Holocaust Pondered by Christians and Jews

Dr. Franz Von Hammerstein, General Secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) indicted the German Protestant middle-class for its role in the Holocaust at an ICCJ sponsored week-long colloquium in New York. The subject of discussions was “Religious Responsibility and Human Rights.”

Dr. Hammerstein, who is director of the Evangelische Academie in Berlin, noted that German Protestantism emphasized “individual piety and obedience to the state.”In this way, it completely and easily identified with Nazism and the “superiority” of the “Aryan race,” he said. His remedy echoed the theme of the colloa###m: early, resistance to oppression; political and social responsibility within the Christian faith; and a deep concern for human rights. Hammerstein added his concern that the dialogue between Jews and Christians continue, and that it should include communications with other religions to overcome prejudices.

CATHOLIC ‘INDIFFERENCE’ CITED

The Catholic position was presented by Prof. Pierre Pierrard of the Institute Catholique in Paris. He spoke of “ignorance or indifference of the mass of Catholics towards the Jewish problem on the brink of war.” He noted, at the same time the problem of maintaining the viability of the church as “the most inflexible opponent of the (Nazi) regime” and the church’s own persecution at the hands of the Nazis. But Pierrard attributed the Catholic reaction and the “silence” of Pope Pius XII towards the Holocaust as originating in the accumulated false notion of the church towards Judaism.

Claire Huchet-Bishop of the Amite Judeo Chretienne, France, presided over the colloquium. She emphasized the need for reliving and studying the events of the Holocaust. “Jews are the model for whatever happens to other minorities,” she said. Prof. Shaul Friedlander of Tel Aviv University, outlined the cultural and political reasons why the Nazis come to power. He took the position that the “Final Solution” was implied as soon as the Nazis come to power–a fact debate by modern historians. “The battle with Jews was the ultimate battle since Hitler gained power,” Friedlander emphasized. The Jews, as the most prominent members in post-World War I revolutionary groups, became a symbol of Germany’s defeat.

Friedlander, like Hammerstein, wondered how the masses of German people went along with the Nazis. He concluded that “ordinary people in extra-ordinary circumstances cannot see clearly.”

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