While the document was full of a lot of eye-opening viewpoints and crazy beliefs, there was one point that remained hidden in plain sight — a bullet point that explained the Nazi Party’s views on religion in Germany — point 24:
“The Party as such represents the viewpoint of Positive Christianity without binding itself to any particular denomination.”
Confused? Me too.
But here’s a supporting statement for what they really meant:
“…insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the moral sentiments of the Germanic race.”
Okay, I’m still a bit confused too.
What were the Nazis’ views on religion?
At the time of the reign of Hitler and his band of bigoted idiots, Christianity dominated the country of Germany.
A whopping 98% of the country belonged to the religion — 66% were Protestant and 32% were Roman Catholic.
The leaders of the Nazi Party did not like this little factoid one bit.
They had at least three reasons:
- The origins of Christianity was inherently intertwined with Judaism (an obvious problem for an anti-Semitic party)
- Churches operated independently of the government and even took orders from leaders outside of Germany (for instance the Pope in Rome)
- Christianity’s central doctrines were viewed as being the opposite of what the Nazis envisioned their German people as being — meekness, politeness, and kindness were signs of lesser races to them.
And while Hitler himself proclaimed time and time again he was a Christian at heart, the upper echelon of his party had fervent disbelievers. So much so that many historians believe it was the Nazis’ goal to completely rid the country of established churches over the long haul.
Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann, and Alfred Rosenberg were three of the staunchest anti-church Nazis in power.
They went so far as to create the kirchenkampf (“church struggle”) campaign — with the objective of bringing all organized religions under the control of the Nazi Party.
And by the end of the war, their campaign had succeeded to a certain degree; the Seventh-day Adventist Church, The Salvation Army, Christian Saints, and Bruderhof all vanished from Germany during that time.
Himmler‘s a son of a witch
As part of their long-term strategy of reorganizing any religious belief around Hitler and the Nazi Party, Himmler thought he had the ace in the hole.
Himmler created a new department under the control of the Security Service (SS). He called it the H-Sonderauftrag (“H-Special order”) and set a team of researchers to the task.
To prove all of the European witch trials were actually an attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to completely snuff out an ancient Germanic pagan belief system.
One that was truly righteous and supported the Aryan race as pure and above all others. One that was also full of shit, of course.
Himmler appointed a specialist in humanities to lead the project. A young man by the name of Hermann Max Rudolf Levin was looking to make a name for himself.
Rudolf, as he was known, had around 12 fellow scientists under his command.
It was no small feat to create a massive propaganda piece denouncing an entire religion.
While starting in 1938, Rudolf and his team were thought to have sifted through at least 30,000 separate incidences in the next 6 years. This included searching through 260 separate libraries and archives the Reicht had access to.
By 1944, Himmler assured the public, he would have a document proving the malfeasance and targeted campaign of the Catholic church. Proof that they had engaged in witch trials to essentially snub out the ethnicity of the German race.
The big day came — the massive thesis was presented to a team of skeptics at Munich University in 1944.
And was promptly rejected.
The irony of the aftermath
While it was probably an incredibly dangerous game to turn down officially produced Nazi propaganda, the terrible state of the war at that time (if you were a Nazi) probably presented a few opportunities to dissent.
The documents were rife with falsities, cherry-picked cases, and rampant run-along conclusions. Of course, it had to be rejected.
We all know the story of what came next with the end of WWII. But perhaps the greatest irony is what happened after that.
The very religion that Himmler and his team sought to eliminate because of the logic behind witch trials, of all things, ended up helping the Nazis escape Europe.
Or at least various factions of the Roman Catholic Church did.
A time to flee
After the end of the war, Nazis were situated all over Europe. Many of them had been accused of war crimes and were being hunted down feverishly by the new authorities.
A wave of communism was also taking over several eastern countries in Europe — a very anti-Catholic wave of Communism.
With certain aspects of the Roman Catholic Church having different reasons for helping fascists and Nazi sympathizers flee — they created a system of escape for them to run to different countries in South America.
Kind of like the Underground Railroad, only full of murderous assholes instead of runaway slaves.
They called these two main routes the ratlines and they helped hundreds if not thousands of Nazis escape over the next several years.
And just a couple of short years later, the U.S. government started using the same escape routes too. They wanted as many Nazi scientists as possible who were located in Red territory and they weren’t about to let the Communist USSR get a hold of anymore of them.
And that’s the strange connection between Nazis, witches, and how the Roman Catholic Church ended up helping the same regime that fought against them the entire war.
They really took the whole “forgive those who trespass against us” thing a lot further back then, didn’t they?
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- Bevölkerung nach Religionszugehörigkeit (1910–1939) (PDF)
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