The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945

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Overview

Analyzing the previously unexplored religious views of the Nazi elite, Richard Steigmann-Gall argues against the consensus that Nazism as a whole was either unrelated to Christianity or actively opposed to it. In contrast, Steigmann-Gall demonstrates that many in the Nazi movement believed the contours of their ideology were based on a Christian understanding of Germany's ills and their cure. He also explores the struggle the "positive Christians" waged with the party's paganists and demonstrates that this was not just a conflict over religion, but over the very meaning of Nazi ideology itself. Richard Steigmann-Gall is assistant professor of history at Kent Sate University. He earned his BA and MA at the University of Michigan, and PhD at the University of Toronto. He has earned fellowships and awards from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism in Israel, and the Max-Planck Institut fur Geschichte in Göttingen. His research interests include modern Germany, Fascism, and religion and society in Europe, and he has published articles in Central European History, German History, Social History, and Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Uncovers new information and helpful insights..." Publishers Weekly

"In the crowded field of Third Reich History, The Holy Reich really does have something original to say...The Holy Reich should prompt a critical re-evaluation of the nature of Nazi ideology...an uncomfortably thought-provoking work of admirable scholarship." Times Higher Education Supplement

"The Holy Reich is a brilliant and provocative work that will recast the whole debate on Christianity and Nazism. We have come to realize that Christianity embraced Nazism more than we used to believe. Now, in a work of deep revisionist import, Richard Steigmann-Gall shows us that the embrace was more than reciprocated." Helmut Walser Smith, author of The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town

"The Holy Reich is both deeply researched and thoughtfully argued. It is the first comparative analysis of the religious beliefs of leading Nazis and a timely reminder of the intimate relations between liberal Protestantism and National Socialism. This is an important and original book by a talented young scholar that deserves as wide a readership as possible." Michael Burleigh, William Rand Kenan Professor of History at Washington & Lee University and author of The Third Reich: A New History

"Uncovers new information and helpful insights..." Publishers Weekly

"There has been a huge amount of research on the attitude of the Christian Churches to the Nazis and their policies, but astonishingly until now there has been no thorough study of the Nazis' own religious beliefs. Richard Steigmann-Gall has now provided it. He has trawled through a lot of very turgid literature to show that active Nazis from the leadership down to the lower levels of the party were bitterly opposed to the Catholic Church, but had a much more ambivalent attitude to Protestantism and to Christianity in a wider sense...Far from being uniformly anti-Christian, Nazism contained a wide variety of religious beliefs, and Steigmann-Gall has performed a valuable service in providing a meticulously documented account of them in all their bizarre variety." Richard J. Evans, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge

"The Holy Reich is both deeply researched and thoughtfully argued. It is the first comparative analysis of the religious beliefs of leading Nazis and a timely reminder of the intimate relations between liberal Protestantism and National Socialism. This is an important and original book by a talented young scholar that deserves as wide a readership as possible." Michael Burleigh, William Rand Kenan Professor of History at Washington & Lee University and author of The Third Reich: A New History, winner of Britain's Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in 2001

"The Holy Reich is a brilliant and provocative work that will recast the whole debate on Christianity and Nazism. We have come to realize that Christianity embraced Nazism more than we used to believe. Now, in a work of deep revisionist import, Richard Steigmann-Gall shows us that the embrace was more than reciprocated." Helmut Walser Smith, author of The Butcher's Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town

"A vast and important subject has finally received the comprehensive analysis it deserves. Steigman-Gall's fundamental argument—that the Nazi movement was both intimately and intricately, positively and negatively related to Christianity—will hearten those who see Nazi Germany not as an efficient totalitarian system, but as a nonsystem of constant institutional and personal conflicts.... Highly recommended." Choice

"Steigmann-Gall makes an important argument and supports it energetically and resourcefully" The Catholic Historical Review - Doris I. Bergen, University of Notre Dame

Publishers Weekly
Steigmann-Gall, a history professor at Kent State, adds a new chapter to the story by investigating the way that Christianity functioned within the Nazi party itself…. Using party pamphlets and writings of key members, he demonstrates that as early as 1920 the group declared that it represented the standpoint of a positive Christianity, which provided the tenets of its anti-Semitic and antimaterialist stance Steigmann-Gall uncovers new information and helpful insights about the period.
Publishers Weekly
A number of studies have examined the relationship between Nazism and the German Christian churches (most notably Klaus Scholder's well-known The Churches and the Third Reich). There are, of course, also studies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and others that explore the relationship between the Reich and the church in terms of the Christian protest against Nazism. Steigmann-Gall, a history professor at Kent State, adds a new chapter to the story by investigating the way that Christianity functioned within the Nazi party itself. Using party pamphlets and writings of key members, he demonstrates that as early as 1920 the group declared that it represented the standpoint of a positive Christianity, which provided the tenets of its anti-Semitic and antimaterialist stance. Many of the Nazi elite believed that their own party doctrine and Christianity shared common themes such as the opposition of good against evil, God against the devil and the struggle for national salvation from the Jews and Marxism. This positive Christianity enfolded both Catholicism and Protestantism, for the Nazis believed that confessional disunity presented the greatest challenge to national unity. Steigmann-Gall examines the leaders of the party and shows how many of them contributed to the view of an intimate relationship between Nazism and Christianity. He also explores how the Nazis identified the Jews with the Devil and believed that God would liberate them from this evil. Although this revised dissertation plods along in workmanlike fashion, Steigmann-Gall uncovers new information and helpful insights about the period. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521823715
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Steigmann-Gall is Assistant Professor of History at Kent State University. He has earned fellowships and awards from institutions in Germany, Israel, and Canada, and he has published articles in Central European History, German History, Social History, and Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte.

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Table of Contents

1. Positive christianity: the doctrine of the time of struggle; 2. Above the confessions: bridging the religious divide; 3. Blood and soil: the paganist ambivalence; 4. National renewal: religion and the New Germany; 5. Completing the reformation: the Protestant Reich Church; 6. Public need before private greed: building the people's community; 7. Gottgläubig: assent of the anti-Christians?; 8. The Holy Reich: some conclusions.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2004

    Nazis not Pagans but 'Positive Christians'

    Richard Steigmann-Gall argues persuasively that the Nazis did not reject Christianity, but reinterpreted it to fit their own ideology. Contrary to conventional wisdom, most Nazi leaders, including Hitler, were not keen on reviving paganism. Rather, they talked about something which at first glance seemed very appealing - ¿positive Christianity.¿ Also referred to as ¿active¿ or ¿practical¿ Christianity, it emphasized deeds over doctrine. The Nazis contrasted ¿positive Christianity¿ with ¿negative Christianity.¿ The former strove to evoke good feelings - and, for that reason, was quite adaptable. The latter, with its doctrines such as original sin, worried more about the truth than whether people felt good about themselves. Thus, it resisted adaptation to popular opinion. The Nazis looked down upon ¿negative Christianity¿ and they particularly despised the dogma, ritual and internationalism of the Catholic Church. Those things they saw as evidence it had been ¿corrupted by Jews.¿ In the early years of his regime, Hitler worked hard to establish a Protestant *Reich Church* (modeled after the Church of England) but eventually dropped the project because of resistance from Evangelicals who valued doctrine. The ¿practical Christianity¿ of the Nazis gave them no firm ground for approaching Jesus. They actually went so far as to deny that Jesus was a Jew and to cast him as the model anti-Semite. While we live in greatly different circumstances than Germany of the 1930's, still there are similarities, especially in the area of respect for each human life. *The Holy Reich* provides much material for reflection to Christians and non-Christians alike.

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