Hitler’s Faith and the Church’s Contribution to Nazi Rule

UPDATE: Part 2 of this article, containing my concluding remarks has been posted.

Without centuries of Christian antisemitism, Hitler’s passionate hatred would never have been so fervently echoed. Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury

Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years’ pre-history of ‘Christian’ anti-Judaism…” Hans Küng

Attributing Hitler’s actions to his Christian belief’s is a common argument heard in anti-religion/anti-christian circles. At the same time, claiming that Hitler was an atheist/Darwinist and that his actions were a direct result of his lack of belief is used widely by Christian apologists to prove how dangerous atheism/Darwinism is.

Both these views, and let me say this without mincing of words, are ill-informed, unscientific and to a large extent dishonest. Nicely said, they don’t examine the issue sufficiently before drawing conclusions, and therefore reflect more on inherent biases than facts.

Hitler's faith and the Church

Hitler was likely a psychopath or someone with an anti-social personality disorder.[ 1]. His ideologies and beliefs varied over time and were an amalgamation of many, often conflicting, ideologies. He had no single religion, did not believe in conventions of morality and showed no signs of remorse. He was as close to a monster a human being can become. He used whatever tool, ideology, politics and misinformation he could to manipulate people into buying his murderous intents[2, 3]. He was also, later in his life a drug addict, with expected effects on his brain.

Anyone who is familiar with methods in historical research will know that historical figures attract rumors, fables and myths like honey does ants. Research is further confounded by the fact that most of the people close to Hitler were inveterate liars, and had absolutely no moral compass so would not hesitate to make up stories and pass them off as the truth.

In spite of all this, I believe that a fairly accurate picture of Hitler’s motivations is emerging. To begin with, I think it is sufficiency clear that he was raised a catholic and his up bringing had some influence in his views about Jews. Jews were second class citizens in Germany and the leader of the protestant reformation in Germany, Martin Luther was an avowed Anti-Semite.[4] Christianity has a long history of persecuting Jews, from as early as the time of the church fathers, many of whom including Justin Martyr and Augustine espoused the “Jews are Jesus killers” ideology.[5] But it is also clear that as Hitler’s antisemitism grew stronger, his faith in anything else grew weaker. By the time he was the Fuhrer, he was not a devout anything, except Nazi. He was a megalomaniac and considered no one, natural or supernatural to be better, greater or smarter than himself. But he used religion very effectively to promote his ideas. He used the passivity and opportunism of the Christian churches, as well as the underlying antisemitism very effectively to come to power and take total control of the state [6].

History: How Events unfolded

Till the First world war, protestants were the dominant political force in Germany, however after the war, the catholic church and the “Center Party” that was formed by the church were increasing in power. This alarmed protestants very much as they saw the “danger of Rome” looming and before the days of his ascension to Chancellor, protestants were very much in love with Hitler, as he was seen as the only opposition to the power of Rome as well as the evil of communism, as the catholic church had started to flirt with socialism.[7], [8] Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, with blessings from the centre party and 15 days later, Pope Pius XI, signed a Concordat (Treaty) with the German Reich [9]

According to the concordat, the catholic church was given recognition to function independently, but also that the bishops and clergy would function in accordance with the rules of the Reich. [10] But very soon after Hitler took on power and became a dictator, both the catholic and the protestant Churches realized that he was least interested in allowing them to continue in their positions of power. Through a series of smart moves, Hitler successfully dethroned both the protestant theologians and the catholic clergy from the position of power and installed his own men and spread a very convoluted Nazi Christianity.[11]

Hitler’s only aim was to take total control, and after he had wooed the churches into placing him into this position of power, he placed his hand-picked people in charge of churches, who preached a Nazi or Aryan supremacist version of the Bible. Needless to say, while this movement picked up a lot of momentum and was very powerful, its teachings had little or no semblance to Christian teaching. These leaders also replaced a lot of christian rituals with Nazi rituals, slowly but powerfully abducting the church for its political and social power.

Not all of the church that took this in the stride, there was a significant minority who opposed every stop of the national socialist movement, these were the “professing Christians” as Bonhoeffer calls them. One such group was Pastors’ Emergency League founded by Martin Niemöller in 1933. This group got together in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934 and issued what is known as the Theological Declaration of Barmen. It was written by the theologian Karl Bath. The declaration was an appeal to evangelical Christians in Germany to realize the danger of Hitler’s intentions and the growth of the “German Christian” movement which had replaced the bible with the Mein Kampf and was preaching a perverted Nazi-Christ. [12]

In Part 2 We will look at a bit about Hitler’s Beliefs and some concluding thoughts about religion and violence

In case you wish to read the 2 part article in one go, here it is in a PDF that you can download.

References and Further Reading

1 A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler His Life and Legend Walter C. Langer

2, 3Hitler on propaganda, War and Propaganda, from Mien Kampf

4Martin Luther and “The Jews” A Reappraisal by Dr. Christopher Probst

5Christianity and Anti semetism, Wikipedia.

6 The Holocaust: What Was Not Said Martin Rhonheimer

The Protestant churches in Nazi Germany – Garnet Peet

GERMAN CHURCHES AND THE NAZI STATE, United states Holocaust museum.

9 Full text of the concordat

Oath required of German bishops by the Nazi-Vatican concordant – In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interest of the German Reich, I will endeavor to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it.

Official statement by Catholic Bishops on Catholics and the new regime –
The episcopate believes it can cherish the confidence that the designated general prohibitions and warnings need no longer be considered necessary. For Catholic Christians, to whom the voice of the church is sacred, it is not necessary at the present moment, to make special admonition to be loyal to the lawful government and to fulfill conscientiously the duties of citizenship, rejecting on principle all illegal or subversive behavior.

The Protestant church and the Third Reich

12 The Protestant Church in Hitler’s Germany and the Barmen Declaration by Paul Kroll, You can find the full text of the declaration here

The Parable of dead bodies: Looking at the Food Security Bill

The Parable

Anand Philip on the parable of dead bodies and the food security act
By Great Beyond

When the villagers of Utopia woke up that morning, they found that the current had washed up a dozen or so dead bodies on their river bank. The people quickly got to action, as was normal for Utopians. Frogmen helped by the fire department dragged the bodies ashore, the mayor decided they would be cremated outside the city, the Doctor examined them and concluded that they died of nothing contagious and the priest performed their last rites.

Unfortunately, it was not to be a one time event. The next morning, and then the morning after that and in the mornings after that morning, the barrage of bodies continued. While the frogmen and priests and other workers pitched to get the bodies out and disposed, the city council gathered to ponder upon the matters.

After much philosophizing about what the dead bodies stood for, who they were, whose fault it was and which department should handle them, it was unanimously agreed that the poor souls deserved dignity. The council wrote to the king, known for his big heart, consulted his circle of elders and granted them a nearby wasteland to create a crematorium for the dead, and a fat purse for funding.

Soon it was noticed that picking up bodies in the morning was creating traffic jams and so the mayor decided to launch a technologically advanced boat patrol that would scour the river as it entered their territory and pick up the bodies as they arrived.

The boat workers then started settling near the river, as it was easier for them to go home that way, and with the increased traffic of the boats, the river port could no longer be used for fishing and other usual purposes. The mayor therefore sanctioned that building of a new port, a bit upstream from where the bodies were being found.

As time went by, new problems would arise but Utopians fixed them all as they had done so far. For his astute handling of the situation, and creation of hundreds of new jobs as boats men, crematorium workers, traffic wardens, and what not, the mayor was re elected. For the hard work, solidarity and greatness of heart of the people of Utopia, their King granted them the status of a City and they lived happily ever after.

Problem: Hunger and Malnutrition

India, hunger, free food, malnutrition
by juicyrai

Depending on which source fits you best, anywhere from 28%1 to 80%2 of Indians live in poverty. The real figures are vigorously debated, and the National Advisory Council [NAC] has taken a value of 836 million- 77% of the Indian population as living with food insecurity- a figure they use interchangeably with the number of poor. These numbers fly in the face of common sense and other reliable studies but it clear that a large segment of the population- between 373 and 50% suffers from chronic malnutrition4. And a smaller – around 5% suffers from day-to-day hunger.

Deaths from acute malnutrition are declining rapidly as are the cases of acutely malnourished children. It is possible today for a medical student in a government hospital to pass out without ever seeing a single case of acute severe malnutrition. But chronic malnutrition remains a serious issue and the contributing factors are recurrent disease, chronic poverty5, lack of nutrients in food, lack of access to protein/vitamin rich sources, and peri-natal conditions like maternal nutrition, birth weight and breastfeeding and weaning practices.

Root causes:

  • Poverty
  • Lack of sanitation, access to clean water,
  • Bad farming practices and lack of agricultural reforms,
  • Corruption,
  • Persistence of historic marginalization.
  • Unemployment and wage exploitation in the unorganized labor sector.
  • Unexplained nutritional factors

What has been done:

  • — Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS).
  • — Kishori Shakti Yojna
  • — Nutrition Programme for Adoloscent Girls.
  • — Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls
  • — Mid-day Meal programme for schools
  • — Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
  • — National Rural Health Mission
  • — National Urban Health Mission
  • — Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna
  • — National Food Security Mission
  • — National Horticultural Mission
  • — Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission
  • — Total Sanitation Campaign
  • — Swarna Jayanthi Gram Rozgar Yojna
  • — Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme
  • — Targeted Public Distribution System
  • — Antyodaya Anna Yojna
  • — Annapoorna 6

[Note: This impressive list of interventions is a partial list only, there are other state specific and lapsed programs that are not included.]

Of these programs, the ones that have had the most money and effort put into them are those that have some form of subsidized distribution of food, medicines, or un-sustainable job creation.

Study after study has shown that at best the areas that need these the most, have a success rate of under 50% and at worst, almost no benefit has reached the intended targets7. Not just that, there is pilfering and hoarding, reselling to commercial markets and BPL cards and lists miss 50% of deserving an often include those APL.

What does this bill do?

  • Increase spending on food grain
  • increase allocation of Grain per family
  • Adds on bureaucratic processes with no accountability in the form of redress forums
  • Tries to make PDS leak proof, but retains structure and form almost entirely and allocates little for infrastructure.

The key fact being is none of this actually increases food security- only feeds those in hunger, if the food reaches them. These are inherently stop-gap measures, but with the lack of permanent solutions, this leaky PDS pot has persisted 60 years into independence.


  1. There are no bills in the parliament at present‭ ‬ address to resolve the root issues,‭ neither is the NAC doing anything at infrastructure or system level to address the root issues.
  2. The bill Ignores studies that show that the caloric intake of the poorest in India has reduced in-spite of increase in income. It 8equates hunger with poverty and malnutrition, though nowhere does it actually mention malnutrition. ‬The problem might not lie in access to food at all,‭ ‬but in quality of food,‭ ‬work levels,‭ ‬and other factors. which are not addressed at all.9
  3. Disregards the further strain it is going to place on farmers, who are already getting poor returns for their investments. 10

Surprisingly, some of the people who have shown these problems with the bill are on the NAC and are considered very influential.

The NAC, which is pushing the bill, seems to believe that if you pour water into a bucket with no bottom, as long as you keep pouring, you are doing the right thing.

Pouring money into a bucket with a hole
by Coltera

Back to the Parable.

‎Something struck you as odd didn’t it? Why did no one try find out where the dead bodies were coming from? Why did they not try stop the flow of the cadavers altogether? What use is it mopping up the blood if you do nothing to stop the bleeding?

This obvious logic has surprisingly eluded much of our policy makers and politicians, who continue to fish bodies out from the river, and make enemies of those who can help stop the killing.


Foot Notes

1Planning commission press release for poverty estimates 2005
5Chronic Poverty in India: Incidence, Causes and Policies AASHA KAPUR MEHTA World Development Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 491–511, 2003
8Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations” (EPW, 14. February 2009), Angus Deaton and Jean Dreze