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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 20:28 GMT
Author blames Vatican for Holocaust
Nazi concentration camp
The article will evoke painful memories
By the BBC's Mike Duff

An article in the latest edition of the influential American magazine New Republic looks likely to reopen the controversy over the role played by the Vatican during World War II.

A right-wing demonstrator holds a German Reich war flag flags during a demonstration in Berlin
Goldhagen says Catholic teaching sparked anti-Semitism
The 27,000-word article - which hit newsstands in the United States this week - accuses the Roman Catholic Church of providing the intellectual stimulus for Nazism and the Holocaust.

It is among the most savage attacks yet made on the record of alleged Catholic anti-Semitism.

But the author of this huge article is no stranger to controversy.

Daniel J Goldhagen's best-known book blamed ordinary Germans for the Holocaust. It was an award-winning bestseller, although some critics accused him of taking liberties with the truth.

Dr Goldhagen - a professor of government and social studies at Harvard University - has now turned his fire on Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular.

Some of the allegations have been made before, notably that the Pope during the war, Pius XII, didn't do enough to protect the Jews, even though he must have known what was happening to them.

But Dr Goldhagen does not stop there.

Bible lessons

He goes on to condemn Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, for intellectually preparing the ground for the Holocaust.

The Pope at Yad Vashem
The Pope wants to canonise WWII's pontiff, Pius XII
His argument, in a nutshell, is that traditional Church teaching - blaming Jews for the death of Christ - sowed the seeds of the genocidal anti-Semitism of the 20th Century.

On top of that, he says, the Church has refused to face up to its inescapable moral responsibility.

For its part, the Vatican has always argued that its cautious, non-confrontational policy saved more people than if it had condemned Nazi excesses from the pulpit.

Dr Goldhagen says such arguments are bizarre and nonsensical, topped only by those revisionist historians who try to argue that the Holocaust didn't happen.

The current Pope had been keen to start the process that might one day have seen his predecessor made a saint.

That had already been put on hold after earlier evidence of Pius XII's alleged anti-Semitism came to light.

Amid the likely row over Dr Goldhagen's article, one thing is clear. It won't do anything to heal the deeply-felt hurt of Jews everywhere - or put Pius XII's canonisation back on track.

See also:

11 Oct 98 | Europe
Pope makes Jewish-born nun saint
16 Mar 98 | Europe
Vatican apologises over holocaust
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