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Churchill, FDR Said Fight Against Hitler Was for Preservation of Christian Civilization

Churchill, FDR Said Fight Against Hitler Was for Preservation of Christian Civilization

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt saw the fight against Nazi Germany during World War II as a struggle to preserve Christian civilization.

Churchill made this clear following the Munich Agreement in September 1938, when then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain along with the leaders of France and Italy negotiated an agreement with German dictator Adolf Hitler that allowed the Nazi government to take over the primarily German-speaking Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia.

This move had come following Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 along Germany’s border with France in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I.

Germany also annexed Austria in March 1938.

Churchill, then just a member of Parliament, could see where this was all going and pronounced in a speech in the House of Commons in October 1938, that the Munich Agreement did not represent “Peace for our time” as Chamberlain said, but “a total and unmitigated defeat.”

“The Prime Minister desires to see cordial relations between this country and Germany,” Churchill said of Chamberlain.

“[B]ut there can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force,” Churchill said.

He argued that the British people “should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road.”

Churchill said of the Western democracies, “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting,” a quote from the book of Daniel in the Bible pronouncing judgment on an ancient king.

“And do not suppose that this is the end,” Churchill continued. “This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

Churchill’s prophesy was right that Hitler would not be satisfied with just taking the Sudetenland. He, in fact, took all of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.

Then in September 1939, Nazi forces invaded Poland, prompting Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany.

The following spring, the Germans launched a massive blitzkrieg offensive making quick work of the combined British and French force. Britain was able to evacuate many of its troops back to their island nation.

In June 1940, the Nazis stood poised to cross the English Channel and invade the United Kingdom, but first they would need to win the air Battle of Britain.

In his famous “Finest Hour” speech before Parliament, newly appointed Prime Minister Churchill pronounced, “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”

“If we can stand up to [Hitler], all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands,” the PM said. “But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”

Roosevelt shared this sentiment in a radio address to Americans in May 1941, saying, “Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human freedom — between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal. We choose human freedom — which is the Christian ideal. No one of us can waver for a moment in his courage or his faith. We will not accept a Hitler-dominated world.”

“We reassert our abiding faith in the vitality of our constitutional Republic as a perpetual home of freedom, of tolerance, and of devotion to the word of God,” FDR said.

After America’s entry into the war following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Roosevelt again addressed the nation as part of a radio broadcast titled “We Hold These Truths.”

The broadcast corresponded with the 150th Anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791.

The president noted that the Bill of Rights enshrined the belief in God-given rights found the Declaration of Independence into law. By the 1940s, much of the world had accepted these rights as fundamental, but not so with the leaders of the Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy.

“The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which seemed to the Founders of the republic, and which seem to us, inalienable, were, to Hitler and his fellows, empty words which they proposed to cancel forever,” Roosevelt said.

He explained that in Nazi Germany, a citizen’s only duty “is the duty of obedience, not to his God, not to his conscience, but to Adolf Hitler; and that his only value is his value, not as a man, but as a unit of the Nazi state.”

“To Hitler, the church, as we conceive it, is a monstrosity to be destroyed by every means at his command. The Nazi church is to be the ‘National Church,’ a pagan church, absolutely and exclusively in the service of but one doctrine, one race, one nation,” FDR said.

Following the Allied D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944, to begin to retake western Europe from the Nazis, Roosevelt addressed Americans by radio that night asking them to join him in prayer.

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity,” the president began.

He concluded, using the words of Jesus Christ from the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”

Famous Hollywood director Frank Capra — a World War I veteran, who rejoined the Army after the U.S. entered World War II — like FDR saw the fight against the Axis powers as one to preserve Christian civilization.

Words and images of the faith often appeared in his “Why We Fight” documentary film series he produced for the Army.

The movies were shown to all recruits as part of their basic training, but Roosevelt liked the first in the series of seven films so much, “Prelude to War,” that he directed it to be screened in movie theaters across the country for Americans to see.

It won the Academy Award for best documentary film in 1942.

In “Prelude,” the narrator recounts that the Nazi government did not recognize God-given inalienable rights, but rather imprisoned or killed those opposed to its absolute, statist rule.

But the church proved an obstacle to its totalitarian regime, so the Nazis targeted the church and Jesus who had said, “I’m am the light of the world; he who followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of hope.”

“The word of God and the word of fuhrers cannot be reconciled, then God must go,” the narrator says, as a stained glass window of a church is smashed with rocks to reveal a picture of Hitler behind it.

A reenactment of Nazi soldiers destroying a copy of the Ten Commandments engraved on the courthouse in Bremen, Germany comes next.

“Prelude” notes the Nazi government ordered the 700,000-strong Protestant Youth organization disbanded in 1935. The Hitler Youth took over for these Christian youth groups teaching the doctrines of the Nazi state.

The film recreates a scene from a German classroom in which children sing, “Adolf Hitler is our savior, our hero. He is the noblest being in the world wide world. For Hitler we live, for Hitler we die. Our Hitler is our Lord, who rules a brave new world.”

“Yes, take children from the faith of their fathers and teach them the state is the only church, and the head of the state is the voice of God,” the narrator says.

The second film in the series, “The Nazis Strike” ends with the words of Churchill from a speech he gave in June 1941.

“What tragedies, what horrors, what crimes has Hitler and all that Hitler stands for brought upon Europe and the world,” Churchill said. “It is upon this foundation that Hitler…pretends to build out of hatred…a new order for Europe.”

“[B]ut nothing is more certain that every trace of Hitler’s footsteps, every stain of his infected, corroding fingers will be sponged and purged and, if need be, blasted from the surface of the earth,” he added.

Then borrowing from the language of the Bible including the words and mission of Jesus specifically, the war leader said, “Lift up your hearts, all will come right. Out of depths of sorrow and sacrifice will be born again the glory of mankind.”

An image of Christ on the cross appears on screen.

The Department of the Army film ends with row-upon-row of American soldiers marching in formation to the hymn, “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

Randy DeSoto is the author of the book “We Hold These Truths” about how leaders have appealed to belief in God and in God-given rights throughout U.S. history.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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