Further Thoughts on Hitler as a Religious Figure

Hitler invoked religious rituals on a grand scale along with religious propaganda in his impassioned preaching at his rallies.  Indeed, he was Germany’s favorite preacher.  Witnesses testify to a kind of sexual frenzy that accompanied his speeches stirring the masses to follow him into the gore of battle and slaughter.  The Nazi ritual ceremonies were described as having an “orgiastic atmosphere” to them. 

Nuremberg Party Rally of the NSDAP, “Party Rally of Honor,” with anti-aircraft headlights, 9/8/1936. Photo from German Federal Archive, on Wikimedia Commons.

He called for a new crusading order modeled after the Knights Templar of old, and Himmler actually compared the SS to the Jesuit Order on several occasions.  His rituals drew as many as 140,000 people at night for ceremonies and the handbook for these ceremonies, the National Socialist Ceremonials, published in 1932, included use of lights, a stage draped in black, an altar with steps covered with helmets, weapons, candles, and more. 

Hitler was the preacher at these services, and his oratory evoked a “hysterical response…a mutual frenzy,” between himself and his audience according to observers.

At the 1936 annual Nuremberg rally 130 search lights were placed around a field at 40 foot intervals. The light beams extended 25,000 feet into the air and merged at the top to create “a luminous dome effect, a cathedral of light” that hovered over Hitler.

Hitler predicts a violent, authoritarian future under the Third Reich while testifying in the trial of three military officers accused of treason before the Supreme Court in Leipzig, September 1930. Photos by Heinrich Hoffmann, from the German Federal Archive, in Wikimedia Commons

A newspaper reported: “For a moment there is dead silence….The wide stadium now acts as a mighty gothic tower of light.  From the spotlight there emanates a bluish-violet light…a hundred and forty thousand…cannot free themselves from this moment.” 

Hitler had seizures while preaching from the podium where he would both writhe in fury and charm the crowds.  He utilized the then recently invented media of radio and film to preach his version of truth.  “There would be no Third Reich without the media,” Hitler declared. 

He anointed Joseph Goebbels and others to propagandize his version of truth and to spread his religion of hate and injustice.  One observer called him “the master-enchanter and the high priest of the religious mysteries of Nazidom.”  Hitler found not only a pulpit but a kind of priestly role that went beyond the preaching itself.

Josef Goebbels urges “Total War – Briefest War” at the Nazi rally at the Sportplast in Berlin, 2/18/1943. Photo from the German Federal Archives, on Wikimedia Commons.

As for his dominant message as preacher, he invoked language of “demons” and “devils” on numerous occasions.  He literally demonized the Jews whom he called “the devil” constantly.  Berman says, “all this was cosmological for Hitler, and he said as much on several occasions.”  Indeed, demonology was the “main theme” of Hitler’s ranting. “The age of actual demons was long over” so Hitler created new demons—the Jews. 

Hitler saw his work as a new kind of humanity and a bigger religion than religion itself.  National Socialism, he preached “is more than a political movement…It is more even than a religion: It is the will to create mankind anew.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 394-398.

Banner image: Hitler declaring war against the U.S. before the Reichstag delegates, 12/11/1941. Photo from the German Federal Archives, on Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Is demonizing going on today in the person of immigrants and people of color and the poor and the young?  Is today’s media capable of being hijacked for the spreading of corrupt ideologies of false news and hatred of others?

Do you think that what Hitler effected through his pseudo-religion is something that could happen today also?

Recommended Reading

Fox makes the point that religion has so often oversold the concept of “sin” that it has left us without language or power to combat evil. Through comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them.

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4 thoughts on “Further Thoughts on Hitler as a Religious Figure”

  1. Avatar

    Yes, I think the same kind of scapegoating is happening, and the MAGA slogan is quasi-religious, supported totally by “Christians” in the same way that Hitler was supported. It is frightening to see how weak people can be by simply standing by and enabling. On the other hand, this country does have a long history of sort-of democracy, which Germany never had. There are many people who seem to have been awakened, including myself. Many young people are energized.

  2. Avatar
    Donald Heckelmiller

    Maybe the answer is just to be still and meditate. Thanking Infinite Spirit for bringing pure light to this time and evermore.

  3. Avatar
    Bettina Del sesto

    Thanks very much for your open letter to Rush Lin berg . In the 90s I heard him once or twice on the radio and was horrified at his hatred coming on air. Later I found that friends (women)with families listened to him on a daily basis while doing chores and looked forward to this like a continuous soap opera which they believed as truth. That was their go to as American life. I will never forget being bewildered at such evil.
    This morning I read all about Hitler and his speeches and his acting as preacher. . Which you have shared
    I fear that by sending all these truths of what actually went on before the holocaust are
    dangerous revelations,now ,because it surely will get into the hands and be copied by Trump.
    Most are not educated enough to believe this kind of evil is happening.
    I do think that your letter to Rush L is an excellent wake up call and might reach his followers .
    Best regards

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Bettina,
      Thank you for writing and sharing your Rush Limbaugh experiences. My first time hearing him was when I entered a dry cleaners to pick up my laundry. All day long those workers and customers were accosted with that hatred.

      People need melodrama to keep their hearts exercised but not challenged. Still, when disaster strikes, or joy, people’s true natures come forward. I think we will have a lot of opportunity to have our real, compassionate loving selves come forward in the near future. People are far deeper and kinder than what Limbaugh sold us for.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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