Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism

Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National SocialismCatholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism by Derek Hastings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OMG I finally finished the book…the last bit seemed like a bit of a slog and I thought I’d never finish but the last 40% of the book was all footnotes. I figured this book would be a slow read because it focuses like a laser on Munich from 1900-1935. The volume of footnotes speaks to the extensive research by the author, who details myriad players in the area at the time: Adolf Hitler, priests, pastors, and what seemed like hundreds of other völkisch leaders and participants along with the general sentiment of the time.

“in contrast to the NSDAP which, unlike secular non-Marxist parties, served as the most uncompromising defender of the Christian faith”

In times like we live in today when Know-Nothings paint Hitler as a leftist, Nazism as anti-religious or exclusively anti-Christian, and revisionist hacks proposing the Nazis were homosexuals, and on-and-on, it’s always preferable to read something rooted in harsh reality. I’m a history buff and often a student of totalitarianism, fascism, and the like, because history repeats. I’m also an atheist so admittedly some of the reasons I chose to read this book were scurrilous. But I was surprised to find the eventual climax to be very even-handed. I even finished the book thinking Nazi-related critiques of Pope Benedict XVI were unfounded and that the Catholic church by-and-large did repudiate the Nazi movement (more so than their fellow Christian Protestants). So while I did not find what I was expecting, I did find a very detailed review of the Christian (and anti-Christian) influences in Bavaria and Munich specifically in the early formative years of the NSDAP, and that was worth the read.

A few excerpts:

“the fact that such an elaborate völkisch-eugenics model was already laid out among Reform Catholic nationalists in Munich in 1914 is significant”

“to accelerate and radicalize anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist attitudes among Munich’s overwhelmingly Catholic population. The perceived linkages between Bolshevism, atheism, and the Jews”

“the most pressing threat being the issue that so consumed Faulhaber and others, the Jewish-socialist separation of church and state and the impending removal of mandatory religious instruction from Bavarian schools.”

“This speech is significant on at least two levels. First, it pledges Hitler’s personal devotion to his “Lord and Savior” in no uncertain terms and embodies the type of activist warrior Christianity that the Nazi movement would utilize to great effect over the course of the following year”

“In a well-publicized speech to the Ortsgruppe Augsburg on 13 June 1923, Haeuser emphasized the virtues of warrior Christianity, proclaiming, “We need men of action. If only there were more men like Hitler… who would put the words of Christ into practice: ‘I have not come to bring peace, but rather the sword.’”

“Once held up as paragons of the Nazi spirit of Positive Christianity, Catholic students were now forced to strip themselves of their overt Catholic identities in order to comply with the imperatives of the Third Reich.”

“It is possible, indeed necessary, to deplore the tragic and errant nature of inquisitorial zeal in thirteenth-century southern France while also recognizing its problematic, yet nonetheless real, contextual Christian legitimacy”

View all my reviews