Title: The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945
Author: Richard Steigmann-Gall
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Reveals quotes and information not available elsewhere
Product of exhaustive research with primary documents in Germany
Sets the record straight on a number of serious issues
Exploration of how Nazis believed their ideology to be compatible with Christianity
Explains how Germans were able to blend Nazism and Christianity
Presents the truth of religious and political ideology of Nazi Germany
Traditional evaluation of Christian complicity in the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes focuses on the degree to which Christians allowed themselves to be used for Nazi purposes, but this presupposes a distinction between Nazis and Christians which did not entirely exist. Many Christians actively supported the Nazi agenda. Many Nazis were not only devout Christians, but also believed that Nazi philosophy was animated by Christian doctrine.
The Christianity promoted by the Nazis was labeled positive Christianity, a perspective that focused on the relationship between Christian promises of salvation and the German Volk as a special race of people. Point 24 of the NSDAP Party Program, created in 1920 and never rescinded, reads:
- We demand freedom for all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The party as such represents the standpoint of a positive Christianity, without owing itself to a particular confession. It fights the spirit of Jewish materialism within us and without us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our Volk can only take place from within, on the basis of the principle: public need comes before private greed.
How is all of this possible? How can the reality of the relationship between Nazism and Christianity be so far removed from popular perception? The truth about all this is detailed in Richard Steigmann-Galls book The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945.
Christians avert their faces from the true relationship between their religion and Nazism in part because the truth is difficult to bear, but also in part because they simply dont understand what Christianity was like in Germany at the time.
- Positive Christians may have said little or nothing about the Augsburg Confession or other signifiers of theological orthodoxy, but they nonetheless regarded Christian social theories "practical Christianity" as it was also known as a linchpin of their worldview. Although generally unconcerned with dogma, many of these Nazis nonetheless adhered to basic precepts of Christian doctrine most importantly the divinity of Christ as the son of God. Although they clearly departed from conventional theology in their rejection of the Old Testament and insistence on Christ's Aryanhood, they were not simply distorting Christianity for their own ends or engaging in idiosyncratic religious meandering. Only by ignoring the intellectual precedents for these ideas can we argue that positive Christianity was an infection of an otherwise pristine faith. Rather. These ideas found expression among bona fide voices of Kulturprotestantismus before the Nazi Party ever existed.
Although Christians today may find it implausible that religion as they practice it could have anything in common with Nazism, they need to recognize that Christianity including their own is always conditioned by the culture where one finds it. For Germans at the beginning of the 20th century, this meant that Christianity was often profoundly anti-Semitic and nationalistic. This was the same ground which the Nazis found so fertile for their own ideology it would have been amazing had the two systems not found a great deal in common and been unable to find a way to work together.
Germany after World War I was regarded as a godless, secular, materialistic republic which had betrayed all of Germanys traditional morals, values, and religious beliefs. An important aspect of the Nazis appeal to the great mass of religiously conservative Germans was the fact that they said all the right things about the evils of atheism, materialism, greed, corruption, law and order, communism, and religious values.