Religion was a difficult question for the NAZIs. Germany was a Christian nation. Most Germans thought of themselves as Christains, even many NAZI Party members. Hitler and his inner circle, however, were dismissive of Christianity. They wanted a new NAZI religion with national and racial connotations. The problem for the NAZIs was how to wean the German people from Christianity. Hitler had a very good sence about such matters, thus actuiions aganinst religious groups were only taken incrementally as the NAZIs eastablished their hold over Germany. Educatng the children in schools was one approach. In this regards the German education system varied from state to state, but religious education was part of the curriculum in many German states. During the Third Reich many of the differences in the educational system in differnt regions of Germay were ended.
Religion had been included in the German school system for generations. This varied greatly in the different regions of Germany. The various German states that entered the Empire in 1871 had widely different laws and traditions concerning education. Germany is a country of mixed religious traditions. Many German states, however, were much less diverse than the country as a whole. Thus most Bacarians, for example, were Catholic and most Prussians protesant. These patterns developed as the population generally adopted tyhe religion of the ruling monarch. As many local communities were primarily a specific religion, the local minister or priest would commonly be asked to teach the religioj course and prepare the boys for First Communion or other religious experiences. The religious traditions and school instruction of religiion were mostly maintained by the Weimar Republic and thus inherited by the Third Reich in 1933.
Religion came under attack by the NAZIs when hey seized power in 1933. Christianity served no political purpose for the Nazis other than to undermine them. Himmler explained, "How different is yonder pale figure on the Cross, whose passivity and emphasized mien of suffering express only humility and self-abnegation, qualities which, we, conscious of our heroic blood, utterly deny... The corruption of our blood caused by the intrusion of this alien philosophy must be ended." [Blackburn, p. 155.]
What the NAZIs needed was a religion that could be molded to the NAZIs views. Thus religion was looked down upon, while growth in the pagan practices was favored. In textbooks, the Christianization of Germans was viewed as a heroic falling of the people.
Religious Instruction was made optional in 1937. Students were give the option of studying religion. Throughout the NAZI reign in Germany they would continue to cut religious teachings in school, until it was replaced by a history class about the Party. [Sax, p. 305.]
The campaign against religion was also conducted in the Hitler Youth. Here often away from their parents, the campaign may have even been more effective than in the schools. Hitler Youth Leader, Grupenführer Baldur Van Schirach composed catchy little marching ditties as, "We are the rollicking Hitler Youth; Wec have no need of Christain truth; no evil old priest these ties can sever; We're Hitler's children now and ever."
The NAZIs in 1936 abolished religious denominational schools. HBC notes that a touchstone test of a totalitarian society is whether or not religious and other private schools are permitted.
One German remembers his Dorfschule (village school). ".... Since our village was overwhelmingly Catholic there was a crucifix on the wall and religious instruction [during first grade] was given by a priest. I liked this class because he told stories from the old testament, and since I heard them before in my Jewish religion classes I was one of his best students. I was happy to get many of the little pictures of saints which he gave as rewards. Shortly after the rise of Hitler the priest stopped coming to class and religious instruction was confined to church and synagogue. A picture of Hitler also was placed on the wall. Initially it was below the crucifix, but soon it was hanging above. Not long after, the cross had disappeared altogether." [Maier]
The NAZIs in 1936 no longer allowed Christians to celebrate religious holidays on weekdays. [Koch, p. 172.]
The NAZIs in 1938 prohibited teachers from belonging to any denominational professional organizations. [Koch, p. 172.] Educators were discouraged from teaching rleigion, although secretly some did.
The entire goal of the Nazis pertaining to religion was to fight against the traditional church and replace it with the new religion that would mor fully embrace NAZI values.
As part of an exchange agreement Kodi and Crystal have provided us access to their research.
Blackburn, Gilmer W. Education in the Third Reich: Race and History in Nazi Textbooks. State University of
New York Press: Albany 1985.
Koch, H. W. The Hitler Youth: Origins and Development 1922-1945. Stein and Day: New York, 1975.
Maier, Louis. In Lieu Of Flowers: In Memory of the Jews of Malsch, A Village in Southern Germany.
Sax, Benjamin, and Kuntz, Dieter. Inside Hitler's Germany: A Documentary History of Life in the Third Reich.
"Hitler Youth and Education." D.C. Heath and Company: Lexington, Massachusetts: 1992.
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