Official Catholic Church position on Hitler & Holocaust

Is there an official Catholic church position paper that addresses these questions:

  1. Why did the Catholic Church not oppose Hitler during the 1930’s?

  2. Was Hitler a Catholic?

  3. If Hitler was a Catholic, has he been excommunicated? If he has not been excommunicated, why not?

  4. Has the Catholic Church apologized for its role in the deaths of about 6 million Jews at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis?

Could you please provide references? Thank you.


No,there is no document explaining this because it is a false premise.

I believe Hitler was baptized in the Catholic Church. He was not a practicing Catholic. He was a student of the occult.

Hitler incurred latae sententiae excommunication when he left the Church, many years before his rise to power.

The Church has nothing to apologize for, as it had no role in the deaths of 6 million Jews.

  1. How do you know it didn’t?

  2. Yes, Hitler was baptized but didn’t practice his faith much in his early years.

  3. I have no documentary source that shows he was formally excommunicated.

  4. The Church has nothing to apologize for.


Did the Church not weigh in because She was afraid of being attacked?

The latest research, one book written by a rabbi, confirms that the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII did oppose Hitler and were actually instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews. So there is really no need for apologies.

  1. In their own way, they did. Some Jewish groups actually asked the Church to remain politically neutral so that the Pope would wield more diplomatic power.

  2. Baptized by his mother. Not at all practicing in his adult life.

  3. I don’t think he was formally excommunicated, but he also wasn’t trying to attend Mass in his adult life.

  4. You do realize that the Church hid thousands of Jews in the Vatican and in monasteries, right? If anything, they helped more than hurt the Jewish people during the holocaust. It’s not like Catholics have an Army that goes to war with tanks and machine guns.

The Church didn’t kill the Jews (nor than many other groups murdered during the holocaust). The people who killed them were members of the Nazi Party, who placed their Nazi beliefs over all other beliefs, including religious beliefs, basic human decency, etc.

Just because some members of the Church (especially members who don’t follow Church teaching and openly say and do things that are against Church teaching, such as murder) do something bad does not mean the entire Church is bad. This is a slippery slope that leads to stereotypes, prejudice, and outright bigotry. Never judge an entire group based on the worst of its members.

Thank you to the several responders. I’m looking at the references provided.

I think you need to be a bit careful about the ‘hundreds of thousands’ question - you find it all over the Internet, of course, but it all comes down to some back-of-an-envelope calculation by Pinchas Lapide which has been quoted ever since but evidence for such numbers is another matter altogether.

That’s not to say that Pius was a bad guy, just that some of the often-quoted ‘evidence’ of his goodness can be somewhat exaggerated by enthusiasts.

I believe it’s this book:

I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my reading list.

Yes, that’s one that quotes Pinchas Lapide’s numbers.

The Church DID openly oppose Nazism. Pius XI wrote, in 1937, an encyclical (public letter) called Mit Brennender Sorge - noted for being written in German - critical of the Nazi regime and in particular its views on race. This was smuggled into Germany and read openly from the pulpits of Catholic Churches on Palm Sunday of that year.

Hitler’s own actions excommunicated him without the need for any formal pronouncement from any Church official. It would have been a wasted effort, everyone who knows or cares about such things knows that his actions were entirely repugnant to and in inconsistent with Catholicism.

And John Paul II did, in 1998, apologise on behalf of the Church for the silence and one toon of many Catholics during the Holocaust.

the Catholic Centre Party was the political arm of Catholicism in Germany from 1870. when hitler was on the rise, the Party attempted to negotiate a coalition government including the Nazis, but hitler outmaneuvered the Party in the elections of 1932 and '33 (in which the Nazis and their allies in the ultra conservative DNVP finally obtained a majority and did not need coalition partners).

the Centre Party did vote in favor of the first Enabling Act, essentially granting hitler dictatorial powers, it did this because it felt it had to in order to survive attacks from the left. the Party went out of existence when the Vatican signed a concordat (treaty) with Germany in '33 (negotiated by the future Pope Pius XII) which was to guarantee the Church’s property and role in education, among other things. but things unspooled for Catholics in Germany afterwards regardless.

as someone noted, the Church did publish an encyclical called Mit brennender Sorge (with burning concern) that smuggled into German and read from pulpits on Palm Sunday, 1937, condemning breached of the concordat and criticizing nazism.

its a complex story.


The answer is yes: see “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah” published by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (published March 16, 1998)


To not keep you in suspense: the Vatican report attributed the Shoah as arising from 19th Century political-economic and racial anti-Semitism. Since the Church had never supported such racial ideologies, the report therefore concluded that the two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism had absolutely nothing to do with the Shoah.

In 2001 Professor David I. Kertzer wrote the book “The Popes Against The Jews” -“the Vatican’s role in the rise of modern anti-Semitism” in which he presents the case against the conclusions of the Vatican report.

Hitler singled out anyone that did not conform to his ideas of racial purity. To join the SS, the applicant had to show a family genealogy that stretched back far enough to show his blood was “pure.” I watched a wartime news reel that showed German scientists measuring the head of a sub-human or untermensch with calipers.

The Nazi program to sterilize those deemed unfit had its roots in similar actions taking place in the United States.

“Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed (Darwin, 1871, 1896, p. 133-134).”

Racial purity was not just a Nazi idea.

And further commentary on Pope Pius XII by Rabbi Dalin:


“Back-of-an-envelope calculation by Pinchas Lapide”? Not according to Jewish historian and scholar Rabbi David Dalin, who states that Pinchas Lapide’s comprehensive study of Pope Pius and his relationship with the Jewish community before, during, and after the Holocaust was meticulously documented. According to both Lapide and Dalin, there were anywhere between 700,000 to 860,000 Jews whose lives were saved thanks to the efforts of the Pope.

My question would be: why was the Church not absolutely clear and consistent in her opposition to the Nazi party?

Was Church leadership afraid? Reminds me of David’s sin of numbering in 1 Chronicles 21.

hitler outmaneuvered a lot of groups when he was coming to power. they all underestimated him and thought they could control him. the army, the conservative parties, the industrialists, the nationalists, the religious right. the Catholic Centre Party thought it could work a deal with him for a coalition government (and voted hitler’s dictatorial powers), the Vatican entered into a treaty to preserve Catholic interests – all this in 1933. by that time it was a matter of survival and on paper the concordat looked like a good deal. but it was a dance with the devil and came with a very high price (see below). as others have noted, the anti-Nazi encyclical Mit brennender Sorge came out in '37 in response to violations of the treaty that began almost immediately.

text of the concordat here:

text of Article 16 (same source):

Article 16

Before bishops take possession of their dioceses they are to take an oath of loyalty either to the Reich governor of the state (Land) concerned or to the President of the Reich respectively, according to the following formula:

“Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise, as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the State (Land) of . . . I swear and promise to honour the legally constituted government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honour it. With dutiful concern for the welfare and the interests of the German state, in the performance of the ecclesiastical office entrusted to me, I will endeavour to prevent everything injurious which might threaten it.”

There exists a huge body of work on the Reich and the Shoah - most of which is written by historians who don’t have a horse in the Pius and the Jews race - the only source for the 860,000 is Lapide and Lapide didn’t document his figures (which particular Jews, where, when, stuff like that).

Given the workings of the Internet and search engines, of course, one would think that the only work ever done has been that of Lapide, the only unbiased historian in the past 60 years was Dalin and the only reason for questioning Lapide’s figures is hatred of Pius and the Catholic Church.

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