Nazis and Mormons

By: Jake
January 5, 2012

Mormons and Mein Kampf Having explored some of the similarities between Animal Farm and Mormonism this post shall continue in the same vein and compare Mormonism to the Nazi Party. The genesis of this comparison came from a friend who sent me a copy of Deseret News on the 9th of December 1933 when a article titled ‘Mormonism in the new Germany’ appeared. The report states that “a number of interesting parallels can be seen between the church and some of the ideas and policies of the National Socialists.” It has also been treated recently in a blog post that I found researching more on the article. Here I hope to explore some of these parallels made in this article and in response to the blog post.

The relationship between the National Socialists (or Nazi party) and the church has always been problematic. In many ways, the difficulties relate to how a global church integrates itself into a diverse political spectrum throughout the world, dealing with the tension between local government (that may be totalitarian in some areas) and living the global gospel.  This article shows the difficulty in linking politics and religion, and the dangers that may arise from any such attempt.

National Socialism and the Church

Dale Clark points out that in Nazi Germany many religions were banned from practising their faith. Under the Nazis, Mormons were exempt from this restriction.  He suggests that religious freedom is a privilege reserved only for Mormons. It’s okay for others to be banned as long as we aren’t.


Secondly, he links Hitler’s adherence to the word of wisdom as a symptom of his exemplary nature.  Clark then extolls Hitler’s prowess and physical fitness as examples of his success as a leader when he says that the “ two colourful leaders of the new Germany, in their gigantic struggle for political supremacy have needed capable bodies and clear brains and have trained like athletes.”

According to Clark, it was the word of wisdom that gave them such clear brains and bodies to orchestrate the rise of Nazism.  We often use successes as evidence to bolster our religious claims; the rise in prosperity and the improvement of Germany was linked as evidence of the greatness of universal gospel principles.

In both the Deseret news article and an article in the Millenial Star they mention the introduction of a day in which Germans fasted and donated their money to a good cause. As the Millenial Star said:

‘It is indeed singular that a comparison of the details of the two systems of organized fasting shows them to be so nearly identical. Perhaps that part of the message of the Restored Gospel may have been directly or indirectly the inspiration and the model for the new scheme adopted by the German Government—perhaps not. But evident, at least, is the fact that consciously or unconsciously, the people of the world are discovering that the Lord’s way is best. The leaven of the Gospel is spreading.’


It is uncomfortable to hear Mormons talk of Hitler and Nazi Germany in such glowing terms. One blog post theorised: “I wonder if the Nazis controlled or edited what Clark submitted from Germany. The alternative is even worse to comprehend.” It is almost absurd to think that the German Government (propaganda machine or not) was too concerned about what a provincial newspaper in western America was going to publicise about it. To understand why he would think that Hitler was good is more important and gives us an understanding of why we should be cautious in how we attempt to bridge politics and religion. It is easy to condemn people from the past for their ignorance.  It was not evident at the time that Hitler was a monster, and we should not comdemn Dale Clark for not predicting this just because we have the benefit of hindsight.

Interestingly, at that time, America advocated of the very same policies that were being implemented by the Nazi party, as the first country to implement a large scale eugenic programme. As a leading eugenist said to his colleagues upon returning to California after a visit to Germany:

“You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought.”

The American influence made what Hitler was doing more palatable to people such as Clark.  The Aryan ideal of a white, blonde haired, and blue eyed male was one that was cultivated by Californian eugenicists decades before Hitler. It should also be remembered that the writer of this article certainly isn’t alone in his support of Hitler as many companies were working with the Nazi Party, the notable examples being Coca Cola, IBM and Ford.

Nazis and Missionary Work

In an interesting study of the Missionaries reaction to Nazi germany  we find that while some were critical of Hitler, many were not. As one of the missionaries recalled:

“When we came home [from our missions], we loved the German people. We didn’t see anything wrong with what they were doing. We liked Hitler. We would just eat up articles where some of his news people were showing how the pioneers were organized into groups. They were tying our LDS history into kicking the Germans out of their colonies in Africa. We used it for material to disseminate the gospel.”

Another attempt to use Nazism for missionary work was seen in the increased access to genealogical documents in Germany. As Dale Clark points out “Now, due to the importance given to the racial question, and the almost necessity of proving that one’s grandmother was not a Jewess, the old record books have been dusted off and stand ready and waiting for use.”  He frames this as a perfect opportunity for LDS genealogists to get access to the records!  Looking back it seems morally suspect to use this for our religious advantage, and again highlights the difficulty in linking political policy with God’s plan for redeeming the dead which the article implicitly does.

Politics and religion: never shall the two meet

Clearly the reporter and the missionaries who made these comments were unaware of the significance of Hitler’s rise to power or the events that they rejoiced in and saw as a benefit to the church.  To us it seems remarkable that the burning of books or mistreatment of Jews or eugenics were not obvious signs that something wrong was happening in Germany.

There is a danger that in looking to the past, we may exaggerate the significance of a piece of evidence. This article cannot be assumed to be representative of the church at the time. We generally do not take every article, even if published by Deseret News, as representing the church’s official stance. This article is simply a wonderful demonstration of the reason care should be used when trying to legitimise political actions by linking them to religious aims.

As the rise and fall of Nazi Germany shows, the popularity of political parties is never stable. Now that Hitler has been exposed as a genocidal dictator the willingness of some to link his actions with gospel principles casts the church in a poor light. This should remind us to be cautious when tying any political system, act or policy in with religious principles. When the political wind changes, we can be left in the awkward position of looking like we supported a now outdated and flawed system.

We often seek to legitimise our own political stance through a religious lens. The anti-communist rhetoric that was thrown around by church leaders during the 1960’s and 70’s is evidence of this.  It was not enough that communism was seen as a flawed political ideology; it had to be perceived as a satanic doctrine that was antithetical to the tenets of the gospel.  However, another reading of the gospel could come down in favour of a communal system as the divinely ordained system. The link between communism (or any political system) and satanic attacks on agency (or any religious principle) depends upon a specific interpretation of both the gospel and a very specific political ideology. If one thinks differently about either the gospel or has a differently nuanced political ideology, the bridge between them starts to crumble. This is a cautionary tale about attaching political leaders, parties, policies and systems to any religious principle. We will always run the risk of it coming back to haunt us.


  • What relationship do you think should be between politics and religion?
  • Is the relationship between the church and the Nazi party problematic? Why?
  • Can religion be used to justify and legitimise what political views we hold?


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28 Responses to Nazis and Mormons

  1. Douglas on January 5, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    It’s EZ to criticize in hindsight. In 1933, not only had the Nazis not fully consolidated their power, most outsiders and even the majority of Germans didn’t see the Nazis for what they would prove to be. In fact, there were even prominent Jews that considered “Herr Hitler” a MODERATE and felt that surely he’d curb the excesses of the Nazi7 “zealots”. No surprise that some LDS were duped.

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  2. well on January 5, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    why didnt a prophet seer or revelator see this coming and try and fight it?

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  3. Steve on January 5, 2012 at 6:14 PM


    By 1933 it was clear that Hitler was a vicious anti-Semite. Spend 15 minutes reading Mein Kampf.

    This was simply not defensible. It was embarrassing and rather despicable.

    It got worse. Read up on Hubert Hubener, an LDS youth who opposed Hitler and distributed leaflets. He was excommunicated for his opposition and executed by the Nazis.

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  4. John Mansfield on January 5, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    When do we get a comparison with Khmer Rouge?

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  5. Course Correction on January 5, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    There’s an old saying that mixing politics and religion is like mixing manure and ice cream. It doesn’t hurt the manure, but sure makes a mess of the ice cream.

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  6. Bob on January 5, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    #5:Course Correction;
    Soo…which is the manure?

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  7. hawkgrrrl on January 5, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Personally I believe that people’s political convictions are stronger than their religious ones and that most people have a very hard time distinguishing the two. When people see religion through their political filter, we get crap like this. If people held moral convictions that were politically neutral, the world would be very different indeed.

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  8. Stan Beale on January 6, 2012 at 2:53 AM


    As appalling as it may sound, the majority of Americans were ignorant about much of what went on in Germany before 1938.

    1. The Depresson and Isolationism dominated American thought, Not what was happening in Europe.

    2. The major source of newsreels, Fox Movietone News, had a subsidiary that made films for Hitler in 1932. It was not until Kristallnacht in October of 1938 did American moviegoers ever see anything shocking.

    3. It was not until 1938 did Americans have a decent English excerpt of Mein Kampf (compiled by Alan Cranston, a future Senator from Californis). Houghton Mifflin had produced an earlier version, but left out most of the anti-semitism and militarism.

    4. It wasn’t until 1938 that CBS radio and Edward R. Murrow hired William L. Shirer to broadcast from Berlin did American listeners get to hear what was going on (NBC had a correspondent there earlier, but he didn’t cause much of a stir).

    5. William Randoph Hearst (and thus his media empire) wrote favorable things about Hitler and some German policies. Again it was Kristallnacht that caused a change. After that 1938 event he became very anti Nazi.

    As much as I would like to say that Kristallnach changed America, it did not. Only the excuse of ignorance was gone. Two simple chilling examples exist-the voyage of the Saint Louis and doing business with Nazi.s.

    In 1939 a liner of 930 plus Jewish refugees from Germany was denied the ability to land in the U.S. it was forced to return to Europe. 258 died in the Holocaust.

    Americans were quite happy to continue doing business with the Nazis. Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of two Presidents as well as Democratic Governor Averill Harriman
    of New York were prime examples of this “coziness.”

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  9. Jon on January 6, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    Considering the scriptures our highly political I don’t know how you could separate the two, unless you don’t believe the words in the scriptures. Just read D&C 98, among a plethora of scriptures.

    I think the problem is connecting yourself with a party or ideology without keeping an open and critical mind. Just look at the two major parties today, they are virtually identical (e.g., Obama and Romney are pretty much the same, just belong to different parties). Yet people refuse to acknowledge the similarities because they refuse to see that their red or blue team are the same, for truly, it is but a sport for them where there are no defining principles in their political thought.

    If people did give credence to scripture and looked to principles and truth with an open and critical mind they would truly find that what Christ teaches, to love one another, is not only practical but ideal in all aspects of our lives.

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  10. jacobhalford on January 6, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    Steve, I don’t believe that it was obvious to any one that Hitler was an evil dictator in 1933. Perhaps, if they had read Mein Kampf then they would have known, but can you really expect the average american in 1933 to have read an obscure book, in German by their president?

    Jon the scriptures are political because when they have been translated they have had the political and social worlds of the translators imposed upon them through choice in words, they are also written with the politics of their times woven. Yes they are political in that it treats things that are embedded in politics, but it does not have a systematic political system that it advocates. The point is the scriptures do not tell us which political system we should vote for or support today. The Book of Mormon advocates both a monarchy and a republic. I don’t think you get more contradictory then that.

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  11. Steve on January 6, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    I’m going to vehemently disagree with the idea that Hitler and Nazis were somehow unknown.

    First, Hitler had attempted a coup in 1923 and was convicted of treason.

    Second, the Nazi party was organized around the concept of Anti-Semitism. It wasn’t a side issue — it was one of the two primary organizing concepts.

    Third, the Nazi party had been repeatedly banned in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany (at both the national and state level) because of its violent tendencies and racism.

    Fourth, the SA — the foot soldiers of the Nazis — repeatedly killed and beat people in Germany (1920s, 1930s) with a particular emphasis on Jews.

    Fifth, the Nazis came to power on an anti-Jewish platform coupled with violence.

    Here’s the wikipedia article:'s_rise_to_power

    The bottom line is that anyone who thought in 1933 that Hitler was a positive force was someone that choose to overlook his background and believes, not some kind of dupe.

    I’m shocked that folks would try to rewrite the history.

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  12. Steve on January 6, 2012 at 8:28 AM


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  13. Jon on January 6, 2012 at 9:54 AM


    Like I said, if you don’t believe the words in the scriptures then they are not political. But if you actually believe them to be inspired and the words of God then they are very political and there is definitely a strong bias towards a system of God’s law.

    The BoM does not advocate for the king as the best system, it only says that a king would be good if you knew that all the kings would be good, which is never. Read Mosiah 29, the scripture I mentioned before, which wasn’t translated. Although, I agree that a “political” system isn’t advocated for, if you read the scriptures carefully they definitely tell you what the ideal is.

    Of course, you don’t need scripture to tell you what is right and wrong, you only need the spirit of God and logic and reasoning can get you there, if your axioms are correct, the scriptures give you a head start though.

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  14. Cowboy on January 6, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    From a standpoint of organizational integrity, I agree with Jake that the Church and its members would be wise to not try and infuse religion and politics together. Still, I say this not on the basis theology, rather just best practices from a business standpoint. The Church however claims to be led by Prophets, and supposedly represents the unchanging gospel. If that is true, then theoretically there should be no problem with the Church taking official stands on political issues, so long as those stands represent the mind and will of God. This Nazi issue isn’t a good example, because as Jake notes, this Deseret News article does not represent anything other than the opinion of an obscure Dnews writer. Still, we have our own examples of prejudice with regards to the Priesthood ban, or the even more aggressive treatment towards excommunicated “anti-Mormons” during the Nauvoo and Missouri periods. Even the Utah period has some debatable marks in history. None of this compares to the Holocaust, mind you, but it does represent attitudes that translated into subtle manifestations of political activism. Benson, as I recall reading from his Grandson, was quite opposed to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, going so far as to label King a pawn of the Communist agenda.

    The point is, if these men are truly listening to the whisperings of the spirit, then who cares if the popular opinion swings out their favor? Truth is truth, and Mormons shouldn’t be affraid to defend it. There should be nothing wrong with political activism from the Church if the Church is directing that activity from the inspiration of God. In other words, proposition 8. Overall, I would say that the Church has sort of taken it’s beating for its involvement there. Still, if it is right, then it is right. Same thing in its support of Evergreen International, etc. To some degree this is best in my opinion because it allows the Church to stand for something which we can evaluate. The quality control solution proposed by this article is good for keeping the Church out of hot water, which is good for prolonging its existence. Still, this simply creates an ambiguously sterile Church with little to offer, and yet nothing much to evaluate. Little doubt this is why so much of what goes into to critiquing Mormonism is relegated to early stages of it’s history, as this provides a richer collection of things to consider. We have little to observe in the contemporary Church, which is part of why we get so excited about shopping malls.

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  15. Master Blaster on January 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Enzio Busche in his biography makes the best explanation I’ve ever heard on how the Nazis were able to dupe the German people as a whole. They really did clean things up in Germany and brought prosperity to the common man. Germany was a real mess before they came in.

    It was until towards the end of WWII did people start to realize they had been duped. They did not have freedom of the press in Nazi Germany, all their news was from one source–the government. Therefore it was easy to craft an ideal image to the German people.

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  16. Jon on January 6, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    “all their news was from one source–the government.”

    Reminds me of some place I know, oh yeah, that’s right, the mainstream news media. If you say something negative about the government that isn’t approved you are blacklisted from government news conferences and bulletins pretty much are not hirable by any large news organization because of that. Interesting way to control the media if you ask me.

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  17. Jon on January 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    PS on the last post.

    After finding that out it made the war rally against Iraq much more understandable since no major news organization put up any true fight against the war until after it was started.

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  18. Jake on January 6, 2012 at 5:05 PM


    I agree with you completely on the basis of the evidence that you presented then it is glaringly obvious that Hitler was a dangerous person. But not everyone knew that. I think you assume everyone in the past read the news of the world and were intimate in the politic world of Germany.

    What my suggestion is that we can be guilty of judging the people of the past with the knowledge we have of the present. The article you link to is the product of 1,000′s of historians who have devoted their lives to studying world war 2 and the rise of Hitler. It is the product of millions of hours of research. The average person in 1933 did not have access to this resource as you and I do, and we can’t condemn them for that and the ignorance that came from not having hindsight and millions of scholarly hours of research. This is not rewriting history but being sympathetic to the past.

    Beyond that general historiographical point. I think two further points could be raised. One, Hitler was a master in propaganda and representation. His brilliance was the fact that he presented himself in way that everyone could relate to and believe in. This skill in many ways caused people to overlook or not notice some of the less salient points of his ideology.

    Secondly, we must remember that Hitler wasn’t the only anti-Semitic country. In many countries there was a general milieu of anti-semitism there, in America, Britain, France and other countries (I think even Winston Churchill at one point has said some anti-Semitic comments). The difference was the degree to which he took this, but again, this was not publicised but it happend secretly and was not general knowledge.

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  19. Bob on January 6, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    #18: Jake,
    I have to agree with Steve(#11).
    Hitler’s aims were well known by 1933. But I think the world felt he would be the great communist killer.
    But also, to put all evil on the back of man (Hitler), is a cop-out. He had a lot of help.

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  20. Steve on January 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Jake –

    Hitler’s anti-semitism was not a hidden or secret thing. It was the defining element and him and the Nazis — from the 1920s on.

    The original Deseret News article doesn’t stand for the proposition that people of the time didn’t understand Hitler. Rather, they knew his awfulness but disregarded it because he was bringing order to Germany, prosperity and could stand up to the Soviets.

    It is was a willingness to overlook evil because it lined up with people’s desires.

    I reacted so strongly because when these issues are raised folks retreat to this idea that people at the time were fooled by Hitler. They weren’t. They deliberately choose to overlook the dark side.

    The German people knew what they were getting with Hitler. They just didn’t care.

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  21. Jon on January 7, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    But wasn’t antisemitism more pervasive throughout the whole society back then just like racism was? So would people even cared if Hitler was one of those people when there were so many others with similar ideas.

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  22. Steve on January 8, 2012 at 6:59 AM


    Anti-semitism in terms of suspicion of Jews and discrimination was widespread (In the US, for instance, Henry Ford was an anti-semite). But, Hitler and the Nazis took it to a higher level.

    Here is a BBC timeline of Nazi activities. Notice how much had occurred before the article above was written in December of 1933:

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  23. Jon on January 8, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    I just have a hard time condemning the people back then, because it is hard to know everything. Also, the US is perpetrating untold atrocities across the whole world for the last 60 years or so. Not only that but the US is attacking its own people, especially the poor, just for smoking an herb. I think in the future we will abhor such behavior and look at it as uncivilized kidnapping children’s fathers and keeping them locked up for who knows how long. Raiding people’s houses in the middle of the night in military garb, when it could be easily done during the day, peacefully instead.

    Really, until we see the beam in our own eye how will ever be able to help the person with a mote in theirs? It would be interesting to see which body count would be hirer, granted, the US one would be more difficult to come by since you would probably want to include unintended consequences, like putting Saddam in power.

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  24. FireTag on January 9, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    One thing I haven’t seen noticed in this post is the large left-right split in American politics during the 1930′s and how this played into people’s unwillingness IN AMERICA to acknowledge what was going on in Europe.

    German-Americans were a large, not entirely assimilated, ethnic group in the 30′s. There were major Nazi meetings in the US, including in Madison Square Garden. AMERICANS didn’t want to acknowledge there could be vicious elements in their ethnic heritage then, any more than today’s non-assimilated ethnic groups want to acknowledge vicious elements in their homelands. We just have different groups being assimilated today.

    Another point is that there was also a large group of leftists in the US in the 1930′s just as busy excusing Communist totalitarianism (and post-Czarist genocides) as German totalitarianism. We were generally even more ignorant about what was happening in the USSR than in Berlin.

    Indeed, once we became allies with Russia because of the war between Germany and Western Europe, a lot of that 1930′s reality was shoved under the rug and out of our conscious debate.

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  25. Douglas on January 10, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    Steve – I’ll endeavour to not repeat the arguments that others already posted rebutting your assertion that (1) the course that Hitler would take Germany when he was stumping for political power and had gained it by 1933 would end up the way it did was obvious, and (2) that it was even the duty of AMERICANS to interest themselves, and that there was much interest, period. Hindsight does tend to be better than 20/20, doesn’t it?
    Anti-Semitism being THE “defining” characteristic of Nazism? Hardly! Just the most publicised (for it’s notorious results, obviously!). The terrible truth is that the Nazis weren’t unique at all in their anti-Semitic fervour. It was Von Hindenburg (the Reich President when Hitler was made Chancellor in Jan 1933, halfway senile but still feared enough that the Nazis could not consider themselves fully situated until the old boy passed on in Aug 1934) who publicly complained that the “J-O-O-s” (or whatever slang expression was used amongst Germans) had “stabbed Germany in the back” to bring about defeat in the “Great War”. Also, Jews were considered by not only Germans but most Europeans to be behind the grand “Bolshevik” conspiracy (true that Jews figured prominently in the Soviet leadership, but also true that many Jews in Europe had fled the Soviet Union and were stridently anti-communist, like Golda Meier, many of these Zionists would be the initial leaders of Israel). But why SHOULD Americans in general, or US LDS, have “cared” in particular? The mood at the time was strict isolationism in America, to let Europe sort out the mess that it was making for itself, and stay out of it! Considering that our involvement did little or NOTHING to save Jewish lives (those that survived the Holocaust did so because the Nazis needed their slave labor), and Eastern Europe suffered under Communism for 45 years following “Dubya-Dubya-Two, Da Big One”, might we have not saved 295,000 American dead and 630,000 wounded (many permanently maimed) in the ETO, let alone billions upon billions of dollars and man-hours if we’d remained neutral and let the Nazis and the Commies batter each other to a fare-thee-well?
    Finally, was not the best caring that we sent missionaries to Germany even when the Nazis were in power? At least it set the seeds for what the Church has built thus far in Germany, including having a Deutsch-Mann in the First Presidency!

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  26. Steve on January 14, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Douglas –

    This post started with LDS members embracing Hitler. That was wrong from the start. Period.

    Diminishing the Nazis particular brand of antisemitism was particularly odious from the beginning. Trying to somehow water it down by claiming that lots of folks were anti-Jewish really downplays the unique evil associated with Hitler.

    Now you are trying turn to Ron Paul’s thesis that the U.S. and the World would have been better off if the we had stayed out of the fight.

    Do you honestly believe that the USSR would have defeated Germany — alone? That kind of revisionism misses the vital importance of the two-front war, including the heavy US/British bombing campaign, the invasions of Italy and France, etc.

    Moreover, the USSR was immeasurably strengthened by the Lend-Lease shipments.

    U.S. intervention was critical. Claiming otherwise is simply flawed.

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  27. Jon on January 14, 2012 at 1:34 PM


    Many prominent people in the church back then also thought we shouldn’t have gone into WWII. We should have stayed out. If we would have stayed out of WWI, the WWII would have never happened. There are many people today besides Ron Paul that believe we should stayed out too. For truly the scripture that says to renounce war was true back then and true today, we should stop renouncing war with our lips only but also with our actions, oh wait, believing WWII is the good war doesn’t even do it with our lips.

    Steve, sometime you should read the real history of the world and not the revisionist false history taught in government schools that put men on pedestals that were nothing less the war mongers and criminals like Lincoln, FDR, and one day GW Bush.

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  28. Douglas on January 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Steve – the unfortunate thing about Hitler and the Nazis is that their murdering ways were NOT unique, not even in the 20th century.
    You are correct about the need for a two-front war, the American AND British bombing campaign, and lend-lease to defeat Nazi Germany. Could the Soviet Union have done it alone? Hard to say. Truth is, until Overlord over 80% of the Heer and about 50% of the Luftwaffe was dedicated to the Eastern Front. Even had somehow the British sued for peace AND the USA not gotten involved in Europe, the Germans would have had their hands full to administer final defeat to the USSR. Likely, it would have ended up not unlike the novel “Fatherland”..a more or less permanent Eastern Front.
    Will you also breast-beat about how “cooperative” the members were in the DDR, or Poland when they were behind the Iron Curtain? In case you might not have noticed, there’s a fine temple near Dresden, Germany, which the Church was able to build so members residing in Eastern Europe could have temple blessings…will you also damn how “cooperative{” both the Church and its members were with the Commies?

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