Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Honor your Fuhrer and master

‘The Ten Commandments are a code of living to which there’s no refutation. These precepts correspond to irrefragable needs of the human soul; they’re inspired by the best religious spirit and the churches her support themselves on a solid foundation’

Adolf Hitler – Quoted in Table Talk (24th of October 1941) Von Rintelen in attendance

Having had an unhealthy obsession with the Third Reich for some time I have decided to do a series of posts on Adolf Hitler’s religious views as well as well as a broader discussion of Christianity and Nazi Germany. Whilst trawling through a number of sites in preparation for this, I came across a fascinating article about the discovery of a Nazi bible. The creation of this bizarre work was ordered by Adolf Hitler in order to replace the old and new testaments with something more conducive to Nazi Ideology. Hansjoerg Buss of the Nordelbischen Church Office discovered the book in an archive search. It had evidently been printed in 1941 by a company in Weimar and was shipped out to thousands of churches across Nazi-occupied Europe. For a long time, almost nothing was known about Hitler’s Bible, since believers burnt almost every copy. However, a few copies were discovered in German churches at the end of the 1980s, although their discovery was not widely reported.

Hitler’s plan was to gradually 'Nazify' the church beginning with a theological centre he set up in 1939 called ‘The Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Religious Life’. Walter Grundmann was appointed as its academic director and wrote in 1941, ‘The Bible must become Jew-free and the German people must see that the Jews are the mortal enemy who threaten their very existence’. The Institute, financed by a consortium of regional Protestant churches and receiving additional funds from church headquarters in Berlin, claimed to be a “research” organisation, but mainly just produced antisemitic propaganda. Its membership consisted of over 40 university professors, students of theology, bishops, ministers, and religion teachers, and its activities included frequent conferences as well as publications. Their brief was to 'cleanse church texts of all non-Ayran influences'. As the article notes:

‘Hymn books were also trawled and 'Ayranised' with no references to make the party elite balk during the few times they were ever likely to find themselves in a Christian church…At its height, a team of 50 worked on re-writing hymn books and the Bible.’

The bible alterations are interesting. The 10 commandments appear to have been extensively rewritten and two more added for good measure. These 12 commandments were listed as follows:

1. Honor your Fuhrer and master.
2. Keep the blood pure and your honor holy.
3.Honor God and believe in him wholeheartedly.
4. Seek out the peace of God.
5. Avoid all hypocrisy.
6. Holy is your health and life.
7. Holy is your well-being and honor.
8. Holy is your truth and fidelity.
9. Honor your father and mother -- your children are your aid and your example.
10. Maintain and multiply the heritage of your forefathers.
11. Be ready to help and forgive.
12. Joyously serve the people with work and sacrifice

The King James Bible is a little under 800 pages in paperback form. The Nazi 'Bible' was 750 pages, after the references to Jews had been banished and Nazi "improvements" added. In the new edition of the psalms, words of Jewish origin, such as messiah, Jehovah and halleluiah, were altered and the city of Jerusalem was referred to as Eternal City of God. The crucifixion of Jesus was presented as resulting from a battle he fought against the Jews. In the 1940 edition, the following words can be found:

“The Evangelical Jesus can only become the savior of our German people, because it does not incarnate the ideas of Judaism, but fights against them mercilessly’.

Finally, Jesus’ ancestors, according to the Nazis, came from the Caucuses, therefore there was no way that the savior could have been Jewish.

Hitler was well aware of arguments that were central to the Institute: that Jesus was an Aryan, and that Paul, as a Jew, had falsified Jesus’s message, themes he repeatedly mentioned in private conversations, together with rants against Christianity as a Jewish subversion of the Aryan spirit. Referring to the rewritten bible in a memorandum to the institute in Eisenach, he wrote ‘The book will have to serve the fight against the immortal Jewish enemy!".

On the theological level, the Institute achieved remarkable success, winning support for its radical agenda from a host of church officials and theology professors who welcomed the removal of Jewish elements from Christian scripture and liturgy and the redefinition of Christianity as a Germanic, Aryan religion. Members of the Institute worked devotedly to win the fight against the Jews. This took them to greater and greater extremes, abandoning traditional Christian doctrine in exchange for coalitions with neo-pagan leaders, and producing vituperative propaganda on behalf of the Reich’s measures. Their goal was to achieve a kind of second reformation by purification, authenticity, and theological revolution, all in the name of historical-critical methods and commitment to Germanness.

This effort to Nazify the Church appears to have only been a temporary charade. According to Ian Kershaw’s biography, by 1944, urged on by the hotheads in his party, Hitler appears to have resolved to destroy the churches after the war.

There would, he made clear, be no room in this utopia for the Christian Churches. After the trouble of the summer he had to take a line which appeased the party hotheads but also restrained their instincts. For the time being he ordered slow progression in the 'church struggle'. 'But it is clear', noted Goebbels, that after the war it has to find a general solution......there is namely an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a Germanic-heroic world view'.(Ian Kershaw, 'Hitler : Nemesis' p 449)

His later pronouncements followed the same theme.

It was necessary, commented Hitler, not to react to the seditious activities of the clergy; 'the showdown' would be saved for a 'more advantageous situation after the war' when he would have to come as 'the avenger'.(Ian Kershaw, 'Hitler : Nemesis' p 509)

He was determined, after their insidious behaviour, he said, doubtless playing here on the many compliments fed to him by Goebbels and the other Gauleiter, to destroy the Christian Churches after the war. (Ian Kershaw, 'Hitler : Nemesis' p 516)

Possibly some version of Christianity might have survived had the Nazis won the war and carried out their purge, but as the wartime activities of Grundmann’s institute show, it would have contained none of the most essential orthodox dogmas. What would have remained would have been the vaguest impression, combined with anti-Jewish prejudice and unquestioning worship of the Fuhrer and the Nazi state. In keeping with the Nazi approach to all areas of life in the Third Reich, the religious life of the nation was to be colonised completely by Nazi ideology. Hitler might have approved of the Ten Commandments, but then again he would do, he had them rewritten.

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