January 26, 2007

A mindset freed from bothering with reality

Rabbi David Gil Dalin is a Conservative rabbi, and author and co-author of several books on Jewish history. He is currently a professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University, and was previously associate professor of American Jewish history at the University of Hartford.

Dalin received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, a master's and doctorate from Brandeis University, and his Rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

He has recently published The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis.

I grew up with the picture Rolf Hochhut's (gentile, religious affiliation unknown to me) play "Der Stellvertreter" (The Deputy/Representative, 1963) painted, namely that of a cold cynic and a conniving politician who thinks that Communism is a far bigger threat to the Catholic Church than the Nazis. I would say that this picture is still the prevailing one in Germany, a country, which has never gotten over the Kulturkampf, the bitter struggle on the part of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck to submit the Roman Catholic church to state control, which spanned much of the 1870's and 1880's. This "hot family feud" within German society dominated the formative period of the German party system and had a long-term impact on Germany's political culture well into the twentieth century and, as far as I can see, it is still very much alive and kicking.

Hochhuth's next play, "Soldiers, Necrology on Geneva" (1967) showed the Allied bombing campaigns as war crimes and Winston Churchill as a war criminal. The play was largely based on the work of the young historian David Irving. Since that time, Irving and Hochhuth have been close friends and in 2005 Hochhuth hit the headlines by defending his friend against being a holocaust denier, calling the allegation "simply idiotic" and Irving "an honourable man" in an interview with the "Junge Freiheit" (issue 08/05, February 18, 2005), the mouthpiece of the youth organisation of the NPD, the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands. He later expressed a lukewarm apology, saying that he didn't know that his friend of many decades was just that.

So much for the antisemitic statement that only Jews are adverse to Pius XII, whereas the rest of the world would gladly embrace his sainthood. ("Jews Veto Sainthood for Pius XII"). Or even ALL Jews. Or even a majority of Jews.

One of Pius' shrillest critics, John Cornwell (Roman Catholic) informed us in his self-explainingly titled book "Hitler's Pope" that Pius XII was a willing collaborator with the Nazi policy. To do him justice, Cornwell has recently renounced (in his recent book "The Pontiff in Winter", a critical evaluation of the papacy of John Paul II) his hypothesis, a significant event of which, even more significantly, the media, have taken little note.

Significant is, too, that Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's shattering condemnation of Pius XII, "A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic Church during the Holocaust and Today", received widespread and altogether favourable attention, different from his controversial book "Hitler's Willing Executioners", which was, sometimes fairly but generally unfairly, torn to shreds by the media and his colleagues.

Go figure!

(Please note that Goldhagen's scholarship in his criticism of Pius XII was severely criticised by, among others, such a renowned historian of Germany as Columbia University’s Fritz Stern, a Jew.)

At the EWTN – Global Catholic Network website the following interview with David Dalin appeared.

Interview with Historian David Dalin of New York

RIMINI, Italy, (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- What does New York Rabbi David Dalin think of Pope Pius XII?

"The Jewish people had no greater friend in the 20th century," says the historian.

According to Rabbi Dalin, who last Wednesday addressed the meeting organized by the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation, "during the Second World War, Pius XII saved more Jewish lives than any other person, including Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler."

--Q: You have labeled historians who have criticized Pope Pius XII as revisionists. Why?

--Rabbi Dalin: Today there is a new generation of journalists and experts determined to discredit the documented efforts of Pius XII to save the Jews during the Holocaust. This generation is inspired by Rolf Hochhuth´s play "The Vicar," which has no historical value, but levels controversial accusations against this Pope. However, Eugenio Pacelli´s detractors ignore or neglect Pinchas Lapide´s enlightening study.

[Lapide] was consul general of Israel in Milan and met with many Italian Jews who survived the Holocaust. In his work, Lapide documents how Pius XII worked for the salvation of at least 700,000 from the hands of the Nazis. However, according to another estimate, this figure rises to 860,000.

--Q: Why, then, has there been this change in appreciation?

--Rabbi Dalin: I call today´s critics revisionists because they reverse the judgment of history, namely, the recognition given to Pius XII by his contemporaries, among whom is Nobel Prize [winner] Albert Einstein, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Israel, Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett; and, in Italy, people like Raffaele Cantoni, who at the time was president of the Italian Union of Jewish Communities. But many articles published at different times in Boston´s Jewish Advocate, The Times of London, and The New York Times can also be perused.

--Q: What did Pope Pacelli do for the Jews?

--Rabbi Dalin: We have much documentation, which shows that in no way did he remain silent. What is more, he spoke out loudly against Hitler and almost everyone saw him as an opponent of the Nazi regime. During the German occupation of Rome, Pius XII secretly instructed the Catholic clergy to use all means to save as many human lives as possible.

In this way, he saved thousands of Italian Jews from deportation. While 80% of European Jews died in those years, 80% of Italian Jews were saved. In Rome alone, 155 convents and monasteries gave refuge to some 5,000 Jews. At any given moment, at least 3,000 were saved in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo, being freed from deportation to German concentration camps.

For nine months, 60 Jews lived with the Jesuits at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and many others were hidden in the basement of the Biblical Institute. Following Pius XII´s instructions, risking their own lives, many priests and monks made possible the salvation of hundreds of Jewish lives.

--Q: But the Pope never publicly denounced the anti-Semitic laws and persecution of the Jews.

--Rabbi Dalin: His silence was an effective strategy directed to protecting the greatest possible number of Jews from deportation. An explicit and severe denunciation of the Nazis by the Pope would have been an invitation to reprisals, and would have worsened attitudes toward Jews throughout Europe.

Of course one can ask: What could be worse than the extermination of 6 million Jews? The answer is simple and terribly honest: the killing of hundreds of thousands of other Jews. The revisionist critics of Pius XII know that both Jewish leaders as well as Catholic bishops, who came from occupied countries, advised Pacelli not to protest publicly against the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

We have evidence that, when the bishop of Munster wished to pronounce himself against the persecution of the Jews in Germany, the leaders of the Jewish communities of his diocese begged him not to do so, as it would have caused a harsher repression against them.

--Q: Don´t you think that the excommunication of Nazis would have helped?

--Rabbi Dalin: Yes, I would like to think so and deep down I think that at least there should have been an attempt to pronounce a papal excommunication. However, despite these sentiments, the documents suggest that the excommunication of Hitler would have been a merely symbolic gesture.

--Q: Would it not have been better than silence?

--Rabbi Dalin: On the contrary. History teaches that a formal excommunication could have achieved the opposite result. Father Luigi Sturzo and the former chief rabbi of Denmark, for example, were specifically afraid of this. The Nazis themselves interpreted Pius XII´s Christmas 1942 address as a clear condemnation of their regime and a demand in favor of Europe´s Jews. The anger among the Nazis could have elicited catastrophic reactions for the security and fortune of the papacy itself in the years following the War.

A papal condemnation of the Nazis implied the well-founded and diffused suspicion at the time that Hitler would have sought vengeance in the person of the Pope himself, by attacking the Vatican. Rudolph Rahn, the Nazi ambassador in Rome, confirmed the existence of these plans, which he himself helped to forestall.

--Q: In your writings, you propose a new historiography written by Jews on the "Pius XII case." What do you mean?

--Rabbi Dalin: I think the time has arrived on the Jewish side to get to work on a new reconstruction of the relation between Pius XII and the Holocaust. This reconstruction, closer to the facts, namely, of what Pius XII really did for the Jews, would arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions to the gratuitous ones of John Cornwell´s book, "Hitler's Pope."

Pius XII was not Hitler's Pope, but the greatest defender that we Jews have ever had, and precisely at the time when we needed it.
This new work of historiography should be based in the judgment that his contemporaries made of the efforts, successes and failures of Pius XII, as well as of the way in which the Jews who survived the Holocaust evaluated (or revaluated) his life and influence in the succeeding decades.

Pope Pacelli was righteous among the nations, who must be recognized for having protected and saved hundreds of thousands of Jews. It is difficult to imagine that so many world Jewish leaders, in such different continents, could have been mistaken or confused when it came to praising the Pope´s conduct during the War. Their gratitude to Pius XII lasted a long time, and it was genuine and profound.

Let me air my very personal views on Pius' elevation to sainthood: Notabene that the Catholic Church itself seems to be rather reluctant when it comes to beatifying its own leading members of the German resistance. Before Cardinal Count Galen, the "Lion of Münster, who was beatified October 9, 2005, only one, a layman, namely the Catholic labour leader and editor Nikolaus Gross (1898-1945), who was was beheaded in Plötzensee prison in Berlin, was thus recognised. I don't think it is unfair to ask, what kind of martyrdom Pius XII did suffer during the Nazi aera, which would would entitle him to sainthood. A Righteous Gentile certainly, but as certainly not a candidate for the top list for future sainthood either, or so I think.

That said, if everything David Dalin says is based on facts (and I have no doubt it is) the question remains why Pius XII didn't excommunicate Hitler. Dalin's argument, at least according to my modest opinion, doesn't hold water. The fact that the Catholic Church let Hitler stay a Catholic, even if only a nominal one, remains the one big stain on its and its Pope's reputation.

What should not be forgotten, however, and here the spat between historians becomes topical, is the fact, that while Pope Pius XII's true role was drowned long ago by the cacophony about the culpability of the Catholic Church, another cleric doubtlessly in league with Hitler and everything he stood for, namely the self-appointed "Grand Mufti of Jerusalem", Hadj Amin el Husseini, relative and mentor of Peace Nobel Laureate Yassir Arafat, is all but conveniently forgotten.

As Pius XII worked to save Jews, this execrable creature became Hitler's close ally and a supporter and furtherer of the Holocaust. His legacy is still fuelling Islamic hatred to this very day.

And while, ever true to their tradition, German politicians are talking to the heirs of this genocidal monster, Cardinal Count Galen, the "Lion of Münster", is denounced as a "reactionary" (which he was) by the same Germans, who ought to be happy and relieved at having had at least a few just men among them, but are waffling instead about "Germany's special relationship with Israel", which translates to rubbing shoulders with Jew-murdering Arab scum, or denounce Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant saint, as an "antisemite" because he had theo-effing-logical reservations regarding the Jewish faith while he had denounced the disgusting racial antisemitism right from the start.

My point? When it comes to the Christian faith, no differentiation whatsoever is made. Galen was a reactionary, Bonhoeffer was an antisemite and the history of the Catholic church is one of violence, shame and injustice. What their sainthood, what their courage, faith and humanity and to hell with all the civilisatory achievements of the Catholic church. Say you are sorry for the crusades, however preposterous and a-historic that may be, otherwise you are a "racist" and an outcast of everything that is considered upright, good and noble in this society.

Christians don't suffer, Christans can never be victims. Ever. They are perpetrators by definition and even a secondary talent like Rolf Hochhuth with doubtful ethics gets elevated to the piedestal of history because he is hitting the right nerve. He is, after all, a Socialist. What does it matter then that he is, as Germans tend to be, a national Socialist?

When it comes to the "religion of peace", each and every detail, however, must be considered, measured, pondered. Each and every cruelty, brutality, bestial deed is either excused as "part of their culture" (and who are we with all our Christian guilt to judge…) or simply hushed up.

The frightening reasoning behind all this is that, when dealing with specific causes, it isn't so much a matter of clarifying what really happened but of the correct societal reaction, which is determinedly removed from the cause.

Journalism, the arts, even historical sciences are detaching themselves from a worldview, which understands that clarifying facts is the main issue and adopt instead a politically correct mindset, a mindset freed per se from bothering with reality.

Enough is enough.

Additional information on Pope Pius XII can be found at the ratzingerfanclub.com website and at this private website.


romanreb said...

Greetings, Dear Editrix!
I can't imagine why Pius neglected to excommunicate Adolf unless he was attempting to maintain some kind of leverage for saving Jewish lives or else felt that it would cause a vendetta reaction...You know, when he protested Nazi policies in the Netherlands, the Nazis stepped up their anti-Jewish activities apparently out of vindictiveness...so he was sort of walking on eggshells in that regard...When one is dealing with a crazy person, and that crazy person has innocent lives in his crazy hands, I suppose one attempts to move slowly and deliberately so as not to set him off. Immediately denouncing him and excommunicating him would certainly have been a rousing and magnificent gesture of Truth...but I wonder what the reaction would have been? I doubt that Hitler would have been moved to repent, and I fear he would have gone into a tantrum.


The_Editrix said...

As usual, your words make a lot of sense, dear Syler.

I just think it would have been a great sign of encouragement for the many Cahtholics who suffered under the regime.