Did Martin Luther Inspire Adolf Hitler?

1155 words - 5 pages

Did Martin Luther Inspire Adolf Hitler?
For many centuries, the world has been afflicted by the plague of anti-Semitism. This hatred presented itself in the rise of Nazism and the murders of six million Jews: the Holocaust. An eight-step plan meant to remove all of the Jews from European society would be easily associated with the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. It would not, however, be so readily connected to Martin Luther. However, in a 1543 essay "Concerning the Jews and their Lies," Luther outlined such a plan. This does not necessarily suggest that Luther was analogous to Hitler in action or deed, but rather that Luther, the spark of the Protestant Reformation and father of German ...view middle of the document...

Luther understood that Jews had been heavily extorted and only allowed further usury in order to survive. Above all else, Luther advised Christian charity when dealing with the Jews.

How could the same man that supported the Jews attack them just twenty years later in an essay and call for their removal from German lands in his last sermon? (Patterson 17). Luther was definitely not alone in his Christian anti-Semitism. Erasmus, the Catholic humanist scholar, said, "If it is Christian to hate Jews, then we are all good Christians" (Patterson 16). Luther, however, knew Hebrew, the language of these "godless" people. He translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to German. On an academic level at least, his knowledge of Judaism was significant. What made him become an anti-Semite shortly before he died?

A possible explanation focuses on the repeated theme of homicide in Christian doctrine. In order to establish Protestantism as an independent theology, Luther needed to destroy its parents: Catholicism and Judaism. The essay he wrote was a call for action against the Jews. Luther offered a systematic plan for the removal of Jews from society, "...we can not tolerate them [Jews] if we do not wish to share in their lies, curses, and blasphemy" (Luther "Concerning" 34). Luther no longer trusted the Jews. He believed they cursed Christians in their morning prayers ("Concerning" 34). He no longer believed they had the ability to be converted passively. They had become an inhuman, depraved burden on society. "...if they [the Jews] could kill us all, they would gladly do so" (Prager 102). He urged his followers to practice "merciful severity" ("Concerning" 34).

In Luther’s essay, mercy is completely thrown out the window. Luther developed an eight step plan filled with violence and cruelty:
1. Burn Jewish synagogues
2. Destroy Jewish homes
3. Take away Jewish holy books
4. Forbid rabbis to teach
5. Do not allow Jews to travel
6. Forbid usury in all forms
7. Force Jews to do physical labor
8. If all else fails, expel them ("Concerning" 34-36).

In some ways, Luther was merely following the lead of other European nations (France, Spain, etc..)(Luther "Concerning" 36). Luther believed Jews should be kept in concentrated areas. He believed they should be made to feel as if they were prisoners in a Christian land. If the princes of the land refused to heed his advice, Luther recommended that a group of “good” Christians should enforce...

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