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The Role Of The Catholic Church In The Holocaust

1684 words - 7 pages

From the recent conflicts over Pope Pius XII, whether portrayed as a pitiless anti-Semite or a saver of many Jewish lives during World War II, to the confusion over how to take the 1998 Vatican document on the Holocaust, the Catholic Church is in great dispute over it's history of relations with the Jews. "Who killed Christ?" has always been the justification of the Church over the issue of the persecution of the Jews. As well as every other massacre of Jews in Christendom, it was also heard at the time of Hitler's Holocaust. The fact that the Catholic Church has a history of anti-Semitism and it is a prevalent belief in Christendom that the Jews, as the murderers of Christ, deserve all possible sufferings is the reason that Hitler's massacre of the Jews was met with silent acceptance from the vast majority of his subjects. The continued anti-Semitic feelings of the Church stem from Christian teachings based on interpretations of the New Testament that have also contributed to the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Europe over the centuries.In 1814, Jews in the Papal States were locked into cramped ghettos at night, were forbidden to practice law or medicine, to hold public office or to hire Christian servants. Meanwhile elsewhere in Europe, Jews were increasingly free to live as they wanted. These practices were the inspiration for the racial laws enacted by the Nazis and the Italian Fascists in the 1930's. After the fall of the Papal States in 1870, the Church's hostility towards the Jews began to take an even more disturbing form. No longer simply loathed as unbelievers, the Jews became hated symbols of secular modernity.With varying degrees of enthusiasm the German Catholic Church sympathised with, if not actually supported the Nazis. Their views on communism, socialism, liberalism and freemasonry were similar to those of the Nazis. Though these Church leaders were concerned with some aspects of the National Socialist regime, they did virtually nothing to stem the growing tide of anti-Semitism. Some of them even agreed with the Nazi ideals to "endeavour to maintain the purity of the German blood and German race" and to fight the Jews' "hegemony in finance, the destructive influence of the Jews in religion, morality, literature and art, and political and social life." (The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, pg 23). Hitler was inaugurated as Chancellor of Germany on January 30 1933 with 52% of the votes. To make constitutional changes, the National Socialists needed two thirds of the votes. Therefore Hitler felt compelled to appease the Catholics and made a series of promises and concessions to German Catholicism. On March 23 he released a statement assuring the Christian churches of his resolve to work for peaceful relations between the church and the state.After Hitler gained power the German Catholic leaders adjusted to the Nazi regime and most church leaders enthusiastically supported the domestic and foreign policies of the...

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