This post discusses the way in which some scholars deal with the issue of the Roman Catholic Church and the holocaust between 1941 and 1945.
It has been said that Pope Pius XII was an anti-Semite, that he did not care for the plight of the Jews, that he was not a decisive pope, or that he did not speak out enough on behalf of the persecuted Jews. On the contrary, scholars, Roman Catholics and non-believers say that Pope Pius XII did exactly what was needed and possible in those days of war and destruction. Personally, I don’t think that this Pope was an anti-Semite or that he was insensitive, but if we look at how the Roman Catholic Church acted and reacted to the holocaust at the local level, it is not so very clear how Pius XII managed his Church during WWII. Sometimes authors rather leave difficult questions like these aside. Continue reading →
Last Summer in Lviv, by chance, I ran into Marco Carynnyk, a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian descent. Marco and I, we quickly discovered, share a common interest: the holocaust in Eastern Europe. A while ago he send me his very interesting article “Foes of our rebirth: Ukrainian nationalist discussions about Jews, 1929-1947” (read abstract). I was surprised. Actually, Marco Carynnyk is one of the few nationals or emigrants from Eastern Europe I have met or read, who study the recent history of their forefathers without embellishments or excuses. Continue reading →
How to proceed? To better understand the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards the holocaust, I will work in two directions. First, I will explore source material, and present useful, sometimes controversial books and articles. Here it is important not to go into too great detail, but to see what the discussion is about. Second, I will examine one or two historical episodes in depth. The readers of this blog can then see how sometimes well established scholars come to rather shallow conclusions, get carried away by the desire to point a finger at the Church, or, on the contrary, how overzealous defenders of the Church stretch the truth. I will start with the events surrounding the deportation of the Jews from Slovakia in March 1942. By the way, at a later stage, the focus will switch to the Church during the years of communist dictatorship as well. Continue reading →
Provided you know English, German, French, Italian and Latin well enough, the Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale, vol. 1-11, P. Blet, R.A. Graham, A. Martini and B. Schneider (eds), Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965–1981 will be of invaluable help in understanding the predicament of the wartime Roman Catholic Church. But whether this source can help to explain the much debated “silence of Pope Pius XII” before the holocaust is yet another question. Meanwhile, the ADDS are available in PDF format at the Vatican website. They mainly contain correspondence between the Holy See and Vatican diplomats and local church hierarchs. Continue reading →