Pope Pius XII’s role before and during the Holocaust, both as Pius XI’s Secretary of State and as wartime pope, is the subject of ongoing controversy. The controversy began at war’s end when the existence of ratlines, a system of Vatican approved escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe to avoid prosecution for war crimes, came to light. It intensified in the early 1960s when…..
There were, of course, members of the clergy throughout Europe during the Holocaust whose words and deeds reflected Christian conscience. And some of them were martyred for their faith. One example was Fr. Max Josef Metzger, a WWI German army chaplain and founder of Peace Alliance of German Catholics. For publicly protesting against the Nazis, Fr. Metzger was arrested by the Gestapo, condemned for high treason and executed…..
Notwithstanding the passivity of most European Christians during the Holocaust and the active participation of others, clearly, there were in Germany and in every Nazi-occupied or allied European country, people — clergy, religious and lay — who behaved humanely, even heroically. These righteous people bore witness that compassion and decency still existed in what had become hell on earth. Despite…..
Europe’s population during the 1920’s, ’30’s, and 40’s was approximately 95% Christian. Clearly, anti-Judaism, the Church’s 1900 plus year doctrine of animus against Jews, contributed to the culpability, complicity, and indifference of so many, many Europeans, both before and during the Holocaust. The following letter of complaint to Reich authorities from Mrs. Eleonore Gusenbauer of Ried, a village in Austria near Mauthausen, written in September, 1941, for example,…..
Historians term the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of World War I, a “Golden Age” for Jews. Things began to change for the worse, however, when Austro-Hungary, allied with Germany, was likewise defeated by the Allies in WWI. Under terms of…..
Shaken by Germany’s military defeat in War World I, the humiliating terms of the Versailles Treaty, and the social and economic turbulence of the 1920’s and ‘30’s, most Germans yearned for better days, including restoration of their nation’s dignity and power. In this context Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party, with its promise of strong central leadership, a better way…..
Article 16 of the Reich Concordat of 1933 required Catholic bishops and priests to swear an oath of allegiance to the Third Reich. It read:
“Before bishops take possession of their dioceses they are to take an oath of fealty either to the Reich Representative of the State concerned, or to the President of the Reich, according to the following…..
During the Third Reich several Roman Catholic prelates were known as “Brown Bishops” (brown being the official color of the Nazi movement), because of their enthusiastic support of Nazism, including Konrad Gröber of Freiburg, Adolf Bertram of Breslau (photo above), Michael Buchberger of Regensburg, Antonius Hilfrich of Limburg and Military Bishop Franz Josef Rarkowski . Clearly, their…..
On July 20, 1933, at a formal ceremony in Rome, only six months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) on behalf of Pope Pius XI, signed the Reich Concordat between Nazi Germany and the Vatican, making it the first treaty between the new regime and a sovereign state. At the…..
Pursuant to church practice (not doctrine) in the 19th century, a Jewish child baptized, with or without parental knowledge and consent, could not be returned to the custody of non-converted parents. Accordingly, Jews entering the House of Catechumens, a residence for converts located in Rome and in other Papal States were required to have their children baptized. Between 1814 and 1818, according to David I. Kertzer,…..