These days, Kulturkampf is usually used in a broad, general sense, denoting a struggle (even a war) between different cultures (liberal vs conservative, city vs rural, religious vs secular, etc.).
Originally, it had a much more narrow and specific meaning. It was coined in mid-1870s by one Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow – a highly colorful character (to put it mildly) even by the standards of the Second Reich.
The scope of his interests, occupations, projects and achievements was imply astounding – physician, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian (he studied history that took place before written records), biologist, an extremely prolific writer (he published over 2,000 scientific papers – and that was way before the age of word processors), editor, and (of course) politician. He is known as “the father of modern pathology” and as the founder of social medicine, and to his colleagues, the “Pope of medicine” – a no small feat.
He co-founded the political party Deutsche Fortschrittspartei (German Progress Party – no surprise here), and was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives and won a seat in the Reichstag.
His opposition to Otto von Bismarck’s financial policy resulted in an anecdotal “Great Sausage Duel” in 1865 – an event that definitely deserves at least a chapter of some book – if not the whole book.
However, Rudolf Virchow did support the “Iron Chancellor” in the latter’s attempts to (radically) reduce the political and social influence of the Catholic Church, in Germany.
Virchow solemnly stated that the movement initiated by Bismarck was acquiring “the character of a great struggle in the interest of humanity“. During the 1973 discussion in the Reichstag of (in)famous anti-Catholic “Falk Laws” (named after their author, the minister of education Adalbert Falk) he labeled this struggle Kulturkampf.
Hence, originally this term referred to the conflict between the German imperial government and the Roman Catholic Church from about 1872 to 1878, predominantly over the control of educational and ecclesiastical appointments (and more broadly, over secularization policies vigorously pursued by the government of the Second Reich). What made the Kulturkampf unique in Germany compared to struggles between state and Church in other states was its fundamental anti-Polish aspect.
It is well-known fact that Adolf Hitler admired Otto von Bismarck. But it was much more than admiration. Hitler considered his Third Reich to be a direct successor of the Second German Empire established by Bismarck.
Consequently, he fully intended to “finish what Otto von Bismarck had started”, including his war (let’s call a spade a spade) on the Holy Roman Catholic Church over the spiritual and ideological control over Germany.
Hitler was also committed to crushing the Polish Church that he (correctly) viewed as the bulwark of Polish nationalism (and thus of the struggle of the Poles for the independence of their nation).
For a genuine Christian (including myself), Hitler’s relationship with religions (first and foremost, with Christianity and the Christian Church) is the most important question of all. Much, much more important than his character, his wars, his achievements, his failures, his wars and even his crimes (however horrendous his crimes were).
Why? Because every genuine Christian firmly believes (as this dogma is at the very core of a Christian faith) that our civilization is a battlefield. The battlefield, the prize and the participant in a cosmic battle between God and Devil, angels and demons, the Forces of Light and the Forces of Darkness.
Both side wants to establish complete control over our highly imperfect world. God wants to transform the Earth into a perfect Kingdom of Heaven (more precisely, its physical incarnation so that all inhabitants of our planet can live in perfect and eternal happiness. Satan wants to make our world Hell on Earth (literally) where all inhabitants would live in eternal and unspeakable pain and suffering.
The Christian Church (first and foremost, the Holy Roman Catholic Church) is God’s primary weapon in this cosmic and very much existential war (that’s the reason it is called the Church Militant).
Consequently, it is no surprise that the Devil wants to destroy (annihilate, actually) the Christian Church (again, first and foremost, the Catholic Church) and replace it with demonic, diabolical religions, quasi-religions or ideologies.
Hence, it is of utmost importance whose side Adolf Hitler (or any other political leader for that matter) was on. Was he on the side of Christianity or (explicitly or implicitly) anti-Christian religions; on the side of the Christian Church or on the side of (explicitly or implicitly) anti-Christian churches; did he fight (explicitly or implicitly) for or against Christianity and the Christian Church; for or against the Christian God?
Joseph Stalin and other Communist leaders (domestic and foreign) wanted to eradicate, obliterate, annihilate the Christian Churches. Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox – all of them. Consequently, they, their followers and their whole regimes were obviously the agents of Satan.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were fighting (on the Eastern front) an existential war with Bolshevism and the Communist Soviet Union. True, their fundamental objective had nothing to do with aby religion or ideology – it was Lebensraum (“living space for Germans”) in the East; however, they were committed to defeating and eradicating Bolshevism.
Thus, the Nazis were implicitly fighting to defend the Christian Churches (all of them) from being annihilated by the agents of Satan and thus to prevent Devil and his henchmen from destroying the Christian civilization (and the whole human civilization as we know it) and transforming our world into a very literal Hell on Earth.
Which explains why the overwhelming majority of Christians in Greater Germany, other Axis powers and even the Holy See supported the Nazi regime in general and in their existential war with Bolshevism in particular.
However, this “medicine” was not without its problems as national-socialist ideology (let alone Himmler’s neo-pagan quasi-religion) were not exactly compatible with Christianity.
Hence, in this chapter, I will present a thorough analysis of Hitler’s spirituality and religious beliefs (which defined his relationships with Christianity and other religions) and his religion-related policies, decisions and actions (primarily towards Christianity, of course).
Although Adolf Hitler was no occultist (he was a mystic, which is a different thing entirely), the issue of “Nazi occultism” aroused (and, alas, continue to arose) such a tremendous interest worldwide, that I simply have to devote the whole section to Hitler’s attitude, policies, decisions and actions towards the occult.
However, I will begin with something that made a profound impact on relationship between German government (and the whole German society) and the Christian Church. Impact so profound that it significantly influenced Adolf Hitler – and his subsequent religion-related policies, decisions and actions.
That “something” was Kulturkampf.
According to “mainstream history” (i.e., anti-Nazi propaganda), all those who plotted the assassination of Hitler were heroes (this one is true), genuine patriots of Germany (debatable) who wanted to kill the Nazi dictator (true), bring down the Nazi regime (not necessarily) and restore democracy in Germany (never).
As usually is the case, the reality is very different – and far more complicated. As it happened (an, alas, still continues to happen), those who attempt to assassinate a political leader do it for a number of reasons – and Adolf Hitler was no exception (only the number of attempts was simply enormous – compared to other leaders).
Some do it because they are, well, clinically (and criminally) insane – i.e. Ludwig Assner, Josef Thomas and possibly Dr. Mylius; others to avenge religious (Maurice Bavaud) or ethnic (Helmut Hirsch) prosecution – or punish someone who they think was responsible for their professional and personal failures (Georg Elser).
Or the defeat of one’s nation in a war against Germany (General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski) or make it easier to win the war with Germany (Operation Foxley). There was even an attempt by an ex-Nazi (Beppo Römer) who felt betrayed by Adolf Hitler and wanted revenge.
As you can see, none of the above had anything to do with being a patriot of Germany (let alone transforming the Nazi state into a Weimar-style democracy).
The only attempts that could have been driven by patriotism, were the ones plotted by the Wehrmacht generals – the Oster/Halder conspiracy, the July 20th plot and half a dozen (at least) assassination plots in between.
However, in reality these attempts were driven by something else entirely. Fear. In 1938, it was a (not exactly unfounded) fear that Hitler would start a war that would lead to far more disastrous consequences than the First Great War.
In 1943-44 it was fear (very well-justified by reality) that Adolf Hitler, if allowed to live and command the Wehrmacht, will inevitably lead Germany to the worst destruction and loss of life in its history (and that’s exactly what happened).
In other words, in both cases (and the plots of 1943-44 were essentially a one giant plot) the conspirators were driven by the overwhelming, passionate, noble and patriotic desire to save Germany from Adolf Hitler.
Unfortunately, it was not the only drive behind their assassination and coup attempts. Another drive (not much less powerful) was revenge and the desire to go back to the “good old days”.
All plotters – without exception – were German aristocrats who prior to Nazi coming tom power essentially owned and run the country. Making the whole nation work for them – for the elites and for the aristocracy.
Adolf Hitler turned it by 180 degrees. In Nazi Germany, despite its numerous obvious faults (and a fundamentally criminal nature), the elites were forced to work for the nation (i.e. for the German people), not the other way around. And what was previously de-facto reserved for aristocracy only, suddenly was made oven for every German – regardless of social origins.
Hitler openly admitted that his Army (Heer) was Prussian; in other words, still, despite all his efforts, run by Prussian aristocrats. Who detested the Weimar Republic – and the whole idea of democracy – even more than the Nazis.
In other words, the plotters were profoundly anti-democratic, hoping to replace Hitler with a conservative-authoritarian government (very possibly even by a monarchy), and make the country ruled by aristocratic elites again.
They had no desire to allow the general public to have any participation in the governance of the German state – which would have meant a step back compared even to Nazi Germany which surprisingly was a democracy (albeit in a highly restricted way).
Hence, although the generals did care about Germany, first and foremost they cared about their caste – the German aristocratic elites. Hardly a definition of a genuine patriotism.
However, it did not matter. Hitler was far too well-protected by the Providence (Supreme Power) for any plot to succeed. Besides, there was always Heinrich Himmler willing and able to make sure that no plotters ever achieve their objectives.
Hence, all plots and assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler were exercises in futility – cut and dry, plain and simple, loud and clear. And a colossal waste of time, energy, valuable resources and – worst of all – human lives.
Up until the very last days of the Third Reich the officially designated successor to Adolf Hitler as the Führer of Germany was Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring (this rank – created specifically for him – gave him seniority over all officers in Germany’s armed forces).
President of the Reichstag, Minister President of Prussia, Reichsstatthalter of Prussia, Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe, Reich Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan, Reichsminister of Aviation, Reichsminister of Forestry, etc., etc.
After the infamous “Göring Telegram”, Hitler fired him from all official posts – including the official successor to the Führer (in the event of the latter’s death). However, he still had to appoint an official successor, because by that time Adolf Hitler already made a decision (for a number of very serious reasons) to commit suicide.
Hitler wanted to remain for eternity (or at least for a very long time) as the only Führer of Germany so he reversed his own decision taken 11 years earlier, did away with the position of The Leader and split it into original two – the Reich President and the Reich Chancellor.
In his Last Will and Testament signed on April 29th, 1945 (less than 24 hours before taking his own life), Hitler appointed Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz President of Germany, Minister of War and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Joseph Goebbels (Reich Plenipotentiary for Total War, Reichsminister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Gauleiter of Berlin, etc., etc.) as Reich Chancellor.
However, just two days later Goebbels (for whom life under any regime other than National Socialism and under any leader but Hitler was unacceptable) committed suicide, taking all his family (including all six of his children with him).
And thus made Dönitz the de-facto Führer of Germany (Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk politely declined an offer to become the Reichskanzler of a new government, accepted only the somewhat vague position of “Leading Minister”.
However, Karl Dönitz was not really a successor to Adolf Hitler. He was not a Führer of Germany – and not even its President. Dönitz was essentially a funeral director who presided over only one thing – the burial of the Third Reich.
However, Adolf Hitler did have a successor. A self-appointed successor, sure – and the one who was just days ago branded a traitor by Hitler himself.
SS-Reichsfuhrer (no one took seriously Hitler’s order that fired Himmler and replaced him in this position with the all but unknown Karl Hanke) Heinrich Luitpold Himmler.
Contrary to the practically universal misconception, the Third Reich did not die with the unconditional surrender of Germany on May 7th, 1945. Or even with the arrest of the “Flensburg Government” on May 23rd, 1945 (interestingly enough, on the date of the alleged suicide of Heinrich Himmler).
No, the Third Reich simply went underground – but as a financial and political, not military, organization. As ODESSA (Die Neue SS), not Werwolf – with Heinrich Himmler as its Führer.
Himmler cleverly designed and brilliantly executed the escape plan – not just for himself, but for the whole Third Reich. He accumulated and subsequently transferred abroad (and to not just neutral nations) enormous amounts of money and other valuables (in tens if not hundreds billions of dollars in today’s prices).
He created the underground organization (Die Neue SS) that took control of this money and used it to make a very much material contribution of the post-war “German economic miracle”.
He deceived everyone with a genuinely brilliant performance, making friends and foes alike (except those who needed to know the truth, of course) believe that he was dead thus making himself free to pursue his grandiose objective of creating the Fourth Reich – the SS-Staat.
And this is how he did it.