Teaching How Nazis Thought and Talked is Not a Bad Thing.

There has been a lot of talk recently about an Albany, NY, teacher who assigned students the task of writing a paper advocating Nazi ideology and theology. A State Senator demanded she be fired.  There was discussion on Christian websites and even a post here.  The teacher felt terrible and was placed on a leave of absence.

The problem here is not the teacher.  It is myths about Hitler’s Nazi Party that keep being repeated.

Author Stephen Prothero used to have his students read and write about a book, Theologians Under Hitler (Robert P. Erickson).  Nazi Christian theology taught that a good Christian hates Jews because Jews killed Christ.  Prothero used the book to teach students the wide variety of Christian beliefs that have and continue to exist.

The  belief that Hitler was an atheist is so ingrained in the U. S. mind it is hard to fathom he was actually a Christian.  That is why the student assignment seems so strange to people.

To teach about real history causes some Christians, and nonChristians as well, to have insecurities.  If students learn the bad stories of our family, country or religion maybe they will stray into something else.  Of course, it is always important that students are old enough to understand the point of the exercise.

I hope the Albany School District allows this teacher to return to the classroom and continue to challenge students.  On a larger scale, it would be helpful if politicians and religious pundits would stop referring to Hitler as an atheist.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/13/my-take-nothing-wrong-with-nazi-assignment/

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/School-apology-Think-like-a-Nazi-task-vs-Jews-4428669.php#photo-4458888

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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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31 Responses to Teaching How Nazis Thought and Talked is Not a Bad Thing.

  1. Wanna B Sure says:

    There is ample evidence that Hitler was not an atheist. There is also ample evidence that he used and manipulated religions, (plural) for his own private goals and agendas.. Which also included using the Jews physically and politically. In short, he used everyone and everything, including folklore. No one was exempt. He was an evil and sick person.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Jon; However, I seem to remember you talking about people going to church and yet not believing. If I remember right, you were quite happy with this. Can’t give the date of your comment/blog, but I’m sure of the content. There is also ample evidence that Hitler was not complient with any form of authority. This in itself would place him at least on the fringe of being a Catholic, or at least an observent Catholic. Once he came into his own, I’d be willing to bet the church was scared the hell of him. I also believe had he continued, the Roman church and all others would have been in his cross hairs. There is evidence for that too.

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wanna 2:13 “..would place him on the fringe of being a Catholic…”

        I agree with your post. I’m not saying he was a “good” Christian, arguably one of the most terrible ones. And, what he really believed probably was unclear and maybe changed over time. It’s just that there is no evidence he was an atheist.

        A while back, I read a book by a famous German WWII fighter pilot. It was fascinating, lots of pilot/airplane details. He mentioned going to a house somewhere, maybe Poland, where the Germans had just recaptured an area from the Russians. The couple there asked if they could put their cross up on the living room wall where it had been before the Russians told them it had to come down. The couple was happy the Nazis approved of the cross.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          I’m sure there were many soldiers that joined the Nazis for reasons beyond the dark idiology. Prestige being one. Being caught up in the moment, another without full knowlege of all that it entailed. Who knows? I had a politician tell me that if he knew all that went on behind closed doors, he would never have ran for office.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          The same has been said by some who escaped from cults. “They didn’t know what they were getting into until it was too late.

        • Wanna B Sure says:

          Jon; Just remembered; Not all German military were Nazis. That could also explain the Poland situation. Not making excuses, only considering the posibilities.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 3:15 “Not all German military were Nazis.” That would make sense–maybe only a small fraction were.

            I haven’t read or thought about this for years, but I recall the most common explanation for the rise of Hilter and the resulting WWII was the humiliation of Germany in the surrender terms of WWI. That is, the German people were open to someone who gave them a sense of pride.

            We knew a lady quite well who worked at the NDSU bookstore, Gisala. Here husband was a faculty member, I didn’t really know him. Gisala, a native of Germany, wrote a short book about her experiences as a young girl during WWII. She walked back and forth through the battle lines to visit family and friends. Anyway, one of her recollections was of a family wedding when Hitler was a young man in one of his first political positions. He dropped in at the wedding, chatted and joked with the people there like politicians would most anywhere.

            Her take on him was he started out with good intensions but turned dark later.

    • Wanna B Sure says:

      Perhaps the atheiests here could also benefit from gettin to know how and what Hitler thought about the church, and not just at the start of his rise to power.

  2. Wanna B Sure says:

    I believe it is a good exercise (for mature students) to “get into the head” of Hitler, the Nazis, and the group/national hysteria that became what was. To do that may be helpful in preventing it in the future. Not to do so is to invite repetition.

  3. Brad says:

    There is a method to the madness. If history is hidden or ignored, it’s easier to revise it and change it to fit a particular political agenda. Obviously Christians have a vested interest in selling the myth that Hitler was an atheist. It reinforces their claim that atheists are evil and are to blame for everything.

  4. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    It sounds like a violation of Godwin’s law going on here.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Kevin 2:21 “..volation of Godwin’s law..”

      Godwin said, as I understand it, on any internet discussion that goes on long enough evenutally someone is compared to Hilter. You are saying this started with Hitler so we violated it? You are correct there.

  5. Michael Ross says:

    “Nazi Christian theology taught that a good Christian hates Jews because Jews killed Christ.”

    Our good ally, Uncle Joe Stalin killed more Jews than Hitler and he was a seminary student.

    You didn’t mention that Hitler was a avowed Darwinian evolutionist and was pro-abortion (of Jewish babies).

    Neither of these tyrants was a Christian by biblical definition.

    “You will know them by their fruits”(Matt 7:16)

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. . .(Galatians 5:22)

    Mass murder is NOT a fruit of the Spirit.

    • entech says:

      We have been here before, why do you feel the need to propagate these falsehoods, does being anti-evolution make you blind to reality.

      Nazi Germany 1935 Guidelines for the banning of books in public libraries.
      6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism

      Stalin killed more Jews than Hitler. Probably not true.
      Stalin killed more communists than Hitler.Certainly true.

      Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler.
      More than debatable – consider all those that died in WWII as part of the total.
      Personally responsible for about 20 million, then Stalin is guilty. A large proportion of these were in the famines.
      Many people were killed by Stalin’s paranoid extermination of potential enemies, intellectuals, party members a large percentage were Jews so the number of Jews murdered was high, although he probably murdered as many, if not more, fellow Georgians.
      The main difference is that with Hitler it was a deliberate genocide.
      Stalin started of condemning antisemitism, but became increasingly so with his increasing paranoia and finding enemies everywhere.
      Some say that Stalin’s death was due to Jewish doctors, that is the only ones with the expertise to save him were the 9 Jewish doctors that he had killed.

      • Matt says:

        our country has killed more americans than both combined….just saying….

      • Michael Ross says:

        Sir Arthur Keith was a British anthropologist, an atheistic evolutionist and an anti-Nazi, but he drew this chilling conclusion:
        ‘The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.”

        • entech says:

          Interesting how you can pick quotes out of context and make of them what you will, he is also supposed to have said “… the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable” but that one is dubious.

          Your quote from yet another creationist website:
          http://creation.com/arthur-keith-on-hitler-and-evolution
          is not complete.
          The German Fuhrer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution. Evolution and Ethics (1947) p.230
          He is talking about the failure of the attempts to create a “master race”.

          Probably irrelevant to the discussion but Keith was very much the racist and a keen proponent of the idea that humanity evolved in Europe and not Africa. A prime suspect in the fabrication of the “Piltdown Man” hoax.

          • Michael Ross says:

            http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/08/23/list-of-hitler-quotes-he-was-q/

            Just to be fair here are many Hitler quotes from which we could conclude he was a devout Catholic. From what he said you can build a case on either side. What I am saying is his actions speak louder than words (“by their fruits”). All politicians realize the the majority of people hold to some belief in God and play into this to get public approval. George W. Bush was a master deceiver in this way.

            Please read this great article and get back to me:

            http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance26.html

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Michael 2:25 re: lewrockwell.com

            I did read that–quite interesting. It seems to me Hilter was very skilled at scapgoating. It was not only the Jews, but the gays he also demonized. He tried to blame whatever the problems were on Jews and gays, using the Christianity to justify it.

            George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, and many others used the same technique demonizing black people and interracial marriage. After all, he asked, why would God have put different races in different countries is he didn’t intend to keep them separate?

            It was “communists” from the 50′s through the 80′s. Today, the same technique is being used on gays and women/doctors who have/do abortions in this country. Just wrap a god around hatred and you will have fans. In this way, Hilter lives on in today’s world.

          • Michael Ross says:

            Yup. You can be pro-gay/anti-gay, abortion, war, any side of any issue depending on the persuasion of the voters you are trying to attract. You are one politician who is principled, wrong, but principled. We know where you stand. For this I respect you. The only other that comes to mind is Ron Paul, mostly right in his case.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Michael 3:25 “For this I respect you.”

            Thanks for that. I agree demonization is practiced throughout politics and religion at one time or another. By looking at it in a historical context, maybe it helps us a little to recognize it in real time.

          • Wolfy32 says:

            Religion aside, I thought much of Hitler’s agenda was to create the Aryan race. That The supreme human being was contained in a blond haired, blue eyed boy, and that through repetitive reproduction eventually the genes to unlocking a super human would be revealed. The markers for the potential for the supreme human race was blond haired /blue eyed boys.

            I’m sure there was a lot more on the agenda for Hitler, including opening dimensions / gateways to hell and unlocking a multitude of gear based robotic foot soldiers.. ;)

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wolf 5:37 “I’m sure there was a lot more on the agenda for Hitler..”

            That is no doubt true–probably many complicated things going on in his mind and among competiting factions. One of my impressions is he was a terrible manager. WWII veterans and others have said the Germans had the technology and economic power to hang onto much of the areas they invaded and occupied, except Russia. But, they were so screwed up internally, they just could not execute either internally or militarially. There were, I’ve heard, three of more groups developing jet aircraft, but they didn’t know about each other. One develop a jet fighter that could fly briefly. Their tanks, aircraft on down to their mess kits were all had better engineering than did ours.

          • Henry says:

            Jon: “Their tanks, aircraft on down to their mess kits were all had better engineering than did ours.”

            Depends on what your definition of better is. For example, the tiger tanks vs. the shermans were no match face to face. The tigers were vastly superior in that regard. However, the shermans were easy to build, lightweight, better performing in extreme cold weather, and more manueverable. More bang for the buck with the sherman. With the vast numbers of shermans that were able to be easily built and deployed, they were vastly superior (small consolation to the tanker sitting in the middle of one of those gas cans.)

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Henry 8:50 re: Sherman vs Tiger tanks.

            Thanks for that information. Makes sense. I was quoting the WWII vet I take on errands, former WDAY guy and City Commissioner, Roy Pedersen. His take on it all is simplier, but not as accurate as what you posted.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            And those Shermans had Cadillac engines.

          • Wanna B Sure says:

            Oops; I was sure I had read Cadillac years ago. Upon current research= Continental, Ford, and Chrysler.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Wanna 10:47 That Continental engine caught me eye. It was an air cooled radial aircraft engine. They put a fan on it since there was not air stream on a tank.

            A friend at my airport still uses a similar engine on his Weatherly crop sprayer, the Pratt and Whitney R-985. I helped him do his annual compression test a few days ago. I hold the huge propeller while he pumps air, takes a reading of the peak compression and listens for air leaking around the valves. One of the nine cylinders had a leak, he hoped it was just a piece of carbon in the valve.

  6. entech says:

    A part of learning to debate and write critically and honestly with good research is to defend a position with which you disagree.

    Years ago when I was in Rotary International I was part of looking after some young ladies from a local convent school attending an international youth conference and debating forum. They had been nominated as the voice supporting Japanese whaling, a very tender subject in Australia which is essentially anti – especially when encroaching on Australian antarctic territory. In they end they all agreed having to do the research and defend the position was very valuable experience – but it didn’t change any opinions just gave a better understanding of the other side.

    • Avatar of realist realist says:

      Absolutely correct. Many defense attorneys have to defend clients they know did the deed. It is essential for them to be able to solidly defend them in court using an argument with which they do not agree. The sad thing is how negative publicity in this situation will affect this teacher’s career in the future.

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