An article that addresses some under-examined stereotypes (smears?), while also pointing out some thoughtful alternatives.
The Catholic Church, for example, has often been attacked as doing too little to help the Jews during the Holocaust. Yet on July 19, 1933, the Catholic periodical America published a strong article condemning Nazi persecution of the Jews. Dark and Essex, in their 1930s book, The War on God, stated that almost as soon as the Concordant with German was signed: “The Church, too, courageously denounced the brutal and organized anti-Semitism.”
Pope Pius XI, even as an Apostolic Visitor to Poland after the First World War ended, was perceived as a compassionate friend of the Jews: “the chief rabbis who came, like the poorest of the Jewish flock, to beg his prayers and with whom he talked in Hebrew — all this taught him…what it meant to be Pope.”
Even before that, the Catholic Church during the first year of Nazi power proclaimed: “The assertion of the principle of race and blood, amongst members of the same state, leads to injustices which outrage the Christian conscience.” Bernard Berenson, writing Rumor and Reflection in 1944 about events in 1936, wrote of Hitler: “He felt, too, that what stood most intransigently between him [Hitler] and the Vatican was the racial question, the exclusion of Jews from humanity and humane consideration and their treatment as inferior animals to be destroyed.” Stephen H. Roberts observed in his 1937 book, The House That Hitler Built, that the hostility between Nazism and churches began as soon as the Nazis came to power, and that it quickly became impossible to be a good Catholic and a good Nazi.
A sensible person must wonder what, exactly, the Catholic Church could have done. Its priests were being put in concentration camps; its nuns were being raped; its churches were being desecrated; its lands and properties were being seized; its teachings were being openly mocked. Even so, the work of Pope Pius XII was so moving that the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the world, converted to Christianity after the Holocaust in gratitude for the work of the Catholic Church in protecting Jews.
My wife and I have researched a bit about what was common in the upbringing of people who chose to rescue Jews, rather than oppress them or choose not to become involved. I don’t remember what my wife was reading when she first mentioned the concept, but here’s a quote that explains our intentions:
In Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, author Jonathan Glover cites research done on the upbringing of people who helped rescue Jews from the Nazis.
“The parents of the rescuers had set high standards for their children, especially about caring for others, but had not been strict. The emphasis was on reasoning rather than discipline.” — Discipline Isn’t Enough