Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Holocaust perpetrated against the Jews have become our ultimate metaphor for evil. Therefore, raising the spectre of Nazism in any online debate is guaranteed to increase the heat involved in the discussion and to diminish any light! There is even a principle known as ‘Godwin’s Law’ which states that the longer a discussion continues, the more likely it becomes that someone will sooner or later make a comparison with Hitler or the Nazis (some people misunderstand Godwin’s Law as stating that if you mention Hitler at all in a debate then somehow you’ve lost the argument – but that is not the case).
In fact, when discussing subjects of ethics and morality, it sometimes is helpful to refer to the most extreme forms of wickedness we can imagine. So it would foolish to think that any references to the Nazis are somehow forbidden in discussions. Nevertheless, ‘playing the Hitler card’ is often used as a distraction to deflect attention when the facts are stacking up against your position in a debate.
So, is there any validity in this idea that the SS were so religious as to have God is with Us emblazoned on their belt buckles? Or is it simply a desperate attempt by atheist internet warriors to ‘play the Hitler Card’ in the face of a mountain of evidence that contradicts their claim about religion being the leading cause of war and conflict in the world?
Contrary to popular opinion, when we check the historical facts, we find that the belt buckles worn by members of the SS did not include these words at all.
Back in the Seventeenth Century, it was common practice for armies to adopt a field word. Since combatants wore a variety of mismatched uniforms, with colleagues and opponents frequently wearing the same coloured coats, soldiers needed a quick way to identify friend from foe in the heat of battle. Shouting out a field word, or password, stopped soldiers from the same side from fighting and killing each other (similar to the modern phenomenon of ‘friendly fire’). Obviously it helped morale if such field words were stirring calls to battle. For example, at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge (1644), in the English Civil War, the Royalists’ field word was ‘Hand and Sword!’
Gott Mit Uns (God is with Us) was originally used as a password by Swedish soldiers to identify each other in darkness during the decisive Battle of Breitenfeld (1631) during the Thirty Years War. Because that battle would long be remembered in Prussian military history, the slogan was already appearing on the belt buckles of the Wehrmacht – or German Army – long before Hitler and the Nazis came to power. However, the slogan did not appear on the belt buckles of the SS. The Nazis deliberately changed to the decidedly non-religious slogan of Mein Ehre Heißt Treue (My Honour Is Called Loyalty).[i] This slogan was taken from a letter of appreciation to the SS written by Adolf Hitler in 1931 after they remained loyal to him during a political upheaval[ii] and was incorporated into a belt buckle, designed by Hitler himself, which was part of the SS uniform until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.
Collectors of military memorabilia know that any purported SS belt buckle for sale on the internet that bears the Gott Mit Uns slogan is an obvious fake.
The new atheist attempt to play the Hitler card by quoting fake SS belt buckles is both an act of desperation and a cynical repetition of an urban legend.
[i] Garson, Paul. New Images of Nazi Germany: A Photographic Collection. Jefferson: McFarland & Co, 2012. 289.
[ii] Mües-Baron, Klaus. Heinrich Himmler: Aufstieg des Reichsführers SS (1910-1933). Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2011. 453.
The above free sample is from Nick Park’s latest book, “Myths, Lies & Howlers from the Fringes of the New Atheism” – published by Evangelical Alliance Ireland. It is a resource for all believers, but especially young people, to recognise and understand some of the most common untruths that are used to attack the faith of Christians via internet and social media.
The paperback version is available for €6 (including postage & packing) from nickpark.ie
However, we want to make this resource available to as many young people as possible, so churches can order 10 or more copies at the special discounted price of €2.50 per copy (delivery costs extra, or can be collected from Dublin or Drogheda). Email email@example.com for more details