While good arguments have already been submitted by way of letters to the editor rebutting the criticisms made by Susan Zuccotti (WCR, Oct. 14) that Catholics, specifically Pope Pius XII, did not do enough to speak out against Nazi persecution of Jews, I would like to add a couple of points.
While I don’t doubt that Zuccotti is an expert on the Holocaust, I question her understanding of the broader social and political developments in the world at that time.
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler expressed his concurrence with Chancellor von Bismarck’s efforts to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church in German politics, going back to 1870.
Bismarck’s efforts resulted in: the expulsion of the Jesuits from Germany, subjected Church schools to state control, made civil marriage obligatory and dissolved religious orders.
Nonetheless, in the first decades of the 20th century, when Germany was a social democracy, the Catholic Centrist Party held almost one-quarter of the seats in the government.
In 1917, even when it looked like Germany might win the war, three parties, including the Catholic Party, passed a peace resolution providing for a peace through rapprochement without annexations and payments, as opposed to peace through victory and annexations, as the political right was demanding.
This resolution was over-ruled by the Supreme Army Command, leading to a prolonged war and Germany’s humiliating defeat. That defeat created the discontent amongst Germans on which Hitler and the Nazis capitalized.
In 1933, six years before Pius XII became pope, the Vatican signed a concordat with the Nazis, gaining some easing of restrictions on Catholic practices, but with the condition that the Catholic Party would be dissolved, thus ending any formal influence the Church might have maintained in German politics.
If the Vatican’s influence against the Nazis was so minor, why did the Nazis orchestrate a plot to kidnap the pope?
To those who would doubt the motivations, cunning and deviousness of Hitler and his atheist followers, I suggest they read Mein Kampf.