I had mentioned in my Holocaust blog post that I wanted to blog about a really bizarre and sort of horrific thing I saw at the museum in the Propaganda Exhibit. That thing? Here it is:
You might look at this and be like, well, it's horrific because Hitler's in it, and you're putting it on your blog, and that's pretty horrific. But the reality of it is that this painting has a name, and that name is "In the Beginning There Was the Word." Anyone who knows their Christian Bible will recognize this phrase from John 1:1. There are a million paintings of Jesus out there in which he's emanating light, where he is, in fact, the only light in a room of people listening to him speak. Take this one, for example, by Rembrandt, called "Jesus Among his Students."
The crappy thing about that first photo, the image of the Hitler painting, is that you don't really get the full effect of the painting. In person, the thing is huge, wall-size. The room is black, save the light issuing from perfect angles from Hitler's face to those around him.
The shocking/disgusting thing about this portrayal of Hitler, in my mind, is that it's incredibly messianic. Hitler as Jesus, Hitler as the savior of the German people. The Nazis found religion pretty repugnant, despite forcing religious leaders to swear allegiance and all. In fact, in the Nazi's plans for a new, worldwide capital, there wasn't a single church in the building plans. What does that say? It says that the Nazis devalued religion, period.
So why portray Hitler as the messiah? Why depict him as the shining light of German redemption? Aside from the basic reason that for the Nazis and their masters of propaganda Hitler was Germany's only future in crawling out of economic turmoil and the disgrace of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles. But it goes deeper than that. The propaganda artists knew, very well, that they had to play to every last member of the German audience, no matter what they did or didn't believe.
The propaganda machine started small, with basic messages like "Buy War Bonds" and "Bread and Water." The machine really got in motion as it started to change its image, depicting the German as breaking his bonds from the Treaty of Versailles and standing firm in Nationalistic, German values. Still later, and almost in slow-motion ramping up to blunt-force came the blaming of Germany's woes on Jews. Then you had things like this that, well, don't hide their message.
I am fully intrigued and disgusted by Hitler as messiah, however. I'm interested in other depictions of Hitler as messiah, in fact. I'm interested in what the Church thought of those images, too. A simple Amazon book search of "Hitler messiah" produces a bounty of interesting books, including some that cite the Swastika as the new cross -- a new cross for a new messiah.
What do you guys think? Does anyone have experience with this Hitler/Messiah theme? Again, I am horrified/disgusted. Hitler, for all intents and purposes, antagonized Modern Christianity. In Hitler's mind, Christianity was meant to be entrenched in its ancient, almost pagan rituals and understandings.
But seriously. A mushroom?
(Note: As I'm preparing to PUBLISH this, two guys sit down next to me at Starbucks and start discussing Hitler and his secret liquor stash. Weird.)