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NATIONAL Socialism was not just a political movement but a religion, writes Graham Livingstone.
One wonders how the Nazis could possibly have won power in a rational 20th century society. Or how anyone could believe the absolute nonsense of their anti-Semitic propaganda.
For the Jewish to have the malign influence on society that the Nazis claimed, every Jew in the country would have to have been a multimillionaire captain of industry.
How could there have possibly been an “international conspiracy of Communists, bankers and Jews”? How could a small minority who only wanted to peacefully co-exist with their fellow Germans have been so successfully vilified?
The answer is religion. For Germany in the 1920s and 30s was, with all due respect for Goethe and Einstein, not a rational society.
It was a society where children were taught that the world was made in seven days, that Jesus came back from the dead and that those who “accepted” him as their saviour would have everlasting life.
Inspired by Martin Luther
Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1529. From the Wikimedia Commons.
And they continued to believe these historical and scientific fallacies into adult life. Some 45 million of them were Protestants, many following the teachings of Martin Luther, who was violently anti-Semitic and also a believer in blind obedience to authority.
The prevailing view among historians is that Luther’s anti-Jewish rhetoric contributed significantly to the development of anti-Semitism in Germany, and in the 1930s and 1940s provided an ideal foundation for the Nazi Party’s attacks on Jews.Wikipedia
In addition, Bavaria and Austria were overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. If the masses could swallow the Church’s nonsense, why not Hitler’s?
Adolf Hitler. Image via Wiki CC
Hitler, from the time he took power in 1933 until after the tide of World War Two turned against Germany, was regarded as more of a messiah than simply a political leader.
Hitler himself did not see himself as a messiah, just the greatest German leader who had ever lived. He believed he was chosen by God for the role.
He also believed that he could recreate religion in his own image. He promised to deal with the churches after winning the war, saying:
I’ll have them reeling on the ropes. Through me, the Evangelical church could become the established church, as it is in England.
He did however become close to thinking of himself as a semi deity, telling his architect Albert Speer that certain buildings should be completed in his own (ie Hitler’s) lifetime and that the fact that he had governed from them would mean that they would be consecrated.
(He also said that his burial crypt in a revamped Linz would be consecrated so that his successors could be interred there.)
To the thousands lining the streets to catch a glimpse of him, however, he clearly was a messiah. And this was fervently believed by many of his cohorts.
For example, Joseph Goebbels, later his propaganda minister, had this to say of him:
He is the instrument of the will that shapes history. Who is this man, half plebian, half God? Is he Christ or just John the Baptist?
Image via Wiki CC
Another early admirer, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, above—regarded by the Nazis as a prophet—wrote as early as 1924:
Hitler is destined by God to lead the German people.
There was even a blueprint for a National Socialist Church.
The National Church will clear away from the altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of saints. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf, to Germans and therefore to God the most sacred book. The cross must be replaced by the swastika.
Austrian political theorist Eric Voegelin, who fled from the Third Reich in the 1940s, believed that Nazism
was a combination of politics and religion.
Voegelin saw in the entire practice of Nazism a kind of political religion, where banners, rituals, ceremonies, and adoration of the leader, the cult of sacrifice and much more, inspired the unthinking and fanatical devotion of millions by providing for their deepest emotionalTheologian Richard Evans
needs in an age rendered spiritually prosaic and meaningless by the decline of the Christian churches and the inexorable processes of secularisation.
Though I have written about Nazism, the dangers of political extremism amounting to religious mania are by no means confined to the Right.
Clearly, hard line Marxism also depends on a blind acceptance of deeply flawed beliefs and a rigid mindset, as millions of Russians, together with the populations of their Eastern European post world war two vassal states, learned to their very considerable cost.
Indeed, Joseph Stalin was very probably worse than Hitler. Not even Hitler would have deliberately created famines in Germany itself. (As distinct from in the countries the Nazis occupied.)
And not even Hitler would have sent German POWS captured by the Russians to concentration camps after the war —while Stalin sent Russian POWS captured by the Nazis to Siberia.
Finally, I am reminded of the adage that those who ignore the lessons of history will live to see it repeated.
I wish to turn to another country where the majority of those who vote for a powerful political party believe literally in the lunatic ravings of the Bible. They fervently believe that the world was created in seven days a few thousand years ago and that dinosaurs must have sought sanctuary in Noah’s ark.
Apparently there is apparently a widespread belief that the second coming of Christ will be in their own lifetimes.
Former US President Donald Trump. Image via YouTube.
Perhaps then it is not so surprising that thousands of them chant: “Trump won! Trump won!” This though Trump lost three vital, large states in 2020 that he won in 2016, plus others that have consistently voted Republican in the past. Despite also that the USA has a long history of well organised democratic elections.
They also ignore the fact that Trump won 74 electoral college votes fewer than Biden and that a whole series of court judgements has proved that to claim that Trump won have no basis whatsoever in fact.
Yet despite all this, and the thuggish attack on the capitol, there is a very real possibility that Trump will be reelected in 2024.
If I was not an atheist, I would say: “God help us!”
Albert Speer: Inside the Third Reich.
Albert Speer: Spandau: The Secret Diaries.
Traudle Junge: Until the Final Hour.
William Shirer: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Peter Longerich: Hitler: a biography.
Wikipedia: Details of the 2016 USA Presidential election.
You can also support my work via a one-off donation via PayPal, Buy Me a Coffee or GofundMe.
If you spot any typos in this report, please alert me via email: freethinkered@aol.
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