Hitler is still present in German stained-glass windows


Central Europe


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The German dictator Adolf Hitler is still to be seen as a hero in several churches. Historian Dr. Michael Kuderna counts at least a dozen pictures of the man, according to his new book.

Pictures of the Nazi dictator can still be seen in at least 15 churches across Germany. In most of the stained-glass windows, Hitler can be seen as a torturer or criminal. However, not all depictions are negative.

“It depends on when the picture was made”, Kuderna says in an interview with the German Catholic news website Katholisch.de. “In the ten pictures I examined from the period after 1945, Hitler is, unsurprisingly, consistently portrayed negatively – for example as a torturer or inmate of hell.” However, five images were made during the Nazi era and are far less negative - for example, Hitler and Hindenburg together under the swastika.

There are also images of Hitler made during the Nazi regime in which the dictator is depicted negatively. There is, for example, an altarpiece in the catholic Ludwigskirche in Bad Dürkheim, on which the criminal crucified together with Jesus bears a remarkable resemblance to Hitler. However, it is difficult to interpret the image. “There is no written evidence from the Nazi era that the artist Paul Thalheimer really painted Hitler on the cross here. After all, such a confession would have been life-threatening.”

German Christians

Kuderna found these pictures in churches in a corridor that stretches from the Rhineland via the southwest to Bavaria and Austria.” I explain this by saying that the tradition of church painting played a more important role in these regions than in northern or eastern Germany.”

Screenshot. Photo Katholisch.de

Kuderna found all the “problematic” pictures of Hitler made before 1945 in Protestant churches. Kuderna thinks this is because of the “German Christians movement” (the so-called “Deutsche Christen”), which wanted to combine the Protestant faith with parts of the Nazi ideology between 1933 and 1945.

Donald Trump

According to Kuderna, it is clear that the more time has passed between the end of the Nazi era and the design of the church windows, the less Hitler comes to the fore. Rather, he is portrayed as a villain among many in a larger crowd. According to the Saarländischer Rundfunk, Donald Trump can also be seen alongside him in the latest picture, which is only three years old.

According to Kuderna, most churches try to live with the pictures. The pictures, however, do sometimes cause concerns. Monument protection often forbids making changes to the church because they are considered testimonies of the time. However, there are sometimes attempts to create a media storm about the windows. As an example, Kuderna recounts the case of the man who called the Bild newspaper after visiting a church. This writes the Spanish website Religion Digital. According to Kuderna, this shows that people have difficulties coming to terms with the matter. At the same time, in rare cases, neo-Nazis see the images as places of pilgrimage, even if Hitler was depicted there as a torturer.

Insoluble opposition

A large portion of the Germans was religious during the Nazi era. In 1939, 54 per cent of the population considered itself Protestant, while 40 per cent considered itself Catholic. Protestants voted for the Nazi Party substantially more than Catholics did. However, according to Hitler, there would be no space for Christian churches in Germany after the war. This writes Ian Kershaw in his biography ‘Hitler’ on Germany’s dictator. Joseph Goebbels, according to Kershaw, was radical on this point as well. “It is clear that we will find a solution after the war. There is, namely, an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a heroic-German world view” (pp. 381–82).



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