Christian Opposition to Nazi Anti-Semitism

The notion that somehow Christianity was connected with Nazism has its roots in powerful forces. The world is increasingly secular, and when secularists talk of the "dangers" of religions, they really mean the "dangers" of Christianity.  Because the Nazis were anti-Semitic, there is a false assumption that Nazi anti-Semitism arose out of the bigotries of Christians. It emphatically did not.

Far from being a totalitarian "danger," Christianity, like Judaism, is a bulwark against totalitarianism.   What follows is hidden history - facts once well known, but which have fallen into the memory hole: the unique, Christian opposition to Nazism within Nazi Germany.   Katherine Burdekin, in her 1937 dystopian classic, Swastika Night, foresaw that the only indigestible part of a future Nazi empire would be Christians, who would also be utterly despised by the Nazis, denied all rations and considered the lowest form of life.

So what did Christians in Germany do to stop the Nazis? Heinberg wrote in his 1937 book on major European governments that the Pastor's Emergency League, an organization of some 3,000 pastors under the leadership of Pastor Martin Niemoller, furnished strong opposition at the outset to the German Christian Church (a Nazi invention).

Ronald Kain, in his 1939 book, Europe: Versailles to Warsaw, wrote that Nazi treatment of the Jews offended serious Christians, and he also points out the fundamental antagonism between Christianity and Nazism, even within the German military, by noting that the chaplains of the German army in the autumn of 1937 protested to Chancellor Hitler against the Nazi campaign against the Christian churches.  They warned him that a future war will find the German nation in the midst of the bitterness brought about by the conflict between Christianity and National Socialism. 

Hambloch, also in 1939, wrote that it was not mere chance that an anti-Christian movement in Nazi Germany should have happened alongside anti-Jewish persecution, noting that no contortion of Christianity could allow the persecution of Jews that the Nazis were inflicting, and that the Nazis were not even trying to reconcile their actions with Christianity.  The reaction of German Protestant clergy to genuine anti-Semitism, racial hatred of Jews, was to flock to a persecuted anti-Nazi Christian organization. 

The opposition of Christians to anti-Semitism within Nazi Germany was direct and emphatic.  In a memorandum from the leaders of the Confessing Church at Whitsundie, 1936, they stated:
"When blood, race, nationality and honor are regarded as eternal values, then the first commandment obliges the Christian to refuse this valuation.  When the Aryan is glorified, the Word of God teaches that all men are sinful.  If the Christian is forced by the Anti-semitism (sic) of the Nazi Weltanschauung to hate the Jew, he is, on the contrary, bidden by the Christian commandment to love his neighbor."
This sort of courage in 1936 was a virtual death sentence for the Christian clergymen who issued the memorandum, but these true Christians accepted martyrdom as a price of their faith.  It is important to note that not only were Christians standing directly up to the Nazis, particularly Nazi anti-Semitism, but that only Christians were openly resisting the Nazis.  As Mower describes In his 1938 book, Germany Puts the Clock Back, freedom in 1933 vanished in Germany.  Resistance to Nazis did not come from universities or science or art or literature or radio or newspapers but only from religiously serious people. 

The same year, former Nazi Herman Rauschning wrote:
 "From an ethical standpoint there is no Jewish problem.  No believing Christian and no humane-minded person can be an anti-Semite.  Rosenberg and Ludendorff are right, if in nothing else, in their claim that the New Testament is inseparably connected with the Old, and we Christians with our Jewish heritage." 
On the first page of the Introduction of his book, Rauschning warns that this "Third Reich" was a "holocaust" (presciently noting what would happen under Nazi rule.) 

When Bishop Niemoller, who had been a famous war hero as a submarine commander in the Great War, publicly spoke out against the Nazis, he was sent to a concentration camp where he spent seven years in solitary confinement. Prominent Catholic and world-famous physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, who could have remained in Germany in relative comfort and prestige, decided when the Nazis came to power in 1933 that he could not live in a Nazi state and moved to Austria.  When the Nazis acquired Austria, he moved to Britain.  Monsignor Litchtenberg, another prominent Christian opponent of odious Nazi racial policies, actually offered to be transferred in 1942 to the Lodz Ghetto in Poland, symbolically placing a yellow Mogen David on his shirt. 

Konrad Adenaur, the Christian Democrat Chancellor of postwar Germany, was arrested by the Nazis in 1934 for defying them (he was later released.)  Adenaur was put into a concentration camp in 1944 during the Second World War.  He had nothing to do with the Holocaust, except as a victim himself.  Yet, as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, he asked Israel for the right for Germany to pay reparations for the Holocaust. The offer was accepted and the payments made.  This Christian politician, one of the founders of the Christian Democrat Party in Germany, himself the victim of Nazi brutality, tried to make amends for wrongs not his own. 

Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was an even more magnificent example of Christianity in German politics under the Nazis.  Like Konrad Adenauer, Goerdeler was profoundly anti-Leftist - nearly all good people are profoundly anti-Leftist -- and like Adenauer, Goerdeler was an important "conservative" politician in Germany before and after the Nazis came to power.  A devout Christian, like nearly all "conservative" politicians, Goerdeler strongly opposed Nazi anti-Semitism.  In Liebzig, he tried to stop the boycott of Jewish businesses.  When the Nazis in 1936 ordered the demolition of a monument to Felix Mendelssohn, the great Jewish composer (who converted to Christianity), Goerdeler tried to have it rebuilt.  He traveled around the world, warning anyone who listened of the dangers of Nazism and was the person selected by the conspirators to overthrow Hitler in 1944 to be the new Chancellor of Germany.  He was arrested, brutally tortured, and finally executed by the Nazis.  To the end, as a Christian, he opposed them, even as he had from the beginning. 

Claus von Stauffenberg, the German general who almost killed Hitler in late 1944, was a devout Catholic who because of his faith was deeply opposed to the persecution of the Jews and considered that Kristallnacht in 1938 brought great shame upon Germany.  Ulrich von Hassell, although he joined the Nazi Party, wrote this in his diary about the same Night of Broken Glass: "I am writing under crushing emotions evoked by the vile persecution of the Jews after the murder of von Rath."  Both these men were murdered by the Nazis after the assassination of Hitler failed.  Germans and Christians did not sit quietly while Nazis murdered Jews.  Those who resisted with their lives, along with those most opposed to the Left (Sinisterist), were  those most serious about their Christianity. 

Helmuth von Moltke, son and grandson of some of the most famous German military leaders, easily could have become a bigwig in the Nazi Party, if he had chosen to do so.  But von Moltke possessed strong Christian convictions and wrote in 1942: 
"Today, not a numerous, but an active part of the German people are beginning to realize, not that they have been led astray, but that what is happening is sin and they are personally responsible for each terrible deed that has been committed naturally - not in the earthly sense, but as Christians." 
In the same letter, von Moltke wrote that once he had thought that it was possible to be totally opposed to Nazism without believing in God, but now he declared that to be "wrong, completely wrong," and that only by believing in God could one be an opponent of the Nazis. 

Hans Rothfels, in his 1948 book, German Opposition to Hitler, notes that before Moltke was executed by the Nazis for plotting against them, he wrote to his wife "So then all that is left is a single idea, how Christianity can prove a sheet anchor in time of chaos." At his trial, Judge Freisler lectured Moltke "Only in one respect does National Socialism resemble Christianity:  we demand the whole man."  Moltke wrote after that "I stood before a Christian and nothing else." 

Gustaf von Haften refused to join the so-called "German Christian" Church established by the Nazis and at great personal risk belonged to the real Christian Church, the Confessing Church.  He supported the attempt to overthrow Hitler and, like all the other Christian martyrs, intervened whenever he could to protect Jews, to protest Nazi anti-Semitic policies and to help Jews escape.  He was tried and hanged by the Nazis in August 1944, where he described Hitler as the "executioner of evil in history."  Like all of the Christian martyrs listed here, all of these men could have sat quietly and comfortably by, committing no crimes but taking no action.  Christian conscience alone moved them.  Is there a counter-part among any other peoples in the world today?  Christian anti-Semitism, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "should be made of sterner stuff." 

Max Dimont in his 1962 book, Jews, God and History, observes that Nazi propaganda had been anti-Christian since 1919, and that Jews sent to concentration camps were met there by Christians of conscience who arrived before the Jews. Dimont is not defending Christianity as a Christian and he certainly is not condemning his own faith or denying the mass murder of his own Jewish people in the Holocaust, which his book explains in great and awful detail.   What Dimont does in his book, written only seventeen years after the end of the Second World War, is to show that blaming the Holocaust on Christian "anti-Semitism," is not just wrongheaded, but obscene.  Professor Schapiro, an eminent Jewish professor, in his 1940 college textbook on European history observed that the only opposition to the Nazis came from Protestant and Catholic clergy, who stood their ground despite persecution.

Once nearly all informed people knew that in the most horrible period of Jewish history, the Christians of Germany sacrificed themselves to help save the Jewish people from extermination.  Now, in an age in which hatred of Christians and of Jews is becoming increasingly chic, defamation of Christianity is as sickeningly prominent as the sales in the Middle East and Europe of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.   Hatred of Christians and Jews, hatred of Christianity and of Judaism, is the toxin which destroys decent society completely.  Like all evils, it is based fundamentally upon lies. 

Bruce Walker is author of the book Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie.
If you experience technical problems, please write to