The short answer is no. As we shall see, Hitler regarded the teachings of Christianity to be absurd and believed it would one collapse and fade away. His closest associates claimed Hitler was hostile to Christianity and the churches and that Germany would have been better off if it had been conquered by the Muslims.
This was well understood by the allied powers during WW2. A common rational for fighting the Nazis was the fear they would persecute people of religious faith. Such fears were justified from the known repression of churches experienced in Germany and the occupied territories during the war. The US government’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS – WW2 precursor to the CIA) documents this in document, The Nazi Master Plan, in Annex 4: the persecution of the Christian churches. (Also see this New York Times article, Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler’s Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity.) The same documents support the belief that the Nazi’s intended to eliminate Christianity after the war.
Colorful Nazi figures with idiosyncratic beliefs also lends credence to this perception of Hitler. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi SS, for example said:
We will have to deal with Christianity in a tougher way than hitherto. We must settle accounts with this Christianity, this greatest of plagues that could have happened to us in our history, which has weakened us in every conflict. If our generation does not do it then it would I think drag on for a long time. We must overcome it within ourselves. Today at Heydrich’s funeral I intentionally expressed in my oration from my deepest conviction a belief in God, a belief in fate, in the ancient one as I called him – that is the old Germanic word: Wralda.
This was in a speech to top leaders of the SS, June 9, 1942 Berlin (see Nazism; A History In Documents And Eyewitness Accounts, 1919 – 1945 by J. Noakes and G. Pridham (Schocken Books Inc, New York, First American Edition 1990, Page 498). Wralda is the supreme sky god and father in German and Celtic pagan belief.
Alfred Rosenburg, a well known and influential Nazi ideologue, provides another example. His thirty point plan for a new German Reich Church, well publicized in the US during WW2, called for the annihilation of the Christian faith, the replacement of the Bible with Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and the removal of all crosses replacing them with swastikas.
Not surprisingly in light of this background sometimes Hitler is called atheist! Given the notorious record of atheistic communist regimes in the 20th century it was not such a stretch to believe that Hitler was an atheist also.
A blogger who goes by the name itsnobody compiled some excellent research at the-historical-truth-about-nazism=and=christianity. He gives good evidence that “The historical consensus is that Nazism is either unrelated to Christianity or fundamentally opposed to Christianity.” He also give good evidence showing that the historical consensus is not Hitler was not a Christian. (The tone of his article is highly polemic, but that should not detract from the value of his research.)
However, there is another side to this story. We do know that Hitler and the Nazi’s prior to WWII promoted a form of Christianity they termed “Positive Christianity”. We have many quotes from Hitler’s speeches where he professes his belief in God and his “Christian faith”, and atheist bloggers have compiled a formidable set of these quotes. Perhaps the most popular site is http://www.nobeliefs.com/Hitler1.htm. The site author (Jim Walker) has done a commendable thorough job in compiling a whole series of relevant quotes. Here are two that the site quoted in the introduction perhaps because they may be the most definitive:
“Hence today 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.”
That quote (and a few others like it) are the occasion for many a popular internet atheist meme!
In another longer quote Hitler professes to be a Christian when he talks about his “feelings as a Christian”, call Jesus his “Lord and Savior”, refers to himself as a “Christian and a man”, etc.
Hitler clearly identifies himself as a Christian. It is also true that he never renounced his Catholic upbringing. He said as late as 1941, he says, “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so” [Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941] (Also from Jim Walker’s site).
All this has prompted some atheists to insist that Hitler was a devout Christian!
Here is what we know:
The consensus of scholarly research is that Hitler was not an atheist, but neither was he ever a Christian in any ordinary sense of the term. The Christianity that Hitler espoused prior to 1937 was deeply aberrant. It was a form of “Positive Christianity” that rejected core Christian beliefs, all of the Old Testament, most of the New Testament, and regarded the apostle Paul as a corrupter of the pure teachings of an Aryan Jesus who hated the Jews and was killed for it. After 1937, Hitler says nothing more publicly in support of Christianity while other Nazi leadership appear to be unleashed and permitted to speak out against Christianity.
All this is well documented in other places. The wikipedia entry on this subject is a good starting place. Kate Daley-Bailey has two helpful online articles. One explain’s the Nazi approach to Christianity in Nazi Christianities.
- The clear testimony of people who were close to Hitler is that Hitler despised Christianity. All this is also well documented and well known. I will show that testimony from three of Hitler’s closest associates; Albert Speer, Joseph Goebbels, and Otto Dietrich later in this article.
- Hitler in his private conversations repeatedly condemns Christianity. We have these conversations courtesy of Martin Bormann. He arranged to have transcriptions made of monologues delivered by Adolf Hitler that he gave from 1941 to 1944. These are published in Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941-1944. by Orbis Verlag, Hamburg, Approved Special Edition in 2000. These are also known as the Bormann-Vermerke, or “Bormann Notes”. I will gives quotes from these in the original German followed by a fresh translation of the passages into English. Since this is original to this article we will begin with this.
Hitler Condemns Christianity
Before we begin, bear in mind a few facts. First, the quotes I give below are not from Table Talk, the translation of the Bormann-Vermerke published in 1953 by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The credibility of the Trevor-Roper translation was cast in doubt as far as the internet was concerned by a peer-reviewed article by the Jesus mythicist Richard Carrirer published in German Studies Review in an article titled “Hitler’s Table Talk: Troubling Finds” (Vol. 26, No.3 Oct., 2003). Richard Carrier claims that the Trevor-Roper translation is “worthless.” In fact He did find at least two significantly different quotes from Table Talk that say something quite different than what we find in the original German and do not support claims Hitler rejected Christianity, but he seriously miss characterizes the remaining content. In a separate article, I will review his work and will argue for the prevailing view among scholars that Table Talk remains a useful resource in English, but one that must be used with some care. But Table Talk is not germane to this article.
Also, you will find that Internet atheists try their best to discount the credibility of even the original Bormann notes, but as we shall see, what Bormann writes is corroborated by the public testimony of others.
Some attempt to counter this evidence by offering an alternative narrative given in another set of memoirs, those of Otto Wagener in Hitler aus nächster Nähe. Aufzeichnungen eines Vertrauten 1929−1932 (known in English as Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant). His memoirs show a Hitler who was much more favorably disposed to Christianity. Note the years. Wagener’s contact with Hitler was cut off in June 1933! The fact that these memoirs were first written down in 1946 from Wagener’s memory gives reasons to question exactly how accurate are his quotes from Hitler, but I have no reason to dismiss them as inaccurate because they comport well with Hitler’s views prior to 1933 when he embraced “Positive Christianity”.
Second, both Bormann’s notes and the testimony from his close associates given here are all from the time period shortly before and during WW2. We need not dismiss Hitler’s many confessions of support for Christianity in the years prior to 1937, especially the early years, because his anti-Christian pronouncements all came much later. There is no reason to believe that Hitler’s earlier public pronouncements consisted entirely of lies regarding his religious beliefs.
All of the following quotes are from Adolf Hitler as found in the Bormann-Vermerke referenced by the date of entry:
Night of 11th-12th July, 1941:
Auf die Dauer vermögen Nationalsozialismus und Kirche nicht nebeneinander zu bestehen…. Der schwerste Schlag, der die Menschheit getroffen hat, ist das Christentum; der Bolschewismus ist der uneheliche Sohn des Christentums; beide sind eine Ausgeburt des Juden. Durch das Christentum ist in die Welt gekommen die bewußte Lüge in den Fragen der Religion; in gleicher Weise lügt der Bolschewismus, wenn er behauptet, die Freiheit zu bringen, während er nur Sklaven sehen will….Ohne das Christentum würde es keinen mohammedanismus gegeben haben; das römische Reich hätte sich unter germanischer Führung zur Weltherrschaft entwickelt und geweitet: Die Menschheit würde nicht um fünfzehnhundert Jahre in der Entwicklung zurückgeworfen worden sein. Man sage nicht: Das Christentum hat die Verinnerlichung gebracht. Die würde es auch so gegeben haben. Die Folge des Zusammenbruchs des römischen Reiches was das Nichts durch Jahrhunderte.
In the long run, National Socialism and Christianity cannot both persist together… The greatest blow that mankind has taken is Christianity; Bolshevism is the illegitimate child of Christianity; both are a spawn of the Jew. Through Christianity, the conscious lie has come into the world in questions of religion; in the same way, Bolshevism is lying when it claims to bring freedom, while it only wants to see slaves… Without Christianity, there would have been no Mohammedanism; the Roman Empire would have developed towards global dominance under Germanic leadership: Humanity wouldn’t have been thrown back by 1500 years in its development. One should not say: Christianity has brought an ennoblement or a cultivation of the inner life. That would have come about anyways, even without Christianity. The consequence of the collapse of the Roman Empire was Nothingness over many centuries.
10th October, 1941, midday:
Das Christentum ist Auflehnen gegen dieses Grundgesetz, Protest gegen die Schöpfung; konsequent durchgeführt, würde es zur Züchtung des Minderwertigen führen. (p. 76)
Christianity is a rebellion against this basic law, a protest against Creation; if it would be consistently applied, it would lead to the breeding of the inferior.
14th October, 1941, midday:
Am besten, man läßt das Christentum langsam verklingen; ein langsames Ausklingen hat auch etwas Versöhnendes in sich: Das Dogma des Christentums zerbricht vor der Wissenschaft. Die Kirche muß jetzt schon mehr und mehr Konzessionen machen. Tausend Dinge werden allmählich hinfällig. Es braucht nur noch der Nachweis geführt zu werden, daß das Anorganische und das Organische in der Natur ohne Grenze ineinanderüberfließen! Wenn erst einmal das Wissen um das Universum sich verbreitet, wenn der Großteil der Menschen sich klar darüber wird, daß die Sterne nicht Leuchtkörper sind, sondern Welten, vielleicht belebte Welten, wie die unsere, dann wird die Lehre des Christentums vöß [I checked, this must be “völlig”, RN] ad absurdum geführt.
The best would be let Christianity fade out slowly; a slow decay also has something conciliatory: The dogma of Christianity is breaking into pieces in light of science. Now already, the church has to make more and more concessions. Thousands of aspects [of the Christian dogma] are already gradually being invalidated. Now we just need the proof that the inorganic and the organic in nature are not essentially different, and that they are just different degrees on the same scale! Once the knowledge about the universe is disseminated, and once the majority of mankind will see that the stars are not just light sources but worlds, maybe populated worlds like ours, then the teachings of Christianity will be shown to be completely absurd.
…Das Christentum nun freilich hat den Gipfel aller Torheit erklommen. Deshalb wird eines Tages sein Gebäude gänzlich zerbrechen. Das Wissen hat heute schon die ganze Menschheit erfaßt. Je mehr sich das Christentum an das Dogma klammert, um so rascher wird es verglimmen
… Christianity of course has climbed the pinnacle of foolishness. Therefore one day, it’s structure will completely collapse. That is already common knowledge in all of mankind. The more Christianity is clinging to the dogma, the sooner it will fade away.
…Es erschiene mir unsagbar töricht, einen Wotanskult wieder erstehen zu lassen. Unsere alte Götter-Mythologie war überholt, war nicht mehr lebensfähig, als das Christentum kam. Es verschwindet immer nur, was reif ist unterzugehen! Die ganze antike Welt lebte damals lediglich noch in philosophischen Systemen und auf der anderen Seite in einem Götzenkult. Es ist nun aber auch nicht wünschenswert, daß die ganze Menschheit verblödet. Man kann sich deshalb vom Christentum nicht besser lösen als dadurch, daß man es ausklingen läßt.
…Das Christentum lügt.
…Wir werden dafür sorgen, daß die Kirchen keine Lehren mehr verkünden, die mit unseren Lehren in Widerspruch stehen. Wir werden weiter unsere nationalsozialistischen Lehren durchsetzen, und die Jugend wird nur mehr die Wahrheit hören.
… It would seem unspeakably foolish to try to resurrect the Wotan cult again. Our ancient mythology of the gods was outdated, no longer able to survive, when Christianity came. Only that will disappear, which is ripe for perishing! The entire ancient world was only living according to certain philosophical systems, or in idol worshipping cults. On the other hand we can also not wish that mankind in its entirety will fall into stupidity. Therefore, one cannot get rid of Christianity in a better way than to slowly let it fade out.
… Christianity is lying.
… We will make sure that the churches will not proclaim any teachings anymore which are in contradiction to our doctrine. We will continue to enforce our National Socialistic doctrine, and the young people will only get to listen to the truth.
19th October, 1941, night:
Daß die antike Welt so schön, so heiter und unbeschwert war, erklärt sich daraus, daß sie von zwei Seuchen verschont geblieben ist: der Syphilis und dem Christentum!
The fact that the ancient world was so beautiful, so cheerful and unburdened can be explained by the fact that it had been untroubled by two plagues: Syphilis and Christianity!
21st October, 1941, midday:
Das Christentum war alles zerstörender Bolschewismus. Dabei hat der Galiläer, den man später Christus benannte, etwas ganz anderes gewollt. Er war ein Volksführer, der gegen das Judentum Stellung nahm. Galiläa war sicher eine Kolonie, in welcher die Römer gallische Legionäre angesiedelt haben, und Jesus war bestimmt kein Jude. Die Juden nannten ihn ja auch einen Hurensohn, den Sohn einer Hure und eines römischen Soldaten.
Die entscheidende Verfälschung der Lehre des Jesus kam durch Paulus. Er hat raffiniert die Lehre des Galiläers für seine Zwecke umgefälscht und ausgewertet.
Christianity was an all-destructive Bolshevism. And that even though the Galilean whom one later called Christ actually wanted to achieve something completely different. He was a leader of the nation who took a stand against Judaism. Galilee certainly was a colony in which the Romans had stationed Gallican legionnaires, and Jesus certainly was not a Jew. The Jews called him a son of a prostitute, the son of a whore and a Roman Soldier.
The decisive corruption of the teachings of Jesus was by Paul. He cleverly corrupted and misused the teaching of the Galilean for his own purposes.
…vergleichen mit dem, was die bolschewistische Unterwelt damals in den Katakomben als neue christliche Kultur brachte. Damals Zerstörung aller Bibliotheken, und heute sehen wir in Rußland das gleiche: ein Herabdrücken auf ein ganz niedriges, allen gleiches Niveau. Damals und bis in das Mittelalter hinein die fürchterlichsten Folterungen, Marterungen und Verbrennungen im Namen des Christentums, und heute das gleiche im Namen des Bolschewismus. Aus dem Saulus wurde ein Paulus und aus dem Mardochai ein Karl Marx.
Wenn wir diese Pest ausrotten, so vollbringen wir eine Tat für die Menschheit, von deren Bedeutung sich unsere Männer draußen noch gar keine Vorstellung machen können. (p 96,99)
… compared with what the Bolshevist underworld at that time brought forth as a new Christian culture in the catacombs. At that time there was a destruction of all libraries, and today we see the same in Russia: a reduction to a very low standard, shared by everyone. Back then and until the Middle Ages, the worst kind of tortures, excruciations and incinerations were done in the name of Christianity, and today the same is being done in the name of Bolshevism. Saul became a Paul, and Mordechai became a Karl Marx.
When we eradicate this pestilence, we will do a service to mankind, the importance of which our people out there cannot even imagine yet.
14th December, 1941, midday:
Minister Kerrl wollte im edelsten Sinne eine Synthese herstellen zwischen Nationalsozialismus und Christentum. Ich glaube nicht, daß das möglich ist; der Grund liegt im Christentum selbst. … Das reine Christentum, das sogenannte Urchristentum, geht auf die Wahrmachung der christlichen Theorie aus: Es führt zur Vernichtung des Menschentums, ist nackter Bolschewismus in metaphysischer Verbrämung.
Secretary (minister) Kerrl was attempting to create a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity, in the noblest sense. I do not think that that is possible; the reason lies in Christianity itself. … The pure Christianity, the so-called Christianity of the Apostolic age (“Urchristentum”), aims to implement Christian theory: It leads to the destruction of mankind, it is pure Bolshevism with a metaphysical embellishment.