The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965
Indiana University Press

The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965

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The Catholic Church's official silence during the Holocaust, its antisemitism, and its apparent lack of action to save lives have all been part of a long historical discussion. Making extensive use of church documents, Michael Phayer explores the actions of the Catholic Church and the actions of individual Catholics during the crucial period from the emergence of Hitler until the Church's official rejection of antisemitism in 1965. Phayer's account permits us to follow the evolution of official Catholic thinking during the rebuilding of Germany, the Cold War, and the gradual theological reforms that led to Vatican II.

Pope Pius XII did not cause the Holocaust, nor was it within his power to stop it. Why then is he the center of controversy, most recently as Hitler's Pope ? For Michael Phayer, casting the spotlight relentlessly on Pius XII has skewed the question surrounding Catholicism and the Holocaust, depriving us of a record of what the entire Church did or did not do. Such a record is provided for the first time in the first half of this book. It reveals that European bishops displayed a shocking disparity in their attitudes toward Jews and in their conduct during the Holocaust. On the positive side, the record of those who tried to help Jews is filled with the names of ordinary people.

The Holocaust ended in 1945 but the Catholic Church did not come to terms with the Shoah until 1965. How this occurred is a story worth telling. Those who perpetrated the Holocaust committed suicide at the end of the war, or were tried and executed after it, or vanished into obscurity. But the men and women who resisted the Holocaust lived on after it to help bring an end to the Church'sequivocal stand on antisemitism.


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