany who believed that
Hitler had, in fact, saved the various churches in Germany from
communism and in the early days of Nazism few church leaders
expressed an overt concern about Hitler.

On July 30th 1933, Hitler signed the Concordat with the Catholic
Church. He guaranteed the integrity of the Catholic Church and
agreed that it should have its rights and privileges protected. It was
made clear that as long as the Catholic Church kept out of politics it
would not be troubled.

In concluding the agreement, Hitler hoped to assure himself of an


atmosphere of confidence by impressing world public opinion. He
was deeply proud of his first diplomatic success (Louis Snyder)

However, the success he achieved with the Catholic Church was not
replicated with the various Protestant denominations in Germany.
They were more concerned about the planned replacement of
normal Christian values with those that included Blut und Boden
(Blood and Soil). In 1934, Professor Ernst Bergmann put forward his
ideas for a new German religion. Bergmann stated that:

1. The Old Testament and many parts of the New Testament were
not suitable for a new Germany.

2. Christ was a Nordic martyr who was put to death by the Jews.
Christ was a warrior whose death rescued the world from Jewish
dominance.

3. Adolf Hitler is the new Messiah sent to earth to save the world
from Jews.

4. The swastika should become the symbol of German Christianity.

5. The scared assets of German Christians were German land,


German blood, German soul and German art.

Either we have a German God or none at all. The international God


flies with the strongest squadrons and they are not on the German
side. We cannot kneel to a God who pays more attention to the
French than to us. We Germans have been forsaken by the Christian
God. He is not a just, supernatural God, but a party political God of
the others. It is because we believed in him and not in our own
German God that we were defeated in the struggle of the nations.

Christians within Nazi Germany and across the world were


horrified by these statements. German Protestants gathered around
the Confessional Church (Bekennniskirche), which worked to
maintain the purity of the Evangelical faith. The Confessional Church
refused to obey the Reich Bishop of the Reich Church and it declared
that Christian beliefs were incompatible with Nazi religious beliefs.
This put Confessional Church leaders in a dangerous position. Martin
Niemoeller was arrested for sedition. He was found not guilty on
many of the charges but was re-arrested and sent to a concentration
camp. Dr Karl Barth, a leading German theologian, was sacked from
his position as Professor of Theology at Bonn University because he
refused to start each lesson of with a Heil Hitler accompanied by a
Nazi salute. Dietrich Bonhoffer became part of the opposition
movement against Hitler.

The Concordat signed with the Catholic Church did not last long.
Once Hitler felt entrenched in power, he ordered Joseph Goebbels to
turn the Nazi propaganda machine against the Catholic Church.
Monks and nuns were accused of smuggling gold out of Germany
while priests were accused of immorality. The Archbishop of MunichFreising had to be given diplomatic status by the Papacy to save him
from arrest (he was made a Papal Legate). The concerns in Rome
were such that Pope Pius XI issued With Deep Anxiety. It accused
Hitler of treating Catholics in Germany in an inhumane manner and
breaking the terms of the Concordat.

June 2012