Yet I planted you a choice vine, A completely faithful seed. How then have you turned yourself before Me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?—Jeremiah 2:21
There are Catholics. There are lapsed Catholics. And there are Catholics who reject and turn on their religion. Adolf Hitler and several of his minions fit the latter. The question is, why?
Adolf Hitler’s Catholic Boyhood
In an article, “Hitler’s Boyhood,” The History Place™ recounts some amazing facts about Hitler’s Catholic upbringing. His mother, Klara, a devout Catholic, brought Adolf and his siblings up as Catholics.
His family moved several times during his boyhood and as a result he attended different schools. He was an Austrian by birth and while in Lambach, Austria, attended school at the Lambach Abbey, a Catholic Benedictine monastery for about three years. It was there that he saw the cross in the form of a swastika which he later adopted as the symbol of Nazism.
By all accounts Hitler was a normal school child. The article relates “He found school easy and got good grades with little effort.” He even joined the school choir, “ had a fine singing voice… idolized the priests …and seriously considered becoming a priest [himself].”
A 1939 article in the Washington Evening Star (column 4) confirms that Hitler’s mother also “wanted him to be a pastor”—noting the irony that Joseph Stalin also studied for the Orthodox priesthood. The History Place™ article also informs us that, as an adult, Hitler said“the solemn pageantry of the High Mass and other Catholic ceremonies was quite intoxicating and left a very deep impression me.”
The historian Bradley Smith in his book, Adolf Hitler, His Family, Childhood & Youth, writes that “the young Hitler invites our sympathy…[he] was a very human little boy and youth.” According to his mother, Klara, Hitler “really enjoyed attending [church] services and was completely devoted to the faith and teachings of Catholicism.”
Smith also relates that Adolf “was very fond of his mother and a deep bond united them throughout his childhood.” Adding that he was selfish and lazy. Smith also confirms that he “did well in school…receiving the highest mark in his subjects and deportment…[and] temporarily thought of becoming a monk.”
The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm wrote that Klara was a “positive, hardworking and responsible woman…who loved children including those to whom she was a stepmother.” An article in the Key West Citizen (Columns 4 & 5) related that Klara “coddled [Adolf]…fawned on him [and] coached him in greatness.”
Historians generally agree that Hitler’s father was a tough taskmaster. A Spartacus-Educational.com article reports Alois was “an authoritarian, overbearing, domineering husband and stern, distant, aggressive and violent father.” A month after Hitler started World War II by invading Poland, an article described his father as a “tall, powerful drinking man …who beat and tormented Adolf.” When Adolf entered secondary school, his father insisted that his son study for a civil service job while Adolph wanted to study art—a subject at which he excelled and wanted to pursue.
The senior Hitler was a life-long civil servant who married Klara (a former domestic servant and his second cousin) when he was 42 after his second wife died (as did the first). Klara was 25. Because they were cousins they were required to seek and ultimately received from the Vatican permission to marry, according the article, The Devil’s Mother.
When the two married in 1885, Klara took on two children—Alois, Jr. and Angela—from Alois’ previous marriages. She bore six children herself of which only Adolf and his sister Paula survived. Adolf was Klara’s fourth child and Paula the sixth and last. Alois retired at age 52—ten years after the marriage and pursued bee farming without much success. Alois Hitler died in 1903 at sixty-six when Adolf was fourteen.
The Adolescent Hitler turns from Catholicism
Forced to accede to his father’s demands Adolph commenced studies towards becoming a civil servant. His grades and deportment began to falter. He admitted it was his way of revolting against his father’s choice. At about the same time Hitler’s fervor for Catholicism seems to have changed. Smith relates he became “skeptical about the church…[and] persistently annoyed his religious instructor [a priest].” His secondary school class was comprised of 28 Catholics (including himself), five Protestants and six Jews.
Two years after his father died, Adolf quit school. Over the next couple of years, according to Budnik, he spent his free time “reading, drawing, and studying fine art.” In 1907 at the age of eighteen his mother supported and encouraged him to move to Vienna to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist. His application to art school was denied twice and he was devastated. Forced for a while to live on the streets, he supported himself by hand painting post cards, novelties and house painting. A 1939 article in the Coolidge Examiner [AZ] (Column 6) reported “[while in Vienna Hitler] became embittered and turned his back on his Catholic religion.”
When World War I began he enlisted in the Bavarian (German) Army and mustered out as a corporal. During the war Hitler was awarded a number of military medals for heroic acts in combat. Between the two world wars he rose as a popular politician. Ultimately his Nazi party took control of Germany. Hundreds of scholarly books relate the story of the rise and fall of Nazism—a story so well-known it’s unnecessary recounting it here.
Hitler’s Catholic Henchmen
A number of Hitler’s cohorts were also Catholics.
Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels, along with his five siblings, were raised in the church. At one point like Hitler he seriously considered becoming a priest. But by 1937, as Nazi Propaganda Minister, he led the attack against the church shortly after Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Desire), which condemned the Nazi persecution of the Jews. By controlling the German media Goebbels publicized the arrest and trials of priests and nuns on sexual offense charges and moral corruption. In light of current exposés, this may have been a useful way to go.
Hitler’s SS chief Heinrich Himmler was also raised a Catholic. His mother, like Hitler’s, is described as extremely devout. The historian Peter Longerich in his book, Heinrich Himmler: A Life, asserts Himmler remained a devout Catholic throughout college but around 1923-1924 he abandoned the Catholic faith and began to focus his attention on German mythology. As leader of the German SS, he strove to develop a state religion based upon this mythology.
Himmler also orchestrated the establishment of “racial mating camps” in which a quarter a million German women were paid to cohabitate with SS soldiers (outside of marriage) in an effort to promulgate the alleged “Aryan race.” He also forbade chaplains in the SS.
As SS chief, Himmler is the Nazi official who oversaw the construction and manned the Nazi extermination/concentration camps. He superintended the execution of millions of so-called “undesirables”—Jews, gays, gypsies, mentally ill, dissident political prisoners and other groups thought unworthy of life by the Nazis.
Other notable Nazi Catholics included: Hans Frank who served as Nazi Governor-General of Poland. He oversaw the segregation and ghettoization of Polish Jews and operation of several concentration camps where three million inmates perished. He converted to Catholicism and sought forgiveness before his execution.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner ran the Nazi security networks (i.e. Gestapo, secret state police; Kripo, state criminal police; and SD, secret intelligence police). He set up the Mauthausen concentration camp.
Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered the confiscation of Jewish property in Austria and sent thousands of Jews to concentration camps. Later he was sent to the Netherlands where he followed through with numerous anti-Semitic activities and oversaw two concentration camps there. Seyss-Inquart had a brother who was a Catholic priest. He expressed regret and sought forgiveness for his murderous deeds before his execution..
Julius Streicher was the principal Nazi publisher and his newspaper, Der Stürmer, dehumanized European Jews in Europe in order to justify the Holocaust.
Suicides, Murders and Executions
As the Nazi state unwound, Hitler and his wife Eva Braun, herself a Catholic who attended Catholic school, committed suicide. Before committing suicide, Josef Goebbels and his wife murdered their six children. Heinrich Himmler, shortly after being captured, took his own life by swallowing a cyanide capsule. As a result of the Nuremberg Trials, Frank, Kaltenbrunner, Seyss-Inquart and Streicher were all convicted of war crimes and hanged.
The question will always be why did these men turn their backs on Catholicism and become deranged and sadistic murderers? Their devotion to Catholicism seems to have just dissipated in thin air.
The Nazi state strove to rid itself of simple decent Christian morality. This is borne out by the fact the Nazi army of 13.6 million engaged only 560 chaplains—one chaplain for every 24,286 soldiers. In comparison, the United States with an army of 16 million engaged 8,896—one chaplain for every 1,799 soldiers. Ironically both armies’ chaplain corps were overseen by Catholic bishops: Germany’s by Catholic Bishop Franz Rarkowski and the U. S. Army by Catholic Bishop William Arnold. It was truly a war between good and evil.