No, William Shirer and Hitler have not really addressed current political issues, because (of course) both are dead. And no, I’m most certainly not comparing Obama or anyone in his administration to Hitler. But yes, they both did in the past offer advice about direct government attacks on the Catholic Church, and Obama would be wise to heed that advice.
Now that it’s available in sleek Kindle form, so that I no longer have to lug around a 1,200 page book, I’m finally reading William Shirer’s masterful The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. As I just started reading it yesterday, I’ve only gotten as far as Hitler’s 1909-1913 sojourn in Vienna, the time during which he formulated his philosophies, both racial and political. Vienna, the capital of a rapidly disintegrating polyglot nation that saw the Germanic minority holding political power over the Slavs, allowed Hitler to witness the rise and fall of several political movements, and to draw his own conclusions about what contributed to their success or failure.
Hitler was a man of unparalleled evil. He was also an exceptionally astute observer of human nature and politics, who put his insights into the service of his evil agenda. That the agenda was wrong does not mean that the insights lack validity. One of the insights that Shirer points out would not have struck me so strongly had it not been for the events of the past week. Georg Ritter von Schoenerer’s Pan-German Nationalist Party was one of the political movements that did not succeed during Hitler’s Vienna years, but that certainly gave him food for thought. I’ll now cede the floor to quotations from Shirer and Hitler (at location 640 of 35703, emphasis mine):
The Pan-Germans at that time were engaged in a last-ditch struggle for German supremacy in the multinational empire. And though Hitler thought that Schoenerer was a “profound thinker” and enthusiastically embraced his basic program of violent nationalism, anti-Semitism, anti-socialism, union with Germany and opposition to the Hapsburgs and the Holy See, he quickly sized up the causes for the party’s failure:
This movement’s inadequate appreciation of the importance of the social problem cost it the truly militant mass of the people; its entry into Parliament took away its might impetus and burdened it with all the weaknesses peculiar to this institution; the struggle against the Catholic Church . . . robbed it of countless of the best elements that the nation can call its own.
Though Hitler was to forget it when he came to power in Germany, one of the lessons of his Vienna years which he stresses at great length in Mein Kampf is the futility of a political party’s trying to oppose the churches. “Regardless of how much room for criticism there was in any religious denomination,” he says, in explaining why Schoenerer’s Los-vonRom (Away from Rome) movement was a tactical error, “a political party must never for a moment lose sight of the fact that in all previous historical experience a purely political party has never succeeded in producing a religious reformation.”
The Catholic Church has changed because it wanted to. In the last 50 or 60 years, it has changed, at least at the grass-roots level, because Leftists have infiltrated it. But the Catholic Church does not change when a political movement attacks it from the front, which is what the Leftists in America have suddenly decided to do.
Incidentally, I’m not the only one seeing that, without in any way calling today’s Leftist’s Nazis, all of us can learn by examining the mistakes of the past.