The roots of Naziism: Catholic or Reformation?


#1

On another thread a CanLit student is overwhelmed by a poem written by Irving Layton called “For Jesus Christ” and looking for ways to approach this very provocative poem.

This thread is not to continue that discussion because that discussion is still underway.

However, one of the questions that Layton poses is whether or not Naziism had its roots in Christianity. Now Layton was not found of rhetorical questions, so worded his poem plainly as statements organized into four stanzas.

Nevertheless as an artist his poem is a question about the virtue or lack thereof of Christianity; moreover the virtue or lack thereof of Catholicism versus later ideologies. And our job as Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant is to answer that question.

Parallel structure is one of the most powerful tools of expression and Layton uses it in this poem to differentiate Catholicism from later developments:

Here is the poem. I have hilighted the parallel structure in red:

For Jesus Christ

It began with delicate religious frissons
at the blinding of a young Jewess
who incautiously turned away her gaze
from your paraded likeness at Easter

One pontiff invented the ghetto;
more tender and loving, another commanded
shivering ghosts to wear out its cobblestones
warmed by the yellow Star of David.

Having mutilated under your mild forgiving eyes
your idol-hating brothers and sisters,
both peasant and duke knew the joys of penitence,
the ecstatic remorse in sinning flesh.

Your stoutest, most selfless partisans in Europe
laboured nearly two thousand years
to twist your Cross into the Swastika
that tore into our flesh like a fish-hook.

The idol-hating brothers and sisters: are those Jews or Protestants?

Please focuss on explicating the poem carefully and refrain from over-reacting on a superficial reading. Please also base your responses on reason and reference and refrain from singlemindedly promoting an agenda which has nothing to do with this poem, Catholicism, Reformationism, or Naziism. Please stay on topic. Thank you.

:slight_smile: :nerd:


#2

Red herring. Nazism, to my understanding, had its basis in Germanic paganism. Also, I understand that Hitler’s hatred of the Jews was based upon his belief that they somehow sabotaged Germany during WWI. That, and his Aryan notions of the master race.

The poet appears to be anti-Christian/Catholic. Writing a poem doesn’t make him an expert at anything.


#3

It seems very clear that it refers to the Jews. The Jews are mentioned in the 1st, 2nd and 4th stanzas. It would be just perverse to slip in a reference to Protestants in the 3rd.


#4

It seems clear to me that the “idol-hating brothers and sisters” refers to Jews. He was a Jew himself and his final statement that the swastika “tore into our flesh” is an obvious reference to his Jewish heritage and ancestry/experience with his people. His reference to the pontiff; etc. is the same type of reference many use when showing Christianity. They use the visuals to describe it, i.e. the cross/crucifix, pope, priest, minister, Bible; etc. So he is targeting all Christians by referring to visable representatives of the faith, which people are familiar with, to point at Christians as the perpetrators…Just my :twocents:

As for the Nazi mentality, though many can point fingers at Lutheranism for its German strength and nationalism, Catholicism for its lack of fighting unjustice, and countless others, the truth is that Nazism is founded on pagan/occultic belief and strong nationalistic fervor. Jesus, the Apostles, and Christianity may have been recognized by Hitler only because of 1) Jesus’ “revolutionary” life, 2) the apostolic fervor against certain Jewish practices and hierarchs and 3) Jesus’ rebukings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Christianity; however, is not at the heart of Nazism. It is merely an abused and misused victim used by Hitler, Himler and others to gain the favor of the people. It is truly a abhoring and tragic occurance of hate and mans’ sinful desires taken to their worst…

Prayers and Petitions,
Alexius:cool:


#5

However, one of the questions that Layton poses is whether or not Naziism had its roots in Christianity.

Why not then just claim that Nazism had it’s “roots” in early Judaism, which tended to separate from society at large and persecuted Christians?


#6

For those of us who may not recognize it and may in ignorance propagate it, can you please explain what a red herring fallacy is? Thanks.


#7

You can look up all of the fallacies here:
fallacyfiles.org/

The subject of the thread, **The roots of Naziism: Catholic or Reformation? *presents a false choice: as if these are the ONLY choices for the “roots” of Nazism. If you wish to nit-pick as to whether or not its the Red Herring fallacy or some other, go ahead, I don’t care. My initial post was a quick shot from the hip.

  • The thread/poem assumes that Nazism must have had a “root”; maybe it didn’t other than Hitler.

#8

The origins of Nazism are found with German warriors like Hermann, and their victories over the Roman Empire. Even in the slave revolts of Sparatcus we see the notion of Germanic superiority, German slaves insisted on fighting separately from the main slave army and only with fellow Germans. Had the Germans been unsuccessful in their conflicts with Rome (even though most successful German leaders were trained by Romans in Roman concepts of war) we wouldn’t have seen this notion of Germanic superiority, which some thousands of years later evolved into Nazism. Of course the roots of Nazism (National Socialism) are also modern. Hitler established the first “green” government by being the first to enact strict environmental legistation and animal right’s law. Hitler’s labor philosophy is socialist at heart, another modern concept. Equally so science was the religion of the third Reich, something modern people have (and still do) bought into. The rest of it is the result of the baggage of Hitler and other German leaders during the period. The Occultic aspects of the SS were introduced by Henrich Himmler. Grobbles introduced a lot of what Nazism became in a visual context because he had a strong sense for good propaganda. The militarism was the combine experience of NS leaders, the bulk of whom took part in WWI in various ways.

Hitler’s notions of “positive Christianity” had nothing to do with Christian influence in National Socialism. Hitler merely understood, unlike Stalin for example, he couldn’t openly attack the beliefs of so many Germans and retain any kind of support. So instead of closing churches and outlawing religion Hitler did something much smarter, at least in an evil context. The Nazis staged social and youth gatherings which just happend to start at the same time churches were holding Sunday services. The Nazis wanted people out of the churches, whether Lutheran or Catholic. They just went about it in a smarter way than the Communists. Which is in large part why the CCCP had all sorts of problems they Nazis never had to contend with. As such the answer is that Nazism is neither Catholic, nor Protestant. It’s not Christian at all. If it were Hitler and Rosenberg wouldn’t have been cooking up a new religion for their Germanic empire.


#9

i would say that its a false dichotomy.


#10

[quote=Alexius]As for the Nazi mentality, though many can point fingers at Lutheranism for its German strength and nationalism
[/quote]

And these are minor factors?

[quote=Alexius]Catholicism for its lack of fighting unjustice
[/quote]

Surely not as this refers to Pope Pius 12’s fearless clarity on radio and in newspapers against Naziism before and during WW2?

[quote=Alexius]and countless others, the truth is that Nazism is founded on pagan/occultic belief and strong nationalistic fervor.
[/quote]

Yes, but what structures inherent in Germany allowed for that fashionista pick-and-choose mentality in a country which was both Catholic and Protestant?

[quote=Alexius] Jesus, the Apostles, and Christianity may have been recognized by Hitler only because of 1) Jesus’ “revolutionary” life, 2) the apostolic fervor against certain Jewish practices and hierarchs and 3) Jesus’ rebukings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
[/quote]

As an expedient by the ever-referential Hitler.

[quote=Alexius]Christianity; however, is not at the heart of Nazism.
[/quote]

Perhaps. But the poem asks if the Christian culture and heritage of Germany facilitated the emergence of Naziism? Did it? And what form did that Christian culture take?

[quote=Alexius] It is merely an abused and misused victim used by Hitler, Himler and others to gain the favor of the people.
[/quote]

Can you explain how? Thank you. :slight_smile:

[quote=Alexius] It is truly a abhoring and tragic occurance of hate and mans’ sinful desires taken to their worst…
[/quote]

True. But how did they gain so much momentum in the culture of Germany at the time?


#11

Why?


#12

So would I, good choice, thanks.


#13

Anyone interested can check the History Channel website (history.com) for a program called “Nazism and the Occult” (or something like that). It talks about the deeper ideologies of the Nazi movement and I found it very interesting indeed…

I do not believe Christianity is “responsible” for this tragedy, but Hitler and his minions are. Those within the Church are also responsible if they did nothing to aid the Jews, but the Nazi movement was not Christian. Hitler only used certain figures to look to as other “Nazis” like Jesus, St. Paul, and Luther (because of his anti-Semite and pro-German attitude)…None of them were Nazis, though, some argue that Luther was the precursor to Nazism as ephedrine is to meth…

Prayers and Petitions,
Alexius:cool:


#14

And all of this could have happened in a monolithically Catholic Germany – given the obstruction which Pope Pius 12 did manage to present from a country removed by quite a few miles from Germany?


#15

As stated above, the ONLY choices for the “roots” of Nazism must be Catholic or Reformation (or both?). Maybe none were the “root”, or not the only “root”, or perhaps Nazism had no “root.”

Since the poem apparently focuses upon the Jews, let’s note that Nazism was much more involved than simply persecuting Jews and other “undesirables.” It was the whole Germanic Master Race thing, and world conquest.

Dwell on this: I’ve long wondered IF Hitler’s only crime was persecuting/killing the Jews in Germany, never venturing outside the borders of Germany, if there would even have been a war?

Now, I think that persecution itself is a sufficient ground for war…coming to the rescue. But there are many recent and current matters where nobody comes to the resuce: the Rwanda genocide perhaps the most recent worst case example.


#16

[quote=Alexius]Anyone interested can check the History Channel website (history.com) for a program called “Nazism and the Occult” (or something like that). It talks about the deeper ideologies of the Nazi movement and I found it very interesting indeed…
[/quote]

Yes, there was a call to the flowering of Nordic heros in Germany. But the question is what was the nature of the soil in which those flowers burgeoned so grotesquely?

[quote=Alexius] Those within the Church are also responsible if they did nothing to aid the Jews…
[/quote]

Did the Catholic Church do nothing to aid the Jews?

[quote=Alexius]… some argue that Luther was the precursor to Nazism as ephedrine is to meth…
[/quote]

Based on what line of reasoning?


#17

Ani-- I think you want us to explain the poem, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’d appreciate if you’d post again to confirm this, so we can know what exactly the thread is trying to find. It seems that you ask this at the end of the thread (i.e., " Please focuss on explicating the poem carefully and refrain from over-reacting on a superficial reading"), but the topic title is distracting.

It began with delicate religious frissons
at the blinding of a young Jewess
who incautiously turned away her gaze
from your paraded likeness at Easter

“Paraded likeness” seems to be a reference to false idols. Obviously the Jews have been entrusted with Scripture which strongly denounces the making of idols or carven images. “at Easter” would perhaps suggest that the “paraded likeness” is of Jesus Christ Himself. It is doubly an idol because it portrays the Christian God.

One pontiff invented the ghetto;
more tender and loving, another commanded
shivering ghosts to wear out its cobblestones
warmed by the yellow Star of David.

I think these are fairly plain, but I do miss the specific historical references.

Having mutilated under your mild forgiving eyes
your idol-hating brothers and sisters,
both peasant and duke knew the joys of penitence,
the ecstatic remorse in sinning flesh.

The “idol-hating brothers and sisters,” refers, almost certainly I think, to Jews. Remember in the first stanza there is the “Jewess” who “incautiously” turns her gaze from the “paraded likeness” of the Christian idol. This line is specifically and purposively aimed to represent the Jews because it is precisely because they detest idols that they cannot assimilate themselves to the Christian faith. But since they cannot become Christian, they have been persecuted, etc, hence they have been “multilated” precisely because they are “idol-hating.”

As for the next two lines, they are harder to make out. Is it remorse for the sins of ‘mutilating’ the Jews? Or is it for sins in general? It would seem the author would cast the Jews as the scapegoats of European society-- and the scapegoat must be thought of as being genuinely guilty. If this is the case, then the European persecutors would genuinely think those persecuted were guilty, and thus have nothing (in their minds) to repent from. So I think it is more likely a reference to their general repentance as Christians. Perhaps slightly ironic contrasted against the injustice done to the Jews. Also ironic because the Christian can repent and, perhaps, escape punishment, but the Jew by contrast can’t do so by any show of emotional penitence and rigorous penance.

Your stoutest, most selfless partisans in Europe
laboured nearly two thousand years
to twist your Cross into the Swastika
that tore into our flesh like a fish-hook.

He ends with a sort of compliment of Christianity, actually. The Cross-- a message of peace and love, twisted by fanatical Christians ultimately into a weapon of hate and violence.

Ani, that’s my reading of the meaning of the poem, as I think it was intended. It would be nice to see other readings and to revise what I thought based on other people’s sharper insights.


#18

He ends with a sort of compliment of Christianity, actually. The Cross-- a message of peace and love, twisted by fanatical Christians ultimately into a message of hate and violence.

I don’t think this poet is paying any tribute to Christianity. He’s saying that Christians have been laboring for two thousand years to twist the Cross into the Swastika.


#19

Rob: Thank you for your willingess to begin the discussion on explicating the poem. What I asked in the OP is that our explications move toward taking into account the religious soil in which Naziism – albeit highly referential to pagan religions – flowered.

Rather than copy and paste my questions intended to nudge your expliction into a wider discussion by others, please go to the thread link to which I linked in the OP. There are many useful questions there.

That thread also expresses the conflict presented by the poem to the Catholic student who started that thread.

Are there any responses to Rob’s explication? Thank you.


#20

It’s important to note that the German people were upset at the results of WW1 and Hitler appeared as if a messenger from God, or a German Messiah. The country was in a state of economical misery and the German people wanted stability. Hitler promised stability AND revenge. Revenge against the victors of WW1. Hitler also, like Nero, figured on framing the Jews for destroying the main center/theater and blaming them for the economical chaos. Then he sought to lift the peoples’ nationism in order to build up their confidence once more. But as another poster noted, many were Christian, so Hitler used theirs’ and his familiarity with Christianity to deceive the people into thinking that it was some sort of work or crusade of God for them, the purebred servants, to carry-out. He used their religion to get them to fight, rather than try to crumble it. I ask you how Lenin was able to convince millions of Orthodox Christians to kill and overthrow others? Surely his teachings were not founded upon Christianity, but just like Hitler, they were founded upon humanism…

Prayers and Petitions,
Alexius:cool:


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