Was Hitler Catholic?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I had a very interesting conversation with a Jehovah's Witness who came to my door the other day. She claimed Hitler was Catholic. She stated it could be proved by the “fact” of his excommunication in 1965! I explained to her that excommunication after death is a moot point, and I wanted to see her sources, which she could not supply. However, the thought interests me. I know thousands, if not millions, of Catholics died in concentration camps due to Hitler's hatred, but was he ever a member of any religious group?

God bless,

Julie Burnside

Dear Ms. Burnside,

Peace in Christ! I hope this response will adequately address your question.

It is true Hitler was born to Catholic parents. His father was reported to be lukewarm in his faith, but his mother was very devout. Adolf Hitler was confirmed in 1904, but did not often attend Mass. The question is not whether Hitler was a Catholic, but whether he practiced the Catholic faith and if his lifestyle accurately represented Catholicism. Clearly, the answer to that question is “no.”

Hitler was not a faithful son of the Church, docile to her teaching, but rather looked at the Church in a way that served his own ends. For example, in his Mein Kampf, he makes reference to the Catholic Church, because he perceived the Church to be a blueprint for the totalitarian state he wished to create. It is absurd to construe Hitler’s political delusions as an indictment against the Church.

Hitler’s Nazism was fully contrary to the Church. When this was recognized and condemned by the bishops in Germany, Hitler’s response to the bishops was to send all the Jewish Catholics he could find to the death camps. This move of Hitler claimed the lives of hundreds, including St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a.k.a., Edith Stein.

Further, in spite of the denials of some, it is well known and thoroughly documented that Pope Pius XII was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews.

The Jehovah’s Witness who came to your door claiming that the [alleged] excommunication of Hitler proves he was a Catholic should consider a few lines of thought: (1) It is no historical secret that Hitler was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. Anyone who is at all familiar with the history of Adolf Hitler knows this. An alleged excommunication after his death (which, as you noted, does not happen) is not needed to “prove” he was Catholic. The real question is whether Hitler persevered in the faith of his baptism or turned from it. The historical record clearly shows that Hitler, in both word and deed, repudiated the faith of his baptism, so Hitler’s “Catholicism” is a non-issue. (2) An organization is not judged by the most evil of its members. Even Jesus had Judas. One may suspect that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have had their own share of leaders with moral failures. They would not, however, wish that their faith be judged as false on the basis of these fallen leaders. (3) To point out the obvious: a person is excommunicated from the Catholic Church precisely because he does not represent the Church or her teachings in thought, word, or deed. It would seem that on this point (i.e., Hitler was a bad guy) the Catholic Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses agree.

I hope this answers your question. If you have further questions on this or would like more information about Catholics United for the Faith, please contact us at 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484). Please keep us in your prayers as we endeavor to “support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.”

United in the Faith,

David E. Utsler

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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  • Electra

    I think that says it all: Hitler based his Nazi regime on the church. The Spanish inquisition springs to mind: rounding up pagans and burning them.

  • Guest

    That’s a very uneducated response. Here’s why you’re so laughably wrong. http://catholiceducation.org/articles/history/world/wh0075.html

  • Tony

    This reply is a complete lie. Pope Pius XII never condemned Hitler, and certainly the fact he saved many Jews, doesn’t justify he did nothing to save the rest of them, and the homosexuals and rom people being exterminated by the Nazis. The german troops had a buckle belt with the inscription “Gott mit Uns” (God is with us). pope benedictus was a member of Nazi Youth, and simply googling it you can see his photos. Hitler was never excomunicated by the church. Neither did another Nazi from actions betweek 1933-45.

  • Geekus Villagius

    “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will
    of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am
    fighting for the work of the Lord.” -Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

  • I don’t know where this information comes from, but Jehovah’s Witnesses know Hitler was never excommunicated from the Catholic church, even when an appeal was made to Pius XII. Perhaps the person they spoke with was unfamiliar with Hitler and his history, but in all my research on Hitler, never once does it mention he was excommunicated. As a matter of fact, one article points out “the popes have consistently refused to excommunicate the worst of war criminals, even when fellow Catholics have appealed for such action to be taken.” I just wanted to make it clear that there was never any reference that Hitler was removed from Catholicism.

  • catholicexchange


    You misunderstand excommunication–it is not something that is meant to be used as a formal punishment for crimes, but as a way to publicly exclude someone from participating in Church life, which Hitler was never doing, anyway. Besides, since excommunication means “removal from the community,” it should go without saying that when one orders the murder of millions of people, he in effect excommunicates himself–it isn’t something that canon law requires should be expressed in a formal gesture.

    As for Pope Pius, it is historically factual that Pope Pius XII did condemn Nazism and all that Hitler was doing. Hitler responding by slaughtering more people–Pope Pius was more careful in his subsequent anti-Nazi strategies. It is also true that no one person during WWII is responsible for rescuing more Jews than Pope Pius XII.

  • grevyturty

    No, his nazism was not contrary to the church, my historically illiterate friend. It was supported by the catholic church and the pope. Way to try to rewrite history though! Stay classy.