Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany

Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany

Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany

Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany

Synopsis

The acquiescence of the German Protestant churches in Nazi oppression and murder of Jews is well documented. In this book, Christopher J. Probst demonstrates that a significant number of German theologians and clergy made use of the 16th-century writings by Martin Luther on Jews and Judaism to reinforce the racial antisemitism and religious anti-Judaism already present among Protestants. Focusing on key figures, Probst's study makes clear that a significant number of pastors, bishops, and theologians of varying theological and political persuasions employed Luther's texts with considerable effectiveness in campaigning for the creation of a "de-Judaized" form of Christianity. Probst shows that even the church most critical of Luther's anti-Jewish writings reaffirmed the antisemitic stereotyping that helped justify early Nazi measures against the Jews.

Excerpt

What shall we Christians
do now with this rejected,
cursed people, the Jews?

—Martin Luther, On the
Jews and Their Lies

… it is the inexorable Jew
who struggles for his
domination over the
nations. No nation can
remove this hand from its
throat except by the sword.

—Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

On January 10, 1934, German Protestant pastor Heinrich Fausel gave a lecture titled “Die Judenfrage” (The Jewish Question) at a completely filled town hall in Leonberg, near Stuttgart. Most of the second half of the address is dedicated to correcting extreme portrayals of Martin Luther’s sixteenth-century rhetoric against Jews, which had gained some cultural currency in the late Weimar and early Nazi years. Even so, Fausel affirms many of the anti-Judaic and antisemitic stereotypes in Luther’s writings. He also justifies early Nazi measures against Jews, describing immigration of Jews to Germany as a “threatening invasion” by a foreign people—“decadent Judaism.”

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