Allegedly, Adolf Hitler was something of a prankster. On one occasion, his propensity for rambunctious behaviour backfired on him, when his confidant Ernst ‘Putzi’ Hanfstaengl mistook a harmless practical joke for an attempt on his life, and promptly defected to the Allies.
I’m hungover today, and tender as an infant, so here’s how it’s going to work: you listen, I’ll explain.
What you need to realise is that Hitler considered himself quite the joker. In 1937, upset by his less than flattering comments about the fighting spirit of German soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, Hitler stitched up his old mess mate proper like by issuing him pretend orders to parachute into an area of Spain held by the Communists (the baddies).
Not surprisingly, our hero began to fear he was being sent on a suicide mission. As his pilot, apparently rather a lad himself, always eager for a bit of banter and in on the joke, circled Germany, Hanfstaengl grew more and more disconcerted. Convinced that he was on his way to Communist Spain, where his number was sure to be up, he struck a desperate bargain with his pilot and the plane landed safely at Leipzig Airport.
The nightmare over, Putzi fled to Switzerland, and, later England. He was imprisoned as an enemy alien after the outbreak of the Second World War and sent to a prison camp in Canada. In 1942, he was turned over to America, where he worked for President Roosevelt’s “S-Project”, revealing information on approximately 400 Nazi leaders including 68 pages about Hitler alone.
Of all the high-ranking members of the Nazi party – many of whom were Catholics – only Joseph Goebbels was excommunicated, and he was not excommunicated for his involvement in killing millions of people (mainly Jews), as one might have thought, but because he married a Protestant woman.
Controversial. Historically I have avoided the discussion of delicate issues like religion on my blog out of respect for the fact that if I have strong opinions about the subject then so do most people. I have nothing against the religious person as he typically appears, but I do not enjoy some aspects of religious authority, and this fact deftly indicates why.
Excommunication is the ultimate Roman Catholic punishment. It removes a person from the grace of the Church and the grace of God and consigns them to eternal condemnation in hell. It is perhaps surprising to us today that Hitler was never excommunicated, indeed he was never even threatened with excommunication. Nazi Germany was a proud Christian country – standing in direct and physical opposition to the ‘godless’ Russia – and it was proudly supported by the Catholic Church and its new pope, Pope Pius XII, a fervent Hitler fan. It should be noted that the Protestant Church was as culpable as the Catholic Church, but lacked a pope to play the role of figurehead in actively bringing about its designs.
It might be suggested that one should not judge the Church(es) too harshly in this matter. Hindsight, after all, is a wonderful thing; perhaps they did not know the depths of Hitler’s mischief. I’m afraid that this simply isn’t true. Although the Catholic and Protestant Churches did stand in opposition to Hitler from 1930-33, from then on in they were as thick as thieves. Both Churches eagerly furnished their little Führer with their records to better determine which Germans were Jewish or had “Jewish” blood and which did not, so that all Jews (including those who had converted to Christianity) could be sent to concentration/death camps. Moreover the German chaplains serving on the frontline, far from being appalled by what they had seen, cheerfully arranged ‘group absolutions’ for those soldiers enacting the final solution.
Shortly after the end of WWII, the pope did excommunicate all communists; he crushed the liberal ‘Worker Priest’ movement in France. Thank God. The Nazis he left alone except when he put the Vatican to work ‘underground’ to get some of the worst of the Catholic Nazi war criminals out of Europe to safety – often in Latin America – using Church resources.
It is difficult to see how ‘Hitlerism’ could have taken such a strangle-hold on Germany without this widespread and insidious religious support. Everyday people turning to their churches for moral guidance found the men of God sitting squarely on the side of the Nazis. Rather like the aids/condoms debacle confronting the Catholic Church today, this rather shocking fact demonstrates one of the ways in which (organised) religion can obfuscate what really matters. It also warns us not to marry a Protestant, of course.
Adolf Hitler was awarded the ‘Times Man (later, Person) of the Year’ award in 1938.
This award, given just one year before the outbreak of war – when it was already more than clear to most the way the penny was falling – shows an astounding lack of awareness that really beggars belief.
Hitler would later be joined by the esteemed company of fellow happy-go-lucky dictator Joseph Stalin (1942), hands still dripping red with Polish blood after the purges of the ’30s, and American funny man George Bush (2000 & 2004).
As far as the award goes as a measure of integrity, I’d say it is better not to have won it. But then I would say that, I have not won it; for some reason the good people behind the damn thing are yet to look my way…