The holy Reich : religious dimensions of Nazi ideology, 1919-1945 / Richard Steigmann-Gall.
This dissertation explores the religious views of the leadership of the Nazi movement. It combines archival source materials with theories of ideology and secularization to evaluate the ways in which members of the Nazi elite inscribed their movement with religious meaning. This study demonstrates that many leading Nazis, contrary to the scholarly consensus, considered themselves Christian or understood their movement within a Christian frame of reference. Often employing the concept of “positive Christianity,” these Nazis suggested that the contours of their ideology were predicated on a Christian understanding of Germany's ills and their cure. A program usually regarded as secular in conception—the creation of a cross-class “peoples' community” embracing antisemitism, anti-marxism. and anti-liberalism—was for these Nazis understood in explicitly Christian terms. Far from viewing their movement as a substitute religion, positive Christians believed they were defending a faith menaced by the forces of moral and physical degeneracy. This study also unveils a struggle over religious identities in the movement. In this contest, “positive Christians” waged a struggle against the party's “paganists.” The paganists were determined to create a new religion that would move its spiritual center from Jerusalem or Rome to Germany, and would introduce new objects of worship to the Volk. However, even as these paganists professed a rejection of Christianity and its dogmas, they esteemed Jesus as someone whose personal “struggle” against the Jews served as inspiration for their own struggle. Paganists cast Luther as both a great national hero and religious reformer, whose struggle against Rome inspired their religious battles. Convinced that they had successfully outlined a new religious belief system, paganists frequently salvaged key aspects of Christian belief for their new, un-Christian faith. Lastly, this dissertation examines key social and political dimensions of Christianity in Germany between 1919 and 1945. It maps out the rise of a particular variety of religion, “positive Christianity,” and its dissipation. It reveals the contested nature of religious meaning in Nazism—a contest that spanned nearly the entire period of the party's history—and reveals how this influenced larger contests within the movement about ideology. It demonstrates that while the Nazi party as a whole became increasingly hostile to church institutions, this hostility was not always synonymous with an attack on Christianity.
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