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Hitler's Religion (per Albert Speer)
May 12, 2020
by William P. Meyers

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Hitler was a lifelong Roman Catholic

Adolf Hitler is the most famous person of the twentieth century. As leader of the Nazi Party and Chancellor of Germany from 1933 until his death in 1945, he is blamed for starting World War II and for the German death camps that killed large numbers of Jews, atheists, and other opponents of his regime. Yet ask a typical American about Hitler's religion, and you will get the wrong answer. It is not the American's fault: there was an intense propaganda campaign after World War II to make people forget his actual religion. Adolf Hitler belonged to the Roman Catholic Church.

But what kind of Catholic was he? And why is he believed to be either an atheist or a pagan follower of the ancient Aryan gods?

Some insight can be gleaned from Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich. Speer himself was condemned in the Nuremberg trials and spent twenty years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime, so he might seem a suspect source. But Speer was not one of the original Nazis that fought in World War I and led the party organization during the lean years of the 1920s. He joined the party not that long before Hitler became Chancellor, when Hitler was sweet-talking the German public, successfully building the National Socialist Party with promises of economic justice, prosperity and a return of Germany to international stature [the Hitler Honeymoon]. Albert Speer was an architect, but in the early 1930s paying jobs were rare, so he accepted a call to volunteer to remodel a small, local Nazi office. People liked his work, he eventually came to Hitler's attention, and in a few years he became Hitler's favorite architect for new public buildings. Speer also became part of Hitler's inner circle.

So what did Speer hear about religion from Hitler's mouth? Speer was not around when Pope Pius XI, through his emissary Franz von Papen (a former Chancellor) helped convince President von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler to be Chancellor. Speer heard Hitler thought the pagan stuff was ridiculous, useful only to control the fools who liked it. Hitler called Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the Twentieth Century "stuff nobody can understand, written by a narrow-minded Baltic German ... a relapse into medieval notions!" As to Himmler's pushing paganism in the SS, Hitler said "What nonsense! Here we have at last reached an age that has left all mysticism behind it, and now he wants to start all over again."

Hitler did have his run-ins with the Catholic Church, but they were with people who would not get with his program of German nationalism. Like the Holy Roman Emperors, he thought the Pope should defer to him, not the other way around. Speer heard Hitler make harsh pronouncements against the Church, but "in the presence of the women he adopted a milder tone—one of the instances where he adapted his remarks to his surroundings." Speer heard Hitler say, on several occasions, "The Church is certainly necessary for the people. It is a strong and conservative element." Hitler even considered making the Lutheran Church the established choice of Germany, though in fact he tried to combine the Lutherans and Catholics under an umbrella.

Speer says Hitler condemned a Nazi anti-Church campaign, "calling it a crime against the future of the nation. For it was impossible ... to replace the church by any party ideology." A new party religion, like Rosenberg and Himmler wanted, "would only bring about a relapse into the mysticism of the Middle Ages.

In fact Speer records that Hitler "ordered his chief associates, above all Goering and Goebbels, to remain members of the Catholic Church ... and in fact he [Hitler] remained in the church until his suicide."

So given that Hitler was Catholic, why don't American's know that? Recall that in 1936, if President Roosevelt had intervened in Spain, that might have knocked the Catholics back, preventing World War II. But FDR has a problem: the Democratic Party he headed had two big wings that only loosely intersected with his New Deal. One wing were Southern Democrats who supported racism and segregation. The other was Roman Catholics in the northern states, many of whom sympathized with Fascism because one of its aims was to restore the Catholic religion. General Franco, like Mussolini and Hitler, was a Catholic, and he did send atheists and even Protestants (but not Jews) to death by firing squads when he won his civil war.

So everyone who was paying attention in say, 1938, right before World War II, knew that the fascists were Catholic and so was Hitler. The Pope wanted Hitler to destroy socialism and communism, including by invading the Soviet Union. For strategic regions Roosevelt and the U.S. ended up siding with the Russians and Brits in World War II. When the Pope saw Italy and Germany would lose the war, he quickly switched sides. Allied propaganda had to re-label Hitler and Mussolini. Suddenly they were called atheists and pagans. That worked out really well when Britain and the U.S. turned on the U.S.S.R. For the Cold War, Catholics, American or not, could all unite against the godless Communists.

Why does it matter? Because much of Hitler's ideology came directly from Catholic theology. Hatred of the Jews is embedded in Cathodic liturgy. The inferior status of women is a Catholic given. Hatred of democracy and preference for monarchy or dictatorship are also givens. Generally speaking Catholicism is about controlling people's minds, and not in a good way. So is Fascism.

Speer offers many other insights into Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis. But he also goes to great trouble to analyze how he fell under the sway of the Nazis, and in the end committed war crimes. When all he even wanted to be was a good architect. I recommend his biography to anyone who wants to get color on an era that is often highly distorted by propaganda needs. Was Hitler evil? Yes. But it was not a cartoon evil, he was on the same complex spectrum of evils as his rivals for world power, Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt.

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