Luther and Hitler: A Linear Connection between Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler’s Anti-Semitism with a Nationalistic Foundation

Luther and Hitler: A Linear Connection between
Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler’s Anti-Semitism
with a Nationalistic Foundation
Daphne M. Olsen
Rollins College,

Anti-Semitism is defined as “discrimination against or prejudice or hostility
toward Jews.” 1 Unfortunately, this hatred and judgment toward the Jewish people is not
a recent phenomenon and it is not uncommon. Anti-Semitism has its origins as early as
paganism, even before the existence of Christianity; however, the roots of Christian anti-
Semitism lie in the belief that the Jews killed Christ, the divine Savior. 2 This belief made
the Jews the enemy of Christians, causing a hatred that has lasted centuries. Two of the
most notoriously unshakable Anti-Semitics were the Protestant reformer Martin Luther
and German Chancellor-turned dictator Adolf Hitler. But who exactly were Martin
Luther and Adolf Hitler? Do we really know either man well enough to explain who they
were? There are arguably two versions of each man.
Luther is renowned still today as the initiator and leader of the Protestant
Reformation. Centuries later, Lutherans and Germans alike admire and honor him for his
bold and daring actions against the Catholic Church in the 1500s. The pervasive
portrayal of Luther is simple; the young, impassioned monk who took on the Roman
Catholic Church and won. However, Luther is much more complex, with a darker side
that is much less well-known. Hitler remains one of the most hated men in history.
Sometimes referred to as an evil genius, but mostly just evil, Hitler is more notorious
than celebrated. Hitler was adept at hiding who he really was; he was careful not to let
people get too close, to see behind the façade. Protestant Christians were careful to let
only Luther’s legacy live on, while downplaying the less favorable version. While there
“Antisemitism,”, Accessed 25 November 2011,
William Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate (New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc., 1993), xix.2
is no hiding the evil that occurred under Hitler’s reign, the sinister side of Luther has
been well-hidden since his time, allowing only his enlightened and reformist persona to
be remembered and hailed. Many people would be surprised to find out that Martin
Luther was extraordinarily anti-Judaic, becoming increasingly more vile as he aged.
Wanting early on to convert the Jews so that they can be saved by Christ, Luther took
their refusal personally and eventually became consumed with bitter hatred. This rage
eventually led to texts and sermons that explicitly detailed why the Jews were wicked and
what should be done with them. Was this normal behavior for Luther’s time, or were his
views considered extreme? One might even argue that there is little difference between
the anti-Semitic ideologies of Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler.
In addition to his anti-Judaism, Martin Luther was also highly nationalistic, with
many of his undertakings done specifically for the betterment of his fellow German
people. The descriptions of Luther continue to fit the other well-known anti-Semitic
revolutionary with affection for the German people, Adolf Hitler. The significant
similarities between Luther and Hitler deserve thorough exploration. Although four
centuries apart, both Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler had a remarkable impact on both
Germany and the world. What exactly was it about these two men that allowed them to
start a rebellion and garner support from their fellow Germans? More importantly, what
led them to live a life filled with rage and hatred, and why was it directed toward the
Jews? Was there something about the German people in particular that allowed them to
be susceptible to the leadership of Luther and Hitler? This paper will explore the
connection between Luther and Hitler; it will attempt to illustrate the similarities between3
their German nationalism and anti-Semitism, and explain how Luther laid the foundation
for Hitler’s holocaust.4


“I feel much freer now that I am certain the Pope is the Antichrist.”
~ Martin Luther
It is quite difficult to get a complete understanding of Martin Luther’s childhood
because the information is limited. Many biographies focus on his adult life,
emphasizing his work as a monk and instigating what would eventually become the
Protestant Reformation. Erik Erikson, author of Young Man Luther, explains,
The literature on Luther, and by Luther, is stupendous in volume. Yet it adds up to
very few reliable data on his childhood and youth. His role in history, and above
all his personality, remains ambiguous on a grandiose scale. 3
Despite the lack of a detailed understanding of Luther’s childhood, many scholars have
studied his early life and are able to shed light on the nebulous early years of Martin
Luther and how he became the foremost leader of the Protestant Reformation in
Martin Luther was born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany to Hans and
Margarethe Luther. Luther’s father was a copper miner and his mother would often help
by gathering wood in addition to caring for their family, which consisted of Martin, his
three sisters, and a younger brother. 4 The family has been described as “rugged, rough, at
Erik Erikson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, Inc., 1993), 13.
Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation 1483-1521 (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1985),
times coarse, credulous, and devout,” 5 just like Martin. Based on his own references and
recollections, Luther was raised in an extremely strict environment, receiving whippings
both at home and school. In 1532, Luther was quoted as saying,
One shouldn’t whip children too hard. My father once whipped me so severely
that I ran away from him, and he was worried that he might not win me back
again. I wouldn’t like to strike my little Hans very much, lest he should become
shy and hate me. I know nothing that would give me greater sorrow. 6
Disturbing details of Luther’s childhood punishments describe a child “flogged until he
bled” at home or “whipped as often as fifteen times a day for ridiculous offenses” 7 at
school. Modern psychologists have analyzed that his strict upbringing caused Luther to
isolate himself from his parents and perhaps even led him to choose the life of a monk. It
has been argued that the severity of his upbringing caused Luther to have a neurotic
temperament and that, as a child, he was “timid, wild, and mistrustful” and suffered from
an “uneasiness of spirit.” 8 Undoubtedly, combined with his melancholia, these sufferings
would impact Luther’s later life. Furthermore, Luther also suffered from extreme mood
swings, which have been attributed to his childhood upbringing. Luther, in regards to
these abrupt fluctuations in behavior, has been described as “extraordinarily sensitive and
subject to recurrent periods of exaltation and depression of spirit.” 9 Yet despite these
Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury
Press: 1950), 26.
Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, ed. By John F. Thornton and Susan B.
Varenne (Vintage Spiritual Classics: New York), 305.
Peter F. Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor (New Jersey: American Athiest Press, 1990),
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 19-20.
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 28.6
struggles (or perhaps because of them), Luther was given the opportunity to receive a
university education at the University of Erfurt and became highly educated.
As a young man, Martin Luther studied to become a lawyer. Having already
received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field, he suddenly abandoned
this career path to become a monk, much to the chagrin of his father. As the story goes,
young Luther was walking home July 2, 1505 when a severe thunderstorm unexpectedly
appeared. As lightening crashed nearby, Luther was thrown to the ground. He prayed to
St. Anne for help: “St. Anne, help me! I will become a monk.” 10 He survived the
thunderstorm and resolved to become an Augustinian monk. As a scholar, Luther
completed his doctorate in Theology in 1512, after which he gave numerous lectures on
the Bible. 11 He also delivered many sermons, led various prayers, and wrote countless
letters; he had an incredible talent for connecting with listeners who heard him speak. In
1517, however, the event occurred for which Martin Luther is most renowned; he posted
his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. With the help of
the printing press, his grievances were quickly spread and debated throughout Germany.
Der mißbräuchliche Ablaßhandel veranlaßte Luther, am 31. Oktober 1517 von
Wittenberg aus 95 Thesen über den Ablaß zu veröffentlichen, um zu
Gelehrtendisputation aufzufordern. Wie ein Lauffeuer verbreiteten sich die Thesen
durch ganz Deutschland. 12
Ibid., 21.
Ibid., 17.
Fernis/Haverkamp, Grundzüge der Geschichte: Von der Urzeit bis zur Gegenwart (Verlag Moritz
Diesterweg: Frankfurt am Main, 1975), 143.
The improper selling of indulgences caused Luther to publish, on October 31, 1517
in Wittenberg, his 95 Theses about the indulgences to invite debate. The theses
spread throughout all of Germany like a wildfire.
The popularity of Luther’s theses subsequently prompted the beginning of the
Protestant Reformation. 13 Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses because he was
terribly disturbed with many of the practices of the Catholic Church, and he used his
skills as an orator and a writer to have his concerns heard. Luther was particularly
perturbed by the Church’s use of indulgences. An indulgence is defined by the Catholic
Encyclopedia Online as a “remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of
which has been forgiven.” 14 Therefore, an indulgence essentially renders a soul spotless.
Luther believed that the consequences of sin could only be removed by faith in the
gospel, and not by words, confessions, payments, or other good works. Indulgences have
perhaps best been described as “the bingo of the sixteenth century.” 15 The Catholic
Church used the payment of indulgences to fund churches, monasteries, and other
projects. Especially irritated with the treatment of the Germans by the Italian papacy,
Luther used his sermons as a venue to speak out against the Pope, pastors, and bishops,
and to criticize their use of indulgences. In 1516 Luther was recorded as condemning the
practice of collecting money to be used for war and controversy, as opposed to building
churches and helping the poor. Luther’s biggest concern with the practice of
indulgences, however, was that people were taught to fear the punishment rather than the
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 79.
“Indulgences,” Catholic Encyclopedia Online, Accessed 4 August 2011,
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 72.
sin itself. 16 In 1517, Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg
Castle Church to invite debate and discussion among those who read them. The main
points of the theses have been summarized as follows: “an objection to the avowed object
of the expenditure, a denial of the powers of the pope over purgatory, and a consideration
of the welfare of the sinner.” 17 Luther had become the voice of the German people that
had not been heard for centuries. People not only discussed Luther’s theses, but
translated and distributed them throughout the German territories. It was not Luther’s
intention for his grievances to circulate and to start a reformation, but his fellow Germans
needed a spokesperson and Luther inadvertently volunteered.
Luther’s popularity increased exponentially after the nailing of his ninety-five
theses. In 1521 he arrived for the Diet of Worms in “triumphal procession.” 18 Arriving at
the outskirts of the city, he was escorted to the gate by one hundred mounted soldiers.
Two thousand townspeople came out to accompany him to his lodgings. Peasants
and burghers alike hailed him as champion of the gospel and champion of the
German people. To his astonishment, he had become a celebrity overnight. His
profession marked the beginning of an era in which the name Luther would
symbolize faith, freedom, and the defiance of religious authority. 19
In Luther’s Germany, a class struggle was ongoing between the upper classes, the
“princes,” and the lower classes, the “peasants.” 20 The life of a sixteenth-century German
peasant was almost intolerable, owing to the taxes, work, and oppression suffered at the
Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation 1483-1521, 185.
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 81-83.
Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, xiii.
Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, xiii.
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 50.
hands of the princes. With the great social unrest already taking place along with the
beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the peasants thought it was a good time to voice
their grievances against an oppressive feudal society. Frustrated with a lack of a true
place in society, they called for increased democracy in the town councils and less
restrictive memberships in the guilds. 21 They considered Martin Luther their leader, the
man of greatness and courage. Luther called the princes “the greatest fools and the worst
scoundrels on earth. The people cannot, will not any longer, endure your tyranny and
your presumption.” 22 With this encouragement and a united front from the peasants, a
revolt ensued in 1525; however Martin Luther refused to officially stand as the peasants’
leader, asserting that it was not his place as a minister to “take the sword,” and he instead
sided with the princes. 23 Moreover, Luther wrote Against the Murderous and Thieving
Hordes of Peasants, of which the most infamous line read, “Therefore, let everyone who
can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more
poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel.” 24 To Luther, if a peasant was willing to
rebel, then he was outside of the law of God and deserved what was coming to him.
When it was all over, a total of 100,000 peasants were killed and Luther was labeled a
traitor by the peasants, while the Catholic princes held Luther responsible for the entire
episode. 25 Nothing, however, compares to Luther’s vicious attitude toward the Jews,
which he chronicled in his own sermons and books.
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 269.
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 51.
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 277.
Ibid., 280.
Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 280-281.
“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is
neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.
~ Martin Luther
Martin Luther and German nationalism are inextricably linked. In addition to
initiating the Protestant Reformation, Luther accomplished other tasks, all for the benefit
of the German people. It has been argued that Luther’s message was “not for
Christendom, but for the German people – for he was not a Christian, he was first and
foremost a German.” 26 Luther considered himself the Prophet of the Germans:
I seek the welfare and salvation of you Germans, as I am the Prophet of the
Germans, I will act as a faithful teacher and warn my staunch Germans of the
danger in which they stand. I have been born for my beloved Germans, for them
will I die! 27
Anyone who disagreed with him, he called into question their patriotism and refused
them the right to be called a German. Some have argued that Luther was not the
champion of freedom and liberty after all, but that he was rather the voice of Germanism,
which dreams that in matters of religion, culture, government, and race, it should be the
master of mankind. 28 There is no denying the passion Luther had for his fellow
countrymen. His translation of the Bible into German is an example of the strong sense
of nationalism he felt for Germany. During Luther’s time Germany was not a united
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 80.
Ibid., 79.
Ibid., 10.
country but rather was divided into numerous provinces, which caused a division of the
German language into numerous different dialects. Wanting all Christians in Germany to
have access to the gospel, Luther created a translation of the Bible into German, therefore
allowing all Germans to read and understand it, and thereby uniting them. In every house
one could find a copy of Luther’s Bible, whose teachings became an integral part of the
German national heritage. 29 By listening to Germans speaking in the streets and
combining a variety of dialects, Luther created a new, distinct language for all Germans,
and thus earned the label “The Father of the German Language.” Most importantly, the
majority of people could understand Luther’s language, in all parts of the German lands.
Luther completed the translation of the New Testament in only twelve weeks. Through
his sermons and his Bible translations, Luther “created the modern German language,
aroused in the people not only a new Protestant vision of Christianity [with] a fervent
German nationality [but] taught them, at least in religion, the supremacy of the individual
conscience.” 30 He not only created an accessible Bible for all Germans, and with it a
unified German language, but he also established the foundation for a new sense of
Martin Luther’s nationalism stemmed in part from the fact that Germans were
despised by other nationalities. According to conversations recorded by John
Schlaginhaufen, one of the young men who lived in Luther’s home in the 1530s, Luther
believed that no nation was as hated as the German nation; Italians referred to Germans
Gerhard Ritter, Luther: His Life and Work (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 216.
Jim Walker, “Martin Luther’s Dirty Little Book: On the Jews and their Lies – a Precursor to Nazism,” No, Updated 20 November 2005,
as beasts and all other nationalities mocked them. 31 During a dinner conversation in
April 1532, Luther was quoted as saying, “Who knows what God intends to do and will
do with the Germans, though in God’s eyes we’ve undoubtedly deserved a beating.” 32
Luther’s own opinion of Germans, of course, was considerably more favorable. When
comparing Germans to other nationalities, he found Germans to be much simpler and
more truthful. He argued that the way Germans spoke was indicative of this and that the
German language was the most perfect of all, most likely because of the resemblance to
Greek. 33 When speaking of Germany, Luther often referred to the Roman historian
Tacitus and his text Germania. Tacitus described the Germans as “loyal” and praised
them for their chastity and “marital fidelity,” for Germans “excelled all other nations” in
this regard. 34 Luther also shared with others the nationalistic sentiments that he observed
in fellow Germans. One such reflection was when Bishop Nicholas von Schönberg
declared to the Pope that he should make concessions to the Germans, for “the Germans
are men who won’t yield in a just and honorable cause, nor can they be overcome with
guile or with force.” 35 Luther exemplified Schönberg’s description of a German when he
rebelled against the Catholic Church and initiated the Protestant Reformation.
This is the well-known part of Martin Luther. The trailblazer of the Protestant
Reformation, creator of the German Bible, and faithful leader of the German people; that
is the Martin Luther people know and revere.
Helmut T. Lehmann and Theodore G. Tappert, Luther’s Works: Table Talk (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
1967), 151.
Ibid., 151.
Ibid., 309-310.
Ibid., 278.
Ibid., 291.13
Luther was shown to us as a great man fighting for freedom, tolerance,
independence – the man who exclaimed ‘Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, May
God help me, Amen!’ Luther, the honest, cheerful, decent German who fought a
corrupted, immoral Rome. Luther, honored by Protestants everywhere – the hero
of Germany and the Protestant world. A terrifying, dirty, dishonest Luther
appeared, a Luther much blacker and more hideous by far than all his former
opponents taken together had depicted him. 36
There was a time when young German students would look up to Luther with
“overwhelming enthusiasm as a ‘German hero’ – as the ideal German manhood.” 37 Less
familiar is the moody, erratic, and anti-Judaic Martin Luther. The unpredictable mood-
swings that afflicted him as a child continued throughout his entire life, with examples of
Luther’s frenzy often recorded by those who knew him well. Dr. Paul J. Reiter, a
psychiatrist and one of Luther’s students, dissects Luther’s life into phases: the period
between age twenty-two and thirty-six is the Krankheitsphase, followed by a period of
“manic productivity”, and a breakdown in his forties. 38 The Krankheitsphase, which
describes a state of sickness, is what Reiter defines as “one drawn-out state of nervous
disease.” 39 The renowned, dynamic Martin Luther that is studied and epitomized,
therefore, only existed for a short time, between periods of “neurotic tensions” and a
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 4-6.
Ritter, Luther: His Life and Work, 214.
Erikson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, 27.
“severe breakdown.” 40 The life of the older, post-breakdown Luther included an
amplified agitation with the Jewish population and increasing anti-Judaic sentiments.
Erikson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, 27.15
”What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the
~ Martin Luther
Martin Luther dealt with many afflictions during the course of his lifetime, both
personal as well as public. To make Luther’s life even more challenging, he was
constantly tormented by the Devil. To Luther, Satan was not simply a symbol of evil but
was a physical reality to be dealt with on a daily basis. Luther used a variety of
metaphors to describe the complex relationship between God, the Devil, and humans. In
one such metaphor, humans are simply a horse to be ridden by either God or Satan, while
another describes humans as God and Satan’s battlefield. 41 His fear of the Devil
prejudiced his feelings toward the Jews; Luther believed that the Jews, like all his
enemies, were devils. 42 Moreover, he spent numerous years trying to convert Jews to
Christianity, but to no avail.
Luther’s early tolerant attitude toward the Jews will develop into a fierce hostility
when he comes to view them as obdurate foes of God who persist in rejecting the
Father of Jesus Christ, who in Luther’s eyes is their own God. He will consider
them as public enemies of Christianity who deserve mercy only if they convert.
Luther will strive to protect Christianity from what he perceives as their
blasphemous denunciations of Christian beliefs. 43
Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, xvii-xviii.
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 71.
Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, xli.
Martin Luther is so admired by Protestant Christians to this day that there are few well-
known books that detail his anti-Judaic beliefs, if they are mentioned at all. From the
books that do mention his anti-Judaism, many attempt to justify it. This has resulted in a
fairly biased view of Luther, portraying him as good and righteous while hiding his
darker and more sinister side. 44
The Martin Luther that we have come to know and
understand is only one part of the whole man.
Luther was not the first person to have such strong anti-Judaic feelings, but he has
been described as being the first to spread these beliefs in Germany; he not only spoke of
Jews in his sermons, but he also wrote three anti-Jewish books, the most famous of which
is Of the Jews and their Lies. 45 While a highly controversial book, Of the Jews and their
Lies is not a well-known text. In fact, a translator of the text argues that “we became
increasingly convinced that a well-organized plot to keep this book hidden exists.” 46
Whether or not such a plot exists, Luther’s anti-Judaic texts and beliefs remain in the
shadow of his accomplishments.
The conflict between Christians and Jews was not a new phenomenon in Luther’s
time. Early Christians, including Jesus himself, were actually Jews; these Christians
believed that Jesus was the messiah promised to the Jews, but most other Jews refused
this belief. 47 The difference of opinion led to centuries of violent conflict and oppression,
and Luther added fuel to the fire. Luther became increasingly more angry and anti-Judaic
with age. As a younger man, Luther simply attempted to convert Jews to Christianity,
Walker, “Martin Luther’s Dirty Little Book: On the Jews and their Lies – a Precursor to Nazism,” No,
“On the Jews and their Lies,” Humanitas, Accessed 4 August 2011.
Martin Luther, The Jews and Their Lies (South Carolina: Liberty Bell Publications, 2004), 3.
Mark U. Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-46 (New York: Cornell University
Press, 1983), 115.17
but his efforts proved futile. As his frustrations continued to grow with the Jews’ refusal
to accept Christ as their Savior, Luther argued that stronger actions were required to deal
with the Jewish problem. He declared to his fellow Christians, “next to the Devil you
have no more bitter, more poisonous, more vehement an enemy than a real Jew who
earnestly desires to be a Jew.” 48 In order to spread his vicious anti-Judaic sentiments, he
requested that other pastors and preachers follow his example and issue warnings of their
own against the Jews. In 1543 he his anti-Jewish texts, which spelled out exactly what
should be done with those Jews that refused to convert to Christianity.
…die Synagogen mit Feuer anzustecken
… ihre Häuser zu zerbrechen und zu zerstören
… die religiösen Schriften wegzunehmen
…zum Lehrverbot für die Rabbiner
… nach Aufhebung des Geleitschutzes und Reiseverbot
… den Wucher zu verbieten
…Arbeitspflicht für junge Juden und Jüdinnen 49
… burn their synagogues
… break into and destroy their houses
… take away their prayer books
… forbid their rabbis to teach
… abolish their escort and ban travel
… prohibit the usury
… force young Jewish girls and boys to work
Luther viewed Jews as “heavy burden to [Germans] in [their] country, like a plague,
pestilence, and nothing but misfortune.” 50 Luther passed away only three years after
writing his violently anti-Judaic texts, in 1546. Four days before his passing, he gave one
last sermon; it was against the Jews. Luther’s hatred for the Jews was taken to an
Luther, The Jews and Their Lies, 27-28.
Von den Juden und ihren Lügen, Martin Luther 1543 – Gif-Faksimile Belege, Accessed 23 October 2011,
Luther, The Jews and Their Lies, 35.
unprecedented level. Although anti-Judaism was not unique to Luther, his texts were so
“violent and vulgar that they offended contemporaries and remain offensive to this
day.” 51 Arguably, this powerful, deep-seated loathing toward Jews has been
uncharacteristically virulent to Germany; it flourished again in the early 1900s with Adolf
Hitler and the Nazi Party, who greatly admired Martin Luther and his anti-Semitic views.
Mark U. Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-46, 3.19
“The art of leadership… consists in consolidating the attention of the
people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split
up that attention.”
~ Adolf Hitler
Unlike Martin Luther, there is ample information available on Adolf Hitler’s
childhood and adult life. Several centuries after Martin Luther died in 1546, Adolf Hitler
was born in the small Austrian town Braunau am Inn, located very close to the Austrian-
German border, on April 20, 1889. 52 The “little city on the Inn,” as Hitler called it, was
“German Bavarian by blood and Austrian only by borders.” 53 His father worked for the
State and retired at the young age of fifty-eight, and was determined that Hitler would
follow in his footsteps and work for the State as well. Young Hitler, however, who was
both a choir boy and an acolyte at the local Catholic Church, had developed an interest in
art and decided at the early age of eleven that he would become an artist instead. 54
According to Hitler himself, his decision caused an ongoing struggle between father and
son, as this was the first time Hitler had ever opposed his father. What originated as an
ambition in painting eventually transformed into a talent and interest in architecture, and
when his father passed away unexpectedly, and his mother two years later, Hitler finally
had the opportunity to explore a career in art and he applied to the Academy of Fine Arts
in Vienna at the age of sixteen. Unfortunately, his talent was not enough for the painting
program at the Academy and the required schooling was lacking for the architecture
Joachim Fest, Hitler, Translated by Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
Inc., 1973), 17.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Translated by Michael Ford. United States: Elite Minds, Inc. 2009, 48.
Ibid., 51.20
program, leaving Hitler to become a wanderer around Vienna, working odd-jobs and
painting. 55
Very similar to Martin Luther, there are two version of Adolf Hitler. There is the
Adolf Hitler that is portrayed in Mein Kampf (portrayed by none other than Hitler
himself) and then there is the Adolf Hitler described by others that knew him and/or
researched him. The two versions are quite different. Contrary to the stories he
portrayed in his own book, Hitler did not get along well with other children, who
described him as “stiff, aloof, [and] a stranger.” 56 In Mein Kampf, Hitler told stories of
the other children looking to him as their ringleader, succeeding in school, and needing to
survive on his own at a young age after his parents passed away. However, it would
seem he exaggerated these stories in an attempt to portray himself in a way that differed
from reality. The act of creating a façade and blurring reality became normal for Hitler,
as no one was able to really know the real Hitler. In actuality, as a child he was a “lively
and obviously able pupil whose gifts were undermined by an incapacity for regular
work.” 57 This behavior exhibited itself in Hitler during childhood but was a continuing
struggle throughout his adult life. In addition to his inability to fit in and follow any will
but his own, Hitler battled the uncertainty of where his life was going for many years.
Until his decision to become a politician, Hitler still planned on attending the Academy,
but with no plan on how to achieve it. This “uncertainty of his personal future
nevertheless depressed him,” 58 until he decided on a life of politics. It was then that he
was able to unleash all of his frustrations and put into action the anti-Semitic hostilities
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 58.
Fest, Hitler, 19.
Ibid., 18.
Ibid., 18.
he had been carrying with him for years. Moreover, it was often difficult for Hitler to be
taken seriously, as he was easily dismissed simply because of his appearance and
personality. This personal inner conflict is one that started in childhood. Despite these
conflicting portrayals of Adolf Hitler, one is still able to get a thorough understanding of
the man and his ideology.
Despite his rejection from the Academy of Fine Arts, Hitler was a passable artist;
and, although his formal schooling was cut short by dropping out, he was still remarkably
intelligent. During his days in Vienna, Hitler spent most of his free time reading books,
newspapers, and periodicals to learn about current events, history, and philosophy,
among a variety of other topics. Hitler spent ample time reading and studying for a better
understanding of the social and political context afflicting Germany and Austria at the
time. He followed every event with “burning concentration, whether political or
cultural.” 59 During his time in Vienna, Hitler struggled to understand the Jewish
question; he heard people speak unkindly of the Jews but did not understand why, as he
himself was not yet entirely anti-Semitic. According to Mein Kampf, after considerable
research and discussion, Hitler “recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social
Democracy, the Marxists, and that is when the blinders fell from my eyes. Suddenly, a
long, spiritual struggle came to an end.” 60 After his epiphany, Hitler “turned away from a
weak set of political notions and into a fanatical anti-Semite.” 61
When the First World War started in 1914, Hitler left Vienna to join the military
as a soldier and he fought on the front lines, becoming injured twice. Because of his
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 81.
Ibid., 85.
Ibid., 88.
experiences on the battlefield, Hitler took it personally when Germany surrendered at the
end of the War in 1918, and he became even more embittered when he learned of the
restrictions against Germany with the Treaty of Versailles. Germany’s bitter defeat in
World War I left the country in shambles. Once on its way to developing into a great
nation, Germany was completely thrown into turmoil; “there was chaos in the streets,
prolonged hunger, massive unemployment on an unprecedented scale, and social unrest
that swept through entire provinces.” 62 The Treaty of Versailles only exacerbated the
distress of the country. In addition to the humiliation and guilt felt from the defeat, the
Treaty expelled Germany from the union and was left insolvent, in a prime position for a
fierce leader to lead them from the rubble. 63 The combination of events caused Hitler to
abandon the artistic career path he was so determined to have; instead, he “resolved to
become a politician.” 64 Consequently, Germany found her leader in Adolf Hitler, who
wanted to raise his beloved nation out of the ruins and bring it to greatness no matter
what the cost. A life of politics, as leader of the National Socialist Party, would
eventually give him the power to confront the so-called Jewish problem head-on.
Joachim Fest, Inside Hitler’s Bunker (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), 2002, 37.
Ibid., 37.
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 188.
“Germany will either be a world power or will not be at all.”
~ Adolf Hitler
Even as a young boy growing up in Austria, Hitler longed for the unification of
Austria and Germany. He believed that Austria must return to the “Great German mother
country, not for economic reasons, but because common blood belongs in one common
realm.” 65 Hitler viewed Austrian history as completely intertwined with that of Germany
and found it pointless to even attempt to separate them; everything must be done to unite
the Germanic states. 66 A united Germany had the potential for being a superpower
comparable to England, France, and other elite countries of the time. 67 The reunification
of the German countries and greatness of Germany became Hitler’s single, lifelong goal.
In his manifesto, Mein Kampf, Hitler declares that as a boy and young man, he often
wished that he could “demonstrate that my nationalistic enthusiasm was no empty
obsession.” 68 His intense nationalism and hatred for non-Aryan people were the catalysts
for the extreme methods for attaining the dream of a united and superior German people
for which Hitler has become notorious. Hitler vowed to raise Germany from its ruins and
put it back on track to becoming the great superpower it was destined to become. It was
exactly what the German people needed to hear, and Hitler eventually won the support of
the German people with his emotionally-charged speeches. Becoming both the leader of
the Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Party and Chancellor of Germany gave Hitler the
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 47.
Ibid., 47, 54.
Ibid., 243-245.
Ibid., 157.
influence and authority to attain his goals. However, there was something more sinister
brewing beneath the surface of which the German people were not aware.
Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in 1923 while he was in prison for attempting to incite a
violent takeover of Germany from a beer hall. Therefore, the memoir was written well
before he rose to power, generated a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign, and led
Germany into another World War. 69 The text is autobiographical but also reads as a
conglomeration of Nazi Party pamphlet and an historical and philosophical manuscript.
While Hitler is notorious for the inhumane massacre of millions of people, he also had
many great skills and accomplishments that are overlooked and hidden behind his shroud
of evil.
Adolf Hitler’s most striking skill was perhaps his oratory ability. For a man that
was less than impressive in person, described as rather ordinary, awkward-looking, and
plain, Hitler was an orator unlike any other. According to a close comrade of Hitler, Dr.
Joseph Goebbels, who specifically wrote about The Führer as Orator, Hitler was the first
person in the “evolution of Germany to use speech as a tool in order to make history.” 70
Goebbels argues that there are two types of orators: those that speak from the intellect
and those that speak from the heart. These two types of speakers are very different from
one another and are able to extract very different reactions from their audiences. Hitler
had the rare ability to be both a speaker of intellect as well as a speaker of the heart. 71 In
the Nazi Party’s early years, Hitler spoke to beer halls full of people, often filled with
hundreds of opponents rather than followers. In later years, as the Chancellor of
Jane Shuter, Life and Death in Hitler’s Europe (Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003), 8.
Joseph Goebbels, “Führer as Orator” in Adolf Hitler: 1931-1935: Pictures from the Life of the Führer,
Ibid., 27-28.
Germany, he gave speeches to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people, usually
without notes or other assistance (which Goebbels corroborates). People cheered, cried,
and absolutely fell over themselves in the Führer’s presence in such a way that there is
little to compare with today.
Hitler had a unique understanding of human perception and became quite adept at
understanding the impact of propaganda and how to manipulate its usage. In fact, Hitler
himself took charge of all the Nazi propaganda in the early stages of the party and he
incorporated this knowledge into his speeches. 72 Purposefully using red posters to
specifically attract communists to National Socialist Party meetings is an example of his
propaganda manipulation. Red was the color of the Communist party, and the intent was
to attract the enemy while bringing awareness to the Nazi party. 73 The objective was to
entice the communist Germans into attending the Nazi meetings by mistake in hopes of
reevaluating their sense of nationalism. Moreover, Hitler understood the emotional
impact of symbols and insisted that the party must have their own unique flag, symbol,
and colors to feel united and be taken seriously. Always the artist, he himself designed
the red, black, and white flag (the most striking and harmonious color combination,
according to Hitler) with the Hakenkreuz (swastika). The red represented the socialist
ideals of the movement, while the white represented the nationalist. The Hakenkreuz
represented the fight of the Aryan man. 74 With his entry into politics, Hitler combined
his intellect and insight into the German peoples’ needs with his uniquely influential
oratory skills. Hitler went to such extremes with his deeply-rooted anti-Semitism,
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 310, 386.
Ibid., 311.
Ibid., 404-408.
however, that it is almost impossible to think of anything positive about the man; the
name Adolf Hitler has become synonymous with evil.27
“Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight
in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”
~ Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler is notorious for his desire to propagate the purity and superiority of
the Aryan race, which included extreme anti-Semitic treatment toward Jews and other
people he deemed inferior. Adolf Hitler is without a doubt considered the most
prominent and most fanatical anti-Semite in the history of the world. Hitler, however,
would presumably have given Martin Luther that honor. Becoming Chancellor of
Germany in 1933 and gaining complete control of the country allowed Hitler to release
all of his frustrations and put into action the anti-Semitic thoughts he had been harboring
within himself for years.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler blames both the conspiratorial Jews and what he considers
the race problem as primary causes for Germany’s downfall in World War I. However,
Hitler also points out one more reason for Germany’s depressing defeat: the Marxists.
The resentment felt towards the Jews and the Marxists because of Germany’s ruin after
World War I explains the incredible actions that Hitler took during his dictatorship. The
Marxists, with their communist ideology, were gaining momentum in Europe before,
during, and after the First World War. Hitler would see Marxists as Jews; not only
because Karl Marx was Jewish, but also because many writers for the Marxist press were
Jewish. As Hitler turned “away from a weak set of political notions and into a fanatical
anti-Semite,” 75 the synonymous relationship between Marxists and Jews for Hitler would
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 88.28
only deepen his hatred for communism. At a time when Germany was at its weakest,
Hitler wanted the Fatherland to rise above its ruin to great heights. Even as a young
child, Hitler developed a strong sense of nationalism that acted as a catalyst for all of his
life decisions. Communism threatened Hitler’s German ideals and he did everything in
his power to keep their control at bay. To combat the perceived evils of capitalism, Karl
Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of The Communist Manifesto, devised ten measures
that would be applicable in the most advanced communist countries, acknowledging that
they will vary from country to country. The ten measures are as follows:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to
public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a
national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the
hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the
State; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the
improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies,
especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries: gradual
abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more
equable distribution of population over the country.29
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of
children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education
with industrial production, and so forth. 76
Communism essentially preaches for all members of the working-class to unite,
regardless of nationality, which acts in direct opposition to Hitler’s nationalistic ideals.
Hitler did not simply detest communist ideals because Karl Marx was Jewish and
communism was anti-nationalistic; he believed that communism would eventually lead to
the collapse of human civilization. He regarded Marxism as “the end of any order
conceivable to man. The result of applying such a law could only be chaos” and “the
desolation of the world.” 77 As an early politician, Hitler found it necessary to study the
enemy as much as possible, to understand him and not underestimate him. In this case,
Hitler’s enemy was Marxism; more specifically, his enemy was Karl Marx. 78 Hitler took
many opportunities to study Marx’s doctrine and his life’s work. Hitler found Marxism
to be a “cursed movement” and believed it was every man’s duty to “prevent it from
going to extremes.” 79 Because of his aggressive view of communism, when Hitler took
complete power in 1933, “he arrested most German communist leaders almost
immediately” and “shipped most of them to concentration camps.” 80 The result of
Hitler’s immediate retaliation upon receiving complete political control resulted in “a
generation of German communists [seeing] its ranks decimated by both the war and the
Nazi extermination campaign.” 81
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Communist Manifesto” in Classics of Western Thought: The Modern
World, Edited by Edgar K. Knoebel (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers) 387.
Hitler, Mein Kamp, 88-89.
Ibid., 194.
Ibid., 88.
Rodden, John. “Report Card from East Germany.” Global Society. Published online 3 June 2010.
Hitler’s methods of handling the “Jewish problem” involved a number of steps.
The Nazis first began passing laws that denounced the Jews’ German citizenship and
prohibited them from working specific professions. Additional laws also segregated
Jews from using the same “transportation, schools, public facilities, even park benches”
as non-Jews. 82 In one night in 1938 known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), the
Nazis carried out a widespread night of violence against the Jews. They burned down
over 1,000 synagogues and looted even more. 83 Hitler’s anti-Semitism became much
more extreme as crueler methods were developed such as ghettos, forced sterilizations,
mercy killings, work camps, and extermination camps, all in an effort to cleanse and
purify the Aryan race. The cleansing process was based on eugenics, the “principle of
strengthening a biological group on the basis of ostensible hereditary worth.” 84 In Mein
Kampf, Hitler acknowledged that, to avoid blood pollution by mixing with lesser races,
restrictions must be made to determine who can procreate; after all, according to Hitler,
“the great civilizations of the past have all been destroyed simply because the original
creative race died out as a result of pollution of their blood lines.” 85 To ensure effective
enforcement of Hitler’s race law, sterilizations were carried out on a large scale. Those
designated as “hereditarily sick” and “life unworthy of life” were sterilized, to include
people with the following difficulties: mental deficiency, schizophrenia, manic
depressive insanity, epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, hereditary blindness, hereditary
deafness, bodily malformation, and hereditary alcoholism. An estimated 410,000 people
Shuter, Life and Death in Hitler’s Europe, 8.
Ibid., 30.
Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 24.
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 248-249.
were initially sterilized. 86 Sometimes the sterilization was rather simple and consisted of
only a vasectomy or a ligation of the ovarian tubes, but they often preferred to completely
remove the uterus or use irradiation for sterilization. 87 The ultimate goal, not only of the
Nazi regime but also of the state health officers, was to have as many unfit people as
possible sterilized. 88 Hitler’s racial cleansing was not only focused on the ill and
deformed; the biggest victims were the Jews, to ensure they did not pollute the pure
Aryan race. In 1935, laws were passed that prohibited Jews from marrying or having any
sexual relations with Aryans.
Sterilization was simply the introduction, with more extreme measures to come.
The vilest example of Hitler’s anti-Semitic behavior was the Nazi euthanasia program,
which consisted of “eliminating the incurably ill” and “mercy killings” for those deemed
unfit, which included the Jewish population. 89 It was determined that sterilization alone
was insufficient and that the program was not aggressive enough; the point had come
where “psychopaths, the mentally retarded, and other inferior persons must be isolated
and killed.” 90 The Jewish population fell into the category of “unfit” or “inferior.” In the
beginning, the Nazis attempted to shroud these killings behind the veil of mercy,
declaring that the people would eventually die anyway, and that killing them was
merciful and humane. Children were easy to “put to sleep” by ingesting luminal, which
Lifton, The Nazi Doctors, 25.
Ibid., 26.
Ibid., 29.
Ibid., 50.
Ibid., 49.
would give the child the appearance of simply being sedated. 91 The killing of the adults
was not so simple, however.
When it came to euthanizing the adults, the Nazis tried a variety of methods to
determine the quickest and most efficient way to euthanize the largest number of people.
According to an article that appeared in a 1939 Nazi magazine, the goal was to
exterminate one million people. 92 When the Nazi soldiers were in control of the killing,
their methods were brutal and bloody, with their procedures including hanging, shooting,
and explosives. However, the cleanup was too time-consuming and inefficient. 93 Nazi
doctors eventually took over the killing process, turning the process into medical killing
and giving the doctors full advantage to experiment with a variety of killing techniques.
One such method included starvation, leaving the victims to perish from malnutrition,
infections, or other illnesses. While this type of torture killing was too time-consuming
to be efficient, it did allow the doctors to observe the effects of starvation and
malnutrition on the human body at various stages. Another type of euthanasia came in
the form of injections; doctors would inject a variety of medications, including but not
limited to: “morphine, scopolamine, veronal (Barbital), luminal (Phenobarbital), or a
combination of these.” 94 Injections proved to be effectual and many doctors were able to
inject many patients in a short amount of time. However, the most well-known of part of
Hitler’s extermination plan were the concentration camps, for which the Jewish people
were the biggest target and the gas chambers, the most notorious method of killing.
Lifton, The Nazi Doctors, 57.
The Nazis first created ghettos to force the Jews into restricted areas and labor
camps to use Jews for work. The most infamous camps, however, were the
extermination camps where millions of Jews were killed by a variety of methods. Hitler
did not even consider German Jews as German. He viewed the Jew as the “most extreme
contrast to the Aryan” and therefore the Jewish people were his biggest enemy and
number one target. The first concentration camps were created shortly after Hitler’s rise
to power as Chancellor in 1933. They began on the local level but were eventually
replaced with central camps that were under the power of the Schutzstaffel (SS). Six
years after the original camps were built, a total of seven camps had been established. 95
In addition, six specific extermination camps were created in former Polish territory. The
extermination camps were simply “killing centers designed to carry out genocide.” 96 The
Nazis experimented frequently to increase the number of people they could kill each and
every day. The most effective method proved to be the gassing process. Even with the
gassing technique, they continued to refine the methods to kill as many Jews and others
in as short of time as possible. By 1942, several of the extermination camps did their
mass killing with gas, executed in stationary gas chambers with carbon monoxide gas
from diesel engines. The victims were told that they were going to disinfecting showers
but they were gassed instead. They soon discovered that the more people that were
packed into the gas chambers, the faster they suffocated. 97 By the time the World War II
“Introduction to the Holocaust – Nazi Concentration Camps.” United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum, Updated 6 January 2011,
“Introduction to the Holocaust – Extermination Camps,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
Updated 6 January 2011,
“Gassing Operations,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Updated 6 January 2011,
ended and survivors were saved from the concentration camps, an estimated six million
Jews were killed by Hitler and his Nazis.
Hitler’s plan ultimately failed, however. Despite his concerted efforts to purify
the Aryan race, reunite and expand Germany, and exterminate the Jews, World War II
ended with the following sequence of events: Hitler’s suicide, the fall of Berlin, and the
surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. Germany once again suffered a devastating defeat
and was left in shambles. The Potsdam Conference of 1945 divided Berlin among three
countries, including the United States, Great Britain, and the communist Soviet Union
(France was added later). Because the Soviet Union had already occupied much of
Germany and Eastern Europe before Germany’s defeat, it was agreed that the Soviet
Union would also take parts of prewar Germany that were east of the Soviet zone. 98 As
time went on, however, hostilities grew between the Soviet Union and the Western
Allies, which eventually led to the separation of the Soviet zone from the Western zones
and the creation of two separate German nations. 99 Consequently, in 1949 the Federal
Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), also known as West Germany, was
formed. Only a few months thereafter, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche
Demokratische Republik), or East Germany, was created. 100 Hitler’s dream of a powerful
and united Germany was officially shattered with the separation of Germany into two
separate countries; the people of the newly formed East Germany, who just survived the
oppression of the Nazi regime under Hitler, were about to face oppression under
Eric Pace, “Clamor in the East: Legacy of Yalta and Potsdam; Cold War Sealed Germany’s Division”
New York Times, November 14, 1989.
Pace, “Clamor in the East: Legacy of Yalta and Potsdam; Cold War Sealed Germany’s Division,” New
York Times.
“Timeline of East Germany,” East Germany Info, Accessed 10 July 2011.
communist rule. Hitler’s dream officially turned into his worst nightmare.36
“The line of anti-Semitic descent from Luther to Hitler is easy to draw.”
~ Lucy Dawidowicz
Luther and Hitler were not the first two men to face a Jewish problem, and their
views regarding the Jews were not necessarily Protestant; Popes have been known to use
stronger language, and ghettos and segregation originated in Rome by papal edict. 101
Nevertheless, they were the two men who took their anti-Semitism to extreme measures.
Few men in history have documented such abhorrence toward a people that has spanned
decades and centuries. Hatred as intense as Luther’s and Hitler’s toward the Jews was
not only unprecedented and has rarely been duplicated since. While the anti-Jewish
sentiments were not unique to Luther and Hitler, the extremes to which both men went to
spread their beliefs and call upon others for action was unparalleled. The level of bitter
loathing and anti-Jewish ideology was virtually the same, despite a four century gap. The
similarities shared between Luther and Hitler were not limited to their hatred for anything
Jewish, however. Both men were led by a strong sense of German nationalism and a
yearning for unity among their fellow Germans.
Why was such romantic nationalism anti-Semitic in particular? Why single out
the Jews? The answer is quite clear: everybody ‘knew’ that the Jews were the
enemy of German civilization, because the Germans, like other Europeans, had
been taught over the long Christian centuries that the Jews were the enemy of
Christian civilization. 102
Luther, The Jews and Their Lies, 5.
Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, 346.37
Anti-Semitism has been in existence as long as Christianity, and even before it.
According to Elaine Pagels, author of The Origins of Satan,
As the Christian movement became more Gentile during the second century
and later, the identification of Satan primarily with the Jewish enemies of
Jesus, borne along in Christian traidition over the centuries, would fuel the
fires of anti-Semtism. 103
While the Holocaust and Hitler’s killing of six million Jews can easily be described as
“the greatest outpouring of evil in the history of the planet,” Hitler was only original in
his “single-minded determination with which he proceeded to put into effect ideas of the
removal or extermination of the Jews that others had toyed with, without seriously
considering how they could be implemented.” 104 Ideas that Martin Luther harbored and
shared, but that he himself did not execute; Hitler simply used Luther’s original concepts
of handling the Jewish problem and put them into action. Looking back upon Luther’s
instructions on what should be done with the Jews, it would seem that Hitler followed
them rather closely. During the Kristallnacht of 1938, the Nazis burned thousands of
synagogues. The creation of ghettos simultaneously allowed the Nazis to break into the
houses of the Jews and destroy their property, while restricting their mobility and travel.
New laws constrained the professions Jews were allowed to possess. Concentrations
camps forced all Jewish boys and girls, men and women, to work.
… burn their synagogues
… break into and destroy their houses
… take away their prayer books
… forbid their rabbis to teach
Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonize Jews, Pagans, and Heretics” (New York:
Vintage Books, 1995), 34.
Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, xvii, 345.38
… abolish their escort and ban travel
… prohibit the usury
… force young Jewish girls and boys to work
Once Luther’s initial steps were followed, Hitler went beyond and added his own to the
Prohibit Jews from marrying or having relations with Aryans
Move Jews into designated ghettos
Sterilize those deemed inferior, including Jews
Exterminate life unworthy of life, including Jews
Concerning the treatment and solution to the Jewish question, Hitler “continued and
achieved the worked of Martin Luther.” 105 While German Jews considered themselves
Germans, neither Luther nor Hitler viewed them as such. They were Jewish, not German.
Luther and Hitler viewed the Jewish community not only as a religious congregation but
as a separate race. By default, then, Jewish meant anti-German. Hitler explains as
The Jews, although they are a people whose core is not entirely uniform in terms
of race, are nevertheless a people with certain essential particularities that
distinguish it from all other peoples living on earth. Judaism is not a religious
community; rather, the religious ties between the Jews are in reality the current
national constitution of the Jewish people. The Jew has never had his own
territorially defined state like the Aryan states. Nevertheless, his religious
community is a real state because it ensures the preservation, propagation, and
future of the Jewish people. 106
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 78-79.
Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf, Translated by Gerhard L.
Weinberg (New York: Enigma, 2003), 229-230.39
Hitler argues that the Jewish people are parasites to other cultures because they lack their
own territory, surviving only by enslaving the members of the other civilization with their
cleverness. Martin Luther’s sentiments were very comparable; he also considered Jews
as parasitic foreigners.
They live among us in our homes, under our protection, use land and highways,
market and streets. Princes and government sit by, snore and have their mugs
open, let the Jews take from their purse and chest, steal and rob whatever they
will. That is, they permit themselves and their subjects to be abused and sucked
dry and reduced to beggars with their own money, through the usury of the Jews.
For the Jews, as foreigners, certainly should have nothing; and what they have
certainly must be ours. 107
The positive spirit of nationalism typically brings forth a sense of pride in one’s
country; but on the opposite side, destructive nationalism can create disdain for other
cultures. At what point does nationalism do more harm than good? Many scholars have
attempted to understand the “destructive nationalism of the Germans and the Nazis.”
Some argue that it all goes back to Martin Luther, for he was “the first true nationalist of
this kind of modern times [and] through him German nationalism was preached to the
people, a new religion was founded, a German god created.” 108 Initially, both Luther and
Hitler were able to bring unification amongst their fellow people. Luther’s Bible
translation brought a synthesized German language and a sense of nationalism to the
German folk. For the first time, all Germans had the ability to read and understand the
Luther, The Jews and their Lies, 28.
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 79.40
gospel. Centuries later, Hitler’s rally for a more powerful Germany evoked patriotic
feelings from his fellow Germans, who came together with the same dream in mind.
Millions supported Hitler in hopes of rising Germany to superpower status.
Unfortunately, the initial unity that each man brought to Germany did not last;
eventually, both Luther and Hitler caused more division than unification.
The Protestant Reformation resulted from the desire to allow people the ability to
follow their faith independently from the corruption of the Catholic Church. While
Luther is most popularly known for his theological work with the Protestant Reformation,
he was just as much a political and social figure as religious. In the same sense, the
Protestant Reformation had a political and social impact, in addition to the theological.
In the process of producing the Reformation, Luther created a divide between the
Catholic Germans and the Protestant Germans. He further generated separation between
Germans during the Peasants’ War. With 100,000 causalities, Luther was labeled as the
instigator of the war by the Catholic princes, while the peasants believed him to be a
traitor to their cause. Without actually being an active participant, Luther was an enemy
to both sides, creating a larger rift between the princes and the peasants.
Hitler was able to create even more unity among his fellow Germans and, on the
opposite side, created even more separation when it was all concluded. Hitler, like
Luther, was a powerful political and social figure. His passion for the German people
was evident, and it translated easily to his audience during his speeches. The German
people supported him and they wanted what he wanted. For several years, things seemed
to be going well (at least that is how it looked to the German people). Germany was
rising from the ruins and gaining prominence with Hitler as Chancellor. However,41
Hitler’s continued bitterness and hatred kept him from contentment and he constantly
wanted more; more power, more land, more Aryanism. His desire for more and the
inability to stop the excesses eventually led to Germany’s entrance into World War II and
finally the surrender of Germany. Despite Hitler’s strongest efforts to build his beloved
Germany into a supreme power with its master Aryan race, the ultimate division of
Germans came in 1949 when the Federal Republic of Germany and Democratic Republic
were created. The ultimate division occurred with Germany becoming two completely
separate countries, with East Germany falling under Communist rule.
By far the most striking similarity between Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler is their
exceptional hatred toward the Jews. Such a hate is not frequently broadcasted in texts,
sermons, and speeches; but Luther and Hitler were not shy with their beliefs.
Furthermore, the fact that both men were German and had such similar ideologies makes
them a wholly unique duo. It is impossible to assume that Luther did not have any
influence on Hitler and his views. Hitler refers to Martin Luther as one of the great
reformers of history, and as such, one of the “great warriors of this World.” 109 It cannot
be mere coincidence that Hitler’s anti-Jewish sentiment of the 1930s and 1940s mirrors
that of Luther’s anti-Semitism of the 1500s. In fact, the Nazis themselves acknowledged
Martin Luther as their spiritual leader. When on trial in Nuremberg, Germany after
World War II, one of Hitler’s top officials declared,
Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants’ dock
today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the prosecution. Dr.
Hitler, Mein Kampf, 192.42
Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent’s brood and one should burn
down their synagogues and destroy them. 110
Although Martin Luther has never been put on trial, the Nazis seemed to think that he
was just as guilty as they (or, that they were just as innocent as he was). Some people in
Hitler’s time went so far as to believe that Hitler was the reincarnation of Luther; the
Minister of Education in Nazi Germany wrote:
Since Martin Luther closed his eyes, no such son of our people has appeared
again. It has been decided that we shall be the first to witness his reappearance… I
think the time is past when one may not say the names of Hitler and Luther in the
same breath. They belong together – they are of the same old stamp. 111
However people like to believe it, there is no denying the fact that Martin Luther and
Adolf Hitler are inseparably linked with their extreme anti-Semitism and nationalism. It
is because of this link that “the line from Luther to Hitler runs straight; and that one of the
main causes which turned Germany into a country of barbarians, was Martin Luther and
his German Reformation.” 112
Walker, “Martin Luther’s Dirty Little Book: On the Jews and their Lies – a Precursor to Nazism,” No,
Walker, “Martin Luther’s Dirty Little Book: On the Jews and their Lies – a Precursor to Nazism,” No,
Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, 17.43
There are hardly two men in history like Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler, for they
are both phenomenons unto themselves. Both have left a remarkable impact not only on
Germany, but on the history of the world. If either Luther or Hitler had not existed, the
world might be very different today. One might even ask if Luther had not written On
the Jews and Their Lies, would Hitler have become as fanatically anti-Semitic and
murderous? Luther is still remembered, discussed, and debated centuries after his life,
and the same is true for Hitler, who is still a controversial figure decades after his death.
What exactly is it about these two men that is so fascinating that scholars and everyday
people continue preoccupying themselves with two men that have been gone for decades
and centuries? Hatred alone is a fascinating thing, but coupled with the ability to
persuade and convince others to follow these extreme beliefs makes it a tragic
phenomenon. Both Luther and Hitler were multifaceted and had much to offer their
fellow Germans. After all of these years, what do we remember more, their talents or
their torments? Perhaps it is easier to forgive Martin Luther because almost 500 years
have passed, and it is not so easy to forgive and forget the actions of Adolf Hitler that
took place only sixty-six years ago. One must remember, however, that Luther’s works
influenced Hitler and the Nazi party, and that by prosecuting one the other must be
prosecuted as well.
With such unprecedented devastation, how are those responsible for the
Holocaust expected to be held accountable? Hitler ensured that he would never suffer at
the hands of anyone but himself. Rather than see Germany’s final descent into utter ruin,
Hitler decided to go down with his beloved country by ingesting poison and shooting44
himself. Although Hitler would never answer for the pain and suffering he inflicted,
there were still dozens of high ranking Nazi officers, doctors, and other officials who
could legally be held responsible for the millions of lives lost and ruined. Therefore, the
International Military Tribunal was created shortly after World War II, “designed to
document and redress crimes committed in the course of the most massive conflict the
world has ever known.” 113 The defendants were indicted on the following four counts:
crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit
these crimes. The first group to be tried was the twenty-one major war criminals, which
included Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy and Nazi Party leader, Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of
Staff of the German High Command, and Hermann Goering, Chief of the Luftwaffe (Air
Force). Out of the twenty-one defendants, eleven were sentenced to death and Goering
committed suicide; therefore only ten were hanged. 114 The Nuremburg Trials lasted a
total of four years. Twenty-three Nazi physicians, fourteen Einsatzgruppen (mobile
killing units), seven doctors, ten officials, and nineteen other Nazis were sentenced by the
time the trials corncluded in 1949. 115 It was during the trial that Julius Streicher, one of
Hitler’s top officials and the publisher of Der Stürmer, an anti-Semitic newspaper, was
quoted as saying that Martin Luther would be on trial as well, if On the Jews and Their
Lies had been taken into consideration.
“The Nuremberg Trials and Their Legacy,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Updated 6
January 2011,
“The Nazi Defendants in the Major War Criminal Trial in Nuremberg,” UMKC School of Law,
Accessed 9 December 9 2011,
“The Nuremberg Trials: A Chronology,” UMKC School of Law, Accessed 7 December 2011,
One wonders how Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler surface in the long German
history, as villains, with such common features, centuries apart. Are there warning signs
to prepare the German people for the next rogue, anti-Judaic revolutionary? Both Luther
and Hitler were egomaniacs who felt superior to the current political and religious
systems that regulated the masses. Each man felt that he alone had the correct political
and religious process for Germany at the time. Luther and Hitler both used the guise that
their revolutions were in the best interest of the German people, but they cared not for the
victims that would suffer from their extreme behavior. Both men struggled, personally as
well as professionally, their struggles affecting their every decision and therefore
affecting the German people. The end result for Germany was the same: bias and hate
toward a specific ethnic group, the Jews. Where Luther saw the Jews as being under a
divine curse by the Devil, Hitler saw the Jews as a nationalistic threat. To the more
religious-oriented Martin Luther, the Jews were the enemy to Jesus, while the politically-
focused Adolf Hitler saw them as the enemy to Germany. In both cases the victims were
Jews; they have been victims throughout Christian history (though never to the same
extent as the Holocaust). 116 The Nazi attack on Jews was simply a manifestation of an
old hate.
The era immediately following the Holocaust saw recognition of the existing anti-
Semitism by the non-Jewish world and an attempt to undo it. 117 However, anti-Semitism
is far from eliminated. The Holocaust brought anti-Semitism to the world’s attention, but
it was not enough to purge it entirely. In fact, the Holocaust allowed new forms of anti-
Semitism to emerge. Despite being one of the “most documented events in human
Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, 351.
Ibid., 385.46
history, supported on the one hand by numerous eyewitness testimonies of survivors and
liberators, and on the other by German records, written and photographic,” there are those
who deny the existence of the Holocaust. 118 The inspiration for this denial is simply anti-
Semitic hate. The majority of Holocaust deniers sympathize with the Nazis, while the
most well-known are in fact outright neo-Nazis. 119
Those who want to deny the Holocaust allege either that it did not take place at
all, that Hitler never ordered it, that there were no gas chambers or crematoria in
the death camps, or that the deaths of Jews occurred on a much smaller scale than
they really did, being due to poor living conditions, and not to a deliberate policy
of extermination. The account the rest of the world believes was made up in order
to legitimate the Zionist state. Sometimes there is a less-explicit subtext – if the
Holocaust didn’t happen, it ought to have; Hitler didn’t finish the job. 120
There also exists the anti-Semitic behavior known as Anti-Zionism. Zionism is
the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the
resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel; anti-Zionism, therefore, is the
movement against it. 121 According to William Nicholls, author of Christian Anti-
Semitism, argues that the “history of the Middle East conflict is being rewritten to make it
appear that in all the five wars between the Arab powers and Israel, Israel was always the
aggressor and always more militarily powerful.” 122 By denouncing Zionism, Jews are
categorized simply as a people of faith and not as a nation. While all Jews might not
Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, 392.
Ibid., 393.
consider themselves direct descendants of Israel, the majority of Jewish people regard
Israel as “a necessary and central expression of life.” 123
Unfortunately, an event with such a magnitude as the Holocaust was not enough
to eradicate Anti-Semitism entirely. Anti-Semitism has existed for centuries, and it will
most likely continue to exist in one form or another for future centuries. Martin Luther
and Adolf Hitler are in the past, and one can hope that such extreme Anti-Semitism has
died with them, along with their frightening ability to rationalize their behavior and
influence their supporters.
Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, 394.48
Martin Luther & Adolf Hitler
Martin Luther as a young man49
Martin Luther’s death portrait50
Hitler speaking at a Nazi rally circa. 1935
”One people!
One leader!
One empire!
One Germany!”51
Hitler at Nazi Party Day in Nuremberg, 193452
Adolf Hitler53
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1945
(Author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is in the second second row, seventh from the left)54
Major War Criminals – Quotes
Karl Doenitz:
Nazi Navy Commander
• Chosen to succeed Hitler as Führer
• Served a 10-year sentence

“Politicians brought the Nazis to power and started the war. They are the ones who
brought about these disgusting crimes, and now we have to sit there in the dock with
them and share the blame!”
Hans Frank:
Governor-general of Nazi-occupied Poland
• Known as the “Jew butcher of Cracow”
• Sentence to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“Don’t let anybody tell you that they had no idea. Everybody sensed there was something
horribly wrong with the system.”
“Hitler has disgraced Germany for all time! He betrayed and disgraced the people that
loved him! I will be the first to admit my guilt.”
Wilhelm Frick:
Minister of the Interior
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“Hitler didn’t want to do things my way. I wanted things done legally. After all, I am a
“The mass murders were certainly not thought of as a consequence of the Nuremberg
Laws, [though] it may have turned out that way.”
Hans Fritzsche:
Head of Radio Division – a department of propaganda
• Aquitted by IMT but later tried and convicted by a German court.

“I have been tricked and trapped by the Himmler murder machine, even when I tried to
put a check on it… Let us explain our position to the world, so that at least we won’t die
under this awful burden of shame.”55
“I have the feeling I am drowning in filth….I am choking in it.”
Walther Funk:

Minister of Economics
Sentenced to life imprisonment – released in 1957 for poor health
“I signed the laws for the aryanization of Jewish property. Whether that makes me legally
guilty or not, is another matter. But it makes me morally guilty, there is no doubt about
that. I should have listened to my wife at the end. She said we’d be better off dropping the
whole minister business and moving into a three-bedroom flat.”
Hermann Goering:
Reichsmarschall and Luftwaffe (Air Force) Chief
• President of Reichstag
• Director of “Four Year Plan”
• Committed suicide the day before his scheduled hanging

“I joined the Party precisely because it was revolutionary, not because of the ideological
“The whole conspiracy idea is cockeyed. We had orders to obey the head of state. We
weren’t a band of criminals meeting in the woods in the dead of night to plan mass
murders… The four real conspirators are missing: The Führer, Himmler, Bormann, and
“This is a political trial by the victors and it will be a good thing when Germany realizes
Rudolf Hess:
Deputy to Hitler
Nazi party leader
• Sentenced to life imprisonment – committed suicide in 1987

“It is just incomprehensible how those things [atrocities] came about… Every genius has
the demon in him. You can’t blame him [Hitler]–it is just in him… It is all very tragic.
But at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried to do something to end the
Alfred Jodl:
Chief of Operations for the German High Command
• Sentence to death – hanged in Nuremberg
“The indictment knocked me on the head. First of all, I hand no idea at all about 90 per
cent of the accusations in it. The crimes are horrible beyond belief, if they are true.
Secondly, I don’t see how they can fail to recognize a soldier’s obligation to obey orders.
That’s the code I’ve live by all my life.”
Ernst Kaltenbrunner:
Chief of Security Police and Gestapo organizations
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“When I saw the newspaper headline ‘GAS CHAMBER EXPERT CAPTURED’ and an
American lieutenant explained it to me, I was pale in amazement. How can they say such
things about me?”
“I have only done my duty as an intelligence organ, and I refuse to serve as an ersatz for
Wilhelm Keitel:
Chief of Staff of the German High Command
• Sentenced to death – hanged in the Palace of Justice

“We all believed so much in him [Hitler]–and we stand to take all the blame–and the
shame! He gave us the orders. He kept saying that it was all his responsibility.”
“I will suffer more agony of conscience and self-reproach in this cell than anybody will
ever know.”
“The only thing that is impossible is for me to there [in court] like a louse and lie.”
Konstantin von Neurath:
Minister of Foreign Affairs until 1938
• Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia
• Sentenced to fifteen years in prison – released because of poor health in 1954

“Hitler was a liar, of course–that became more and more clear. He simply had no respect
for the truth. But nobody recognized it at first… He must have done his conspiring with
his little gang of henchmen late at night. Sometimes he would call at 1, 2, or 3 in the
Franz von Papen:
Reich Chancellor prior to Hitler
• Vice Chancellor under Hitler
• Ambassador to Turkey
• Acquitted

“I think [Hitler] wanted the best for Germany at the beginning, but he became an
unreasoning evil force with the flattery of his followers–Himmler, Goering, Ribbentrop,
etc…I tried to persuade him he was wrong in his anti-Jewish policies many a time. He
seemed to listen at first, but later on, I had no influence on him.”
Erich Raeder:
Commander in chief of the German Navy
• Sentenced to life in prison – served nine years

“I have no illusion about this trial. Naturally, I will be hanged or shot. I flatter myself to
think that I will be shot; at least I will request it. I have no desire to serve a prison
sentence at my age.”
Joachim von Ribbentrop:
Foreign Minister
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“We are only living shadows–the remains of a dead era–an era that died with Hitler.
Whether a few of us live another 10 or 20 years, it makes no difference.”
Alfred Rosenberg:
Chief Nazi Philosopher
• Reichminister for the Eastern Occupied Territories
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“I didn’t say that the Jews are inferior. I didn’t even maintain they are a race. I merely saw
that the mixture of different cultures didn’t work.”
“We let 50,000 Jewish intellectuals get across the border. Just as I wanted Lebensraum
for Germany, I thought Jews should have a Lebensraum for themselves–outside of
Fritz Sauckel:
Chief of Slave Labor Recruitment
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“I was given this assignment which I could not refuse–and besides, I did everything
possible to treat [the foreign slave laborers] well.”
Hjalmar Schacht:
Reichsbank President
• Minister of Economics before the war
• Found not guilty by IMT – later convicted by a German court and sentenced to
eight years

“I have full confidence in the judges, and I am not afraid of the outcome. A few of the
defendants are not guilty; most of them are sheer criminals.”
“All I wanted was to build up Germany industrially….The only thing they can accuse me
of is breaking the Versailles Treaty.”
Baldur von Schirach:
Hitler Youth Leader
• Sentenced to 20 years in prison

“I had no reason to be anti-Semitic… until someone made me read the American book,
The International Jew, at the impressionable age of 17. You have no idea what a great
influence this book had on the thinking of German youth…At the age of 18, I met Adolf
Hitler. I must admit I was inspired by him…and became one of his staunchest supporters.”
Arthur Seyss-Inquart:
Austrian Chancellor
• Reich Commissioner for the Netherlands
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“The southern German has the imagination and emotionality to subscribe to a fanatic
ideology, but he is ordinarily inhibited from excesses by his natural humaneness. The
Prussian does not have the imagination to conceive in terms of abstract racial and
political theories, but when he is told to do something, he does it.”59
Albert Speer:
Reichminister of Armaments and Munitions
• Served a 20-year sentence

“I would like to sit down and write one final blast about the whole damn Nazi mess and
mention names and details and let the German people see once and for all what rotten
corruption, hypocrisy, and madness the whole system was based on! I would spare no
one, including myself.”
Julius Streicher:
Editor of Der Stürmer
• Sentenced to death – hanged in Nuremberg

“The Jews are making a mistake if they make a martyr out of me; you will see. I didn’t
create the problem; it existed for thousands of years.”
“I am the only one in the world who clearly saw the Jewish menace as an historical
problem.” 124
The Nazi Defendants in the Major War Criminal Trial in Nuremberg,” UMKC School of Law, Accessed
9 December 9 2011,
Aus Liebe zur Wahrheit und in dem Bestreben, diese zu ergründen, soll in Wittenberg
unter dem Vorsitz des ehrwürdigen Vaters Martin Luther, Magisters der freien Künste
und der heiligen Theologie sowie deren ordentlicher Professor daselbst, über die
folgenden Sätze disputiert werden. Deshalb bittet er die, die nicht anwesend sein und
mündlich mit uns debattieren können, dieses in Abwesenheit schriftlich zu tun.
Im Namen unseres Herrn Jesu Christi, Amen.
1. Da unser Herr und Meister Jesus Christus spricht “Tut Buße” usw. (Matth. 4,17),
hat er gewollt, daß das ganze Leben der Gläubigen Buße sein soll.
2. Dieses Wort kann nicht von der Buße als Sakrament – d. h. von der Beichte und
Genugtuung -, die durch das priesterliche Amt verwaltet wird, verstanden werden.
3. Es bezieht sich nicht nur auf eine innere Buße, ja eine solche wäre gar keine,
wenn sie nicht nach außen mancherlei Werke zur Abtötung des Fleisches
4. Daher bleibt die Strafe, solange der Haß gegen sich selbst – das ist die wahre
Herzensbuße – bestehen bleibt, also bis zum Eingang ins Himmelreich.
5. Der Papst will und kann keine Strafen erlassen, außer solchen, die er auf Grund
seiner eigenen Entscheidung oder der der kirchlichen Satzungen auferlegt hat.
6. Der Papst kann eine Schuld nur dadurch erlassen, daß er sie als von Gott erlassen
erklärt und bezeugt, natürlich kann er sie in den ihm vorbehaltenen Fällen
erlassen; wollte man das geringachten, bliebe die Schuld ganz und gar bestehen.
7. Gott erläßt überhaupt keinem die Schuld, ohne ihn zugleich demütig in allem dem
Priester, seinem Stellvertreter, zu unterwerfen.
8. Die kirchlichen Bestimmungen über die Buße sind nur für die Lebenden
verbindlich, den Sterbenden darf demgemäß nichts auferlegt werden.
9. Daher handelt der Heilige Geist, der durch den Papst wirkt, uns gegenüber gut,
wenn er in seinen Erlassen immer den Fall des Todes und der höchsten Not
10. Unwissend und schlecht handeln diejenigen Priester, die den Sterbenden
kirchliche Bußen für das Fegefeuer aufsparen.61
11. Die Meinung, daß eine kirchliche Bußstrafe in eine Fegefeuerstrafe umgewandelt
werden könne, ist ein Unkraut, das offenbar gesät worden ist, während die
Bischöfe schliefen.
12. Früher wurden die kirchlichen Bußstrafen nicht nach, sondern vor der Absolution
auferlegt, gleichsam als Prüfstein für die Aufrichtigkeit der Reue.
13. Die Sterbenden werden durch den Tod von allem gelöst, und für die kirchlichen
Satzungen sind sie schon tot, weil sie von Rechts wegen davon befreit sind.
14. Ist die Haltung eines Sterbenden und die Liebe (Gott gegenüber) unvollkommen,
so bringt ihm das notwendig große Furcht, und diese ist um so größer, je geringer
jene ist.
15. Diese Furcht und dieser Schrecken genügen für sich allein – um von anderem zu
schweigen -, die Pein des Fegefeuers auszumachen; denn sie kommen dem
Grauen der Verzweiflung ganz nahe.
16. Es scheinen sich demnach Hölle, Fegefeuer und Himmel in der gleichen Weise zu
unterscheiden wie Verzweiflung, annähernde Verzweiflung und Sicherheit.
17. Offenbar haben die Seelen im Fegefeuer die Mehrung der Liebe genauso nötig
wie eine Minderung des Grauens.
18. Offenbar ist es auch weder durch Vernunft- noch Schriftgründe erwiesen, daß sie
sich außerhalb des Zustandes befinden, in dem sie Verdienste erwerben können
oder in dem die Liebe zunehmen kann.
19. Offenbar ist auch dieses nicht erwiesen, daß sie – wenigstens nicht alle – ihrer
Seligkeit sicher und gewiß sind, wenngleich wir ihrer völlig sicher sind.
20. Daher meint der Papst mit dem vollkommenen Erlaß aller Strafen nicht einfach
den Erlaß sämtlicher Strafen, sondern nur derjenigen, die er selbst auferlegt hat.
21. Deshalb irren jene Ablaßprediger, die sagen, daß durch die Ablässe des Papstes
der Mensch von jeder Strafe frei und los werde.
22. Vielmehr erläßt er den Seelen im Fegefeuer keine einzige Strafe, die sie nach den
kirchlichen Satzungen in diesem Leben hätten abbüßen müssen.
23. Wenn überhaupt irgendwem irgendein Erlaß aller Strafen gewährt werden kann,
dann gewiß allein den Vollkommensten, das heißt aber, ganz wenigen.
24. Deswegen wird zwangsläufig ein Großteil des Volkes durch jenes in Bausch und
Bogen und großsprecherisch gegebene Versprechen des Straferlasses getäuscht.62
25. Die gleiche Macht, die der Papst bezüglich des Fegefeuers im allgemeinen hat,
besitzt jeder Bischof und jeder Seelsorger in seinem Bistum bzw. seinem
Pfarrbezirk im besonderen.
26. Der Papst handelt sehr richtig, den Seelen (im Fegefeuer) die Vergebung nicht auf
Grund seiner – ihm dafür nicht zur Verfügung stehenden – Schlüsselgewalt,
sondern auf dem Wege der Fürbitte zuzuwenden.
27. Menschenlehre verkündigen die, die sagen, daß die Seele (aus dem Fegefeuer)
emporfliege, sobald das Geld im Kasten klingt.
28. Gewiß, sobald das Geld im Kasten klingt, können Gewinn und Habgier wachsen,
aber die Fürbitte der Kirche steht allein auf dem Willen Gottes.
29. Wer weiß denn, ob alle Seelen im Fegefeuer losgekauft werden wollen, wie es
beispielsweise beim heiligen Severin und Paschalis nicht der Fall gewesen sein
30. Keiner ist der Echtheit seiner Reue gewiß, viel weniger, ob er völligen Erlaß (der
Sündenstrafe) erlangt hat.
31. So selten einer in rechter Weise Buße tut, so selten kauft einer in der rechten
Weise Ablaß, nämlich außerordentlich selten.
32. Wer glaubt, durch einen Ablaßbrief seines Heils gewiß sein zu können, wird auf
ewig mit seinen Lehrmeistern verdammt werden.
33. Nicht genug kann man sich vor denen hüten, die den Ablaß des Papstes jene
unschätzbare Gabe Gottes nennen, durch die der Mensch mit Gott versöhnt
34. Jene Ablaßgnaden beziehen sich nämlich nur auf die von Menschen festgesetzten
Strafen der sakramentalen Genugtuung.
35. Nicht christlich predigen die, die lehren, daß für die, die Seelen (aus dem
Fegefeuer) loskaufen oder Beichtbriefe erwerben, Reue nicht nötig sei.
36. Jeder Christ, der wirklich bereut, hat Anspruch auf völligen Erlaß von Strafe und
Schuld, auch ohne Ablaßbrief.
37. Jeder wahre Christ, sei er lebendig oder tot, hat Anteil an allen Gütern Christi und
der Kirche, von Gott ihm auch ohne Ablaßbrief gegeben.
38. Doch dürfen der Erlaß und der Anteil (an den genannten Gütern), die der Papst
vermittelt, keineswegs geringgeachtet werden, weil sie – wie ich schon sagte – die
Erklärung der göttlichen Vergebung darstellen.63
39. Auch den gelehrtesten Theologen dürfte es sehr schwerfallen, vor dem Volk
zugleich die Fülle der Ablässe und die Aufrichtigkeit der Reue zu rühmen.
40. Aufrichtige Reue begehrt und liebt die Strafe. Die Fülle der Ablässe aber macht
gleichgültig und lehrt sie hassen, wenigstens legt sie das nahe.
41. Nur mit Vorsicht darf der apostolische Ablaß gepredigt werden, damit das Volk
nicht fälschlicherweise meint, er sei anderen guten Werken der Liebe
42. Man soll die Christen lehren: Die Meinung des Papstes ist es nicht, daß der
Erwerb von Ablaß in irgendeiner Weise mit Werken der Barmherzigkeit zu
vergleichen sei.
43. Man soll den Christen lehren: Dem Armen zu geben oder dem Bedürftigen zu
leihen ist besser, als Ablaß zu kaufen.
44. Denn durch ein Werk der Liebe wächst die Liebe und wird der Mensch besser,
aber durch Ablaß wird er nicht besser, sondern nur teilweise von der Strafe
45. Man soll die Christen lehren: Wer einen Bedürftigen sieht, ihn übergeht und statt
dessen für den Ablaß gibt, kauft nicht den Ablaß des Papstes, sondern handelt
sich den Zorn Gottes ein.
46. Man soll die Christen lehren: Die, die nicht im Überfluß leben, sollen das
Lebensnotwendige für ihr Hauswesen behalten und keinesfalls für den Ablaß
47. Man soll die Christen lehren: Der Kauf von Ablaß ist eine freiwillige
Angelegenheit, nicht geboten.
48. Man soll die Christen lehren: Der Papst hat bei der Erteilung von Ablaß ein für
ihn dargebrachtes Gebet nötiger und wünscht es deshalb auch mehr als zur
Verfügung gestelltes Geld.
49. Man soll die Christen lehren: Der Ablaß des Papstes ist nützlich, wenn man nicht
sein Vertrauen darauf setzt, aber sehr schädlich, falls man darüber die Furcht
Gottes fahrenläßt.
50. Man soll die Christen lehren: Wenn der Papst die Erpressungsmethoden der
Ablaßprediger wüßte, sähe er lieber die Peterskirche in Asche sinken, als daß sie
mit Haut, Fleisch und Knochen seiner Schafe erbaut würde.64
51. Man soll die Christen lehren: Der Papst wäre, wie es seine Pflicht ist, bereit –
wenn nötig – die Peterskirche zu verkaufen, um von seinem Gelde einem großen
Teil jener zu geben, denen gewisse Ablaßprediger das Geld aus der Tasche holen.
52. Auf Grund eines Ablaßbriefes das Heil zu erwarten ist eitel, auch wenn der
(Ablaß) Kommissar, ja der Papst selbst ihre Seelen dafür verpfändeten.
53. Die anordnen, daß um der Ablaßpredigt willen das Wort Gottes in den
umliegenden Kirchen völlig zum Schweigen komme, sind Feinde Christi und des
54. Dem Wort Gottes geschieht Unrecht, wenn in ein und derselben Predigt auf den
Ablaß die gleiche oder längere Zeit verwendet wird als für jenes.
55. Die Meinung des Papstes ist unbedingt die: Wenn der Ablaß – als das Geringste –
mit einer Glocke, einer Prozession und einem Gottesdienst gefeiert wird, sollte
das Evangelium – als das Höchste – mit hundert Glocken, hundert Prozessionen
und hundert Gottesdiensten gepredigt werden.
56. Der Schatz der Kirche, aus dem der Papst den Ablaß austeilt, ist bei dem Volke
Christi weder genügend genannt noch bekannt.
57. Offenbar besteht er nicht in zeitlichen Gütern, denn die würden viele von den
Predigern nicht so leicht mit vollen Händen austeilen, sondern bloß sammeln.
58. Er besteht aber auch nicht aus den Verdiensten Christi und der Heiligen, weil
diese dauernd ohne den Papst Gnade für den inwendigen Menschen sowie Kreuz,
Tod und Hölle für den äußeren bewirken.
59. Der heilige Laurentius hat gesagt, daß der Schatz der Kirche ihre Armen seien,
aber die Verwendung dieses Begriffes entsprach der Auffassung seiner Zeit.
60. Wohlbegründet sagen wir, daß die Schlüssel der Kirche – die ihr durch das
Verdienst Christi geschenkt sind – jenen Schatz darstellen.
61. Selbstverständlich genügt die Gewalt des Papstes allein zum Erlaß von Strafen
und zur Vergebung in besondern, ihm vorbehaltenen Fällen.
62. Der wahre Schatz der Kirche ist das allerheiligste Evangelium von der
Herrlichkeit und Gnade Gottes.
63. Dieser ist zu Recht allgemein verhaßt, weil er aus Ersten Letzte macht.
64. Der Schatz des Ablasses jedoch ist zu Recht außerordentlich beliebt, weil er aus
Letzten Erste macht.65
65. Also ist der Schatz des Evangeliums das Netz, mit dem man einst die Besitzer von
Reichtum fing.
66. Der Schatz des Ablasses ist das Netz, mit dem man jetzt den Reichtum von
Besitzenden fängt.
67. Der Ablaß, den die Ablaßprediger lautstark als außerordentliche Gnaden
anpreisen, kann tatsächlich dafür gelten, was das gute Geschäft anbelangt.
68. Doch sind sie, verglichen mit der Gnade Gottes und der Verehrung des Kreuzes,
in der Tat ganz geringfügig.
69. Die Bischöfe und Pfarrer sind gehalten, die Kommissare des apostolischen
Ablasses mit aller Ehrerbietung zuzulassen.
70. Aber noch mehr sind sie gehalten, Augen und Ohren anzustrengen, daß jene nicht
anstelle des päpstlichen Auftrags ihre eigenen Phantastereien predigen.
71. Wer gegen die Wahrheit des apostolischen Ablasses spricht, der sei verworfen
und verflucht.
72. Aber wer gegen die Zügellosigkeit und Frechheit der Worte der Ablaßprediger
auftritt, der sei gesegnet.
73. Wie der Papst zu Recht seinen Bannstrahl gegen diejenigen schleudert, die
hinsichtlich des Ablaßgeschäftes auf mannigfache Weise Betrug ersinnen,
74. So will er viel mehr den Bannstrahl gegen diejenigen schleudern, die unter dem
Vorwand des Ablasses auf Betrug hinsichtlich der heiligen Liebe und Wahrheit
75. Es ist irrsinnig zu meinen, daß der päpstliche Ablaß mächtig genug sei, einen
Menschen loszusprechen, auch wenn er – was ja unmöglich ist – der
Gottesgebärerin Gewalt angetan hätte.
76. Wir behaupten dagegen, daß der päpstliche Ablaß auch nicht die geringste
läßliche Sünde wegnehmen kann, was deren Schuld betrifft.
77. Wenn es heißt, auch der heilige Petrus könnte, wenn er jetzt Papst wäre, keine
größeren Gnaden austeilen, so ist das eine Lästerung des heiligen Petrus und des
78. Wir behaupten dagegen, daß dieser wie jeder beliebige Papst größere hat, nämlich
das Evangelium, “Geisteskräfte und Gaben, gesund zu machen” usw., wie es 1.
Kor. 12 heißt.66
79. Es ist Gotteslästerung zu sagen, daß das (in den Kirchen) an hervorragender Stelle
errichtete (Ablaß-) Kreuz, das mit dem päpstlichen Wappen versehen ist, dem
Kreuz Christi gleichkäme.
80. Bischöfe, Pfarrer und Theologen, die dulden, daß man dem Volk solche Predigt
bietet, werden dafür Rechenschaft ablegen müssen.
81. Diese freche Ablaßpredigt macht es auch gelehrten Männern nicht leicht, das
Ansehen des Papstes vor böswilliger Kritik oder sogar vor spitzfindigen Fragen
der Laien zu schützen.
82. Zum Beispiel: Warum räumt der Papst nicht das Fegefeuer aus um der heiligsten
Liebe und höchsten Not der Seelen willen – als aus einem wirklich triftigen Grund
-, da er doch unzählige Seelen loskauft um des unheilvollen Geldes zum Bau einer
Kirche willen – als aus einem sehr fadenscheinigen Grund -?
83. Oder: Warum bleiben die Totenmessen sowie Jahrfeiern für die Verstorbenen
bestehen, und warum gibt er (der Papst) nicht die Stiftungen, die dafür gemacht
worden sind, zurück oder gestattet ihre Rückgabe,wenn es schon ein Unrecht ist,
für die Losgekauften zu beten?
84. Oder: Was ist das für eine neue Frömmigkeit vor Gott und dem Papst, daß sie
einem Gottlosen und Feinde erlauben, für sein Geld eine fromme und von Gott
geliebte Seele loszukaufen; doch um der eigenen Not dieser frommen und
geliebten Seele willen erlösen sie diese nicht aus freigeschenkter Liebe?
85. Oder: Warum werden die kirchlichen Bußsatzungen, die “tatsächlich und durch
Nichtgebrauch” an sich längst abgeschafft und tot sind, doch noch immer durch
die Gewährung von Ablaß mit Geld abgelöst, als wären sie höchst lebendig?
86. Oder: Warum baut der Papst, der heute reicher ist als der reichste Crassus, nicht
wenigstens die eine Kirche St. Peter lieber von seinem eigenen Geld als dem der
armen Gläubigen?
87. Oder: Was erläßt der Papst oder woran gibt er denen Anteil, die durch
vollkommene Reue ein Anrecht haben auf völligen Erlaß und völlige Teilhabe?
88. Oder: Was könnte der Kirche Besseres geschehen, als wenn der Papst, wie er es
(jetzt) einmal tut, hundertmal am Tage jedem Gläubigen diesen Erlaß und diese
Teilhabe zukommen ließe?
89. Wieso sucht der Papst durch den Ablaß das Heil der Seelen mehr als das Geld;
warum hebt er früher gewährte Briefe und Ablässe jetzt auf, die doch ebenso
wirksam sind?67
90. Diese äußerst peinlichen Einwände der Laien nur mit Gewalt zu unterdrücken und
nicht durch vernünftige Gegenargumente zu beseitigen heißt, die Kirche und den
Papst dem Gelächter der Feinde auszusetzen und die Christenheit unglücklich zu
91. Wenn daher der Ablaß dem Geiste und der Auffassung des Papstes gemäß
gepredigt würde, lösten sich diese (Einwände) alle ohne weiteres auf, ja es gäbe
sie überhaupt nicht.
92. Darum weg mit allen jenen Propheten, die den Christen predigen: “Friede,
Friede”, und ist doch kein Friede.
93. Wohl möge es gehen allen den Propheten, die den Christen predigen: “Kreuz,
Kreuz”, und ist doch kein Kreuz.
94. Man soll die Christen ermutigen, daß sie ihrem Haupt Christus durch Strafen, Tod
und Hölle nachzufolgen trachten.
95. und daß die lieber darauf trauen, durch viele Trübsale ins Himmelreich
einzugehen, als sich in falscher geistlicher Sicherheit zu beruhigen. 125
“95 Thesen,” Martin, Accessed 22 October 2011,
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will
be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther,
Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that
place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally
with us, may do so by letter.
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that
the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession
and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance
which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for
this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the
kingdom of heaven.
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those
which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by
God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant
remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such
cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all
things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them,
nothing should be imposed on the dying.
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he
always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying,
reserve canonical penances for purgatory.69
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite
evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before
absolution, as tests of true contrition.
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical
rules, and have a right to be released from them.
14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying
brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the
15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to
constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the
assurance of safety.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of
merit, that is to say, of increasing love.
19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or
assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.
20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,”
but only of those imposed by himself.
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s
indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;
22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the
canons, they would have had to pay in this life.
23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever,
it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to
the very fewest.
24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that
indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.70
25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the
power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the
power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.
27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box,
the soul flies out [of purgatory].
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can
be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of
God alone.
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in
the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained
full remission.
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys
indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe
themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that
inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;
34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental
satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.
35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in
those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt,
even without letters of pardon.
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ
and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.
38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church]
which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have
said, the declaration of divine remission.71
39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same
time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true
40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties
and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].
41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely
think them preferable to other good works of love.
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to
be compared in any way to works of mercy.
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy
does a better work than buying pardons;
44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons
man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and
gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the
indignation of God.
46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are
bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to
squander it on pardons.
47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and
not of commandment.
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore
desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.
49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put
their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-
preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it
should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to
give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of
pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.72
52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the
commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be
altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in
54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer
time is spent on pardons than on this Word.
55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing,
are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the
Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells,
a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not
sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.
57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors
do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these
always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the
outward man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he
spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are
that treasure.
61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power
of the pope is of itself sufficient.
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the
grace of God.
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it
makes the last to be first.
65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were
wont to fish for men of riches.73
66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches
of men.
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be
truly such, in so far as they promote gain.
68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and
the piety of the Cross.
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons,
with all reverence.
70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears,
lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.
71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and
72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be
73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the
traffic in pardons.
74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of
pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.
75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had
committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.
76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very
least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater
graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.
78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has
greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as
it is written in I. Corinthians xii.
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the
preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is
80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the
people, will have an account to render.74
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned
men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the
shrewd questionings of the laity.
82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and
of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of
souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former
reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”
83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and
why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on
their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”
84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow
a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a
friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own
need, free it for pure love’s sake?”
85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through
disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as
though they were still alive and in force?”
86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches
of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather
than with the money of poor believers?”
87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to
those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”
88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were
to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer
these remissions and participations?”
89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money,
why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these
have equal efficacy?”
90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to
resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the
ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.
91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope,
all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace,
peace,” and there is no peace!75
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and
there is no cross!
94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head,
through penalties, deaths, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations,
than through the assurance of peace. 126
“Disputation of Dr. Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” Project Wittenberg,
Accessed 22 October 2011,
1. “95 Thesen.” Martin Accessed 22 October 2011.
2. “Antisemitism.” Accessed 25 November 2011.
3. Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. New York, Nashville:
Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950.
4. Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation 1483-1521. Fortress Press:
Philadelphia, 1985.
5. “Disputation of Dr. Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” Project
Wittenberg. Accessed 22 October 2011.
6. Edwards, Mark U. Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-46. New York:
Cornell University Press, 1983.
7. Engels, Friedrich and Karl Marx. “Communist Manifesto” in Classics of Western
Thought: The Modern World. Edited by Edgar K. Knoebel. Fort Worth: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1988.
8. Erikson, Erik. Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History. New York:
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.
9. Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther. Edited by John F.
Thornton and Susan B. Varenne. New York: Vintage Spiritual Classics, 2002.
10. Fernis/Haverkamp. Grundzüge der Geschichte: Von der Urzeit bis zur Gegenwart.
Verlag Moritz Diesterweg: Frankfurt am Main, 1975.
11. Fest, Joachim. Hitler. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston. New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1973.
12. Fest, Joachim. Inside Hitler’s Bunker. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002.
13. “Gassing Operations.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Updated 6
January 2011.
14. Goebbels, Joseph. “Führer as Orator,” in Adolf Hitler: 1931-1935: Pictures from the
Life of the Führer. New York, London: Peebles Press, 1978.77
15. Hitler, Adolf. Hitler’s Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf.
Translated by Gerhard L. Weinberg . New York: Enigma, 2003.
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Inc. 2009.
17. “Indulgences.” Catholic Encyclopedia Online. Accessed 4 August 2011.
18. “Introduction to the Holocaust – Nazi Concentration Camps.” United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum. Updated 6 January 2011.
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Memorial Museum. Updated 6 January 2011.
20. Lehmann, Helmut T., and Theodore G. Tappert. Luther’s Works: Table Talk.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967.
21. Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors. New York: Basic Books, 2000.
22. Luther, Martin. The Jews and Their Lies. South Carolina: Liberty Bell Publications,
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School of Law. Accessed 9 December 9 2011.
24. Nicholls, William. Christian Antisemitism: a History of Hate. New Jersey: Jason
Aronson Inc., 1993.
25. “The Nuremberg Trials: A Chronology.” UMKC School of Law. Accessed 7
December 2011.
26. “The Nuremberg Trials and Their Legacy.” United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum. Updated 6 January 2011.
27. “On the Jews and their Lies.” Humanitas Accessed 4 August
2011. http://www.humanitas-
28. Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonize Jews, Pagans, and
Heretics.” New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
29. Ritter, Gerhard. Luther: His Life and Work. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
30. Shuter, Jane. Life and Death in Hitler’s Europe. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003.
31. “Timeline of East Germany.” East Germany Info. Accessed 10 July 2011.
32. Von den Juden und ihren Lügen. Martin Luther 1543 – Gif-Faksimile Belege.
Accessed 23 October 2011.
33. Walker, Jim. “Martin Luther’s Dirty Little Book: On the Jews and their Lies – A
Precursor to Nazism.” No Updated 20 Nov 2005.
34. Wiener, Peter F. Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor. New Jersey: American
Atheist Press, 1990.

Luther and Hitler: A Linear Connection between
Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler’s Anti-Semitism
with a Nationalistic Foundation
Daphne M. Olsen
Rollins College,
Follow this and additional works at:
Recommended Citation
Olsen, Daphne M., “Luther and Hitler: A Linear Connection between Martin Luther and Adolf Hitler’s Anti-Semitism with a
Nationalistic Foundation” (2012). Masters of Liberal Studies Theses. Paper 20.
This Open Access is brought to you for free and open access by Rollins Scholarship Online. It has been accepted for inclusion in Masters of Liberal
Studies Theses by an authorized administrator of Rollins Scholarship Online. For more information, please contact and Hitler:
A Linear Connection between Martin Luther and Adolf
Hitler’s Anti-Semitism with a Nationalistic Foundation
A Project Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Liberal Studies
Daphne M. Olsen
December 2011
Mentor: Dean Patrick Powers
Reader: Dr. Barry Levis
Rollins College
Hamilton Holt School
Master of Liberal Studies Program
Winter Park, FloridaLuther and Hitler:
A Linear Connection between Martin Luther and Adolf
Hitler’s Anti-Semitism with a Nationalistic Foundation
Daphne M. Rast
December 2011
Project Approved:
Director, Master of Liberal Studies Program
Dean, Hamilton Holt School
Rollins CollegeT ABLE OF C ONTENTS
Life of Luther………………………………………………………………………………4
Luther’s Nationalism…………………………………………………………………….10
Luther’s Anti-Judaism……………………………………………………………………15
Life of Hitler……………………………………………………………………………..19
Hitler’s Nationalism………………………………………………………………………23
Hitler’s Anti-Semitism…………………………………………………………………..27
Luther and Hitler…………………………………………………………………………36
Index of References………………………………………………………………………7711


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