- Nazis created a special institute to erase Jewish presence in Christianity.
- The institute produced a Bible that omitted the Old Testament and completely rewrote the New Testament.
- Jesus was portrayed as an Aryan hero of human origin who fought Jewish people.
The rise of the Nazis in the 20th century was a horrific byproduct of political, economic, and social tensions of the day. It was also rooted in often esoteric and devious spiritual influences and practices, with Nazi philosophers actively attempting to rewrite history and the world’s established moral order.
As Jews were being scapegoated and obsessively pursued across the Third Reich, an effort was made by Nazi leaders and theologians to turn the story of Jesus into anti-Semitic propaganda. An organization was set up for the express purpose of inventing an Aryan Jesus and writing a Nazi Bible.
Inventing an Aryan Jesus
Operating from 1939 until 1945, the so-called “Institute for the Study and Elimination of Jewish Influence on German Church Life” was founded with the purpose of “defense against all the covert Jewry and Jewish being, which has oozed into the Occidental Culture in the course of centuries,” as written by one of its directors, George Bertram. According to him, the institute was dedicated not only to “the study and elimination of the Jewish influence” but also had “the positive task of understanding the own Christian German being and the organization of a pious German life based on this knowledge.”
The institute, based in Eisenach, was organized with the participation of eleven German Protestant churches. It was an outgrowth of the German Christian movement, which sought to turn German Protestantism toward Nazi ideals. The visionary behind the institute, Walter Grundmann, collaborated with the Nazi regime and later the East German Democratic Republic (GDR), spying for the infamous state security apparatus known as the Stasi.
An anti-Semitic theology
As detailed in Susannah Heschel’sThe Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, Nazis aimed to create the theological basis for the elimination of Jews. One mechanism of accomplishing this was the creation of the institute, which taught to erase Jews from the Christian story and to turn Jesus into the world’s most prominent anti-Semite.
As Heschel wrote, for the Nazis involved, “Jesus had to be drained of Jewishness if the German fight against the Jews was to be successful.”
Following this logic, the “dejudification” institute created the narrative of an anti-Jewish Jesus, bizarrely making him the follower of an Indian religion that was opposed to Judaism, as Heschel explains. Nazi theologians invented a narrative that Galilee, the region in which much of Jesus’ ministry took place, was populated by Assyrians, Iranians, or Indians, many of whom were forcibly converted to Judaism. Jesus, therefore, was actually a secret Aryan, who was opposed and killed by the Jews.
In the version of the Bible produced by the institute, the Old Testament was omitted and a thoroughly revised New Testament featured a whole new genealogy for Jesus, denying his Jewish roots. Jewish names and places were removed, while any Old Testament references were changed to negatively portray Jews. Jesus was depicted as a military-like Aryan hero who fought Jews while sounding like a Nazi.
“By manipulating the theological and moral teachings of Christianity, Institute theologians legitimated the Nazi conscience through Jesus,” explained Heschel. In the revisions of Christian rituals that were also part of this Nazi effort, miracles, the virgin birth, resurrection, and other aspects of Jesus’ story were deemphasized. Instead, he was portrayed as a human being who fought for God and died as a victim of the Jews.
“The Institute shifted Christian attention from the humanity of God to the divinity of man: Hitler as an individual Christ, the German Volk as a collective Christ, and Christ as Judaism’s deadly opponent,” elaborated Heschel.
Beside the spread of outright lies, one of the most disturbing facts about the institute is that some of the most prominent German theologians ultimately embraced the Nazi vision and contributed to the Holocaust of the Jews. And once it was all over, many of the theologians involved went back to their church life without much retribution.