Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

German Churches and the Holocaust: Betrayal

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

German Churches and the Holocaust: Betrayal

Article excerpt

German Churches and the Holocaust: Betrayal. Edited by Robert E Ericksen and Susannah Heschel. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 1999. Pp. vi, 224. $22.00 paperback.)

The essays, each with an excellent scholarly set of endnotes, explore how the Christian Churches betrayed their heritage. Ericksen's and Heschel's introduction offers the reader a good summary of the state of the question. They contend that the German churches, in their support of anti-Semitic values, played a far more important role in the Shoah than has previously been assumed. Since religious leaders supported so many Nazi policies, ordinary Germans seemed to feel that the racist policies of the state did not really violate traditional Christian tenets and actually supported the scholarly attempts of Liberal Protestantism to discover the historical Jesus. Micha Brumlik's concluding essay on postHolocaust theology is, therefore, very important, since he effectively surveys the current attempts to reorient Christian theology back to its Jewish roots.

Two essays deal with Catholic attempts to verify their nationalism. Guenter Lewy has contributed a brief analysis of Pius XII and the German Catholic Church, which summarizes the themes of his earlier and seminal scholarship on this issue. Michael Lukens' essay on Joseph Lortz shows how anti-Semitism could be rooted in the nature-supernature tension in Catholic theology.

Essays on Protestant theologians also reveal their attachments to nationalism and anti-Semitism. Paul Althus, Emanuel Hirsch, and Gerhard Kittel, according to Ericksen, articulated the conservative, antidemocratic, and anticommunist views of their contemporaries. All of these "ordinary men" were willing to execute orders from the Nazi leadership. Doris Bergen's essay on the German Christian Movement and Heschel's essay on the 1939 establishment of the antiSemitic Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Religious Life support Ericksen's conclusion that many Christians were enthusiastically anti-Semitic and not merely latently attached to this corrupting bias. …

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