The tragic and heroic story of Max Sievers is an ideal response to those who claim that Adolf Hitler was an Atheist (usually along with Joseph Stalin and Mao Tsetung) and make this the motivation for all his deeds. Hitler was at least a nominal Catholic all his life.
Sievers was a reluctant soldier in the first world war, in which he received an arm injury. In the interwar years he was active as a socialist in the USPD (Unabhangige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) and communist in the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) and for a while in its offshoot the Kommunistische Arbeitsgemeinschaft. From 1922 he was also active in the Union of Freethinkers for Cremation (VdFfF) and in 1925 started the journal Der Freidenker. By 1927 he was elected chairman of the German Freethinkers League.
During the crackdown on communists following the Reichstag fire in February 1933, the KPD was proscribed. Sievers was arrested, but later released and escaped to Belgium where he was active against the Nazis. He wrote of the Reichsconcordat between the Vatican and Germany (nominally with the Weimar republic) signed in July 1933 as an alliance between the Nazi government and the clergy. These views were expressed in a book: Our Struggle against the Third Reich (Unser Kampf gegen das Dritte Reich).
The Nazi party banned all materialist and atheist organisations in Germany, including the German Freethinkers League, which was the largest. Its headquarters was converted to a bureau advising the public on church matters. There were no protests against this from any church leaders.
Max Sievers attempted to emigrate to the United States in 1939, but was refused a visa. He was thus forced to return to Belgium, which was soon overrun by the German invasion. He was arrested in May 1940 but managed to escape and hide in northern France. However he was rearrested by the Gestapo in June 1943, and in November brought before the special Peoples Court (Volksgerichtshof) set up by Hitler in 1934 to try a broad range of political offences. He was charged with "conspiracy to commit high treason along with favouring the enemy" and sentenced to death. He was executed by guillotine in January 1944.