Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust

Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust

Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust

Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust


In recent years, the mask of tolerant, secular, multicultural Europe has been shattered by new forms of antisemitic crime. Though many of the perpetrators do not profess Christianity, antisemitism has flourished in Christian Europe. In this book, thirteen scholars of European history, Jewish studies, and Christian theology examine antisemitism's insidious role in Europe's intellectual and political life. The essays reveal that annihilative antisemitic thought was not limited to Germany, but could be found in the theology and liturgical practice of most of Europe's Christian churches. They dismantle the claim of a distinction between Christian anti-Judaism and neo-pagan antisemitism and show that, at the heart of Christianity, hatred for Jews overwhelmingly formed the milieu of 20th-century Europe.


Kevin P. Spicer

The scholars whose essays appear in this volume met at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the summer of 2004 for a workshop about the Holocaust and antisemitism in Christian Europe. Our goal was to examine how the legacy of antisemitism within the Christian churches limited the ability of their clergy and laity to critique National Socialism as evil and unequivocally condemn it.

The Center’s workshops provide a unique experience for researchers to gather together outside the confines of their regular college or university milieu and to devote two weeks solely to examining a shared interest. Before the workshop began, each participant prepared an original essay based on primary source material, which we shared with one another. Over the course of the two weeks, we devoted approximately two and a half hours to in-depth discussion of the content of each paper. At the end of our time together, each of us agreed to revise his or her paper for publication. the essays in this volume are the product of this introspective process.

The contributors to this volume agree that the study of the historical and theological basis for antisemitism remains paramount today, as the recent controversy over Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ made clear. It is the responsibility of contemporary scholarship to inform present and future generations of students, scholars, and the broader population about antisemitism’s subtleties and intrinsic evils. Through their research, responsible historians and theologians encourage the Christian churches to continue to observe carefully the roles that antisemitism has played and continues to play in their history, theology, and liturgical worship. Although an ever-growing body of literature deals with the study of antisemitism, scholars of Christian and Jewish studies have, until recently, kept a strict but misleading separation between Nazi “racial antisemitism” and “Christian antisemitism.”

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