Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hitler's Paganism

There is a tendency in some circles to portray Hitler and the Nazis as some perversion of Christianity. It is certainly the case that the Nazis took advantage of an existing, religious anti-Semitism that was present in Europe--and added a new Social Darwinist layer of racial anti-Semitism. Suddenly, it was not enough to be a convert to Christianity--the Nazis were obsessed about the corrupting effects of "Jewish blood."

It is also true that a fair number of Christians in Germany (both Protestant and Catholic) were seduced by the Nazi emphasis on family values, in opposition to the decadence of the Weimar Republic, which the Nazis characterized as the result of "Jewish cosmopolitanism." In private, the Nazis were hardly a family values bunch--and not just because of their propensity for violent attacks on their political enemies and on Jews. Ernst Roehm, head of the SA (Sturmabteilung) and most of his immediate subordinates in the SA were homosexuals.

Hitler resolved an internal power struggle between the SA and the German Army by arresting and killing Roehm and most of his top leadership. This became known as the Night of the Long Knives. Part of what made it so easy to get the SA leadership with little resistance is that many of them were caught in flagrante delicto with each other. Naked men having sex are generally not in the best position to defend themselves. Hitler pretended to be shocked and horrified by this--but I very much doubt that this was really a surprise.

There has been a long standing effort made to portray Hitler and the Nazis as devout Christians, for whom the Holocaust was simply a logical outgrowth of their Christian hatred of Jews. Yet most serious histories of the Third Reich acknowledge that Hitler held Christianity in considerable contempt, and that many of the SS leaders developed their own neopagan religion as an alternative to Christianity. I suspect that much of the misportrayal of Nazi religion comes from an effort to inoculate Jews in the United States from the longstanding and somewhat successful efforts to convert Jews to Christianity. As near as I can tell, my first ancestors in America named Cramer were converts from Judaism, as happened in large numbers in Germany in the nineteenth century.

Anyway, I am reading Saul Friedlaender's Nazi Germany and the Jews: 1939-1945, The Years of Extermination. There is a very interesting quote on page 17, discussing the first few months of World War II:
"We touch again upon religions issues," Goebbels noted on December 29. "The Fuehrer is profoundly religion but totally antichristian. He considere Christianity as a symptom of decline. Rightly so. It is a deposit [Ablagerung] of the Jewish race. One also notices it in the similarity of religious rituals. Both have no relation to animals and this will destroy them in the end."
It appears that Ablagerung is a bit stronger than just "deposit":
The process by which polluting material is precipitated from the atmosphere and accumulates in ecosystems.
The reference to animals had me a bit confused at first, but then I recalled Romans chapter 1, and wondered if this is what Goebbels meant:
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

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