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June 10, 1988 - Image 14

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

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

OPINION

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Silence

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FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1988

Christ, is designated to speak
for the sanctity of life." But
the pope remains silent and
thus, for Hochhuth, becomes
"an accessory to murder."
This shattering production
stresses the interaction of
politics, morality and religion
and, according to the
playwright, the influence of
the last two fails at one par-
ticular focal point — the
silence of the pope. "A depu-
ty of Chirst who sees these
things and . . . wastes even
one day in thought, hesitates
even for an hour to lift his
anguished voice in one
anathema to chill the blood of
every last man on earth —
that Pope is . . . a criminal."
Portraying the historical
events, Hochhuth has a Car-
dinal speak to the famous
Kurt Gerstein when the Jews
of Rome are besieged "under
the Pope's very windows":
"Now even the Pope must
condemn you before the whole
world! . . . You're forcing the
Pope publicly to take note of
those crimes . . ." But here is
the pope's response to the
crimes against the Jews:
"We are — God knows it —
blameless of the blood now be-
ing spilled. As the flowers in
the countryside wait beneath
winter's mantle of snow for
the warm breezes of spring, so
the Jews must wait, praying
and trusting that the hour of
heavenly comfort will come.
We who are assembled in
Christ's name will pray . ."
This near-concluding
speech sounds like a
dramatist's stylized,
rhetorical, theological exag-
geration. Surely, Hochhuth
has here gone too far in his
caricature of the pope — but
for one historical detail: it
was, in fact, an actual speech
delivered by Pius XII and
reprinted in the pro Vatican
newspaper Osservatore
Romano on October 25, 1943!
Hochhuth has only
substituted the word "Jews"
for "Poles" in the original —
just as the pope was in fact
speaking of the Jews.
Pope Pius could not have
dissuaded Hitler from carry-
ing out the Holocaust. But if
Hitler was the motor, the
necessary factor for the
murder of the Jews, he was
not sufficient for its execu-
tion. It took millions of civil
servants, bureaucrats,
workers, soldiers, doctors and
countless others to perpetrate
a continent-wide crime. A
significant percentage of
those people not to mention
the millions more who were
indifferent, silent bystanders,
were practicing Catholics.
Papal records disclose that
Vatican sources possessed the
most detailed information

about the deportations and
mass murders almost as soon
as they had begun. Had the
pope in 1941 or 1942, in-
structed his officials all over
Europe to do what he finally
charged them to do in 1944 in
Hungary, more Jewish vic-
tims might have been saved.
Individual Catholics did
rescue Jews; an estimated
4,000 priests were killed in
concentration camps. The
voices they heard were still,
small ones inside of them.
They did not hear the voice of
the spiritual leader of their
church — publicly silent,
publicly creating a moral
vacuum. Whether or not the
pope grieved over the treat-
ment of the Jews, his silence
was taken for assent.
It has been argued that the
pope's principal obligation is
to his own constituents. Con-

The extermination
apparatus argued
that Europe
would be made
"clean of
Catholics," too.

cerned for the well-being of
thirty million German
Catholics, Pius XI signed the
infamous Concordat with
Hitler in 1933, Pius XII re-
mained silent and appeasing
for the same reasons.
Perhaps, too, Nazi anti-
Communism lured both pon-
tiffs into silence.
}hit ultimately, their
political, not moral, failings
rested in abandoning their
own people, too. Eichmann
directed Department IV-B-4
of the SS administrative
bureaucracy. Section IV was
the Gestapo, department B
dealt with "sects," and IV-B-1
was the office in charge of
Catholics. Section IV-B-4 was
the office that dealt with
Jews.
As Hochhuth pointed out in
his postscript to "The Depu-
ty," Himmler, an avid student
of the Jesuit order and in par-
ticular of Ignatius Loyola
(Hitler is reputed to have call-
ed Himmler "my Loyola"),
wrote, "we shall not rest un-
til we have rooted out Chris-
tianity."
The very bureaucratic
structure of the extermina-
tion apparatus argued that
after it became "Judenrein,"
Europe would be made "clean
of Catholics," too. Perhaps,
had the Germans been able to
continue the war, after suc-
cessfully disposing of
Hungary's Jews, that would
have been Eichmann's next
task.

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