Demonizing the Jews
Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany
Published by: Indiana University Press
This innovative new work demonstrates that a significant minority of pastors, bishops, and theologians of varying theological and church-political persuasions utilized Martin Luther's writings about Jews and Judaism with considerable effectiveness to reinforce the anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism already present in substantial degrees among Protestants in Nazi Germany.
Scholarship on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust has typically viewed anti-Semitism as a modern, racially-based phenomenon. Anti-Judaism, on the other hand, has regularly been regarded as a pre-modern, religiously-based hatred of Jews. In this book, Christopher J. Probst, demonstrates that anti-Semitism pre-dates the modern era and anti-Judaism survived into and flourished during the Nazi era.
Following historian Gavin Langmuir, Probst argues that the traditional distinction between anti-Judaism as "theological" hostility and anti-Semitism as "racial" animus is not empirically demonstrable and thus should be abandoned. Instead, it is irrational thought that characterizes anti-Semitism; nonrational (symbolic) thought, the kind found in art and affirmations of belief, characterizes anti-Judaism. This schema helps us to comprehend with greater clarity how the nature of theological discourse shaped German Protestant approaches to the "Jewish Question."
The carefully situated case studies presented in the book demonstrate that a significant minority of pastors, bishops, and theologians of varying theological and church-political persuasions utilized Luther's writings about Jews and Judaism with considerable effectiveness to reinforce the cultural anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism already present in significant degrees among Protestants in Nazi Germany.
With material from Luther's writings forming an important part of their intellectual arsenal, many German Protestant theologians and clergy seized upon old ideas and overlaid them with more up-to-date connotations. Such anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism thus circulated widely through the largest theological confession in Germany. Thousands had access to such potent literature, much of which contained material that resembled Nazi ideology aimed at dehumanizing Jews, who died by the millions in Hitler's Third Reich.
List of AbbreviationsIntroduction1. Protestantism in Nazi Germany2. "Luther and the Jews"3. Confessing Church and German Christian Academic Theologians4. Confessing Church Pastors5. German Christian Pastors and Bishops6. Pastors and Theologians from the Unaffiliated Protestant "Middle"ConclusionBibliography
This book is clearly a worthwhile read for a Jewish audience unaware of the basis of Protestant anti-Semitism as a component of the overall phenomenon.~AJL Reviews
A close look at specific ways in which Protestant theologians and pastors used and reacted to Luther in their teaching and preaching under Nazism. . . . In his treatment of the supposed disconnect between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, Probst shows how German Protestants during this period [following Luther] combined theological opposition to Jews with irrational, anti-Semitic stereotypes. . . . An important and useful book.~Robert P. Ericksen]]>,
[Probst] . . . challenges the dichotomy between theological anti-Judaism and racial antisemitism, since he sees a great deal of overlap both in the sixteenth as well as the twentieth century. Anti-Judaism and antisemitism existed side-by-side in both Luther's writings and in those of many German Protestants in the Nazi era.~Journal of Ecclesiastical History
Probst provides us with a detailed exegesis of each of his sources, which taken together thoughtfully challenge the supposed discontinuity between premodern anti-Judaism and modern antisemitism.~H-Judaic
Christopher Probst has written an insightful analysis of the ways in which Protestant reformer Martin Luther's anti-Jewish writings were used by German Protestants during the Third Reich.~Contemporary Church History Quarterly
Probst is to be lauded for presenting an insightful account of the convoluted echoes and reverberations of this deeply problematic aspect of Luther's legacy within German Protestantism over the longue durée.~German Studies Review
[R]epresents a valuable addition . . . .~H-Soz-U-Kult
[B]y introducing us to new figures and showing us how three different church groups in Germany responded to 'The Jewish Question,' this book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the churches under Nazism.~Lutheran Quarterly
This is a useful, clearly written, conscientious supplement. . . .~German History
Thorough and wide-ranging, [Demonizing the Jews] is a valuable addition to the historiography of Adolf Hitler's Germany.~The Times of Israel
Probst illuminates the grim reality of Germany from 1933 to 1939, an era in which the Nazis disavowed Enlightenment humanitarianism and internationalism in its various forms and turned the secular state against the most prominent beneficiaries of the Enlightenment, assimilated German Jews.~American Historical Review
Christopher J. Probst has written a helpful book on an important topic.~HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE STUDIES
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