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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Derek Hastings here illuminates an important and largely overlooked aspect of early Nazi history, going back to the years after World War I--when National Socialism first emerged--to reveal its close early ties with Catholicism. Although an antagonistic relationship between the Catholic Church and Hitler's regime developed later during the Third Reich, the early Nazi movement was born in Munich, a city whose population was overwhelmingly Catholic. Focusing on Munich and the surrounding area, Hastings shows how Catholics played a central and hitherto overlooked role in the Nazi movement before the 1923 Beerhall Putsch. He examines the activism of individual Catholic writers, university students, and priests and the striking Catholic-oriented appeals and imagery formulated by the movement. He then discusses why the Nazis embarked on a different path following the party's reconstitution in early 1925, ultimately taking on an increasingly anti-Catholic and anti-Christian identity.

Excerpt

It is certain that a belief is greatly strengthened when … it appears in a
form that veils its origins from the eye.

—Novalis, Das allgemeine Brouillon (1799)

In the fall of 1933, a cheaply printed book bearing a rather singular inscription arrived at Nazi party headquarters in Munich, where it lay unceremoniously buried until eventually making its way into the Third Reich Collection housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. the book, Das kommende Reich (The Coming Reich), had been hastily reissued earlier that year by an obscure publisher in the Bavarian village of Niederalteich, but had originally appeared, to considerably greater fanfare, during the November 1918 revolution in Munich. Its author, the popular Bavarian Catholic writer Franz Schro¨nghamer-Heimdal, laid out a programmatic blueprint for the ecumenical yet distinctly Catholicoriented spiritual rebuilding of Germany, and he contrasted the purity of Christ and his “true” followers with the perceived immorality of the “Jewish-capitalistic” spirit in tones full of bombast and revivalistic urgency. the coming Germanic reich—which Schro¨nghamer believed would rise triumphantly from the rubble of the decimated Kaiserreich— was to be built upon the unwavering rule of God’s “divine justice,” the purified product of an epic apocalyptic struggle between the two most powerful world forces, between “Christ and Antichrist, between the eternal German and the eternal Jew.” Every aspect of the economy and society was to be radically refashioned to reflect the nobility of productive labor and the unhealthiness of modern capitalism, with the Catholic Church’s medieval prohibition on charging interest being revived and coordinated with a wide-ranging nationalization of German agriculture and heavy industry. While Schro¨nghamer made no secret of his deeply held Catholic convictions, the coming Reich he envisioned was to be explicitly interconfessional, a reiteration of the unforgettable yet ultimately fleeting unity of the summer of 1914 in which Germans of both . . .

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