The Hitler Icon: How Mount Athos Honored the Führer

 

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An image of Adolf Hitler greeted visitors to Mount Athos in 1941 (Source: Mönchsland Athos)

NOTE: Political instability in Greece during the mid-20th century that affected Mount Athos included Nazi occupation from the Easter season of 1941 through late 1944, followed immediately by the Greek Civil War in a struggle where Communist efforts failed. The Battle of Greece was reported in Time Magazine [see the end of this article]. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, and Hitler agreed. Mount Athos survived World War II nearly untouched, and for the remainder of the war, the monks of Mount Athos referred to Adolf Hitler as “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” (German: Hoher Protektor des heiligen Berges).

In an attempt to defend and justify Mount Athos’ allegiance with Hitler during WWII, Greek Orthodox apologists state that it was simply a strategic measure to protect the mountain from Bulgarian occupation and de-hellenization.1 They criticize the jouranlists who write “negatively” about this incident in Athonite history as “slanderers” and “accusers” of the Church; purposely hiding this important information in an attempt to tarnish Mount Athos’ image. However, these Orthodox apologists fall into the same “sin of concealing facts.” The defenders of Athos fail to mention that in the time leading up to the war—especially during the 30s—the Hagiorites were consumed with fervor and anticipation for Constantinople’s liberation as foretold in spurious prophecies that are not officially accepted by the Orthodox Church or the Church Fathers. Yet, the majority of Athonite monks during the 30s not only believed in them, but felt that they were living through their fulfillment.

The Anonymous Prophesy of 1053,2 was a popular prophecy on everyone’s lips before and during the war. This prophecy was virtually unheard of in the Orthodox world until 1914.3 There was a belief that Germany would be the first country to become Orthodox after the “New European War.”4

A common belief of Athonite monks during the 30s, as conveyed in various publications by pilgrims of that era was:

“You know Germany is going to become Orthodox very soon. The Holy Fathers have prophesied it. It is said that there is now a great king ruling in Germany, who slaughters all the Jews and Bolsheviks. We love him for that. It is the beginning of the prophecy.”5

The Triple Occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers (1941-1944)
Germany (red), Italy (blue), Bulgaria (green).

THERE IS A PIOUS notion out there that organized religion, if practiced devoutly enough, can preserve human beings from immoral thoughts and actions, particularly those stemming from the seductions of supposedly secular political ideologies. The Protestants have their “mighty fortress” of Lutheran song and liturgy, the Catholics have their eternal Vatican, and the Greek Orthodox Church preserves its theological purity in the twenty monasteries of Mount Athos, “the Garden of the Virgins,” on a peninsula in northern Greece, where all females – including dogs and cats – are banished from the premises so as to protect the monks from any impure sensations.* However, even the most cursory glance at the historical record reveals that the devout are not only as likely as anyone else to fall for a totalitarian bill of goods, they may even be more susceptible than the average citizen.

Mount Athos can serve as a case in point. In the summer of 1941, just months after the German invasion and occupation of Greece, Professor Franz Dölger led an official Nazi expedition to the holy mountain.6 The journey, which focused on historical and theological issues, was officially sponsored by Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and was generously supported by the Wehrmacht. Dölger himself was a distinguished professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Munich from 1931 until his retirement in 1958.

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The expedition report Mönchsland Athos (Athos, Land of Monks), published in 1942

Dölger and his companions, both academic and military, encountered a religious community that was more than willing to embrace Nazism. In fairness to the residents of Mount Athos, we should note that they had good reason to despise Hitler’s nemesis, communism: Stalin was busy confiscating the Russian Orthodox Church’s property and deporting its priests to the gulag, and he had also halted the previously reliable flow of Russian contributions to the monasteries’ upkeep. According to Time Magazine report from 1941, the remarkably naïve monks only knew of Hitler as “a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews – a fulfillment of prophecy.” In this, they differed little from the bulk of Catholics and Protestants in Germany and many of the occupied countries. After the Nazi takeover of Greece, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, a request with which the Führer gladly complied. Mount Athos survived the war nearly untouched, which is more than can be said for the rest of Greece, which lost 11 percent of its population, including virtually all of its Jews.

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Wehrmacht soldiers posing with Greek Orthodox monks in Karyes, Athos Peninsula, Easter 1941

In gratitude for his protection, the monks displayed and revered Hitler images, including not only the one described further down but also a portrait hung directly in the center of a wall of paintings in the great reception room of St Panteleimon monastery, directly beneath a portrait of Tsar Nicholas II (see video clip below).

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Hitler in a place of honor at St. Panteleimon Monastery (1942)
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This picture is taken partner after the Second World War. The portrait of Hitler is Replaced by portraits of Queen Frederica (1917 – 1981) and beside her king Paul (1901 – 1964).

The following is my translation of an excerpt from Prof. Dölger’s account of his visit to Mount Athos as printed in the book Mönchsland Athos (Munich: 1942), the official report of his 1941 visit to the holy mountain:

At the monastery of Konstamonitou, at the place of honor in the reception room, we encountered the image of our Führer.  A monk had discovered a picture in an illustrated magazine and created a pencil drawing based on this model. Elsewhere too we could observe how strongly the personality of the Führer and the Greater German Reich impressed itself upon the imagination of the residents of Mount Athos, at least among those who had not entirely turned away from the world. Upon our arrival at several monasteries and, upon our departure from one (Dionisíu), when we sailed out onto the sea in our little ship, we were greeted by the swastika flag. The Führer is regarded by a great many monks as the “High Protector of the Holy Mountain” who will also hold his protecting hand over the Holy Mountain in the reordering of the world.

We had a delightful experience as we photographed a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary. From the point of view of Athos, it represented an immense concession for us to receive permission to photograph the sacred icon, and monks even helped us in our preparations. One old monk who joined us observed these preparations, shaking his head. Turning to us, he said: “If you want to photograph the Panajía [Virgin Mary], then you will have little luck; for the Panajía has never yet allowed herself to be photographed.” – “But it could be,” he added in a trusting and good-natured manner, “that the Panajía may make an exception for you Germans and allow herself to be photographed, because you Germans, after all, are waging a holy war against Bolshevism, the enemy of God.”

*Banishing the opposite sex from the peninsula might sound like a recipe for boredom, but it appears that the monks knew how to keep busy. According to a Time Magazine article in April 1941, “[a]n alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole ‘Great Academy of the Greek Clergy.’ The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.”

Franz Dölger's Diamonitirion
On the recommendation of Georgios Tsolakoglou, 1st Greek Prime Minister of the occupation, Dölger received a special residence permit.

TWO ARTICLES FROM TIME MAGAZINE

MOUNT ATHOS: Failing Light

Monday, April 28, 1941
TIME Magazine

The Stukas swooped across the Aegean skies like dark, dreadful birds, but they dropped no bombs on the monks of Mount Athos. The motorized Nazi hordes rumbled across the Salonikan peninsula, but they did not invade its 40-mile-long eastern cape where the holy and historic Mount towers in misty beauty above monasteries perching like fabulous castles on crags above the sea. Surrounded by flower-scented glens and gorges, veiled with pine and cypress and chestnut, are great Lavra Monastery, Vatopédi, Simöpetra, bastioned Dionysiou (which proudly possesses the brain and right hand of Saint John the Baptist) and many others, each with its fusty library and gilded Byzantine church.

Last week Adolf Hitler gave no hint of what he proposed to do about this great religious prize which was his for the taking—the autonomous ecclesiastical republic of Mount Athos, 1,000-year-old capital of Greek Orthodoxy, governed by a council consisting of one monk from each of its 20 stony retreats.

The 5,000 bearded, black-robed Greek, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Rumanian monks who live on Mount Athos arrived there for many reasons—religion, disappointment in love, political conspiracy, seeking sanctuary against political or criminal punishment. They include several former Greek lunchroom proprietors who fled the clatter of U.S. civilization. They live in two kinds of monasteries: cenobite (communistic) and idiorrhythmic (allowing private property, which reverts to the monastery). Many of them lead a truly monkish life of prayer and Church scholarship, a shabby life without bathing or toothbrushing, with a meatless diet and only brief snatches of sleep, because “sleep inflames the body.” They live on contributions and on the making and selling of wine, farm products, religious paintings and trinkets. Some are so ignorant or unworldly that they have heard only vaguely of Adolf Hitler—”a great German king who slays the Bolsheviks and the Jews—a fulfillment of prophecy.”

But in recent years the world has been altogether too much with Mount Athos to please its pure in heart. For one thing, the world’s sad economy has impoverished the religious life even more than need be. Joseph Stalin has stopped the steady flow of Russian funds into Mount Athos, and war and world depression have sharply cut all other income. The ancient sins of luxury have been increasingly apparent both outside and inside the holy ground. Vigorous young monks are rare. “We need young men today more than ever,” one Athonite has said, “but they prefer to fatten their ephemeral bodies and clothe them in silk shirts and ties.”

On the Mount itself, one of the wealthier monasteries has permitted itself all manner of worldly indulgences—central plumbing, mirrors, electric lights, newspapers, motorboats, wine-pressing machinery (instead of the industrious barefoot method). An alarming number of monks have taken to smoking, alcohol, even narcotics. And the immemorial escape from celibacy has threatened to become a fever sickening the whole “Great Academy of the Greek Clergy.” The Greek press has stormed about the kidnapping of male children for the monks of Athos, and motorboats carrying male prostitutes are constantly reported chugging into the monastery harbors.

Today many Greek laymen regard Mount Athos as a senile, decadent, insufferable vestige of its past. If Adolf Hitler decides to dim this “Lighthouse of the Aegean,” this greatest of world monastic experiments, he may well be doing only what the Greek Government would presently have done itself.

The Tragos ('Magna Carta') of Athos opened for Dölger.
The Tragos (‘Magna Carta’) of Athos opened for Dölger.

GREECE: Flight from Mt. Athos

Monday, July 13, 1942
TIME Magazine

Peter the Athonite came first to Mount Athos in the 9th Century and lived there for 50 years, battling devils and beasts in a cave high above Homer’s wine-dark sea. Then came Euthemius and Joseph, who sought eternal bliss by moving about on their hands and knees eating grass. All this was centuries after Xerxes’ legions invaded Greece, and, of course, centuries before Nazi Panzer divisions.

From the time of Peter the Athonite to Adolf the paper hanger, the great rocky promontory of Athos, jutting into the Aegean like a prong of Poseidon’s three-forked scepter, has been a place of refuge -for men only. No woman has knowingly been allowed to desecrate by her presence the huge cluster of monasteries atop the Holy Mountain, where bearded, black-cowled priests withdraw from worldly pleasures in the spiritual home of the Greek Orthodox Church. Even female cats and dogs and beasts of the field are barred, “so that their mating may not furnish an outlandish spectacle to souls which detest all forms of indecency. . . .”

Last week, from three priests who fled to an even more ancient home of Christian religion, there came the first account of what Europe’s new barbarians had done to the cloistered life of Mount Athos. For some 90 days & nights the priests had navigated nearly 1,000 miles of island-cluttered seas, and at last beached their 15-ft. open boat on the sands near Haifa in Palestine. There they told how ruck-sacked Nazi youths in peacetime had accepted the monasteries’ humble hospitality and returned as soldiers to pillage and defile. Great iron bells that for centuries sounded matins and vespers had been carried away, to be melted down for the Nazi war machine. Priceless icons, illuminated manuscripts handed down from Byzantine emperors, and religious treasures* had been gathered as loot and shipped to Berlin. These things had driven them, sick at heart, from beloved mountain valleys thick with arbutus and carefully laid out for the husbanding of vineyards and olive groves within sight of the slopes of Mt. Olympus and the plains of Troy. At the islands where their boat touched, peasants fed them and gave them shelter.

Greek Orthodox Church officials, believing the perilous voyage of the priests was divinely guided, ordered that their fragile boat be taken overland and placed as a shrine in the waters of the river Jordan, a trumpet’s blow from Jericho.

But German bombs last week struck in Haifa and there was a clash of great armies in the land of Egypt.

Possibly these were omens that the new shrine might soon, in 1942, have no more power to stop warring men than had the words of Him who, some 1,900 years ago, had gone up from the multitude and proclaimed: “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.”

Forced landing of the German plane 57 Juncker at the beach in front of the monastery of Aghios Pavlos
Forced landing of the German plane 57 Juncker at the beach in front of the monastery of Aghios Pavlos

During the occupation, a German plane Juncker damaged 57 landed on the beach in front of the St. Paul’s Monastery. Among the crew of the plane there was also a female soldier. To respect the rule of Avaton, the female German had to stay in an old fisherman’s hut on stilts near the beach of the plane, during the repair time. This cabin was then declared as not belonging to the monastic community. The German therefore have not touched the ground of Mount Athos, the rule of Avaton was respected even by the Germans during the war.

*Most famed of Mount Athos’ religious relics: the camel-hair girdle which legend says the Virgin gave to doubting Thomas; pieces of the True Cross; the skull of St. Basil the Great; the brains of St. John the Baptist; the three gifts of the Magi (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

German officers and soldiers on Mount Athos (1943)
German officers and soldiers on Mount Athos (1943)

NOTES

  1. See: Η επιστολή του Αγίου Όρους προς τον Χίτλερ
  2. The Anonymous Prophecy of 1054 is a manuscript found in the Library of Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mt. Athos.
  3. Archimandrite Neilos Sotiropoulos writes in his book, The Coming Two Edge Sword: “The prophecy texts preserved are found in Northern Epirus, Epirus, and western Macedonia. They were found and are located in the Holy Monastery of Naum, Ochrid. It was found in Northern Epirus by the priest-monk, Archimandrite Neophytos Kalofountis, who served there as a soldier in 1914 after the liberation of Ioannina.
  • The ever-memorable lay-preacher, Demetrios Panagopoulos recorded another copy in his book, Saints and Sages Concerning What Will Happen in the Future. The text is continuous and not divided into verses or enumerated. He mentions that “it is found at the Holy Monastery Kozani.” This copy of the prophecy is obviously by an uneducated writer [i.e. not Panagopoulos, but the prophecy text he used]; it inadvertently has spelling errors and variations in a few words, though without changing the meaning. It was found written on a papyrus. At the end of the text, it bears the timeline of being written in 1503 AD, while in the caption it states 1053 AD.
  • The Old Calendarist Bishop of Kalamata, Gregorios, records another copy of the prophecy text in his book, “What We and Our Children Will See.” It reports that it is found in the Holy Serbian Monastery, Kozani. The text has minimal differences from the previous in words and spelling errors without changing the meaning.
  • Another text is found in a village of the prefecture of Kozani and is also written on papyrus. In 1937, a Gendarme appeared at a village house to collect tax. An old woman, the only inhabitant of the house, told him she had paid the tax. The Gendarme asked for the receipt. The old lady, not knowing letters advised him to search the chest to find it. He emptied all the documents onto the floor. He found the receipt and congratulated the old woman. He also noticed an ancient document of prophecy amongst the papers. He took it, copied it and circulated it in many copies. In 1962, a Macedonian journalist published the text of this prophecy in a pamphlet with still more annotations. A Thessalonian gave me this booklet in 1972.
  • Also, the Hagiorite Monk, Nektarios Katsaros’ small booklet, “Prophecies Concerning Constantinople’s Liberation” also contains this prophecy. I bought this book in 1957 at Karyes, Mount Athos where I went and was tonsured a monk.”
  • Some books state that there is a copy of this prophecy in the Library at the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou, Mount Athos.
  1. The “New European War” is now considered to be a prophecy of World War II as it occurred after the “Great European War” which is considered to be a prophecy of World War I.
  2. Ralph H. Brewster, The 6,000 Beards of Athos, p.
  3. “In the spring of 1941 the Germans invaded and occupied Greece”, Father Maximos said to Bob Simon.
    They marched up the Acropolis, raised the swastika beside the Parthenon and were about to invade. The monks asked for a meeting with Nazi officers who told them to appeal to Hitler himself.
    The monks wrote Hitler a letter. “And in the letter, the monks identified themselves. They said, ‘This is who we are.’ And they asked Hitler to place the Holy Mountain under his personal protection,” Father Maximos said.
    When asked what kind of response they got, Father Maximos said, “It seems that Hitler liked the idea. He accepted the invitation to become the personal protector of the Holy Mountain.”
    Hitler sent a team of German academics to Mount Athos. They took 1,800 pictures of the mountain’s treasures, and it wasn’t because they enjoyed photography – Hitler wanted the monasteries’ riches in Berlin.
    “The professors were sent as an advance team to catalogue the treasures of the Holy Mountain so that a selection of things could be looted”, Father Maximos explained.
    But it didn’t happen that way and not a single item was taken.
    Father Maximos believes they have the Russians to thank for that: by the time the Nazi scholars completed their work, Hitler was bogged down in Russia and wasn’t thinking about icons.
  4. 1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos.
    1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos.
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0tYWPPl4qE
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Adolf Hitler: “Saint John’s Disciple” (Michael Onfray, 2010)

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An image of Adolf Hitler greeted visitors to Mount Athos in 1941 (Source: Mönchsland Athos)

NOTE: It is widely believed that the Nazis were heavily involved in neo-Germanic religion (tantamount to diabolism in orthodox Christian circles). This was not really the case. Among the top Nazi leaders, for example, only Himmler and Rudolf Hess ever resigned from their Christian Church affiliations. The God of Hitler was not Satan or Wotan. When Hitler spoke of his own religious conceptions, he spoke entirely in terms of a Christian God (as he understood it). Hitler tolerated and made use of the widespread neo-heathenism in Germany because he thought it provided “unrest” in the populace–unrest that he could direct toward his own ends. “These professors and obscure men who found their Nordic religions corrupt the whole thing for me,” he stated. This is the documented reality of the personal attitude of Hitler toward neo-heathen religion.

The Nazis attempted to institutionalize a new religion based on their own party’s doctrines and given shape by religious and magical pageantry with symbolism drawn from the established churches, but also Imperial Rome and, to a lesser degree, what they knew of the ancient Germanic cult.Many of the leaders of the Nazi hierarchy had unusual beliefs. Hitler merely allowed these leaders to indulge in their passions, as long as they moved his major agenda forward.

The deeper motivating factors for the Nazis’ actions are not rooted in magical or pagan ideas. They are rooted in the hatreds and fears first conjured in the Middle Ages. The obsession with the Jews and the belief that they were agents of evil in the midst of the good Christian folk of Germany, and ultimately responsible for every social, political, and economic ill suffered by the people, is all thoroughly medieval. Such ideas were part and parcel of establishment thinking in the Christian Middle Ages. the only direct root for Nazi enmity toward the Jews is in the medieval Christian hatred of them as “Christ killers.” The only modern addition to this is that the Nazis now augmented the theological argument for the Jews being an “evil race” (an idea introduced by the Christian Church Fathers) with scientific and pseudo-scientific arguments stemming from Darwinism and even Theosophical doctrines. 1

Hitler defended some of his measures by invoking Jesus driving the moneylenders from the Temple…

Jesus Christ driving the money changers out of the temple

Adolf Hitler thought highly of the story of the Temple moneylenders, taken from the Gospel according to John. A Christian who never renounced his faith, Hitler praised the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church, marveled at its creation of an unrivaled civilization, and prophesied its continued vigor in the centuries to come. For the moment, I shall merely note that in Mein Kampf (volume 1, chapter 11, page 307),* he mentions Jesus’ actions in the Temple and refers explicitly to the whip (scourge) — Saint John was the only evangelist to provide this detail. This was the kind of Christianity Hitler admired: true Christianity ( loc. cit. ) and apodictic faith (volume 2, chapter 5, page 454). Apodictic, the exact word Hitler used, meaning “expressing essential truth or absolute certainty.”

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Kristallnacht NYT 11-10-38

A Christian who does not deny the dual message of his Bible can also draw on Exodus (21:23—25) to evoke the lex talionis. As we know, it calls on us to exchange an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but also hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. And as we have seen, Jesus proposed turning the other cheek as an alternative to this ancient tribal formulation. But if we abrogate this Gospel parable and replace it with the vengeful Old Testament prescription, and couple this with the New Testament episode of the Temple moneylenders, the worst of excesses can easily be justified. With such a cargo of sophistries, we could justify Kristallnacht as a modern-day eviction of the moneylenders—let us remember that Jesus reproached them with transacting business and money-changing . . . Then, pursuing the same hysterical line of argument and invoking the lex talionis, the Final Solution becomes the logical response to the National Socialists’ nightmare of the racial and Bolshevik Judaization of Europe . . . Unfortunately, the metaphoric scourge permits the dialectician and the determined theoretician to legitimize the gas chambers. Moreover, Pius XII and the Catholic Church succumbed to the charms of these Hitlerian contradictions from the very beginning. Indeed the church continues to do so, if we accept as an admission of collusion its enduring unwillingness to acknowledge the error implicit in the Vatican’s support for Nazism. I shall return to this later.

Hitler Admired Islam

Husseini

Hitler—Abu Ali in Arabic — admired the Muslim religion in its very essence, virile, warlike, conquering, and militant. And many of the Muslim faithful subsequently repaid that kindness: there was the pro-Nazi grand mufti of Jerusalem during the Second World War, of course, but there were also the eternally anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist militants who recycled former Nazis into the highest ranks of Middle Eastern military staffs and secret services after the Second World War, who protected, concealed, and cared for many of the Third Reich’s war criminals in their territories — Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine. Not to mention an unbelievable number of conversions of former Reich dignitaries to the religion of the Koran. Pursuant to our examination of the Torah, New Testament, and Koran, let us consider additional contradictions and examples of selective borrowing from the sacred texts as a pretext for evil deeds. The Old Testament prohibits killing but simultaneously condones the annihilation of certain enemies of the Jews. Christian brotherly love is juxtaposed with sanction of violence, when dictated by God’s anger. The Koran, too, is full of inconsistencies. The mixed messages in all three monotheistic books have the potential of leading to monstrous consequences.

The Vatican admired Adolf Hitler.

The love-marriage between the Catholic Church and Nazism cannot be denied. Instances — and they are not minor ones — abound. Their complicity did not reside in unspoken approval, explicit omissions, or calculations made on the basis of partisan positions. The facts are clear to anyone who approaches the issue by interrogating history: it was not a marriage of reason, determined by concern for the survival of the church, but a shared loathing of the same implacable enemies: Jews and Communists — most often packaged together in the same grab bag labeled Judeo-Bolshevism. From the birth of National Socialism to the extrusion of the Third Reich’s war criminals after the regime’s collapse to the church’s silence on these questions ever since, the domain of Christ’s heir Saint Peter was also that of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen, German Nazis and French fascists, collaborators of the Nazis, Vichyites, fascist militias, and other war criminals. Even today, it is still impossible to consult the Vatican’s archives on the subject. The facts, then. The Catholic Church approved the rearmament of Germany in the 1930s, which was of course contrary to the spirit of the Versailles Treaty but also to a part of Jesus’ teachings, particularly those celebrating peace, mildness, love of one’s neighbor. The Catholic Church signed a concordat with Adolf Hitler as soon as the chancellor took office in 1933. The Catholic Church held its tongue over the boycott of Jewish businesses, remained silent over the proclamation of the Nurem-berg racial laws in 1935, and was equally silent over Kristallnacht in 1938. The Catholic Church provided the Nazis with its genealogical records, which told them who in Germany was Christian, and therefore non-Jewish. (On the other hand, the Catholic Church did invoke the principle of “pastoral secrecy” in order not to communicate the names of Jews converted to Christ’s religion or married to Christians.) The Catholic Church supported, defended, and aided the pro-Nazi Ustachi regime of Ante Pavelic in Croatia. The Catholic Church gave its absolution to France’s collaborationist Vichy regime in 1940. The Catholic Church, although fully aware of the policy of extermination set in motion in 1942, did not condemn it in private or in public, and never ordered any priest or bishop to condemn the criminal regime in the hearing of his flock. The Allied armies liberated Europe, reached Berchtesgaden, discovered Auschwitz. What did the Vatican do? It continued to support the defeated regime. The Catholic Church, in the person of Cardinal Bertram, ordered a requiem Mass in memory of Adolf Hitler. The Catholic Church was mute and showed no disapproval at the discovery of the mass graves, the gas chambers, and the death camps. Even better, the Catholic Church did for the Nazis (shorn of their Führer) what it had never done for a single Jew or victim of National Socialism: it set up a network designed to smuggle war criminals out of Europe. The Catholic Church used the Vatican, delivered papers stamped with its visas to fugitive Nazis, established a chain of European monasteries that served as hiding places for dignitaries of the ruined Reich. The Catholic Church promoted into its hierarchy people who had performed important tasks for the Hitler regime. And the Catholic Church will never apologize for any of these things, particularly since it has acknowledged none of them.

Catholic Bishops giving the Nazi salute in honor of Hitler

If there is ever to be repentance, we shall probably have to wait four centuries for it, the time it took for a pope to acknowledge the church’s error in the Galileo affair. Chiefly because the doctrine of papal infallibility proclaimed at the first Vatican Council in 1869—70 ( Pastor Aeternas) forbids challenging the church — for when the supreme pontiff speaks or makes a decision he does so not as a man capable of being wrong but as the representative of God on earth, constantly inspired by the Holy Spirit — the famous doctrine of “saving grace.” Are we to conclude from all this that the Holy Spirit is fundamentally Nazi? While the church remained silent on the Nazi question during and after the war, it missed no chance to act against Communists. Where Marxism is concerned, the Vatican has given proof of a commitment, a militancy, and a vigor better ex-pended in fighting and discrediting the Nazi Reich. Faithful to church tradition (which, through the grace of Pius IX and Pius X, condemned human rights as contrary to the teachings of the church), Pius XII, the pope so famously well-disposed toward National Socialism, excommunicated the Communists of the whole world en masse in 1949. He asserted collusion between the Jews and Bolshevism as one of the reasons for his decision. To recapitulate: no run-of-the-mill National Socialist, no Nazi of elevated rank or member of the Reich’s staff was ever excommunicated. No group was ever excluded from the church for preaching and practicing racism or anti-Semitism or operating gas chambers. Adolf Hitler was not excommunicated, and Mein Kampf was never put on the Index. We should not forget that after 1924, the date Hitler’s book appeared, the famous Index Librorum Prohibitorium added to its list — alongside Pierre Larousse, guilty of the Grand Dictionnaire Universel (!) — Henri Bergson, André Gide, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Adolf Hitler never appeared on it.

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Greek Orthodox Bishop giving Nazi salute (1940s)

Hitler admired the Vatican.

A widely held notion that fails to stand up to the most rudimentary analysis, still less to a reading of the texts, represents Hitler as a pagan fascinated by Nordic cults, a lover of Wagnerian horned helmets, of Valhalla and of generous-breasted Valkyrie, an antichrist, the very antithesis of Christian. Apart from evoking the difficulty of being at once atheist and pagan — denying the existence of God or gods while at the same time believing in them — to believe this means that we must ignore Hitler’s writings ( Mein Kampf), his political action (the Reich’s failure to persecute the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church, as opposed, for example, to its treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses), and the Führer’s private confidences (his published conversations with Albert Speer), in which he consistently and unambiguously expressed his admiration for Christianity. Was it an atheist Führer who decided to stamp the words Gott mit uns on the belt buckles of the Reich’s soldiers? Do people know that the slogan comes from the scriptures? Notably from Deuteronomy, one of the books of the Torah, which says, “For the Lord thy God is he that goeth with you” (Deuteronomy 20:4). These words were lifted from the speech Yahweh addressed to the Jews leaving to fight their enemies, the Egyptians, to whom God held out the promise of unspecified extermination (Deuteronomy 20:13). Was it an atheist Führer who ordered all schoolchildren in the National Socialist Reich to begin their day with a prayer to Jesus? Not to God, which might have made a deist of Hitler, but to Jesus, which explicitly labels him a Christian. The same supposedly atheist Führer asked Goering and Goebbels, in the presence of Albert Speer who recorded the conversation, to remain within the bosom of the Catholic Church, as he himself would until his dying day.

Roser 02 (Chip)

Christianity and National Socialism: points in common.

The understanding between Hitler and Pius XII went far beyond personal compatibility. The two doctrines shared more than one point of convergence. The infallibility of the pope, who we should remember was also a head of state, could not have been displeasing to a Führer also convinced of his infallibility. The possibility of building an empire, a civilization, a culture with a supreme guide invested with full powers — like Constantine and several Christian emperors who succeeded him—was something that fascinated Hitler during the writing of his book. The Christian eradication of everything redolent of paganism? The destruction of altars and temples? The book burnings (remember that Paul recommended them)? The persecution of all who opposed the new faith? All excellent things, Hitler concluded.

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Hitler in a place of honor at St Panteleimon Monastery, Mt. Athos. The picture was later replaced with a portrait of Queen Frederica of Greece.

The Führer admired the theocratic evolution of Christianity. He wrote ( Mein Kampf, volume 2, chapter 5, page 454) that it was only by virtue of “passionate intolerance” for pagan altars that an”apodictic faith” could grow up — Hitler’s term for “unshakable faith.” He marveled at the church’s determination to give up nothing, even and especially in the face of science when it contradicted certain of its positions or took its dogma to task (page 459); the flexibility of the church, for which Hitler predicted a future well beyond what people might imagine (page 459); the permanence of the venerable institution (volume 1, chapter 3, page 115) despite the occasionally deplorable behavior of clergy (which did nothing to affect overall church policy). In all this, Hitler asked his readers to “take lessons from the Catholic Church” (page 459, but also pages 114-20). What is the “true Christianity” Hitler mentions in Mein Kampf (volume 1, chapter 11, page 307)? That of the “great founder of the new doctrine”: Jesus, the same Jesus to whom children in the schools of the Third Reich prayed. But which Jesus? Not the one who turned the other cheek, no, but the angry Jesus who ejected the moneylenders from the Temple with a whip. Hitler specifically mentioned this passage from John in his argument. Also, let us not forget what sort of people this most Christian whip served to drive out: unbelievers, non-Christians, vendors, merchants, money-changers—in short, Jews, the unspoken key word in this complicity between Reich and Vatican. John’s Gospel (2:14) does not invalidate Hitler’s philo-Christian and anti-Semitic reading; indeed, it makes it possible. Particularly if we take note of the many passages in the N e w Testament consigning the Jews to hellfire. The Jews were a race of deicides. Here lies the key to this fatal partnership: they use religion, said Hitler, in order to do business; they are, he adds, the enemies of any kind of humanity; he goes on to specify that it was the Jews who created Bolshevism. Let everyone make up his own mind. But to Hitler himself things were clear: “to the political leader, the religious ideas and institutions of his people must remain inviolable” (page 116). So the gas chambers could be operated in the name of Saint John.

Wars, fascisms, and other pursuits

The partnership of Christianity and Nazism is not an accident of history, a regret-table and isolated mistake along the wayside, but the fulfillment of a two-thousand-year-old logic. From Paul of Tarsus, who justified fire and the sword in turning a private sect into a religion contaminating the empire and the world, to the Vatican’s twentieth-century justification of the nuclear deterrent, the line has endured. Thou shalt not kill . . . except from time to time … and when the church tells you to.

Augustine, a saint by trade, dedicated all his talent to justifying the worst in the church: slavery, war, capital punishment, etc. Blessed are the meek? The peacemakers? Augustine is no more enthusiastic than Hitler about this side of Christianity, too soft, not virile or warlike enough, squeamish about bloodshed—the feminine face of religion. He offered the church the concepts it lacked to justify punitive expeditions and massacres. These things the Jews had practiced to acquire their land, on a limited geographical scale, but the Christians drew from that local action inspiration for action across the face of the globe, for their goal was converting the world itself. The chosen people generated catastrophes that were first of all local. Universal Christianity created universal up-heavals. Once it triumphed, every continent became a battlefield. With the church’s blessing, Augustine, bishop of Hippo, sanctioned just persecution in a letter (185). A choice formulation, which he presents in contrast to unjust persecution! What differentiates the good corpse from the bad? Flaying of victims—when is it defensible and when is it indefensible? All persecution by the church was good, because motivated by love; while persecution directed against the church was indefensible, because inspired by cruelty. We should relish the rhetoric and talent for sophistry of Saint Augustine, who preferred his Jesus to brandish the whip and not to suffer it at the hands of the Roman soldiery. Which brings us to the concept of just war, itself formulated by the same church father, a man who decidedly never shrank from brutality, vice, or perversion. As the heir of the ancient pagan fable — Greek as it happened—Christianity recycled trial by ordeal. In a war, the victor was designated by God; so too, therefore, was the vanquished. By deciding in the conflict between winners and losers, God designates the true and the false, good and bad, legitimate and illegitimate. Magical thinking, to say the least.

To understand more about the relationship between the Vatican, Christianity and National Socialism, see:

http://www.amazon.com/God-Fascists-Vatican-Alliance-Mussolini/dp/1616148373

*The page numbers cited correspond to the paperback edition of Mein Kampf, American translation by Ralph Manheim, published by Mariner Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin.

Hitler Christianity

NOTES

  1. See Stephen E. Flowers, Lords of the Left-Hand Path: Forbidden Practices and Spiritual Heresies, Chapter 7, pp. 209-232. Also see: The Secret King: The Myth and reality of Nazi Occultism:”In Mein Kampf and elsewhere Hitler repeatedly and enthusiastically ridiculed the whole idea of “neo-Germanic ideology.” He never resigned from the Church (as did Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, and several other high-ranking officials) and in fact created the legal and political relationship between Church and State which remains in effect in Germany to this day. The original party program, the “Twenty-Five Points of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party,” mandated that Germany was a Christian nation, and made Christianity the official religion (regardless of denomination).To characterize National Socialism as being fundamentally “anti-Christian” is therefore misleading. Hitler’s political movement emerged out of the wider German social conditions of the early 20th century, and as such it was affected by all the complex cultural traits generally prevalent in that period in the Western world. This included significant, but not dominant, doses of paganism and some ideas popularly thought of as being “occult.” Pagans and so-called Gottgläubigen (those with faith in a deity) proliferated in Germany to a certain degree, not unlike other “New Religions” that were similarly gestating in Europe, England, and America, and which were typically based either on indigenous pagan or more exotic Eastern—and, in the case of ceremonial occultists like Aleister Crowley, even Egyptian –models, often intertwined with Freemasonry.If we were to catalog the most fundamental spiritual currents present during the Third Reich, however, we would have to rank Christianity at the top. A reading of Mein Kampf reveals hundreds of references to the Christian religion and the Bible, yet there is almost no mention of Germanic mythology. This is not to discount a certain influence from the pagan factions of the völkisch movement among various National Socialists at all levels of the Party. However, no organized effort to revive the worship of the Germanic gods in an official or public way ever emerged. The most influential “anti-Christian” trend among National Socialists is connected to the official resignation (Austrit) from the established church denominations by some Nazi leaders. There were also government officials who were explicitly anti-Christian, but this need not have had anything in particular to do with paganism, occultism, or Satanism.” ( pp. 30-31)
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Watercolor of St. Charles’s Church in Vienna by Adolf Hitler