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-by Jean Bethke Elshtain


How German Was the Holocaust?

(Second of three parts; click here to read Part 1)

And what drove Christians in this regard? Something Weiss vaguely calls "intense psychological need" and a terrible anxiety buried deep within "the Christian psyche." With medieval history dispatched in six pages, we move directly "From Luther through Pastor Stoecker"-Stoecker being a virulent nineteenth-century anti-Semite and a royal chaplain to the court of the kaisers, according to Weiss, and in a straight line to Hitler. But, after reading this volume, I would want independent verification of everything Weiss says, as he traffics not only in shockingly simplistic claims but in tendentious hit-and-run charges that are quite simply false; for example, "Even today the Vatican and Protestant Fundamentalists cannot recognize Judaism as a separate and valid religion." No document or evidence is cited to back up this claim. What is "the Vatican" anyway? If his reference point is Pope John Paul II, the attack is not only false but scurrilous.

Moving to his discussion of "Luther and the Reformation," in chapter 2, one is struck by the fact that not a single primary text is cited. Weiss's boilerplate mines but one book, Leon Poliakov's History of Anti-Semitism, to substantiate and carry the weight of the entire argument. Whether Poliakov uses primary works, I cannot say, but Weiss certainly does not. So a chapter on Luther is written sans a single reference to a Luther work. What about Martin Luther? Well, he followed the same "psychological pattern" as the early Christian primitives and "fundamentalist Protestants today." Such people look to an "existential experience" on which to base faith; this breeds "frightening doubt" and "deep anxiety" and that, in turn, fuels anti-Semitism. Because Luther was even more uncertain and anxious than "the early church fathers" or "Catholic leaders," he became a "far more brutal and virulent enemy of the Jews."

Indeed, "Luther was a racist, pure and simple, bothered not at all that his hatred ...

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