PDF The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945

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There were institutional links too, from Hitler's early attempts to unify German Protestants into a national, Nazified church, to women's organizations that used the rhetoric, methods, and even personnel of church groups to serve the Nazi state and its goals. Most important in Steigmann-Gall's analysis, there was ideological common ground.

Richard Steigmann-Gall

Members of the Nazi elite—even "paganists" like Alfred Rosenberg and Heinrich Himmler—used biblical allusions in their private and public pronouncements; retained an affection for Jesus and found a place for him in their world views; and supported a Christian social ethic of sacrifice, service, and charity.

We cannot understand the Nazi movement, Steigmann-Gall concludes, without admitting its close, if ambiguous, relationship to Christianity. Steigmann-Gall's first chapter analyzes the Nazi concept of "positive Christianity" and introduces some of its key proponents within the Party, particularly in the years before Hitler came to power in Many scholars dismiss "positive Christianity" as an opportunistic slogan coined to conceal Nazism's intrinsic hostility toward the churches.


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Using the words of leading Nazis, Steigmann-Gall shows that, to the contrary, many Nazi spokesmen saw their movement as pred-icated on a specific kind of Christianity: anti-Semitic, socially engaged, and committed to German unity. These "Nazi elites" showed by their examples that it was not only possible but desirable to be both a loyal Christian and a devout follower of Adolf Hitler. This attempt to delineate Nazi views of Christianity is the most original part of Steigmann-Gall's book.

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A subsequent chapter describes Nazi efforts to bridge the confessional divide between Germany's Protestant majority and substantial Roman Catholic minority. Here Steigmann-Gall returns to well traveled ground to address relations between Hitler's new regime in and Germany's Protestant churches. Hitler's initial efforts to "co-ordinate" German Protestantism were not products of antagonism or precursors to an eventual destruction of Christianity in Germany, Steigmann-Gall argues. Obviously the precise balance must have differed by individual and Steigmann-Gall's study certainly makes this clear , but when individuals read his text, they may wonder whether the overall impression of Nazism is quite right.

Was Christianity, in general terms, really so significant; or has a relatively subordinate point been over-egged? Readers should consider the issue for themselves.

This leaves us with the Janus face of Christianity. Steigmann-Gall is quite right that the idea that some Nazis had religious motives is uncomfortable. The point is well worth making. But obviously it is also true that some of the resisters had Christian motives too. There were the German Christians, but there were also people such as Yorck von Wartenburg for whom involvement in the events of 20 July was bound up with religious conviction.

In other words, given that Christianity was part of the cultural framework of Germany in the s and s, the interesting point is that some people saw it as grounds to support participation in Nazism, whereas others saw it as grounds to resist.

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Conformity or resistance; intolerance or tolerance; Inquisition or charity? The religious texts stay the same, but what people have done with them always has varied greatly. Was it religious belief per se that influenced behaviour in the case of every 'Christian' whether Nazi sympathiser or resister , or maybe something else was at work — perhaps something more fundamental which drove, channelled or gave meaning to the belief itself?

THE HOLY REICH: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945

It is impossible to avoid wondering whether concern with the place of Christian belief in the Third Reich really does get to grips with the heart of that particular political phenomenon, or whether for very many individuals some more important general or personal motivation overshadowed their professions of religious belief. So are the comments on the back of Richard Steigmann-Gall's book exaggerated? Maybe a bit, but all the same it is an engaging read.


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The text is enjoyable, the research effort has been substantial and the ideas do make you want to argue. That's good enough for me. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article contains content that is written like an advertisement.

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Please help improve it by removing promotional content and inappropriate external links , and by adding encyclopedic content written from a neutral point of view. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. The Holy Reich: Nazi conceptions of Christianity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.

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