Austrian Catholic Leader Speaks of Church’s Failure to Stop Nazis

A Catholic lay leader last week took his church to task for its failure to speak up, much less aid Jews, during the pogroms of the Nazi era in Catholic Austria.

Dr. Paul Schulmeister, president of Catholic Action, addressed several hundred people who packed the Jewish community center here Thursday night to observe the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

He shared the platform with Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky; Cardinal Karl Berg, chairman of the Austrian Catholic Bishops Conference; and Paul Grosz, president of the Austrian Jewish community. The meeting followed an hour of prayers at the main synagogue here.

Vranitzky, a Socialist who heads the Socialist-Conservative coalition government, stressed the need to continue to reflect on the Holocaust after the current commemorations have ended.

“We all know that democracy and human rights are endangered all the time. Fascism has many different faces and wears many different clothes. One has to remain alert.”

Schulmeister stressed the guilt Catholics must bear by not having resisted the Nazis when they devastated temples and harassed and killed Jews.

“I ask myself why the Christian belief has failed. One becomes guilty not only when committing a crime, but also when letting someone else commit it by not resisting the evil.”

Schulmeister added, “To remain silent is not enough for Christians today. We must remember what led to Auschwitz.”

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