© 2006 by Peter Kratz. Jede Verwendung der Texte und der Abbildungen unterliegt dem Urheberrecht.
German Humanist Association (Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands, a member organisation of the International Humanist and Ethic Union IHEU) portrays culprits
That Mussolini was amongst the leaders of the Italian socialist party before founding the fascist movement is a well-known fact; equally well-known is that Otto Strasser was from 1919 a member of the SPD - before going on to join the 'anti-capitalist' Roehm/Strasser faction of the NSDAP and, after 1945, leading some German Neofascists. Yet, despite fascism's roots in a grossly misread socialism, it remains untenable to consider European fascism as an aspect of any social-democratic political programme. In the exhibition "No Hereafter, No Resurrection" ("Kein Jenseits ist, kein Auferstehn") concerning the history of the Free-Religious in Berlin and in Germany, organised for the period December 1998 through January 1999 by the Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands (HVD) in co-operation with the local Prenzlauer Berg Museum in Berlin and the local government's cultural administration of the Berlin City District, Prenzlauer Berg, it is precisely this interpretation which is given the upper hand.
The national-socialist Free-Religious, who partly go under the name Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands since 1993, are portrayed by the exhibition as a facet of social democracy, namely because some of their leaders were from the turn of the last century through to the 1920s active also in the SPD. What the exhibition fails to illuminate is the history of the Free-Religious in the 1930s and 1940s: their claim that Adolf Hitler was God; their active participation in the persecution of Jews; their pro-war texts. The only interesting question - as to why members of the SPD became fascists - is not posed by this exhibition. On the contrary, visitors are deliberately led to sympathize with the Free-Religious as a group that was itself subject to Nazi persecution. The truth is that as late as 1942 the Free-Religious were able (for example) to hold a large congress in Berlin. The HVD - which counts amongst its most prominent members: Berlin's Commissioner in Europe and Secretary in State to the current City Mayor, Gerd Wartenberg (SPD); the SPD Parliamentary members, Jutta Weißbecker, Kirstin Fussan-Freese and Regina Koch; and the now independent Councillor in the Office for Building and Public Works in the Berlin City District, Mitte, Dr. Thomas Flierl, formerly member of the East German PDS - currently has a lot to lose. Restitution of property since German re-unification has brought them in an estate worth millions of Deutsch Marks; and the legal status of religious education in the Berlin public schools affords them an ample budget for legally propagating their ideology in the public schools. That is why they are so unscrupulously falsifying their own history in the Prenzlauer Berg exhibition. Luckily, they've laid on the lies so thick that no-one could possibly swallow their story.
Ideologists who were forefathers of fascism or enthusiastic members of the new Nazi Party are portrayed in the exhibition as progressive thinkers with whom the visitor might positively identify his or herself. Self-declared Nazis are presented as heroic opponents of the Christian church, which the HVD has targeted as its number-one enemy. This falls on fallow ground: the exhibition is aimed particularly at those school-classes in which the HVD gives lessons on Morality and Ethics. (The catalogue offers guided tours for schoolchildren in heavy type).The exhibition claims without further elaboration that the Free-Religious were persecuted by the Nazis and banned in 1934. Neither the developments after 1934 nor Free-Religious collaboration with Nazis since the 1920s are mentioned. The ban on the Free-Religious, as it is here portrayed, is an utter lie. It is on the basis of this lie - that the Free-Religious were banned - that the HVD has been able to lay claim to property and to lessons in public school classes. In fact, the partial 'ban' in 1934 was the outcome of disputes between different factions of the NSDAP and helped to set up from 1935 onwards a radically right-wing Free-Religious movement under a new name, which not only excluded 'non-Arian' members but also was active in building up the NS- State and in the persecution of Jewish people. Thus, the Free-Religious parish continued to exist in Berlin after 1934: loyal Nazis, pledged to fight against Christian education in schools, against Christian churches and the Jewish communities, namely, against the few pockets of anti-fascist resistance which were left after the Nazi ban on all left-wing organisations. The HVD still upholds traditional Free-Religious Nazi values and will admit this - to insiders. The exhibiton catalogue claim (pg.65-6) that the HVD archive is open to the public is not, nor ever was, true; they told us so themselves when we called them on 30.11.98. They have a lot to hide.
When a closed book is an open book
Important evidence of the Free-Religious past was actually present in the exhibition - but no visitors were able to look at it. On show in the reconstructed Free-Religious library was the book "The Free-Religious Movement - Its Essence and Duty" ("Die freireligioese Bewegung - Wesen und Auftrag"), published in 1959 by the federation of Free-Religious parishes in Germany Bund freireligioeser Gemeinden Deutschlands (BFGD). An affiliated member in 1959 was the Berlin Community of Freethinkers - Free-Religious Parish (Freigeistige Gemeinschaft - Freireligioese Gemeinde Berlin), today affiliated to the HVD, that was established in 1955 and claims to be the successor of the 1930s parish. The book is closed and screwed down under plexiglas. To open it would expose the exhibition as a pack of lies. One can however borrow it at the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (ref:16A 11495). Although the exhibition catalogue - an official publication of the City District's Cultural Office - cites the book as an authentic part of the Free-Religious library, loaned by the HVD Archive, it prefers not to mention its content. The catalogue also does concede a footnote to the dissertation by Ulrich Nanko ("Die Deutsche Glaubensbewegung", publd. Marburg, 1993) on the national socialist "German Faith Movement". Take these two books and a little more literature from the Staatsbibliothek and the truth which this exhibition so wilfully and totally ignores or distorts is suddenly an open book.
The Free-Religious as a Nazi Organisation.
The federation of Free-Religious parishes in Germany, BFGD, - to which the Berlin parish is affiliated - and the bourgeois-voelkisch German federation of Freethinkers (Deutscher Freidenkerbund) unite in 1924 as the "peoples federation for spiritual freedom" (Volksbund für Geistesfreiheit, VfG), thus formalising links which existed already on a personal level. The new secretary-general is Carl Peter, a member of the Nazi-party and a close associate of the philosophy professor, Ernst Bergmann. Both men live in Leipzig. Bergmann is since the early 1920s member of the NSDAP and tinkering busily at blue-prints for an "Arian-Germanic" religion. In May, 1933, the VfG renames itself the German Free-Religious federation (Deutscher freireligiöser Bund), then, on 4th June 1933, re-adopts the former name BFGD. Peter is still secretary-general. Along with their rivals, the union of Free-Religious parishes of South and West Germany leaded by Georg Pick (Verband der freireligiösen Gemeinden Sued- und Westdeutschlands), the BFGD invites nationalist and racist-nordic sects and SS members to join on 31.7.1933 in the founding of the German Faith Movement (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutsche Glaubensbewegung, ADG), which aims to endow the Nazi State with a religious anti-Christian and anti-Semitic superstructure. Ideologically bedfellows for years already, they grasp the opportunity of Nazi victory to mobilise against the Christian church and the Jewish communities, to expel these from German territory and to realise at last the dream nursed since 1848 by the Free-Religious of becoming Germany's one and only true state religion. The ADG thus becomes one of the Nazis prime ideological weapons in their anti-Christian 'crusade' Kirchenkampf and hence a target for vehement attacks by Berlin's Catholic bishopry: the Christian press between 1933-36 is full of reports on these issues.
At the foundation meeting on 31.7.1933 the following men were appointed to office: the anti-Semitic and racist agitator, Wilhelm Hauer, another prolific author of blueprints for an "Indo-Arian" religion which would combine race and religion and drive everything 'Semitic' ("vorderasiatisch-semitisch") out of Germany, is proclaimed Fuehrer of both the ADG and the Free-Religious. The Berlin Free Religious Parish thus becomes de facto part of the ADG. Peter, Bergmann and other Free Religious leaders also participate at the meeting. Bergmann, along with the Nazis leading 'race theorist", Hans F.K.Günther, join the ADG's Fuehrerrat, as does also the spiritual leader of the south-west Free-Religious faction, member of the NSDAP Arthur Drews; the leader of the NSDAP's parliamentary Strasser faction, Ernst Graf von Reventlow; the Germanic ideologist and future co-founder of the SS organisation Ahnenerbe, Hermann Wirth; and other SS members, join the Fuehrerrat, too. Peter is prepared to become secretary-general of both the BFGD and the ADG now. On 10.9.1933 the BFGD again renames itself, this time as federation of the parishes of German faith (Bund der Gemeinden Deutschen Glaubens, BGDG). Peter retains post of secretary-general; Hauer is appointed chairman of the BGDG; the former Free-Religious (BFGD) journal, "Die Geistesfreiheit" is renamed "Deutsche Glaubenswarte" (watch-tower for German faith). Hauer is busy agitating on both religious and secular fronts for "the struggle of the Indo-Arian faith against the middle eastern-Semitic faith" and is already working on his major tome "Deutsche Gottschau", styled along the lines of Alfred Rosenberg's "Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts" (Myth of the 20th Century), the most important book for the Nazis after Hitler's "Mein Kampf". The BGDG, and Hauer personally, then affiliate to the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft, GGG, led by the painter and nationalist-racist writer, Ludwig Fahrenkrog, already a member of the ADG's Fuehrerrat, too. The GGG's journal Nordischer Glaube is subsumed on 1.1.1934 in the ADG's new monthly paper, Deutscher Glaube, that is published by Hauer and, in 1934, also is a journal of the Free-Religious. Fahrenkrog, Bergmann, Günther, Reventlow, Wirth, amongst others, are co-publishers and contributing authors. Editor is Herbert Grabert, future founder of the extreme right-wing publishing house, Grabert-Verlag (see Kurt P. Tauber: Beyond Eagle and Swastika. German Nationalism Since 1945, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Conneticut, 1967, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 67-15231). The magazine draws heavily in 1934 on Rosenberg's "Myth" and, alongside the Deutsche Glaubenswarte, captures a Free-Religious (BFGD/BDGD) readership. Peter in 1934 several times cites the Deutscher Glaube as the leaseholder of the "Community Office of the BDGD of the ADG", and adds his Leipzig address in order to facilitate contact to former BFGD parishes. In January 1934, the magazine prints Fahrenkrog's opinion that all BGDG members "must of course be free of alien blood": a reference to membership in the old BFGD of some few former members of Jewish communities. 'Impure' according to the new Nazi criterion which deemed blood to be synonymous with religion, some such members were later handed over to the Nazis. All this tactical re- and re-naming was summed up by Fahrenkrog: "A smokescreen. We know what we are about".
Thus the Free-Religious in 1933-34 clearly define themselves as a national-socialist oriented organisation, aligned with the supposedly "socialist" Röhm/Strasser/Reventlow wing of the NSDAP. Former SPD members of the Free-Religious now join the NSDAP. Immediate action is taken to formulate and emphasize "the racial demands of the ADG", for eg: because the journal Deutscher Glaube is published by the Verlag C.L. Hirschfeld, Stuttgart, the comment: "We would like to draw to the readers attention that the publisher, Hirschfeld, is not Jewish". On 7.2.1934 the Catholic church puts Bergmann's major work, "Deutsche Nationalkirche" of 1933 and Rosenberg's "Myth" on the Index. On 17.6.1934, the BGDG re-adopts the former name BFGD again and officially joins the ADG, with which it jointly organises anti-Christian and anti-Semitic "rabble rouser" events, for eg: in the BFGD's Leipzig quarters. Hauer, who already has a close relationship with Himmler and Heydrich and is obviously forewarned of the action against the Roehm/Strasser group planned for the 30.6.1934, joins the SS and on 17.6.1934 turns down renewal of his chairmanship of the BFGD. Peter retains post of secretary-general, Bergmann takes a seat on the BFGD's national committee, which is now exclusively NSPAD (Bergmann, Peter, SS-Standartenfuehrer Eckert, Klimm). In summer 1934, Bergmann becomes BFGD chairman. Also in 1934, Peter declares himself ready to hand over the leadership of all Free-Religious parishes to trusted persons of the SS. In December 1934, Peter takes on management of the GGG's Ludwig Fahrenkrog Verlag (publishers).
Throughout 1933-34 repercussions within the police force of the power struggle between the Goering and the Himmler/Heydrich factions leads to a ban on some Free-Religious communities and some other nationalist-religious groups. The ban was imposed rather arbitrarily. It did in part affect Free-Religious parishes which had had SPD leadership in recent years; yet those leaders had by this date been forced to either join the NSPAD or to relinquish office. It is possible that the bans merely reflect the struggle (within the NSDAP) for control of the police force. Hauer, Bergmann and Peter intervene several times - and with occasional success - to have the ban on individual parishes revoked by the Gestapo, by the head of the SS Sicherheitsdienst, Reinhard Heydrich, or even by personal order of Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS (who trusts Hauer). Heydrich's Deputy, the notorious Werner Best, joins the ADG's Fuehrerrat in January 1934 to supervise the Free-Religious further existence.
NSDAP factional strife comes to a head with the Roehm affair and on 20th November 1934 Hermann Goering - the most powerful opponent of the Roehm/Strasser/Reventlow faction and Himmler's biggest rival with regard to control of the police - does impose a ban on the BFGD. The ban, however, applies only to the State of Prussia, of which Goering is Prime Minister. The national leadership of the BFGD in Leipzig - Bergmann, Peter, Eckert - and numerous parishes outside of Prussia continue their legal existence; indeed the leadership is specifically informed that it has the confidence of the Gestapo, which is led by Heydrich. The ban is now used to usher in measures to 'purify' the legal BFGD from the last drops of "alien blood".
1935: the ban is revoked
Throughout 1934 Hauer and Bergmann indulge in a battle of egos, each claiming to have created the most authentic national-socialist religion. The debate is covered by Deutscher Glaube. Bergmann resigns from the ADG's Fuehrerrat and as co-publisher of Deutscher Glaube. As he is the head of the BFGD, the ban on the BFGD is considered as a personal attack on himself, as the main opponent of Hauer and of Rosenberg (whose ideas about Nazi religion in the "Myth" were copied in part by Hauer). In April 1935 the BFGD goes into voluntary (!) liquidation; in June 1935 the government of Saxony revokes the ex-organisation's corporate rights. A quite different 'ban', indeed, than that portrayed by the exhibition in Prenzlauer Berg.
In 1935 Bergmann succeeds in having Heydrich revoke the ban on the BFGD magazine Deutsche Glaubenswarte, on Heydrich's condition that the name be changed. Thus, together with the pre-ban editor Peter, Bergmann now subsumes the Deutsche Glaubenswarte in the magazine Deutsches Werden (published in Leipzig and different from the Greifswald 'Deutsches Werden'), which is published already by the Fahrenkrog Verlag which Peter has managed since 1934. The Free-Religious parishes now organise as a legal reading circle around this magazine, a virulently national-socialist rag. In 1937 Bergmann and Peter succeed in having the ban on the umbrella organisation of the parishes revoked, and change the name from BFGD to the community of German folk religion, Gemeinschaft Deutsche Volksreligion, GDV. Bergmann becomes committee chairman again, Peter the secretary-general again, as in the BFGD: together they agitate against "alien-race religions". In 1941, Peter as author publishes at the re-named Fahrenkrog Verlag Carl Peter the book "Ernst Bergmann und seine Lehre" with "Quotes from Bergmann": "The greatest crime against humanity was the Judeo-Christian belief in sin." Or: "National-socialist and Christian ethics are irreconcilable opposites". And: "Whosoever aims for the elimination of the genetically inferior and for the cream of the crop of the genetically viable - for social aristocracy - can no longer be a Christian". Such insights, comments Peter in the foreword, are Bergmann's contribution "to the spiritual construction of the Reich, in loyal obedience to the Fuehrer."
Bergmann and Peter in the 1938 text "Was will die Gemeinschaft Deutsche Volksreligion?": it is aiming for "a healthy and natural religion founded in Germanic purity", which will "make the German people into humanity's spiritual leaders". They believe that, "the world, which grew sick 2000 years ago because of Christianity, will be healed by the German religion". "To act according to the lights of national-socialist philosophy", (Bergmann and Peter again), "that is what we want to do, we German Free-Religious or Free-Religious Germanic-Religious". All this still available to be read in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek; completely ignored by the exhibition of the HVD in the Prenzlauer Berg Museum.
The Berlin Free-Religious Nazi-Parish.
According to a booklet "Freies Denken an der Spree", published in 1993 by the HVD and Freethinker author, Norbert Pech, and according to a document available in the archive of the Prenzlauer Berg District Office, the Berlin Free-Religious parish continued to exist after Goering's 1934 ban and indeed "fortnightly, since September 1935" and "with the permission of the authorities" conducted "holy services" at their parish-house at Pappelallee 15, City District Prenzlauer Berg of Berlin, (a property of two houses and a meeting hall which the exhibition claims was confiscated in the 1930s by the state and was restored in 1998, now utilized by the HVD). Remarkably, in the same author's contribution to the exhibition catalogue of 1998, he omits to mention precisely this point of the "holy services" in the 30s. Between its foundation in 1993 and the exhibition in 1998, the HVD has had to interpret its legends of prohibition and persecution selectively.
The Berlin parish also turned out in force for the public meeting at the Sport Palace in 1935, instigated by Hauer's "German Faith Movement" (Deutsche Glaubensbewegung, formerly ADG) to protest, in typically crude fashion, against Christianity and Judaism and against Christian instruction at state schools. The speakers were afforded SS and SA bodyguards. The exhibition's unfortunately screwed down book "Die freireligioese Bewegung - Wesen und Auftrag" (pg.87) reports that, once the Free-Religious in 1937 had as the GDV regained a nationwide umbrella organisation, "parish life bloomed once more, without any interference on the part of the authorities. ... Offices were rented in Leipzig and lecture tours were organised, for which Bergmann's texts proved especially helpful". As the Berlin parish was over-aged already in 1934, it was re-founded in 1939 as GDV parish, and held Jugendweihen (inauguration of the juveniles) and other religious 'consecrations' in Berlin, as Deutsches Werden announced from 1939 ongoing. In 1942 the Free-Religious organised in Berlin a huge nationwide congress, at which Peter reported on the state of the parishes. By 1944 the former BFGD under its new name GDV and under the leadership of Bergmann and Peter had again reached a membership of 18,000; its former federation fund, from which Goering in 1934 had confiscated 50,000 Reichsmark , now stood at 48,000 Reichsmark (see pg.88 of the screwed down book "Wesen und Auftrag").
Burials at the Pappelallee Free-Religious cemetery in 1936, and the 55 cremations which took place there between 1939-41, are listed in the exhibition catalogue and might lead any visitor to this exhibition to wonder how it was possible that an 'outlawed' parish might continue its business in those years. (But after we had published this text in December 1998 in Berlin and had raised a big public discussion, the pages of the cemetery administration book, that was shown in the exhibition, were changed: instead of the opened pages concerning the burials of 1936, the book now showed the 1928 pages!) The screwed down book "Wesen und Auftrag" holds answers enough: 'Prohibition' and 'persecution' are the lies from which the HVD and the Free-Religious of today draw their life-blood. Revisonism of history is its method.
Continuity after 1945
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Hauer's magazine Deutscher Glaube is a rallying point for the Free-Religious. As the German Faith Movement (now Deutsche Glaubensbewegung, DG) begins to decline in 1936/37 Hauer seeks rapprochement with Bergmann, who is leader of the GDV. Hauer promotes Bergmann's texts in Deutscher Glaube and Bergmann contributes further articles: forefathers of the Free-Religious, such as Ernst Haeckel, are portrayed positively, and, from 1939 onwards, articles by Wilhelm Bonneß also appear. Bonneß will become president of the newly active BFGD in the 70s and is co-author of the screwed down book of 1959. In Deutscher Glaube of 1942 he praises the "racial science of national-socialism". Hauer in 1940 warns against Jews who have left Jewish communities and are describing themselves as "Believers in God" (gottglaeubig) in order to escape extermination. The term "Believers in God" he opines, might be used only by his (DG) followers and "racially impure" impostors should be reported to the Gestapo. In 1942 the NSDAP member Gerhard Bednarski pays tribute in Deutscher Glaube to the "pure-blooded" Ludwig Fahrenkrog on the occasion of the latter's 75th birthday.
When Allied troops march into Leipzig in April 1945, Bergmann commits suicide. By November 1945 Peter is already writing to his GDV/BFGD friends and reviving the BFGD under this former name, of which he becomes secretary-general again. In 1949 the BFGD, together with other ideological bedfellows of the 1930s and 1940s, founds the German people's federation for spiritual freedom Deutscher Volksbund für Geistesfreiheit, DVfG. The name recalls the VfG of the 1920s and early 1930s. United under this new (old) name are Fahrenkrog's Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft GGG and the German Unitarians Deutsche Unitarier Religionsgemeinschaft e. V., the latter since 1946 a gathering point for Bednarski, Grabert, leading SS members and members of the Amt Rosenberg of the NSDAP, authors for Hauer's Deutscher Glaube and convicted war criminals. Hauer of course is also present. The Kirchenkampf? Persecution of Jews? These issues are quickly swept under the carpet. Hauer's "Arians" now go under the name of "occidental man" (Fahrenkrog, 1934: "The name is smokescreen. We know what we are about") and his anti-Semitic racism is nonetheless unbroken. It is propagated now by the "Freie Akademie", a club which Hauer founded after the Allies had banned the DG and its followers; and by the German Unitarians, for whom Hauer remains the unchallenged forefather, even after his death, well into the 1980s. The Free-Religious continue to work with old Nazis through the 1950s, 1960s ,1970s and beyond, and on many levels. "Alien blood" is still excluded, for eg: the German Unitarians statutes allowed only German members until 1993!
The DVfG is renamed in 1992 to the umbrella organisation of independant ideological communities Dachverband freier Weltanschauungsgemeinschaften, DFW. Today, the main member organisations of the DFW are the Nazi-orientated German Unitarians and the BFGD, also the small Deutscher Monistenbund, which unites some followers of Haeckel. Since its foundation in 1993, the HVD has become an umbrella organisation to bourgeois Freethinkers (who do not join the still socialist Deutscher Freidenkerverband) and some Free-Religious parishes which left the BFGD. The DFW, the BFGD, and the HVD today are member organisations of the International Humanist and Ethic Union, IHEU, the German Unitarians are a member organisation of the International Association for Religious Freedom, iarf.
The tiny Berlin parish, now called the Freigeistige Gemeinschaft, in 1959 became an associate member of the Free-Religious community of Lower Saxony Freireligioese Landesgemeinschaft Niedersachsen which today goes under the name of the free Humanists of Lower Saxony Freie Humanisten Niedersachsen. Former members of the BFGD, they now cooperate with the HVD and were led for several decades by the old and neo-Nazi Dietrich Bronder, who succeeded Peter as secretary-general of the BFGD. In 1990 Bronder published his book "Bronders Weltpanorama" in which he owns to having joyfully participated as a Nazi youth in Hitler's bookburning Bücherverbrennung in Berlin in April 1933; and to having never believed in the "lies" of the Allies about Auschwitz after 1945. In 1993 the Berlin Freigeistige Gemeinschaft, which never had more than a handful of members since its second re-foundation in 1955, is involved in the foundation of the HVD and co-operates with it strongly, and secures a large budget for its future existence: property worth millions in East Berlin which is restored to the Free-Religious after German unification, and today is utilized by the HVD. A successful case of reparation for "national-socialist injustice" towards the Free-Religious, isn't it.
Nazi symbol on display - no comment
The screwed down book in the exhibition, "Wesen und Auftrag" is supposedly not to be touched because it is part of the official intellectual heritage of the HVD - yet its authors were Nazis. The symbols on its cover are fascist. The flame is known as the symbol of the Italian neo-fascists and of the French Front National; and the reversed swastika was designed by the Free-Religious leader Georg Pick in 1934 as the complement to the NSDAP swastika, an illustration of his opinion (published in 1937 in his book "Die Religion der freien Deutschen") that the Free-Religious was the only legitimate religion in a Nazi state. None of this is explained to visitors at the exhibition. Nor are they told anything about the authors of "Wesen und Auftrag": the racist Nazi Bonneß who wrote for Hauer's Deutscher Glaube; the old and neo-Nazi, Dietrich Bronder, who dismisses "Allies lies" about Auschwitz; the racist eugenic Gerhard von Frankenberg who in 1968 was still advocating Bergmann's line on the restriction of procreation by "anti-social elements" and child benefits for "valuable people"; and Georg Pick, one of the most radical Nazi theoreticians, who in his 1937 book on the religion of the "Free Germans" declared Adolf Hitler to be the God of the Free-Religious and the NS terror laws to be divine scripture.
Nazis in the visitors book
Some visitors of the exposition are already familiar with German history. In the visitors book Anke and Horst Prem wrote: "Very interesting. Thanks to the organisers, without whose efforts this history would all too soon be forgotten." Horst Prem was from 1977-89 president of the Nazi German Unitarians and lost several court cases to BIFFF..., including one in which the Berlin Chamber Court upheld BIFFF...'s claim that the German Unitarians are a Nazi camouflage organisation, because, according to a precedent set by the regional court in 1990 : "....significant positions (within the German Unitarians) were held until very recently by persons who actively promoted national-socialist philosophy". Professionally, Prem is in charge of the top-secret Research and Development Department of the DASA (formerly MBB Ottobrunn), part of the Daimler-Crysler concern and the most important German company in developing aerospace and military products. After BIFFF... had proposed to the German Federal Parliamentary Committee for Defence that a known leader of a Nazi organisation with links to European neo-fascism "should hardly" be supervising NATO's secret weapons development, Prem was put under pressure by his employers to give up his presidency of the German Unitarians. He nevertheless remained an employee of MBB/DASA! In his 1992 article for the neo-nazi journal unitarische blaetter (published and edited by former authors of Hauer's Deutscher Glaube until their biological end in the 80s), Prem described the former SS Officer Albert Hartl as a "leading light" of the German Unitarians. Hartl distinguished himself in the Heydrich Reichssicherheitshauptamt as the immediate boss of Adolf Eichmann; was in contact with the Vatican Bishop, Alois Hudal, who is considered to have helped Eichmann flee. Hartl claimed after 1945 that he was significantly responsible for the success of the Nazi euthanasia programme; and was a main ideologist and organiser of the German Unitarians. Such, then, are the visitors of the Prenzlauer Berg exhibition on the Free-Religious. All still as fixated with Heydrich and the SS as in the 30s.
To the icing on the cake - how the exhibition, with tax-payers money, promotes national-socialist literature - for youth education, too - more later. But first, let's look at the rest of the exhibition.
The exhibition deliberately throws together similar sounding names and concepts without expounding on the very real differences between them. The Free-Religious, 19th century bourgeois Freethinkers, proletarian Freethinkers of the 1920s, the current left-wing Deutscher Freidenkerverband and its splinter group in Berlin, created in 1958: all these are thrown in the same pot. In truth, nationalists and the left-wing have been fighting for years, also in court, also in Berlin. So why does the exhibition keep quiet about it?
The well known cartoonist and nationalist agitator, Fidus, is the only person acknowledged by the exhibition to have Nazi connections - and then in small print. Fidus is without doubt too well known as the most prolific graphic artist in the German Voelkische Bewegung to not be remarked upon. And yet, his NSDAP membership is quickly neutralised: after 1945 he produced drawings also for the SED of the GDR, the exposition underlines!
The exhibition lays claim to the socialist orientation of the Free-Religious. This can be partly explained by the fact that the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), outlawed by the 'Socialist Laws' in the 1870s and 1880s, then went underground in a number of camouflage organisations, including some - by no means not all - Free-Religious groups. Once the ban on socialists was lifted, very few socialists remained with the Free-Religious, who were anyway becoming rapidly more radically right-wing and voelkisch in their orientation. The exhibition jumbles these facts, reversing cause and effect, so that the Free-Religious emerges looking like a social-democratic organisation, rather than a nationalist-religious or, finally, a Nazi one since the middle of the 1920s. But this HVD myth is not tenable even for the Berlin parish, which was at times dominated by Social Democrats.
The nationalist and anti-democratic currents, which had been present from the beginning - for eg: in the Breslau parish of Johannes Ronge, whom the exhibition honours as the founder of the Free-Religious - are not mentioned by the exhibition, and nor are the racist theorists who greatly influenced "free-minded" ideologies of the Free-Religious and bourgeois Freethinkers from the end of the 19th century onwards. Yet it was precisely these currents which at the end of the Weimar Republic won the upper hand and led the Free-Religious into Nazism and Nazi crimes - not as victims, but as perpetrators.
Forerunners of Fascism from the Beginning
The development described above did not arise out of the blue. Ronge founded his Breslau parish in 1847 on concepts of state and society which were practically interchangable with the later fascist leader states, even though the role of Fuehrer was in his day still designated by the term monarch. Even the concept of "positives Christentum", which later appeared in the NSDAP programme, originated in Ronges parish and described the religious superstructure necessary for a corporate 'organic' state, which another founding father of the Free-Religious, Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck, intended to create. Nees counted amongst the closest associates of Ronge and was active in Berlin during the 1848 revolution: much is made in the exhibition of this revolution but nothing of Nees ideology. Concepts later propagated by the NSDAP - the smashing of interest slavery, the combination of capital and labour as the Deutsche Arbeitsfront, a nationalistic-community-"Socialism", etc. - stemmed from him, albeit in other words; as did also the struggle against a party democracy and against trade unions. The Berlin Staatsbibliothek can provide the details. In 1938 a cautiously-worded history of Deutschcatholicism (as the Free-Religious called themselves in their early days) in Silesia by Wolfgang Leesch appeared in Breslau ("Die Geschichte des Deutschkatholizismus in Schlesien"). By no means sporting national-socialist colours, and without a trace of the alleged ban or persecution of the Free-Religious: on the contrary, Leesch describes the Free-Religious as the forefathers of National-socialism, without too obviously adopting Nazi terminology. He cautiously opines that: "Only the developments of our day"... can pay "rightful tribute" to the achievements in theories of the state made by early Free-Religious. The HVD obviously feels that to mention this in 1998 might be untimely.
Deliberate Falsification of History
The Social-Darwinist Ernst Haeckel - who has been published by the leader of the Berlin Free-Religious parish, Adolph Hoffmann, and widely promoted, represented in the exhibition by his book "Die Weltraetsel" (The Riddle of the Universe) - is frequently mentioned in the exhibition. Nothing is said however about the fact that his ideas - and those of other Freethinking and Free-Religious racists - contributed enormously to the Nazi eugenics and euthanasia programmes, and hence to the crimes of Auschwitz; or about tributes paid to him in 1936-37 in Hauer's magazine Deutscher Glaube as a father of Nazi policies. Nothing. Another example: Max Maurenbrecher. Before 1914 an occasional member of the SPD, one of the minds amongst the bourgeois Freethinkers: thus is he portrayed, as one of the HVD's own. What the HVD also knows about him - that he was anti-Semitic and joined the Nazis in 1928 - is not mentioned.
One of the biggest revisionists of the HVD's history is its committee member, Horst Groschopp, cited as 'cultural-historical advisor' to the exhibition and the designer and editor of the exhibition catalogue. Groschopp is more than familiar with the literature which we have used here to present the true history of the Free-Religious. He even quoted from it in his book "Dissidenten" (Berlin 1997), admittedly sometimes only regurgitating encyclopaedic excerpts rather than working with original source material. His book in any case makes frequent mention of the Free-Religious racist connections - then shrugs them off as unimportant or understandable: racism, Nazism - yes, that was around: Zeitgeist, merely. Free-Religious culpability for Nazi crimes is not acknowledged. In the exhibition material, not even these veiled references are made. Free-Religious Nazi connections are deliberately and completely ignored. Nanko's dissertation is equally well known by the HVD, Nanko even writes for the HVD rag "Humanism Today" - albeit all non-committal stuff. His own insights into Free-Religious fascist traditions are nothing for the front page. So it is, that the school-classes who are dragged round the exhibition by their HVD Morality and Ethics teachers are by the end of it really in no position at all to ask critical questions about HVD traditions. Which seems to be the point of the whole exercise. Any further questions? Well, the recommended reading list should take care of those.
Morality and Ethics Lessons - "pure-blooded"?
It's worth noting here that 80 percent of the state-funded HVD Morality and Ethics Classes in Berlin public schools today are taught to primary school kids, two-thirds of them in former East Berlin.
The exhibition catalogue issued by the Prenzlauer Berg City District's Cultural Office doesn't mince its words, but leaves plenty unspoken. Carl Peter is named and claimed as one of the HVD's own, his writings are recommended for school-classes - but nothing is said of his Nazi past. The catalogue also claims the screwed down book "Wesen und Auftrag" as HVD philosophical heritage - children might once again gaze in awe upon the unexplained Nazi symbols - without making mention of the authors political backgrounds; or of Free-Religious aspirations in the 1950s for "German Faith faculties" at universities, as envisaged by Bergmann already in 1940. The catalogue also casually uses the term of "deutschglaeubig" (German Faith), but, like the exhibition, fails to explain that it stands for anti-Semitism and for the persecution of Christians and Jews. It mentions Arthur Drews, but not that he was in the Fuehrerrat of Hauer's "German Faith Movement". It also makes a formal (foot-)note of Nanko's dissertation, but keeps quiet about the Nazi and Free-Religious connections which it documents. The catalogue distorts the truth, just as the exhibition does.
The catalogue also falsely claims that the Cultural-Historical Archive of the HVD "is open to science and the general public". But enquirers there, or at the Archive of the BFGD, are turned away. Only members, (and dyed in the wool Neo-Nazis such as the Free-Religious author, Peter Bahn) can use the Archive. For obvious reasons.
The catalogue then blithely informs us that: "according to their own research, there is only one 'true' bibliography of Freethinkers": namely, the one compiled by Karl Becker, secretary-general of the Free-Religious in Wuerttemberg. The catalogue does not divulge the bibliography's contents.
Becker - who claimed that not Nazis, but Christians, were responsible for the war - called his book "The Free-Minded (or Freethinker) Bibliography: An Index of Free-Minded, Humanist and Critical-Religious Literature" ("Freigeistige Bibliographie"). It appeared in 1974 and is available for loan in both branches of the Berlin Staatsbibliothek. Its goal, says Becker in the foreword, is "to disseminate knowledge of Free-minded philosophy", and cites several hundred books, indiscriminately and without further comment, as sources of Freethinking philosophical heritage. In Chapter One, "Free-minded Philosophy", he makes several references to the authors Hauer, Georg Pick, to Hauer's "Freie Akademie" and the Deutscher Glaube-author Fritz Castagne (who in 1984 founded the extreme right-wing party Kieler Liste für Ausländerbegrenzung for the limitation of immigration); the co-publisher of Deutscher Glaube and SS Officer at the Thuringia SS office for "Race and Settlement" (Rasse- und Siedlungsamt der SS), Lothar Stengel-von Rutkowski; a colleague from the Department for Research on the Jewish Question at the State Institute for History of the New Germany of the 30s and 40s (Forschungsabteilung Judenfrage des Reichsinstituts für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands), Hans Grunsky, (whose books "against Jewish influences in our German spiritual life" were recommended in Deutscher Glaube in the 1930s); von Frankenberg, Maurenbrecher, Drews, Hartl, the German Unitarians, the co-editor of Deutscher Glaube and member of the Fuehrerrat of the "German Faith Movement", Gustav Frenssen; and, as a source for "lessons in Free Religion for the juvenile", Ludwig Fahrenkrog. - all without any further comment. Anyone ignorant of what HVD Morality and Ethics lessons are about can now get a pretty clear picture. Which primary school kid faced with Fahrenkrog's 1952 book, "On How To Act and Love Correctly: A Folk Book for Schools and the Home in Pictures, Parables, Tales and Fables" ("Vom rechten Tun und Lieben. Ein Volksbuch für Schule und Haus in Bildern, Geschichten, Fabeln und Parabeln") would be able to discern in it the mental programming which led to Auschwitz and which leads still to pogroms against foreigners in Germany.
War Criminal Rosenberg as a "Freethinker"
In the Chapter, "Religious Science", in this "unique Free-minded bibliography" Becker names the NSDAP's chief ideologist, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and the Nazi, Fritz Castagne, and creates a sub-chapter, "NS Philosophy and Criticism of the Church", in which he cites Rosenberg's "Myth", the writings of the "German Faith Movement", and books by the Ludendorff Sect (which was banned in Germany from 1961-74 because of its anti-Semitism) as serious "religious-scientific literature" in the "Humanist" tradition. Now the Nazis are in a position to defend themselves: It's all HVD literature, printed with the blessings of Prenzlauer Berg City District's Cultural Office.Peter Kratz, the head of BIFFF... e.V., commented on the affair: "The HVD is a case for the Secret Service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. People who claim Nazi literature as their cultural heritage have no right to be in schools.". It is true, however, that in the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, a HVD and former Free-Religious author holds office today: Armin Pfahl-Traughber, frequent contributor to the right-wing press as well as to today's BFGD and HVD press, who climbed the career ladder on the SPD ticket.
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zur Übersicht: Faschismus "religiös"