Ed Driscoll

Fascism And National Socialism: Post-Christian Religions

At a press conference today, a CAIR spokesman apparently said, “We do not associate Christianity with fascism”.

Well, give them credit for getting that one right. Of Nietzsche’s famous 1882 aphorism, “God Is Dead”, Tom Wolfe once wrote:

Nietzsche said this was not a declaration of atheism, although he was in fact an atheist, but simply the news of an event. He called the death of God a “tremendous event,” the greatest event of modern history. The news was that educated people no longer believed in God, as a result of the rise of rationalism and scientific thought, including Darwinism, over the preceding 250 years. But before you atheists run up your flags of triumph, he said, think of the implications. “The story I have to tell,” wrote Nietzsche, “is the history of the next two centuries.” He predicted (in Ecce Homo ) that the twentieth century would be a century of “wars such as have never happened on earth,” wars catastrophic beyond all imagining. And why? Because human beings would no longer have a god to turn to, to absolve them of their guilt; but they would still be racked by guilt, since guilt is an impulse instilled in children when they are very young, before the age of reason. As a result, people would loathe not only one another but themselves. The blind and reassuring faith they formerly poured into their belief in God, said Nietzsche, they would now pour into a belief in barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods: “If the doctrines…of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animal, doctrines I consider true but deadly”–he says in an allusion to Darwinism in Untimely Meditations –“are hurled into the people for another generation…then nobody should be surprised when…brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non-brothers…will appear in the arena of the future.”

The European totalitarians who proceeded Nietzsche certainly believed that God was dead, and therefore very much felt free to exploit all sorts of “barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods”. Mussolini was an atheist (and former communist) who eventually sought an uneasy and expedient alliance with the Vatican, and Hitler’s secretary, Martin Bormann certainly didn’t associate Christianity with National Socialism. As John Lukacs wrote in The Hitler of History:

Bormann, in a party directive, included a sentence, “Christianity and National Socialism are not reconcilable.” Hitler ordered the removal of that sentence, and the instant cancellation of the directive. Yet at the same time, and often during the war, he told his circle that the business of taking the churches to task would have to wait until the end of the war. Then they would be properly dealt with, and German youth would be liberated from their influences.

As early as 1935, Karl Polanyi, a Hungarian socialist economist wrote:

In Germany National Socialism is setting up definitely as a counter-religion to Christianity. The Churches are suffering oppression, not for some unchristian rivalry with the secular power, but because, in spite of all compromise with the world, they have not ceased to be Christian. The State is attacking the religious independence of the Protestant Churches, and, when they succeed in asserting their independence, it calmly proceeds to secularise society and education. Even the Roman Church is under heavy fire in Germany. There is reason to doubt whether the Lateran Treaty in Italy has fulfilled her expectations. Where she seemingly holds her own, as in Austria, her position is both politically and morally more than precarious.

Our picture may seem to over-stress the importance of the German developments and to ignore the fact that the struggle between Fascism and the Churches is far from general.

Undoubtedly, the Roman Church follows a different line of policy in different countries; and even in one and the same country the attitude of the various Christian communities to the Fascist Party State varies. In the encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno, the Pope opened an avenue of compromise with Fascist sociology; though this happened before the victory of National-Socialism, it left no doubt about the direction in which Rome was eventually prepared to take its bearings on the future. Its experiment with a kind of Catholic Fascism in Austria proves this conclusively.

But these instances of the Catholic will to compromise seem rather to enhance than to diminish the significance of the German Church conflict, the seriousness and the reality of which should not be underrated.

Of Hitler himself, in early 2002, Dave Shiflett wrote:

“It is through the peasantry that we shall really be able to destroy Christianity,” [Hitler] said in 1933, “because there is in them a true religion rooted in nature and blood.” His countrymen would have to choose: “One is either a Christian or a German. You can’t be both.”

Indeed, he understood all too well that Christianity, in the long run, was his enemy. “Pure Christianity