Luther the Father of the Natzis

Anti-Semite. The word rests in a conversation like a foul stench and with it comes unbidden images and accusations. Today in many circles this word alone is possibly the most horrendous name to place on a person. Maybe though, not because of what it means, but because of what it brings to mind. Automatically and unwanted, pictures come to our mind of goose stepping Nazis and concentration camps, bodies piled high and what we think of as the air fills with the scent of burning flesh. Our worst nightmares and human kinds worst behavior’s. Yet, many of us do not know where the term came from or even what it means beyond their simple ideas. Even dictionaries only give the blandest description of the term.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines anti-Semitism as “having or showing prejudice against Jews,” “discriminating against or persecuting Jews,” “…hostility [toward Jews].” but there really isn’t a lot to be learned from that, that we didn’t already know. So I knew I had to dig deeper. So I started to look for references to Nazi’s and Hitler as well as Martin Luther. I began to even look for sites of the Ku Klux Klan in efforts to find some background on the term that brings so much angst into the mind as this. Although I admit, I did find a wonderful article in an unexpected location, unexpected only because I had already consulted so many encyclopedias and found nothing. Yet Funk and Wagner told me this: “ANTI-SEMITISM, political, social, and economic agitation and activities directed against Jews. The term is now used to denote anti-Judaic acts or sentiments based on any grounds, including religious ones. The adjective Semitic originally was applied to all descendants of Shem, the eldest son of the biblical patriarch Noah; in later usage, it refers to a group of peoples of southwestern Asia, including both Jews and Arabs. The word anti-Semitism was coined about 1879 to denote hostility only toward Jews. This hostility is supposedly justified by a theory, first developed in Germany in the middle of the 19th century, that peoples of so-called Aryan stock are superior in physique and character to those of Semitic stock.” I was surprised to learn that it had to do with more then just the Jews, but Arabs as well. Else where, I found a little more to back this up; “Anti-Semitism, from a strict adherence to the compound structure and meaning of the word itself, can be defined simply as being against (antagonistic toward, opposed to) the Semitic people. In a grammatical and etymological sense (as pertaining to race), such a definition would include all the descendants of Shem (e.g., the Arabic nations as well as the nation of Israel).

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The word “anti-Semitism” though is not really used in a broad sense pertaining to the entire Semitic line. Rather, the word is invariably used in a much more restrictive sense, referring to opposition exhibited toward only one branch of the Semitic line — opposition exhibited toward the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. The Jewish people alone, among the Semitic people, have been the target of persecution after persecution during the past three and one-half millenniums; and “anti-Semitism” is an expression which has come into use pointing to these persecutions. Other Semitic nations are not in view at all.” And a little more on the background; “Today one hears protests that the word anti- Semitism should not be used, because there are other Semites besides the Jews. The term however, was coined in 1879 by a racist named Wilhelm Marr. He was searching for a more scientific sounding term then Jew when he founded the League of Anti-Semites. In the European context, the word Semite was used strictly for the Jews.” Page 36 Christians and Jews in Germany. Uriel Tal. The term can further be broken own into both racial and religious anti-Semitism. “Both religious and racial anti-Semitism were to be found in the Second Reich. Religious anti-Semitism insisted that a Jew could not retain his Jewish identity, and it demanded that he converts and assimilates. Fredrick Paulsen, a prominent liberal humanist and outspoken critic of racial anti-Semitism, explained in his “System of Ethics” that ‘to remain a complete Jew and a complete German is impossible.’ Racial anti-Semitism treated the Jew as a parasite, a biological inferior that conversion and assimilation would not cure, a danger to the body politic.”

Uriel Tal, Christian’s and Jews in Germany: Religion, Politics, and Ideology in the Second Reich, 1870-1914, trans. Noah Jonathan Jacobs (Ithaca NY Cornwell University 1975) Page 291.

This of course brings a little more directly to the issue at hand. The people that are and have been anti-Semites. Hitler and the Third Reich automatically come to mind. Yet sitting in the background of that totally deplorable incident sits a man that we knowingly would never have placed with Hitler at all. Martin Luther. It would seem that Martin Luther’s writings inspired much of the Holocaust.

This causes a lot of problems for some people. In speaking to people when I was working and researching this paper, many people had no idea that Martin Luther had leanings that way at all. In fact most people simply can’t believe that the Father of Protestantism could have ever been so mislead. Yet I do not believe that Luther held these beliefs out of a mislead doctrine. No, I believe that they were simply a reaction from what must have been a bitter personal disappointment and shaming. This does not excuse him, not does it change the fact that he was in fact and anti-Semite, but certainly, it would remind us that even the greatest from among us are libel to allow our disappointments to colour our thinking, no matter how inspired it may be. “No apologist can claim that Martin Luther bore his anti-Jewishness out of youthful naivete’, uneducation, or out of unfounded Christianity. On the contrary, Luther in his youth expressed a great optimism about Jewish conversion to Christianity. But in his later years, Luther began to realize that the Jews would not convert to his wishes. His anti-Jewishness grew slowly over time. His logic came not from science or reason, but rather from Scripture and his Faith. His “On the Jews and Their Lies” shows remarkable study into the Bible and fanatical biblical reasoning. Luther, at age 60 wrote this dangerous “little” book at the prime of his maturity, and in full knowledge in support of his beliefs and Christianity.

Few people today realize that Luther wrote ‘On the Jews and Their Lies.’ (He also wrote such works like “Against the Sabbatarians.”) Freethinkers should become aware of the anti-Semitic influence that Luther has brought on the world. His vehement attack on Jews and his powerful influence on the believers of the Germans has brought a new hypothesis to mind: that the Holocaust, and indeed, the eliminationist form of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany may not have occurred without the influence from Luther’s book “On the Jews and Their Lies.”

Today, white-supremacists and Neo-Nazis continue to spread Luther’s Jewish hatred and use quotes from this book as “proof” of their convictions.”

Yet, Luther had not always been so. “At the beginning of his career, Luther was apparently sympathetic to Jewish resistance to the Catholic Church. He wrote, early in his career:

The Jews are blood relations of our Lord; if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews belong more to Christ than we. I beg, therefore, my dear Papist, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew.

But Luther expected them to convert to his purified Christianity. When they did not, he turned violently against Jews… While there is little doubt that Christian anti-Semitism laid the social and cultural basis for modern anti-Semitism, modern anti-Semitism does differ in being based on pseudo-scientific notions of race. The Nazis imprisoned and killed Jews who had converted to Christianity: Luther would have welcomed them. None of this justifies what follows, but it may help to comprehend what is happening”

Also, “Luther appeared to be a breath of fresh air in the midst of a dismal situation. Initially he had high regard for the Jewish people because he expected them to convert en masse once they were presented with a Christian message free from “Papal Paganism” In his treatise “That Jesus Christ Was born A Jew” 1523… He wrote’ If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would have sooner become a hog then a Christian.” At this time he took a firm stand against the mistreatment of the Jews, and advocated a new relationship with the…

Therefore I would request and advise that one deal gently with them, (the Jews) and instruct them

From Scripture; then some of them may come along. Instead of this we are trying only to drive

them by Force, slandering them, accusing them of having Christian blood if they don’t stink,

and I know not What other foolishness. So long as we treat them like dogs, how can we expect to

work any good Among them? Again, when we forbid them to labour and do business and have

any human fellowship With us, thereby forcing them into usury, how is that supposed to do them

any good? If we really Want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by

Papal law but by the law of Christian Love…

Alas. Luther became irritated when the Jewish people continued to resist conversion. In 1526 he complained of the Jews stubbornness, and by the 1530’s he was presenting the common medieval stereotypes accorded to the Jews. In “Conversations in Table Talk” he caricatured Jews as stiff-necked, ironhearted, stubborn as the devil, and usurers. In 1543, at the end of his life, he wrote three derogatory treatises against the Jews, which anti-Semites would quote for the next 400 years. So horrible were his statements that Julius Streicher, Hitler’s hate-sheet editor and propagandist in Der Sturmer, cited Luther at his Neurenburg trial to justify his actions.”

Note martin Luther to George Spalatin, Wittenburg, 1514 in Perserved Smith, ed.and trans, Luther’s correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters. Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society 1913 pages 28-29

Martin Luther, That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, 1523 trans. Walther I, Brandt, in Luther’s Works. Philadelphia: Muhlenburg, 1962) 45:229

And so we see that no real malice was originally intended, but that after dealing with deep disappointment and shame, Luther lashed out bitterly. Yet he is a man and therefore still responsible for his actions, and therefore still could be called an anti-Semite. What did he do and write that is so bad, that one could label him so? I will explain. I will put forth that Luther was both a racial and religious anti-Semite and them further prove that it was his writings that helped to fan the flame of anti-Semitism that turned into the Holocaust and the KKK movements that we see today.

In putting forth that Luther was a religious anti-Semite, I first place under observation the premise for his writing his pro-Jewish book “That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew”. Alone the fact that he wrote in hopes that Jews would convert to Lutheranism would have him branded. “Luther’s Enthusiasm for Mission Work. Luther did not always show himself to be a hopelessly anti-Semitic man. In his 1523 work “Jesus Christ was born a Jew” he makes reference to the origins of Christianity. He wanted to convert the Jews to the belief he found after years of searching. Luther wanted the Jews to recognize and confess the “true belief”. In going back to our working definition of religious anti-Semitism we find that it is based on a need for the Jew to convert and assimilate. Later, in a letter he would say; “But what am I doing? My heart is fuller of these thoughts than my tongue can tell. I have come to the conclusion that the Jews will always curse and blaspheme God and his King Christ, as all the prophets have predicted. He who neither reads nor understands this, as yet knows no theology, in my opinion. And so I presume the men of Cologne cannot understand the Scripture, because it is necessary that such things take place to fulfill prophecy. If they are trying to stop the Jews blaspheming, they are working to prove the Bible and God liars.” But trust God to be true, even if a million men of Cologne sweat to make him false. Conversion of the Jews will be the work of God alone operating from within, and not of man working-or rather playing-from without. If these offences be taken away, worse will follow. For they are thus given over by the wrath of God to reprobation, that they may become incorrigible, as Ecclesiastes says, for every one who is incorrigible is rendered worse rather than better by correction.

Farewell in the Lord; pardon my words, and pray the Lord for my sinning soul.” “Martin Luther’s to George Spalatin,” from Luther’s Correspondence and Other Contemporary, Letters, trans. by P. Smith (1913), Vol. 1, pp. 28-29.

So we see he was absolutely determined that the Jews would and should convert to Christianity. When they refused to do this as he ha anticipated, then he became frustrated and bitter, and his desire for them to convert would be articulated in much stronger terms. “Therefore be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self-glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously and veheming his eyes on them.” And also, “If I had to refute all the other articles of the Jewish faith, I should be obliged to write against them as much and for as long a time as they have used for inventing their lies– that is, longer than two thousand years.”

However it is difficult for one to find quotes that lend themselves specifically to a religious anti-Semitism. It is much, much eisier to find racial slurs within Luther’s writings. But even then, you find them peppered with comments about their blasphemies towards God… for we must never forget that Luther’s main complaint was a religious one, not a personal one. The following are a series of quotes, all taken from Luther’s book “The Jews and Their Lies” all are excellent examples of the man’s growing hatred for the Jewish race.

Therefore the blind Jews are truly stupid fools…

— “…their blindness and arrogance are as solid as an iron mountain”

— “Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing, which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

— “ Alas, it cannot be anything but the terrible wrath of God, which permits anyone to sink into such abysmal, devilish, hellish, insane baseness, envy, and arrogance. If I were to avenge myself on the devil himself I should be unable to wish him such evil and misfortune as God’s wrath inflicts on the Jews, compelling them to lie and to blaspheme so monstrously, in violation of their own conscience. Anyway, they have their reward for constantly giving God the lie.”

— “ I brief, dear princes and lords, those of you who have Jews under your rule– if my counsel does not please your, find better advice, so that you and we all can be rid of the unbearable, devilish burden of the Jews, lest we become guilty sharers before God in the lies, blasphemy, the defamation, and the curses which the mad Jews indulge in so freely and wantonly against the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, this dear mother, all Christians, all authority, and ourselves. Do not grant them protection, safe-conduct, or communion with us…. . With this faithful counsel and warning I wish to cleanse and exonerate my conscience.”

— “ He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.”

— “ …they remain our daily murderers and bloodthirsty foes in their hearts. Their prayers and curses furnish evidence of that, as do the many stories which relate their torturing of children and all sorts of crimes for which they have often been burned at the stake or banished.”

— “Undoubtedly they do more and viler things than those which we know and discover.”

So we see what a litany of hate and hurt spews forth from one of the most beloved father’s of the church. Yet it gets worse, for I do not call Luther the Father of the Nazi for no reason, no indeed. “The Nazis did not discard the past, they built on it. They did not begin a development. They completed it.” – Raul Hilberg , Holocaust historian

Probably the most surprising thing that Luther ever wrote, even after reading all these previous quotes, was his six-step plan for further treatment of the Jewish race. It reads very much like what we would expect to read in a Storm Trooper’s handbook.

“What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy. Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, nor can we convert the Jews. With prayer and the fear of God we must practice a sharp mercy to see whether we might save at least a few from the glowing flames. We dare not avenge ourselves. Vengeance a thousand times worse than we could wish them already has them by the throat. I shall give you my sincere advice:

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. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly – and I myself was unaware of it – will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

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. (Remainder omitted)

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 {:18], “You are Peter,” etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.

Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home. (…Remainder omitted).

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. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.

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, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen. 3[:19]}. 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, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”

So the question now is posed, did Hitler and alter on, the KKK use his writings as a base for their own ends. Yes they did. “In page after page of Hitler’s ranting against the Jews in Mein Kampf, one soon comes to realize that echoes of Martin Luther are being heard. Julius Streicher, the chief party ideologist of anti-Semitism, argued in his defense at the Nuremberg trials that he had never said anything about the Jews that Martin Luther had not said four hundred years earlier” and, “More then 120 American organizations were activily dissemating anti-Semitatic propaganda between 1933 and 1940. Anti-Sematic flyers blanketed the US. One declaired ‘Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, Mohammed, Pope Clement VIII, Benjamen Franklin, Ulysses Grant, James A Garfeild, and Henry Ford unite with 50 other famous personages in saying: ‘Jews are traiters to America and should not be trusted.” 98-99

So vehemently did Luther speak against the Jews, and the fact that Luther represented an honorable and admired Christian to Protestants, that his written words carried the “memetic” seeds of anti-Jewishness up until the 20th century and into the Third Reich. Luther’s Jewish eliminationist rhetoric virtually matches the beliefs held by the Hitler and much of the German populace in the 1930s.

Luther unconsciously set the stage for the future of German nationalistic fanaticism. William L. Shirer in his “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” puts it succinctly:

“Through his sermons and his magnificent translations of the Bible, Luther created the modern German language, aroused in the people not only a new Protestant vision of Christianity by a fervent German nationalism and taught them, at least in religion, the supremacy of the individual conscience. But tragically for them, Luther’s siding with the princes in the peasant rising, which he had largely inspired, and his passion for political autocracy ensured a mindless and provincial political absolutism which reduced the vast majority of the German people to poverty, to a horrible torpor and a demeaning subservience. Even worse perhaps, it helped to perpetuate and indeed to sharpen the hopeless divisions not only between classes but also between the various dynastic and political groupings of the German people. It doomed for centuries the possibility of the unification of Germany.”

In Mein Kampf, Hitler listed Martin Luther as one of the greatest reformers. And similar to Luther in the 1500s, Hitler spoke against the Jews. The Nazi plan to create a German Reich Church laid its bases on the “Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther.” The first physical violence against the Jews came on November 9-10 on Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) where the Nazis killed Jews, shattered glass windows, and destroyed hundreds of synagogues, just as Luther had proposed. In Daniel Johah Goldhagen’s book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, (Alfred A. Knoph, NY 1996), he writes:

“One leading Protestant churchman, Bishop Martin Sasse published a compendium of Martin Luther’s antisemitic vitriol shortly after Kristallnacht’s orgy of anti-Jewish violence. In the foreword to the volume, he applauded the burning of the synagogues and the coincidence of the day: ‘On November 10, 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.’ The German people, he urged, ought to heed these words ‘of the greatest antisemite of his time, the warner of his people against the Jews.'”

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