Church, nation and race

Church, nation and race: Catholics and antisemitism in Germany and England, 1918–45

Ulrike Ehret
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Church, nation and race
    Book Description:

    Church, nation and race compares the worldviews and factors that promoted or, indeed, opposed antisemitism amongst Catholics in Germany and England after the First World War. As a prequel to books on Hitler, fascism and genocide, the book turns towards ideas and attitudes that preceded and shaped the ideologies of the 1920s and 1940s. Apart from the long tradition of Catholic anti-Jewish prejudices, the book discusses new and old alternatives to European modernity offered by Catholics in Germany and England. Numerous events in the interwar years provoked anti-Jewish responses among Catholics: the revolutionary end of the war and financial scandals in Germany; Palestine and the Spanish Civil War in England. At the same time the rise of fascism and National Socialism gave Catholics the opportunity to respond to the anti-democratic and antisemitic waves these movements created in their wake. Church, nation and race is a political history of ideas that introduces Catholic views of modern society, race, nation and the ‘Jewish question’. It shows to what extent these views were able to inform political and social activity. This study will interest academics and students of antisemitism, European history, German and British history.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-452-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. List of abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-35)

    Just in time for the millennial celebrations in 2000, Pope John Paul II received the documentWe Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, researched and written by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Eleven years before, he had asked the Commission to establish the degree of the Church’s responsibility for the Holocaust and indeed in the introduction ofWe Rememberthe Pope urges Catholics to take responsibility for sins committed in the past. This atonement was also to include expiation for persecution and discrimination against Jews until the late 1800s, when, according to the interpretation of the Vatican,...

  6. 2 The ‘Jewish question’ in Catholic publications
    (pp. 36-93)

    Antisemitism in learned and popular literature is generally well documented.¹ Instead, the focus here will be on the ‘Jewish question’ as it was discussed in Catholic newspapers. It would be illusionary to hope to capture the mind of ‘ordinary’ Catholics through these. However, newspapers with their easy accessibility to a wider readership (cheap, high circulation media, available on street corners), bring the historian a step closer to the ordinary reader than an analysis of contemporary (academic) journals that were largely read by the learned middle class. They reveal change how Jews and the ‘Jewish question’ was presented to the public...

  7. 3 New challenges and lasting legacies
    (pp. 94-117)

    Antisemitic images after the First World War most likely occurred in English Catholic discussions of modern capitalism and socialism, but were not limited to the pure economic and political aspects. ‘Materialism’ was often associated with a ‘Jewish spirit’ that pervaded national film, theatre and literature in the immediate postwar years.¹ Antisemitism was not limited to the pages of English Catholic newspapers at that time; it was also perceptible in discussions and communications of Catholic lay organisations such as the reformist Catholic Social Guild in Oxford and the conservative Catholic Federation in Salford. This early peak in anti-Jewish sentiments was to...

  8. 4 The Catholic right, political Catholicism and radicalism
    (pp. 118-177)

    In 1920, Hermann Freiherr von Lüninck assessed the political landscape of the Weimar Republic in his ‘Thoughts on Centre Party politics’.¹ He believed that large sections of the nobility, peasantry, academia and elements among the clergy felt alienated by the Centre Party’s cooperation with social democracy. In order to create the envisioned Christian conservative party, Lüninck hoped to draw conservatives to the Centre Party, who might then be willing to set up a new party on the right of the centre. He hoped that this new party would then promote a policy based on a Christian state philosophy, which meant...

  9. 5 Responses to fascism
    (pp. 178-235)

    The failure of the Catholic Church to criticise the National Socialist regime for its discrimination against German Jews and eventually the persecution and murder of European Jewry has been attributed either to ideological affinities, in particular Catholic antisemitism and a fear of socialism, or structural restraints imposed by the dictatorial regimes in Europe.¹ In the case of Hitler’s Germany, historians have also referred to the intransigence of the regime regarding one of the core elements of its ideology, or to the Concordat that excluded any direct political resistance on the part of the bishops.² Recent publications on the Catholic Church...

  10. 6 Waking up to the persecution of the Jews
    (pp. 236-270)

    After the implementation of the Nuremburg Race Laws, it had become obvious that the regime was aiming for a racial solution to its ‘Jewish question’. Parallel to an increased drive to encourage Jewish emigration, the regime introduced policies that led first to a racial segregation of the Jewish population based on the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935, and after a range of discriminatory measures to the compulsory wearing of the Star of David in September 1941. The actual physical removal of German Jews and other ‘non-Aryans’ from German society began with the first deportations in October 1940. Against the background...

  11. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 271-280)

    Despite Catholic claims to universality, Catholic communities have never been interchangeable nor have they been monolithic. The example of the Catholic right showed that Catholicism as such was certainly not a bulwark against antisemitism or indeed fascism. On the other hand, the example of theCatholic Workernewspaper in England has proven that religious anti-Jewish teachings do not automatically foster antisemitic sentiments in an entire community. The absence or virulence of antisemitism was only indirectly determined by religious faith or nationality. Much more important for the formation of antisemitism was the general public discourse of a society and political socialisation....

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 281-281)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 282-305)
  14. Index
    (pp. 306-318)