Anti-Semitism and Holocaust

The Church and the Jews in the Third Reich line

By Lothar Groppe, S.J., translated by Dr. Alan F. Lacy, Fidelity (November, 1983)

The question of the Catholic Church's attitude toward the persecution of the Jews by the brown-shirted rulers now regains its relevance with the anniversary of Hitler's seizure of power some fifty years ago. Hochhuth, (1) at the time that he wrote The Deputy, thought that he could accuse Pope Pius XII of complicity in the mass murders. In his drama he has the young Jesuit Father Ricardo say: "A vicar of Christ who is aware of that and nonetheless remains silent for reasons of state, who deliberates only one day, who hesitates for just one hour to raise the voice of his pain to a curse that would make even the last human being on earth shudder with fear - such a Pope is… a criminal."

In spite of the publications appearing in the meantime, which have proven the untenability of his accusations, Hochhuth gave a large Norwegian newspaper an interview at the end of 1978 in which he again dismissed Pius XII as a common coward."

The left-leaning author Bernt Engelmann, who is well known in Germany, declared in the West German radio broadcast "The Direct Line," in response to the questions on the first broadcast of Holocaust: "The official Catholic Church is guilty of complicity in these horrors." The editor of the self-proclaimed liberal weekly newspaper "Die Zeit," Marion Countess Donhoff, wrote on February 2, 1979, in her article "A German History Lesson":

…on the other hand, no protests were heard against the persecution of the Jews - which was gradually increased: First they were made ridiculous, then mistreated, then placed in camps, and finally, transported off for gassing. Protests came neither from the Church nor from the citizens. Neither within the country nor outside.

In the Zeit-Dossier of February 3, 1982, the author of the book SS Informer in Cassock, Georg Denzler, (2) has his source, Albert Hartl, say the following on the topic "Silence on the Murder of the Jews": "If the Church had rigorously rejected the anti-Semitism of National Socialism from the very beginning, then Hitler would not have dared to annihilate the Jews so radically."

Was it really this simple? Cardinal Montini, even well after the war, was one of the closest collaborators with the Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. Just before the beginning of the conclave from which he emerged as Paul VI, he wrote to the editor of the English newspaper The Tablet:

As for his omitting to take up a position of violent opposition to Hitler in order to save the lives of those millions of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis, this will be readily understood by anyone who avoids Hochhuth's mistake of trying to assess what could have been effectively and responsibly done then, in those appalling conditions of war and Nazi oppression, by the standard of what would be feasible in normal conditions - or in some hypothetical conditions arbitrarily invented by a young playwright's imagination. An attitude of protest and condemnation such as this young man blames the Pope for not having adopted would have been not only futile but harmful: that is the long and the short of the matter. The thesis of Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) betrays an inadequate grasp of psychological, political, and historical realities and attempts to disguise reality with theatrical trickery.

Let us suppose that Pius XII had done what Hochhuth blames him for not doing. His action would have led to such reprisals and devastations that Hochhuth himself, the war being over and he now possessed of a better historical, political and moral judgment, would have been able to write another play, far more realistic and far more interesting than the one that he has in fact so cleverly but also so ineptly put together; a play, that is, about the Vicar who, through political exhibitionism or psychological myopia, would have been guilty of unleashing on the already tormented world still greater calamities involving innumerable innocent victims, less to his own detriment than that of other innocent victims.

It would be as well if the creative imagination of playwrights insufficiently endowed with historical discernment (and possibly, though please God it is not so, with ordinary human integrity) would forbear from trifling with subjects of this kind and with historical personages whom some of us have known. In the present case the real drama, and tragedy, is not what the playwright imagines it to be: it is the tragedy of one who tries to impute to a pope who was actually aware both of his own moral obligations and of historical reality - and was moreover a very loyal as well as impartial friend to the people of Germany - in spite of the horrible crimes of German Nazism.(3)

Before I cite a few facts which probably even our older readers no longer completely remember, I would like to tell of an experience which I had in Jerusalem in 1968 at Yad Vashem, the largest archives for the persecution of the Jews.


After a conversation with the director, he led me to a division-head who came from Hamburg, where I was working at the time. His reception was quite polite but noticeably cool, until it was remarked incidentally that I was a Catholic priest. The person I was talking with, Dr. Ophir (earlier: Offenburg), jumped up, excused himself for his remote coolness, and said to me that he had thought that I was a Protestant pastor since I came from Hamburg. Understandably, my surprise was great as to what this might have to do with his behaviour. Then he pointed to the wall of his file cabinets and said to me: "I have been working on the fate of the Jews in Bavaria for many years. With the exception of three or four villages, all the Jews from the Catholic parishes in Bavaria were gassed." Naturally, I was bewildered as to why precisely this terrible fact should speak for the Catholics. Dr. Ophir continued: "You have to understand that correctly. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Jews in Bavaria who lived in Catholic communities said to themselves, the Catholics will protect us, they will not boycott us. And so they remained, in contrast to the Jews in the non-Catholic communities. They did not emigrate, but then one day like a bolt of lightning they were arrested and deported. From my work of many years I can say that there were only two real opponents to the Nazis: the Communists and the Catholic Church."

Even though I would like to refine this claim a little bit - after all there was, for example, the assassination attempt on Hitler's life - nonetheless, there is much that is true in it.

During my work for the book Erzbischofliche Hilfsstelle fur nichtarische Katholiken in Wien (Archiepiscopal Support Center for Non-Aryan Catholics in Vienna) I ran across a letter from Dr. Margarete Sommer, the former Director of the Berlin Support Center (for Jews) to Father Ludger Born, S.J., the head of the support center in Vienna. This letter said:

The longer I think about this task (she was supposed to write about the Berlin Support Center) the more it oppresses me. My work from the period of the persecution seems to me so unimportant, so downright pitiful. To be sure, when I happened to hear on the radio an excerpt from an article by Gruber regarding his role in Jerusalem in the Eichmann trial, it increased my resistance against these "guilt tirades," this accusation against the Christians, against the Church. Little by little, it looks as if the Christians - as Christians - persecuted the Jews. Even the opposition: Jew-Christian is wrong! For the period of persecution the opposition should be: Jew and non-Jew! The persecutors were really anything but Christians, even if they happened to have been baptized in a church.

It was the de-Christianization of man of the time which first made this persecution possible!(4)

The letter of condolences from the head of the Jewish community in Berlin, Heinz Galinski, upon the occasion of Dr. Sommer's death, written to the Vicar General of Berlin, shows that Dr. Sommer is competent to make this judgment.

The Jewish community owes Dr. Sommer thanks for her exemplary attitude towards the welfare of those who were formerly persecuted by the National Socialist regime, to whom she gave help and support with the greatest self-sacrifice… The Jewish community in Berlin will always hold the memory of Dr. Sommer in honor.(5)


In the article "The Church and the Third Reich" we already indicated that just a few days after Hitler's sensational government proclamation to the effect that the national government saw important factors for the maintenance of the German nation in both Christian confessions, whose rights were not to be impinged upon, the German bishops published a pastoral letter in which they considered the general prohibitions and warnings against the Nazis no longer to be necessary. Certainly people can have divided opinions regarding whether such a pastoral letter was appropriate, following so to speak, immediately on the heels of the announcement. Even with the same goals, views regarding the path which should be taken are often very different. However we cannot overlook the fact that even in this same pastoral letter the bishops emphasized that they did not want to withdraw the condemnation of certain religious and moral errors.

Among these religious and moral errors were racism and anti-Semitism. As early as 1928, Pius XI had already clearly and publicly taken up a position against this, and a decree of the Holy Office reminded the people that the Pope condemns "especially hate against that people which was once chosen by God, that hate which is now usually called 'anti-Semitism.'" Likewise, the German as well as the Austrian bishops clearly objected to anti-Semitism both before and after 1933. In their pastoral letters in which they warned against increasing National Socialism, the rejection of the racial ideology played a relevant role.(6)


In a letter from the episcopal authorities dated September 30, 1930, written in answer

To a question from the district authorities of the Nazi party regarding the attitude of the Church to the Party program, the response concerning paragraph 24 says:

The second part of paragraph 24 says: "We call for the freedom of all religious confessions in the State insofar as they do not offend against the ethical and moral feelings of the Germanic race." We ask: What is the ethical and moral feeling of the Germanic race? What is the relationship of this Germanic feeling of ethics and morals to Church morals? The Christian ethical law is based upon love of neighbor… Furthermore, the Christian ethical law is general; it is valid for all times and all races. Thus it is a great error to demand that the Christian confession be adapted to the ethical and moral feeling of the Germanic race. Incidentally, in matters of religion, it is not feelings but rather understanding and will, which are decisive.(7)

On April 1, 1933, upon the order of the Reich leadership of the Nazi Party, a one-day boycott was carried out in all of Germany against Jewish stores of all types, against the sales of Jewish goods, against Jewish doctors and lawyers, etc. This introduced the first phase of national Socialist Jewish politics, while the exclusion of the "non-Aryans" from public life followed.

Some days prior to this, the director of the German Bank had gone to Cardinal Bertram, the Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, and had asked him to intervene with the Reich President. The Cardinal answered that this was an area which only tangentially concerned the Church and that the State therefore would consider it an undue interference. He also said that the episcopacy had good reasons to limit itself to its own area of duties.

By April 1, 1933, however, the Pope had already sent a note protesting the anti-Jewish boycott, to which he did not receive an answer. It is certainly informative that of the 55 protest notes which the Holy See sent to Berlin between 1933 and 1939, no more than 12 of them were answered.(8)

Things did not go any better with the papal protests after the outbreak of the war. Hitler's foreign minister Ribbentrop declared in the Nuremberg trials that there was an "entire drawer full of Vatican protests."(9)

It is correct, but probably also obvious, that the bishops, first and foremost, took care of Church interests. After all, they are the officials of the Catholic Church and have to care first of all for the welfare and the problems of those who are directly entrusted to them, since they were assured of the integrity of ecclesiastical realm, by the Reich concordat. But in spite of the danger of exposing themselves to the accusation that their declarations were a statement of political Catholicism, they also frequently intervened expressly for those who were persecuted and who did not belong to the Church. Thus the pastoral letter of the Bavarian bishops, dated May 6, 1933, says:

We hope that the Reich government does not approve of the efforts and the actions of those who apply a different measure of justice as a matter of principle, or who want to apply the expression "bringing into line" in a manner which contradicts the assurance of the Reich Chancellor that he "grants equality before the law to all of those who join in supporting the nation and who do not deny their support to the government." Just as we demand equality for our German brothers in foreign countries and condemn exceptive laws, so also must we object to any deprivation of rights or inequality by law brought about by members of our own State. We are obligated to show justice and love to all men.

The pastoral letter of all the German prelates dated June 8, 1933, is even clearer:

… of course we do not forget our natural and Christian bonds with other peoples and other families of peoples because of our love for our own people and our Fatherland, but rather we think about the great worldwide kingdom of God on the earth which our Redeemer appointed to include all men in His salvation without regard to language, time, or nation and race… However we believe that a unity of people can be realized not through the identity of blood but rather through the identity of belief, and that the exclusive emphasis on race and blood with regard to the membership in a State leads to injustices which burden the Christian conscience, especially when they are applied to fellow men who are reborn in Christ through the Holy Sacrament of Baptism and have become a "new creature" in Him. What has been valid for every nation up until now - that is, that justice is the basis of the welfare of all people - must also be valid especially in the new order of the German nation.(10)0

Certainly one must not overestimate the possibilities that the bishops had at the time. They were very limited even within the Catholic area and often condemned to ineffectiveness.

Thus Bishop Nikolaus Bares of Berlin protested against the claims of the Nazis that the leader of the Berlin Catholic Action, ministerial dirtier Dr. Erich Klausener, who was murdered on June 30, 1934, had committed suicide. Along with the entire chapter of the cathedral he participated in the solemn requiem and the internment of the urn with the murdered man's ashes. On July 8, he had an obituary to Klausener read in every church of the bishopric. He had the Catholic Church Gazette for the Bishopric of Berlin of July 15 appear as a memorial number, and he himself wrote a page-long obituary. After 120,000 copies of this issue were distributed, the prohibition against further printings was issued. The bishop wrote to Hitler three times to save the murdered man's honor. His first letter was answered with excuses; the two other letters remained without any answer at all.


In his world-famous encyclical "Mit brennender Sorge" (To the Bishops of German on the Church and the German Reich) of March 14, 1937, Pius XI once more gave his views regarding the racial question, after he had already said about a dozen times that "a god Catholic cannot serve the idol of racism" and that National Socialism and Christianity were irreconcilable:

He who takes the race, or the people, or the State, or the form of government, the bearers of the power of the State or other fundamental elements of human society - which in the temporal order of things have an essential and honorable place - out of the system of their earthly valuation and makes them the ultimate norm of all, even of religious values, and deifies them with an idolatrous worship, perverts and falsifies in order of things created and commanded by God. Such a person is far from true belief in God and a conception of life corresponding to true belief… This God has given His commandments in His capacity as Sovereign. They apply regardless of time and space, country or race. As God's sun shines on all that bear human countenance, so does His law know no privileges or exceptions… Only superficial minds can lapse into the heresy of speaking of a national God, of a national religion; only such can make the mad attempt of trying to confine within the boundaries of a single people, within the narrow blood stream of a single race, God the Creator of the world…

The language of the encyclical left nothing to be desired in clarity. What now was the reaction to this worldwide message, which, after all, was addressed to all peoples? In Germany itself the struggle against the Church was greatly intensified; at the direction of the Reich government the German ambassador to the Vatican lodged the strongest protest. The Reich Minister for Churches, Kerrl, attacked the bishops for this encyclical in internal writings, and Hitler himself did the same thing on May 1, at a mass rally in the Berlin Lustgarten.(11)2

On March 23, 1937, Hitler had his Reich Minister for the Churches prohibit the printing, reproduction, and distribution of the papal encyclical. The official publications of the bishops which had printed the encyclical were banned for three months. Twelve print shops which had printed the encyclical before March 21 were expropriated without compensation. Heydrich directed the immediate arrest of persons who distributed the encyclical outside of churches and rectory grounds, if they were not members of the clergy.(12)3

On April 6, 1937, Hitler ordered the resumption of the Morals Trials. He thought he had in them and their propagandistic exploitation an effective weapon against the papal encyclical.(13)4

On April 13, 1938, the Papal Congregation of Students called for the professors to fight with all their power against the completely erroneous doctrine of racism and the idolization of race. The following propositions, as well as others, were condemned:

1. Human races are different from each other in their innate and unchanging manner so much that the lowest human race is further removed from the highest than it is from the highest animal race.

2. The power of the race and the purity of blood must be protected and furthered in all possible ways; everything which serves this goal is, of itself, already good and permitted.

3. From the blood in which the nature of the race is contained there flows, as the most essential source, all the spiritual and moral properties of human beings.

4. The most important goal of teaching is the advancement of the development of the nature of the race and the encouragement of the spirit to a burning love for its own race as the highest existing possession.

5. Religion is subordinate to the law of the race and must be adapted to it.

6. The first source and the highest measure of all legal order is racial instinct…

7. Individuals exist solely through the State; all rights which come to them receive their force from the fact that they have been granted by the State.(14)5

On July 15, 1938, Pope Pius XI gave an address before the students of the Propaganda Fide, the papal university where citizens of almost every nation in the world studied. The main point of his speech: "It is forgotten today that mankind is only one large all-inclusive general race."

The Volkische Beobachter reacted to this address in its edition of August 2, 1938:

The Vatican has rejected the racial doctrine from the very beginning, partially because it was first proclaimed publicly by German National Socialism and because the latter drew the first practical consequences from this knowledge; for the Vatican adopted a political stance of opposition towards National Socialism. However, the Vatican also had to reject the racial doctrine because it contradicts its dogma of the equality of all men, which is again a consequence of the Catholic claim for universality, which incidentally, it also shares with liberals, Jews, and Communists.(15)6


Since many Jews, even though not all of them by far, recognized more and more that continuing to remain in Germany would entail greater and greater risks, a steadily increasing number of them attempted to emigrate. But this was not as simple as one might imagine it today when anyone can change his residence or country at will. The difficulties were of a different nature but in a certain way similar to those faced by people who wish to move from the German Democratic Republic to West Germany, if they have not yet reached retirement age.

Professing Jews enjoyed significantly great possibilities, especially if they were well-to-do. But for poor Jewish citizens the difficulties were almost insurmountable, especially if they belonged to a Christian Church. The society of St. Raphael, originally founded for the "normal" emigration of the previous century, tried to help the "non-Aryan Catholics" who wanted to emigrate. The German charitable organization Caritas attended to those who were not able or did not want to emigrate. Both organizations were represented in the "Relief Committee for Catholic non-Aryans," founded in 1935. In 1934 the "Caritas Relief Works" was established, in 1938 the "Relief Works of the Episcopal Ordinariat in Berlin," in 1939 the "Caritas Reich Office for Non-Aryan Catholics." After the so-called "Anschluss" the "Organization to Aid the Emigration of Non-Mosaic Jews in the Ostmark" was founded in Austria. At first this group concerned itself with emigration, evacuation, and public relief.(16)7

In Vienna, where a disproportionately high percentage of Jews who did not practice Judaism lived - altogether 7, 914 in the year 1941, of these 3,836 Catholics - there were various attempts to help the persecuted Jews at first on a more or less private basis, then within the framework of Caritas.(17)8 Then in 1940, Cardinal Innitzer founded the 'Archiepiscopal Relief Office for Non-Aryan Catholics" which began its activity in the palace of the Viennese Archbishop and continued to work effectively until after the end of the war. Without going too deeply into details, we will single out two cases as example which may show the general refusal of foreign countries to accept German Jews.


There were various reasons for this aversion. First of all, the anti-Semitism practiced in many other countries was no less strong than in Germany. Then too, the consequences of the world depression were not over yet by far. Professional organizations, especially among academics, were afraid of unpleasant competition, especially as there were still many unemployed, even in foreign countries. To be fair however, it must also be admitted that not a few emigres "attracted attention through their behavior in Brazil, their lack of willingness to work and their inadequate adaptation to the customs of the country, and they reversed not only the spirit of sacrifice and enthusiasm of the relief committee but above all too the friendly attitude of the authorities," as the society of St. Raphael was forced to observe.(18)9

In the spring of 1939 a ship set sail from Hamburg to Havana, with 900 Jewish refugees on board, all of whom had Cuban visas. Having arrived in Cuba, the authorities declared that the visas were invalid and refused to allow the ship to dock. In its search for asylum the ship sailed to eleven nations in all, but all of them forbade the landing. Many Jews were brought back to Germany and later ended up in the gas chambers.(19)0

A further somber chapter is the so-called Brazil action. After the Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli was elected Pope on March 2, 1939, the Vatican joined the negotiations to obtain 3,000 visas for Christian "non-Aryans." Finally the Brazilian President Dr. Getulio Vargas pledged the new Pope that he could grant them to German Catholic non-Aryans. The effort to obtain the visas lasted from June 1939 until June 1941. In this respect, it must be realized that the Gestapo made the release of Jewish prisoners from concentration camps dependent upon the possession of a visa. Then, within ten days of their release, they had to leave Germany. The anti-Semitic and negative attitude of Brazil's representatives in Berlin and Hamburg continued to create new difficulties. A few "regulations for implementation" will illustrate this:

Only families with at least three persons between ages of twelve and fifty who were able to work were eligible. Each family which was selected by a Brazilian delegation had to deposit 20,000 Conto de Reis. According to the official exchange rate, that amounted to 2,800 Reichsmarks (RM); for Jews, however, a "special exchange rate" of 39,000 RM was in effect.(20)1

The following figures will serve to give the reader a good idea of the financial magnitude of these amounts: A chaplain who was ordained in 1938 received in July of 1940 in Vienna a net salary of 106.56 RM per month. An unmarried secondary schoolteacher-senior government official of the same number of years of service received as a beginning salary 408.00 RM, and as his highest salary 684.00 RM. If he was married and had a child, then he received a beginning salary of 439.00 RM, and a maximum salary of 725.00 RM.(21)2

The family which was chosen had to promise to go to work in agriculture or industry. Of the 3,000 visas which had been promised 1,000 were finally set aside for "non-Aryans" who were already outside of Germany and were waiting to continue their journey overseas. For 150 of them the invasion of the army into Holland, and after that the Gestapo, came quicker than the permission to enter Brazil. The society of St. Raphael, Bishop Berning from Osnabruck, the Head of the Archiepiscopal Relief Organization in Vienna, Father Ludger Born, S.J., as well as the highest offices in the Vatican worked in vain to secure the distribution of the remaining 2,000 visas.

Looked at soberly, this is what the real influence of the Church - of its highest representatives yet! - looked like in a "Catholic" country such as Brazil.

H.G. Adler, the author of the extensive monograph "Theresienstadt 1941 - 1945"(22)3 describes these phenomena this way:

The failure of the most powerful people of this earth formed the gloomy background against which the desperate struggle against the implementation of the "final solution" stands out in sharp contrast… Protests, radio announcements, threats of jail and feeble petty relief actions made little impression upon the murderers who skillfully took advantage of this weakness and lamentable inactivity. The extermination camps in Auschwitz and elsewhere, as well as the railroad tracks leading up to them were never bombed, even though the necessary details had been reported to the West via Geneva. The attempt was never made to help these people who were marked for death in the camps and in the enforced ghettoes by dropping weapons and explosives, or even with paratroopers, even though volunteers could have been found, who through a skillful surprise raid could have made the Auschwitz camp unusable for months, or if the raid were repeated, forever. Too much was neglected in the West as well as in the East.(23)4


By 1934 in the Netherlands, the bishops had already threatened the harshest penalties for all Catholics who joined the Dutch Nazis. The anti-Jewish measures began immediately after the occupation in May 1940. Since the bishops protested sharply against this many times, the Nazis "avenged" themselves by deporting even those Jews who were baptized. Dr. Harster, high ranking leader in the SS and the police, declared in his memorandum of July 30, 1942, literally: "Since the Catholic bishops - without being involved - have interfered in these affairs, the entire population of Catholic Jews will now be sent off this week yet. No intervention will be considered."

As the Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden reported on the following day, General Commissar Schmidt said at a Party meeting on August 2, 1942: "However, if the Catholic clergy can thus ignore negotiations, then we in turn are forced to consider the Catholic full-blooded Jews as our worst opponents and to take measures to ship them off to the East as quickly as possible. This has happened."(24)5 The most prominent victim was the Carmelite nun Edith Stein, who has since become world famous.

These deportations had a fairly long prologue. In the Netherlands, strikes had come about against the deportation of the Jews. A publication which cannot be doubted writes on this topic: "The vain strike on February 25, 1941, did not improve the position of the Jews in Holland - as a matter of fact the protest led to an intensification of the anti-Jewish measures by the Germans."(25)6

The Dutch bishops had made several protests to the Reich Commissar Dr. Seyss-Inquart against anti-Jewish measures. They also threatened with pastoral letters. Dr. Harster warned that measures would also be taken against baptized Jews who had been spared up until then. The Reformed Church reacted to this in silence, but the Archbishop of Utrecht got a pastoral letter against anti-Semitism accepted by his peers, which was then read in all the churches on July 26, 1942. Just five days later, the security police had all Dutch Catholics of Jewish descent deported.(26)7 Whoever wants to make an objective judgment regarding the events of the time should bear in mind the following: In none of the countries occupied by the Nazis did the bishops protest more loudly, more emphatically and more often than in the Netherlands. But on the other had, no country anywhere else in the West had more Jews deported - specifically 79 percent - into the death camps.(27)8


In the article "The Church and the Third Reich" we already called attention to the various pastoral letters of the German bishops against the despotism of the official authorities towards innocent men; there were various relief offices for non-Aryan Catholics which developed partially from earlier relief organizations and were partially created specifically for the hopeless plight of those being persecuted. Insofar as we can get a clear view of things, the only relief organization which was able to continue its beneficent activity even until after the end of the war, was the Archiepiscopal Relief Organization for Non-Aryan Catholics in Vienna founded by Cardinal Innitzer. Because of the numerous "non-Aryans" in the "Ostmark," as Austria was then called, it probably was also the largest of all of them by far. After years of research and questioning many witnesses, a compendious documentation could be presented which gives a more or less complete overview of the impressive Christian work of Caritas.(28)9 The relief organization had altogether 23 female co-workers besides its director. Of these nine were sent to concentration camps, where only one survived.

Day in and day out the sick were visited, the despairing were comforted - and all of this in the shadow of the omnipresent Gestapo. We dealt with giving advice in legal questions, how one should act when summoned by the Gestapo, placement in jobs and apartments, finding medical and dental treatment. "Aryan" doctors were not allowed to treat Jews. We asked for medicine and glasses, everything which was not allowed to Jews. It was necessary to arrange placements in homes for children or old people, and whenever someone died then the difficult problem of his burial arose. Jews were not allowed to be interred in "Aryan" cemeteries.

Altogether the relief organization expended 375,417.44 RM. This sum may seem relatively small today, but comparisons from that period of time can give us a more or less appropriate idea…

In his book Emigrant for Germany the journalist and author Frederic W. Nielsen quotes a letter of the PEN-Club of which he was a member. The club decided that it was unable "to send the promised support of ten marks." Instead of that the British refugee committee provided a "weekly contribution of 2.50 marks… "

From the end of 1940 to the end of 1942, 48 trainloads of 1,000 Jews each were sent from the General-gouvernement to Litzmannstadt (Lodz) and the Theresienstadt; in 1943 smaller shipments followed. All told, approximately 2,000 Catholics were involved here… All the attempts of the cardinal to block these shipments, through Church organizations and non-Church organizations, were unsuccessful… The relief organizations also sent packages to Poland from Vienna, from the Province, and from the Protectorate. This was no simple task - even ignoring the acquisition of food and clothing, since everything was rationed - because many post offices refused to accept "Jewish packages… " The shipments to Theresienstadt began after Christmas in 1942. At first there were 20 to 30 per month, but from July of 1943 on, the number increased to 200 or more per month. In the year 1944 there were exactly 7,277 packages sent, most of them weighing 2 kilograms. Individual packages also were sent to the concentration camps of Ravensbruck, Buchenwald, Birkenau and Auschwitz.

In spite of the material aid which was the only thing that made survival possible for some of them, the spiritual support was probably even more important: "That you did not leave us alone in our fear… That you came to us again and again, even though our dwellings were branded as the dwellings of Jews… That we were allowed to come to you when we no longer knew what else to do… That you were simply there for us, all of this comforted us, all of this we took along with us as a hope and a consolation into the camps, into deportation and into the gruesome end… "(29)0

Not a few critic of the Church have found fault with the fact that the bishops did not use harsh language and said nothing concrete about the extermination of the Jews. Yet no one would have been served with theatrical thundering. The bishops knew, just as well as the ruling powers of the time, who had the leverage. Many people could still be helped quietly, and a large number of non-full-blooded Jews still lived in relative security within the "Greater German Reich." Given the conditions of the time, only quiet help extended in secrecy was possible and effective. In the Nuremberg trials the counsel for the prosecution found out how cynically the major war criminals reacted to the Allied threats that those who were guilty of the annihilation of the Jews would be brought to justice: "I am very honored", "Look to the records", etc.(30)1

On March 12, 1944, the Archbishop of Cologne, Josef Frings, objected to government despotism and the persecution of the Jews:

We will use the opportunity (of the installation of the Pope) in order to demand, in the spirit of the Holy Father that:

1. Freedom be not withdrawn from any citizen without his having the opportunity to defend himself and to be brought before a regular or extraordinary court.

2. No one who is innocent be robbed of his possessions or indeed of his life, on the grounds that he belongs to a foreign race. This can only be called outrageous injustice.

3. The rights of the Christian family are preserved. Marriages between members of our people and those from other peoples, if they have been made with ecclesiastical approval, and especially if both partners are baptized Catholic Christians, are indissoluble, and it is a crime against God's law on marriage to break up such marriages through any kind of machinations.(31)2

One might wonder why the Nazis took no steps against the bishops. Certainly, as for example Goebbels wrote, (32)3 they wanted to "adjourn the criminal court until later." But another reason may have played a role. As early as May 1936, Cardinal Bertram stated frankly at a press conference: "Those on the other side no longer take us seriously."(33)4 Perhaps the Nazis hoped that the bishops' words would have less effect on the faithful if they purposely ignored them. Hitler said in the company of his followers, that the first 10,000 copies of the Myth of the Twentieth Century were not finally sold until it was mentioned in a pastoral letter. "Only the fact that the Cardinal of Munich, Faulhaber, was dumb enough to quote from the Myth at a bishops' conference and to attack it, made the second edition possible." The various articles by the Catholic Church attacking Rosenberg had finally caused the number of copies printed to rise as high as 170,000, and then to 200,000.(34)5


What did the Pope do? Nothing, if one may believe his accusers. However, the facts tell a different story. The Counselor of the Embassy, Haidlen, expert for Vatican questions in the Foreign Office of the Third Reich, was asked by the Deputy U.S. Prosecuting Attorney, Robert M.W. Kempner, about the reactions of the Holy See to the excesses of the national Socialist terror organizations. Haidlen admitted that the nuncio Cesare Orsenigo was continually making protests against the measures and the acts of violence of the Gestapo and the SS, but in most cases he had not been able to accomplish anything. Occasionally his intervention had fatal consequences for those on whose behalf he used his influence. Not infrequently, the persons concerned were eliminated and then the Foreign Office was informed that there were no persons at all by this name in custody. "In view of such practices it soon seemed more advisable to the Vatican to cease its public announcements, and to use other ways to work quietly to restrain the national Socialist ruling powers, a mode of behavior which today is often misunderstood as a failure of the Church."(35)6

On May 13, 1940, Msgr. Montini, later Pope Paul VI, noted that Pius XII had said to the Italian ambassador, Dino Alfieri, in an audience: "We would have to speak words of fire against the terrible things (which are going on in Poland) and that the only thing that keeps us from doing this is the knowledge that we would make the fate of these unfortunate people even worse if we were to speak more strongly."(36)7

As Montini reports, Pius XII several times considered breaking his "silence" and expressing more than general condemnation of crimes and breaches of international law. But again and again the realization came through to him that flaming protests would only be considered theatrical thundering and would cause the Nazi to increase the temp of their murderous activities and to extend them even further. On the other hand, they would finally foil the Pope'' limited diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, as well as the not insignificant successes in those countries such as Hungary, Rumania, or Slovakia, which had not been fully "brought into line." The German ambassador, von Weizsacker, also shared this evaluation of the situation, and sought to strengthen the Vatican in this attitude. On January 25, 1940, while he was still the Secretary of State in the foreign office, Weizsacker wrote to the ambassador from the Vatican, von Bergen: "To be sure the Vatican does express itself in general terms, but it is totally clear who is meant.(37)8

The manner of proceeding in the international arena depends upon many conditions which cannot be judged without a through knowledge of the background and the context. For example, one should remember the very different treatment of the question of human rights by U.S. President Carter and the Austrian Federal Chancellor Kreisky. The former American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, came out in favor of a "quiet diplomacy" in the struggle for human rights. In an interview with the American publication "Trialogue," he supported the view that a "loud campaign concealed great dangers." According to him the political developments in Iran after the fall of the Shah "are one of the results of such a loud policy" (Die Welt, February 6, 1979). Here one must not overlook the fact that the United States is not only a military but also an economic superpower par excellence, and possesses many ways of influencing other countries which the military and economic have-nots, such as the Vatican, do not possess.

The far-reaching impotence of those countries which are only "moral superpowers," such as the Holy See, becomes abundantly clear in the example of the Spanish civil war. The Spanish communists shot to death, tortured to death or murdered in other ways 12 bishops, 5,255 priests, 2,492 monks, 283 nuns and 294 novices.(38)9 Are we to assume that the Pope was indifferent to this? But what could he attain in fact?

Father Robert Leiber, S.J., who was one of Pope Pius XII's closest assistants for decades, writes regarding the dilemma in which the Pope found himself, that is whether and to what extent he should express his views regarding the terrible crimes of mass murder and, at the same time, the merciless bombing terror against the civilian population:

One may speculate that it was an act of Providence that the Church was directed during World War II by a Pope who adopted Benedict XV's principle of objecting to injustice, force, and cruelty only in a general form, regardless of where they happen and who perpetrates them. In World War II and even afterwards, acts of violence and cruelty were committed in unimaginable forms on almost all sides, so that there would be no end to the Pope's lodging protests in order that he might not seem to be taking sides…

The effect of a solemn condemnation was also looked upon very soberly be others. The Roman Jews were in any case thankful to the Pope that he maintained his silence during the German occupation of that city…(39)0

In his book Three Popes and the Jews(40)1 which shows the light and dark sides of the Catholic Church with respect to the Jews through the course of decades, Pinchas E. Lapide writes the following:

The Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000, Jews from certain death at Nazi hands… It was as if this crusade of rescue was meant to atone in part, for the hateful teachings of the past. These figures, small as they are in comparison with our six million martyrs whose fate is beyond consolation, exceed by far those saved by all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations combined.

Moreover, they stand in startling contrast to the unpardonable foot-dragging and hypocritical lip-service of those outside Hitler's reach, who certainly disposed of far greater means to rescue Jews whilst there was still time: the International Red Cross specifically and the Western democracies in general.(41)2

The London Jewish Chronicle wrote in its lead article on September 11, 1942: "A word of sincere and earnest appreciation is due from Jews to the Vatican for its intervention in Berlin and Vichy on behalf of their tortured co-religionists in France…" (42)3 Barely one month later, on October 9, 1942, The Universe wrote:

From St. Peter's throne the late Pope himself uttered the strongest protests and declarations that anti-Semitism is an un-Christian policy. His successor has repeated those warnings and quite recently sent his nuncio to Vichy to protest in person against the anti-Jewish measures that have been decreed in France.(43)4

The protest however, was rejected. Prime Minister Laval proclaimed that he would not let himself be influenced by the Holy See. A censorship order to the press said: "No mention is to be made of the Vatican protest to Marshal Petain in favor of the Jews."(44)5

On the occasion of the first deportation of foreign and stateless Jews from France - French government offices had agreed on this "compromise" with the Gestapo, in order to save at least the French Jews - the Archbishop of Toulouse, Saliege, had a proclamation read on Sunday, August 22, 1942, which said: "Jews… are our brothers. A Christian cannot forget that." Upon the express direction of Pius XII the Osservatore Romano and Radio Vatican repeated this protest twice and commented upon it for the next six days.(45)6

The Jewish historian Leon Poliakov, who himself was saved by Christians, characterizes the situation in France at the time as follows: "Priests, members of the religious orders and laymen were rivals in giving asylum, thereby saving, as Mauriac wrote, the honor of French Catholics. The saving of their honor saved tens of thousands of Jewish lives."(46)7

Even in Poland, where anti-Semitism was much more deeply rooted than in Germany or Austria, a few hundred Catholic priests, monks, and nuns saved, according to Lapide, at least 15,000, perhaps 50,000 Jews during the years 1940 to 1945.(47)8

Msgr. Nowowiejski, one of the six bishops in German concentration camps during the war, wrote on June 28, 1964: "If the Pope could do nothing against the Nazi criminals who habitually broke their promises and ignored every diplomatic obligation; if he failed to save his own priests from death, what would Hitler have conceded him on behalf of others?"(48)9


After all, more than 4,000 priests, monks and nuns died at the hand of the Nazis - in spite of the numerous energetic interventions and protests of the Pope and his nuncios in Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, especially Poland, but also in other countries. Not a few priests who had helped, concealed or aided Jews in their escape were discovered and murdered. Don Aldo Mei, a young priest from Fiano in Italy, may serve as a representative for many of them. He had concealed a Jewish family for seven months. When the Gestapo discovered them, the Jews were immediately shot to death. Don Aldo however was tortured for two days in order to get from him the names of other Jews he had concealed. Before finally having to dig his own grave, he wrote in his breviary: "I die content with sealed lips and serene in God's peace." (49)0

Rabbi Arthur Gilbert wrote about of all of them:

These Catholic priests had looked upon the faces of their Jewish neighbours and recognized Jesus willingly sacrificed in an act of atoning love. In their opposition to Hitler they demonstrated that Christianity is not to be judged by the failure of Christians, just as Judaism should not be measured by the sinfulness of some Jews. Faith that calls upon God, the Creator of man in His Own Image, heals and reconciles man to his brother.(50)1

From the book Three Popes and the Jews we clearly see that the Catholic Church does not need to shy away from comparison with any institution regarding its attitude towards the persecution of the Jews. This becomes especially clear, for example, when we investigate the results of the Bermuda conference held in May 1943 to discuss the problems of refugees. These results are shocking and make manifest the double standards of many politicians who fight for the "protection of human rights." The "Jewish Comment" of May 14, 1943, states: "The truth is that what stands in the way of aid to the Jews in Europe… is not that such a program is dangerous, but simple lack of good will to go to any trouble on their behalf." (51)2

Professor Haim Fineman from the Zionist Worker's Movement in the United States summarizes the facts as follows: "What renders the situation so horrifying is the fact that this tragedy was not unavoidable. Many of these dead might have been alive were it not for the refusal and delays by our own State Department, the International Red Cross, the War Refugee Board and other agencies to take action." (52)3

At the same time the Nuncio Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, was making thousands of baptismal certificates available for those Jews who were condemned to death, without attaching any conditions to them. In the process, not a single Jew was baptized. Two members of the Relief Committee of the Jewish Agency wrote to Roncalli on October 14, 1944:

The humanitarian interest which the Holy See and its noble representatives showed in various countries of Europe where Jews were threatened with deportation, and the help which was granted to them so magnanimously, through which thousands of people were saved from sure death, will never be forgotten by our nation and by the conscience of the civilized world.(53)4

Pinchas Lapide, from whose book we have made several citations, was often asked why a practicing Jew like himself would waste his time defending the Pope (Pius XII). His answer should give pause to all of those who want to brand the Church and the Pope as being jointly guilty in the abominations of the Nazis:

If fairness and historical justice are keystones of Jewish morality, then keeping silent in view of slanderous attacks on a benefactor is an injustice… Did not Pius speak out clearly against Nazism, for equal mercy towards all the victims of the persecution, doubtlessly also towards the Jews, in his many radio appeals, pastoral letters, embassies and letters to his bishops? Would these neo-heathens, who shamelessly disregarded the divine law and the basic commands of Jesus, have listened to any appeal from Rome? And would Pius have been able to defy Hitler, with absolutely no power - and at the same time have been able to go on saving Jews secretly? … Whoever is of the opinion that the situation could not have gotten any worse, should remember that after all far more than two million Jews - more than one quarter of the European Jews - did indeed survive Hitler's butchery, even if just barely - thanks to the help of the Church, bishops, priests, laymen…

The Talmud teaches us "whoever saves a life receives as much credit as if he had saved an entire world." If this is true - and it is just as true as the most typical of all Jewish principles: that of the holiness of human life - then a Jew must also defend loudly a great saver of Jewish life.(54)5

1. Rolf Hochhuth, Der Stellvertreter (Hamburg, 1963).

2.2 Why Die Zeit consults with two more excommunicated priests, besides the author, for its attack against the Church, does not appear completely understandable. By doing this, suspicion falls on the renegade that he wants to justify his own actions through attacks against that Church, to which he one vowed faithfulness. Furthermore, there is certainly no lack of experts, and even the author himself attests that the Jesuit Ludwig Volk, for example, is "an excellent authority on church conditions at the time of national Socialism."

3.3 G.B. Cardinal Montini, "Pius XII and the Jews" In The Storm Over The Deputy, Eric Bentley (Ed.), (New York, 1964), p. 68.

4.4 Letter from Dr. Sommer to Fr. Born, S.J., dated November 21, 1961.

5.5 Petrusblatt (July 11, 1965).

6.6 Gotto-Repgen, Kirche, Katholiken und Nationalsozialismus (Mainz, 1980), p. 85.

7.7 Gerhart Binder, Irrtum und Widerstand (Munich, 1968), p. 72f.

8.8 Lothar Groppe, Kirche und Juden im Dritten Reich (Vienna, 1979), p. 5.

9.9 Ibid., p. 5.

1.10 Johann Neuhausler, Kreuz und Hakenkreuz (Munich, 1946), II, p. 50.

1.12 Walter Adolph, Hirtenamt und Hitler-Diktatur (Berlin, 1965), p. 134.

1.13 Walter Adolph, Die katholische Kirche im Deutschland Adolf Hitlers (Berlin, no year (1974), p. 76f.

1.14 Cf. "The Church and the Third Reich," in this publication, note 14.

1.15 Neuhausler, op. cit., II p. 378f.

1.16 Ibid., p. 379.

1.17 Born-Groppe, Die Erzbischofliche Hilfsstelle fur nichtarische Katholiken in Wien (Vienna, 1978), pp. 5, 191f.

1.18 Lothar Groppe, Die Erzbischofliche Hilfsstelle fur nichtarische Katholiken in Wien, (2) (1981), p. 12f.

1.19 Lutz-Eugen Reutter, Katholische Kirche als Fluchthelfer im Dritten Reich (Recklinghausen-Hamburg, 1971), p. 141.

2.20 Pinchas E. Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews (New York, 1967), p. 216.

2.21 Reutter, op. cit., p. 141f.

2.22 Born-Groppe, Die Erzbischofliche Hilfsstelle (Vienna, 1978), p. 90.

2.23 Reutter, op. cit., p. 142f.

2.24 H.G. Adler, Theresienstadt 1941-1942 (2) (Tubingen, 1960).

2.25 H.G. Adler, Der Kampf gegen die "Endlosung" (Supplement to the weekly newspaper Das Parlament), p. 98.

2.26 Israel Digest (March 12, 1965).

2.27 Lothar Groppe, Deutsche Tagespost (December 22-23, 1978).

2.28 Lapide, op. cit., p. 202.

2.29 Born-Groppe, Die Erzbischofliche Hilfsstelle fur nichtarische Katholiken in Wien, 1978; Lothar Groppe, in Heimfuhren werd ich euch von uberall her (Vienna, no year [1979]).

3.30 Lothar Groppe in Heimfuhren… , p. 5f.

3.31 B.J.J. Visser, Gewalt gegen Gewissen (Wurzburg, 1974), p. 246.

3.32 Ibid., p. 205f.

3.33 Ibid., p. 162.

3.34 Lothar Groppe, Kirche und Juden im Dritten Reich, p. 12.

3.35 Henry Picker, Hitlers Tischgesprache (2) (Stuttgart, 1965), p. 269.

3.36 Alfred, Schickel, "Aus den Protokollen eines Anklagers," (FAZ) (December 19, 1969).

3.37 Visser, op. cit., p. 35.

3.38 Dieter Albrecht (Ed.), Katholische Kirche im Dritten Reich, (Mainz, 1976), p. 187.

3.39 Thomas Hugh, The Spanish Civil War, p. 144.

4.40 Lothar Groppe, Kirche und Juden im Dritten Reich (Vienna, 1979), p. 14.


4.41 Pinchas E. Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews (New York, 1967).

4.42 Ibid., p. 214f.

4.43 Ibid., p. 197.

4.44 Ibid., p. 194.

4.45 Ibid.

4.46 Ibid., p. 189f.

4.47 Ibid., p. 193.

4.48 Ibid., p. 187.

4.49 Ibid., p. 185.

5.50 Ibid., p. 213.

5.51 Ibid.

5.52 Ibid., p. 218.

5.53 Ibid., p. 222.

5.54 Ibid.

5.55 Die Welt (July 16, 1966).

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