NEW YORK (Oct. 8)
Rolf Hochhut, author of “The Deputy, ” the play which contends that the late Pope Pius XII failed to take a public stand on the Nazi slaughter of European Jewry, was criticized and defended today by Catholic scholars.
In separate views in two Catholic periodicals, the West German playwright was assailed as anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic and, on the other hand, as having stated “a generally valid” thesis in his play.
Dr. Edgar Alexander, sociologist and author of the forthcoming study, “Hitler and the Pope, ” assailed Hochhut in an article in the current edition of “America, ” the Jesuit weekly. Dr. Gordon Zahn, professor of sociology at Loyola University and author of “German Catholics and Hitler’s Wars,” published in 1962, came to the playwright’s defense in an article in “The Critic.” This is a periodical sponsored by the Thomas More Association, a Catholic lay group.
Dr. Alexander charged the playwright edited, in 1959, a new edition “of the anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic writings and drawings” of the satirist Wilhelm Busch, who died in 1908. That was the year, according to Dr. Alexander, in which the playwright started his research for “The Deputy.”
Dr. Alexander wrote that Mr. Hochhut included, with approval, in the new edition of Busch’s works many anti-Semitic passages. He cited one which read: “And the Jew with crooked heel/ Crooked nose and crooked legs/ Fully corrupted and devoid of soul/ Wriggles his way to the Stock Exchange.”
Dr. Alexander’s conclusion was that “the editor of the Busch writings” had clearly demonstrated “that Nazi hatred of Jews, of Jesuits, of the Vatican and of Catholicism, which he must have absorbed in his cub days in Hitler’s youth organization, has obviously stunted his growth toward intellectual, moral and political maturity.”
Dr. Zahn wrote that “the overriding historical fact that cannot be denied and should not be ignored” was that “the leading spokesmen of the Catholic church, in Germany and in Rome, permitted themselves to be maneuvered into a position where the Church could become a silent witness to genocide.”
Dr. Zahn declared that the playwright’s “most serious error” in his play was in placing all the blame for the “failure” of the Catholic Church in not issuing a public protest against the Nazi murder factories personally on the late Pontiff. Dr. Zahn also asserted that the playwright failed to give sufficient consideration to the possibility that a public condemnation by Pope Pius might have brought persecution of Catholics in Nazi-occupied countries as a “final act of paranoid retaliation” by the Nazis.
However, Dr. Zahn concluded, after making allowance for these considerations, the principal foundations on which the playwright’s thesis rests “are established. ” He said these theses were: first, “Pius XII did not issue a public protest against the murder factories” and second, “he did know of their existence and had, in fact, been the object of repeated appeals that he make such a protest. ” Dr. Zahn added that he agreed with the playwright that the Pope should have protested.