While Nazi antisemitism embraced modern pseudo-scientific racial principles rejected by the Catholic Church, ancient antipathies between Christianity and Judaism contributed to European antisemitism ; during the Second World War the Catholic Church rescued many thousands of Jews by issuing false documents, lobbying Axis officials, hiding them in monasteries, convents, schools and elsewhere; including the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. By , most Christians in Europe were living under Nazi rule.
Generally, the life of their churches could continue, provided they did not attempt to participate in politics. When the Nazi regime undertook the industrialized mass-extermination of the Jews, the Nazis found a great many willing participants.
What Was the Holocaust?
The Jews and Christians were rivals, sometimes enemies, for a long period of history. Furthermore, it was traditional for Christians to blame Jewish leaders for the crucifixion of Christ At the same time, Christians showed devotion and respect. They were conscious of their debt to the Jews. Jesus and all the disciples and all the authors of the gospels were of the Jewish race. Christians viewed the Old Testament, the holy book of the synagogues, as equally a holy book for them Others too have come under scrutiny, wrote Blainey: "even Jews living in the United States, might have indirectly and directly given more help, or publicity, to the Jews during their plight in Hitler's Europe".
Hamerow writes that sympathy for the Jews was common among Catholic churchmen in the Resistance, who saw both Catholics and Jews as religious minorities exposed to bigotry on the part of the majority. This sympathy led some lay and clergy resistors to speak publicly against the persecution of the Jews, as with the priest who wrote in a periodical in that it was a sacred task of the church to oppose "sinful racial pride and blind hatred of the Jews".
The leadership of the Catholic Church in Germany, whoever, was generally hesitant to speak out specifically on behalf of the Jews. Such protests as were made tended to be private letters to government ministers. Nazi persecution of the Jews grew steadily worse throughout era of the Third Reich. Hamerow wrote that during the prelude to the Holocaust between Kristallnacht in November and the invasion of Soviet Russia, the position of the Jews "deteriorated steadily from disenfranchisement to segregation, ghettoization and sporadic mass murder".
Pius XII instructed local bishops to help all those in need at the outbreak of the war. Bernhard Lichtenberg offered public prayer and sermonised against the deportations of Jews to the East. He was denounced, and later died en route to Dachau. Nazi ideology saw Jewishness as a "racial question". Among the deported "Jews" of Germany were practicing Catholics.
Two newly arrived Catholic priests of "Jewish origin" were among the deportees in attendance. Cardinal Faulhaber gained an early reputation as an opponent of the regime denouncing the Nazi extremists who were calling for the Bible to be purged of the "Jewish" Old Testament, because, wrote Hamerow, in seeking to adhere to the central anti-Semitic tenets of Nazism, these "anti-Semitic zealots" were also undermining "the basis of Catholicism.
Entitled Judaism, Christianity, and Germany , the sermons affirmed the Jewish origins of the Christian religion, the continuity of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and the importance of the Christian tradition to Germany. Unlike the Nazis, Faulhaber believed Judaism was a religious not a racial concept. In his private correspondence, his sympathy for the Jews of his own time is clear, but Faulhaber feared that going public with these thoughts would make the struggle against the Jews also a "struggle against the Catholics".
Similarly, when in , the Nazi school superintendent of Munster issued a decree: religious instruction be combined with discussion of the "demoralising power" of the "people of Israel", Bishop von Galen refused, writing such interference in curriculum was a breach of the Concordat. He feared children would be confused as to their "obligation to act with charity to all men" and the historical mission of the people of Israel.
He declared himself speaking to protect the "rights of the human personality", not the narrow denominational interests of the Catholic Church. In response, the Nazis organised mass demonstrations against Catholics and Jews, in Munich. The Bavarian Gauleiter Adolf Wagner declared before 5, protesters: "Every utterance the Pope makes in Rome is an incitement of the Jews throughout the world to agitate against Germany".
Cardinal Faulhaber supplied a truck to the rabbi of the Ohel Yaakov synagogue, to rescue sacred objects before the building was torn down on Kristallacht. A Nazi mob attacked his palace, and smashed its windows.
He insisted there was only a single human race. We deny the Pope's statement there is but one human race. The Jews are parasites.
Catholic Church and Nazi Germany during World War II
During the war, the Fulda Conference of Bishops met annually in Fulda. Admittedly, it is speculative to assert this, but it is certain that many more German Catholics would have sought to save Jews by hiding them if their church leaders had spoken out". Preysing assisted in drafting the anti-Nazi encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge. Together with Cologne's Archbishop, Josef Frings , sought to have the German Bishops conference speak out against the Nazi death camps. Preysing even infrequently attended meetings of the Kreisau Circle German resistance movement.
His cathedral administrator and confidant Bernhard Lichtenberg , was not. Lichtenberg was under the watch of the Gestapo by , for his courageous support of prisoners and Jews.
From , Lichtenberg conducted prayers for the Jews and other inmates of the concentration camps, including "my fellow priests there". For preaching against Nazi propaganda and writing a letter of protest concerning Nazi euthanasia, he was arrested in , sentenced to two years' penal servitude, and died en route to Dachau concentration camp in Josef Frings became Archbishop of Cologne in In his sermons, he repeatedly spoke in support of persecuted peoples and against state repression.
In March , Frings attacked arbitrary arrests, racial persecution and forced divorces.
That autumn, he protested to the Gestapo against the deportations of Jews from Cologne and surrounds. In , he was appointed a cardinal by Pius XII. Frings wrote a pastoral letter cautioning his diocese not to violate the inherent rights of others to life, even those "not of our blood"; during the war, he preached in a sermon, "no one may take the property or life of an innocent person just because he is a member of a foreign race".
In East Prussia, the Bishop of Ermland, Maximilian Kaller denounced Nazi eugenics and racism, pursued a policy of ethnic equality for his German, Polish and Lithuanian flock, and protected his Polish clergy and laypeople. Threatened by the Nazis, he applied for a transfer to be chaplain to a concentration camp. Among the laity, Gertrud Luckner was among the first to sense the genocidal inclinations of the Hitler regime and to take national action. She organized aid circles for Jews, assisted many to escape. She gathered intelligence on the deportations of the Jews, and living conditions in concentration camps, as well as on SS firing squads, writing several reports on these topics from ; including an August report which reached Rome under the title "Report on the Exodus of the Jews".
Unlike the Nazi euthanasia murder of invalids, which the churches led protests against, the Final Solution liquidation of the Jews did not primarily take place on German soil, but rather in Polish territory. Awareness of the murderous campaign was therefore less widespread. She believed an "open condemnation of racism and the persecutions of Jews " by the Church, "other results could have been achieved. Indeed, "much more was hoped for by the Jews. US Envoy Myron C. Taylor asked if the Vatican might have any information which might tend to "confirm the reports", and if so, what the Pope might be able to do to influence public opinion against the "barbarities".
The note thanked Washington for passing on the intelligence, and confirmed that reports of severe measures against the Jews had reached the Vatican from other sources, though it had not been possible to "verify their accuracy". Nevertheless, "every opportunity is being taken by the Holy See, however, to mitigate the suffering of these unfortunate people".
Hitler initially attempted to appeal to Christians in a speech on April 9 in Vienna, when he told the Austrian public that it was "God's will" he lead his homeland into the Reich and the Lord had "smitten" his opponents. Globocnik launched a crusade against the Church, and the Nazis confiscated property, closed Catholic organisations and sent many priests to Dachau,  including Jakob Gapp and Otto Neururer. Neururer was tortured and hanged at Buchenwald and Gapp was guillotined in Berlin; both were beatified in Our faith is Germany'".
The following day, a mob stoned the Cardinal's residence, broke in and ransacked it—bashing a secretary unconscious, and storming another house of the cathedral curia and throwing its curate out the window. Its territory was divided into the mainly Czech Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia , and the newly declared Slovak Republic , while a considerable part of Czechoslovakia was directly joined to the Third Reich Hungary and Poland also annexed areas. Catholicism had had a strong institutional presence in the region under the Habsburg Dynasty , but Bohemian Czechs in particular had a troubled relationship with the Church of their rulers.
Some Czechoslovak priests were arrested and jailed during the occupation.
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Seventy-six did not survive the ordeal. Religious orders were suppressed, private schools closed and religious instruction forbidden in schools. When the Germans advanced on Prague in March , churches came under gestapo surveillance and hundreds of priests were denounced. Monasteries and convents were requisitioned and Corpus Christi processions curtailed.
As elsewhere, the Catholic press was muzzled. Following the outbreak of war, priests were rounded up from occupied Czechoslovakia—among them the Canon of Vysehrad, Msgr. For his resistance efforts, Bohumil spent the remainder of the war in prison and the concentration camps.
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Tenora, Dean of the Brno Cathedral was also among those arrested, while six directors of Catholic charities were also seized including Mgr Otto Lev Stanovsky. Kaspar was repeatedly arrested by the Nazi authorities and died in Heydrich was a fanatical Nazi anti-Semite and anti-Catholic.
One of the main architects of the Nazi Holocaust , he believed that Catholicism was a threat to the state.