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We rarely hear about the pagan religious ideas promoted by the Nazis, but every once in while, I come across another story. This one is from an article by Timothy George at First Things, who wrote about Paul Schneider, “the first Protestant pastor to die in a concentration camp at the hands of the Nazis”:

Schneider…was asked to preside at the funeral of a seventeen-year-old member of the Hitler Youth named Karl Moog. Before the benediction had been pronounced, the local Nazi district leader, Heinrich Nadig, interrupted the service to declare that young Karl had now crossed over into the heavenly storm troop of Horst Wessel, to which Schneider replied: “I do not know if there is a storm of Horst Wessel in eternity, but may the Lord God bless your departure from time and your entry into eternity.”

Sturmführer Horst Wessel was a Nazi party activist and author of the popular Nazi hymn “The Flag on High” (also called the Horst-Wessel-Lied). After his violent death in 1930, he was elevated as a hero in the Nazi pantheon. The Wessel story was incorporated into the pagan mythology the Nazis were seeking to revive. Alfred Rosenberg, the master of Nazi ideology, claimed that Wessel had not really died but now led a celestial storm troop. Those who died in the service of the Nazis, like young Karl Moog, were summoned to join the Wessel storm troop above. Just six months prior to the funeral incident, the Nazi bimonthly Der Brunnen declared: “How high Horst Wessel towers over that Jesus of Nazareth—that Jesus who pleaded that the bitter cup be taken from him. How unattainably high all Horst Wessels stand above Jesus!”

Pastor Schneider refused to subordinate the Christian Gospel to such a pagan myth. When Nadig repeated his graveside claim about Horst Wessel, Schneider said: “I protest. This is a church ceremony, and as a Protestant pastor, I am responsible for the pure teaching of the Holy Scriptures.”

After this confrontation, Schneider was placed in prison for five days, but he did not back down.

Eric Metaxes wrote a bit about Nazi paganism in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy:

Since Hitler had no religion other than himself, his opposition to Christianity and the church was less ideological than practical. That was not the case for many leaders of the Third Reich. Alfred Rosenberg, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and others were bitterly anti-Christian and were ideologically opposed to Christianity, and wanted to replace it with a religion of their own devising. Under their leadership, said Shirer [in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich], “the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists.”

I would love to find a resource that delves more thoroughly into this topic. Your recommendations are welcome.

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BlogPost | Miscellaneous, Theology
Nov 20, 2013
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