In 1933 the great majority of the politically conformist elites of the bourgeoisie, who shared the resentment of Cultural Protestantism against capitalistic and individualistic western civilization in particular, immediately joined forces with the Nazi Regime after Hitler's sudden rise to power. The anti-civilizational imperative “Das Ich ist Nichts, das Volk ist Alles” (or, “The I is nothing, the People is all”) of the German “Volksgemeinschaft” (“tribal brotherhood”) had also convinced Johannes Müller that Hitler, whom he had hitherto completely ignored, had become the leader of a “national revolution of the common good over self-interest,” to fulfil the promise of the Sermon of the Mount.
However, since for Müller the success of a “community of brothers looking-after-one-another” depended on the inclusion of the Jews as the “most noble representatives of the intellectual elite”, he publicly criticized the Nazis’ anti-Semitism as a “disgrace for Germany”, one that “causes me to blush with shame”.
Indeed, his expressed respect for the German Jews, as well as for Orthodox Jews whom he admired for their adherence to tradition despite persecution, saw him branded “a friend of the Jews”; that in turn drew the ire of the Propaganda Ministry and provoked a smear campaign in the Bavarian provincial press.
The only reason Müller was not arrested immediately was that the Bavarian State Chancellery was able to convince Joseph Goebbels that Müller’s public advocacy of German Jews lent moral value to his commitment to Hitler and was therefore more to the benefit of the Nazis than to their detriment. However, from then on Müller was constantly interrogated by the Gestapo and kept under tight surveillance.
He was permitted to publish his memoirs under the title “Gegen den Strom” (“Against the Current”)—but only up to 1933. And despite Müller’s allegiance to Hitler, whom he had never met, the Nazi salute was forbidden at Schloss Elmau. The Nazis’ anti-Semitism had in any case prevented him and his children from applying for membership of the party or affiliated organizations. Since Schloss Elmau, unlike most coastal resorts and holiday hotels, did not have a reputation for being anti-Semitic, it did not become one of the Nazi elite’s hotels of choice.
From 1935 onwards, Dr Müller was forbidden to undertake lecture tours. Furthermore, the University of Leipzig would have revoked his doctorate had it not been for the intervention of philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer.
In 1942, with the war under way, Johannes Müller managed to prevent Schloss Elmau from being requisitioned by either Göring or Himmler by instead renting it out to the German army as a vacation resort for soldiers returning from the front.
In 1943, the commandant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp demanded the arrest of Müller “due to work greatly detrimental to the state under the pretense of being an honest, upright citizen”. The rationale: a prisoner had mentioned Müller’s name during interrogation. No action was taken, however, due to the respect Müller had earned with others over the years. Intervention in his favour came most probably from Reich interior minister Wilhelm Frick (who actually had never been to Schloss Elmau).
In 1945, immediately after the end of the war, Schloss Elmau was requisitioned by the US Army and used as a prison camp for occupants of a German military hospital. Later it served as a winter military training school.