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06 December 2009

A Fake Hitler Quote about Religion

 A crude piece of U.S. war-propaganda.

Today on Youtube I saw a video intriguingly titled "Hitler the Philosopher." It consisted of a series of statements attributed to Adolf Hitler, but with no sources given. Some of the alleged quotes struck me as highly questionable, like this one:

Life is will to power, and satisfaction is in eternal self-overcoming.

Anybody that has read Nietzsche will recognize that terminology and that idea as his.

If Hitler ever used such conspicuously Nietzschean language, he probably did not do it in public, because the vast majority of Hitler's supporters were very Christian, while Nietzsche of course was notoriously hostile to Christianity.

I checked the English-language edition of Hitler's Table Talk to see if perhaps he had said some such thing in private. Out of a dozen or so statements about "life" in Hitler's Table Talk, not one characterizes life as "will to power." To be safe I checked Mein Kampf as well, since Hitler by his own account said some things at that time, when the movement was still small, that he would not have said later. It turns out that the expression will to power appears nowhere in Mein Kampf.

I do not know where that statement was originally attributed to Hitler, but it is clearly part of an attempt to portray Hitler as a Nietzschean, which is to say, an anti-Christian. Allied propaganda in both World Wars portrayed the Germans as Godless Nietzscheans, which they generally were not.*

In the imagination of an uneducated Christian, it is a given that anybody who rejects Christianity will be prone to do all the things that Christianity prohibits. After the allegation of Godlessness, the allegation of tossing babies onto bayonets or Jews into ovens becomes almost self-evident. That is why the accusation of Godlessness was fundamental in the propaganda of both World Wars.

The improbable Hitler quote appears not only in that video; it also appears in Abir Taha's Nietzsche, Prophet of Nazism: The Cult of the Superman -- again, of course, with no source cited.

The video presents another alleged Hitler quote with anti-Christian purport:

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again. The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic. We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

I found the exact same quote in Taki's Magazine of 29 August 2007, in an article titled "Hitler and the New Nazi Religion." It turns out that this article was an excerpt from a book, Salvation is From the Jews, written by a "converted" Jew, Roy Schoeman.

Schoeman cites sources for that quote, but what sources! They are: "Nazis: The Occult Conspiracy, Discovery Channel; also Joseph Carr The Twisted Cross, p. 203." I find it quite shoddy when an author making a controversial point relies on secondary sources, let alone sensationalist trash like The Twisted Cross, and a TV show!

Are Taki's readers so low-brow that they find this acceptable?

And aren't Jews supposed to be intelligent? Or maybe this kind of shoddiness is simply Schoeman's way of showing contempt for his stupid Christian readers.

It turns out that the original source for the quote is one of Hermann Rauschning's fictitious conversations with Hitler**. However, like two other fake Hitler quotes that I discussed in an earlier post, this "quote" has an additional layer of misrepresentation in that it is cobbled together from various sentences in Rauschning. Here is the context in which the elements of the fake quote are found, on and around page 55 of Rauschning's The Voice of Destruction.

"You see," Hitler returned triumphantly; "that is what I'm building on. Our peasants have not forgotten their true religion. It still lives. It is merely covered over. The Christian mythology has simply coated it like a layer of tallow. It has preserved the true contents of the pot. I have said this to Dane, and told him that we must start the great reformation. He has suggested means to me, magnificent means! I have approved them. The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again. In our 'Green Week' and in the 'Traveling Agricultural Exhibition' he will allude to our inherited religion in picturesque and expressive language that even the simplest peasant can understand.

"It will not be done in the old way, running riot in colorful costumes and dreaming of a departed, romantic age. The peasant will be told what the Church has destroyed for him: the whole of the secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the shapeless, the daemonic. The peasant shall learn to hate the Church on that basis. Gradually he will be taught by what wiles the soul of the German has been raped. We shall wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race. And this is where we must begin. Not in the great cities, Goebbels! There we shall only lose ourselves in the stupid godlessness propaganda of the Marxists: free sex in nature and that sort of bad taste. The urban masses are empty. Where all is extinguished, nothing can be aroused. But our peasantry still lives in heathen beliefs and values."

Rauschning's "conversations with Hitler" are fake but "quotes" derived from them continue to circulate. Beware of accepting statements attributed to Hitler without knowing the original source and whether it is credible. Otherwise you could end up having egg all over your face like Taki's Magazine.
*Contrary to the impression that the propaganda of two World Wars has created, Nietzsche has never been widely popular in Germany. Nietzsche was however a favorite of the Wandervögel, a subculture of early 20th-century Germany that in some ways resembled hippies except that they were patriotic and not pacifist. I have also found references to Nietzsche in psychology (e.g. Jaensch) from the Third Reich. For the general public however, and for politicians addressing the general public, Nietzsche's anti-Christianity was a problem. Nietzsche's name appears nowhere in Mein Kampf and only twice in Alfred Rosenberg's Mythos des zwanzigten Jahrhunderts. The praise in Alfred Rosenberg's speech commemorating Nietzsche's 100th birthday in October 1944 was highly conditional.

** Rauschning's accounts were debunked by Swiss historian Wolfgang Haenel in the early 1980s.


kalphiter said...

The Military Channel just used the quote when talking about Hitler.

Hadding said...

It would be nice if you'd said which quote and in which show. I don't think I've ever seen The Military Channel but I suppose that they run a lot of old documentaries that are heavily influenced by war-propaganda that may have been discredited sometime later.

SiatrisDeBatavi said...

Actually the SS family manual has a quote from Nietzsche in it. A manual that was given to every SS officer.

Hadding said...

I saw one of Hitler's wartime speeches in which he vaguely paraphrased Nietzsche's statement about "what does not kill me," but it was only a vague paraphrase, something like, "If you punch a strong man and he doesn't fall, the blow only makes him stronger," and Hitler referred to the author only as "a great German philosopher."

Even in Hitler's Table Talk, where the man supposedly speaks in total frankness, there is very little reference to Nietzsche, unlike Rauschning's fake conversations with Hitler, which are saturated with Nietzschean ideas.

Jacobitejim said...

Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper and other historians have not been convinced by Hänel′s research. David Redles attacked Hänel′s method which consisted of:

"pointing out similarities in phrasing of quotations from other individuals in Rauschning's other books...and those attributed to Hitler in Voice of Destruction [i.e. Hitler Speaks]. If the two are even remotely similar Hänel concludes that the latter must be concoctions. However the similarities, which are mostly slight, could be for a number of reasons....[they] need not stem from forgery."

Eberhard Jaeckel also concluded that, whilst the work cannot be regarded as a verbatim account, it is a good guide to Hitler's world view from someone who conversed with him.

Thus you have very far from proven that the quote is "fake".

Hadding said...

You are certainly understating Haenel's case.

As I have already pointed out, Hitler had very little interest in Nietzsche. Anybody can determine this by perusing the Table Talk. Yet Rauschning presents a Hitler that is an enthusiastic Nietzschean who even talks the way Nietzsche wrote. Briefly stated, the Hitler of Rausching sounds nothing like the Hitler of the Table Talk.

You have to be rather imperceptive not to pick up on that.

I can understand that the historians who relied on Rauschning don't want to hear that their source was worthless and that their work was flawed.

Anonymous said...

I don't like Nietzsche when it comes to his philo-semitic remarks, his comments against anti-semites and his disparaging statements concerning Germaness, but the two sections that refer to Nietzsche in Table Talks are in the context of calling him a great German thinker:

"In our parts of the world, the Jews would have immediately
eliminated Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Kant. If the Bolsheviks
had dominion over us for two hundred years, what
works of our past would be handed on to posterity? Our great
men would fall into oblivion, or else they'd be presented to
future generations as criminals and bandits." -p 89

"In the Great Hall of the Linz Library are the busts of Kant,
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the greatest of our thinkers, in
comparison with whom the British, the French and the
Americans have nothing to offer. His complete refutation of
the teachings which were a heritage from the Middle Ages, and
of the dogmatic philosophy of the Church, is the greatest of the
services which Kant has rendered to us. It is on the foundation
of Kant's theory of knowledge that Schopenhauer built the
edifice of his philosophy, and it is Schopenhauer who annihilated
the pragmatism of Hegel. I carried Schopenhauer's
works with me throughout the whole of the first World War.
From him I learned a great deal. Schopenhauer's pessimism,
which springs partly, I think, from his own line of philosophical
thought and partly from subjective feeling and the experiences
of his own personal life, has been far surpassed by Nietzsche." -p 720


This comment of mine on an article contains many links to discussion on Nietzsche and the matter of jews: http://renegadetribune.com/nietzsche-crisis-white-race/#comment-128953

Anonymous said...

Interesting article minus the crap about exterminating jews...

Nazis nitpicked Nietzsche to their advantage: http://philosophyofscienceportal.blogspot.com/2014/01/nazis-nitpicked-nietzsche-to-their.html

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and ignoring this nonsense: "the Second World War itself was the primary goal of the regime".