While I mostly agree with Barry Andrew Ward’s generally well-reasoned July 24 letter, “Simplistic explanation for Nazis,” it’s too bad it was tainted with what seems like a factually baseless attempt to link Nazism to Catholicism.
Every authentic historical treatment on Adolf Hitler’s religious views — including Ian Kershaw’s “Hitler: A Biography,” just to name one — tells us that Hitler stopped practicing Catholicism after leaving home as a young man.
Goebbels similarly abandoned Catholicism as a young man — before the Nazis’ rise to power.
Himmler’s Wikipedia entry lists him as a “lapsed Catholic.” Emphasis should be placed on the word “lapsed.” The Wikipedia entry for Julius Streicher, another Nazi linked to Catholicism by Ward, calls him a “former Catholic.”
Hermann Goering’s brother, Albert, was the practicing Catholic of the family. He was described by those who knew him as nothing like his notorious brother, and he was an active anti-Nazi. Another Nazi luminary, Adolf Eichmann, wasn’t raised Catholic at all — his family was Calvinist. (Not that Calvinism should be linked to Nazism either.)
The top Nazis mentioned by Ward didn’t just abandon their Catholicism; they actually persecuted it. The chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Robert Jackson, cited “persecution of the church” as one of the Nazis’ crimes against humanity. This further drains a claimed Nazism-Catholicism link of historical credibility.
Linking the Catholic Church to behavior committed by people who had long since checked out of the church is illogical. It’s akin to blaming the environmentalist movement if someone leaves Greenpeace then starts polluting rivers.
No organization can be blamed when someone quits the organization then starts behaving in a way contrary to that organization’s ideals. Can anyone rationally believe that mass murder, slave labor and belief in a “master race” are what Catholicism is about?
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.