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I am a professional historian who focuses on the World Wars and have taught seminars on the history of the Holocaust, and one of the sections deals with the Church during the war and its complicity. It's a mixed bag, and like all things complicated. Early on, when news of the Nazi T-4 "euthenasia" program of medical extermination of "useless eaters" and "those with lives not worth living (AKA the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and the like) broke in 1941, It was Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen gave a series of sermons and wrote a prominent public letter protesting against it on moral grounds and led a widespread movement against T-4, to the point where the Nazis backed off and pretended to end it in the face of public objection (they of course continued to do so on a smaller scale behind the scenes and fed it all into the extermination camps once those got going full scale in 1942).

This demonstrates a number of things, not all of them complimentary to the Church. Firstly, that there were Church leaders willing to stand against the regime under certain circumstances, and with enough strength to succeed. However, it also shows us something more disturbing when we consider von Galen was subsequently asked to speak out on the similar fate being doled out to Jewish Germans, he did not. You could argue he knew he had pushed his luck far enough already, and there is some inconclusive evidence the Nazis were planning on punishing him once the war was over, but he had succeeded in leading one successful movement against Nazi policy once, and regardless the Church always claims (I know, I know) to champion moral behavior and fearless protection of human dignity so "I feared doing the right thing would get me in trouble" strikes me as a weak defense.

There is another aspect that complicates the Church's relationship with the Nazi state and the Holocaust I feel I should mention here, as it doesn't come up in your post and I believe it is quite relevant. During the last days of the Reich and in its immediate aftermath, any number of war criminals saw the writing on the wall and decided to flee Europe. There were a number of ratlines the Nazis had set up previously, ODESSA being probably the best known, but a number of them ran right through the Vatican. More specifically, Cardinal Luigi Maglione had established a "Catholic refugee" channel with Argentina at Pius XII's request to funnel fleeing Nazis out through both Portugal and Fascist Spain. Bishop Alois Hund and Father Krunoslav Stjepan Draganović both also set up networks to get fleeing Nazis false papers and exit visas to escape, mostly to South America. In these cases, among others, this was done within the overarching auspices of the broader Catholic Church, not just because of pro-Nazi sympathies of this or that Catholic official but also as it aligned with traditional anti-Semitism that existed within Catholic (and other Christian) traditions and the Church's fear of communism; ever since the 1917 revolutions, the Church had viewed the Soviets to be a far greater threat than any of the fascist powers, both because they were openly pro-atheist (though uneven in enforcing it in practice), and more importantly because as socialists they threatened to confiscate Church property should they ever gain power outside of the USSR.

Anyway, this is just scratching the surface of the Church's complicated, often compromised history during the war and in relation to the Holocaust. I would be remiss not to also mention a number of individual priests did speak out on their own initiative and a small number of them were annoying enough to the regime to get themselves thrown in the camps, though despite what the Church would claim after the war they had not been locked up for their faith so much as inconveniencing the Reich. A couple good initial reads on the subject should you wish to go further would be Kevin Spicer's Hitler's Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism and Michael Phayers's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930 - 1965.

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By any reasonable standard, Pius XII was a monster. He exchanged birthday greetings with Hitler, and never excommunicated him. Many of the top Nazis were Catholic and the only one Pius booted was Joseph Goebbels for the unforgivable sin of marrying a divorced Protestant. The Holocaust wasn't the only horror he ignored by a long shot. He had to be fully aware of the systematic sexual abuse of children at the hands of the priests he chose to protect instead of the victims of their abuse. The residential schools in the US and Canada, and all the horrors perpetrated by the clergy in Ireland. The list goes on and on.

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Sep 19, 2023·edited Sep 19, 2023

"Why didn't the Catholic Church do more to speak out during WWII?"

"very fine people on both sides,"

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About 90% of Germany was either Protestant or Catholic ( about 50/50 ) in the 1930's. Put blame where it is due. Christianity. The Nazi's could not exist without religion.

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Why didn't the Vatican do more against Nazism? Professional courtesy. Remember, the Vatican has tried to exterminate the Jews more than once.

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Maybe some of the stolen wealth still in the Vatican basement had something to do with the Church remaining "neutral"?

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Croatia had its own home-grown fascist catholic dictatorship, which was allied with fascist Germany and Italy, in the 1930s and 40s. Croatia was notorious for its brutality--so much so that, sometime in the early 1940s, 100,000 catholics in neighboring countries signed a petition to the pope, calling on him to admonish the Croatian fascists. The petition was delivered to the Vatican sometime in early 1943. The response from the pope: crickets. (This history is detailed by a German researcher in his 12-volume series called The Crimes of Christianity. The book about Mussolini, Hitler, and Pavlovic is the only volume to have been translated into English.) So, yeah, the pope knew--not just about Nazi crimes in Germany, but about fascist crimes elsewhere as well. BTW, I wouldn't give too much credit to the current pope either. He was one of the highest-ranking catholic clerics in Argentina in the 1970s, and a close, personal friend of General Jorge Videla, the brutal fascist dictator. As such he was at least an enabler of the crimes committed by the Argentine dictatorship during those horrible years. (Google "Bergoglio and Videla" to see a stomach-churning photo of those two walking arm-in-arm, smiling broadly, right at the same time as people in the country were being given "helicopter rides"--tortured and bodies dumped into the ocean. People at the time reported huge numbers of bodies washing up in the La Plata river, so there's no way the Archbishop of Bueno Aires couldn't have known.)

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Sep 19, 2023·edited Sep 19, 2023

Oh, there is so much that I could be writing about this article. I suppose I have to, just like I suppose that there will be more for me to do today if I do. But here goes.

Above and beyond anything else, the holocaust was the result of 1900 years of church sanctioned antisemitism, beginning in the gospel of John and the book of acts, continuing with the sumptuary and ghetto laws of medieval Europe, and Martin Luther's virulent antisemitism, in the cheerfully entitled "On the Jews and Their Lies" This is a 65,000-word anti-Judaic and antisemitic treatise written in 1543 by the German Reformation leader and superduper Christian Martin Luther. Kaiser Bill II was so antisemitic that he made Hitler look benevolent. In fact, even Hitler didn't like him, which said something about Kaiser bill and antisemitism. And let us not forget that the Catholic Church back in the 60s bravely stood up and said that the Jews didn't actually murder Jesus, so maybe we shouldn't hate them quite so much.

I wish I had kept the references for what I am about to write, but unfortunately I didn't. About 15 years ago, I read in translation some of the statements from the Lutheran Church in Germany concerning the holocaust, which they absolutely knew was going on, and of which they approved in no uncertain terms. Yes, good Christians actually approved the holocaust, approved of the murders, and were far more concerned that they were in the good graces of the German government, than they were about the loss of innocent life. Given what Luther had to say on the subject of the Jews and their lies, I'm sure their thinking was, "well, they're just going to go to hell anyway, so why should we care." Why indeed?

but then, there is THIS. There is always THIS. Hemant wrote: "If the pope knew about the atrocities, why didn’t he say more? Coco believes the pope was worried “about what could happen to Catholics in Poland, in Eastern Europe, in the Third Reich, all those territories under Nazi control.” He worried that Catholics might be persecuted in the same way Jews were. So instead of using his platform to more forcefully condemn Nazis and defend Jewish people, he may have chosen silence so as to not draw attention to his own people."

What a profile in courage that one was. But more to the point, it reminded me of something much more courageous than the murder of 6 million people 80 years ago. And also much more recent, about 10 years ago. This concerns Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

"Were the Church of England to accept gay marriages", he commented, "the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic....Nonetheless Welby condemned homophobia and said, "to treat every human being with equal importance and dignity is a fundamental part of being a Christian."...He explained that the "reasoning" behind the massacre of Nigerian Christians by Nigerian Muslims was essentially, "If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we're going to kill the Christians."

Of course, because homosexuality is just like the Abrahamic religions. Except for the murdering part, the child molesting part, the ignoring it part, and all of the rest.

And thus Miss Welby continued the intellectual, moral, political, and spiritual dithering and vapidity of the highly paid religious class. If we treat the people we have always despised in God's name even remotely decently, why, there might be consequences for the people we actually think are far superior-- our tribe, not theirs. "I'll condemn the homohatred my church has been peddling for centuries, but I won't accept the consequences that homohatred has visited upon the innocent members of our tribe. I'm not too concerned about the other innocent victims of centuries of homohatred-- gay people." And of course, there is also the tacit endorsement of stupidity, ignorance, superstition, tribalism, and a host of other ills that beset the dark continent-- and western civilization-- wherever religious fundamentalism sinks its claws.

does that about cover it, Archbishop?

Who exactly would be doing the killing of your tribe members? Oh, yes! Other religionists who worship a different version of your god. You people have been slaughtering each other for a thousand years-- when each has taken the time out from slaughtering us.

And is there not present in his comments just the slightest bit of blaming the REAL victims of church-exported homohatred? "Goshdarn those homosexuals. If they weren't demanding an end to legalized bigotry, why everything would just be so much better for everyone!" It would be back to unicorns and rainbows for everyone, and Christians and muslims in third world hellholes would stop killing each other over who is actually god's best friend forever.

Thank the god I don't believe in that I'm an atheist.

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The Church's inaction on the Holocaust was bad enough but the truly egregious and unforgivable atrocity was the running of the so called"Rat Lines"where the Church actively assisted in smuggling Nazi War Criminals out of Germany to the Middle East and South America. This implies that the Vatican was more than a passive observer of the Hocaust but an active participant. The Roman Catholic Church is a cesspool of evil of the vilest kind.

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𝑇ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑜𝑟𝑦 𝑠𝑢𝑔𝑔𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑠 𝑎 𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓-𝑠𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑝𝑜𝑝𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑖𝑜𝑟𝑖𝑡𝑖𝑧𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐶ℎ𝑢𝑟𝑐ℎ’𝑠 𝑚𝑒𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟𝑠ℎ𝑖𝑝 𝑛𝑢𝑚𝑏𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑣𝑒𝑟

Basic humanity. Just as it has always been.

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I believe that the Nazis and Hitler wouldn’t have had the power they had if the RCC had condemned them in the beginning. Now that we’re talking about the Pope being aware of atrocities in the middle of the war, the condemnation ought to have been more strenuous rather than a generic “violence bad”. A great deal of Nazis, in power and in the populace, were Catholic and therefore open to the Pope’s influence, they might not have gone along with or allowed the atrocities to escalate as they did. I understand the economic crisis that led up to Hitler’s regime, but the church has been able to keep the most desperate people desperate. I mean, many Catholic nations in Africa are willing to sacrifice thousands to AIDS on the word of the the Pope regarding condoms. Perhaps a word from the Pope could have convinced German Catholics that the problem wasn’t the tiny population of Jewish people but fucking shitty political leaders stealing from them and the outright corruption throughout the government. Then they would have found ways to eliminate the corruption. But then the people would realize that the government wasn’t the only corrupt force in their lives and look to their church.

All I’m saying is, history shows that the RCC benefitted from the Third Reich and the Third Reich benefitted from the RCC. Theories about protecting Catholics or merely being cowardly are ignoring this fact.

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“The church is not afraid of history.”

Stop it, Frankie, yer killin' me.

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“The church is not afraid of history.” It should be given its record. Not just on the Holocaust either. Elements of the church helped Nazis escape after the war, either because they were Nazis themselves, or due to a fear of communism.

But they weren't the only ones that knew. I have an old book somewhere – at least 30 or 40 years old, sort of lost in the house move – that showed that the British and American governments knew what was going on, I think by about 1942. Due to anti-Semitism among the ruling elites at the time they did nothing. Not that there was a great deal physical they could do, but they didn't even publicise it. It was dismissed as Jewish exaggeration. The Pope was almost certainly as anti-Semitic as them at the time, with a visceral hatred of communism that allowed him to dismiss Nazi crimes of all sorts. And judging by the number of photos available online of Catholic priests giving the Nazi salute, at least some of them are enthusiastic supporters.

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Yes, German Catholics were heir to their church's long-standing blood libel about the Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus. But bear in mind that the OTHER dominant religion in Germany at the time was Lutheranism, and Martin Luther himself was a virulent, raging anti-Semite. So both major religions had not only plowed the ground, planted the seeds, and watered the crops for the Holocaust, they were plenty happy to partake of the fruits of the harvest as well, since SOMEBODY had to inherit all the property the now-absent Jews left behind after their state-sponsored "vacations". And who better to deal with unclaimed property than those good, trustworthy, kind-hearted churches?

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Sep 19, 2023·edited Sep 19, 2023

Saw this story yesterday. You can't begin to imagine how spectacularly unsurprised I was.

The Third Reich was made up of devout Catholics and Lutherans. Its leader was an avowed, devout Catholic who sincerely believed he and his party were doing his God's work on Earth in eliminating the Jews...and said so. So this revelation should come as no shock to anyone who's been paying the least bit of attention.

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> "It’s also possible, however, that the Vatican just didn’t realize how truly abominable the Holocaust was until it was too late."

I find it difficult to believe the pope and other high Vatican officials didn't know and understand what was going on. It was much more commonly known in Germany than is generally acknowledged. Hundreds (if not even more) of German soldiers came home and talked about what was happening--what they had actually seen. And among the people they told must have been their priests in some cases (at least a few). And those priests must have dutifully told their bishops, who in turn would have informed their bosses in the Vatican. This is speculation, of course, but it's severely difficult to believe something of the sort didn't happen.

As for Pius' motive for keeping his holy mouth shut, I'd raise the (obvious) possibility that, in keeping with centuries of Catholic antisemitism, he approved. Adolf Hitler, who was Catholic (he told Gen. Gerhard Engel "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so") wrote in Mein Kampf "I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Almighty Creator. By fighting the Jews, I am doing the Lord's work."

And in 1936 He told Bishop Berning and Monsignor Steinman, Pius.' representatives, "As for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic Church has adopted for fifteen hundred years, when it has regarded the Jews as dangerous and pushed them into ghettos etc., because it knew what the Jews were like. I don't put race above religion, but I do see the danger in the representatives of this race for Church and State, and perhaps I am doing Christianity a great service."

It's all but impossible to believe Pius wasn't aware of that. And wasn't just fine with it.

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