Greg Leake emails: Hi Rabbs and Luke,
On the last Torah Talks you briefly discussed the fact that Hitler was not a Christian.
Actually, Hitler was not just a little divergent from Christianity; he was in complete opposition to it.
Although some have suggested some affinity for Christianity because of a fondness Hitler had for Wagner during a period, and Wagner’s Parsival had a Christian theme surrounding a very Aryan Christ, this would be a big mistake.
During the war when Hitler was a soldier, he believed that he had discovered the basic, primal, philosophical point, which was that self preservation was supreme. Hitler believed that the will to live, to survive, was actually the discovery of the most animating part of human nature. He thought that only in the struggle to maintain existence in the face of all adversity was the deepest principle on which to base a philosophy.
This was precisely the reason that Hitler despised Christianity (Jews were not the only people he disliked). He believed that the “Christian god” in his altruism willingly gave up his life in a voluntary sacrifice out of his love for humanity.
As you can see, from Hitler’s point of view Jesus would be an anathema as a savior. (Naturally, all of this ignores a lot of theological presumptions that could be discussed at length.) You will read about Hitler’s appreciation of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche at various times in his life. (Although Schopenhauer’s magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation is a restatement of the Upanishads.) However, the understanding that Hitler regarded the triumph of life over and against death as his most profound discovery is enough to display his polarization against people who regarded love for others as an enshrining principle.
Today we know more about psychology and the transpersonal nature of man than we did back in Hitler’s time. I would suggest that Hitler’s triumph of the will is actually the triumph of will plus ego plus Hitler’s power drive. Whenever these tyrants are unaware that the psychological forces moving them are basically their ego and their power drive, horrible atrocities can occur in their names.
Outside of all that, if you look into the really bizarre views that were held by the SS with Himmler as their high priest, you will understand that Hitler’s notion of religion had traveled far afield from the mainstream. And I would remind you that it was America, a Christian nation, that destroyed Hitler and liberated the death camps.
Hitler was not simply someone who disagreed with Christianity. He actually had developed a point of view that was in violent opposition to everything that Christianity stands for.