The Catholic Elites in Brazil and Their Attitude Toward the Jews, 1933–1939
Brazil went through a substantial political change in 1930 that left its mark on Brazilian history and had an impact on Brazil’s reactions to Nazi Germany and its anti-Jewish policies. Getúlio Vargas served as president in 1930-1945, and instituted an authoritarian regime in 1937 known as Estado Novo. The Catholic Church in Brazil was very influential in this period, as could be felt in the constitutions of 1934 and 1937, in education, and in the close relationship that it developed with state institutions. Brazilian Catholic attitudes towards Jews in the 1930s followed a double standard. The Church addressed the subject directly only occasionally. Yet, the archbishop of Porto Alegre stood out in his attitude towards Jews, and from 1939, he condemned Nazi racial policy and violence against the Jews in pastoral letters that he published. However, antisemitism was rife among the lay Catholic intellectual circles that were closely identified with the Church leadership, as well as among some groups of priests. This antisemitism included both classic theological ideas and modern anti-Semitic ideas taken from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and from other contemporary literature. Still, unlike in Argentina, Brazilian Catholic intellectuals did not transform the Jewish question into a central theme in their thought.