Friday, January 28, 2011

Which Writings of Luther Did Hitler Use?

Here's a Luther related discussion maybe someone can help with. I'm interested in finding out which Luther documents Hitler quoted.

On the CARM history board, a recent topic delved into Christians in Hitler's Germany. Of course, you guessed it, Luther's comments about the Jews came up, and here are few excerpts:

Since the OP deals with Christians, Hitler, and Germany, I thought I'd ask you whether you considered Martin Luther a true Christian. His writings were a favorite of Hitler, and inspiration in his crusade of persecution against Jews in particular. Anti-semitism is sad.

"Favorite of Hitler" is a bit unfair. Anything that could be used against the Jews by Hitler was "favorite." Hitler wasn't at all following Luther's theology, or a supporter of Luther's theology.

Its no wonder Hitler liked many of Martin Luther's writings some sound like they were written for Hitler himself.

Just curious, in your studies, which writings of Luther did Hitler like? If so, where is this documentation found, and did Hitler use any of the quotes you provided?

Where did I state that I had studied which sayings of Luther Hitler liked? I assumed the poster above me had a point that Hitler must have liked much of what Luther wrote about the Jews because much of what Luther accused the jews of Hitler did too...for example it is historic fact that Hitler wanted to remove the Jews from Germany ..he originally wanted to send them all to Palestine but because of the British and Arab resistance he failed to do this, and that is why he came up with the final solution to the Jewish question .......... Luther wanted the Jews gone too.... or so his writings would strongly suggest....but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!
-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

So when you stated, "Its no wonder Hitler liked many of Martin Luther's writings some sound like they were written for Hitler himself" you really don't know which of Luther's writings Hitler liked, read, or cited in his writings.

Then a bunch of comments from Luther's "On The Jews and Their Lies" was posted with this comment:

You [you'all] decide.

What's the issue to be decided on? There's no denying Luther later in life said some terrible things about the Jews. Do you have some actual issue to decide on?

A Messianic Jew I know calls Luther the "Theologian of the Holocaust."

If that's the "issue" to be decided on, your Messianic friend needs to do a better job with history.

I see many parallells between what Hitler said and did to the Jews with the opinions Luther expressed in his writings...I don't need a written confession from Hitler confirming his liking or disliking of Luther's writings...his acts and words are confirmation enough for me...

So which "act" do you mean?

The systematic ejection of Jews from the Father land is one action I can think of but then eject them forever from this country. For, as we have heard, God's anger with them is so intense that gentle mercy will only tend to make them worse and worse, while sharp mercy will reform them but little. Therefore, in any case, away with them!-Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies)

The Jews in Saxony had been driven out of the area by the decree of John Frederick, some years before Luther wrote "On the Jews and Their Lies." To my knowledge, no one "acted" on Luther's words. If you know of some ruler in the 16th century who followed Luther's advice, I'd be interested in knowing who it was. John Frederick had a new mandate in 1543- though severe toward the Jews, it wasn't the result of Luther's writings, if I recall correctly. In 1546, Jews were still living unmolested in the Mansfeld area.

In fact, most of Luther’s proposals in On The Jews and Their Lies are paralleled in the other anti-Jewish literature of the period. Luther was just one voice among a choir of people against the Jews. Luther's writings though against the Jews, were not followed:

The question of Protestant acceptance or rejection of Luther's writings on the Jews is focused on his late, hate-filled polemics. Oberman has pointed out that Luther's close associate, Philipp Melanchthon, ‘was just as unhappy over the harsh writings on the Jews of the late Luther as were some of the leading city reformers.’ The Nuremberg Reformer and disciple of Luther, Osiander... wrote an anonymous apology for Luther's polemics. And Luther's lifelong colleague Justus Jonas used his role as Latin translator of Luther's writings against the Jews to do ‘his utmost to offset Luther's exasperated disenchantment with the mission to the Jews and in the process manages to draw an entirely novel and positive picture of them.’ This selective rejection of Luther is evident in the refusal of evangelical political authorities to follow through on Luther's recommendations. Because Luther was such an authority figure for Lutherans, it is striking that in 1611 when the Lutheran city of Hamburg asked the theological faculties of Jena and Frankfurt an der Oder whether the Jews fleeing from Portugal should have the right to remain in the city, both faculties answered in the affirmative. The Jena opinion self-consciously chose Luther's early, tolerant opinions over his later, intolerant ones. More important for future developments was the fact that Luther's portrayals and recommendations were not incorporated into the Lutheran confessional writings and Lutheran devotional literature. ‘For the decades after Luther's death all the evidence seems to support Lewin's thesis that Luther's late works on the Jews failed to achieve their intended effect’”[Carter Lindberg, “Tainted Greatness: Luther’s Attitudes Toward Judaism and Their Historical Reception,” in Nancy A Harrowitz (ed.), Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 23].

Again, which "act" do you mean?

Would this be the same John of Saxony who was influenced greatly by his personal relationship with Martin Luther and his writings?

It would be your historical responsibility to prove any of John's actions toward the Jews were the result of Luther's influence.

9 comments:

Constantine said...

It's interesting, of course, that Luther was an Augustinian priest. Therefore, his thought on this or any other matter did not exist in a vacuum. John Bugay is beginning an interesting series here that should provide some very great insights on the true background of European anti-Semitism.

But just a quick observation. The vile anti-Semitism that led to the holocaust came from the south of Germany and Austria – not the Lutheran north. Hitler had been greatly influenced by the virulent anti-Semite mayor of Vienna – who was a Catholic – and therefore not prone to promulgating Luther.

“The uniqueness of Nazi racism lies in its consistent radicalizing…of traditional antisemitism…Hitler openly asserted that he learned this tactic from the Catholic Church.”


(Bacharach, Walter Zwi. “Antisemitism and Racism in Nazi Ideology” in “The Holocaust and History: the known, the unknown, the disputed and the reexamined.” Ed. M. Berenbaum and A.J. Peck. Indiana University Press, 1998. p. 73)

Peace.

James Swan said...

Thanks for the info. I might know Luther stuff, but I don't know all the minor points of WW II and Nazi Germany.

Brigitte said...

On my drive tonight, I listened to an interview with Timothy Snyder, the author of a new book (linked below), on the radio program "Ideas" on CBC radio. (One might be able to find it on-line somewhere.)

Title of the book: "Bloodlands, Europe between Hitler and Stalin." We hear from the author thorough analysis of all different types of attrocities committed by all kinds of different people. One of the things he tries to show is how Stalin and Hitler played off each other, and, on the other hand how many people were involved in murder by for example starving others to death (Ukraine) and shooting others in the head. Apparently 17 million people were killed directly by other individuals (not only Jews in gas chambers; and he adds that even gas chambers were more personal than you would think). How could such terror reign and so many people be involved as victims, perpetrators and bystanders?

http://www.amazon.com/Bloodlands-Europe-Between-Hitler-Stalin/dp/0465002390/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1296629605&sr=1-2-fkmr0

Regarding the expulsion of Jews from lands during reformation times, this was something that was started already by the Spanish rulers, Isabella and Ferdinand, and the beginning of so many Jews migrating to and settling in the East. Why Luther felt he had to lend his polemic to this, I fail to understand completely.

Brigitte said...

I meant, I don't understand it "at all" or in its "entirety".

Mariano said...

Keep in mind that the reason Luther appealed to Hitler is that Luther was a German.
Pardon the pseudo spam but here is some info:
http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/adolf-hitler%27s-birthday-present-joe-keysor-hitler-holocaust-and-bible%22

Most especially, see:
http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/zeitgeist-poltergeist-part-8-13

Keep up the good work and the God work,
Mariano

Northwest SD Lutheran said...

I would like to make a comment on Luther being the theologian of the Holocaust. First of all, Germany was the most habitable country for Jews before WWII and the Nazi Swine's rise to power. As you stated earlier the Jews were allowed to come to Germany and live. Also historically speaking up until the time of Hitler Jews enjoyed great prosperity on German soil and had many Germans as friends. Max Schmeling comes to mind. Luther's frustration with the Jews was because the Jews were passing mistruths and lies against Luther and Lutheran doctrine. This resulted in some rather harsh things said and some of those things may have been true.

We Lutherans including Luther have always been ones to allow others to practice their faiths while at the same time appealing to them to turn away from lies they worship or errors they hold.Are we not told that if we can through God's Power bring a sinner back from impending damnation that we are doing something good ?

The problem with some of the reasoning coming from this person is the fact that even the most pious sin.

James Swan said...

Why Luther felt he had to lend his polemic to this, I fail to understand completely.

If i had to speculate, I would go with those historians who locate Luther’s attitude toward the Jews in the eschatological framework of his theology. Luther spoke out strongly against those groups who went against the Gospel: the Papacy, Turks, radicals, and the Jews. These groups were led by the devil, used for continued opposition of the gospel. the impending Judgment Day compelled Luther to appeal to the authorities to protect Christendom against those groups that continually chose not to convert and opposed to the Gospel. Those that did not embrace the Gospel were not indifferent to it, but rather were opposed to it.

James Swan said...

Pardon the pseudo spam but here is some info:
http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/adolf-hitler%27s-birthday-present-joe-keysor-hitler-holocaust-and-bible%22


Joe Keysor actually sent me a copy of his book, as I was cited in it. I've not read it in its entirety, but what I did read was very helpful.

James Swan said...

Luther's frustration with the Jews was because the Jews were passing mistruths and lies against Luther and Lutheran doctrine. This resulted in some rather harsh things said and some of those things may have been true.

This is partly a reason, if by it you mean the 1537 The Josel Of Rosheim Controversy see:

http://tquid.sharpens.org/luther_Jews.htm#a3

We Lutherans including Luther have always been ones to allow others to practice their faiths while at the same time appealing to them to turn away from lies they worship or errors they hold

I can't speak for Lutheranism, I only have a cursory understanding of the history of Lutheranism. However, toward the end of his life, Luther was not tolerant of Judaism, as he points out in his "On the Jews and Their Lies."