Unholy War: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism

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9780333780428: Unholy War: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism
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The shocking story of the Catholic Church's role in the persecution of the Jews.During the Holocaust, as millions of Jews were being murdered, Pope Pius XII could never bring himself even to utter publicly the word 'Jew'. But David Kertzer argues that this failure to intervene was not the result of the singular personality of an immoral pope, but a reflection of a pervasive culture of Vatican anti-Semitism, created over centuries. In this powerful investigation, Kertzer argues that the Roman Catholic Church's role in the historical hatred and persecution of Jews in Europe helped make the Holocaust possible. Focusing on the popes, cardinals, bishops, priests and the laity, who were convinced that they were doing God's work, his dispassionate narrative reveals how traditional Catholic forms of dealing with Jews were transformed into modern anti-Semitism.Using research based on Vatican archive documents that have never been seen before, The Unholy War strongly contradicts the Vatican's own account of its history. Compellingly written, it sheds light on a remarkable and disturbing story that until now has remained hidden. Praise for 'The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara':'A masterly historical exegesis . . . His detail is superb, and his quiet but firm grip on the central issues a model of dispassion and lucidity.' The Times

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Review:

David Kertzer is an American historian who has taken advantage of the Vatican's new open-door policy. In 1998 the Archives of the Roman Catholic Church were opened for historians to ascertain the truth about the alleged involvement of Pope Pius XII in the holocaust. The historians have still not shown that Pius XII was guilty of anything more than an angst-ridden silence, but Kertzer effectively shows how anti-Semitism was deeply rooted in every aspect of European culture including the opinions and policies of the popes and inquisitors of the Catholic Church.

As one would expect from a professional historian of Kertzer's status, his book is objective, balanced and fair. If anti-semitism was deeply rooted in the culture of Catholic Europe, it is also true that there were constant voices within the Catholic Church challenging the anti-Semitic assumptions and calling for change. Kertzer's main point, that the anti-Semitism ingrained in European Catholic culture prepared the way for the holocaust, is strong and presented well. He writes with a clear, readable style and his research and documentation are impeccable. While it is true that Catholics cannot take the blame for the holocaust, Kertzer has still presented a case for Catholics to answer. Hopefully, in Pope John Paul II's millennium mea culpa and his rapprochement with the nation of Israel, we have seen the first steps towards long term reconciliation and co-operation. --Dwight Longenecker

Review:

'Kertzer has done a staggeringly thorough job of tracing Catholic statements on the Jews....He lays out this revolting record with admirable calm.' -- New York Times Book review, September 2001

'Once again Kertzer has produced impressive evidence of the part played by the papacy in the growth of anti-Semitism in the twentieth century.' -- John Cornwell, author of Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius Xii

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