Jewish Historian Defends Christians in Holocaust

WASHINGTON, DC ( - A Jewish historian of the Holocaust said this week he was uneasy with the call for Christian apologies for not doing enough to stop the genocide.

Sir Martin Gilbert, who lives in London, was interviewed by United Press International while on a tour promoting his book, "Never Again: A History of the Holocaust." Gilbert told UPI: "It's somehow a mistake to associate a long Christian tradition to convert Jews and other persecutions with what we call the Holocaust, which was conceived and carried out by people who certainly were not Christians and were hostile to every Christian value and were abhorrent to churches and to many devout Christians."

He noted that Christians were among the first victims of Nazis. "One of the things I try to bring out in the book is that the Christian churches took a very powerful stand -- other than the German church, which was under Nazi control. Even the dependent German churches that struggled to maintain their independence and were actually destroyed took a very strong stand," he said. "At every stage of the Holocaust, the Church had no hesitation. In every (occupied) country you have extremists (who collaborated). In the main, these extremists had already been denounced by the mainstream politics of the country and by the churches."

Gilbert noted that it was individual Christian leaders in each country who exercised or failed to exercise their moral leadership, and in the main most did so. Gilbert said all the major bishops of France protested the deportations, and he spoke of the sheltering of Jews even in traditionally anti-Semitic countries.

On the question of Pope Pius XII's alleged silence that allowed the genocide, according to some critics, Gilbert said: "Rather than being indignant about what the pope didn't do, I try to find out what the Catholic churches and churchmen and (Eugenio) Pacelli (the birth name of the pope) himself actually did do." He added, "So the test for Pacelli was when the Gestapo came to Rome in 1944 to round up Jews. And the Catholic Church, on his direct authority, immediately dispersed as many Jews as they could." He noted that thousands of Jews were saved in this way.

"If the (current) Pope has to apologize," Gilbert said, "perhaps someone could also thank him. In fact, my book does thank him for what the Vatican did to save Jewish lives."

CWN - Catholic World News

av Webmaster publisert 24.05.2000, sist endret 24.05.2000 - 11:01