Saints, Real and Imagined: The Vatican of the Holocaust, and the Rev. Dr. William Harter

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22 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    Bear in mind that the future John Paul II actually encouraged the return of a Jewish boy to his family.

    • An action so impressive, that the Skulener Rebbe once remarked, “Who knows if it was not in the zechus of that that he rose to prominence?!” JPII also risked his life to care for an abandoned Jewish teen. If you read the entire article you will see that the author speculates that the future goodness of a pope may have been a backlash against the treachery that he witnessed in some circles in the Vatican

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Saint Louis, who had all available manuscripts of the Talmud burned, wasn’t so saintly either. Go through the roll of saints and you’ll find that active hatred of Jews didn’t hurt anyone’s chances of election to the group.

    • Alex says:

      Agreed. And Augustine and his followers who believed that Jews “must be allowed to survive, but never to thrive.” To the whole lot of them–thanks for nothing.

      We should stay out of this argument around Pius XII. It is an internal church decision and either way it will not end well. If he is not declared a “Saint” then some will blame it on “Jewish influence.” And if he is, in spite of the arguments against, then the RCC will have shown their true colors. As if the Crusades & Inquisitions weren’t enough.

      Aside from the Tisha B’Av kinos, read Constantine’s Sword for historical perspective.

      • Mycroft says:

        It might surprise people but we are not the center of the universe in most decisions, thus decisions by other religions on their religious personalities don’t depend on what the person felt about Judaism, one way or the other.

      • Mycroft says:

        We must absolutely stay out of any internal deliberations of any other religion. Going back 60 years ago when Nachum Goldman wanted to accept invitation to send Jewish Observers to Vatican 11. The Synagogue Council of America refused because of the viewpoint of RYBS. Of course, the reason his viewpoint was followed was Orthodox participation in the Synagogue Council of America and right of any group to veto any action. Clearly, the idea that we keep out of other religions deliberations was fundamental to RYBS

  3. Raymond says:

    We Jews cannot escape who we are, even when some of us want to. Many decades ago, when for various reasons I wished to conceal or even run away from my Jewish identity, people would somehow know pretty quickly anyway that I am Jewish. Any of us Jews who try to forget who we are, are engaging in a futile task. It simply does not work.

    And so, being a Jew, I cannot help but see Christians through the lens of history. Overwhelmingly, Christians have had a terrible record against us Jews. In fact, the behavior of too many Christians, Catholic Church or otherwise, has been so negative, that they (along with the islamoNazi terrorists) have given religion a really bad name, causing untold millions of people to abandon religion and G-d altogether.

    And yet, I cannot deny that, paradoxically, for some time now, Christian groups such as the Evangelicals and the Mormons, have been the strongest supporters of our Jewish State of Israel out there, often even moreso than from too many of our own Jewish people. And while I continue to maintain that such support comes with the Christian hope to turn all of us Jews into Christians, there are righteous gentiles such as John Hagee who quite forcefully oppose such conversion efforts. Plus, I have to admit that while such noted Christians as Jerry Falwell probably did want to convert us, that I could not help but be moved when I used to watch him on television spending half of his sermons extolling the virtues of the Jewish State of Israel (when he would switch over to talking about You Know Who in the second half of his sermon, that was when I would change the channel).

    So what is the proper stance to take toward the Christian world? I can only speak for myself on this one, but my default ideological position is to not trust them, yet remain open to there being exceptions to the rule, such as John Hagee. Also, there is the element of gratitude at play here. It is the right and necessary thing to do for our moral characters to appreciate such pro-Israel Christians of all kinds, such as William F Buckley, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Cal Thomas, William Bennett, George W Bush, John Hagee, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mike Pence. In fact, I will end this by praising Mike Pence in particular. When I have heard him praising our Jewish people, he did so with such awe, such reverence and, I believe, with such utter sincerity, that he went from being just a politician in my mind, to being a living saint.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Pence has had good Orthodox Jewish support here in Indiana and is friends with someone in our community who’s now on his staff. When one of his friend’s sons became Bar Mitzvah, Governor Pence attended much of our Shul’s Shabbos service. The congregant reading the prayer for the government added the Governor’s name.

      • Raymond says:

        It was a stroke of genius when Donald Trump chose Mike Pence to be his running mate, for various practical (think Rust Belt votes) and ideological reasons (solidifying the Christian Right vote). Meanwhile, after I wrote the above, I realized and regretted not having mentioned among my list of Christian Zionists people such as Oliver Cromwell, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Arthur Balfour, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr, Ronald Reagan, Nikki Haley, and Donald Trump.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    It behooved to remember that before secular Anti Semitism as practiced in the wake of the French Revolution and especially Nazism and Communism the RCC played a huge role in inculcating anti Semitism that had its origins in the early days of RC

  5. nt says:

    Going to use this to plug David Kertzer’s eye-opening book The Popes Against the Jews; the Vaticans Role in the Rise of Anti-Semitism. It is based on the Vatican archives, and gave me a whole new appreciation for the institutional anti-semitism of the Vatican leading up to the Holocaust.

    • Mycroft says:

      For a balanced description of anti Semitism and Italian Jewry read Bernard Dov Cooperman- if his MOOC. Can be found worthwhile watching. Was at one time offered on Coursera. It is a complicated relationship.

  6. dr. bill says:

    The Roman Catholic church underwent a significant change in attitude towards Jews (albeit not entirely complete in the theological realm.) In most/all traditional religions, change tends to be underplayed and continuity overplayed. As a result, views about the past may not necessarily reflect reality. (Sound familiar?)

    There were antisemitic saints who burned Jews and their books and certainly saints who valued other needs above that of saving Jews from persecution. It is often viewed as “impolite” to accurately depict the past.

  7. Shades of Gray says:

    “Rav Shlomo Brevda zt”l made this point regarding the shidduch between Yitzchok and his bride-to-be Rivka.”

    I’ve seen this point in the name of Rav Brevda’s rebbe, the Brisker Rav(R. Brevda became a ben bayis by the Brisker Rav, and in fact, the Brisker Rav founded his yeshiva upon learning that R. Brevda did not have a place to learn, according to the bio on Torah Anytime).

    I recall reading in the preface to “Not Just Stories: The Chassidic Spirit Through Its Classic Stories”, by Rabbi Dr. AJ Twerski, the following from a chasidic source :

    Rashi says that Eliezer saw the water rise up toward Rivka and therefore approached her. The question arises: If Eliezer saw her merit a miracle, then why continue testing her to see if she’d offer his camels water? We learn that although miracles may have been performed for Rivkah, that wasn’t sufficient to determine if she had good middos.

    Compare with the Rambam in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah who writes that “whenever anyone’s belief is based on wonders, [the commitment of] his heart has shortcomings, because it is possible to perform a wonder through magic or sorcery.”

  8. Zach Kerner says:

    Is there a halachic requirement for non-Jews to save Jews? Was America mandated by halacha to open its doors?

    • Bob Miller says:

      Bnai Noach need to set up fair judicial systems and general institutions. The underlying idea would seem to include treating all people properly as the situation dictates.

    • dr. bill says:

      the term halakhic or halakha adds at best a theoretical perspective. Derech eretz kadmah la’torah applies a fortiori to non-Jews who never were assumed to accept God’s instructions. They are certainly not absolved by never having accepted the obligation.

  9. Tal Benschar says:

    IMO, one must contrast the cowardly actions of the then-Pope with that of other branches of Christianity.

    In particular, the Orthodox Christian church in Bulgaria was instrumental in saving Bulgarian Jewry from the Nazi death. One bishop, Metropolitan Kirill, openly risked his life to save Jews. You can read the whole story here:

    But one excerpt is especially impressive:

    On March 10, 1943, 8500 Jews, including 1500 from Plovdiv, were loaded into boxcars. Before the train could leave, Kirill showed up at the station with 300 church members. The bishop pushed through the officers guarding the area and approached the boxcars. As he reached them, he yelled out lines from the Book of Ruth: “Wherever you go, I will go! Wherever you lodge, I will lodge! Your people will be my people, and your God, my God!”

    Kirill opened one of the boxcars and tried to enter but SS officers stopped him. At this point, Kirill declared his intention to lie on the tracks to stop the train from leaving. Members of his church got the word out about Kirill’s brave stance, and soon all of Bulgaria knew of the bishop willing to lay down his life to prevent the murder of innocents.

    The impact of Kirill’s action was immediate. That same day, 42 members of Parliament rebelled against the government. Political leaders from all parties proclaimed their solidarity with Metropolitan Kirill and the Jews of Bulgaria, and sent angry letters to government ministers demanding the persecution end.

    I am reminded of the statement of Chazal in Yoma 35b:

    נמצא הלל מחייב את העניים רבי אלעזר בן חרסום מחייב את העשירים יוסף מחייב את הרשעים

    Ve ha mayvin yavin.

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