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Berlin exhibit highlights how the Nazis exploited Martin Luther’s legacy

Flag of the German Christians, 1932. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“Überall Luthers Worte … ” — “Luther’s Words are everywhere,” the title of the exhibition highlighting how the Nazis exploited Martin Luther’s legacy during the Third Reich. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

BERLIN (RNS) — Martin Luther is such a towering figure in German history that it’s no surprise Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich exploited his name whenever it could.

Most visitors to events in Germany marking this year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, however, probably didn’t expect to find an exhibition setting out just how extensively the Nazis used Luther to justify their anti-Semitism and nationalism.

To dramatize the connection, the exhibition “Luther’s words are everywhere … ” is located in the Topography of Terror, a central Berlin museum about Nazi repression methods that was built where the headquarters of the Gestapo secret police and SS paramilitary force once stood.

“Überall Luthers Worte … ” — “Luther’s Words are everywhere,” the title of the exhibition highlighting how the Nazis exploited Martin Luther’s legacy during the Third Reich. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

The caption under a portrait of Luther in the Nazi propaganda weekly Der Stürmer, reproduced on a panel at the exhibition, comes right to the point. Calling him a “fighter against the Jewish spirit in the Christian Church,” it says: “Dr. Luther is one of the greatest anti-Semites in German history.”


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Another panel shows a poster urging Berlin Lutherans to vote for the pro-Nazi “German Christians” in local church elections in July 1933, only months after Hitler came to power. At the top are both the Christian cross and the swastika, which is called the “hooked cross” (Hakenkreuz) in German.

Campaigning outside a Berlin church for elections on July 23, 1933. The banner says “Vote for List 1, German Christians.” Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“We merge Christ’s cross with the hooked cross,” it declares. Dripping with Nazi terminology, it says Christianity should have nothing to do with anything opposed to the German people and their race.

The title of the exhibition comes from a 1937 quote by the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Luther’s words are everywhere, but twisted from truth into self-deception.” Bonhoeffer was executed as an anti-Nazi conspirator one month before World War II ended in 1945.

Kurt Hendel, professor emeritus of Reformation history at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, said the Nazis saw Luther as a hero because of his virulent 1543 treatise “On the Jews and Their Lies.”

“On the Jews and Their Lies” by Martin Luther, 1543. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“They very clearly used Luther’s writings that had all this anti-Semitism in them to support their cause,” he told RNS, noting the treatise called for Jews to be expelled from German cities, synagogues to be burned down and rabbis forbidden to preach.

“Luther is particularly tragic in this sense” since he had rejected anti-Semitism in earlier writings, Hendel said. But Luther always believed Jews should be converted and he gradually lost patience when they did not embrace Christianity.

The reformer’s 1543 treatise was all but forgotten for generations until 19th-century German scholars included it in what is known as the Erlangen edition of his complete works. “It’s through that reality that Hitler and his supporters knew about it,” Hendel said.

The Nazis marked the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birthday in November 1933 with a nationwide “German Luther Day,” in which the main speaker praised Luther’s “ethno-nationalist mission” and called for “the completion of the German Reformation in the Third Reich.”

The following year, they celebrated the 400th anniversary of his groundbreaking translation of the Bible into German for, as they put it, “a healthy people committed to their own kind.”

In 1938, Hitler’s propagandists highlighted the fact that the infamous Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) of Nov. 9-10 — when Nazis burned synagogues and smashed the windows of Jewish-owned shops, leaving more than 1,000 synagogues ablaze or smoldering — fell on the reformer’s birthday.

“On November 10, 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany,” wrote Martin Sasse, the pro-Nazi Lutheran bishop of Thuringia state. “The German people must hear the words of this man, the greatest anti-Semite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews.”

Citing this pamphlet in its review of the exhibition, the Berlin tabloid newspaper B.Z. said: “This instrumentalization must not be ignored amid all the hero worship in this Luther year.”


READ: Study up: A Reformation anniversary reading list


The exhibition also documents the Third Reich’s crackdown on the Confessing Church, the Protestant minority that opposed Nazism, and the government’s hand in helping to build or renovate more than 1,000 Protestant church buildings during the Nazi period.

Thomas Albert Howard, professor of humanities and history at Valparaiso University in Indiana, said the first two Reformation centennials were strictly religious, but interpretations of Luther changed in the 19th century.

“This is where you get the two major strands,” he said. “One is the liberal Luther, whose reforms are seen as leading to progress and the modern age, and the other the nationalist Luther, whose Bible translation helped shape the modern German language and identity.”

By the 400th anniversary of his birth in 1883, the ceremonies exuded “a worrisome and pungent nationalism” that continued when Imperial Germany marked the 1917 Reformation centennial during World War I.

Although many German Protestants supported the Nazis, Howard recalled that not all church leaders agreed.

“The German Protestant church was split in two between the ‘German Christians,’ who were more sympathetic to National Socialist ideals, and the Confessing Church — typified by people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer — who were very critical of the marriage of Christianity and Nazism,” he said.

“The Nazis wanted to instrumentalize the church — they weren’t gung-ho about Martin Luther per se.”

Despite his anti-Semitic writings, Luther couldn’t be called a Nazi either, Hendel insisted.

“He was not a Nazi anti-Semite, he was a religious anti-Semite,” he said, explaining that Luther opposed Jews not as an ethnic group but because they refused to convert.

Hendel stressed that Lutheran churches have since firmly rejected Luther’s anti-Semitic writings and asked for Jews’ forgiveness.

“However, anti-Semitism is still well and alive, as we see in our own time now with the neo-Nazi stuff and Charlottesville and all those kinds of reality,” he added. “We have to be very critical.”

(Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity. Tom Heneghan in Paris contributed to this article. Reporting from Germany on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was made possible in part by funding from the German National Tourist Board.)

RNS graphic by Chris Mathews

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

About the author

Tom Heneghan

Tom Heneghan is a Paris-based correspondent

57 Comments

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  • I for one would agree with what Roy Hobs would probably say here. That the Nazi are simply the culmination of centuries of internalizing and interpretation of Martin Luther’s writings concerning the Jews. Demonizing a group for centuries to the point of making it an article of faith laid the ground work for what happened next.

    Make no bones about it, the Bonhoeffer were a distinct and not very widely respected minority within Germany or its controlled areas under Nazi control. Most churches either looked the other way or openly collaborated with Nazis and their atrocities. The sole exception under occupied Europe was the Danish Lutheran Church which worked with the national resistance to save its Jewish population from the Holocaust.

    Its good that Germans are confronting this past plainly and openly.

  • There were other German Christians who paid dearly for their opposition to Hitler and his aims, Martin Niemoller comes to mind. Clemens von Graf, Bishop of Munster, was a early and ardent opponent of the Nazi Regime. Members of the “Confessing Church” were adamant in their resistance as well. While the numbers were relatively small when contrasted with those German “Christians” who supported the Nazis’, their adherence to the genuine precepts of the faith cannot be disdained or discounted.

  • Yaay, the Old Lutheran me (the post-war missionaries to my great ancestors were ex-SS Lutherans, see) just finished reading, so quiz me, quiz me, Emily McFarlan Miller and Tom Heneghan! Not a piece of cake, but I get the feeling I’m going to ace it!

    TRUE OR FALSE: My fellow born-again, Bible-thumping Christian ‘Bra Marty Luthor was a “fighter against the Jewish spirit in the Christian Church [and] one of the greatest anti-Semites in German history … [and] the warner of his people against the Jews.”

    TRUE.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “Luther’s words [were] everywhere, but twisted from truth into self-deception.”

    FALSE.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “Luther’s writings … had all this anti-Semitism in them”.

    TRUE.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “Luther’s ‘ethno-nationalist mission'” makes him a proto-White Supremacist and Donald Trump the Grand Ecumenist of All Races in the Making.

    TRUE.

  • Jewish supremacists have demonized non-Jews for millennia, and continue doing so up till the present day. The views of former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Ovadiah Yosef, were republished by the official Jewish Telegraphic Agency, see below: http://www.jta.org/2010/10/18/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/sephardi-leader-yosef-non-jews-exist-to-serve-jews

    ♦ “Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel.”
    ♦ “Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat,” he said to laughter during a weekly sermon.
    ♦ “With gentiles, it will be like any person: They need to die, but God will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one’s donkey would die, they’d lose their money. This is his servant. That’s why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1270038.stm
    “It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable. The Lord shall return the Arabs’ deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world.” — (Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Ovadiah Yosef.)
    ♦ “waste their seed” is a reference to Palestinian children.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-closes-down-for-rabbi-ovadia-yosefs-funeral/
    800,000 Israelies, or 16 percent of the Jewish population of that country—turned up to pay their respects at the funeral Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Ovadiah Yosef, making it the largest funeral in Israeli history. The man they chose to honour promoted wholesale genocide of the Palestinians.

  • Canned anti Semitic tirades aside (and ignored), you would agree that Martin Luther’s writings support and inform your views, right?

  • It speaks volumes that the below statement by a prominent Jewish religious leader could be printed in Jewish Week, the largest Jewish publication in the United States, without the Jewish community loudly, and publicly condemning the statement, and it speaks volumes that the Jewish religious leader in question, felt comfortable and confident enough that making such a murderous statement, (it turns out he was right) would not result in a resounding condemnation from the Jewish community in America.

    “If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite value,” he explained. “There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.” – (Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh in Jewish Week, the largest Jewish publication in the United States.)

    Interpol hunts two Israelis, Moshe Harel and Zaki Shapira, for Kosovo organ trafficking.
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/interpol-hunts-two-israelis-for-kosovo-organ-trafficking-1.324383

    — Is this a (((COHENcidence)))????

  • I am not a Lutheran, so I haven’t read any of Martin Luther’s works, although I am aware of certain quotes/statements attributed to him, which I believe are accurate. For example: “They have been taught so much deadly hatred against the Gentiles by their parents and Rabbis since their earliest youth and continue to feed their hate during all the years of their lives, and this hatred has saturated their very blood and flesh, fills the very marrow of their bones and has become inseparable from their whole being.” — Martin Luther (Weimar 53, pgs. 482-483)

    Here is a statement that I agree with, it was made by a Jewish holocaust survivor and Israeli peace activist, named Israel Shahak: “Anti-Semitism and Jewish chauvinism can only be fought simultaneously.”

  • So you agree that Martin Luther’s writings inform your views here.

    Because people don’t generally cut and paste quote mining from neo Nazi sites unless they desired to visit them in the first place.

  • You are a neo Nazi, Luther informs your views one-way or another. I simply find it offensive that people should play denial and equivocation games for views people like you clearly drew from. It is denial of your heritage.

    Cutting and pasting from Stormfront or equivalents doesn’t change such things.

    You should be up in arms that people try to exclude you from being considered Christian when you clearly represent a major part of the faith.

  • You don’t strike me as someone who peruses Jewish Week for the latest news. 🙂

    But even you would agree that Christian belief informs your views. That you are as much of a Christian and relying on Christian belief as the authors of the article. Those who would deny such things.

  • Obviously you don’t agree with that statement, as you can’t possibly deny being an anti-Semite. Luther’s quote is false. I was never taught hatred, much less deadly hatred, against anyone. Luther was a liar and you are as well.

  • “He was not a Nazi anti-Semite, he was a religious anti-Semite” means only that a lot of Jews died in either case. The Nazis did not invent anti-Semitism, they didn’t have to — it was in place for centuries as a result of religious anti-Semitism.

  • Luther was probably pathological in his expression of hatred for Jews, the Papacy, and indeed fellow Protestants who did not agree with him See the recent biography of him by Lydal Roper and his virulent comparison of Jews to pig whom Christians should thrown dung at, burn all synagogues, force Jews to do physical labor. His anti-semitism was integral to his thought, true Christians are the chosen people. He cited the Von Schem Hamphoras (sp) which said Jews ate shit from the Devil and liked it. hundreds of churches in Germany were and still are decorated with carvings of Jews eating shit out of a pig’s ass. He was a great thinker, writer, but a seriously disturbed person

  • Anti-Semitism was not the invention of Luther, but had been practiced for centuries in a world where nearly every religious group in charge had a mentality of “its my way or the highway” such as Catholic Spain and its inquisition, Muslim ruled areas at times, or even some extreme Zionist Israelis. Luther began with a moderate attitude toward the Jews for the era with the expectation they would convert to the Evangelical Church. He became angry many years later at the lack of progress in converting the Jews.

    Luther has been used as a hero by the East German Communists, various Monarchs, as well as the Nazis just as other prominent men’s ideas have been twisted and used throughout history.

  • Luther brought anti-semitism into the very DNA of the Protestant movement. To the point where it was more of the norm for such sects rather than lonely exceptions.

    True, the Catholic Church’s attitudes also were very helpful to the Nazis and collaborators. They don’t get off so easy either. Many areas under German occupation during the war were Catholic majority. Two collaboration movements were explicitly Catholic: Rexists of Belgium and “Chetniks” of Croatia.

    “He became angry many years later at the lack of progress in converting the Jews.”

    As many antisemites would. They didn’t respect the beliefs of the Jews and saw them as merely a group to incorporate into their own. Much like modern philosemitism of conservative Christians.

  • This “pathology” as you called it, was acknowledged by Luther himself, who called it his perennial “Anfechtungen”.

    According to Andrew Jasko, “Mental Illness in Martin Luther: A Clear Diagnosis, Its Positive Role in his Life and Work as One of the World’s Most Impactful Revolutionaries and Visionaries”, Life After Dogma, April 17, 2014:

    It was there all the time for him, this “Anfechtungen”, not only when Martin Luther wrote “On the Jews and Their Lies” and “On the Last Words of David” in 1543, but long before that. In fact, from “The 95 Theses” in 1517, “Preface to the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans” in 1522, and “The Bondage of the Will” in 1525; through “Lectures on Galatians” in 1535 and “Sermons on the Gospel of John” in 1532 and 1537; until “Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther‘s Latin Writings” in 1545 – “Luther’s theology is itself a work of and about Anfechtung.”

    In my view, Luther with his “Anfechtungen” still ending up revolutionizing Protestantism is akin to Thomas Jefferson with his socio-pathology still ending up revolutinizing Americanism. Go figure.

    According to Robert Parry, “Thomas Jefferson: America’s Founding Sociopath”, Consortium News, July 4, 2016: “The historical record increasingly makes Jefferson out to be a serial rapist, exploiting at least one and possibly more girls who were trapped on his property, who indeed were his property, and thus had little choice but to tolerate his sexual advances. … As unpleasant as it may be for Americans who prefer especially on July Fourth to ponder the pleasant image of Jefferson as the aristocratic republican with a taste for fine art and a fondness for free-thinking, it is well past time to look at the Declaration’s author as the person he really was, America’s founding sociopath.”

  • Once again you don’t know what you’re talking about, Spuddie.

    According to Thaddeus M. Maharaj, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Theologian, Spy, Martyr, Evangelical?”, WordPress, Liberating Lions:

    “Abwehr (was a) Nazi counter-intelligence agency … (Dietrich) Bonhoeffer became a civilian member of Abwehr and was exempted from the draft, becoming a ‘double agent’ of sorts … Many were weary of Bonhoeffer and his activities while he worked as a double agent in Abwehr. He was able to write, travel, meet with people, go to movies, restaurants and live a life of relative privilege and freedom while others were put in positions of moral compromise, suffering and dying. He was thought of as a high-minded moralist who was unyielding and demanded others to be the same—but had he finally capitulated? … His book, The Prayerbook of the Bible, (says) that we cannot reach God by our own prayers, but by praying Jesus’ prayers in the Psalms we could piggyback on them to heaven and be heard. (This is) foreign to … prayer as freeform personal and direct conversation with God. … Bonhoeffer did make some very troubling theological statements … He said in his book Christ the Center, speaking of the empty tomb and resurrection that we cannot be sure of its historicity due to ambiguity. … Bonhoeffer was not nearly as bold as he is sometimes portrayed to be and … he did indeed shrink back numerous times … his Letters and Papers from Prison … show that he compromised and cooperated with the Nazis. (Joseph Keysor, ‘Two reasons why Dietrich Bonhoeffer has nothing to say to American Christians today’, Hitler and Christianity, December 2012)”

  • Better not include brother Dietrich Bonhoeffer in that list of yours, brother Edward Borges-Silva. Because according to Thaddeus M. Maharaj, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Theologian, Spy, Martyr, Evangelical?”, WordPress, Liberating Lions:

    “Abwehr (was a) Nazi counter-intelligence agency … (Dietrich) Bonhoeffer became a civilian member of Abwehr and was exempted from the draft, becoming a ‘double agent’ of sorts … Many were weary of Bonhoeffer and his activities while he worked as a double agent in Abwehr. He was able to write, travel, meet with people, go to movies, restaurants and live a life of relative privilege and freedom while others were put in positions of moral compromise, suffering and dying. He was thought of as a high-minded moralist who was unyielding and demanded others to be the same—but had he finally capitulated? … His book, The Prayerbook of the Bible, (says) that we cannot reach God by our own prayers, but by praying Jesus’ prayers in the Psalms we could piggyback on them to heaven and be heard. (This is) foreign to … prayer as freeform personal and direct conversation with God. … Bonhoeffer did make some very troubling theological statements … He said in his book Christ the Center, speaking of the empty tomb and resurrection that we cannot be sure of its historicity due to ambiguity. … Bonhoeffer was not nearly as bold as he is sometimes portrayed to be and … he did indeed shrink back numerous times … his Letters and Papers from Prison … show that he compromised and cooperated with the Nazis. (Joseph Keysor, ‘Two reasons why Dietrich Bonhoeffer has nothing to say to American Christians today’, Hitler and Christianity, December 2012)”

  • Your antisemitic point being what? And that, too, in lieu of the antisemitic Luther? Like this: Luther was antisemitic against, well, the Jews, but the Jews themselves were antinonsemitic against, well, the non-Jews? Which makes everything go away – bye bye?

    What sort of counterargument is this? Even if I could dignify your comment as some kind of an argument.

    It’s like a mother caught between 2 arguing adult children of hers. All she did was slap them both and the problem at hand went away. Poof! That it?

  • Got a web link to that cut and paste. I am genuinely curious about the rest of that article you cited there.

    On a side note, the Abweher was one of the most undermined intelligence agencies of WWII. It was riddled with allied double agents. It’s head, Admiral Canaris was a monarchist who actually despise Hitler.

    It is rumored he used his personal connection with Francisco Franco to keep Spain from joining the Axis. It is well known he was a conspirator with the plot to kill Hitler and was executed for it.

  • Certainly a thought provoking analysis. I’ve had my concerns with Bonhoeffer’s theology as well. It cannot be denied however that he died as a direct function of his professed faith. Sometimes, what we consider to be screwy theological positions are merely different understandings of the terms used. Your examples seem unambiguous, but I often wish to sit down with people who appear to take unscriptural positions and talk it through with them so that I can clearly understand their perspective. Ultimately, God knows what was in Bonhoeffer’s heart and mind.

  • I am not sure how Anfectungen should be translated. His appeals, his challenges? In any case I agree that that aspect of his personality was probably there throughout his life. He was intemperate to put it mildly in his criticisms and comments on Jews, the Papacy, Anabaptists, and other Protestants who disagreed with him. Professor Roper in her biography is clear about Luther’s authoritarian, irrational, abusive personality. She still values him for his religious and theological insights, his joy in married life, and his splendid writings and influence on the German language. Popes such as Benedict and Francis also seem to admire aspects of his life, as do Catholic historians and theologians. In other words, a deeply flawed if consequential reformer. The same could easily be said of Thomas Jefferson. See the review of Gordon Wood’s new book on Jefferson and John Adams in today Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/review-adams-and-jefferson-two-friends-divided-1508528403. Jefferson sang the song Americans like to listen to, but he was a hypocrite, a liar, a racist, a dishonest friend, while Adams often dismissed as the unAmerican puritanical elitist was the wiser more prescient, decent politician, thinker and person. I agree with that assessment of both men.See The Adams Jefferson Letters, a collection of letters the two men exchanged toward the end of their lives for a clear picture of their relative virtues.

  • If the facts are as stated, you would be quite right in your criticism. I rather think that the Rabbi in question would find his support in the Talmud rather than Torah.

  • I read the Jasko article on Luther’s mental illness. It was very good. Thanks for pointing me to it. Jasko uses the word “pathology” several times to describe Luther’s mental state. He also defines Anfechtungen–“Luther suffered from anxiety and obsessive rumination, in addition to depression, as a young man. Luther speaks about the Anfechtungen he had as a youth several times in his writing: “I have known these tribulations since my youth.” “No one knows how it hurts a young man to avoid happiness and to cultivate solitude and melancholy… I have hitherto spent my whole life in mourning and sadness.[22]The German word Anfechtung (plural Anfechtungen) is untranslatable. Bainton defines Anfechtung as, “All the doubt, turmoil, pang, tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man.”[23] Luther uses this term to describe trials from God and assaults by the devil.[24] Osborne defines Anfechtung approximately as “terrible psychological assaults.”[25]Anfechtung usually has both a spiritual and psychological dimension (“psychospiritual”). In addition to Luther’s written accounts, which indicate that he suffered as a youth, Luther states that he made confession compulsively well before his time at the monastery (as a young man).[26] Luther’s remarks testify that he was plagued from a young age.”
    Bainton and Osborne are two of the biographers whom Jasko cites. Jasko notes the Anfechtungen enabled Luther to make the contributions he did. He does not says if they caused his anti-Semitic rants. No matter it was a good article. Thanks again for posting it.

  • Actually, there’s a gentleman and a fellow Christian in this comments section by the name of Edward Borges-Silva, who 1st introduced Andrew Jasko to me. From opposite sides we dealt with Luther’s mental illness in the comments section of the previous report from Emily McFarlan Miller entitled “Here he stood: Lutheran pilgrims travel to Germany on Reformation anniversary”, Religion News Service, October 5, 2017.

    The article made me, I don’t know, compassionate? toward this antisemite for the 1st time in my whole life. Long story short, I 1st heard he was one maybe 8 years ago? I forget. But since university days, despite my being a born-again Christian, I’ve always been traumatized by the Reformation – by the inter-Christian familicides that went on, by the whoring after the powers-that-mustn’t-be, etc., etc. Then Andrew Jasko’s article made me sad about Luther yet happy that he used his Anfectungen to start a new religion and used that new religion to cope with his Anfectungen. Whatever it takes, right? We’re talking mental illness victims the world over. So Luther is like that Russell Crowe character in a true-story-based movie years ago about a genius who was schizophrenic. How in the world, right? I couldn’t even write a book, let alone be a genius, and I don’t suffer their disorders.

    But no, no, no. The Jewish Genocide will always be on Martin Luther and let God be the final judge on that! (Like God’s mercy on that murderous David? which has always bothered me, to be honest.) May God have mercy on us all, and on me especially.

    OK, brother John Mulqueen, I stop here. Forgive my ramblings.

  • I wish I can live with myself having your attitude, forbearance, etc., but I can’t. Proof is me & Jacques Ellul. Professionally, I just love all his writings, Technique, Meaning of the City, The Humiliation of the Word. I was a new born-again Christian then, so what did I know? Then the prophets, the Messiah, and His 1st apostles and disciples warned me about false teachers, false prophets, not out there, but close to home. Voila – Jacques Ellul. Investigation began, stupid me, right? Uh-oh, he was a Karl Barthian. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer no different.) Ellul says this and that about the gospels, epistles and revelation – uh-oh! Then so and so about Jesus. Then so and so about Christianity. Stop, stop, full stop, I decided. Like I said, I couldn’t live with myself being a follower of Christ Jesus. From time to time, though, I miss the guy, Jacques Ellul.

  • A good story with an odd title which refers to the Nazis “exploiting” Luther anti-Semitic legacy. Exploiting? If to exploit is not merely to make use of but to misuse, it strikes me that on the issue of anti-Semitism Luther was hardly misused. Indeed Luther was so murderous and venomous in his hatred of Jews that citing him and quoting his views on the Jewish Question was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, doing so only served to legitimate the hateful views of the Nazis. It is interesting that today there is serious discussion of whether, in light of Heidegger’s anti-Semitism and his support for the Nazi regime, he should even be read as a philosopher anymore or whether his works should be placed on the same shelf with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. While I disagree with this view of Heidegger, there is certainly nothing wrong with raising the question. What strikes me is that in this moment of celebrating all things Luther, there has been almost no acknowledgment of his utterly hateful and bigoted views of the Jews and of the toxic role he has played in German history in this regard. I have heard so many talks about Luther the Hero in recent weeks and nothing at all about his anti-Jewish writings which should be the elephant in the room. In a moment when we are seriously debating what is to become of street signs bearing the names of Washington and Jefferson, and in which we are all becoming newly mindful of the difference between remembering and commemorating or memorializing, I don’t understand why Luther seems to getting a free pass. There is certainly more to Luther than his anti-Judaism, but there is no denying that it is a significant part of who he was and of his legacy. And it should not be swept under the rug.

  • Not all. Thanks for all the information. It has been very useful. I don’t think Professor Roper explained well enough–or at least I did not pickup on–how Luther’s Anfechtungen affected his religious and intellectual development. Don’t judge her book by my memory. One thing that has bothered me for awhile was the unwillingness of critics of Catholicism and the medieval papacy–wretched as it often was–to recognize viciousness of some of the Reformation movement. I don’t have much use for Luther’s and Calvin’s ideas about predestination and preselection, even if they came from Augustine, or salvation by faith alone, but there was certainly enough worthwhile in the rest of their lives, See Marilyne Robinson especially about Calvin. Peace

  • The name of the Roman Catholic bishop of Münster was Clemens Graf von Galen. “Graf” means count. The actual family name was von Galen. Apart from that, there were about 18,000 Protestant pastors in Germany back then. Of those, 6,000 were pro-Nazi “German Christians,” about 6,000 identified with the Confessing Church, and another 6,000 were uncommitted. Interestingly of the pastors shown on the poster on top of this story, only one might have been Lutheran. That was the guy with the ruff. Judging by their their type of “Beffchen” (preaching tabs), the others were either Union or Reformed Protestants.

  • The Abwehr was NOT a Nazi counter-intelligence agency but a military intelligence agency. Its leaders, Adm. Wilhelm Canaris and Col. Hans Oster were vigorously anti-Nazi and hanged at Flossenbürg concentration camp, like Bonhoeffer.

  • Hardly! You have a well-placed hatred of a single person who caused you harm. If you generalized from hating Bernie Madoff to hating all Jews, yes, I think that would make you an anti-Semite. Moreover, that leap of generalization seems as illogical to me as it would be if you had generalized from your feelings about Madoff to hating all persons named Bernie. But my point, obviously, is that Luther did not malign one Jew or some Jews but all Jews and called for terrible things to be done to the group as a whole. That indeed seems to me to represent an extreme case of an irrational anti-Jewish animus. Presumably, you haven’t made the same logical or psychological error as Luther seems to have made.

  • Judgment cannot exist without Experience. Unless of course a person is just simply mentally ill. Such a person should be in an institution. Such people comprise probably less than 1% of the population. So why should anyone really care.

    Luther did not malign one Jew or some Jews but all Jews and called for terrible things to be done to the group as a whole

    Well….that is a lie. Have you even read the book, “The Jews and their Lies”?

  • Yes, I have read it and here is an apt summary of the relevant parts of the text drawn from Wikipedia:

    In 1543 Luther published On the Jews and Their Lies in which he says that the Jews are a “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.”[13] They are full of the “devil’s feces … which they wallow in like swine.”[14] The synagogue was a “defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut …”[15] He argues that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness,[16] afforded no legal protection,[17] and these “poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time.[18] He also seems to advocate their murder, writing “[w]e are at fault in not slaying them”.[19] Luther claims that Jewish history was “assailed by much heresy”, and that Christ swept away the Jewish heresy and goes on to do so, “as it still does daily before our eyes.” He stigmatizes Jewish Prayer as being “blasphemous” (sic) and a lie, and vilifies Jews in general as being spiritually “blind” and “surely possessed by all devils.”

  • Wikipedia! ???
    Let me ask you something, in order to gauge your integrity……………..
    Is Barbara Lerner Spectre an anti-Semite? She says that “Jews” play an important role in the immigration of non-white people into Europe. Does she mean “all” Jews? Does she really speak for all Jews?
    Rabbi Steven Wise said, “Some call it Marxism, I call it Judaism.”
    Does Rabbi Steven Wise speak for the whole of Jewry?
    Luther was very specific in his rebuke of “religious” Jews. It is just common sense that when someone speaks in “general” terms; that one does not speak for an entire group. That is just common sense.
    Luther also believed the Jews to be God’s Chosen. So……….you better believe he still looked upon the more naïve Jews with love and compassion. Luther spoke to those Religious Jews who tried to disrupt Christianity; and those who spoke out against all things Christian. Luther spoke to those Jews who were guilty of Usury. Etc., etc. Not all jews.
    When a Talmudic Jew says to me that he believes Jesus to be boiling in hell in a hot cauldron of feces………………should I be Ok with that? Should I welcome such a person into my home?
    When a Talmudic Jew calls the Mother of Jesus a Whore……………should I be Ok with that?
    Thus Luther leveled heavy accusations against those Jews who blasphemed his Savior.

  • First you need to be born of water or to be the son of your tribal father as the Germans became under Hitler, the you will be able to do the work of the Most High Elohim as his sons.

    These Jews outwardly instead of inwardly, the spiritual, they were Tares led by the blind guides Rabbis. Thus when the blind guide leads the spiritually blind, they fall into the Pit of Holocausts.

    So, when English were English and not Labour and conservative, then they too killed the Jews outwardly Tares. These Tares are getting bundled up in Israel for the Final Burning expected to be around 14/05/2023.
    Watch my almost 6000 Youtube Videos; channel nijjhar1.

  • Hi Brethren,
    You would be surprised that these Jews outwardly themselves are unfaithful to Abraham anti-semitic people and they call the others especially the faithful tribal people anti-semitic, who are pro-semitic. When a person becomes a Jew, Hindu, Sikh, etc. of appearance and replaces his tribal identity in Adam to Jew, Hindu, Sikh, etc. outwardly instead of spiritual inwardly, then he becomes super bastard fanatic devil as Jesus proclaimed in John 8v44 that your forefathers were liars and that was their native language.
    Why? The answers are in my over 6000 Youtube videos; channel nijjhar1. Here is an article on this topic:-
    http://www.gnosticgospel.co.uk/antisemitic.htm
    Let us glorify our Father Elohim, Allah, Parbrahm, etc. by Preaching Gospel in honour of Christ Jesus and his second coming Satguru = Christ Nanak Dev Ji of the Punjab.

  • Hi Brethren,

    Most of you do not know that a Jew is one who is inwardly or the spiritual self called a way of Life. I could be a Jew if I obey that way of life. A Jew is not the one outwardly, the physical self that is born and died. Thus, during the Holocausts, not a single Jew died because it is a spiritual self like Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, etc. and not the physical tribal self such as Judah, Levi, Benjamin, etc. that is born and that died during the Holocausts.

    This is the Dark Age in which the Light of Christ is essential for your life to lead you in the Light and not the Darkness of the Blind Rabbinic guides who are making people Jews Outwardly, the super bastard fanatic Devils – John 8v44.

    Unfortunately, Gospel is not for everyone but the few Chosen of our Super Father Most High Elohim, Allah, Parbrahm, etc. Such people are known by their deeds in honesty and mercy.

    These Jews, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, etc. outwardly are the Tares who will burn and kill each other in the sectarian riots. Here is an article on the Jews who themselves are anti-Semitic but they call the sons of Man, the tribal people, Anti-Semitic:-
    http://www.gnosticgospel.co.uk/antisemitic.htm

    And watch my over 6000 Youtube Videos for Gospel brewed through logical reasoning.
    I will make a Youtube Video on this topic; channel nijjhar1.

  • “When a Talmudic Jew says to me that he believes Jesus to be boiling in
    hell in a hot cauldron of feces………………should I be Ok with
    that?”

    Roy, stop pretending you have ever cracked open a Talmud. You are getting that stuff second hand from homemade websites from nutballs.

    So you are blaming Jews for both communism and for rampaging capitalism. I guess that makes sense when one is not bound by things like making sense.

  • I hastily edited the Bishop’s name in my comment, thus my error, which you correctly noted. Beyond that, such error does not diminish the fact that there were substantial numbers of German Christians who opposed the Nazis…which is a fact many anti-theists are loath to credit. However, I appreciate your correction.

  • I appreciate your argument. Believe me, there are a number of “Christian” theologians whose teachings I have cause to question, but unless I read a clearly unequivocal heresy put forth by a teacher, I tend to error on the side of my possible incomprehension. By and large, the Bible is quite plain and interpreted without too much difficulty. I sometimes despair of theologians who get farther and farther into the weeds, lost in their own erudition.

  • Thanks. Indeed there were many Christians in Germany who opposed Hitler. Many were killed for this, for example by being sent to the front to die first, as happened to many faithful pastors. Others took enormous risks but were not found out, thank God! When I was a child I was evacuated to a village parsonage near Leipzig for a few months. The pastor was a rabid German Christian who claimed that Hitler was the redeemer of the Germans. I always sat next to the organist in the organ loft to turn pages. The organist, Herr Ufer, was also the principal of the village school. He whispered into my ear about the pastor, “Er lügt, er lügt, er verrät unseren Herrn” (he is lying,… he is betraying our Lord.” Had I reported him to the pastor, this organist would have soon been beheaded.

  • Your narrative is precisely what I wish there were more of on these pages. Many people comment here, but they hide somewhat behind a mask of anonymity and are loath to share personal experiences which would help others understand why they believe what they believe, and how they were shaped by their experiences. Thank you for the window into your own past, it was an illumination.

  • It’s okay to hate Bernie Maddoff because of his crimes and lack of humanity. It’s not alright to hate someone because of their group identity.

  • called for terrible things to be done to the group as a whole.
    Prove it. Show me the quote.
    Luther actually said the opposite…………………he said to ignore Jews. Stop reaching out to them. Stop preaching the gospel to them. He said not to engage in theology with Jews.
    You are just flat out wrong.
    Luther states in his writings over and over and over and over……WHY he says those things about religious Jews.
    Again……………..you can’t have judgment without experience.
    The reason why Germans wanted Jews out of their country is because the Jews were hostile to Germany. Jews first declared economic war on Germany and almost ran them into economic hardship and starvation. Not to mention defiling their culture during the Weimar years.
    Read — “The Myth of German Villainy” by Benton Bradberry.

  • Yes, you “tend to error on the side of [your] possible incomprehension” – even as to the following:

    “I read (Dietrich) Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison … it baffled me. … What did he mean that we have to live ‘as if there were no God’? … In Ethics he explicitly stated this: ‘Scripture belongs essentially to the preaching office, but preaching belongs to the congregation. Scripture must be interpreted and preached. In its essence it is not a book of edification for the congregation.’ … When he was an assistant pastor in Barcelona in 1928, Bonhoeffer told his congregation unequivocally that … the life of Jesus is ‘overgrown with legends’ and myth so that we have scant knowledge about the historical Jesus. Bonhoeffer concluded that ‘Vita Jesu scribe non potest’ (the life of Jesus cannot be written). … In one section of The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer … added this clarifying footnote: ‘The confusion of ontological statements with proclaiming testimony is the essence of all fanaticism. The sentence: Christ is risen and present, is the dissolution of the unity of the Scripture if it is ontologically understood….The sentence: Christ is risen and present, strictly understood only as testimony of Scripture, is true only as the word of Scripture.’ What Bonhoeffer is calling fanaticism here is the belief that the testimony of Scripture has ontological significance, that is, that Scripture is referring to things that really exist or have existed in the past. Bonhoeffer thus presented the truth of Scripture as nonhistorical, not testimony about some actual event. … in a letter to Bethge, he expressed doubt about the historicity of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane … In one section of Ethics, Bonhoeffer explicitly rejected the idea that the Sermon on the Mount should be understood as ethical principles that could be applied to present situations. He also explicitly rejected the picture of Jesus as an ethical teacher or even an ethical model that Christians should pattern their lives after. … He … declar(ed) in a 1935 sermon, ‘We must finally break away from the idea that the gospel deals with the salvation of an individual’s soul.’ In Letters and Papers from Prison … he did not think Sheol, Hades, or Christian redemption were metaphysical realities that exist somewhere in the past or will exist in the future. Rather, they are pictures of that which exists in the here and now. During his time in prison, Bonhoeffer complained that the New Testament was too overgrown with ‘redemption myths.’ He preferred the Old Testament, since it seems less concerned with an afterlife, focusing instead on redemption coming in this present world. … In Ethics Bonhoeffer stated: ‘… There is no part of the world, be it never so forlorn and never so godless, which is not accepted by God and reconciled with God in Jesus Christ. Whoever looks on the body of Jesus Christ in faith can no longer speak of the world as if it were lost, as if it were separated from Christ.'” (Richard Weikart, “The Troubling Truth about Bonhoeffer’s Theology”, Christian Research Journal, 2012, Volume 35, Number 6)

  • While your quotation from the text provided may be quite useful and illuminating with respect to Bonhoeffer, your quotation of my own words in an effort to disparage me is quite in-Christian. All the theological correctness in the world cannot make up for a message communicated in a spiteful spirit of theological superiority

  • Count them. How many times the following individuals are mentioned: Jesus, Bonhoeffer, Edward or HpO? On that basis, who’s mindfully being “disparage[d]”, really?

    In my comment just now:
    Jesus = 11
    Bonhoeffer = 18
    Edward = 2
    HpO = 0

    In your reply to it just now:
    Jesus = 0
    Bonhoeffer = 1
    Edward = 2
    HpO = 2

    Zero. Jesus gets 0 from whom?

    So who’s being “disparage[d]”, really? Who’s being forgotten in all this? Or isn’t He all that matters? Isn’t it, May He increase while you & I get to zero around here at RNS, and all that? Apparently not.

  • Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise and Glory to Him Forever and Ever. Amen, and Amen, countless uncountable times. Pity for me, and you, and even on Bonhoeffer, for if as you say, he was a man utterly confused, and erred in his theology, then he is a man to be most pitied.
    In my reply just now:
    Praises to Jesus: Beyond count.
    References to HpO: (2) One for pity of God which is the hope and blessing
    for those that believe. And one for theological
    analysis.
    References to Edward: (1) One in direct relation to the pity I seek from God for my own human failing.
    References to Bonhoeffer: (1) One for the common pity that we all might hope for from God that is denied those
    who willfully deny the Eternal Nature and Character of His Son.

  • I re-read the works of Martin Luther more carefully,..I suggest you do also. There is no excuse for this evil, no acceptable apologetics and absolutely no doctrinal or dogma regurgitating or spin doctoring can ever heal it. No excusing that he was subject to his times. Martin Luther’s words have not been taken out of context,..he meant every word! This is not Jesus attempting to accomplish his work through “endless human flaws” as many have tried explain the unexplainable ,..it is the fruit from pure evil and it comes from an evil tree.

    If Christ is truly the Holy tree, and if Martin Luther were truly His disciple it might have some rough spots on its struggling fallen but saved skin, you might even find a little worm..but within the fruit you would not find a snake full of satanic venom like this work, Christ could never bear such evil fruit as this.

    Luke 6:43-45
    A Tree and Its Fruit

    “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.
    A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

    Below are the words from a demonic 65,000-word anti-Semitic treatise written in 1543 by Martin Luther:

    “On the Jews and Their Lies ”

    “What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews… Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct.” Martin Luther advised the government to take the following following seven steps against the Jewish People living peacefully in his community:

    First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.

    Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed.

    Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

    Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.

    Fifth, I advise that safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews… Let them stay at home.

    Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping… Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest.

    Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting…”

    I can no longer associate myself with the name of “Martin Luther”! And as far as keeping our eyes on a Jesus,..What Jesus,..who’s Jesus? I will soon submit my formal cancellation of my membership.
    If you believe that the Jesus that you are keeping your eyes on is not this Jesus of Martin Luther,..then why do you continue affiliate and associate yourself with the Luther name? Again, I ask you which Jesus are you keeping your eyes on? It is just as clearly oxymoronic to say this bad fruit of Luther came from the good tree of Christ as to say I am a partial Nazi, I affirm some but refuting some other Nazi philosophy. No! I must exclude myself from the entire tree, it’s sources name and its fruit.

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