The acquiescence of the German Protestant churches in Nazi oppression and murder of Jews is well documented. In this book, Christopher J. Probst demonstrates that a significant number of German theologians and clergy made use of the sixteenth-century writings by Martin Luther on Jews and Judaism to reinforce the racial antisemitism and religious anti-Judaism already present among Protestants. Focusing on key figures, Probst’s study makes clear that a significant number of pastors, bishops, and theologians of varying theological and political persuasions employed Luther’s texts with considerable effectiveness in campaigning for the creation of a “de-Judaized” form of Christianity. Probst shows that even the church most critical of Luther’s anti-Jewish writings reaffirmed the antisemitic stereotyping that helped justify early Nazi measures against the Jews.
“A close look at specific ways in which Protestant theologians and pastors used and reacted to Luther in their teaching and preaching under Nazism. . . . In his treatment of the supposed disconnect between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, Probst shows how German Protestants during this period [following Luther] combined theological opposition to Jews with irrational, anti-Semitic stereotypes. . . . An important and useful book.”
— Robert P. Ericksen, Kurt Mayer Professor of Holocaust Studies, Pacific Lutheran University
“In this indispensable study of Protestant pastors, theologians and church officials in Hitler’s Third Reich, Christopher Probst writes that Luther’s anti-Semitic and anti-Judaic writings influenced the response of many Protestant clergy to Nazi anti-Semitic legislation. Demonizing the Jews is Probst’s attempt to fill a historical lacuna as he describes how Protestant churchmen used Luther’s writings to justify the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht, among other Nazi measures against the Jews.”
— Jack Fischel in Hadassah Magazine
“Thoughtfully challenge[s] the supposed discontinuity between pre-modern anti-Judaism and modern antisemitism....Probst provides us with a detailed exegesis of each of his sources....Show[s] that the opinions of church leaders, which Probst so ably describes in the Protestant case, had serious consequences.”
— Shelley O. Baranowski, H-Judaic
Christopher J. Probst is a visiting assistant professor of modern European history at Saint Louis University. He was a Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.