The Christian Community & the German Jews
The Christian clergy, both Protestant and Catholic, contributed to the persecution of the Jews not only by keeping quiet in view of the evident atrocities inflicted on the Jewish minority, but also because there was nearly universal agreement among both confessions that Jews were not worth a confrontation with the Nazi regime. It is noteworthy that in 1941 the bishop of Münster, Graf Galen, held a devastating critical speech against the killings of the retarded. That sermon was widely publicized in German Catholic publications and forced the abandonment of euthanasia by the government because Hitler feared that any further such pronouncements against his policies would result in popular condemnation of such actions.
No effort of any kind was made by the Christian clergy on behalf of the Jews. Instead, the clergy preached that “the Jews” were responsible for the death of Jesus and therefore brought the present persecutions on themselves.
Furthermore, both Protestant and Catholic pastors walked ahead of brown shirted storm troopers as they marched down the streets singing such songs as, “When Jewish blood squirts from the knife, things will go twice as well” (Wen’s Judenblut vom Messer spritzt dann geht’s nochmal so gut”). Another popular song in which the clergy participated was: “Sharpen the long knives on the sidewalks and ram the knives into the bodies of the Jews” (Wetzt die Messer auf dem Bürgersteig, lasst die Messer flutschen in den Judenleib”). This song had eleven verses ending in the phrase “Die Judenrepublik,” a reference to the Geman democratic state that existed during the fifteen years between the two world wars. These songs were also taught to schoolchildren and sung by the “Hitler Youth” and the “Association of German Girls” (Bund Deutscher Mädchen) who wore Nazi style uniforms and played war games on weekends.
Another example of the deep-seated hatred of Jews among the German population was the enthusiasm with which people viewed the deportations of Jews assembled in public parks and open spaces. Germans would shout epithets at those about to be deported and expressed their approval of these horrors by outdoing each other in insulting the miserable victims.
There was hardly a German even before 1933 who did not agree that there was “a Jewish problem” called “Die Judenfrage” or “the Jewish Question.” Germans could not tolerate that Jews were human and really quite ordinary people. To Germans it was common sense that there existed a Jewish race that had biological propensities detrimental to German civilization.
most dramatic evidence for the rejection of the German Jews by the Christian
population even before the Nazi takeover of the government was the assassination
of Walter Rathenau, the foreign minister of Germany, during the tenure of the
short lived German republic between 1918 and 1933. Rathenau was murdered in the
street in June of 1922. Many Germans celebrated the murder committed by two
super-nationalists. Rathenau had been in office only six months when he was
killed. This murder was not surprising, since the German people were largely
convinced that Jews should not be allowed any privileges as German citizens.
Indeed, it was common to sing “Knall weg den Walter Rathenau; die
Gottverdammte Judensau” or “Bang down Walter Rathenau, the God damned Jewish
sow.” It is noteworthy that Germans had for centuries called Jews
“Judensau” and that in Wittenberg, the hometown of Martin Luther, there was
carved into the outside of the church wall a statue depicting a rabbi reading a
Hebrew book by holding a candle to the behind of a “Judensau.” There are
today at least 12 churches in Germany and other European countries with similar
carvings in their church walls.
Public opinion can be recognized by reviewing the newspapers of the day. Before the advent of the internet, newspapers were significant in revealing the sentiments of the public. Therefore a survey of 68 Sunday papers published between 1918 and 1933 before the advent of a Nazi government repeated year in and year out that Jews were the enemy of the Christian tradition. During those fifteen years, the newspapers in Germany never stopped in their defamation of the German Jews, holding them responsible for any and all evils in the world. Among these newspapers was “Der Stürmer,” which was entirely devoted to the defamation of Jews, using the most vile language and revolting cartoons.
There can be little doubt that the root cause of all this endemic hatred of Jews in Germany and almost all Christian countries during the 1930’s was a reflection of the teachings of all Christian institutions for 1600 years prior to the assault on the German Jews in the 1930’s. These teachings can be summarized by twelve theses later rejected by both Catholic and Protestant denominations, but very much alive in the 1930’s. These beliefs were that Christianity has supplanted Judaism; that Jews are instruments of the devil; that Jews deliberately alter the texts of the Bible; that Jews are themselves to blame for all their misfortunes; that Jews are God killers; that there can be no salvation for Jews; that the Jewish scriptures are “old;” that Jews are disinherited; that Jews deserve legal disabilities; that God hates the Jews and they are cursed by Him; that Jews serve as an example to unbelievers; and that Jews are less than human.