Did the Catholic Church help German Nazism? A look at the record.
“Antagonism to the Jews of today must not be extended to the books of Pre-Christian Judaism.” – Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber in the Advent sermons, delivered in 1933.
The Vatican’s definitive statement, “We Remember: Reflections on the Holocaust,” claims that Nazism was the antithesis of the Catholic church:
[Excerpt from “We Remember” starts here]
At the level of theological reflection we cannot ignore the fact that not a few in the Nazi Party not only showed aversion to the idea of divine Providence at work in human affairs, but gave proof of a definite hatred directed at God himself. Logically, such an attitude also led to a rejection of Christianity and a desire to see the Church destroyed or at least subjected to the interests of the Nazi state. It was this extreme ideology which became the basis of the measures taken first to drive the Jews from their homes and then to exterminate them. The Shoah was the work of a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime. Its anti-semitism had its roots outside of Christianity and, in pursuing its aims, it did not hesitate to oppose the Church and persecute her members also.
[My emphasis – J.I.]– Published online at http://tinyurl.com/bxszb [Excerpt from “We Remember” ends here]
Just as, according to “We Remember,” the extermination of European Jews was an extreme manifestation of anti-Catholicism(!), so, according to the Vatican statement, leading German clerics fought Nazi antisemitism. Case in point: Bavarian Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber. (The Vatican statement’s praise for von Faulhaber is quoted and refuted later in this article.) Not only does “We Remember” claim that the church fought Nazi antisemitism, but it quotes Pope John Paul II apparently absolving the Catholic hierarchy from responsibility for the belief (one of the foundations of Christianity) in Jewish culpability for the death of Jesus:
“In the Christian world – I do not say on the part of the Church as such – erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people.”– Pope John Paul II,
quoted in “We Remember: Reflections on the Holocaust” http://tinyurl.com/bxszb. Reading this remarkable statement, one is compelled to ask: if Christians did not get their belief in Jewish culpability from the Christian church, pray tell where did they get it? Many people, including some Jewish leaders, have praised Pope John Paul II and “We Remember” for facing up to ‘errors’ made during the Holocaust. But if the Church never aided, and indeed opposed, the Nazis, and never accepted even non-racial, religion-based hatred of Jews, then to what errors would the Vatican need to face up?
Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, answered this question when he was a top advisor to John Paul II: “‘Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah (Holocaust) was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel, it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.’”[My emphasis – J.I.]– Joseph Ratzinger as quoted by Abe Foxman in an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) press release welcoming Ratzinger’s election as Pope.
Also quoted on boston.com http://tinyurl.com/hfpob.
So Joseph Ratzinger claims that: a) Nazism was “anti-Christian”; b) Christianity erred only by “a certain insufficient resistance” (notice the modifier, “a certain,” which limits the insufficiency – i.e., it wasn’t so very insufficient!) to Nazism, not by complicity or active support; c) even this error resulted from individual Christian’s religious hostility to Judaism – “an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians” – which rather avoids the question: from whom did they inherit it, if not the church?
The evidence shows that: A) The Catholic church hierarchy, acting under Vatican orders, played the decisive role in making Hitler the dictator of Germany. B) Subsequently, the Catholic hierarchy was active in Nazi movements outside Germany, for example in the Balkans, where the church was the institutional base of the Nazi puppet State of Croatia. C) Although at Yad Vashem, in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II described the Nazis as having “a Godless ideology,” in 1933, when it mattered, the Vatican ordered German Catholics to love, honor, obey and protect the Nazis. During the 1920s, the church-controlled Centre party (Zentrum) did clash with the Nazis. As Hitler wrote (see quote below) their quarrel was over politics, not Catholic religious teachings. The Nazis themselves claimed they were fighting against atheism, specifically Bolshevist atheism, which they depicted as a Jewish-created movement. In attacking the Jews, the Nazis routinely employed Christian symbolism and traditional Christian antisemitic arguments, with which Europeans were already indoctrinated, making it an easy sale.
On March 23, 1933, the Nazi government put forward the Enabling act, giving Hitler the authority to create new laws without parliamentary approval, thus making him the dictator of Germany. This was after the Nazi-staged Reichstag fire; after the banning of the huge Communist party and subsequent arrest and murder of thousands of communists and other anti-Nazis; and amidst a campaign of violent antisemitism. To become law, the Enabling act needed a 2/3 parliamentary vote. Before the vote, Hitler addressed the Reichstag (parliament) saying the Nazis were fighting for Christianity:
“While the Government is determined to carry through the political and moral purging of our public life, it is creating and insuring prerequisites for a truly religious life. The Government sees in both [Catholic and Protestant] Christian confessions the most important factors for the maintenance of our folkdom. It will respect agreements concluded between them and the States. However, it expects that its work will meet with a similar appreciation. The Government will treat all other denominations with equal objective justice. It can never condone, though, that belonging to a certain denomination or to a certain race might be regarded as a license to commit or tolerate crimes. The Government will devote its care to the sincere living together of Church and State.”
[My emphasis – Jared Israel] –- http://tinyurl.com/g8gh3 To their credit, the Social Democrats for once took a strong stand, opposing the Enabling act. Hitler needed a 2/3 majority, so the balance lay with Zentrum, the Catholic Centre party. If Zentrum voted no or even abstained, Hitler would have been defeated. Zentrum leader Monsignor Ludwig Kaas, a close friend and advisor to Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, addressed the Reichstag. Far from attacking the Enabling act and disputing Hitler’s claim that Nazi measures were “prerequisites for a truly religious life,” Kaas endorsed the Enabling act. Zentrum and smaller allied parties voted ‘yes,’ and the act became law.
According to National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen, a liberal Catholic and student of Vatican history (he wrote a biography of Joseph Ratzinger), on March 28, 1933, four days after Zentrum voted to make Hitler the dictator of Germany: [Excerpt from John Allen’s Telegraph article starts here] “the German bishops rescinded their ban on Nazi party membership. On April 1, Cardinal Adolf Bertram of Breslau addressed German Catholics in a letter, warning them ”to reject as a matter of principle all illegal or subversive activities“. To most Catholics, it looked as if the church wanted a modus vivendi with Hitler. [Yes, I suppose when you vote to make a Nazi maniac dictator of your country it would appear that you want a modus vivendi with said maniac – J.I.]The same impression [! – J.I.] was created a few weeks later when Hitler held a plebiscite to endorse his decision to pull Germany out of the League of Nations, which received the endorsement of the Catholic press and of several Catholic bishops.”
http://tinyurl.com/jj2g4[Excerpt from John Allen’s Telegraph article ends here]
Three and a half months later, on July 6, 1933, the Catholic church’s Centre party, Zentrum, dissolved itself. Two weeks after that, the Vatican and the Nazi government signed their Concordat, putting the official Vatican stamp on the alliance of the German church and the Nazi state. Article 16, reproduced below, required that Catholic bishops swear to honor the Nazi government, to make their subordinates honor it, and to hunt for and prevent action that might endanger it. Notice that the Vatican required German bishops to “honor the legally constituted Government.” The Vatican was publicly asserting that the Enabling act, which could not have won a 2/3 vote absent the Zentrum (the Catholic Center party) and some smaller allies, made the Nazi dictatorship “legally constituted.”
So first the Catholic hierarchy fights to get the Centre party to vote for the Enabling act (because there was an internal fight over this that Monsignor Kaas, who was Pacelli’s agent in Zentrum, won), thus giving the dictatorship a pseudo legality, and then the Vatican orders the German church to honor the Nazi Reich because… it was legally constituted! In the Concordat, the Nazis pledged, among other things, to give certain Church organizational decisions the force of criminal law. For example:Church defenders, such as Vatican spokesman Peter Gumpel, argue that: “As the Vatican authority itself and the most astute Catholics foresaw, Hitler never had any intention of respecting the Concordat, rather, with the exception of the strictly liturgical or para-liturgical functions, the rest of the Church’s activities were systematically hampered and later gradually suppressed.”– Quoted by the Catholic news agency, ZENIT, at http://tinyurl.com/qh2a5. While Gumpel creates a false impression, the Nazis did renege on some parts of the Concordat, especially over issues involving control of schools. And the German Catholic 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 and of anti-Nazis, Jewish and non-Jewish. (Just for the record, the Vatican signed the Concordat after the Nazis issued their forced sterilization law, so later church protests over forced sterilization have a hollow ring.)The fact that German Catholic-Nazi relations were not always smooth sailing does not mitigate the horrific truth that:* By voting to give Hitler dictatorial powers, the Catholic Centre party (Zentrum) made it possible for Hitler to set up his dictatorship with a phony appearance of legality;* By then dissolving Zentrum, the German Church eliminated the powerful party, through which many Catholics had opposed Nazism and through which they were trying to continue opposing Nazism up until the moment Zentrum was dissolved;* By rescinding the ban on Catholics joining the Nazi Party, the Church made Nazism the only church-approved vehicle for political action;* By drafting and signing the Concordat, the Vatican literally (i.e., in the form of specific rules, laid out in the Concordat, such as Article 16) ordered German Catholics to support the Nazis, telling millions of Catholics not only in Germany but worldwide that the Pope was allied with Fascism, meaning that they must ally with it as well;* By giving Hitler their vote-winning support for his Enabling Act, dissolving Zentrum, rescinding the ban on Nazi membership, and drafting/and signing the Concordat, the Vatican wrapped Hitler in a cloak of Vatican acceptance at a crucial moment, when the infant racist state was suffering extreme international isolation. Put yourself in the position of a 1933 German Catholic as you read the text of the contract between Nazi Germany and the Vatican, the Reichskonkordat. (See Vatican’s watered-down translation at http://tinyurl.com/8js9c )The German Catholic Church has rescinded its ban on joining the Nazi Party. The Catholic Centre party (Zentrum) has obeyed Vatican orders and dissolved itself. In the Reichskonkordat, the Vatican has promised that German Catholic educators will teach children to love the Nazi state (Article 21). It has requested and received the Nazi dictatorship’s promise to enforce internal Church decisions (Article 10), voluntarily making the Nazis the policeman of the church. Cardinal Bertram of Breslau has called on Catholics to avoid all subversive or illegal — illegal by Nazi definition! — activities. And even clearer: the Reichskonkordat has ordered German Bishops to be loyal to and honor the Nazi state, to cause their subordinates to do likewise, and to seek out and prevent any actions that might threaten Nazism (Article 16), thus rendering Catholic bishops adjuncts of the Nazi political police.How would you respond? Isn’t the Pope infallible, and didn’t the Pope, through his delegated subordinate, sign the Reichskonkordat, which reads:“In dutiful solicitude for the welfare and the interest of the German State, I will, while exercising the religious post that has been assigned to me, strive to prevent any harm that could threaten it.”
– Mandatory pledge for newly appointed Catholic Bishops, Reichskonkordat, Article 16, translation by Samantha CriscionePrevent any harm!Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote:
“…it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to this atrocity [the Holocaust] on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians.”
[My emphasis – J.I.]
To be sure, there was “anti-Judaism” in the hearts of many Christians, but there was also anti-Nazism. With German Christians divided on Nazism, the Vatican intervened, committing every one of its thousands of German clerics to honor the Nazi dictatorship and hunt for actions that might harm it. Is Pope Benedict XVI, formerly the Vatican’s Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (previously called ‘the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition’), and before that a German professor of Theology, perhaps unfamiliar with the Reichskonkordat? Or is Ratzinger faulting German Catholics for offering “a certain insufficient resistance” to Vatican orders?
Peter Gumpel, the Vatican’s main spokesman regarding Pope Pius XII and the Nazis, argues that “the Vatican authority itself and the most astute Catholics” expected the Nazis to renege on some or all of what they promised in the Concordat.What if Gumpel is correct? Is he aware of the implications? What if, as Gumpel argues, “the Vatican authority itself and the most astute Catholics” expected the Nazis to renege on some or all of the limited promises the Nazis made in the Concordat, meaning that the Vatican had Zentrum vote for the Enabling act, had the German bishops lift the ban on Nazi membership, negotiated the Concordat, and dissolved Zentrum even though they expected Hitler to renege on promises such as church control of Catholic schools? Then what was the motive of the Vatican and the German Catholic hierarchy for taking actions which put the Nazis firmly in power, effectively pushing Catholics to join the Nazi party, and giving Hitler a document, signed by the Pope, which committed the German church to honor the Nazi Reich and ferret out and oppose actions that “might endanger it”? Gumpel says that the astute people in the Vatican knew Hitler would not respect church independence, but really it did not require much astuteness; just the ability to read.
Article I of the Concordat states:
“It [i.e., “The German Reich” – J.I.] acknowledges the right of the Catholic Church, within the limit of those laws which are applicable to all, to manage and regulate her own affairs independently, and, within the framework of her own competence, to publish laws and ordinances binding on her members.”
[My emphasis – J.I.] – Reichskonkordat, Vatican-authorized translation, http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_ss33co.htmThe key phrase here is “within the limit of those laws which are applicable to all.”The Reichskonkordat was signed July 20, 1933, four months after the Vatican-controlled Centre party (Zentrum) gave its support to the Enabling Act, thus making Hitler the dictator of Germany with the right to issue laws without parliamentary approval. And Zentrum had dissolved itself on July 6 – two weeks before the signing of the pact. So
- a) there was no possible parliamentary opposition to the Nazis because there were no longer any functioning parliamentary opponents and
- b) even if there had been, the Catholic party had voted to give the Nazis the authority to rule by decree.
Thus, the promise to respect the partial autonomy of the Catholic church (e.g., in the running of Catholic schools) within the limits of law meant within the limits of whatever the Nazis decided. Having given Hitler the power to make laws at whim, one did not have to converse directly with God to know that the promise of Catholic rights under law wasn’t worth beans. As Samantha Criscione argues (see footnote ), read as the end result of negotiations between parties hammering out an accord through mutual concessions, the Reichskonkordat was a catastrophic Vatican defeat. A defeat because Hitler got everything. He got the Vatican’s unqualified promise that the German Catholic church would love and honor the Nazi state and actively work to prevent actions that might endanger it, while the church got a promise of partial autonomy as long as the Nazis decided to allow it! By this standard, Eugenio Pacelli, later to become Pope Pius XII, was in the running for Worst Negotiator in History, signing away everything in return for nothing at a time when the Nazis were internationally isolated and running a state that had catastrophic financial debts, i.e., when Hitler very much needed a friendship treaty with the Vatican. But read differently, read as the pro-Nazi faction within the Catholic church giving Hitler a weapon to help him suppress German anti-Nazi sentiment, including, indeed especially, inside the German Catholic church, whose party (Zentrum) had once opposed Nazism – the Concordat was a great success. Of course, there was no guarantee that at some point the Vatican and the Nazis would not come into conflict, despite their agreement on social and political questions and common desire to crush anti-Nazism. Even a marriage based on mutual interest may end in divorce. C’est l’amour. For the Vatican and the Nazis, job #1 was to crush anti-Nazism, i.e., to crush the ideas that had annoyed the Vatican for a hundred and fifty years, and this document, which ordered German clerics to serve as adjuncts to the Nazi political police was a vital weapon in Hitler’s hands. Vatican support for Nazism was apparent during the 1930s. Despite efforts to white out the past, a pictorial record survived. The pictures accuse. – Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor’s Clothes
April 11, 2006, edited Dec. 11, 2008
The following translation of the very important Article 16 of the Reichskonkordat was authorized by the Vatican:
“Before bishops take possession of their dioceses they are to take an oath of fealty either to the Reich Representative of the State concerned, or to the President of the Reich, according to the following formula:
“‘Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the [regional – EC] State of . . . I swear and promise to honor the legally constituted Government and to cause the clergy of my diocese to honor it. In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interests of the German Reich, I will endeavor to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it.’”
[My emphasis – Jared Israel]
Read thoughtfully, the Vatican-authorized translation of Article 16 (above) is damning. Even so, it is a false translation, with the falsifications lessening the horror of what the Vatican was ordering German bishops to do.
Below is Samantha Criscione’s accurate translation, with the relevant differences highlighted. So that you may make your own comparison, we have posted the original German text in footnote .
Article 16 Reichskonkordat (“Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich”), July 20, 1933
Samantha Criscione, translator
Copyright 2008. This translation may not be reposted or otherwise published in any form without the permission of Samantha Criscione. To inquire, write firstname.lastname@example.org
“Before bishops take possession of their dioceses, they perform an oath of allegiance in the hand of the Reichsstatthalter [Governor of the Reich, the representative of Hitler in the Reich provinces, whose task was to guarantee the implementation of Hitler’s political directives – SC] in the regional State concerned, or of the President of the Reich, according to the following formula:
”‘Before God and on the Holy Gospels I swear and promise, as becomes a bishop, loyalty to the German Reich and to the [regional] State of . . . . I swear and promise to honour the Government formed in accord with the Constitution and to cause my clergy to honour it.
“‘In dutiful solicitude for the welfare and the interest of the German State, I will, while exercising the religious post that has been assigned to me, strive to prevent any harm that could threaten it.’” 
As Samantha Criscione explains in a work in progress, (see footnote 2), here are the differences:
First, the Vatican translation omits the crucial statement that the bishop’s post has been assigned to him.
Second, the Vatican takes the statement, of which the accurate translation is, “I will…strive to prevent any harm that could threaten it,” meaning that the Vatican is ordering bishops to seek out (“strive”) and repress (“prevent”) action that could harm the Nazis, and translates it “I will endeavor to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it,” which would mean the Vatican was only ordering bishops to avoid engaging in anti-Nazi acts, themselves. A demand for pro-actively defending Nazism is softened, in the Vatican translation, to a demand for passively avoiding doing the Nazis harm. A world of difference.
“The wearing of clerical dress or of a religious habit on the part of lay folk, or of clerics or religious who have been forbidden to wear them by a final and valid injunction made by the competent ecclesiastical authority and officially communicated to the State authority, is liable to the same penalty on the part of the State as the misuse of military uniform.”
| “On 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.”
– From text excerpted from John Cornwell’s “Hitler’s Pope” and posted at http://emperors-clothes.com/vatican/hitlers.htmCornwell reports that he was given access to secret Vatican archives with the understanding that he would write a defense of Pius XII but changed his mind after studying the record.
The Nazi-like Croatian Ustashi state, set up immediately after the Nazi German invasion of Yugoslavia, was based on fanatical Catholicism. Orthodox Christian Serbs who refused to convert were butchered in their villages, or at the Jasenovac death camp, or thrown into mountain crevaces. Hitler referred to the Ustashi as “Our Nazis.”
The Catholic Centre party’s support for the Enabling act, which gave Hitler dictatorial powers; the Centre 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:
[Quote from “Encyclopedia of the Nations” starts here]
“Slavko Kvaternik explained [in a radio program on April 10, 1941, the day the ‘Independent State of Croatia’ was formed] how a pure Croatia should be built – by forcing one third of the Serbs to leave Croatia, one third to convert to Catholicism, and one third to be exterminated. Soon Ustasha bands initiated a bloody orgy of mass murder of Serbs unfortunate enough not to have converted or left Croatia on time.
“The enormity of such criminal behavior shocked even the conscience of German commanders, but Pavelic had Hitler’s personal support for such actions which resulted in the loss of the lives of hundreds of thousands of Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.In addition, the Ustasa regime organized extermination camps, the most notorious one at Jasenovac where Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and other opponents were massacred in large numbers.”
[Quote from “Encyclopedia of the Nations” ends here]
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:
[Excerpt from Yugoslav Embassy report starts here]
[On April 10, the day of the Nazi invasion, Croatian Ustashi leader Ante Pavelic was in Italy.] On that very same day Pavelic’s [lieutenant], Slavko Kvaternik, leader of the illegal Ustashi movement, proclaimed the Independent State of Croatia and formed the first Ustashi government. [Croatian Catholic] Archbishop Stepinac at once sided with the Ustashi traitors and helped them take over the government. On April 12, 1941, while fighting between the Germans and the Yugoslav Army was still going on in the Bosnian mountains – while millions of patriotic Yugoslavs were still determined to resist the invaders – Archbishop Stepinac openly called on Kvaternik and congratulated him on his success.
The day before Easter, Slavko Kvaternik visited Archbishop Stepinac. The official organ of the Archbishopric, Katolicki List, reported that the Archbishop had expressed his highest satisfaction to Kvaternik. The Ustashi newspaper Krvatske Novosti, in its Easter issue, underlined the significance of this interchange of visits and pointed out the cordiality with which the Archbishop of Zagreb had greeted the deputy of Dr. Pavelic. This newspaper drew the conclusion that the foundation was laid for intimate cooperation between the Ustashi movement and the highest representative of the Roman Catholic Church in the Croatian State.
What other conclusion could the lower clergy reach, despite the knowledge that both Kvaternik and Pavelic had been sentenced to death in absentia for their roles in the murder of King Alexander and French Foreign Minister Barthou?
On April 13, 1941, Ante Pavelic reached Zagreb from Italy. On the very next day – the Royal Yugoslav Army was still fighting – Archbishop Stepinac paid him a visit, to greet him and voice his congratulations.
Two weeks later, on April 28, 1941, Archbishop Stepinac issued a pastoral letter asking the clergy to respond without hesitation to his call that they take part in the exalted work of defending and improving the Independent State of Croatia. He emphasized his deep conviction that the efforts of the Poglavnik [i.e., the leader of the Croatian Ustashi state, Ante Pavelic – J.I.] would meet with complete understanding and support, basing this confidence on his acquaintance with the men now directing the destiny of the Croatian people. He believed and hoped, his letter said, that in the resurrected Croatian State the Church would be able in complete freedom to preach “the invincible principles of eternal truth and justice.” The pastoral letter, which was also published in Nedelja and Katolicki List on April 28, 1941, declared:
“Honorable brethren, there is not one among you who did not recently witness the most significant event in the life of the Croatian people among whom we act as herald of Christ’s word. These are events that fulfilled the long-dreamed of and desired ideal of our people…. You should therefore readily answer my call to do elevated work for the safeguarding and the progress of the Independent State of Croatia…. Prove yourselves, honorable brethren, and fulfill now your duty toward the young Independent State of Croatia.”
The Ustashi section of the clergy, which had been active in terrorism even before the war, did not need this circular to tell them how to act. But a great part of the Catholic clergy, not earlier involved in the Ustashi movement, accepted the circular as a directive, an order from their most responsible chief; and in accordance with its exhortations placed themselves at the disposal of the Ustashi. Answering the call of the Primate of the church, many priests then engaged actively in supporting the Ustashi regime. [My emphasis – J.I.]
[Excerpt from Yugoslav Embassy report ends here]
In the Vatican’s much-praised, “We Remember: Reflections on the Holocaust,” we read:
“The well-known Advent sermons of Cardinal Faulhaber in 1933, the very year in which National Socialism came to power, at which not just Catholics but also Protestants and Jews were present, clearly expressed rejection of the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda.”
Could it be that the Jesuit scholars who wrote “We Remember” never read Cardinal Faulhaber’s 1933 Advent sermons? If so, let me assist. I have the full text in front of me. The Cardinal’s position was precisely the opposite of what the Vatican claims.
What the Nazis called ‘race culture’ consisted of indoctrinating the population in belief in a fictional but nevertheless superior and glorious German volk and an equally imaginary but nevertheless evil and subhuman people, the Jews, and their subhuman agents, the Slavs and blacks. This so-called ‘culture,’ which is essentially modern racism elevated to the status of official doctrine, was supported by Nazi-sanctioned quacks, called ‘race scientists.’ To claim that someone endorsed Nazi ‘race culture’ but opposed Nazi antisemitism would be as silly as claiming that someone endorsed anti-black racism but opposed hatred of black people.
Keeping this in mind, here is what Faulhaber wrote about Nazi ‘race culture’ in the Vatican-authorized translation of the Advent sermons, published immediately after Faulhaber delivered them:
“From the Church’s point of view there is no objection whatsoever to racial research and race culture.” (page 107)
Faulhaber was making it perfectly clear: the Catholic church should have no objection to Nazi antisemitism and glorification of a German so-called Volk. (I emphasized ‘should’ because, while the translation reads, “there is no objection,” as my colleague Samantha Criscione argues in an as yet unpublished text, in fact when Bavarian Cardinal Faulhaber delivered the sermons, a great many Bavarian Catholics did have objections to Nazi ‘race culture’ and ‘racial research’; so not only was Faulhaber endorsing the core of Nazi hate gibberish, but, as Ms. Criscione argues, he, as the ranking Bavarian cleric, was ordering the hierarchy to crack down on Catholics who challenged Nazi racism. Thus the sermons were a blow to the anti-Nazi movement in Germany. Rather than opposing the Nazis, Faulhaber sounded the charge against their opponents in the church.
Faulhaber did dispute the demand raised by some Nazis that Christians reject the ‘Old Testament’ (the Torah). This was a practical matter. According to Catholic doctrine, with the death of Jesus Christianity inherited the mantle of “the true Israel” from the Jews, meaning that Christian scripture was a continuation of pre-Christian Jewish scripture – the Torah. If Christians rejected the Torah, they rejected the possibility of being the “true Israel.”
Notice how, in the Advent sermons, Faulhaber went out of his way to stress that by accepting the Torah as the work of God, Christians were not therefore accepting the Jews:
“By accepting these books [i.e., the Torah -J.I.], Christianity does not become a Jewish religion. These books were not composed by Jews; they are inspired by the Holy Ghost, and therefore they are the word of God, they are God’s books. The writers of them were God’s pencils, the psalm-singers were harps in the hand of God, the Prophets were announcers of God’s revelation. It is for this reason that the scriptures of the Old Testament are worthy of credence and veneration for all time. Antagonism to the Jews of today must not be extended to the books of Pre-Christian Judaism.” – p.14
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 anyway, had nothing to do with the Jews.
Point, game, set, match.
|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:“Even an indirect endorsement meant everything to Hitler as he sought to establish his legitimacy at home and abroad. In these early months of 1933, Catholic leaders went from being Hitler’s staunch opponents to his latest allies. This transformation was dramatically symbolized by the fact that in 1932, the Fulda Episcopal Conference, representing the Catholic hierarchy of Germany, banned membership in the Nazi Party and forbade priests from offering communion to anyone wearing the swastika; then, on March 28, 1933, two weeks after Pacelli offered his overture to Hitler, the same Fulda conferees voted to lift the ban on Catholic membership in the Nazi Party. The bishops expressed, as they put it, ‘a certain confidence in the new government, subject to reservations concerning some religious and moral lapses.’ Swastika bearers would now be welcomed at the communion rail.”As part of its Concordat with the Nazi regime, the Vatican had the huge Centre 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:“The Reichskonkordat effectively removed the Catholic Church from any continued role of opposition to Hitler. More than that, as Hitler told his cabinet on July 14, it established a context that would be ‘especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry.’ The deep well of Catholic antisemitism would be tapped, to run as freely as any stream of hate in Germany. The positive side of the long-standing ambivalence, which had again and again been the source of impulses to protect Jews, would now be eliminated, allowing the negative side to metastasize.”
– J. Carroll, Constantine‘s Sword, (New York, 2002) 498-500In 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:
[Source: A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen]
Hitler had reason to smile. The Nazi German Army would invade Yugoslavia April 10; Pavelic’s Ustashi (Clerical-Fascist) forces would immediately set up a dictatorship based on fanatical Catholicism and so-called “racial purity.” By April 28th Croatian Archbishop Stepinac would issue a pastoral letter telling Catholics to support this Nazi-like dictatorship.
After WWII, Yugoslavia put Cardinal Stepinac on trial. The Catholic Church fiercely defended Stepinac against the charge that he had helped the Ustashi even as the Vatican secretly worked with US military intelligence to help Ustashi war criminals escape from Europe, using a network known as the Ratline.
In 1991 the political heirs to the Ustashi took leadership of the Yugoslav Republic of Croatia and led a secessionist rebellion. They rehabilitated Ustashi leaders and renewed war against the Serbian people. The title of an Emperor’s Clothes article accurately describes the Western response: “The Media Suppressed the Truth about the Rebirth of Croatian Fascism.”
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:
[Excerpt from United Press International starts here]
Pope calls on Yugoslav leaders to respect ‘legitimate aspirations’, United Press International, June 29, 1991, Saturday, BC cycle, International, 546 words, By Charles Ridley, Vatican City
“My thoughts today turn in particular to the dear peoples of Croatia and Slovenia,” the pope said. “I feel close to those who are grieving for their dead, to the wounded and to all those who are living in sorrow and fear.”
“I repeat once again that one cannot and must not suffocate with force the rights and legitimate aspirations of the peoples,” the pope said.
“I want in this way to encourage all those initiatives aimed at seeking just solutions, which alone can guarantee peace and fraternal coexistence among the peoples,” he said.
John Paul called on “the authorities of all the Yugoslav republics to show a constructive will for dialogue and long-sighted wisdom.”
The pope’s appeals, and his repeated reference to “legitimate rights” appeared to support a declaration made by Yugoslav Catholic bishops Thursday which strongly defended the right of Slovenia and Croatia to declare their independence.
Vatican radio broadcast the full text of the declaration Saturday, around the same time the pope spoke in St. Peter’s square. [My emphasis]
[Excerpt from United Press International ends here]
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:
“I greet the members of the Government and the other distinguished persons who honour this meeting with their presence.” 
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:
“After the violent and brutal war in which it found itself involved, Croatia is finally experiencing a period of peace and freedom. Now all the population’s energies are dedicated to the gradual healing of the deep wounds of the conflict, to a genuine reconciliation among all the nation’s ethnic, religious and political groups, and to an ever greater democratisation of society.”
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
|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”:“How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people.” [My emphasis – J.I.][– To read the full text of the Pope’s speech at Yad Vashem, go to http://tinyurl.com/3qukg
On that page, click the link “Pope John Paul II at Yad Vashem.” Then scroll down to the link “Text of Pope John Paul’s speech in the Hall of Remembrance.”]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 Centre 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 Centre 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 Centre 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…”[Excerpt from Nazi children’s book starts here]
[A peasant mother points to a cross.] “Children, look there! The Man who hangs on the Cross was one of the greatest enemies of the Jews of all time. He knew the Jews in all their corruption and meanness… Because this Man knew the Jews, because He proclaimed the truth to the world, he had to die. Hence the Jews murdered Him. …And in a similar way they have killed many others who had the courage to tell the truth about the Jews. Always remember these things, children. When you see the Cross, think of the terrible murder by the Jews on Golgotha.”
[Excerpt from Nazi children’s book ends here]
[Source, Jewish Virtual Library]
Front page of the Nazi publication, Der Stuermer.
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.
(Source: US Holocaust Museum)
Photo montage and analysis by Jared Israel
[Published April 22, 2005. Last revised December 11, 2008]