The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-45

By J. S. Conway | Go to book overview

I The Seizure of Power

'Hitler was born at Braunau. Braunau is in
that part of Upper Austria which went
Protestant at the Reformation. After that it
was forcibly Catholicised by the forces of the
Counter-Reformation, the Hapsburgs and the
Jesuits. Since then there has been no religion
in that part of the world.' CHANCELLOR
BRÜNING

When Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg on 30 January 1933 and took the oath to defend the constitution of the Weimar Republic, he had, so far as is known, no clear policy on the relations between Church and State. The suddenness of his rise to power, his constant manoeuvrings between the existing political groups, the frequency and fervour of his speechmaking, and his pre-occupation with the political and economic conditions of Germany, had pushed less significant matters into the background.

There can, however, be little doubt that his fundamental hostility to Christianity long preceded his rise to power. Born and brought up in a Catholic household and educated at a Catholic school, he had quickly abandoned whatever Christian principles he had learnt in childhood, in favour of ideas prevalent in the early years of the century, which derived, albeit in a perverted form, from Darwin, Nietzsche and Gobineau. It was, in fact, during his years as a partially employed labourer in Vienna, and in the bitter experiences and disillusionments of the First World War, that Hitler worked out his personal creed and rejected both Christianity and the Christian Church.

In this he was not alone. Millions of men and women throughout Europe had likewise come to realize that for them the doctrines of

-i-

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