Eva Fleischner, "Crucial Importance of the Holocaust for Christians," Engage/Social Action 4 (December 1976) 26-33



Abstract by Jerry Darring


Fleischner writes first of the failure of the churches during the Holocaust, citing specifically that Hitler never repudiated his Catholicism nor was he ever publicly condemned by Pius XII or excommunicated, and that many high Nazi officials repeatedly stressed that they were "good Christians." She contrasts the public protests of the Dutch bishops with the silence of Pius XII, saying that "if we ask, who were the true Christians?, where was the church's prophetic voice to be heard?, it is the Dutch bishops, and not Pius XII, who are vindicated" (28). Many ordinary Catholics and many bishops "betrayed the Gospel" with their antisemitism.

Turning to the Christian tradition of antisemitism, Fleischner asserts that "there is ample evidence that the centuries-old Christian anti-Judaism prepared the soil for modern anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; that the Holocaust could not have happened if Christians of Germany, Europe, the world, had taken an unequivocal stand against the Nazi program of persecution and eventual extermination of the Jews" (29). This raises a number of serious questions that cast a shadow on the very foundations of Christianity.

Indeed, the Holocaust poses a challenge to our faith, raising serious questions about God and human dignity. These questions are hard to face, but Fleischner suggests some helps: 1. The churches should not confess guilt, which paralyzes, but they should accept responsibility, which leads to a commitment to change things. 2. We should develop a humbler understanding of church. 3. Our faith should be lived in alternating moments of light and darkness. 4. Christians need to appreciate the tragedy of the Holocaust and the significance of the state of Israel. 5. "Finally, awareness of the Holocaust may heighten our sense of responsibility and sharpen our sensitivity to suffering and injustice wherever they are found" (33).