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Smearing a Pope
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As expected, Pope John Paul II, in his sweeping apologies for the mistreatment of Jews by Christians through the ages, said nothing about the “silence” of his predecessor, Pius XII, about the Holocaust of the Jews during World War II. Many commentators, Jewish and gentile, are therefore calling the new apologies insufficient.

Even the New York Times, forgetting its own praise of Pius during the war for his condemnations of racial persecution, has joined the chorus of calumny. Pius has become the target of a virulent hate campaign that began with the play The Deputy in 1963 and has recently gained new impetus from a book smearing Pius as “Hitler’s Pope.”

Hitler himself would have found this judgment surprising; he called Pius a “mouthpiece of the Jews.” Israel Zolli, Grand Rabbi of Rome during the war, agreed with Hitler on this point: he was so grateful for Pius’s efforts to save Jews that he became a Catholic after the war and took Pius’s baptismal name, Eugenio, as his own. When Pius died in 1958, many Jewish leaders, including Golda Meir, praised him profusely.

What has happened since 1958 to obscure Pius’s good deeds and blacken his name? The facts haven’t changed; but popular perspective has.

True, Pius never specifically condemned “the Holocaust”; he never heard the term used as we now use it. It came into use only after the war — in fact, only years after his death. Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, who did virtually nothing to save Jews from Nazis, never referred to the persecution as “the Holocaust” either and said very little about it in any terms. But, being liberal heroes, they have been pardoned. Spain’s Francisco Franco saved tens of thousands of Jews but, like Pius, was a “reactionary” Catholic and is thus ineligible for liberal praise.

A thoughtful book by the historian Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life (published by Houghton Mifflin), reminds us not only that the term the Holocaust is of recent origin but also that it represents a very recent way of thinking.

During the 1940s, the persecution of the Jews was not neatly separated, in people’s minds, from the enormous welter of violence that was World War II. Novick observes that “throughout the war (and, as we will see, for some time thereafter) what we now call the Holocaust was neither a distinct entity nor particularly salient. The murder of European Jewry, insofar as it was understood or acknowledged, was just one among the countless dimensions of a conflict that was consuming the lives of tens of millions around the globe. It was not ‘the Holocaust’; it was simply the (underestimated) Jewish fraction of the holocaust then engulfing the world.”

He repeats the point emphatically: “What we now call ‘the Holocaust’ … seemed to most people at the time simply the Jewish portion of the worldwide holocaust that had consumed between fifty and sixty million victims.”

Even Jewish groups didn’t make the kind of vocal protest Pius is now being condemned for failing to make. They preferred to speak in more general terms of the various victims of Nazism. Novick quotes them as speaking in rhetorically inclusive lists — “the Czechs, the Poles, the Jews, the Russians” or “Catholics, Protestants, Jews” — that gave the impression that the Jews were only one among many Nazi target groups. Only much later did Jewish suffering gain preeminence in popular understanding. Wartime decorum resisted singling out specific ethnic groups; that was felt to be the Nazis’ game.

From a Catholic perspective, it’s more surprising that Pius said so little about Communism, the bombing of cities, and nuclear weapons. He could easily have discouraged Catholics from fighting for the Allied cause if he’d been “Hitler’s Pope.” Throughout the war, in fact, he ignored Hitler’s pleas for a condemnation of Communism, though before and after the war he was militantly anti-Communist.

Millions of Catholics fought and died on the Allied side. One wonders whether they would have been so ready to make sacrifices if they had known that after the war countless of their fellow Catholics would fall under Communist rule, while their Pope and their Church would be smeared as Hitler’s accomplices.

(Republished from FGF Books by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Catholic Church, Jews 
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  1. anarchyst says:

    This, in itself, is PROOF that there was no jewish “holocaust” and that the holocaust money grab was engineered after the summation of WW2.
    The jews have done a magnificent job in pulling the wool over the eyes of the world with their incessant, constant crying about how persecuted they are.
    In the words of others, if (and when) it were revealed that Israel engineered the WTC 9-11 destruction, Israel would cease to exist, and the world would not give a damn.
    One can only hope…

  2. Thank you, Ron, for bringing back the brilliant and informative writings of Joseph Sobran. Excellent!

  3. As usual -except his Oxford-Shakespeare authorship crackpottery- Sobran is right.

  4. Toby says:

    He repeats the point emphatically: “What we now call ‘the Holocaust’ … seemed to most people at the time simply the Jewish portion of the worldwide holocaust that had consumed between fifty and sixty million victims.”

    And yet and yet –

    In his essay ‘Reflections on Gandhi’ (1949) Orwell wrote:

    “Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialise in answereing awkward questions. In relation to the last war, one question every pacifisthad a clear obligation to answer was: “What about the Jews? Are you prepared tosee them eterminated? If not how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?” I must say that I have never heard from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have hear plenty of evasions, usually of the “you’re another” type. But Ghandi was asked a similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on revord in Mr. Louis Fischer’s Gandhi and Stalin. According to Mr Fischer, Gandhi’s view was that German Jews ought to commit collective suicide…

    (from The Orwell Reader p. 333)

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  5. @Toby

    It is a well known passage, but I don’t quite understand your point. Orwell was, in my opinion, clear & penetrating as usual:

    http://orwell.ru/library/reviews/gandhi/english/e_gandhi

    [MORE]

    Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: “What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?” I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the “you’re another” type. But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on record in Mr. Louis Fischer’s Gandhi and Stalin. According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi’s view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. One has the impression that this attitude staggered even so warm an admirer as Mr. Fischer, but Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths.

    At the same time there is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British government. The important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity. As can be seen from the phrase quoted above, he believed in “arousing the world”, which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference. But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power: even so, how does one put it into practise internationally? Gandhi’s various conflicting statements on the late war seem to show that he felt the difficulty of this. Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement. Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned. It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?

    These and kindred questions need discussion, and need it urgently, in the few years left to us before somebody presses the button and the rockets begin to fly. It seems doubtful whether civilization can stand another major war, and it is at least thinkable that the way out lies through non-violence. It is Gandhi’s virtue that he would have been ready to give honest consideration to the kind of question that I have raised above; and, indeed, he probably did discuss most of these questions somewhere or other in his innumerable newspaper articles. One feels of him that there was much he did not understand, but not that there was anything that he was frightened of saying or thinking. I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure.

    • Replies: @Toby
  6. Toby says:
    @Bardon Kaldian

    My point is that what we now call the Holocaust (persecution of the Jews) may not have seemed to most people at the time simply the Jewish portion of the worldwide holocaust that had consumed between fifty and sixty million victims. Because as Orwell wrote :

    In relation to the last war, one question every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: “What about the Jews?

    That they needed to answer that suggestsm (to me at any rate) that the Jews’ plight was not seen by most people at the time as simply the Jewish portion of the worldwide holocaust. Their plight was singled out as a question every pacifist had to answer. In other words not only was it a prominent issue that stood out in the wider holocaust, but every pacifist had a clear obligation to justify his (or her) position in that regard.

    Thus it seems to me that to most people at the time the Jewish persecution was singled out from the general conflagration as a cardinal issue. One that every pacifist was obliged to address.

    I apologise for neglecting to make that clear.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  7. @Toby

    Sorry, but you got it wrong (or partially right). First- you are right that after WW 2 Jews’ plight was seen as a part- significant, but still just a part- of a broader spectrum of suffering. Second- just, Orwell, when talking about Gandhi, refers to limits of pacifism & non-violent resistance before the war, not after it.

    And Gandhi’s “proposal”, while bizarre & intriguing, was not realistic. Even if German Jews decided to kill themselves at, say, the rate of 1000 per day, I doubt it would have worked. Modern totalitarian state has immense power in covering up & distorting the facts, thus preventing emotional reaction of the majority of its citizens. At least for a very significant period of time.

    • Replies: @Toby
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