The Situation and the Holocaust

There has been a close association between the state and faith for decades; the relationship between the state and the church in particular. In modern days, not only in state decision-making, but also in politics, the church does not have such a dominant role as it did in the medieval and middle ages (Hastings 2014, p221-223). Christianity decided the state’s stance on various issues during the Middle Ages and it was the basis of authority for state authorities and power. The government preserved the Christian faith in those days; however, in the contemporary times, religion does not have much power and standing due to the fact that democracy and the rule of law have taken its position (Steffen 2016 p3). Holocaust is depicted during the times when Popes Pius XI (1922–39) and Pius XII (1939–58) were the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. During this period, a significant number of Germans were Catholic and studies show that around a third of the country were Catholics (Gaydosh 2017). The church used the Catholic Aligned Party to raise its voice concerning the rise of Nazism and racism; however, the party was banned in 1933. Most Nazis such as Adolf Hitler were raised in Catholic Church till their adulthood. They opposed the church and became hostile to it due to its hard stand pertaining the Nazi rule (Steffen 2016 p3).
Conflict between Catholic Social Teaching and the Nazi Rule
Basing in its social teachings, the church could not stand how the state was being harsh to other races such as the Jews. Guided by the principle of human dignity, Roman Catholic Church was at the frontline in rescuing the Jews from the harsh Nazi rule making them a target of the government. Most property belonging to Roman Catholic believers and the church was confiscated by the government. In 1937, the papal “Mit brennender Sorge’’ to accused the nation of “fundamental hostility” to the Catholic Church and other races living in Germany (Hastings 2014, p221-223).
The principle of respect for human life guided the church when they defended the handicapped which were to be killed by the Nazi rule. Despite the fact that the government was fighting to have all the hospitals under the state administration, the church maintained Bethel hospital in August von Galen’s diocese under its administration; this came after the church being urged to take up a moral position (Spicer 2013, p.578). Bishop Wienken wrote to the government officials at 11th August 1940 telling them to halt the program of killing the disabled citing the commandment “thou shalt not kill” (Black 2015).
Human life is sacred and humans are social beings; hence, it was not right for the Nazi rule to discriminate other races such as the Jews. The Catholic Church argued that people are made in the image and likeness of God who in essence is made up of a diverse community (Chappel 2014). Since Nazi took over Germany, the Catholic Church took several diplomatic actions in a bid to defend the Jews. In the spring of 1933, Pope Pius XI sent a message to Hitler asking him to restrain anti-Semitic actions citing that anti-Semitism was incompatible with Catholic values (Spicer 2013, p.578).
Catholics had a duty of shaping the society to ensure that the well-being of individuals is not infringed upon, especially for the poor and vulnerable. During the Nazi rule, Catholics had hospitals which lodged the disabled and mentally ill defending them against the harsh killing of the Nazi (Gillingham 2014). On 26 September 1943 German bishops from the pulpits of their churches condemned the killing of the disabled, mentally handicapped, fatally wounded, innocent hostages, disarmed prisoners arrested during the war, and foreign races (Hirschfeld 2014).
The Catholic Church made the poor and vulnerable their priority during the Nazi rule; this is evident by the fact that from 1939 to 1944, Pius XII gave money, tickets, passports, and made sure the Jews had letters of recommendation in order to enable them to get visas from foreign governments. During this period, other Catholics from America sent money to Pius XII in a bid to help the Vatican effort to save individuals facing persecutions due to religion and race. More than five thousand Jews travelled to other countries where they were safe (Gerber 2015).
The Catholic Church showed solidarity and compassion to other Catholics and believers in Germany during the Nazi rule. The pope spoke openly against the invasion of Poland by the Nazi. In 1940, Pius XII in a delegation was asked why he sided with the enemies of Nazi. He replied by citing some of the instances where Nazi showed atrocity and religious persecution against Christians and Jews in Germany and Poland (Butler 2014 p.45).
The Catholic Church showed good stewardship of God’s creation and took a responsibility for their good. Moreover, the Catholic hospitals served as fortresses for all individuals sought to be killed by the Nazi government. Pius XII showed good stewardship by ensuring the money sent to him was used in facilitating the immigration of the Jews and all those who faced persecution under the Nazi (Dauber 2016 p.464).
The Catholic church depicted the principle of the subsidiary during the rule of the Nazi evident by the fact that Pius XII used his position in the church to access local institutions and make sure they were fully utilised in providing aid to war refugees (Gerber 2015). The Vatican radio was instrumental in providing aid to thousands of refugees. It was used in instructing the churches to provide specialised aid to Jews, and this made Hitler scorn Pius XII and called him a blackmailer on his back (Butler 2014 p.45).
The Catholic Church was at the frontline in helping victims of the Nazi rule because they believed all human beings are equal since they are created in the image and likeness of God (Dauber 2016 p.464). Though the Nazi rule did not show much atrocity to the Catholic Church as they showed Jews and other races, the church believed it was good for all people in the community to be healthy (Dauber 2016 p.464). Following this principle, they took a stand and defended the vulnerable believing that Germany would be a better place if all races lived without fear of persecution (Gaydosh 2017).
During the Holocaust, a significant number of Jews converted to Catholicism and it is one of the most controversial records made by Pius XII. His defense to the Jews, the opposition of racism and anti-Semitism of all sorts is evident by the fact that a large number of Jews converted. Today, Holocaust remains one of the most painful issues in the Catholic-Jewish people. Furthermore, research shows that many people which were rescued by the Christians in Germany eventually converted and were absorbed into the religion in order to feel a sense of belonging to their rescuers (Chappel 2014).
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Butler, R.A. 2014. The Goose-Step is Only Functional for Geese: Perspective on the Intentionalist/Functionalist Debate on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and its Implications for Humanity’s Advancement through Modernity. HISTORY IN THE MAKING, p.45.
Chappel, J. 2014. Boundaries of the Catholic milieu. Stability and Endangering Catholic milieu in the final phase of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi era.
Schwarz, J. 2015. Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust. Wayne State University Press.
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Hirschfeld, G. ed. 2014. The Policies of Genocide (RLE Nazi Germany & Holocaust): Jews and Soviet Prisoners of War in Nazi Germany. Routledge.
Marlow, J.L. 2014. Polish Catholic Maids and Nannies: Female Aid and the Domestic Realm in Nazi-occupied Poland. Michigan State University. History-Doctor of Philosophy.
Spicer, K.P. 2013. The Catholic Bishops of Europe and the Nazi Persecutions of Catholics and Jews. The Catholic Historical Review, 99(3), p.578.
Steffen, L. 2016. The Dark Side of Church/State Separation: The French Revolution, Nazi Germany and International Communism.
Welch, D. ed. 2014. Nazi Propaganda (RLE Nazi Germany & Holocaust): The Power and the Limitations. Routledge.

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