This week I’m taking a course about how to teach the Holocaust. Today, there was a session on Christianity and anti-semitism and I have to say I was shaken by it. I saw pictures of great European cathedrals that had carvings of Jews feeding with pigs cut into the facades, etchings of ritual murder and blood libel claims, and some strong invective from St. John Chrysostom. I’ve heard that you can’t draw a line from Luther to Hitler, but given what he said in On the Jews and their Lies (especially the parts where he talks about burning down synagoges and religious texts) it’s hard not to. How can I not be scandalized when I see pictures of the Anschluss, where the people of a supposedly Catholic culture are weeping over Hitler like little girls at a concert? I’m not doubting the Catholic faith; I guess I’m just feeling disillusioned with humanity.
What do you think future generations will say about our anti-life culture where so-called Catholics have tolerated and sometimes supported pro-abortion policies?
Perhaps that’s something better to be scandalized about, because you can actually do something about it.
Has anything been said about the millions of non Jews who died in the camps? Catholics - lay, priests and religious, Jehovah Witnesses and Gypsies were among those millions.
Have you been shown pictures of the Nazi rallies in the USA in the 1930s? Have you discussed the anitsemitism in the USA in the 1930s? Have you seen pictures of Americans cheering the Nazi flag and behaving as if they were at a pop concert? I saw these pictures in a documentary on the rise of the Nazi party; the pictures were from newsreel services.
I agree with you that anti-semitism is a scandal and to the extent that Catholics participated in it I feel shamed. What encourages me is the fact that many popes, priests and religious were not anti-semitic and did much to protect the Jews from fanatics. Have you viewed any of the encyclicals and letters from popes and bishops which condemned anti-semitism?
I feel your pain, but you gotta see the issue from both sides, not just one.
I’ve seen the pictures from the German-American Bund, which was sort of like a Nazi Fifth Column. I don’t think it had much support outside of a small group of the German community. There were probably other American fellow travellers who weren’t aligned to any specific movement or organization. I do know that during the Great Depression many people that that fascism in general was a superior economic form than liberal democracy. I’ve read some of the encyclicals about the Jews, and while they do say not to harm Jews, there does seem to be the message that they should still be despised.
It’s not that I’m not scandalized by things that are going on today (I am - everything scandalizes me). This stuff has just been weighing heavily on my mind.
What’s the other side?
No, you know what? I don’t want to know what the other side is.
Yes, our Church has a history of anti-Semitism. It goes back much further than Hitler, and it’s disgusting and appalling and wrong.
Not much else you can say about it. We’re people. People do some really stupid, evil things. I think that JPII, God rest his soul, did a great deal to knock that strain out of our Church. I hope it stays knocked out.
(And the answer to the involvement of Catholics in the Holocaust is not, “Hey, they killed non-Jews, too.” The only answer is shame and a determination that it will not happen again.)
I remember picking up a book about a 13 year old girl that survived the Holocaust when I was 15 and was enthralled by it. I wasn’t taught any of this in high school (just glossed over it with dates, events,) I read about 20 more in high school and it made me even more sensitive to racism/anti-semitism.
I recently heard a talk from an older black gentleman who was in WWll and was suffering from racism there and at home. What he saw (and sadly some hateful people deny) never left him. He couldn’t even talk about until recently and even now he cried. The gas chambers, piles of baby clothes, soap made of their flesh, lamp shades, etc., sick, sick sick.
He went to a funeral of a Jewish man’s wife he stayed friends with who lost his whole family in the war. He was crying and he tried to comfort him. He said to this man, "I am not crying now because of my wifes death, I will miss her, but I’m crying because she is the first in my lifetime, that I was able to bury. His entire extended family died and not one was given a proper buriel. So sad.