I’ve heard a lot of anti-Catholic critics argue that the Catholic Church is an inhumane organization for one reason or another. I’m sure most of know what the arguments are so I’m not going to get into detail about them. However, I do want to point out one in specific. Many of them say that Adolf Hitler was a very devout/practicing Roman Catholic and is what influenced his Nazi beliefs and is what caused him to do what he did as Chancellor of Germany and cause WWII. Growing up, he was an altar server and served at Mass. There are also photos out there with him shaking hands and smiling with Pope Pius XII. I also remember seeing one picture that showed bishops, priests, and nuns doing the “Heil Hitler” salute towards the camera. Some say that Catholicism is the founding cornerstone for German Nazi Socialism. Also, there are some that argue that Pope Benedict XVI, being a German and growing up during WWII, was part of the Hitler German Youth and fought for and served Hitler in his time. What can we say about all this?
Here’s an answer from The Catholic Exchange :
"Dear Catholic Exchange:
I had a very interesting conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness who came to my door the other day. She claimed Hitler was Catholic. She stated it could be proved by the “fact” of his excommunication in 1965! I explained to her that excommunication after death is a moot point, and I wanted to see her sources, which she could not supply. However, the thought interests me. I know thousands, if not millions, of Catholics died in concentration camps due to Hitler’s hatred, but was he ever a member of any religious group?
Dear Ms. Burnside,
Peace in Christ! I hope this response will adequately address your question.
It is true Hitler was born to Catholic parents. His father was reported to be lukewarm in his faith, but his mother was very devout. Adolf Hitler was confirmed in 1904, but did not often attend Mass. The question is not whether Hitler was a Catholic, but whether he practiced the Catholic faith and if his lifestyle accurately represented Catholicism. Clearly, the answer to that question is “no.”
Hitler was not a faithful son of the Church, docile to her teaching, but rather looked at the Church in a way that served his own ends. For example, in his Mein Kampf, he makes reference to the Catholic Church, because he perceived the Church to be a blueprint for the totalitarian state he wished to create. It is absurd to construe Hitler’s political delusions as an indictment against the Church.
Hitler’s Nazism was fully contrary to the Church. When this was recognized and condemned by the bishops in Germany, Hitler’s response to the bishops was to send all the Jewish Catholics he could find to the death camps. This move of Hitler claimed the lives of hundreds, including St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a.k.a., Edith Stein.
Further, in spite of the denials of some, it is well known and thoroughly documented that Pope Pius XII was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews.
The Jehovah’s Witness who came to your door claiming that the [alleged] excommunication of Hitler proves he was a Catholic should consider a few lines of thought: (1) It is no historical secret that Hitler was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. Anyone who is at all familiar with the history of Adolf Hitler knows this. An alleged excommunication after his death (which, as you noted, does not happen) is not needed to “prove” he was Catholic. The real question is whether Hitler persevered in the faith of his baptism or turned from it. The historical record clearly shows that Hitler, in both word and deed, repudiated the faith of his baptism, so Hitler’s “Catholicism” is a non-issue. (2) An organization is not judged by the most evil of its members. Even Jesus had Judas. One may suspect that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have had their own share of leaders with moral failures. They would not, however, wish that their faith be judged as false on the basis of these fallen leaders. (3) To point out the obvious: a person is excommunicated from the Catholic Church precisely because he does not represent the Church or her teachings in thought, word, or deed. It would seem that on this point (i.e., Hitler was a bad guy) the Catholic Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses agree."
The Dachau concentration camp had a whole section reserved for priests. The JWs may have it worse, but there is no question the Church was persecuted as well.
This is a particularly objectionable piece of anti-catholic propaganda. Anybody who knows politics and history can tell you that Hitler was born into catholism, but was VERY anti-catholic. Pope Benidict XVI was DRAFTED into the Hitler Youth and then deserted.
Do yourself a favor in addition to reading the bible, read the biography of Hitler and the
It was generally known & accepted back in the day that Nazis favoured their own brand of paganism (based on largely made-up mythology) and rejected Christianity. Hitler had a plan to replace regular churches with his own state church that followed his philosophy.
Claims of Hitler being a practicing Catholic in his adult life are nothing more that two-bit revisionist history.
Anyone who is familiar with the British TV series “World at War” (the one narrated by Lawrence Olivier) will likely remember the former SS member who told a story of how his commanding officer asked his soldiers “so who’s left the Church this week?” and congratulated those who had.
If Hitler was indeed so Catholic, I wonder why He bothered killing all those Catholics then?
Logical =/=, disconnect.
You ask a lot of questions but don’t mention any sources.
Hitler was a Catholic. There is evidence he did not practice much, though he did invoke God’s name in speeches.
Many people do not know what Nazi means. It is a shorthand reference to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party).
Hitler’s primary concern was the growing strength of the Russian military. Next, he was concerned that the Germany he grew up in needed “living room” since its population had grown into a relatively small area and were in need of more space.
Hitler was greatly influenced by the growing eugenics movement in the United States. There, experts had convinced the Supreme Court to allow for the forced sterilization of human beings that were deemed unfit due to low mental capacity or certain physical problems. This was partly inspired by Charles Darwin, who wrote: “Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”
Hitler began World War II in agreement with the Russians to attack and partition Poland and not attack Germany. The British had wanted to avoid war, so when Hitler obviously wanted land, the British Prime Minister signed an agreement with him in 1938: “The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ’ … We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.”
After Poland, Hitler attacked France in a very brief conflict. The British forces there were forced out at Dunkirk.
The Vatican was very concerned about Communism. Hitler had sent his forces into Spain in 1938 to ensure the defeat of the Communists there, which occurred by April of 1939
Pope Benedict had joined the Hitler Youth as a 14 year old as required by law. Before the war, the Hitler Youth was a nationalist group designed to foster kinship and national pride. Hitler brought the country out of the Great Depression. Hitler also created the RAD (Reich Labor Service) and young men were sent out to improve roads and do other work together, which also instilled national pride and prepared them for becoming soldiers later on. The young Ratzinger was recruited into an anti-aircraft unit but soon deserted.
Yes, the Nazi salute was given by Catholic religious not as a sign of acceptance but as a recognized sign of respect to the German Chancellor whose full plans would not be unveiled fully until later on.
Pope Pius XII was very concerned about all peoples under the administration of the Greater Reich. He spoke fluent German and did call in at least one high-ranking German official for an explanation and clarification regarding reports he had been receiving. The Nazi government and the Vatican had signed a concordat ensuring the rights of the Church in Germany. And the Pope was a well-spoken critic of the Nazi regime.
Hitler kept good relations with whoever suited his needs. He is shown shaking hands with the President of General Motors and had sent Germany’s highest civilian award to Henry Ford in America.
Aryan racial purity was the primary driving force. Being Catholic had nothing to do with it, but Hitler would speak of his Christianity when he saw fit. Seeing crosses on German soldiers’ graves was common during the war. The German soldier wore a belt buckle with the words “Gott mit Uns” (God with us) stamped into it. Some think this an old tradition. Again, the crosses I have scene on German graves from photos of the period attest to the faith of the common soldier.
After the war, there has been the suggestion that Germany had saved Western Europe from a full Russian takeover, and that the Vatican agreed. Indeed, British Prime Minister Churchill had secret plans drawn up in case the Russians decided to take Western Europe and threaten Britain. General Patton suggested going to war with the Russians. In any case, long before the last bullet was fired in World War II, the Russians were recognized as the next enemy.
Next time, ask for references. Rumors and gossip are just that.
I’ve seen that picture, and if you compare the prelate in that photo with contemporary photos of Eugenio Pacelli (who became Pius XII), it’s very easy to see the difference. For one thing, Pacelli/Pius XII always wore glasses, while the prelate in the picture was not. In fact, the picture shows Hitler shaking hands with the then-Papal Nuncio to Germany, whose name escapes me at the moment. Anyone who is interested can do his/her own googling on “Hitler shakes hand with . . .[whomever]”.
Edit: Couldn’t let it go . . . here is a link to a blog with the famous picture and the correct identification. The pic is the second one down. (I ignored the subject matter of the blog itself.)
Good summary, Ed. Thanks
I heard Hitler applied indoctrination techniques that he had learned from observing the Church educating people, making rules, and operating in a hierarchical fashion. Makes sense if he was raised in Catholic traditions. He certainly would understand organization principles, loyalty, etc. His soldiering also educated him and he probably saw parallels in memorizing rules, commandments, pledging allegiance, etc. can be universally applied to organizations other than churches. Unfortunately his outlook, message, and methods were insanely twisted. But he gave everyone jobs by making them soldiers, and built a war machine that brought Germany from the depths of depression to a military and technological powerhouse. But that didn’t last very long.
Hitler wasn’t a Catholic (except by baptism), he was a nut. Sometimes he would say Christian-inspired things, and at other times support made-up German paganism. There was little consistency and it is still very unclear what he actually believed in, if anything.
Where did you hear this? How do you know it’s true? Who paid for the tanks and aircraft? Hitler? Many Germans who were not soldiers were involved in building the world’s first jet fighter and jet bomber, the world’s first cruise missile and first ballistic rocket. Not to mention radar, communications, ammunition, tanks, trucks, etc.
Hitler had a Propaganda Minister who was an expert at convincing people. Hitler didn’t do everything.
What a blog did you notice the misidentification of Pope Benedict in the third picture?
Uhm. Hilter may have been a baptized Catholic but he was a practicing occultist, a previous prostitute and in no way a practicing Catholic, He went after Catholics and killed them. Are you trying to spread misinformation? Hilter’s Pope is a bogus book. Hitler hated the Catholic Church and what it stood for.
A good book to read on the subject is The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: Pope Pius XII And His Secret War Against Nazi Germany by Rabbi David G. Dalin.
This is a must read book!
More undocumented claims. Do you have sources? I’m not saying Hitler was in any way, a nice guy, but I am shocked by the “I heard or think, etc.” comments. Bad enough some people (not here) invent or imagine things.
I hope this helps