Skip To Content
Fast Forward

How Nazis Used Martin Luther’s Virulent Anti-Semitism

Image by wikimedia

A new museum exhibition in Berlin details how the Nazis made use of the anti-Semitic words of Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, RNS [reported]. The exhibit is located in the Topography of Terror, a museum about methods of Nazi repression that was built in the former headquarters of the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo.

“They very clearly used Luther’s writings that had all this anti-Semitism in them to support their cause,” Kurt Hendel, professor emeritus of Reformation history at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, said of the Nazis.

The frontispiece for Martin Luther’s book “On The Jews And Their Lies.” Image by Wikimedia

The Nazis were particularly enamored of Luther’s 1543 work, “On The Jews And Their Lies.” Hendel said that though Luther was not always anti-Semitic, he came to hate Jews after they refused to convert en masse to Christianity.

In November 1933, the Nazis marked the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birth with a nationwide “German Luther Day.” Party leaders praised Luther’s “ethno-nationalist mission,” and called their movement “the completion of the German Reformation in the Third Reich.”

Nazi propagandists also celebrated the fact that the infamous Kristallnacht night of violence against Jews in 1938 fell over Luther’s birthday.

Contact Ari Feldman at [email protected] or on Twitter @aefeldman.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.