Dr Samuel Koehne‘s recent article in the Journal of Contemporary History, “Religion in the Early Nazi Milieu: Towards a Greater Understanding of ‘Racist Culture’” continues to maintain a strong presence and is currently the sixth most-read article online.
In recent years there has been a renaissance of studies into the diverse relationships between National Socialism and esoteric or occult religious trends, which appears to form a remarkable return to the work of George L Mosse. Yet within these debates there has been surprisingly little space devoted to the question of what specifically ‘counted’ as religion in the early Nazi milieu. This article seeks to address this problem through a detailed study of the views on religion in one of the major antisemitic groups in the 1920s, the German Socialist Party, which had a number of significant connections to the NSDAP. The German Socialist debates on religion have remained largely unexamined, and this article analyses the group’s response to the Nazis’ 25 Point Programme, the German Socialists’ own debates about religion, and their views on the most important völkisch authors who were seeking a ‘religious revival’. It demonstrates that views on religion in the early Nazi milieu were extremely diverse, but commonly adhered to notions of race and a racial spirituality that amounted to a kind of ‘ethnotheism’. It argues that concepts of religion in völkisch groups at the time, including the NSDAP, have to be principally understood as part of a particular and extreme ‘racist culture’.