Review: Siemon-Netto, Uwe, “The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections And Other Modern Myths, ” 2007, Second Edition. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. -- By: Karla Poewe
Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 06:3 (Jul 2008)
Article: Review: Siemon-Netto, Uwe, “The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections And Other Modern Myths, ” 2007, Second Edition. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Author: Karla Poewe
Siemon-Netto, Uwe, “The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections And Other Modern Myths,
” 2007, Second Edition. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.
In a world ripe with propaganda it is refreshing to find a book dissecting a cliché that was used for just such purposes by people as far apart as Josef Goebbels and Alan Dershowitz, namely, that Luther was the “spiritual predecessor of Adolf Hitler” (p. 23). Siemon-Netto’s book traces the origin of the cliché that “linked Luther to Hitler” back to the liberal theologian Troeltsch who passed it on to the writer Thomas Mann who, in turn, shared it with the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich William L. Shirer (p.24). From there it was picked up by the Germanophobic propagandist Lord Vansittart as well as by archbishops and priests of the Church of England. It was also popular among America’s Union Theological Seminary faculty in the early thirties and is used by U.S. historians like Robert Michael and Lucy Dawidowicz, among many others, today (p. 23).
In fact, those who were primarily responsible for the Holocaust and generally for the brutality on the Eastern Front of World War II were men who had not only left Christianity but were intent on destroying the entire Judeo-Christian tradition because it was unGerman. To show the ludicrous nature of the cliché that blamed the Holocaust on the line of descent from the Protestant Luther, Siemon- Netto points out that many perpetrators were born into homes and countries (Austria and Poland, for example) that were formerly or nominally Roman Catholic. He raises this point only, however, to emphasize “the absurdity of the charge that one Christian denomination’s theology paved the way for genocide” (p. 66). Holocausts were also perpetrated by Turkish Muslims, Orthodox Russians, and Cambodian Buddhists, yet these religions are not linked with their crimes (p.66). At issue is rather the thing that Luther warned against with his “two realms” doctrine, namely, the danger that comes with blurring state and church or politics and religion. When blurring occurs secular “isms” are quick to follow. Politicized Christianity, like that of the German Christians, for example, was easily absorbed by the political religion of National Socialism (pp. 74-76). By contrast, Luther’s two realms doctrine “de-ideologizes politics” and “de-idolizes” the state (p.77).
Far from confirming a line from Luther to Hitler, Siemon-Netto shows the role that Lutheranism played in the resistance against the Hitler regime. The author is particularly strong in his analysis of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Carl Goerdeler. Bonhoeffer understood “two realms” to refer to the fact that Luthe...
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