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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2013

6 - Public Need before Private Greed


If positive Christianity means … the clothing of the poor, the feeding of the hungry … then it is we who are the more positive Christian. For in these spheres the people's community of National Socialist Germany has accomplished prodigious work.

Adolf Hitler

Both before and after the Seizure of Power, leading Nazis claimed that “practical” or “active Christianity” guided them in defining the ethic of the Volksgemeinschaft. As Point 24 of the Party Program stated, “public need comes before private greed.” A whole range of social policy was upheld as the palpable effect of neighborly or brotherly “love,” in which the brother was defined – as we have seen – in terms of his racial belonging. However, as with any other aspect of Nazi discourse, we must ask whether such professions, especially when made in public, were anything more than propaganda. Were these declarations mendacious, meant purely to co-opt potential dissent? Or, aside from their acknowledged propaganda value, could they have been based on a belief that Nazism put forward a kind of Christian ethic? One way to answer this question is to explore the social policies of the churches and their relation to Nazi social policy. It was the churches and their ancillary institutions that had been defining and practicing active Christianity decades before the Nazis. If Nazis claimed their actions were the result of practical Christianity, did practical Christians agree? How similar were the ethical beliefs and practices of these Christian bodies and those of their Nazi rivals?

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