This post by Travis Haan originally appeared at The Wise Sloth.
While Christianity wasn’t the sole catalyst for the Holocaust, there is no doubt in my mind that Christianity set the stage for the Holocaust to happen to the extent that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened without Christianity.
1: Christianity financially and emotionally oppressed Germans leading up to WWII.
Churches exploited German Christians financially by requiring tithes, encouraging donations, selling indulgences and charging fees for breaking moral laws. This siphoned off much-needed income from the poor and gave it to the aristocracy of the Christian theocracy. Not only did this hurt the poor’s chances of living well in the present, but that lost income couldn’t be saved, invested or passed on to future generations. So over the course of several generations, the consequences of lost income compounded.
The church mentally abused the German populace by forbidding behavior that deviated from Church doctrine. People were put in the stocks for gossiping, ostracized for adultery and killed for witchcraft. If you go to any medieval torture museum in Germany today, most of the instruments of misery were used by the state to enforce Biblical morality. Medieval Germany under Christian rule was like Saudi Arabia is today under Islam. Everyone was forced to walk the line, and punishment for deviation was harsh.
2: Christianity was culturally oppressive to the Jews but economically favorable to them.
In the eyes of the Christian church, Jews were heretics and Jesus-killers. Since they rejected the teachings of salvation, they deserved to go to Hell. As a result, the good Christians ostracized them and forced them to form tight-knit, insular communities with other Jews.
Ostracizing the Jews taught them to be frugal and save their money for hard times to come. It also meant Jews had close business relationships with each other and could count on one another for financial support.
At the same time, Christianity practically handed the banking industry to the Jewish community. The New Testament forbid charging interest on loans. Since Christians couldn’t charge interest, they had no incentive to open banks. People still needed loans though. So the Jews stepped in and filled the need. Once the Jews had their hand in the financial sector, then money beget money, and the income gap between Jews and Christians grew.
3: Hitler hijacked German Christians’ existing prejudice towards Jews.
Your average Christians living in Germany saw they were the “have-nots” and the Jews were the “haves,” but they didn’t understand why. They just thought Jews were Jesus-killing, heretic, big-nose, stingy thieves… because that’s how the church had always taught Christians to see the Jews. Anti-Jew riots occurred in Germany well before World War II because Christianity had already established a well-defined environment for distrust, resentment, and hate.
After World War I, life in Germany was even more destitute for poor Christians than ever. Of course, the church didn’t open its coffers and give back all the money it had been taking from the poor for generations. So the masses stayed poor and disgruntled while the Jews kept getting richer.
That’s when Hitler stepped in and said, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator by defending myself against the Jew. I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
Hitler merely played on the prejudices created by Christianity to blame the problems that were largely created by Christianity, on the Jews. Thus, Christianity played a central role in setting the stage for the Holocaust.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
Travis Haan is the editor of The Wise Sloth blog. The Wise Sloth contains editorial, philosophical, instructional, inspirational and satirical posts in the form of essays, lists, comics, and fiction, which tend to be irreverent, humorous and controversial.
Six Million Crucifixions: How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
Christopher Hitchens – Hitler, Fascism and the Catholic Church
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