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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Protestants who supported Hitler

Let us look at three of the most distinguished German Protestant theologians--Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanual Hirsch. These men were highly respected, extremely erudite, uncommonly productive, and internationally known professors, each at a different, first-class university.

Professor Robert P. Erickson did an unusually comprehensive investigation of the three theologians' writings, utterances, and activities as they pertain to Nazism and the Jewish Question. He reports his findings in a book, Theologians Under Hitler. If anyone should know whether submission or opposition is demanded of the followers of the living Christ when confronted with a regime as totally reprehensible as that of the Nazis, surely it would be these theologians.

What conclusions did Erickson reach as to the stance of the three men who would be expected to exemplify the ultimate in the embodiment of those noble values that millions of Sunday school children are taught attach to Christian folk? They are grim:

"They each supported Hitler openly, enthusiastically, and with little restraint." In fact, they deemed it the Christian thing to do. They "saw themselves and were seen by others as genuine Christians acting upon genuine Christian impulses." Furthermore, all three tended "to see God's hand in the elevation of Hitler to power." Hirsch was a member of the Nazi party and of the SS. The Nazi state, he said, should be accepted and supported by Christians as a tool of God's grace. To Althaus, Hitler's coming to power was "a gift and miracle of God." He taught that "we Christians know ourselves bound by God's will to the promotion of National Socialism."

Kittel and a group of twelve leading theologians and pastors issued a proclamation that Nazism is "a call of God," and they thanked God for Adolf Hitler. Kittel was a party member and he himself proudly claimed that he was a good Nazi. He explains that he did not join it as a result of pressure or for pragmatic reasons but because he concluded that the Nazi phenomenon was "a völkisch renewal movement on a Christian, moral foundation." He accorded Christianity a place of honor in Nazi Germany precisely because of its position on the Jewish Question. He said he was speaking for other theologians too when he maintained that agreement with state and Führer was obedience to the law of God.

These theologians were drenched in anti-Semitism. For example, throughout the whole of the Nazi era, Kittel's writings, Erickson has determined, "correspond to and support Nazi politics, including all of the policies on the Jewish question, with the possible exception of genocide," but one is led to wonder. He never spoke out against extermination. Indeed, he actually propounded what was purported to be a theologically solid Christian justification for the oppression of the Jews, whom he referred to as "refuse."

Let me quote what a well know German Protestant Pastor at the time had to say about Hitler's regime "We again feel ourselves created beings. Profession and Social standing, race and nationality are today again being regarded by us as important facts!" . . . He goes on to tell his congregation about the "divine call in the (Hitler's) spiritual revolution which is beginning to take place throughout the whole of our nation" - (Pastor Neimoeller, The First Commandment, Pg. 58-59).

During the Nazi regime, the Protestant Church in general supported Hitler. The Protestant clergymen who wound up as inmates at Dachau were those who were anti-Nazi, such as the Reverend Martin Niemöeller, one of the founders of the Confessional Church. Other Protestant ministers who were incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp were Ernst Wilm and Kurt Scharf. Although there were far fewer Protestants who were persecuted by the Nazis than there were Catholics and Jews, Germany's Protestant Church has admitted using slave labour during World War II, and has pledged to pay compensation to Nazi victims. The admission came after revelations that Berlin church parishes set up a forced labour camp during the war, and used workers from mainly central and eastern Europe for tasks such as grave-digging. "This was complicity in a regime based on force and removed from the rule of law. We accept this guilt," said church council president Manfred Kock.

Again Peter F. Wiener in these regard confirms for us that that "After the Nazis came to Power, the Lutherans supported Hitler. To them the views as ordained by Luther was infinitely more important than the Church or Christianity". Again he tells us "When the people asked why the German people have never shown any sign of revolt against Hitler and his gang, I have usually referred my questioners to Luther, who was the first to say that even against the most unjust ruler the people have never a right to revolt." (Ibid, Pg. 87-88).

Let me conclude by quoting for the last time Mr. Peter F. Wiener "Throughout the Last war (WWI) and throughout the present one (WWII), the Germans have committed atrocities which are impossible to imagine by those who have merely read or heard about them. This is teaching hatred, but an undeniable though most unpleasant fact. Not once in either war has any section of the Lutheran clergy protested -- such as have the churches of Norway and other occupied counties where the Gestapo is at least as strong as inside Germany. With the exception of a few refugee pastors in Britain, I do not know of any section of the German Protestant Confessional Church whose pastors have refused to preach, to serve, to ordain and bless the atrocities and horrors committed by the German armies and their leaders. These facts are unpleasant and horrible. I maintain that we can understand them and explain them only if we look at the dark figure from whom the German Lutheran clergy has for four centuries taken their orders: Martin Luther" (Ibid, Pg. 98-99).

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