"The most important position taken by the Church was its insistence on not being entombed in the sacristy. She refused to be limited to worship and ritual, and stressed that the Church's teaching encompassed all aspects of life, private as well as public. It was the Church's assertion of the superiority of divine law over the man-made dogmas of nation and race, coupled with the Church's claim to penetrate all areas of human existence, which more than anything else infuriated the Nazis and made them see in the Church a most dangerous enemy. No matter what the tactics of the Church, declared the Gestapo report of 1937, and irrespective of whether the bishops use legal or illegal means, 'between the National Socialist state and the Catholic Church there can be no peace. The totalitarian claims of the Church challenge those of the state . . . [Lewy, pp.166-67)
The bishops frequently asserted their duty to speak up, to preach the word of God 'in season, out of season' (II Tim. 4:2). We bishops, Cardinal Faulhaber insisted in 1934, must proclaim the moral law not only to the simple folks, but to the great ones on earth as well. We would rather go to jail or face death, the Bavarian Bishops declared in 1936, than become unfaithful to our pastoral duty. The pronouncement of the general principle, in retrospect, is more impressive than the practice of it in the reality of actual life situations." [Lewy, p.168)
On June 30, 1934, the Nazis conducted a shocking, unprovoked purge of hundreds of leading lay Catholic leaders. Here is the reaction of the German Catholic hierarchy:
The reaction of the outside world was one of revulsion. Voices were now also heard from within the Catholic camp calling on the German bishops to speak up in public protest against the killings and the regime that had perpetrated them. The Christliche o Standestaat called Hitler 'the gravedigger of German civilization' and added, 'Whoever today still hopes for a reform or conversion of National Socialism refuses to see and hear.' The well-known German Catholic author, Waldemar Gurian, in a pamphlet written in Switzerland and smuggled into Germany, argued that the silence of the German bishops following the Blood Purge threatened to create a serious crisis of confidence in the Church.
'The silence of the German bishops,' Gurian declared, 'is perhaps more terrible than anything else that has happened on June 30. For the silence destroys the last moral authority in Germany, it introduces insecurity into the ranks of the faithful, it threatens to lead to an estrangement between bishops and people who can no longer understand this silence." [Lewy, p.171 )
If - instead of cowering before him - the German Catholic hierarchy had tested Hitler's mettle, they might have learned that Hitler had come to the conclusion that Bismarck's Kulturkampf in the late 1800's had failed to defeat the Catholic Church because its direct assault on the clergy had only made martyrs of them. He once said, "One doesn't attack petticoats or cassocks." Thanks to his intimate acquaintance with the church, Hitler was wildly successful with his more subtle and diplomatic approach :
Regarding actions taken by the Catholic hierarchy to deal with the evils of the concentration camps:
(which were created in Hitler's very first year)
" On October 14th, groundbreaking of Auschwitz took place outside Krakow.
[ from Murder by the Grace of God pp. 64-67]
It would evolve into a network of forty-eight death camps within Poland which would murder upwards of five million. . .
The day before he became dictator. Hitler opened the camp at Dachau—a base model for the vast network of death camps that would eventually follow. Because he was tied up with the Enabling Act, Hitler did not attend opening ceremonies. Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen and the German Apostolic Delegate Cesare Orsenigo did the honors. As they entered the gates of the prison they were saluted by a group of bishops and Nazi officers gathered there.
The early inmates included social revolutionary activists, union
leaders, Jews, gypsies and gay youths who had been rounded up in
gay meeting places. Initially, Hitler went after those who opposed
the Enabling Act and those who were suspected of having spied for
the Russians in the First World War.
Inmates were branded with serial numbers and forced to wear
patches which identified them by color: red for political dissidents -
violet for anti-Christians - black for social revolutionary activists -
pink for homosexuals - yellow for Jews - brown for atheists and
gypsies. Gypsies were Slav-atheists who wandered in Germany.
After the war Orsenigo was blamed for failing to convey to Pius XII what was going on in the death camps during the war. Some claim he went so far as to block this information flowing from others to the Vatican. His ideology mimicked that of Hitler. He told a German reporter a week after Germany invaded Poland: 'The Jew will not fight in behalf of the Fatherland because he is selfish to his own end. He will undermine our struggle to bring about a worldwide Christian society/'18 It is inconceivable Pius XII was unaware of the Holocaust. Orsenigo had for many years been his closest confidant. In 1930, when Pins XII (Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli) vacated the Nuncio post in Germany, he appointed his closest friend Orsenigo to fill the job.
On November 9th Pius XII removed Filippo Cortesi as the Polish Nuncio and appointed Orsenigo the additional duty of Pro-Nuncio to Poland. . . Orsenigo was permitted to travel freely to Poland including his publicized trips to Auschwitz at Krakow and Treblinka at Warsaw.
Orsenigo served as the clandestine contact between what was going on in the death camps and Pius XII. His close friendship with Hitler is documented by hundreds of surviving photos of himself with the Fuhrer. So much so, if Hitler was not so recognizable, one would think him Orsenigo's bodyguard.
For much more, see this great, lengthy article on Archbishop Orsenigo,
"There is no evidence in the relevant archives to indicate any action on the part of the Catholic episcopate that could be called appropriate in coming to grips with this monstrous practice. . .
In June 1936 Bishop Berning of Osnabriick, member of the Prussian State Council, visited a number of concentration camps in his diocese. The Kolnische Volkszeitung reported that the Bishop had commended the furnishings of the camps visited. Addressing the inmates in the camp Aschendorfer Moor, Berning reminded them of the duty of obedience and fidelity towards people and state that was demanded by their religious faith. In a talk to the guards the Bishop was reported to have praised their work in the camp, and to have ended with three Sieg Heil (salutes) for Führer and fatherland. Father Friedrich Muckermann's weekly Der Deutsche Weg in Holland commented in a tone of desperation, 'We face the shocking truth that the only word which a German bishop until today has publicly said about the barbarities of the concentration camps is a word of glorification of Hitler and of a system that has brought about these barbarities."
German Catholics in exile were following the tactics and ideological concessions of the German episcopate with growing dismay. In December 1934 Father Muckermann expressed the hope that Rome and the German episcopate would soon proclaim the identity of National Socialism and neopaganism. The differentiation between the well-meaning Hitler and his bad lieutenants was no longer feasible and merely confused the faithful. The time had come, Father Muckermann declared, openly to denounce National Socialism and its regime of infamy.
'A great moment has arrived for the Church. The rights of
man are in danger. Nobody dares to speak up against those dictators who treat man like a slave. Nobody, in the face of the concentration camps, the murders, the assaults upon liberty, utters the divine word: 'This you may not do ! ' Were the Church to speak it, she would fulfil her high calling and the answer would be an enthusiastic echo all over the world.'
But the word was not spoken. Waldemar Gurian in 1935 reminded the German bishops that the mission of the Church consisted not only in administering the sacraments, but also in defending morality 'in a world which, as the Third Reich, has forgotten it.' A year later Gurian pointed out the harmful effects of the failure of the episcopate to raise their voice against Nazi terrorism.
The effects of this silence is to bewilder Christians and to disillusion most bitterly non-Christians, who might have otherwise been converted but actually are losing all confidence in the Church as a result of her failing to show her disapproval of flagrant injustice.' "
[Lewy, p.172-73 )
" Mass deportations of German Jews toward the east began on October 15, 1941. Bishop Berning, in the letter just referred to, informed (Cardinal) Bertram that while discussing the question of (whether Christian converts from Judaism would also have to wear) the Jewish star with the Gestapo he had also pointed out the harshness accompanying 'the evacuation of the non-Aryans' and had requested some ameliorations. He had been told that Christian non-Aryans would be evacuated only in exceptional cases. . .
The promises made by the Gestapo to Bishop Berning were not honored. . .
While the bishops were preoccupied with the Catholic non-Aryans' (i.e. Jewish converts) pastoral care before deportation and during their resettlement, rumors were spreading about the fate of the Jews in the east. These rumors had been making the rounds ever since the attack upon Russia on June 22, 1941, which had brought in its wake the employment of special detachments (Einsatzgruppen) assigned to the job of murdering Jews. Soldiers returning from the Eastern Front were telling horrible stories, how in occupied Russia Jewish civilians-men, women and children-were being lined up and machine-gunned by the thousands. Their military superiors had issued orders forbidding such talebearing, as well as the taking of snapshots at mass executions, but the gruesome reports persisted. By the end of 1941 the first news had also trickled back about the fate of the deported German Jews who had been shot by mobile killing detachments near Riga and Minsk. In the spring of 1942 the leaflets of the 'White Rose,' composed by a group of students and a professor of philosophy at the University of Munich, told of the murder of 300,000 Jews in Poland and asked why the German people remained so apathetic in the face of these revolting crimes.
In December 1941 the first death camp began operations near Lodz, Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz went into operation in the course of the year 1942. By the end of 1942 more than 100,000 German Jews had been sent to their death in the east, and the vague rumors about their fate had been REPLACEd now by hard and persistent reports that included details of the mass gassings. In August 1942 Colonel Kurt Gerstein, who had joined the S.S. to investigate the stories of extermination for himself, tried to tell the Papal Nuncio in Berlin about a gassing he had witnessed near Lublin. When Monsignor Orsenigo refused to receive him, he told his story to Dr. Winter, the legal advisor of Bishop Preysing of Berlin, and to numbers of other persons. He also requested that the report be forwarded to the Holy See. ( See some of what this eye-witness to the holocaust reported at Kurt Gerstein's report.) During the same period other reports about the extermination of the Jews reached the bishops through Catholic officers serving in Poland and Russia. For a long time Dr. Joseph Muller, an officer in Canaris's Military Intelligence Service and also a confidant of Cardinal Faulhaber, had kept the episcopate well-informed about the systematic atrocities committed in Poland. Another source of information was Dr. Hans Globke, a Catholic and a high official in the Ministry of the Interior entrusted with handling racial matters. It is, then, clear that by the end of the year 1942 at the latest, the German episcopate was possessed of quite accurate knowledge of the horrible events unfolding in the east." [The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany"by Guenter Lewy, pp. 286-288 ]
Instead of actually opposing the Nazi persecution of the Jews,
all the German Catholic hierarchy did was object to the manner in which the persecution was conducted :
"The German bishops during these years spoke up against the Nazis' glorification of race and blood, but they had practically nothing to say specifically about the widespread anti-Semitic propaganda and acts of violence. Cardinal Faulhaber in a sermon delivered in 1923 declared that every human life was precious, including that of a Jew. In 1932 Cardinal Schulte, in reply to a letter from a Jewish organization seeking help, expressed his sympathies in the face of the numerous acts of vandalism, especially the desecration of Jewish graves, that had occurred in Cologne. But a Church that justified moderate anti-Semitism and merely objected to extreme and immoral acts was ill-prepared to provide an effective antidote to the Nazis' gospel of hate. The roots of the Church's failure to protest or act against the later National Socialist policy of extermination lie right here, in the highly ambivalent attitude of the Church toward the Jews which we can trace from the early days of Christianity up to Hitler's accession to power and beyond.
Hitler, upon engaging in his first measures against the Jews, was well aware of the Church's long anti-Jewish record. In his talk with Bishop Berning and Monsignor Steinmann on April 26, 1933, he reminded his visitors that the Church for 1,500 years had regarded the Jews as parasites, had banished them into ghettos, and had forbidden Christians to work for them. "He saw in the Jews nothing but pernicious enemies of the State and Church, and therefore he wanted to drive the Jews out more and more, especially from academic life and the public professions." He, Hitler said, merely intended to do more effectively what the Church had attempted to accomplish for so long. This service to a common cause, and not the elevation of race above religion, motivated his hostility toward the Jews.
The reaction of the two Church dignitaries to Hitler's attempt to identify his brand of anti-Semitism with the age-old anti-Judaism of the Church is not known. What we do know, however, is that from the time Hitler came to power all the German bishops began declaring their appreciation of the important natural values of race and racial purity, and they limited their dissent to insisting that this goal be achieved without resort to immoral means. The article on "Race" in the authoritative handbook on topical religious problems, edited by Archbishop Grober, expressed this position in the following words:
'Every people bears itself the responsibility for its successful existence, and the intake of entirely foreign blood will always represent a risk for a nationality that has proven its historical worth. Hence, no people may be denied the right to maintain undisturbed their previous racial stock and to enact safeguards for this purpose. The Christian religion merely demands that the means used do not offend against the moral law and natural justice.'
. . . " When Hitler started to pursue the purity of the German blood in his own ruthless way, the overwhelming majority of the German Catholics, as we shall see later, dutifully obeyed his orders and promptly forgot the warnings against using extreme and immoral means in the defense of one's race given out by their bishops.[Lewy, pp. 274-275]
"The bishops did make a few public pronouncements that criticized unjust treatment of foreign races, but these were couched in very general language, did not mention the Jews by name and might be considered equally directed at the Nazis' harsh policy toward the Slavic Untermenschen (subhumans). A pastoral letter of the new Archbishop of Cologne, Dr. Joseph Frings, read in his archdiocese on December 20, 1942, insisted that all men had the right to life, liberty, property and marriage, and that these rights might not be denied even to those "who are not of our blood or do not speak our language." The joint pastoral letter of the German episcopate of August 1943 reminded the faithful that the killing of innocents was wrong even if done by the authorities and allegedly for the common good, as in the case of "men of foreign races and descent." The bishops called for love of "those innocent humans who are not of our people and blood" and of "the resettled." The pastoral letter stressed that the holiness of the bond of matrimony included so-called racially mixed marriages.' (In his Christmas sermon of 1943 and in March 1944 Archbishop Frings again emphasized that it was wrong to kill innocents just because they belonged to another race.)
Ever since the defeat of the Third Reich these pronouncements have been cited as proof that the bishops did publicly protest the extermination of the Jews. Possibly some Catholics did indeed think of the Jews when their spiritual leaders castigated the murder of those not of German blood. But neither the word "Jew" nor "non-Aryan" ever crossed the lips of the bishops. The provincial (Nazi) administrator of the Regensburg area in Bavaria reported in October 1943 that the joint pastoral letter castigating the killing of innocents had not had any lasting effect: "The population pays scant attention to such involved pronouncements burdened with stipulations."
Unlike the case of the extermination of Germans in the euthanasia program, where the episcopate did not mince words and succeeded in putting a stop to the killings, the bishops here played it safe. The effect of their public protests on the Final Solution consequently was nil. These very general statements neither changed the policies of the government nor inspired any change in the behavior of German Catholics. The trains shipping Jews to their doom continued to roll; the factories where Jewish slave laborers were worked to death kept on consuming their victims; the guards maintained their stations and saw to it that none escaped. Close to half the population of the Greater German Reich (43.1 per cent in 1939) was Catholic, and even among the S.S., despite all pressures to leave the Church, almost a fourth (22.7 per cent on December 31, 1938) 104 belonged to the Catholic faith. Yet their bishops might just as well not have said a word on the killing of innocents. The machinery of extermination continued to function smoothly, with everyone conscientiously doing his assigned job. The episcopate had repeatedly issued orders to exclude from the sacraments Catholics who engaged in dueling or who agreed to have their bodies cremated. The word that would have forbidden the faithful, on pain of excommunication, to go on participating in the massacre of the Jews was never spoken. And so Catholics went on participating conscientiously, along with other Germans. . .
The passivity of the German episcopate in the face of the Jewish tragedy stands in marked contrast to the conduct of the French, Belgian and Dutch bishops. ( See the way the various nations responded to the Holocaust.
[Lewy, pp. 291-93]
After the outbreak of war in September 1939 the bishops issued pastoral instructions to the clergy admonishing them to strengthen the war effort and to exercise maximum restraint in discussing political and military questions. Those of Bishop Rackl of Eichstatt, for example, stated:
[Lewy, pp. 251-53]
"During the difficult time of war we priests will fulfill our patriotic duty with the greatest conscientiousness, will carry and help the people to bear the burden of this time of emergency. It is the task of pastoral care to make good in the religion of Jesus Christ the preparedness to bring sacrifices and love to people and homeland. . . In the interest of the fatherland and our official position as well as our personal safety we shall exercise the greatest restraint in all conversations involving political, military and economic matters.:'-"
Similar instructions not to jeopardize the unity of the inner front were repeated from time to time. In February 1940 the Bishop of Hildesheim told his clergy:
'It is the holy duty of the Church and her servants to preach the gospel of Christ in pure and uncurtailed form. This principle is valid also today. But this preaching and teaching surely can be reconciled with tactful consideration of the demands of wartime. All that could be considered as disturbing and weakening the unity of our national strength . . . is therefore, as until now, to be avoided. Some things also, which at another time perhaps would not have given offense, must now in changed circumstances remain unsaid. I take this opportunity expressly to point this out." (Bishop Machens's italics)
The Church thus had done her share in declaring a truce in the ideological dispute between Church and State. Hitler also decided to refrain from any polemics or hostile measures against the Church that might weaken the war effort. An edict of the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs of January 6, 1940, based on the Führer's amnesty of September 9, 1939, restored the salaries to a large number of priests who had had their state subsidy cut off because of minor infractions of the law.
During his visit to Rome in March 1940 Ribbentrop told Pius XII that the Führer wanted "to maintain the existing truce and, if possible, to expand it. In this respect Germany had made very considerable preliminary concessions. The Führer had quashed no less than seven thousand indictments of Catholic clergymen." In July 1940 Hitler once again let it be known that he wished to avoid all measures not absolutely necessary that could worsen the relationship of State and Party to the Church. And in the monologues at his military headquarters recorded by Bormann, Hitler never tired of emphasizing that the showdown with the Church unfortunately would have to be postponed until the end of the war. "Once the war is over we will put a swift end to the Concordat," he declared in July 1942. The financial subsidies would be eliminated at once and all old accounts be settled. Until then provocative steps had to be avoided."
"Cardinal Adolf Bertram ex officio head of the German episcopate sent Hitler birthday greetings in 1939 in the name of all German Catholic bishops, an act that angered bishop Konrad von Preysing. Bertram was the leading advocate of accommodation as well as the leader of the German church, a combination that reigned in other would-be opponents of Nazism." [ Phayer, Michael. 2000. The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965, P.75 ]
" In December 1942, "the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church in conjunction with the Anglican archbishop of York and of Wales, issued a proclamation which far from being merely a protest against the German actions, did direct specific demands to their own and to other governments.
The bishops of the Church of England state that the number of victims of the cold blooded policy go into the hundreds of thousands, that Hitler himself revealed that he plans to annihilate the Jews which means the end of six million Jewish humans. The bishops of England declare that the suffering of these millions of Jews and the announced plan to kill them place upon humanity an obligation which nobody can shirk.
"There must be no delay in saving them. The bishops believe that it is the duty of the civilized nations, whether Allied or neutral, to provide havens to these victims. Therefore they appeal to the British government to take the leadership for the whole world by declaring its readiness together with the dominions and all Allied and neutral governments to provide havens within the British empire and elsewhere for all those who are threatened with annihilation and can escape from the Axis countries, as well as for those who already have escaped so as to provide space to those who so far could not escape."
In the German Handbook of Contemporary Religious Questions, widely circulated in Germany in the 1930s, Archbishop Konrad Gröber warned that most of the pernicious manifestations of art since the nineteenth century had been produced either by, or under the influence of, “Jews” (Gröber, Handbuch der religiösen Gegenwartsfragen, articles “Kunst,” p. 371. Quoted in Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, p. 277).
Cardinal Fauhaber’s Advent sermons in 1933 claimed “that with the coming of Christ, Jews and Judaism have lost their place in the world” (Quoted in James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, p. 683 note 23).
Bishop Otto Dibelius is openly proud and self-righteous concerning what he presented as his proper anti-Jewish stance, declaring in a letter written in April 1933 that he had been “always an anti-Semite. One cannot fail to appreciate that in all of the corrosive manifestations of modern civilization Jewry plays a leading role” (quoted in Daniel J. Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, pp. 108-109, 111).
Bishop Hudal was perhaps the most Nazi of all the Catholic Bishops. Like Hitler, he hailed from Austria. Hudal earned two doctorates before being mader rector of the Collegio Teutonico di Santa Maria dell'Anima (or simply "Anima") in Rome, a theological seminary for German and Austrian priests, a powerful position he held from 1923 to 1957. In 1930 he was appointed a consultant to the Holy Office by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val. In 933 Hudal was ordained Titular Bishop of Aela by Del Val's successor,Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli.
Hudal is said to have received a Golden Nazi Party membership badge , but the fact is disputed. In 1937, in Vienna, Hudal published a book entitled The Foundations of National Socialism, with an imprimatur from Archbishop Innitzer, which was an enthusiastic endorsement of Hitler. Hudal sent Hitler a copy with a handwritten dedication praising him as "the new Siegfried of Germany's greatness" . Nevertheless, the book was not allowed to circulate freely in Germany by the Nazis — who generally heavily disliked the Roman Catholic Church and did not wish church officials to "clericalize" their ranks — though the book was not officially banned. During the Nuremberg trials, Franz von Papen declared that, at first, Hudal's book had "very much impressed" Hitler, whose "anti-Christian advisers" were allegedly to blame for not allowing a free German edition. "All I could obtain was permission to print 2,000 copies, which Hitler wanted to distribute among leading Party members for a study of the problem", Von Papen said.
From that point on, the Vatican distanced itself from Hudal, but is not known to have taken any action against him.
After 1945, it is clear that Hudal was one of the organizers of "the Rat-line", which helped former Nazis but also Croatian families to find safe haven in overseas countries. He viewed it as "a charity to people in dire need, for persons without any guilt who are to be made scapegoats for the failures of an evil system". What is not clear is how much the Vatican knew of his activities.
In 1936, Cardinal Augustyn Hlond, primate of Poland, said in a pastoral letter in 1936, written as Catholic endorsement of the Nazi boycott of Jewish business in Poland and read from the pulpits of all Polish churches, “There will be the Jewish problem as long as Jews remain. It is a fact that the Jews are fighting against the Catholic Church, persisting in freethinking, and are the vanguard of godlessness, . . . and subversion. It is a fact that the Jewish influence on morality is pernicious and that their publishing houses disseminate pornography. It is a fact that the Jews deceive, levy interest, and are pimps. It is a fact that the religious and ethical influence of the Jewish young people on the Polish young people is a negative one” (quoted in James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, p. 271-272).
Many journals published with an imprimatur from 1933 through 1939 depicted “the Jews” as having had a “demoralizing influence on religiosity and national character (F. Schuhlein, “Geschichte der Juden,” Lexicon fur Theologie und Kirche, 2nd rev. ed. (Freiburg, Br., 1933, V, 687); quoted in Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, p. 279) and that the Jews had brought the German people “more damage than benefit” (Gustav Lehmacher, S. J., “Rassenwerte,” Stimmen der Zeit, CXXVI (1933), 81; quoted in Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, p. 279).
The charge of deicide was often repeated (Theodor Bolger, O.S.B., Der Glaube von Gerstern und heute (Cologne, 1939), p. 150; quoted in Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, p. 279) along with the depicting of “the Jews” as “the first and most cruel persecutors of the young Church” (Quoted in Guenter Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, p. 234). These charges, too, are traditional but false.
In his 1940 Christmas message, sent to all Catholic soldiers, Catholic military Bishop Franz Justus Rarkowski blamed “the Jews” for the war, saying, “The German people…has a good conscience and knows which people it is that before God and history bears the responsibility for this presently raging, gigantic struggle. The German people knows who lightheartedly unleashed the dogs of war . . . [They] believed in the power of their money bags…” (Quoted in Daniel J. Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning, p. 63). This is absolute nonsense.
In 1941, Bishop Ivan Saric of Sarajevo explained that “The descendants of those who hated the Son of God, persecuted him to death, crucified him and persecuted his disciples are guilt of greater sins than their forebears . . . Satan aided them . . . The movement of liberation of the world from the Jews is a movement for the renewal of human dignity” (Quoted in Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, p. 34). Also in 1941, in August, the leaders of the Lithuanian Catholic Church “forbade the priests to help Jews in any way whatsoever” (Quoted in Daniel J. Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning, p. 67).
In 1942, in April, the Slovak bishops issued a pastoral letter to justify the deportation of the Jews for deicide: “The greatest tragedy of the Jewish nation lies in the fact of not having recognized the Redeemer and of having prepared a terrible and ignominious death for him on the cross . . . The influence of the Jews [has] been pernicious. In a short time they have taken control of almost all the economic and financial life of the country to the detriment of our people. Not only economically but also in the cultural and moral spheres, they have harmed our people. The Church cannot be opposed, therefore, if the state with legal regulations hinders the dangerous influence of the Jews” (Quoted in Daniel J. Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning, p. 65). Again we see repeated the false charge of deicide, along with a set of negative words and phrases without foundation or basis. .
One priest recalled how another priest explained the extermination of the Jews in theological terms: “There is a curse on this people ever since the crucifixion of Jesus when they cried: ‘Let his blood be on our heads and on the heads of our children” (Doris L. Bergen, “Between Gd and Hitler: German Military Chaplains and the Crimes of the Third Reich,” in In Gd’s Name, ed. Omer Bartov, Phyllis Mack, p. 128-130 and Daniel J. Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning, pp 62-63). This typical sermon calls down upon the Jews of today, tomorrow, and forever, the fictitious words placed by Matthew in the mouths of the imagined Jews supposedly hanging about Pilate’s palace on Pesach morn.
In a Sunday sermon in May 1942 in Kowel, Poland, the priest clearly guided his flock with this extreme and definitive statement sanctioning the Holocaust in Poland: “No trace of a Jew is to remain. We should erase them from the face of the earth” (Quoted in Yitzhak Arad, “The Christian Churches and the Persecution of Jews in the Occupied Territories of the USSR,” in The Holocaust and the Christian World: Reflections on the Past, Challenges for the Future, Carol Rittner, Stephen D. Smith and Irena Steinfeldt, eds., London: Kuperard for the Beth shalom Holocaust Memorial Centre and the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies, 2000, p. 110)
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when the Nazis were murdering Jews, the Catholics of Poland, the Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Austria, and elsewhere, rather than feeling obligated to prevent these murders, often felt duty-bound to facilitate the murders, and even to participate in them, to help eradicate the “satanic” people they had heard demonized in sermon after sermon and book after book. It is to the credit of human decency that some Catholics nonetheless did save a few Jews here and there, without having heard any noticeable imperative in that direction, either from their local church or from their Pope.