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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Did the Vatican condone Hitler?

"The Holocaust was only possible because of the demonization of the Jews," said David Kertzer, a Brown professor who spoke yesterday about the ways the Catholic Church endorsed and encouraged modern anti-Semitism.

Kertzer's scholarly exploration of Vatican documents turned up a wealth of anti-Semitic documents leading up to and during the holocaust, Kertzer said.

The Church did not directly endorse the mass killing of Jews, but did create an environment of hatred over its centuries of rhetoric against the Jews and endorsed groups like the Christian Socialist Party in Austria that Adolf Hitler later called his inspiration for his anti-Semitic beliefs.

The Church also supported the rise of laws that limited the rights of Jewish people and forced them to live in ghettos.

Kertzer's speech, called "The Church's role in modern anti-Semitism: why the continuing denials?" also focused on answering his critics within the Catholic church.

These critics tended to focus on what Kertzer called the artificial distinction between anti-Semitism, which believes the Jewish race should be destroyed, and anti-Judaism, which believes that Jews should be converted to Christianity.

Kertzer pointed out that these critics continue to believe Jewish people were responsible for the rise of Soviet communism, an accusation rooted in Nazi propaganda and not historic fact.

The speech was based on Kertzer's book "The Popes Against the Jews: the Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism" and was given in Filene Auditorium to an audience of just under 100 for the second-annual William Barnett Jewish Studies lecture.