Gerhard Kittel

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Gerhard Kittel (1888-1948) was a German liberal Christian theologian who revealed himself to be a virulent anti-Semite who wrote Nazi-influenced nonsense about Christianity. Until his disclosure of or conversion to anti-Semitism, he had been a well respected scholar. He was so well-respected that secular and Christian Liberals within the academy denied or obscured his Third Reich work until Robert P. Ericksen's published work on Kittel in 1985 made such liberal denialism no longer possible, four decades after the Reich's fall[1].

  • After the publication of Kittel's anti-Semitic views, the great Jewish theologian Martin Buber acknowledged that his views were the "ruling ideas" but told him "What I did not know is that you shared them."[2]
  • Herbert Lowewe, a Cambridge University professor, wrote this to Kittel in August 1933:


It gives me great pain to find that so great an authority and leader of thought should give expression to such views. I have read your previous books with pleasure and profit, and I have learned much from them. ... your present pronouncement is quite incompatible with your previous teaching, and it is as unjust to Christianity as it is to Judaism. ... It is a grievous disillusionment to find that one's idol has feet of clay.

Contents

Theological conservatism proved the best defense against the seductions of Fascism

Gerhard Kittel was a liberal Christian theologian who was a dupe of Nazi rhetoric.

The message is as clear here as it is in studies of the Confessing Church or of the Jehovah's Witnesses' bloody struggles against the Third Reich: Theological conservatism proved the best defense against the seductions of Fascism. Thus theologians like Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, coming also from the German Protestant tradition, found themselves on a different path from Kittel, Althus and Hirsch. Those who argued the gap between God and humankind to be unbridgeable by political systems found themselves able to preach Christ and salvation in religious rather than political terms, even if their actions, as in the case of Bonhoeffer, were intensely political. [3]

Sources

  1. Theologians Under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanuel Hirsch, Robert P. Ericksen, Yale University Press, 1985, ISBN 0-300-02926-8
  2. The lion and the star, Jonathan C. Friedman, University Press of Kentucky, 1998, p.143
  3. "Review of Theologians under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althus, and Emanuel Hirsch", Sociological Analysis, Christine E. King, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. 358-359

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