Years apart, yet many people around the globe still feel the presence of Martin Luther. He was most popularly known for his role during the church’s reformation; The nailing of the 95 theses, and his writing “That Jesus Christ was born a Jew”. During this time, his role all pointed to one thing “salvation is by faith and faith alone”. He stood against the catholic church’s indulgence is required that one needs to pay a separate fee to get their sin forgiven. While we all praise Luther’s stands against such egregious acts of the catholic church, we slowly begin to forget his infamous action and writing against the Jews.
The Nazi socialist party’s heinous action against the Jews during world war 2 had their inspiration and foundation in Luther’s writings “on the Jews and their lies”. : This article, Luther advised Christian on how to deal with the Jews. This advice is in the form of an eight-point plan to deal with the Jews. This plan is most often referred to when scholars attempt to connect Luther with Hitler.
First, Luther told Christians to “set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn.” The Nazis implemented this advice during the anti-Semitic pogrom known as Kristallnacht, which will be elaborated on later in this paper.
Second, He recommended that “their houses also be razed and destroyed.”
Third, He advised that “all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.”
Fourth, He declared that “rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of the loss of life and limb”.
Fifth, He urged that “safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews”.
Sixth, He wrote that “usury should be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping”. This recommendation directly contradicted one of Luther’s earlier statements defending Jews in his treatise, That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, and was also taken by the Nazis. Acting on this advice during the Third Reich, the Nazis often stole money and valuables from the Jews, especially after the Nazis sent them to concentration camps.
Seventh, He recommended “putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands…letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow”. The Nazis also took this advice when they implemented concentration camps, where Jews were forced into hard manual labor.
Finally, He wrote that “if we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country like mad dogs.”
Decades apart, Hitler recognizes Luther’s writing and praises him in his book Mein Kampf. In the chapter entitled “The Beginning of My Political Activity” from Mein Kampf, Hitler’s infamous book, he discussed the “great warriors” in this World, who:
“Though not understood by the present, are nevertheless prepared to carry the fight for their ideas and ideals to their end…to them belong, not only the truly great statesmen but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther.”
We can summarize Luther’s anti-Semitic beliefs and their effects on the Nazi party, Germany, and the World in a quote by Reverend William Ralph:
“If we wish to find a scapegoat on whose shoulders we may lay the miseries which Germany has brought upon the world-I am more and more convinced that the worst evil genius of that country is not Hitler or Bismarck or Frederick the Great, but Martin Luther.”
We all have asked how did Luther go from nailing 95 theses on the Wittenberg castle church’s door to writing defamatory and disdainful things about the Jew.