I dove into reading scholarly books because of the atheist claims that "Hitler was a Catholic" or "Hitler was a Christian." After reading Richard Stegman-Gall's "Holy Reich" and Susan Heschel's "The Aryan Jesus" and Kevin Spicer's "Resisting the Third Reich" and Hubert Wolf's "Pope and Devil" and Derek Hastings' "Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism.", my conclusion is that the truth is far more complicated and far more interesting.
Hitler was a political opportunist who was willing to adopt any pose necessary to advance his true mission - his god, as it were - namely, his vision of the destiny of hte German people and his role in that destiny. Nazism started out in Catholic Bavaria as a political party within the cultural and religious Catholicism of the region. This phase lasted for only a few years - perhaps three to five prior to the Munich Putsch. Shortly before, the putsch, Hitler decided that his future lay in breaking out of the minority status that being a "Catholic" regional party would consign the National Socialists to, and he formed an alliance with arch-anti-Catholic Erich Ludendorff and emerged onto the national stage.
From that point on, Nazism decisively broke with the traces of political Catholicism. Priests were no longer welcome in the Nazi party, Jesuits and "political Catholicism" were linked into a triumverate of all things that were not German, including Jews and Marxists, and the Nazis turned to Protestantism as the sect it favored. Hitler identified Luther and Frederich the Great of Prussia as model heroes of the German nation, something which appealed to Protestants and was a bete noir to Catholics. Protestant pastors and devout Protestants joined the Nazi party in droves. On the other hand, the Catholics who joined were lapsed Catholics, such Himmler and Hitler himself.
The broad logic of this was that Protestantism in Germany was inherently nationalistic in a way that Catholicism with its ultramontane allegiance to an Italian Pope could never be. A Nazi party member could be a pious Protestant in a way that he couldn't be a devout Catholic. Thus, Hermann Goering could claim to be a "good Lutheran" up to the time of his death; Catholics like Himmler, on the other hand, apostized early in their career, and sought more outre religious options, like paganism or occultism or other weird made-up beliefs.
The "Protestant option" came with a price, and that price was remodeling Protestantism into a bizarre version of Christianity as if it had been envisioned by a bad science fiction writer. Thus, the Nazi "German Christian" version of Protestantism stripped the Old Testament out of the Bible, envisioned Jesus as the first Anti-Semitic warrior against the Jews, demanded that Christians of Jewish descent be barred from being pastors and segregated within the local churches, and re-wrote Christian Hymns.
The stripping of the Old Testament from the canon sparked the revolt of Confessing Church, led by of Martin Niemoller, who was a member of the Nazi party, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was not.
Eventually, Hitler and the Nazis, particularly the evil atheist Martin Bormann decided Martin Bormann decided that the Protestant option, even mediated through an "L. Ron Hubbard-like" fantasy filter was too much trouble. After the war, all of the Christian sects would be broken by the policies that were being implemented against Catholicism.
So, was Hitler a Catholic? Was he a Christian? The answer would seem to be: What year are you talkng about? And, it depends on what you mean by Christian.
The clear arc of the Nazi program was anti-Christian insofar as Christianity was an institution or belief system that could oppose the totalizing program of National Socialism. If it could be modified, castrated, mutated and then incorporated into Nazism, then they were "Christians" of the religion they invented. If not, they weren't.
But Christianity isn't something that can be re-invented like that. It has a tradition, history and core text. In Christ, there is no gentile or Jew, said Paul. That the Nazis got as far as they did is amazing, but there were limits after which Christianity was not Christian, and those limits had been reached in the early '30s.
Modern atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens can make the claim that the Nazis were Christian, but that mistake was not made by Christians of the period. No Pasarin points out that Christians of the period lived through a "War on Christmas" that was like no other:
The alleged link between Christianity and Nazism is quickly debunked by a few seconds' thought. Think about it, indeed: how many times, in how many World War II books, in how many documentaries with 1940s footage, have you seen pictures — whether fake poses deliberately prepared for propaganda purposes or simply "innocent", matter-of-fact news shots — of Adolf Hitler or any high-level Nazi official in silent (Christian or other) prayer? Hands joined and/or eyes closed with head down?I think a fair point to thinking about history is to ask, "what did the people living at the time think was happening?" It seems apparent that outside observers, like William Shirer, saw paganism in Nazism, not Christianity.
How many times have you seen photos of Hitler, Himmler, Göring, Goebbels, or any SS member seated in a pew or even simply appearing inside a church?
That's right, it's like snapshots, or films, of ostriches sticking their necks in the sand: there ain't any.
Pictures of Nazis honoring traditional religion and religious traditions simply do not seem to exist.
(Unless, of course, the presence of the high-level Nazi inside or in front of a given church has nothing to do with religion per se. For instance, there may exist photos of der Führer in front of the Sacré-Cœur cathedral — just like when he poses at the Trocadéro with the Eiffel Tower in the background — but that is as a tourist visiting a foreign capital or, rather, as a war leader visiting a defeated city.)
Now, should the need for more confirmation really exist, we have the 75 Years Ago section in the International Herald Tribune.
It is edifying — to say the least.
Of course, another reason a Nazi leader might meet with a religious leader might be for reasons of diplomacy with an ally — but again, no pictures seem to exist with any Catholic priest or Protestant preacher, German or foreign1937 — ‘Neo-Pagans’ Target CarolsBERLIN — De-Christianization of famous German Christmas hymns, such as “Silent Night, Holy Night,” is the outstanding contribution to the current holiday season of the rapidly spreading German faith movement or “religion” of National Socialism. In the new versions of the old songs reference to Nazi tenets of race, blood and soil replace familiar words concerning Christ, Child and the like. The accepted English translation of Mohr’s “Silent Night,” stanza three lines two and three is: “The Son of God loves pure light, radiant beams from thy Holy faith.” Equivalent lines in the Nazified version are “German blood, O how laugh the lips of thy children, blessed with joy.”