The Catholic Church's Response To Nazi Anti-Semitism

Read Complete Research Material

The Catholic Church's Response to Nazi Anti-Semitism


Religion has had an important element in the Nazi Anti-Semitism. Churches from the period of Constantine in the 04th century had desired to convert Jews, and medieval churches all over Europe kept in different amounts of anti-Jews discrimination as they considered that Jews crucified Christ. This idea shaped the fundamental basis for Anti-Semitism and was never opposed, or even addressed openly, by any Christian faction during this era.

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first... Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. [John 15:18-20]

The Nazi assault on the Jews thus took place in a climate of opinion conditioned by centuries of anti-Semitism that existed throughout the Christian world. Indeed, various canonical laws from 306 to 1434 bear striking similarity to Nazi laws against the Jews. This paper discusses the response of Catholic church to Nazi anti-Semitism.


The reaction of the German people during this time ranged from widespread Nazi support or apathy to individual acts of humanity. Most Protestant churches accepted the Nazi racial policies, although the dissenting Confessing Church took a strong stand against such racism on March 17, 1935, an act that resulted in the arrest of some seven hundred ministers. The Catholic Church took no public stand, although there were registered cases of Catholic protests such as that of the Canon Bernhard Lichtenberg who, after Kristallnacht, used to pray daily and openly for all those persecuted. (Bauer, 25)

The extent to which religion and cultural differences lay at the core of the Holocaust is clearly seen in the Nazi genocidal psychology, which requires the intentional identification of a particular group for destruction. For the Nazis, religion, as well as the cultural and ethnic differences that flowed from religious differences, became the foundation for discrimination and destruction. Nazis claimed—and appeared to believe in many cases—that Jews as non-Christians represented a threat to the majority German population. An individual German could not be Jewish, the Nazis argued, and still share the same desires for Germany non-Jewish Germans did. Allegiances and goals were believed to be ascriptive, flowing inevitably from birth into a particular group. This belief sets genocide apart from other conflicts in which allegiances can shift and opponents can be converted and means that victims are killed not for their individual acts or beliefs but rather because of their membership in a particular group.(Spicer, 125-127)

The specific reaction to various aspects of the Holocaust among religious groups was mixed. In general the Roman Catholic church under Pope Pius XII was one of studied neutrality. The response of Protestant churches varied greatly by country, with protest found more often among churches in occupied countries in Western Europe, as part of patriotic resistance to the Nazis. National differences also affected churches' willingness to protest Nazi policies, with church leaders in Western Europe, especially in Belgium, France, Holland, and Italy, taking much stronger stands in ...
Related Ads