Was Jesus a Nazi? During the Third Reich, German Protestant theologians, motivated by racism and tapping into traditional Christian anti-Semitism, redefined Jesus as an Aryan and Christianity as a religion at war with Judaism. In 1939, these theologians established the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Religious Life. In The Aryan Jesus, Susannah Heschel shows that during the Third Reich, the Institute became the most important propaganda organ of German Protestantism, exerting a widespread influence and producing a nazified Christianity that placed anti-Semitism at its theological center.
Based on years of archival research, The Aryan Jesus examines the membership and activities of this controversial theological organization. With headquarters in Eisenach, the Institute sponsored propaganda conferences throughout the Nazi Reich and published books defaming Judaism, including a dejudaized version of the New Testament and a catechism proclaiming Jesus as the savior of the Aryans. Institute members--professors of theology, bishops, and pastors--viewed their efforts as a vital support for Hitler's war against the Jews. Heschel looks in particular at Walter Grundmann, the Institute's director and a professor of the New Testament at the University of Jena. Grundmann and his colleagues formed a community of like-minded Nazi Christians who remained active and continued to support each other in Germany's postwar years.
The Aryan Jesus raises vital questions about Christianity's recent past and the ambivalent place of Judaism in Christian thought.
Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus and the editor of Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays of Abraham Joshua Heschel.
"Heschel has a remarkable story to tell. Her reliance on primary sources and her objectivity are impressive. One comes away from her account wondering how such apparently intelligent and learned Christian scholars could have been so foolish and craven."--Daniel J. Harrington, America
"The Aryan Jesus . . . is more than a heartbreaking story of principled Christian anti-Judaism. It is also a masterwork of patient archival research. . . . As a history of German anti-Semitism and as an analysis of pronounced themes within Christian theology, Heschel's study is both broad and deep."--Paula Fredriksen, Tablet
"Heschel's book will rank as an important work of intellectual history, one that provides a penetrating analysis of the mind-set of the institute and its supporters in the ranks of the German Christians."--Mark E. Ruff, Catholic Historical Review
"Susannah Heschel traces the evolution of the Institute and its various projects with great skill. . . . As an exercise in archival research it scores very highly. The detail is astonishing, and many intriguing points are made about both the origins of Nazism's Christian manifestations and the consequences of learned theologians spouting nonsense in Forties Thuringia."--Catholic Herald
"Heschel tells the story of the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life, showing how politics, theology, racial ideology, and political ambition shaped Nazi-era theological scholarship at one research institute. . . . This well-researched, theologically sensitive book is an important history of a troubling, shameful chapter in Christian history and will be a very important addition for most collections."--A.W. Klink, Choice
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
A Note on Archival Sources xi
List of Abbreviations xvii
INTRODUCTION: Theology and Race 1
CHAPTER I: Draining Jesus of Jewishness 26
CHAPTER II: The Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Infl uence on German Church Life, 1939 to 1942 67
CHAPTER III: Projects of the Institute 106
CHAPTER IV: The Making of Nazi Theologians 166
CHAPTER V: The Faculty of Theology at the University of Jena 201
CHAPTER VI: The Postwar Years 242
CONCLUSION: Crucifi ed or Resurrected: Institute Theology in Postwar Germany 279
Illustration Permissions 327
Scriptural Citations Index 339