The Catholic Church and Italian Jewry under the Fascists: to the Death of Pius XI
Modern Catholic antisemitism in Italy was established at the end of the nineteenth century and remained largely unchanged until the mid-1930s when Nazi and Fascist antisemitism intensified and the Jews were identified with Bolshevism and the Freemasons. The Vatican was hostile to the Zionist movement, which was seen to endanger the aspirations of the Holy See in the Holy Land. In 1929 a concordat was signed between Mussolini and Pius XI and the Church renewed its attacks on Zionism and Jews in general, as well as against Protestants. Now the Fascist rulers felt they had nothing to fear from the Church and their attitude toward the Jews improved until the Abyssinian war, following which it adopted Germany‘s policy of racial antisemitism. However, the Catholic Church was never as radical as the Nazis in their approach to the Jewish problem, because Pius did not accept the Nazis’ racial doctrine. After Pius’ death and the accession of Cardinal Paccelli in 1939, antisemitism increased again. Despite the Church’s tradition of hatred of the Jews, many Italian priests and other clergy helped the Jews even at the cost of incarceration or death in camps.