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The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism Kindle Edition

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Length: 368 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Amazon.com Review

The Vatican's 1998 report "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah" purportedly exonerated the Church of complicity in the Holocaust. In The Popes Against the Jews, David I. Kertzer argues that the report is "not the product of a Church that wants to confront its history." Kertzer's book refutes the Church's thesis that the Holocaust grew out of "an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious." In fact, Kertzer asserts, those dimensions of European anti-Semitism developed "in no small part due to the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church itself." The racial laws of fascist Italy and the Nuremberg Laws of 1930s Germany, for example, were directly modeled on the Church's own rules governing treatment of Jews: until the collapse of the Papal States in the late 19th century, Jews living in these territories were forced to wear yellow badges and live in ghettos. Kertzer's arguments make for compelling reading because they're presented in story form, based on the actions of the popes themselves. Access to long-sealed Church archives allowed Kertzer to reconstruct some of the most shocking, secret conversations that occurred in the Vatican in the decades leading up to World War II. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

A number of excellent studies have recently addressed the political and social role of the Catholic Church in Europe during the Holocaust. Along comes a book that explores the church's role in setting the stage for that Holocaust. If the title of The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism isn't enough of a hint, David Kertzer spells out his thesis in the introduction: Although "the Vatican never approved the extermination of the Jews... the teachings and actions of the Church, including those of the popes themselves, helped make it possible." Kertzer argues that centuries of the church's demonization of the Jews paved the way for genocide.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jay Young on March 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
Books on what Pius XII did or did not do for the Jews during World War II seem to be a dime a dozen these days. We have books by John Cornwell, Susan Zucotti, Ronald Rychlak, Margaret Marchione, and many others trying to prove either that Pius was silent in the face of genocide, or that he did more to help the Jews than anyone else at the time. According to Kertzer, this attention is misplaced, since it ignores how the Vatican propagated anti-semitism. Specifically, this happened from Paul IV's order to confine Jews in Papal States to ghettoes, down to Pius XI. Kertzer quotes from a relevant passage of "We Remember," a Vatican statement on the holocaust: "By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, Jews generally had achieved an equal standing with other citizens in most States and a certain number of them held influential positions in society. But in that same historical context, notably in the 19th century, a false and exacerbated nationalism took hold. In a climate of eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers. Thus there began to spread in varying degrees throughout most of Europe an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious." He goes on to note that "this argument, sadly, is not the product of a Church that wants to confront its history. If Jews acquired equal rights in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was only over the angry, loud, and indeed indignant protests of the Vatican and the Church." (p. 6)

In 1551, Paul IV, arguably the most hated Pope in history, issued an edict requiring Jews residing in the Papal States to live in ghettoes.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on July 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
In 1998, the Vatican issued a report in which it denied responsibility for the Holocaust. The report argued that the Church's own anti-Semitism was religious rather than racial, and in any event that Catholic anti-Semitism had diminished over the centuries.

This book attacks that argument. Kertzner points out that Catholic media (including newspapers fairly close to the Vatican) aggressively slandered Jews, using the same arguments as racial anti-Semites.

Just as racial anti-Semites argued that Jews were trying to take over the world, so did Catholic media. Just as racist anti-Semites blamed Jews for both Communist violence and capitalist greed, so did Catholic media. Just as racist anti-Semites called Jews unpatriotic, so did Catholic media. Just as racist anti-Semites blamed Jews for anti-Jewish violence, so did Catholic media. Just as racist anti-Semites called for Jews to be stripped of civic and economic equality, so did Catholic media.

The more hostile reviews of this book point out that 20th-century popes did not themselves engage in these attacks, and thus argue that the Church should not be blamed for the words of some of its clerics. And Kertzner does not really focus that much on the words of the Popes themselves (which is why I think the title is slightly misleading). On the other hand, some newspapers close to the Vatican were quite venomous; L'Osservatore Romano (the Vatican daily paper) and Civilta Cattolica (whose director was approved by the Vatican) often published ugly attacks on Jews. For example, in 1893, a Civilta Cattolica article claimed that Jews murdered Christians for ritual purposes, stating that "the Jew sucked Christian blood ... out of principle, in obedience to their law.
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76 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on July 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...but unlike "old soldiers", they seldom fade away. Instead they are refurbished, recycled and reapplied. It's the similarities that I note, between the rise of pre-Shoah anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism of Mark Steyn and his ilk - remembering that Arabs are Semitic also - which has led me to re-read this book from 2001 with a new perspective. Before Steyn's "Eurabia", there was the Jewropa of anti-Semitic Catholics such as Father Giuseppe Oreglia, editor of Civiltá Catolica, and Eduard Drumont, author of La France Juive. Before Islamic terrorism, there was ritual murder of Christian children for the baking of matzos - one a real threat, one a horrific libel, but both manipulated un scrupulously for political gain. Before the power of petro-wealth, there was the pelf of banking to explain how the 0.2% of the population of Italy that was Jewish could be running the whole show. Before Steyn's "exposure" of Islam's grand ambition to dominate the world, there were the "Protocols of Zion" and other fabricated evidence of Jewish plans for dominion. I'll return to this comparison later, but first I want to address the theses and the methodology of David Kertzer's convincing indictment of the Popes and the Vatican bureaucracy for having a major role in the rise of violent anti-Jewish inhumanity from roughly 1800 to 1940.

Kertzer states his central thesis succinctly on page 205 of The Popes Against the Jews: "Efforts to deny Catholic Church involvement in the rise of modern anti-Semitism have made much of the presumed lack of a racial element in whatever hostility the Church had directed against the Jews in the past.
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