The Churches and the Nazi Persecution of the Jews - a Review
Kershaw reviews selected papers of the international conference set in Jerusalem in 1982 on “Judaism and Christianity under the Impact of National Socialism, 1919–1945.” Rudolf Lill and Hermann Greive provide conflicting Catholic attitudes to the Jews in the Third Reich. Greive opines that anti-Judaism and antisemitism overlap, while Lill declares that the road to Auschwitz was fired purely by racial antisemitism. Otto Dov Kulka points out the limited reaction of the churches was probably related to a heritage of religious antagonism. Konrad Repgen questions why the “Jewish question” was not a central issue for the Catholic Church during the Nazi era. Group isolationism in order to preserve its identity, he suggests, is the reason. Traditional antagonism to the Jew led to a low priority of the Jewish question by the Christian leaders. The Church’s silence after Kristallnacht demonstrated the Christian position. Repgen asserts that at that time an opportunity was lost as the Church’s protest against euthanasia in 1941 did elicit a response. Richard Gutteridge, too, denounces the Protestant Church for its lack of concern and action following Kristallnacht. Meir Michaelis claims that Pius XII was guilty of errors of judgment, but not of unworthy motives. Erika Weinzierl found a heavy dose of antisemitism among the Austrian clergy. Michael Marrus, discussing Jews in Vichy France, finds that the Protestant Church was more sensitive to the plight of the Jews than the Catholic. Ger van Roon supplies a ray of light, mentioning that the Dutch churches did manage an ecumenical objection to the deportation of Dutch Jewry. Poland’s contribution is surprisingly lightweight. Yitzhak Arad offers a compelling indictment of the complicity of the churches in Ukraine and the occupied USSR in the murder of Jews. Livia Rothkirten adds information on the positive change in attitude of the Church in Slovakia and Hungary in 1943. Further papers touch on many other aspects from the medieval Church’s attitudes to Jews to implications of the Holocaust for Jewish–Christian relations. More research is necessary to study, in particular, the implications of pre-Nazi clerical attitudes towards the Jews.