A Christian Atheist?
In the afternoon of 12 March 1938 Adolf Hitler crossed the border from Germany into Austria at his birthplace of Braunau, to mark completion of the Anschluss; the annexation of Austria into the “Greater Germany”. He went on to Vienna, where his first visit was to the Hofburg Museum, where one exhibit was Spear of Longinus, also known as the Spear of Destiny, which was claimed to be the actual spear with which a Roman legionary pierced the body of Jesus as he hung upon the cross. Hitler had been obsessed with the spear since he was a boy. Legend had it that whoever possessed the spear had miraculous powers and would be able to rule the world. It had changed hands down the centuries by various European leaders before coming into possession of the Hapsburg dynasty, who had passed it to the Hofmusuem. Hitler took possession of the spear and had it sent to Nuremburg, his spiritual home of the Nazi dream.
In the debate between atheists and theists there are constantly claims that Adolf Hitler was either a Christian or an atheist, with quotes from the Nazi dictator being thrown up by both sides as evidence
of their arguments.
The atheist will argue from quotes such as those found in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf (My Struggle), such as, “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a
fighter.” The Christian will often counter with quotes such as, “National Socialism and religion cannot exist together…. The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew.” (12 July 1941). Both of these above quotes clearly show that both camps have legitimate claims, and yet both camps are mistaken.
Hitler was born into a Christian family and brought up as a staunch Roman Catholic, of that we can have no doubt. Yet the impression that the Spear of Longinus made upon him as a child was already showing an interest in the occult which was to stay with him all his life. As a corporal in World War I, Hitler claimed that he his life was once saved by a voice which said it would save his life. He claimed that he ran and turned left as the voice commanded, thereby narrowly missing being in the blast of a 200lb shell which wiped out the rest of his unit.
Some atheists have disputed Hitler’s interest in the occult but it is too well documented to dismiss. The Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei itself had many members who were occult obsessed and the Nazi swastika itself was a corruption of the Jainist swastika which is in fact a symbol of good luck and wellbeing, although it has origins which go much further back. It was adopted by the Nazi party in 1920 as the symbol of the Aryan race, whom the Nazis had a mythological belief as being the “master race” of white supermen from whom the German peoples were descended. When one considers that Adolf Hitler was a founder member of the Nazi Party, we can only conclude that he firmly shared these beliefs, which are hardly compatible with Christian theology by any stretch of the imagination. In 1933 it was Hitler who had the swastika turned 45 degrees to form the official symbol of Nazi Germany.
Some may point out that in the Night of the Long Knives, 30 June – 2 July 1934, when opponents of Hitler were killed in political murders, the remaining members of the occult-obsessed Thule Society, who formed the idea of the German master race, were wiped out. However, many astrologers were allowed to continue their practices unabated, despite the fact that the Nazi Party by this time was the sole party of a state which was already coming down hard on all who did not share its ideology. That Hitler, as head of the Nazi state took any actions against them speaks for itself. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, dedicated to remembering the holocaust and hunting down surviving Nazi suspects, certainly believes that Hitler was influenced by the occult. They cite Hitler’s interest in Theosophy, a system of esoteric philosophy concerning presumed mysteries of being and nature, and quote Hitler and his twisted understanding of Theosophy’s founder, Madame Helena Blavatsky, on race root (please note that neither Madame Blavatsky did not believe in racial purity, nor do modern day Theosophists);
“Two worlds face one another-the men of God and the men of Satan. The Jew is the anti-man, the creature of another god. He must have come from another root of the human race. I set the Aryan and the Jew over against each other; and if I call one of them a human being I must call the other something else. The two are as widely separated as man and beast. Not that I would call the Jew a beast. He is much further from the beasts than we Aryans. He is a creature outside nature and alien to nature.” (Herman Rauschning, Hitler Speaks)
On 2 November 1939 a Swiss Astrologer living in Berlin, Karl Ernst Krafft, wrote to his friend Heinrich Fesel, who was on the staff of Heinrich Himmler, that Hitler’s life would be in danger between 7 – 10 November. A bomb exploded in the Munich Beer Hall on 8 November, just minutes after Hitler had left. Fesel sent a telegram to Rudolf Hess with Krafft’s prediction. Krafft was arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. However, the prediction was passed further up the line and on his release Krafft was put to work for the Propaganda Ministry of Joseph Goebbels, mainly translating the Prophecies of Nostradamus, mainly to give a pro-Nazi slant upon them. Krafft never met Hitler but he did once pass a personal horoscope to one of his aides. To believe that Hitler, who would fly into a rage if anyone as much as lit a cigarette in his presence, were against the occult and did not act upon anyone writing a personal horoscope for him is to stretch credulity to the limit. In the event, it was only when Rudolf Hess, the largest Nazi occult believer of all, flew to Scotland in 1941 that Hitler ordered a crackdown upon occultists and astrologers. Krafft was not however executed. He was sent to prison for a year but even there was put in charge of writing horoscopes of Allied leaders. He then wrote a prophecy that the Propaganda Ministry would be bombed, and when this happened, his written prophecy was presented as evidence of treason. He was kept in foul conditions, contracted typhus and died in a train bound for Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.
Even if one were to discount the occult connections completely, it still leaves the mythology upon the Nazi ideal was built, and which Adolf Hitler certainly believed it. Despite his claims in Mein Kampf that his movement was not to be built upon Volkish ideas, culture and tradition, the very idea of the Third Reich, which was supposed to last a thousand years, led by a tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan master race is completely out of folk tradition and mythology. To believe that Hitler would head up a party while not believing in it is about as likely as an African becoming the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Nazi ideology was the bizarre bastard offspring of far eastern esotericism and Germanic/Nordic folk traditions and culture. And there was even room for Christianity in this mix. Among many other works which influenced Hitler was Foundations of the Nineteenth Century by Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1899), a Christian racialist tract which is regarded as one of the most important antecedants of Nazi ideology. From this work Hitler took his belief that Jesus Christ was not a Jew but the first fighter against the Jews (taking this from the overturning of the money changers). The Nazi state took this further and actually claimed that Jesus was himself an Aryan. Furthermore, the Bible was accommodated by throwing out the Old Testament completely on the grounds that it was a “Jewish book”.
Adolf Hitler therefore cannot be seen as a serious Christian. He was certainly ready to court the support of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches within Germany and use them to his own ends. He was not however the first or last to do so. Perhaps the closest parallel we have had in modern times was Saddam Hussein, whose Ba’athist regime in Iraq ran a secular “socialist” state, and who drank, gambled and womanised but was all too ready to pay lip service to his Sunni Muslim roots when he needed public support. Even in Hitler’s end, we see that he could not have been a serious Roman Catholic. As a Catholic friend of mine pointed out, to commit suicide in 1945 would have still been a horrendous sin in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, and one which would have condemned the person to Hell for all eternity.
Neither however was Hitler an atheist. He was head of a state based completely in bizarre occult and eastern mythology with a smattering of twisted Christianity thrown in for good measure. We need not even give credence to any idea that the Führer of a state he firmly believed would last a thousand years did not share these beliefs. Hitler undoubtedly believed in a God, and therefore cannot seriously be described as an atheist. SS belt buckles may have carried the motto “Gott mit Uns” (God is with us), it is the God they and Adolf Hitler followed which is open to debate.
In the final estimation, I feel that both the Christian and atheist camps give too much credence to a psychotic totalitarian bent on world domination and killing anyone who stood in his way of that. In doing so I would argue that both camps do a gross disservice to their respective arguments and that is an irrelevance to the argument over whether God believes or not in any case.