Lest we forget: the Catholic Church and the Nazis

April 4, 2010 at 8:58 am (Catholicism, Champagne Charlie, fascism, history)

Catholic Bishops giving the Nazi salute in honor of Hitler.
Note Joseph Goebbels (far right) and Wilhelm Frick (second from right)
(Source: USHMM, Photo source: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek [Bavarian State Library])

The German Catholic episcopate issued its own guidelines in 1936: “Race, soil, blood and people are precious natural values, which God the Lord has created and then care of which he has entrusted to us Germans.”

But the truly sinister complicity of the church came in its willingness to open its geneological records to the Nazis and thereby enable them to trace the extent of a person’s Jewish ancestry. A historian of the Catholic Church, Guenther Lewy, has written:

The very question of whether the [Catholic] Church should lend its help to the Nazi state in sorting out people of Jewish descent was never debated. On the contrary. “We have always unselfishly worked for the people without regard to gratitude or ingratitude,” a priest wrote in Klerusblatt in September 1934. “We shall do our best to help in this service to the people.” And the cooperation of the Church in this matter continued right through the war years, when the price of being Jewish was no longer dismissal from a government job and loss of livelihood, but deportatioin and outright physical destruction.

All of this, despite the fact that the Catholic Church was in very real opposition to much of the Nazi platform, which was bent upon curtailing its power. Goldhagen also reminds us that not one single German Catholic was excommunicated before, during or after the war, “after committing sins as great as any in human history.” This is really an extraordinary fact. Throughout this period, the church continued to excommunicate theologians and scholars in droves for holding unorthodox views and to proscribe books by the hundreds, and yet not a single perpetrator of genocide – of whom there were countless examples- succeeded in furrowing Pope Pius XII’s censorious brow.”   – Sam Harris, ‘In The Shadow Of God’ from ‘The End of Faith.’

42 Comments

  1. Flubberlubberlubalot said,

    Why does anybody who wants to be taken remotely seriously associate themselves with the fuck heads of the AWL?

  2. Red Maria said,

    Daniel Jonah Goldhagen … hmm.

  3. Jim Denham said,

    “hmm”…and what, exactly is that supposed to mean, Maria? And how do you explain away the photo? The bishops are just waving to their friends in the crowd?

  4. voltairespriest said,

    #1 – as against anybody who wants to be taken seriously and spends time posting on blog comments calling themself “Flubberlubberlubalot”, presumably. Cos that gets you taken well seriously, that does.

  5. Hal said,

    The photo above is hardly an anomaly. The Church knows so much about antisemitism because, until the 20th century, it was by far the greatest worldwide source of it.

    To Red Maria and other confused Catholics, let me clarify the difference between antisemtism and the current charges against the Church:: Whereas, over the centuries, the Jews were falsely accused of abusing Christian children (with murderous pogroms resulting as a consequence), over the past several decades the Church actually abused Christian children. Simple, eh?

  6. shug said,

    In fairness the bishops dont seem to be as enthusiastic as the others.

  7. neprimerimye said,

    Let us stick to facts.

    1/ The Roman church has never been the greatest worldwide source of anti-semitism. Rather in Europe Jewry played a specific role that led to the development of anti-semitic ideology and the Roman church, as a feudal institution, played along with it.

    2/ The Roman church has not abused christian children. Individual members of the church have done so however and major sections of the church have disgracefully failed to reveal said abusers.

    3/ The catholic hierarchy in Germany did fail to show any resistance to Hitlerism. On the whole it collaborated with Hitlerism. But this does not invalidate Christianity. I note the organised and successfull resistance of the Lutheran church to Hitlerism during the kulturkampf a struggle that one Leon Trotsky backed.

    In my opinion the reason that the hierarchy of the Roman church backed fascism in so many cases was because it is committed to the defense of private property. Not bourgeois society as such but the institution of private property which it views as an essential right albeit one to be balanced by a more equitable distribution of the products of labour. For this reason the hierarchy has excusedmany crimes as the main enemy was seen to be ‘communism’. This has not changed and will continue to drive good people who happen to be Catholics into alliances with reactionaries which will lead them to a hell very different but far more ral than their theology dreams of.

  8. shug said,

    It is the faith,outside politic that is the hard step to socialism.

  9. resistor said,

    And the England football team

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3128202.stm

    Football, fascism and England’s Nazi salute
    By Jonathan Duffy
    BBC News Online

  10. socialrepublican said,

    Alas, I have to second Maria. Goldhagen is a quack and a charlaten. Steigman-Gall or Mark Biondich are not only better writers but actual historians

  11. Red Maria said,

    Or Martin Broszat or Tim Mason or Raul Hilberg or Ian Kershaw or Arno Mayer or Christopher Browning – especially Browning, in fact, whose research on police battalion 101 was used by Goldhagen in his less than convincing study, Hitler’s Willing Executioners – and so on. There are a multitude of serious scholars worth consulting on this superlatively important subject. Goldhagen isn’t among them. I think he’s too simplistic in his thinking, too slapdash in his treatment of source material and generally tendentious in his approach.

    I haven’t got round to reading Birn and Finkelstein’s A Nation on Trial yet. Has anyone here done so? Do they have an opinion on it?

    Goldhagen’s complaints that Birn had defamed him were, I think, pure hysteria. And atempts to get Birn sacked as a prosecutor in the wake of the book’s publication were to be deprecated.

    There’s an article on the controversy here:

    http://www.slate.com/id/3143/

  12. Hal said,

    “Rather in Europe Jewry played a specific role that led to the development of anti-semitic ideology”

    Ah, yes, cherchez les Juifs! And women’s short skirts “lead to the development of rape”…

    • Lobby Ludd said,

      Sure, the language used was not as careful as it might be, it forgot that readers of blogs are often jumpy juveniles. The point made is however correct. Neprimerimye is plainly no anti-Semite, he was, I think, referring to the historical constraints upon the allowed economic activities of Jews which then lead to their subsequent persecution in different economic circumstances.

      I could be wrong, of course.

      • Hal said,

        You’ve got the cart before the horse. Antisemitism led to Jews being ghettoized, forbidden to own land, restricted to a few professions/trades and, of course, periodically expelled and/or massacred. Not vice versa.

      • Red Maria said,

        No Neprimerimye is not an anti-Semite. His partner is part Jewish, for what it’s worth.

        Hal has indulged in some classic proof-texting, quoting a sentence out of context and so denuding it of is original meaning.

      • Hal said,

        Maria,

        “His partner is part Jewish, for what it’s worth.” Worth? Zero.

        Here’s Neprimerimye’s statement in its entirety: “Rather in Europe Jewry played a specific role that led to the development of anti-semitic ideology and the Roman church, as a feudal institution, played along with it.”

        What context am I missing? As I already replied to Lobby Ludd, this gets the cart before the horse. Antisemitism (“killers of Christ”, etc.), first propagated by the Church, led to the ghettoization of the Jews and to the various laws restricting what professions/trades they could practise (not to mention expulsions and massacres). To pretend the reverse is the height of obscenity.

        (If Neprimerimye meant to write something different, he is welcome to do so.)

      • ripper rita said,

        Like stink follows shit …. heeeere’s ‘Lobby’! What a horror show — Jews cause antisemitism, it’s histomat 101 (not). What a filthy, wriggly, squirmy maggot.

  13. socialrepublican said,

    The eldars circa 70AD

    “Nah, nah…I hate farming, gives me well bad skin….have you got something to do with abacases…I love them, me….could you make it legally binding, yeah, so it’s all formal and stuff…cheers, yeah”

    Maria.

    I mentioned Steigman-Gell and Biondich because they are experts on the particular subject of Catholicism and fascism that Goldhagen has wondered into. Steigman-Gell shows there is a significant alignment between the private ideology of many Roman Catholics Nazis and the political theology of the German RC church during the fin de siecle and inter-war periods. Biondich establishes the contradictions between the fascism of the Ustasha and the Catholic nationalist project within Croatia but is clear on their shared outlook, their initial alliance and their shared memberships.

    Goldhagen’s holo-sploitation take on the Shoah and German anti-semitism is weapons grade mendacity. It is reheated sonderweg without the richness of Shirer’s prose and detail and with a culturalist determination that would make Huntingdon blush. A clear signal of his obvious narcissism is where he accuses the peerless Hilberg, Bauman, Hans Mommsen and the brillliant Browning as being engaged in a discourse of evasion.

    I’m not snooty about non-history academics tackling the past. Michael Mann’s ‘Darkside of Democracy’ and ‘Fascists’ are great pieces of work, from a sociologist. Juan Linz as a political scientist is a vital read when looking at the political rise of fascism, depicting it correctly as a newcomer in a crowded arena. Even the broard brush strokes history you find in much non-history analysis of the past does not claim to be groundbreaking and paradigm defining. Goldhagen manages not only to over-hype his very small amount of original research, bugger up his intrepretation and proclaim his work the wheel reinvented, he fails completly to use his discipline’s most powerful tool, comparative studies. And he made millions from that shite

  14. John Meredith said,

    “The point made is however correct. Neprimerimye is plainly no anti-Semite, he was, I think, referring to the historical constraints upon the allowed economic activities of Jews which then lead to their subsequent persecution in different economic circumstances.”

    Hal is clearly in tthe right here and Neprimeriye has some explainng to do. On the face of it, his statement is classci antisemitism. If hehas expressed hismelf poorly, he shourl explain what he meant to say, because Lobby ludd’s explication copied above is just another variant of the same classic antisemtic tropes. The restrictions on Jewish econimic and social behaviour were an expression of organised antisemitism, not the cause of it.

  15. entdinglichung said,

    if the catholic church is honest about its past, they only answer would be to dissolve it

  16. Red Maria said,

    There is no question that I expressed myself poorly. The problem is that some on this blog would see fault where here is none. Technically I would describe this as stupidity.

    The fact of the matter is that the Jewish diaspora developed on the basis that Jewry occupied a specific role in the economies of the decadent Byzantine slave state and its western counterpart. A role that led to the establishment of Jewish communities as far away as the west of China hence the Kaifeng Jews.

    This role extended historically into the feudal epoch and it was as a result of that role that anti-semitism developed. Once the neccesity of concentration on trading and related trades was removed from any given Jewish community there was, of course, a endency towards assimilation.

    Some here will realize that I have very briefly summarized he views of Leon Abram. I can but assume that some of he semi-Zionists here would regard Abram, a victim of he Shpoah, as a self hating Jew for his views. If those individuals are to be consistent I suggest that they ought to extend that view to one Karl Marx.

    • entdinglichung said,

      Jews were forced to specialise on certain “unclean” areas of the economy (some areas of trade, money-lending) in most parts of Europe because the christian (catholic/protestant/orthodox) states and churches barred them from agriculture, most areas of artisanry and other “righteous” trades

  17. neprimerimye said,

    Sorry that last post was from me, neprimerimye. The hazards of sharing a puter!

  18. John Meredith said,

    “The fact of the matter is that the Jewish diaspora developed on the basis that Jewry occupied a specific role in the economies of the decadent Byzantine slave state and its western counterpart.”

    What role was that and how did it ‘result’ in antisemitism developing? I can’t see any historical support for ths sort o thesis, but wouold be nterested to know if you think you have some. Otherwise, it just sounds like blaming the victim.

    I am not quite sure what ‘Jewry occupied a specific role’ can even mean. Does it mean ‘Jews’ occupied a specific role? If not, what?

  19. Hal said,

    “Jewry”, hmm. It sounds much better in German: “Internationales Judentum”. The Pope should be familiar with the proper pronunciation.

    And, despite Neprimerimye’s theory, it seems they’ve only pretended to assimilate. Very wily…

    “Last week, the center-left daily La Repubblica wrote, without attribution, that ‘certain Catholic circles’ believed the criticism of the church stemmed from ‘a New York “Jewish lobby”.'”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/world/europe/03church.html

  20. neprimerimye said,

    My dear dull Meredith I spelt it out in some small detail exactly what the nature of the role Jewry played in both the slave economies and under feudalism.

    As for Hal as I indicated its not my theory but that of Abram Leon which was based on certain remarks of one Chas Marx and based on the method of historical analysis developed by that Victorian gent.

    What the fuck looney Catholic sources have to do with my remarks eludes me completely. I despise Catholicism as much as I despise Zionism. Neither have been good for Jews.

  21. Hal said,

    Definition of a “concern troll”: Neprimerimye worrying that Zionism “(has) been (no) good for Jews”.

  22. John Meredith said,

    “My dear dull Meredith I spelt it out in some small detail exactly what the nature of the role Jewry played in both the slave economies and under feudalism. ”

    You haven’t spelled it out here at all. And you have not explained what you mean by ‘Jewry’. Do you mean ‘Jews’? Or do you mean ‘Judaism’? Or something else? What is it?

  23. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Neprimerimye isn’t a “concern troll”.

    BTW is it just my perception, or is that term the latest fashionable piece of jargon in blogging? Having never heard it before, suddenly it seems to be a common accusation levelled at people.

  24. Hal said,

    It’s been around for about a decade, VP. I think I first encountered it on political blogs a few years ago when Republicans were “helpfully instructing” Democrats on how to win that year’s congressional elections.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=concern+troll

    When someone like Neprimerimye lectures Jews on what’s best for them, “concern troll” is a fairly mild description.

  25. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Fascinating. But he still isn’t one.

  26. Waterloo Sunset said,

    BTW is it just my perception, or is that term the latest fashionable piece of jargon in blogging? Having never heard it before, suddenly it seems to be a common accusation levelled at people.

    It’s been used in internet circles for years. Most political bloggers tend to be a bit behind the times as far as net slang goes.

    (Join us in five years time when the leftist blogosphere discovers the hilarity of Rick Rolling each other!)

  27. neprimerimye said,

    John Meredith wrote in post #22 “You haven’t spelled it out here at all.”

    In fact I did and I repost my remarks below. To make it crystal clear the argument I make, drawing on Abram Leon, is that under the slave mode of production that prevailed in the Roman and Byzantine empires jews became concentrated in trade and as a result of that position in the economy. That role continued into the feudal epoch with the twist that sections of Jewry became closely involved in tax farming and finance in general. This provided both an excuse and the material basis for their persecution in feudal society. In short the material position of a section of the Jewish people-class, to use Leons term, determined the status of the whole of that people as useful scapegoats. However it should be noted that the persecution of Jews as such, always most marked in what we now know as Eastern Europe, only reached massive proportions with the development of the second serfdom that was linked to the beginnings of the bourgeois mode of production in the Atlantic region of the continent.

    My earlier remarks.

    ‘The fact of the matter is that the Jewish diaspora developed on the basis that Jewry occupied a specific role in the economies of the decadent Byzantine slave state and its western counterpart. A role that led to the establishment of Jewish communities as far away as the west of China hence the Kaifeng Jews.

    This role extended historically into the feudal epoch and it was as a result of that role that anti-semitism developed. Once the neccesity of concentration on trading and related trades was removed from any given Jewish community there was, of course, a endency towards assimilation.’

  28. Hal said,

    How convenient! But utter nonsense. Vicious nonsense, essentially blaming the Jews for antisemitism. In fact the Church’s Jews=”Christ killers” formula long predated (by centuries in fact) the economic and social segregation of the Jews in Europe. I.e., antisemitism led to discrimination, not the reverse.

  29. neprimerimye said,

    The problem that you have is that your assertion is not factually correct. The fact of the matter is that diaspora Jewry was centred on its trading function from the very start. Given that the diaspora began and was flourishing before the foundation of the Christina church your comments are either untrue or you are an idiot.

    Moreover you fail to understand that in prenodern societies ‘segregation’ was the norm for all urban communities and not the exception as it became in early modern Europe. If one were then to look at the grewat trading cities of the Roman and Byzantine empires one would find that ALL of the many communities to be found in any given city were ‘segregated’. That is to say each concentrated on certain trades/occupations and each had a degree of self government. A situation that prevailed in the Ottoman empire I note until the revolution of 1908 and to a limited degree until the final fall of the Sultanate in 1923.

    But enough I’ll not debate a fool any further. I have mentioned a fair number of historic periods and events yet in reply you fail to pick up on so much as one concrete point and attempt to refute it.

  30. Hal said,

    Facts? Here a few “troublesome” ones: courtesy of the Church, the Jews were “Christ killers”. They were marked for discrimination right from the start. Yes, all ethnic groups tend to self-congregate. And to gravitate to traditional trades and professions. Even today. But the Jews were singled out for persecution in Europe because they were the “killers of Christ”. So we had “blood libels” (look it up) and ghettos (the real thing, enforced by law, not simply cultural and/or ethnic enclaves). And, regularly, pogroms, massacres and expulsions. Jews were forbidden to own land; they didn’t voluntarily choose not to do so. Jews were forbidden a long list of activities; they didn’t voluntarily choose not to engage in them. And they didn’t choose to be periodically expelled and massacred… in the name of Christ! Up to the 20th century, the Church was by far the greatest source of antisemtism in the world. Troublesome fact, eh?

  31. charliethechulo said,

    From the ‘Guardian’, 11 April:

    “Bishop ‘blames Jews’ for criticism of Catholic church’s record on abuse.

    “A furious transatlantic row has erupted over quotes that were attributed to a retired Italian bishop, which suggested that Jews were behind the current criticism of the Catholic church’s record on tackling clerical sex abuse.

    “A website quoted Giacomo Babini, the emeritus bishop of Grosseto, as saying he believed a “Zionist attack” was behind the criticism, considering how “powerful and refined” the criticism is.

    “The comments, which have been denied by the bishop, follow a series of statements from Catholic churchmen alleging the existence of plots to weaken the church and Pope Benedict XVI.

    “Allegedly speaking to the Catholic website Pontifex, Babini, 81, was quoted as saying: “They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers.”

    “The interview was spotted on Friday by the American Jewish Committee, which said Babini was using “slanderous stereotypes, which sadly evoke the worst Christian and Nazi propaganda prior to world war two”.

    “On its website, the American Jewish Group Committee quoted bishop Vincenzo Paglia, an official at the Italian Bishops’ Conference, as saying Babini’s remarks were “entirely contrary to the official line and mainstream thought of the Catholic church”.

    “As the interview appeared on Italy’s main newspaper sites today, complete with the American reaction, the Bishops’ Conference rushed out a statement quoting Babini denying he had ever given the interview in the first place. “Statements I have never made about our Jewish brothers have been attributed to me,” he said.

    “Babini has previously been quoted on the Pontifex website accusing Jews of exploiting the Holocaust, as well as criticising homosexuality.

    “As cases of alleged priestly abuse emerge in the US and Europe, Benedict’s handling of proven molesters before he became pope in 2005 has now been questioned in cases in Munich, Wisconsin and, most recently, in California, where his signature appears on an 1985 letter resisting calls to defrock a paedophile priest.”

  32. Harry Tuttle said,

    Hal –

    Much of neprimerimye’s arguement can be found in Abram Leon’s The Jewish Question.

    The flaws in Leon’s work are examined in Steve Cohen’s That’s Funny You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic. The relevant parts are found in chapter four.

    Abram Leon, as a Jew and a Trotskyist, had an absolute feeling for anti-semitism. He paid the highest price in the struggle against it when most of Europe had given up that struggle. But the deterministic conclusions in his book are just as erroneous as the deterministic premise on which they are based. We shall see later that anti-semitism cannot be viewed merely as a ‘diversion’ from capitalist crisis—rather it is a constant in daily life. Nor can it be viewed in any way as emanating from Jewish behaviour, if only retrospectively, as Leon suggests. It emanates from anti-semites. It does no justice to the richness and diversity of Jewish culture to suggest that it has continued and developed only as a result of anti-semitism.

    The fundamental difficulty with Leon’s work is that the original question he sets out to answer—what is the reason for the ‘miracle’ of Jewish survival?—is a strange one. A similar interrogative is not normally asked about any other people or group. No-one usually asks why the English, who have state power, or the Irish, who live in an occupied state, or the Romany gypsies, who have no territorial state, have survived. These could well be important and interesting questions, but why is the question asked only of Jews? The fact is that it is usually only religious Jews who ask Leon’s question, and they naturally arrive at a theological solution—namely it was a miracle. It was to avoid such a conclusion that Leon appears to have adopted an ultra-materialist and deterministic analysis.

    However, a materialist understanding of the world does not need to deny the intrinsic value of particular cultures. A proper study of Jewish survival would examine those aspects of Jewish culture which act as a positive and sustaining force, the very diversity of such culture being one main element. Indeed the diaspora—which many Jews understandably view as a negative experience—was in this respect a powerful force for expansive development. Hopefully, such a study would show that Jewish culture (or rather its progressive aspects) far from being doomed, has a role to play in socialist reconstruction. Unfortunately, the final conclusion of Leon’s thesis is that socialism will have no place for Jewry or its culture, since its two supposed pillars—its economic function and anti-semitism—will have disappeared.

  33. Hal said,

    Harry,

    I am (roughly) familiar with Leon’s work… “We must not start with religion in order to explain Jewish history; on the contrary, the preservation of the Jewish religion or nationality can be explained only by the ‘real Jew,’ that is to say, by the Jew in his economic and social role.”

    And…

    “It is self-evident that to claim, as do most historians, that the Jews began to engage in lending only after their elimination from trade, is a vulgar error.”

    Most historians… a vulgar error, eh? A sophomoric historical ignoramus (he had a grade school education and zero training as a historian) who pieced together his apology for left antisemitism from second and third-hand sources (largely political pamphlets), Leon was of course not the first to propose that the Jews should be defined by their putative economic “role” and, this role now being outdated, that they would soon be assimilated into the larger society. Marx beat him to it by a century. And this was, on and off, Leninist and Stalinist policy as well. But, oddly, it is not the Stalinists but the Trotskyists that resurrected Leon’s thesis, though these days even they have abandoned the explicit allegation that “usury” is the heritage of the Jews. So, if I might make use of this line of reasoning too, why is it that only certain people find this sort of apology for antisemitism attractive? Could they be predisposed to it by their religious and/or political “role”?

  34. Jim Denham said,

    The AWL’s paper ‘Solidarity’ carries this brilliant article (written by someone brought up a Catholic in Ireland):

    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2010/04/15/catholic-church-cover-prosecute-pope

  35. Tom More said,

    ‘What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. ‘

    (The End of Faith pp. 128-129).

  36. Tom More said,

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