Texas Educator Helps Catholics Understand Past, Present and Future Relationship between Jews and Catholics
The study of the moral and religious implications of the Holocaust are vital first and foremost to memorialize the victims of the Shoah, but furthermore to address the underlying issues that continue to resurface in schools, neighborhoods and nations. Educators are impelled to confront the pressing questions of the day, from bullying in the hallways to racial and religious discrimination, to even the larger questions of genocide that still threaten the human community. The history of the Holocaust provides a platform for understanding the underlying currents and causes of such horrific actions that begin when prejudicial distinctions are made concerning a specific group of people. Pope John Paul II, in his address on the 1994 commemoration of the Shoah, invoked society's remembrance:
We would risk causing the victims of the most atrocious deaths to die again if we do not have an ardent desire for justice, if we do not commit ourselves to insure that evil does not prevail over good as it did for millions of children of the Jewish people. Humanity cannot permit all that to happen again.
Students have demonstrated the impact of Holocaust education on their attitudes and lives. In reference to the reoccurring genocide that the world has witnessed, one young man acknowledged that "although it seems what happened in the Holocaust would not happen again, it did. The extermination of a specific ethnic group occurred again in Rwanda, Africa." Another student noted that "we must love, care for and serve our neighbor. I learned from my study of the Holocaust that we have a responsibility to fight for the dignity of all human beings and that all people share solidarity rooted in our Godgiven nature." This statement gives witness to the power of Holocaust education in conscience formation and identification with others.
Web Site with Catholic Focus
The study of the Holocaust in Catholic schools is both exciting and challenging. The Web site, Holocaust Resources for Catholic Educators (http: //www.gexweb.com/holocaust/), was created specifically to focus on the Holocaust with specific reference to the Catholic understanding of the past, present and future relationship between Jews and Catholics.
Of particular importance is the extensive listing of church documents pertaining to the Jewish people and Judaism, including links to first century writings and the present-day inspirational sermons of Pope John Paul II. Understanding the progression of attitudes and practices through this 2000-year history is essential in promoting mutual respect between Catholics and Jews. The site provides a glimpse of the Catholic response to the Holocaust as presented in actual articles extracted from American Catholic newspapers dating from 1939 to 1945.
Variety of Sources
The Web site employs various sources in examining the Catholic response during the Holocaust. Evidence indicates that while Catholics were victimized by the Nazi regime, other Catholics collaborated with Nazi efforts. On the one hand the Web site includes Father Coughlin, the "radio priest" who espoused antiSemitism in the United States. On the other hand, Father Bernhard Litchenberg, the German priest who protested against Kristallnacht and later died on the way to Dachau, represents a contrasting image. The Web site makes lesson plans available to explore these complexities of the Catholic response.
Links on the Web site provide a look at the actions and statements of the Nazis against Christians. One area of interest is a link to the Nuremberg file "The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches." This document, along with statements and actions of the Nazi regime, gives yet another vital piece of information in accurately assessing and teaching about Catholics and the Holocaust. Editorial cartoons mocking the faith and religious practices of the Catholic Church featured in Nazi newspapers are included also. …