“God-killers,” this image of Jews, and their refusal to convert to Christianity, fueled a long tradition of Christian intolerance, hatred and violence. In 66 CE, the new Christians of Alexandria, Egypt, brutally massacred the city’s Jewish population. In 388 CE, a Christian mob, perhaps incited by their bishop, looted and burned the synagogue in Callinicum, a town in modern day Iran.
The early Church reviled the Jews in theological texts and openly attacked them in prayers and in the liturgy. For centuries, Catholics were forbidden to marry Jews or even share meals with them. Jews were subjected to torture and murder in pogroms across the ages. At other times, adults were forcibly converted, and their children stolen and baptized.
With this recurring precedent, it is thus no surprise that when Hitler advocated the elimination of Jews, he found allies in the Church. While there were tens of thousands of Christians who risked their lives to save Jews, many more – including members of the Church hierarchy – aided Hitler’s campaign with their silence, or their participation.
The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences does not suggest that Catholic leaders willed the Holocaust, but it is a discourse into the Christian traditions and teachings that made it possible by systematically excluding Jews from “the circle of Christian concern.”