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June 10, 1988 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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quote Golda Meir or Nahum
Goldmann or any other
Jewish or non-Jewish public
figure who might have offered
elegaic praise before or after
the pope's death. There are,
after all, public statements,
some of which have come
from representatives of a
state still unrecognized by the
Vatican. Beyond those
tributes lay the facts, the im-
plications and consequences
of the pope's actions..
Pope Pius ordered the
rescue of hundreds of
thousands of Jews by instruc-
ting papal officials and • am-
bassadors in occupied coun-
tries to grant them asylum.
Secretly carried out, the
policy became aggressive in
June and July 1944, after the
report of two escapees from
Auschwitz reached Allied
government officials, in-
cluding Roosevelt and the
pope. With this single action,
along with papal instruction
to Hungarian officials not to
cooperate with the Eichmann
commando then assiduously
at work to eliminate all
Hungarian Jews, the Vatican
saved thousands of lives. By
July 9, 1944, however, more
than 437,000 Hungarian
Jews already had been
deported to Auschwitz.
What, then, can one con-
clude about the pope's respon-
sibility in the murder of the
Jews? Like everything about
the Holocaust, to simplify
compounds the crime.
Yet Sheehan offers a sug-
gestion when he calls atten-
tion to Rolf Hochhuth's "The
Deputy." Hochhuth's play sus-
tained his moralist perspec-
tive, rejecting all considera-
tions outside morality.
Without compromise,
Hochhuth relentlessly pur-
sued the thesis that the
silence of the Church "under-
mined the major moral sup-
port structures of European
civilization." His play is about
what Alvin Rosenfeld has
deemed "the criminality of
reticence."
But rather than portraying
Christianity or Pope Pius as
evil, Hochhuth subtitled the
play "A Christian Tragedy"
and dedicated it to Father
Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish
priest sent to Auschwitz who
gave his life to save another
person, and to Provost Ber-
nhard Lichtenberg, who
publicly declared himself on
the side of the Jews and ask-
ed to accompany them to
Dachau, where he was
murdered.
In "The Deputy," the incar-
nation of evil, the doctor
(Mengele) confronts the pope,
who ought to assume the posi-
tion of the incarnation of
good, and who, as "Vicar of

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-

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS 13

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