The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust

Essay by ellyjeanHigh School, 12th grade September 2003

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From the recent conflicts over Pope Pius XII, whether portrayed as a pitiless anti-Semite or a saver of many Jewish lives during World War II, to the confusion over how to take the 1998 Vatican document on the Holocaust, the Catholic Church is in great dispute over it's history of relations with the Jews. "Who killed Christ?" has always been the justification of the Church over the issue of the persecution of the Jews. As well as every other massacre of Jews in Christendom, it was also heard at the time of Hitler's Holocaust. The fact that the Catholic Church has a history of anti-Semitism and it is a prevalent belief in Christendom that the Jews, as the murderers of Christ, deserve all possible sufferings is the reason that Hitler's massacre of the Jews was met with silent acceptance from the vast majority of his subjects. The continued anti-Semitic feelings of the Church stem from Christian teachings based on interpretations of the New Testament that have also contributed to the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Europe over the centuries.

In 1814, Jews in the Papal States were locked into cramped ghettos at night, were forbidden to practice law or medicine, to hold public office or to hire Christian servants. Meanwhile elsewhere in Europe, Jews were increasingly free to live as they wanted. These practices were the inspiration for the racial laws enacted by the Nazis and the Italian Fascists in the 1930's. After the fall of the Papal States in 1870, the Church's hostility towards the Jews began to take an even more disturbing form. No longer simply loathed as unbelievers, the Jews became hated symbols of secular modernity.

With varying degrees of enthusiasm the German Catholic Church sympathised with, if not actually supported the Nazis. Their...