Book Review: Moroni and the Swastika, by David Conley Nelson | HistoryNet
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Book Review: Moroni and the Swastika, by David Conley Nelson

7/3/2015 • Military History Book Reviews, Reviews

Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany, by David Conley Nelson, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2015, $29.95

In Moroni and the Swastika author Nelson, who served six years as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, relates the experience of German Mormons under Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. His historical conclusion is that—with rare exceptions such as Helmuth Hübener, who was executed at age of 17 for using his congregation’s typewriter to produce anti-Nazi tracts—the vast majority of Germany’s Mormons collaborated with the Nazi regime. While the original worshippers of Jehovah became the targets of Hitler’s Final Solution, 184 Mormons died fighting for the Nazi cause, while 120 others died on the German home front.

The author identifies several elements of doctrine in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that he believes to be compatible with National Socialist theories. For example, the Mormons believed in the privilege of polygamy for men and shared the Führer’s viewpoint that German women were intrinsically inferior to the nation’s men. The Mormon belief that the Christian church had been corrupted under the influence of Roman Emperor Constantine also aligned with Hitler’s views. And the Mormon obsession with genealogical research bears some surface similarities to the Nazi quest to seek out everyone of “pure” Aryan blood.

In 1969 World War II veteran Walter H. Kindt stated in Berchtesgaden: “As a member of the Wehrmacht I once proudly served my Führer. Now as a member of the [Mormon] church I proudly serve another Führer.” Readers interested in the relationship of religious minorities to Nazi Germany will find Moroni and the Swastika a disturbing but ultimately important read.

Thomas Zacharis

One Response to Book Review: Moroni and the Swastika, by David Conley Nelson

  1. As the author of the book under review, Moroni and the Swastika: Mormons in Nazi Germany, I appreciate Thomas Zacharis’s critique. I also am grateful to HistoryNet for publishing it. Normally, I do not comment on published reviews, respecting the author’s right to evaluate my book as I have evaluated the historical actors about whom I write.

    I do find it necessary in this case to offer an evaluation of one particular sentence in the review that I found to be an inaccurate representation of what I wrote. In the second paragraph, the review states: “For example, the Mormons believed in the privilege of polygamy for men and shared the Führer’s viewpoint that German women were intrinsically inferior to the nation’s men.”

    My treatment of Mormon polygamy in the book is restricted to the nineteenth century, when this Latter-day Saint practice affected the way their church’s missionaries were treated in Germany. By the time of the Third Reich, 1933-45, the practice of polygamy had been abandoned for more than forty years. Also, while I do not dispute the author’s evaluation of what Hitler believed about women, in my book I do not tie that to the way the Mormons used other commonalities with Naziism to ingratiate their church with the government.

    David Conley Nelson
    College Station, Texas

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