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The Pictures Accuse: The Catholic Church and Nazism
in Germany and Croatia
The Vatican claims Nazism was the antithesis of the Catholic Church:
If you read the text of "We Remember: Reflections on the Holocaust," you will see that the Vatican refuses to acknowledge that the Church ever officially aided Nazism; it names only Church officials who allegedly opposed the Nazis. (Regarding this, I have posted the argument, made in "We Remember," that Cardinal Faulhaber stood up to Nazi antisemitism, plus two excerpts from Faulhaber's actual remarks.)
Indeed, "We remember" quotes Pope John Paul II saying that the Church not only opposed Nazism and repudiated Nazi racial doctrines, but that it had always rejected the views held by some Christians that Jews were to blame for supposedly killing Jesus:
Pope John Paul II and "We Remember" are widely praised for supposedly facing up to errors made during the Holocaust.
I ask: if the Church never aided, and indeed opposed, the Nazis, and never even accepted religion-based antisemitism, to what errors did the Vatican face up?
Here's how Joseph Ratzinger explains it. Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote the following when he was a top advisor to John Paul II:
So Joseph Ratzinger claims that: a) Nazism was "anti-Christian"; b) Christianity erred only by "insufficient resistance" to Nazism, not by complicity or active support; c) even this error resulted from individual Christian's religious hostilities to Judaism - "an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians" - rather than widespread and virulent antisemitism and the policies of religious organizations, such as the centralized Catholic Church.
Defenders of the Catholic Church, such as the Vatican official, Jesuit Peter Gumpel, argue that:
It is certainly true that the Nazis reneged on parts of the Concordat, especially over issues involving control. And the German Church did sometimes criticize Nazi policies, for example regarding forced sterilization (which contradicts Catholic doctrine) but not, as the Vatican now claims, over Nazi treatment of the Jews. But the secondary fact, that German Catholic-Nazi relations were not always smooth sailing, does not mitigate the horrific truth: by voting to give Hitler dictatorial powers, the Catholic Center Party made it possible for Hitler to set up his dictatorship with a (phony) appearance of legality; by dissolving the Center party, the German Church eliminated a potential source of resistance and, for many Catholics, took away their only vehicle of political expression; by dropping the ban on Catholics joining the Nazi Party, the Church made Nazism an alternative vehicle for political action; and by signing the Concordat, the Vatican gave Hitler international respectability and told millions of Catholics in Germany and worldwide that the Pope was cooperating with the Nazis.
Put yourself in the position of a 1933 German Catholic as you read the text of the Concordat between Nazi Germany and the Vatican, the Reichskonkordat. http://tinyurl.com/8js9c
The German Catholic Church has rescinded its ban on joining the Nazi Party. The Catholic Center party has dissolved itself. In the Reichskonkordat, the Vatican has promised that German Bishops and their subordinates will be obedient to and honor the Nazi state (Article 16). It has promised that German Catholic educators will teach children patriotic love for the Nazi state (Article 21). It has requested and received the Nazi dictatorship's promise to enforce internal Church decisions (Article 10). Cardinal Bertram of Breslau has called on Catholics to avoid all subversive or illegal (by Nazi definition) activities. How should you respond to the Nazi's new nightmare state? Doesn't the Catholic Church teach you to view Church officials as exemplary? Shouldn't they be emulated? Isn't the Pope's word law, and didn't the Pope sign the Reichskonkordat, an agreement with the Nazi dictatorship, that reads:
February 10, 1939, Pius XI died, at the age of 81. [Vatican Secretary of
State Eugenio] Pacelli, then 63, was elected Pope by the College of
Cardinals in just three ballots, on March 2. He was crowned on March 12,
on the eve of Hitler's march into Prague. Between his election and his
coronation he held a crucial meeting with the German cardinals. Keen to
affirm Hitler publicly, he showed them a letter of good wishes which
began, "To the Illustrious Herr Adolf Hitler." Should he, he
asked them, style the Führer "Most Illustrious"? He decided
that that might be going too far. He told the cardinals that Pius XI had
said that keeping a papal nuncio in Berlin "conflicts with our
honor." But his predecessor, he said, had been mistaken. He was
going to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Hitler. The following
month, at Pacelli's express wish, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the Berlin
nuncio, hosted a gala reception in honor of Hitler's 50th birthday. A
birthday greeting to the Führer from the bishops of Germany would
become an annual tradition until the war's end."
The Catholic Center Party's support for the Enabling act, which gave Hitler dictatorial powers; the Center Party's subsequent decision to dissolve itself; and the signing of the Nazi-Vatican Concordat two weeks later - these actions told Catholics it was OK to work with Nazis or even to be a Nazi. This was a big boost for Nazi forces, not only in Germany but worldwide. Case in point: the Croatian Ustashi. When the German Nazis invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, the Ustashi terrorist organization set up the so-called 'Independent State of Croatia.' The Ustashi attempted to wipe out Yugoslavia's Jewish population and made a full-scale attack on the Serbs, who were members of the Serbian Orthodox Church, bitterly opposed by the Catholic hierarchy that was the mainstay of the Ustashi. The Ustashi state went to war against the Serbs:
The above-quoted report describes German commanders as being shocked by Croatian Ustashi barbarity. However, the Germans used equally brutal methods to destroy Jewish villages in the Soviet Union after the German Nazi invasion. Perhaps the Germans were shocked because the people being slaughtered were perceived as human, that is, they were not Jews...
The forced conversion of tens of thousands of Serbs to Catholicism by the Ustashi regime proves its fanatically Catholic character; hence the 'Independent State of Croatia' is commonly referred to as a 'Clerical-Fascist' state. Since the Vatican controlled the Catholic hierarchy worldwide, and since the Croatian Catholic hierarchy accepted papal infallibility and organizational direction, how can we explain the Ustashi's Catholic violence except as an expression of the policies of the Church under Pope Pius XII?
The Germans invaded Yugoslavia on April 10, 1941. According to the following report from the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington, Croatian Catholic Archbishop Stepinac helped the Ustashi terrorists create their pro-Nazi state. As in Germany, the stance taken by the Church hierarchy guided lower clergy and lay Catholics:
A religious leader, apparently Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, marches between rows of SA men at a Nazi rally in Munich.
In the Vatican's much-praised, "We Remember: Reflections on the Holocaust," we read:
Could it be that the Jesuit scholars who wrote "We Remember" never read Cardinal Faulhaber's 1933 Advent sermons? If so, let me help. I have the full text in front of me. The Cardinal's position was the exact opposite of what the Vatican claims. Faulhaber stated that:
What Faulhaber did oppose was the demand by some Nazis that Christians reject the 'Old Testament' (the Torah) which would in effect have negated the Catholic doctrine that Christianity is "the true Israel," which requires that it be the inheritor of the Torah.
Consider this excerpt, reproduced exactly at it appears in the official translation of the Advent sermons:
So Faulhaber was not saying Christians should reject racist attitudes towards Jews. He was saying he had no problem with "race culture," but hatred of Jews should not extend to pre-Christian Hebrew religious texts, which were a Christian legacy of heavenly origin.
and Nazi officials, including Joseph Goebbels (far right) and Wilhelm
Frick (second from right), give the Nazi salute. Germany, date
In 1933, under the leadership of its Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli (who became Pope Pius XII), the Vatican negotiated a Concordat with Adolf Hitler. Catholic historian James Carroll writes:
As part of its Concordat with the Nazi regime, the Vatican had the huge Center Party, the Catholic Party, which had previously opposed the Nazis, vote for the so-called 'Enabling Act,' which gave Hitler dictatorial powers, and then dissolve itself. Carroll writes:
In the above-quoted excerpt, Mr. Carroll seems to suggest that it was the "long-standing ambivalence" of the Catholic Church as an organization that had been, prior to the Reichskonkordat, "again and again... the source of impulses to protect Jews." There are several problems with this.
First, the existence of a human impulse to decency, whether among Catholics or anyone else, is not proof of official policy. As a youthful participant in the US Civil Rights movement, I saw whites who objected to - and even took brave action to oppose - harsh treatment of black people. Such actions, while heartening, do not disprove the existence of an officially sanctioned system of abuse predicated on a theory (in this case, that blacks were supposedly less human). Similarly, of course many Catholics have been kind towards Jews and even drawn towards Jewish culture and thinking. But this does not contradict a 2,000 year policy of the Church hierarchy which has a) stigmatized Jews as "killers of Jesus," which belief has fed and justified antisemitism, including the Nazi variety and b) discriminated sharply and/or subtly against Jews (e.g., the ghettos in which Jews were forced to live in the papal states) and c) conducted brutal campaigns against Jews (the inquisition is only one example.)
Second, the seeming ambivalence of the official Church is rooted in a doctrinal contradiction: since Christianity is presented as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, the Church hierarchy needs to have some Jews around, but it has not wanted them to prosper, or at least not for long, because ordinary Catholics might see that as evidence that God had not rejected the Jews for failing to accept Jesus as divine. This policy was first enunciated by St. Augustine, who cited Psalm 59: "Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield."
In other words, don't wipe them out, or at least not all of them, because Catholic doctrine presents the Bible (i.e., Jewish scripture) as predicting the coming of Jesus. But scatter them (i.e., don't let them return to Judah, let alone have a state there) and bring them down (make sure they suffer) so that Christians will see what happened to the Jews because they rejected the doctrine that Jesus was divine. And, by all means, provide a steady stream of much-publicized Jewish converts as proof of the benevolence and divinity of Christianity, the acceptance of which constitutes, according to Church doctrine, the salvation of Jews.
Thus the Vatican is perfectly capable of
making statements against abuse of the Jews (who are presented as
constituting "our Abrahamic roots" which is not necessarily a
statement of brotherly affection, but can be one of religious
self-justification!) even as it encourages - sometimes in the same
statements - abuse of Jews. I am in the midst of writing a series on
Pope John Paul II that deals in part with the above-described
phenomenon. Three articles are posted:
Priests give Hitler salute at a Catholic youth rally in the Berlin-Neukolln stadium in August 1933.
Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and
Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen]
Just as the Catholic Church hierarchy helped to establish and lead the Ustashi 'Independent State of Croatia' during World War II, so the Church helped neo-Ustashi leaders create a new independent Croatia in the 1990s.When, in June 1991, neo-Ustashi extremists launched the Yugoslav wars of secession by attacking federal troops in Croatia, the Church hierarchy painted a sympathetic picture of the secessionists. A few days after the Croatians declared war, the Pope sent a letter to the Yugoslav government demanding it not suppress the rebellion. On June 29th, the Pope spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square:
Over the next four years, independent Croatia drove about 600,000 Serbs from their homes, with never a word from the Pope protesting this "suffocat[ion] with force [of ] the rights and legitimate aspirations" of Serbs. About half the Serbs were expelled from Croatia proper and the other half from the neighboring territory of Krajina, claimed by Croatia; the overwhelmingly Serbian population of the Krajina had opposed the break-up of Yugoslavia.
The most explosive and violent act of ethnic cleansing occurred in August 1995, when the Croatian army, led by US forces, drove a quarter million Serbian residents from the Krajina.
The media talks endlessly about a supposed massacre in Srebrenica, the existence of which is contested, whereas the media very rarely mentions the liquidation of Serbian Krajina, the greatest act of genocide in Europe since World War II.
Three years after the eradication of the Krajina, the Pope was in Croatia, kissing the soil and beatifying the notorious Cardinal Stepinac. At a time when hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs, recently driven from their homes by the Croatian leaders, were living in poverty in refugee camps in Serbia, with no effort at reconciliation - let alone compensation - by Croatia, the Pope blessed the neo-Ustashi leaders with his presence and his words:
While beatifying Cardinal Stepinac, the Pope also beautified Croatian war crimes, speaking as if Croatia had not itself launched the wars of secession, and, in Orwellian fashion, praising Croatia for having a spirit of reconciliation:
He had met a genocide, and he called it love.
To read the case against Cardinal
Stepinac, the man Pope John Paul II beatified in Croatia, go to
Hitler praying after a rally in Vienna
Pope John Paul II's claim (quoted below) that Nazism was a "Godless" movement is false, as suggested by Hitler's own words (also quoted below)
Pope John Paul II gave a speech at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in which he claimed the Holocaust was carried out by people with a "Godless ideology":
But the German Nazis embraced both the Protestant and Catholic religions. Below is a quote from Hitler's Mein Kampf. Not only does he state that in the Nazi movement, "the most devout Protestant could sit beside the most devout Catholic, without coming into the slightest conflict with his religious convictions," he also states that while the Nazis fought the Center party (the Catholic party in Germany) during the 1920s, they did so for 'racial' and political reasons, not over religion. Later of course, in 1933, based on a decision taken in Rome, the Center Party went over to Hitler's side and then dissolved itself. Hitler states that it was "the highest duty of the top leadership of the National Socialist movement to offer the sharpest opposition to any attempt" to involve the Nazis in fighting "Ultramontanism." The term "Ultramontanism" is defined differently by different factions in the Catholic Church, but all agree that it means (at least) a Catholic Church organizationally/ideologically dominated by the Bishop of Rome, i.e., the Pope, who is viewed as infallible. So Hitler was saying the Nazis should *support* having the Pope dominate the Catholic Church even as he was fighting the Catholic party, the Center Party.
"When you see a cross..."
Above is a page from the Nazi children's book, Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom). The caption reads, "When you see a cross, remember the gruesome murder of the Jews on Golgotha..."
Contrary to Pope John Paul II's remarks when he spoke at Yad Vashem, the Nazis were not "Godless." This headline from the infamously antisemitic Nazi periodical, Der Stuermer, reads, "Declaration of the Higher Clergy. So spoke Jesus Christ: You hypocrites who do not see the beam in your own eyes." [from Matthew 7:3-5] The cartoon depicts a group of Hitler Youth. The caption reads, "We youth step happily forward facing the sun... With our faith we drive the devil from the land." The devil in question was, of course, the Jews.
Hitler leaves the Marine Church in Wilhelmshaven.
Hitler at Nazi party rally
Note the (Lutheran) Frauenkirch or Church of our Lady in the background; the rally was staged as if to say Christianity was the foundation of the Nazi Party . Photo taken in Nuremberg, Germany (circa 1928).
[Posted at 20th Century History, from US Holocaust Museum]
Church & State
[Source: US Holocaust Museum]
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to the free Emperor's Clothes Newsletter;
Please forward this text or send the
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1) Emperor's Clothes is publishing a series of articles
comparing the factual record to media claims about John Paul II's
2) A long excerpt from John Cornwell's book,
"Hitler's Pope," at
3) Articles on Yugoslavia, at http://emperors-clothes.com/yugo.htm
4) Articles on antisemitism, the Arab-Israeli conflict and related issues at http://emperors-clothes.com/antisem.htm
Pope's Speech At The Zagreb's Airport (October 2, 1998) at
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