Falsely accused of having remained silent during the Holocaust, Pope Pius XII did more than any other human being to save Jews.

The Popes against the Jews : the Vatican’s role in the rise of modern anti-semitism New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2001      David I. Kertzer Catholic Church  Relations  Judaism Hardcover. 1st ed. vii, 355 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 299-344) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

A groundbreaking historical study based on documents not previously studied from the Vatican archives: The Popes Against the Jews contends the Catholic Church helped make the Holocaust possible.

Pope John Paul II, as part of his effort to improve Catholic-Jewish relations, called for a clear-eyed historical investigation into any possible link between the Church and the Holocaust. This book is not a part of any such investigation.

An important sign of his commitment was the decision to allow the historian David I. Kertzer, a popular writer in Italian Jewish history, to be one of the first given access to Vatican archives.

The result is a book filled with shocking assertions. It presumes causality between the Vatican’s role and the development of modern anti-Semitism from the nineteenth century up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Kertzer shows why all the recent attention given to Pope Pius XII’s failure to publicly protest the slaughter of Europe’s Jews in the war misses a far more important point. What made the Holocaust possible was groundwork laid over a period of decades. In this campaign of demonization of the Jews — identifying them as traitors to their countries, enemies of all that was good, relentlessly pursuing world domination — the Vatican is accused of playing a key role.

What is not shown is a broader history of anti-semitism – it did not start in the 19th century, or the 18th, or the 5th and probably predates Christianity altogether. Further there is no intelligent discussion of the persecutions and pogroms against the Jews in the Soviet state where Stalin’s slaughter may yet be demonstrated to exceed Hitler’s. The Soviets of course did not consider themselves bound by the magesterial office of the Church.

In reality this is just another anti-Catholic book. It pretends a balanced judgment and an understanding of the historical forces that led the Church along the paths it took. The author is either unable to discern or unwilling to admit that there were multiple paths followed by a variety of lay and religious leaders. It fails at every turn to investigate the history of Europe immediately preceding the Holocaust – Cardinal Pacelli may have been far more important as Secretary of State for the Vatican than Pius XII was as Pope – and the very real consequences of the hyperinflation during the Weimer Republic had far more to do with antisemitism than prayer.

Inevitably controversial, written with devastating bias parading as dispassionate authority, The Popes Against the Jews is a another book of the industry of denigrating the Church while manufacturing justifications for a new view of history. It is dangerous, as are the multitude of companion volumes where authors have tripped over assumptions and stumbled to conclusions that are in no way merited by the facts, because the collections of villification and falsehood are becoming a part of historiography and, just as antisemitism can overcome reason, they may eventually overcome truth and do irreprable harm.


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