Jesuit Kaddish
124 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Jesuit Kaddish , livre ebook


Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus
124 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus


While much has been written about the Catholic Church and the Holocaust, little has been published about the hostile role of priests, in particular Jesuits, toward Jews and Judaism. Jesuit Kaddish is a long overdue study that examines Jesuit hostility toward Judaism before the Shoah and the development of a new understanding of the Catholic Church’s relation to Judaism that culminated with Vatican II’s landmark decree Nostra aetate. James Bernauer undertakes a self-examination as a member of the Jesuit order and writes this story in the hopes that it will contribute to interreligious reconciliation. Jesuit Kaddish demonstrates the way Jesuit hostility operated, examining Jesuit moral theology’s dualistic approach to sexuality and, in the case of Nazi Germany, the articulation of an unholy alliance between a sexualizing and a Judaizing of German culture. Bernauer then identifies an influential group of Jesuits whose thought and action contributed to the developments in Catholic teaching about Judaism that eventually led to the watershed moment of Nostra aetate. This book concludes with a proposed statement of repentance from the Jesuits and an appendix presenting the fifteen Jesuits who have been honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Center. Jesuit Kaddish offers a crucial contribution to the fields of Catholicism and Nazism, Catholic-Jewish relations, Jesuit history, and the history of anti-Semitism in Europe.



Publié par
Date de parution 30 mars 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268107031
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,275€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Jesuit Kaddish
Jesuit Kaddish
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
Copyright © 2020 by the University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Bernauer, James William, author.
Title: Jesuit Kaddish : Jesuits, Jews, and Holocaust remembrance / James Bernauer, SJ.
Description: Notre Dame, Indiana : University of Notre Dame Press, [2019] |
Includes index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2019054898 (print) | LCCN 2019054899 (ebook) | ISBN 9780268107017 (hardback) | ISBN 9780268107048 (adobe pdf) | ISBN 9780268107031 (epub)
Subjects: LCSH: Jesuits—History—20th century. | Jesuits—History— 21st century. | Holocaust (Christian theology) | Holocaust, Jewish (1939–1945) | Catholic Church—Relations—Judaism. | Judaism— Relations—Catholic Church. | Vatican Council (2nd : 1962–1965 : Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano). Declaratio de ecclesiae habitudine ad religiones non-Christianas. | Righteous Gentiles in the Holocaust.
Classification: LCC BX3706.3 .B47 2019 (print) | LCC BX3706.3 (ebook) |
DDC 261.2/608827153—dc23
LC record available at
LC ebook record available at
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at
Personal Prelude
ONE The Exorcising Examen of John Paul II
TWO The Demonic Milieu: On Jesuit Hostility to Jews and Judaism
THREE The Barbarian Within: Spirit versus Flesh, Body versus Soul
FOUR The Divine Milieu: Righteous Jesuits
FIVE Spiritual Exercises
Appendix. The Yad Vashem Jesuits
My debts to the many people and institutions that have assisted me in my work on this long journey of research and writing are profound and extensive, and it is a pleasure to acknowledge some of them here. The Jesuits who had been recognized by Israel’s Holocaust Center, Yad Vashem, and with whom I lived in Paris were an initial inspiration. During my many years at Boston College I have received the support of a vibrant Jesuit Community, an excellent academic institution, outstanding colleagues in many departments, and many talented students who have encouraged my questions. Boston College and its president, Father William Leahy, honored me with the Kraft Family Professorship, and that made it possible for me to attend the conferences and visit the institutions where I could do my work.
I have been blessed over those years by an extraordinary group of interdisciplinary research assistants: Peter Glazar, Dalia Nasser, Rufus Caine, David Giles, Jason Barrett, Jessica Wuebeker, Tracey Stark, Peter Li, Joseph Haggerty, Grant Edwards, Strand Sheldahl-Thomason, Martin Bernales, Derek Brown, and especially Felix Jimenez, who has worked with me for five years as the Kraft Family chair’s assistant both in Boston and in Munich.
I have profited from many libraries and archives, especially those at Boston College, where the staff could not have been more helpful. I thank the researchers at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Reverend Robert Bonfils, the retired archivist at the Jesuit archives in Vanves, France.
I have had the opportunity to develop my ideas in lectures at many institutions from whose scholars and students I have learned, and I am very appreciative of their invitations: Le Moyne College in Syracuse; the University of Santa Clara, where I was a Bannan Foundation Fellow; De Paul University in Chicago; Rome’s Gregorian University; Loyola University of Chicago, where I occupied the Jesuit University Professorship; the Ateneo University of Manila; the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Culturelles in Tokyo; Nazareth College in Rochester; John Carroll University in Cleveland; the College of the Holy Cross and Assumption College in Worcester; the University of Massachusetts in Boston; the Jagiellonian University in Krakow; the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem; and the Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville.
I thank the editors of two journals and one collection in which I published earlier fragments of chapters 1 and 4: Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits (Summer 2004), the Journal of Jesuit Studies (Spring 2018), and “The Tragic Couple”: Encounters between Jews and Jesuits (the Netherlands: Brill, 2014). I am very grateful to Dr. Robert Maryks, who is the founding editor of the Journal of Jesuit Studies and who has become a personal friend.
Among the scholars and friends I wish to thank are Walter Modrys, Edward McGushin, Serena Parekh, Kyle Logan, Vanessa Rumble, Douglas Kull, Michael Mahon, Paula Perry, Peggy Bakalo, Arthur Madigan, Susannah Heschel, Frank Herrmann, Chi and Zheng Zeng, David Rasmussen, Pamela Berger, Jeffrey Johnson, David Neuhaus, Alec Walker, Camille Markey, Richard Lynch, Ruth Langer, Frank Clooney, Martin Bernales Odino, Agustin Colombo, Bernardo Sada Monroy, Vincent Lapomarda, Martin Stuflesser, and my brothers Jack and Kenneth. Of course they are not responsible for any errors or shortcomings in my study.
My dealings with the University of Notre Dame Press have been professionally satisfying and personally enjoyable. I appreciate the original interest in my project by its director, Stephen Wrinn, the ongoing care of its acquisitions editor, Stephen Little, and the professional assistance of its copyeditor, Marilyn Martin. I hope that I will learn someday the identities of the two scholars who anonymously reviewed my manuscript for Notre Dame. To them I would express my appreciation for the remarkable learning and generous diligence they exhibited in suggesting improvements for my text. They strengthened this volume immeasurably and set a new standard for me as to how reviews should be done.
The two words of this book’s title may startle. Why join together one of Judaism’s most recognizable prayers with the name of the Roman Catholic order of the Jesuits, which is officially known as the Society of Jesus? This volume will present a response to that question as we meditate on the drama of the Holocaust and the Jesuits. Here, however, in a personal prelude, some guiding emotions might be expressed, feelings for the welcoming of life and for the acceptance of death. Life, first of all, because the Kaddish is a prayer of praise of God and of the holy gift of life. “Magnified and sanctified may his great name be in the world that he created, as he wills, and may his kingdom come in your lives and in your days, and in the lives of all the house of Israel, swiftly and soon, and say all Amen!” Those are the first two stanzas of the six-stanza prayer. As descendants of the Jewish elders in faith, there is not a single word of the prayer that Christians cannot proclaim faithfully, not a single word that Christians would not embrace. Should not all who have read the Torah, even if under a different name, be able to join the chorus in petitioning, “May a great peace from heaven and life!—be upon us and all Israel, and say all Amen”? (That was the fifth stanza.) Still the Kaddish is a prayer of mourning, a litany that challenges death. For the Jews, the prayer first emerged in the wake of the Crusades, for Christians and Jesuits in the aftermath of the Shoah. We who are Catholics are not strangers to Jewish cemeteries. Isn’t the most extensive of them, Auschwitz, located on the soil of one of Europe’s most Catholic countries and now a site of international visitation?
A French priest, Father Patrick Desbois, has devoted years to a sacred mission: to locate every mass grave or site at which Jews were killed during the Holocaust. His motivation was a Jewish invisibility: “While the mass graves of the thousands of Jews who were shot are untraceable, every German killed during the war has been reburied and identified by name. The cemeteries are on the scale of the Reich. Magnificent cemeteries for the Germans, including the SS, little graves for the French, white stones covered in brambles for the tens of thousands of anonymous Soviet soldiers, and absolutely nothing for the Jews.” 1 Desbois has succeeded in uncovering hundreds of grave sites by asking local people in the blood lands of Eastern Europe about the murders of the Jews they witnessed. Perhaps his success has been assisted by his priestly identity, as one Jewish scholar judged: “If a Jewish taker-of-testimony comes, what would people think—that this is someone coming to accuse. When a priest comes, people open up. He brings to the subject a kind of legitimacy, a sense that it is o.k. to talk about the past. There’s absolution through confession.” 2 Of course, there are other reasons for a Catholic presence at Jewish graveyards—out of respect for the dead, to mourn, certainly; but perhaps out of moral necessity as well, to wonder: How responsible are we Christians for such mass deaths? Were some of our words and beliefs murderous? Did we respect them in life, these people who are now buried?
Indeed, isn’t it the case that Christians were explicitly invited by Jews themselves to participate in the remembrance of the Jewish dead and to reflect upon their destruction? Wasn’t the establishment of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem an invitation as well as a summons? When the Israeli Knesset passed the Law of the Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in 1953, Yad Vashem was founded as a memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Shoah. Among the duties assigned to the institution was to discover and commemorate those non-Jews who had risked or lost their lives in efforts to save Jews during the period of the Holocaust. They were to be named “Righteous Among the Nations,” an expression that was borrowed from the ancient literature of the Jewish sages. When visitors come to Yad Vashem, they remember the dead but also honor those righteous among the nations, who are remembered with trees or plaques; there is even a monumental sculpture dedicated to those unknown righteous who will never have the documentation required by Yad Vashem for individual recognition. And this takes place on Mount Herzl, where the cemetery for Israel’s leaders and military dead is also located. Among the fifteen Jesuits who, thus far, have been awarded the title of righteous is a French Jesuit, Roger Braun, with whom I lived while I was a student in Paris. We never spoke about his biography, but I vaguely knew that he had been in the French resistance during the Nazi occupation of France and that he had been honored by the State of Israel. Only later was I to read Yad Vashem’s account of his activities and how “Father Braun’s principle of solidarity with the Jews dominated the priest’s actions during the entire occupation. Thus, dressed in his Jesuit robes, he even participated in services at the Toulouse synagogue.” Among Braun’s more practical accomplishments was the freeing of Jewish prisoners from detention camps, his prevention of the deportation of thirty Jewish children, and the hiding of many more Jews. 3 At his request, the Kaddish was chanted by a Rabbi during his 1981 funeral. Did he feel that the Catholic Mass needed to be supplemented by this prayer, much as the New Testament requires the reading of the Jewish scriptures? Was it particularly appropriate for a Jesuit’s funeral because the unofficial motto of the Society, “for the greater glory of God,” echoed the Kaddish: “Blessed and Praised and Glorified and Raised and Exalted and Honored and Uplifted and Lauded Be the Name of the Holy One”? (That was the first two lines of the fourth stanza.) Braun was certainly not the only Jesuit to have requested that the Kaddish be read at his funeral. The very first sentence of From Enemy to Brother , John Connelly’s magisterial study of the development of Catholic teaching on the Jews, pays tribute to the Polish Jesuit Stanislaw Musial as “among the most courageous opponents of anti-Semitism in our time. He denounced officials in the Polish Catholic hierarchy who tolerated hostility to Jews” and “castigated the chauvinism of Catholics staking crosses at Auschwitz.” 4 When Musial passed away in 2004, at his expressed wish, Kaddish was said by a “Hasid, a descendent of the rabbi of Bobowa, a village not far from the place where Musial was born.” 5
Perhaps the desire of non-Jews for this prayer was meant as a witness to their struggles against the persecution and murder of the Jews, which at times have been simply described as the determination to destroy Jewish tradition by “silencing the Kaddish forever.” 6 Reciting the Kaddish negates the silence the Nazis wished to impose upon the Jews as well as the veil of secrecy they wished to draw over their crimes. Even in the darkest moments of the Shoah, however, it turns out that the Kaddish was prayed. Saul Friedländer writes of the diary of the Jew Zalman Gradowski, who was forced into service in the Birkenau death camp, a diary that was found after the war, buried near a crematorium. In it he tells of how “after each of the gassings, he would say Kaddish for the dead.” 7 Mention of Saul Friedländer, certainly one of the greatest living historians of the Holocaust, recalls a spiritual deed by another Jesuit that should not be unknown. In his beautiful memoir When Memory Comes , Friedländer writes of the “decisive day” when, as a young boy, he learned that his parents had been killed at Auschwitz and that he himself was not born a Catholic, although he had been baptized. He had been hidden in a Catholic boarding school during the Nazi occupation of France, and he embraced Christianity there. Because he was such an excellent student, he even imagined a future direction for his life: “I was in the limelight: undoubtedly I was going to become a Jesuit, or rather a ‘jèze,’ as the slang expression of our day had it.” The transforming knowledge of that decisive day came through his conversation with a Jesuit priest who was at the school: “For the first time, I felt myself to be Jewish. . . . The attitude of Father L. himself profoundly influenced me: to hear him speak of the lot of the Jews with so much emotion and respect must have been an important encouragement for me. He did not press me to choose one path or the other—and perhaps he would have preferred to see me remain Catholic—but his sense of justice (or was it a profound charity?) led him to recognize my right to judge for myself, by helping me to renew the contact with my past.” 8 Among other encounters of Jews and Jesuits during the period of the Holocaust was one that has been recorded by the Fortunoff Video Archive. The interviewee (Father John S.) had been a Jesuit studying in Hungary, and one day he was walking by a railroad station and, while stealing a look through a hole in the fence, he saw a train packed with deportees:
I literally saw what you see in pictures, mothers with children, and people, and old people . . . and one man immediately jumped off, and I always remembered his face because he looked a little bit like my father. . . . I did not hear what he said to the German soldier . . . but his behavior was polite. What I made out, that he was asking for water. And immediately that SS soldier with the club of his rifle clubbed him down, and several times, to insensitivity. Whether he died or was later put on the train [I don’t know]. And then I ran away, I was so scared and I was so upset; I never saw anything like this in my life. I simply ran way.
But Father John could not run away from what he had seen: “I see it personally as the greatest tragedy of my life that the Jewish people were deported all around me and I didn’t do anything.” 9 In recalling the incident, he seems to blame himself for fleeing and imagines a different response if he were to witness the scene today: “Maybe I would call out.” “At that time I was immobilized.” “I was utterly unprepared.” “I wish I could live my life [over]. Today perhaps I would be ready.” “Today, maybe, I would be ready to then run in front of the train and lay down. Maybe I, . . . I . . . , would have, today I would call out or protest or risk being shot down or clubbed down.” 10
How might we have prepared for confrontation with the violence of the Holocaust? It is a question for all moral agents since that period, and thus, also a question for Jesuits. The German Jesuit Karl Rahner, among the Catholic Church’s most influential twentieth-century theologians, once stated in a conversation discussing the Nazi era:
Times of collective madness like this are basically unexplainable. If you keep in mind that I knew many people whose personal and moral integrity I can’t call into question in any way and yet who still believed after a long time or well into the war that National Socialism was a real blessing for the German people . . . then, when all is said and done, one really doesn’t know, even in hindsight, what one should have done at the time. One doesn’t even know what one did right or wrong during that period. 11
Certainly this is a wise counsel of humility before the density of complicated events. But surely it is extraordinarily inadequate as advice for a critical ethical intelligence. Other Jesuits have reflected more fully on different aspects of the Holocaust period, and many of them and the conclusions at which they have arrived will be referred to in the course of this volume.
I myself have long been a student of this period. But perhaps “student” is too weak a term. For more years than I perhaps remember, the Holocaust has haunted me, particularly how it came to be and what conclusions should be drawn from the fact that it took place. The puzzled faces of its victims are never very far from my thoughts, my conversations with others, my prayers, my feelings about our culture, and my fears about our faith. Even when involved with philosophical or political issues very distant from twentieth-century carnage, I find myself pushing them close to that Holocaust flame to see if they are illumined or merely reduced to the ashes of irrelevance. While my professional field has been contemporary philosophy, I always work with greatest concentration in libraries and archives that offer materials for understanding the mass murder of the Jews. And there are many of them, in Jerusalem, Rome, Berlin, Munich, Paris, London, Washington, New York. I have been to these places but never with the sense that I was on a grand tour, guided by the itinerary of a single defined project. I had more the feeling of making a series of expeditions that I hoped would uncover unexpected questions and perhaps even some answers. In the title of Günter Grass’s novel Crabwalk , I ran across the ideal metaphor for my feelings about what I have been doing with research and writing on the Holocaust. 12 I may think at times that I am standing still or I am going backward, but maybe I am really scuttling sideways, and indeed, perhaps I am even moving forward. As will become clear, my research has not led to a single grand narrative, but it has uncovered and involved discussion of crucial historical fragments that are essential for the evolution of a more comprehensive perspective on the Holocaust and the Jesuit order’s relation to it. For some readers this may seem too minor an accomplishment, but it will nevertheless reflect both the current historical record as well as the very process of spiritual insight that is always far from total explanations.
When I ask myself why I am so entangled with these violent deeds of some seventy years ago, back come the memories of growing up in the nineteen-fifties in Washington Heights in northern Manhattan, which at the time had the largest concentration of German-born Jews in the world. Their neighborhood was known as both the Fourth Reich and Frankfurt on the Hudson, and the latter has become the title of a major sociological study of that community. 13 These German Jews created an unusual atmosphere with their European accents, their refined bearing, their own old-world shops, and a heavy sense that something went terribly wrong in their lives. I used to walk by them as they sat on the benches in Fort Tryon Park; I recall animated exchanges, but no laughter. The great dome of Yeshiva University was the largest structure to be seen through the windows of my family’s apartment, and Yom Kippur was the only day that competed with Good Friday in spreading a blanket of solemnity over those busy, noisy streets. Growing up in that neighborhood at that time, how could I not have wondered about this intense people and what sorrows they had endured? When I left that neighborhood and became a Jesuit, I carried the memory of the German-Jewish experience with me, and it has been one of the emotional sources for my interrogation of Jesuit attitudes toward the Jews. As I was to discover, the Jesuits recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Gentiles” or “Righteous Among the Nations” were hardly typical of the average members of the Society of Jesus. As we shall see in chapter 2, while there were particular nuances in the Jesuit hostility toward the Jews, the traditional Christian teaching of contempt for the Jews was an element of its theological arsenal. Fortunately, there were Jesuits who called that contempt into question in both word and deed, even before the Second Vatican Council helped to set the relationship between Jews and Catholics on a new course in 1965.
The other great city that has educated me about the Holocaust is Berlin, where I have been a regular visitor for the past forty-five years. It has been a wonder to watch the city’s resurrection but also to see inscribed on its landscape the memory of the crimes that Nazis planned and ordered there. I developed a vivid regard for the plasticity of historical narrative by visiting various versions of German history museums, especially when there was competition on the two sides of the wall between liberal and Marxist perspectives. Even with reunification, however, the rooms of these museums that surveyed the years 1918 to 1945 were under continual reconstruction as German scholars argued about their differing interpretations of those years. Physically, the city is a crowd of historic sites: the Wannsee villa, where German ministries were coordinated with the Nazis’ genocidal project; the typography of terror museum at the ruins of Gestapo headquarters and prison; monuments to the Sinti and Roma people and the homosexuals; and the vast field of undulating cemetery-like stelae dedicated to the memory of the murdered Jews of Europe. Walking among that monument’s stelae, the view of the city is lost, but its noises and energy may still be heard, and it is easy to feel the isolation that Jews experienced when they were ghettoized and ignored by the world around them. Within easy walking distance from this reminder of trauma is the German Resistance museum, where heroic memory is enshrined as a standard for evaluating conduct during the Nazi years.
Within this traditionally very Protestant city, there are two Catholic sites that especially move me. Overlooking the plaza where the major 1933 book burning took place is the Catholic cathedral of Saint Hedwig’s, in which is buried Bernhard Lichtenberg, the priest who publicly prayed in this church for the persecuted Jews. He would later be arrested by the Nazis and would die in their captivity. The other site, which is really ecumenical and which I try to visit whenever I am in Berlin, is the Plötzensee prison, where hundreds of Christian opponents to the Nazi state were executed, including the Jesuit writer Alfred Delp. While I was in the first years of Jesuit training, I developed a special esteem and devotion for this Jesuit, who was executed by the Nazis for alleged involvement in the July 1944 plot to kill Hitler. His book of prison meditations and essays was published in English in 1963, and almost every year since then I have returned to his reflections on Advent as spiritual reading during that season of preparation for Christmas. I was drawn to the witness of his personal courage and to his intellectual boldness in participating in a resistance group that was thinking out plans for a post-Nazi just society in Germany. That seemed an exemplary demonstration of a specifically Jesuit style of intellectual engagement. I was encouraged in my own vocation when I read what he wrote to his Jesuit brothers shortly before his execution on February 2, 1945: “The actual reason for my condemnation was that I happened to be, and chose to remain, a Jesuit.” And I have never forgotten another remark from his writings, a far more troubling one: “At some future date the honest historian will have some bitter things to say about the contribution made by the churches to the creation of the mass-mind, of collectivism, dictatorships, and so on.” 14 Certainly that prediction has been fulfilled. Unlike Lichtenberg, however, Delp’s tomb may not be visited: as was the case with the other despised opponents of the Nazi regime, his ashes were scattered across a field of sewage, and so his grave will rest only in the memories of those who honor him. Also burned into our memory are the dramatic ruins of churches that have been preserved as reminders of World War II. One recalls the ruin of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis Church at the foot of Berlin’s Kirfürstendamm, the Saint Kolumba Church in Cologne, the Saint Nicholas Church in Hamburg. But what is the purpose of these preserved remnants of once vital structures? Don’t they remind us of the charred ruins of the synagogues of November 1938, when the destruction of these Jewish places of worship was met with a near absolute silence from the Christian churches? Don’t the remains of the churches remind us of the toll that has been taken by Christianity for its failures during the period of the Holocaust?
In its opening paragraph, this volume is described as a meditation on the drama of the Holocaust and the Jesuits, and I owe the reader some explanation of what that means and entails. Such a meditation embraces two of the most distinctive elements in Jesuit spirituality: the examination of conscience and the discernment of spirits. The former is an activity of gratitude, the celebration of our passion to understand the dynamics of our lives as both human beings and human doings, and the recognition of where good has been done and evil avoided as well as the opposite. This scrutiny of oneself opens and permeates the most influential of Jesuit contributions to the Christian tradition, Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises . Nevertheless, its pedagogical power has been neglected in the study of Jesuit conduct during the Holocaust, as if that history of destruction will never be able to yield clear judgments. The discernment of spirits is an activity of love, a form of self-care that is rooted in the seasoned insight that there are both enemies and friends and that we often err in identifying our foes and allies. Both examination of conscience and discernment of spirits are practical, enabling us to hunt down personal responsibility in our lives and in the historical situations in which they exist. Questions for Jesuits regarding the period of the Shoah include these: How were Jews regarded? What evils did Jesuits perpetrate or tolerate against them? Why? What good and noble deeds were engaged in on their behalf? In examining the Holocaust, however, such perspectives have often been subverted by approaches that, in extreme cases, become no-fault views of history. The theologian Karl Rahner’s remark regarding collective madness has already been cited. The historian Michael Marrus has bluntly argued that both Pope Pius XI and Pius XII, for example, need to be kept in their context: he writes that they are not “candidates for a B’nai B’rith human rights award, and should not be measured or understood by that standard. Rather, they need to be seen as part of a pre–Vatican II Catholic Church that cleaved to a highly supersessionist theology [Christianity replaces Judaism] and a preference for authoritarianism and a reverence for its own institutional structures that were part and parcel of their age, their culture and their religious heritage.” 15 Some others have decried the impact of judicial trials in determining approaches to the Holocaust. The trials of Eichmann and the Nuremberg and Auschwitz defendants have led us, so it is claimed, to a simplistic reduction of our evaluations to questions of guilt or innocence. There are others who hold for accountability but distinguish sharply among groups. Here is the Jesuit opponent to Hitler, Father Rupert Mayer: “The simple people cannot be held responsible. On the other hand, I admit that there were highly educated, highly respected and capable people, people of high repute in Germany who could have gained a hearing among the allies and also among the German people if only they had put their head on the chopping block and had drawn attention to this situation.” 16 In his diary Victor Klemperer has a similar viewpoint, but it is expressed more vividly: while he would let “all the ordinary folk go,” he would have “all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lampposts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.” 17 While Hannah Arendt would agree with the limitations of judicial procedures, she concludes that the real issue—and I concur with her on this—is a confusion about the power of judgment and peoples’ reluctance to judge because they think it is arrogant. She writes: “Even the judge who condemns a murderer can still say when he goes home: ‘And there, but for the grace of God, go I.’” 18
We shall deal with assorted ecclesiastical statements on responsibility and guilt in the next chapter, but we must acknowledge how exemplary the reflective contrition of German secular leaders has been. Although Germans united at the end of the war in condemnation of charges of collective guilt, their growth in appreciation of shared responsibility has been remarkable, and their effort to achieve atonement is one of the major reasons that the crimes against the Jews have become central to contemporary ethical awareness. A major development was the decision by Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, to pay reparations to Jewish victims and particularly the State of Israel. This became the foundation stone for the admirable reconciliation between Germany and Israel. 19 Few acts compare, however, with Chancellor Willy Brandt’s falling on his knees in 1970 at the Warsaw Ghetto monument. The fact that he had been an opponent of Hitler from the beginning gave it greater force, and it has been described as “perhaps the best single example of the latent power of apology, if offered by the right person at the right moment for the right reason.” 20 The wordless gesture has been called a seminal moment in German history, and the writer Günter Grass understood the force of its taking place where the Nazi genocide had begun. “Yes, I was there,” Grass said. “From the sidelines I caught a fleeting glimpse of the kneeling chancellor: a speechless event that left nothing unsaid.” 21 Fortunately, however, that symbolic gesture was built upon and more was said, especially in a speech by Richard von Weizsäcker, president of the Federal Republic of Germany, at the ceremony commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. He said, “[On this] 8th of May, let us face up as well as we can to the truth.” He was clear: “At the root of the tyranny was Hitler’s immeasurable hatred against our Jewish compatriots.” Although the genocide was hidden and in the hands of a few people, “every German was able to experience what his Jewish compatriots had to suffer, ranging from plain apathy and hidden intolerance to outright hatred. Who could remain unsuspecting after the burning of the synagogues, the plundering, the stigmatization with the Star of David, the deprivation of rights, the ceaseless violation of human dignity.” 22 Von Weizsäcker’s speech intensified the spirit of repentance that has continued in Germany until today. And I shall return to it in my second chapter. Apologies have not been limited to statements by institutions and professional associations but have become part of individual confessions of regret, although we must recognize that there are contrary voices as well. 23
Has this combination of historical interrogation, political examination, and moral confession of failure created, as one historian recently claimed, a “Tower of Babel”? Mark Edward Ruff claims that efforts to comprehend Catholic conduct during the period of the Holocaust have enlisted historians, professional and amateur, as well as theologians, journalists, filmmakers, philosophers, and actual witnesses. Haven’t these different groups created a polemical discourse that embraces incompatible viewpoints and styles of argumentation that make impossible the achievement of any objective understanding? Isn’t that the reason, and not the incomplete releases of archive materials, that there is never resolution of the Holocaust debate? Ruff is certainly accurate in his depiction of the chaos that frequently characterizes discussions about responsibility during the period of the Holocaust. At the same time he underestimates the value of the conflict and how the pluralism of viewpoints challenges any historical approach to the Shoah that would reduce its complexity and its significance for our culture. 24 While chaotic at times and often frustrating, the mixture of moral, historical, and spiritual arguments has ensured the continuing investigation of Catholics during the Holocaust and the liveliness of that examination. Although one should be aware of the nature of the argumentation employed at any particular time, the diverse ways of understanding need to be safeguarded.
Although Pope Saint John Paul II will dominate the first chapter of this book, it would be a mistake in both temporal and spiritual chronologies to situate him at the beginning of the journey from an official Catholic anti-Jewish hostility to today’s positive attitude toward Judaism as a religion and to the Jews as a people. Many who preceded John Paul II are owed recognition for their contributions to this transformation. John Connelly’s work identifies many of them, especially those who were border-crossers, Jews who converted to Catholicism and educated their new Christian colleagues about the wonders of the faith in which they had lived. Connelly and I agree on the major public leaders in the revolution of Catholic teaching on the Jews: the converts from Judaism and Protestantism, such as Karl Thieme, John Oesterreicher, and Paul Démann; the popes, now saints, John XXIII and John Paul II; the Jewish scholars Jules Isaac and Abraham Heschel; and the Jesuit cardinal theologians Augustin Bea and Henri de Lubac. As dramatic as their personal efforts often were, my own studies have led me to recognize that their historic achievement is rooted in a collective action that is rarely appreciated either in this particular Jewish-Christian transformation or in its general schema of interpreting radical change. And it was reflecting on some heroic individuals that drew me to collective action as the lens through which to see spiritual revolution. For example, how are we to understand the threat that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s revelations about Stalin’s labor camps posed to the Soviet leadership? While Solzhenitsyn was certainly heroic, his self-understanding was as a witness to those millions with whom he had shared the fate of the gulag archipelago. It was this collective weight that was acknowledged by both foe and friend. To cite Václav Havel, Solzhenitsyn’s political influence “does not reside in some exclusive political power he possesses as an individual, but in the experience of those millions of Gulag victims that he simply amplified and communicated to millions of other people of good will.” 25 One need only recall the Eastern European uprisings of 1989 to appreciate the force of collective action. Despite what was so visible on television or film screens, commentators all too often led viewers to ascribe these popular movements to some individual leader. Who was responsible for them and for the fall of Communism, they asked? Was it Gorbachev? Ronald Reagan? Pope John Paul II? In an interview in November of 2009, Lech Walesa, one of the founders of the Polish labor movement Solidarity, was sharply critical of that line of questioning. He said: “That’s why when I see images of Bush, Kohl and Gorbachev under the headline ‘Three Fathers of the Fall of the Wall,’ it looks more like chance to me than anything. They merely implemented the desires expressed by the people.” Besides, “In truth, they were only accidental fathers of the fall of the Wall—forced into action by the masses.” Also, “There is a risk right now that we might lose the victory that we fought so hard for. The question is whether we have learned from our experiences or whether we need another whack upside the head from history. The masses learned, but after the victory the masses handed power back to the politicians. And they forgot that it was we who won the victory. We might have to set the masses in motion once again.” 26
Are we, especially those of us trained in philosophy, prejudiced against the exploration of collective action? The general lure of the hero may be one source of this bias: Just recall the iconic image of the sole dissident standing in front of a column of tanks in Tianamen Square in June 1989. Or the place of Nelson Mandela, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and, indeed, Lech Walesa in the popular imagination. But are there far more entrenched roots of our failure to acknowledge collective action than the appeal of heroic individuals? Is that failure in part the legacy of our very vision of enlightenment descended from Socrates and Plato and the parable of the cave? Plato has only one prisoner set free in the story, and Socrates tells us of that individual’s return to the others in the cave: “They would laugh at him and say that he had gone up only to come back with his sight ruined; it was worth no one’s while even to attempt the ascent. If they could lay hands on the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they would kill him.” 27 Again, here is Walesa, who spoke of the popular reaction to the 1979 visit to Poland of John Paul II: “We found that there were millions of us. For the first time, the Communists were not able to stage a demonstration that was larger than ours. As a result, they felt weak, and this was an important element in their ultimate defeat.” 28 Interestingly, a major commentator on the 1989 events, Timothy Garton Ash, agrees with Walesa: “If I was forced to name a single date,” he writes, “for the ‘beginning of the end’ in this inner history of Eastern Europe, it would be June 1979. . . . I do believe that the Pope’s first great pilgrimage to Poland was that turning point. Here, for the first time, we saw that massive, sustained, yet supremely peaceful and self-disciplined manifestation of social unity, the gentle crowd against the Party-state, which was both the hallmark and the essential domestic catalyst of change in 1989.” 29
In my study I have tried to keep in perspective the collective movement that turned individual desires and scholarship into effective action for transformation of Jewish-Christian relations. For example, I shall pay attention to an admirable group of people, those who risked or lost their lives attempting to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. As mentioned, the State of Israel has named them the “Righteous Among the Nations,” and, since 1953, it has tried to identify and honor these righteous. Here is the judgment of the heroic Polish resister, Jan Karski: It “is not true that the Jews were totally abandoned. Over half a million Jews survived the Holocaust in Europe. Someone helped them: nuns and peasants, workers and underground organizations.” The Jews “were abandoned by governments, social structures, church hierarchies, but not by ordinary men and women. The organized structures fell short of expectation, but not ordinary people. And there were millions of such people.” 30 It is important to recall that often entire networks of people were required to save an individual life.
In my first chapter I turn to the force of John Paul II’s papacy and the apologies made by the Catholic Church as a result. We may note here that the Society of Jesus has yet to articulate any such statement of regret to the Jewish people, and one of my goals for this volume is to establish the need and rationale for such an apology. Although the history of Jesuit-Jewish encounters does not reduce to one note of enmity, Jesuits have often manifested a hostility toward Jews. In 1995 the highest legislative body of the Society of Jesus attempted to set the order on a new course with the Jewish people: In Decree 5 of General Congregation 34, the Society wrote: “Dialogue with the Jewish people holds an unique place. The first covenant, which is theirs and which Jesus the Messiah came to fulfill, ‘has never been revoked.’ A shared history both unites us with and divides us from our elder brothers and sisters, the Jewish people, in whom and through whom God continues to act for the salvation of the world. Dialogue with the Jewish people enables us to become more fully aware of our identity as Christians.” 31 An important step in this movement from historical polemics to contemporary dialogue has been the convening of conferences for conversation between the two groups. The inaugural meeting took place in December 1998 in Krakow, Poland, and its theme was “Jesuits and Jews: Towards Greater Fraternity and Commitment.” The choice of this city, so near the extermination camp of Auschwitz, indicated that the dialogue would be explicitly related to the Holocaust. In a written but unpublished communication to the meeting, the leader of the Jesuits at the time, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, drew attention to the choice: “The fact that you hold your meeting in Krakow, not far from the shameful death camp of Oswiecim, should indelibly fix in your minds the stark reality of what hatred of Jews has accomplished and what we must seek in every way to prevent in the future.” Father Kolvenbach then articulated a type of charter for the dialogue, which called for study of the scriptures with Jewish scholars and in the spirit of the Apostle Paul’s counsel: “Do not pride yourself and despise the branches because you do not support the roots, the roots support you” (Romans 11:8). While encouraging study of Christianity’s first centuries, he clearly broke with the regular practice of studying only biblical Judaism by telling the Jesuit participants: “The primary focus of your work in Jewish-Christian relations must be an open-minded and serious dialogue with contemporary Jewish thinkers and believers.” In their report on the meeting, the Jesuits adopted several questions as guides to future reflection:
How can we, as Jesuits, most aptly respond to the call of Pope John Paul II for a profound examination of conscience in relation to our history, particularly our history with the Jews? In a spirit of true repentance, how can we meditate upon our Jesuit history which moves from St. Ignatius’ appreciation of the Jewishness of Jesus to a certain Jesuit complicity in the teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism? How can we deepen our understanding of this history in order to strengthen our resolve to fight against all manifestations of anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism and racism?
Two years later there was a meeting in Jerusalem, and its topic was “The Significance of the State of Israel for Contemporary Judaism and Jewish-Christian Dialogue.” The third assembly was held in 2005 in Zug, Switzerland, on the subject of “The Importance of Modern Jewish Thought for Jewish-Christian Dialogue.” Papers presented at this meeting addressed a broad spectrum of Jewish thinkers, and a selection of the presentations was published as Friends on the Way: Jesuits Encounter Contemporary Judaism . 32 In 2007, New York City’s Fordham University hosted conversations on “Diaspora, Secularization, and Modernity.” Until now, the most extensive scholarly conference on Jesuit-Jewish encounters took place at Boston College in July 2012. 33 The ambition of the gathering was to inaugurate a distinct domain of historical research that would feature the relationship of the two groups. The meeting’s presenters touched on a diverse field of international exchanges that are far from any general narrative at this point. Finally, the sixth and most recent of these meetings returned in June 2017 to Jerusalem, where general discussion of current efforts at interreligious dialogue in Jesuit institutions was complemented by analyses of contemporary approaches to Israeli Jewish identity, especially as memory of the Holocaust shapes that identity. These analyses were led by distinguished Jewish scholars, and they stressed how complicated the very notion of “Jewish identity” is while there are vibrant Israeli and Diaspora communities. 34
Jesuit Kaddish is a book written by a Jesuit, and I certainly hope that it will be read by Jesuits. But, as the title indicates, it is my desire here to escape parochial ambitions because the Holocaust and accounts of how individuals and groups experienced it disclose a moral and spiritual earthquake that shifts any firm ground for all people. There are many lessons still to be learned. This study examines an important moment and decisive events in Catholic and Jesuit history. In recent years an intense new interest has developed in the Jesuit order as a historical agent in modernity as well as a contemporary option for many in terms of its spirituality. 35 That interest should not be allowed to evade encounter with the Shoah.
A striking sign of the Jesuit order’s current significance was the election to the papacy on March 13, 2013, of the first Jesuit to be so selected, the Argentinian cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. There is a deep Jesuit commitment to the avoidance of ecclesiastical offices, and the choice of a Jesuit pope shattered that tradition just as his nationality departed from the European legacy of the papacy. His election signaled a new direction for the Church and may also indicate a fresh opportunity for relations between Jews and Catholics in general, and between Jews and Jesuits in particular. We know that when he was archbishop, Pope Francis enjoyed a warm relationship with the Jewish community in Argentina, and Jewish and Israeli commentators applauded his selection as pope. He had attended synagogue services and made public his protest against crimes that targeted the Jewish population. As pope he has spoken of Nazi activities as diabolical and satanic, and he looks forward to the opening of the Vatican archives from the years of the Holocaust. In Argentina he called for a “culture of encounter” that would struggle with the temptation to fall into “dispersion and the abysses that history has created.” 36 Pope Francis has stated that he chose to become a Jesuit because he wanted to be on the “front lines of the Church,” and that is certainly now the case. 37 While his election shows a departure for the Church, his interviews give hope to many that he will carry into his papacy key elements of Jesuit spirituality.
A decisive element is a confidence in the capacity for transformation. Saint Ignatius regarded himself as a pilgrim on a sacred journey that relativized the particular forms that Christianity had taken in previous stages along the way. One of the saint’s closest companions, Jerónimo Nadal, had said of the Jesuits: “The road is our home.” 38 Pope Francis obviously shares this perspective, having said: “What a great word: path! In my personal experience with God I cannot do without the path. I would say that one encounters God walking, moving, seeking Him, and allowing oneself to be sought by Him. . . . The initial religious experience is that of walking: walk to the land that I am going to give you. It is a promise that God makes to Abraham.” 39

Jesuits do not inhabit monasteries because they are activists who are called to experience God in worldly engagement. Ours is a post-Holocaust world, and Pope Francis recognizes this in his reflections. 40 Particularly striking was a response he gave to a question about his artistic interests. He said that his favorite painting was none other than Marc Chagall’s 1938 White Crucifixion . Chagall painted it as a response to Nazi assaults on the Jews and their synagogues. Jesus is portrayed as a martyr, but it is very much a Jewish Jesus, his loins draped as they are in a tallith, or prayer shawl. At the top of the canvas are biblical figures who are weeping at the sight of scenes of Jewish persecution below, with a Torah scroll, a synagogue burning, and people fleeing in fright. Chagall saw the painting as both an embodiment of love and a witness to the suffering of his people. And that is how Bergoglio understood it, as he said that White Crucifixion is “not cruel but hopeful. Pain is depicted there with serenity. To my mind, it’s one of the most beautiful things he painted.” 41
Jesuit Kaddish should be thought of as a form of memory activism in which we attempt a fuller scrutiny of Jesuit conduct that is particularly pertinent to an understanding of the Holocaust. It is a reckoning that aims to create not guilt as such but rather atonement and reconciliation. As Pope Francis has said: “Guilt by itself belongs to the world of idolatry. It is just another human resource. Guilt, without atonement, does not allow us to grow.” 42 The advancement into the territory that Jews and Catholics currently occupy is especially indebted to a papal predecessor, Pope Saint John Paul II. In the title of chapter 1, “The Exorcising Examen of John Paul II,” I have tried to capture the gravity of the self-examination to which the pope summoned Christianity at the end of the twentieth century. It follows the pope’s pilgrimage of repentance to Nazi death camps, to the Synagogue of Rome, and to the State of Israel, where he spoke at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. While the pope’s desire for a new relationship between Catholics and the Jewish people was rooted in his personal experience of friendship with Jews in the Poland of his youth, his ambition also brought to a culmination the deliberations on Judaism of Vatican Council II. His example casts a harsh light on the postwar discussion regarding Catholic responsibility during the Nazi years and has animated the international Catholic discussion of recent years.

My second chapter, “The Demonic Milieu: On Jesuit Hostility to Jews and Judaism,” deals with elements in the history of Jesuit hostility toward Jews and identifies one of its more characteristic forms, asemitism , which often accompanied, and perhaps excused, more traditional forms of anti-Jewish hatred. This is a nonviolent indifference to Jews, but one that finds consolation in their disappearance. This perspective has its roots in “original injustice,” the policy of excluding those with Jewish ancestry from membership in the Jesuit order even though such a program reversed its earliest distinctive commitment to their inclusion. Jesuit asemitism , with its dream of Jewish disappearance, makes particularly relevant the question that Rabbi Abraham Heschel pressed on his Jesuit friend Father Gustave Weigel in 1964: “Is it really the will of God that there be no more Judaism in the world? Would it really be the triumph of God if the scrolls of the Torah were no longer taken out of the Ark and the Torah no longer read in the synagogue, our ancient Hebrew prayers in which Jesus himself worshipped no more recited, the Passover Seder no longer celebrated in our lives, the Law of Moses no longer observed in our homes? Would it really be ad Majorem Dei gloriam to have a world without Jews?” 43 The fact that Heschel used in his last sentence the very motto of the Society of Jesus—“For the greater Glory of God”—made the question a direct interrogation of the Jesuit approach to Jews. The chapter explores this Jesuit enmity by looking at the journal La Civiltà Cattolica and German attitudes, particularly among Jesuits in the military. After a consideration of the analogous polemics directed at Jesuits and Jews in infamous tracts, the chapter concludes with an uneasiness regarding possible anti-Jewish exploitation of Jesuit spirituality itself.
My third chapter, “The Barbarian Within: Spirit versus Flesh, Body versus Soul,” is an excavation of an important dimension of Catholicism’s spiritual self. The anti-Jewish animosity is associated with a barbarism that has survived within Christian experience in many forms. An important one that will serve as an example for us is the consecration of Christian life to a struggle of flesh versus spirit, body versus soul. This dualistic struggle came to take on a significance for religious moral formation that had unanticipated but frequently lethal consequences. National Socialism was able to exploit the struggle as a vehicle both for increasing anti-Jewish hostility and for building popular support among the overwhelming Christian population of Germany. Jesuit moral thought made its own contribution to the dualistic mentality by way of its catechisms and especially by its exaggerated reverence of obedience as a virtue. In the Nazi era a rhetoric developed that articulated an unholy alliance between a sexualizing and a Judaizing of German culture. Thus, while Catholics were generally able to resist racial theory as such, a campaign for sexual purification nevertheless had an appeal.
As the title indicates, we enter a totally different region in chapter 4, “The Divine Milieu: Righteous Jesuits.” Here we encounter an influential group of Jesuits who created a philosemitism within their order and whose thought and action contributed mightily to the revolution in Catholic teaching about the Jews that found expression at Vatican Council II. At the center of this transformation was the astute leadership of the German Jesuit scripture scholar Cardinal Augustin Bea, who turned Pope Saint John XXIII’s desires into the historic statement Nostra Aetate . Leading to this change of view were earlier Jesuit spiritual insurrections in both France and Germany. In France, courageous Jesuits refused to accept the Vichy regime with its anti-Semitic program. Among them were Fathers Pierre Chaillet, Henri de Lubac, Joseph Bonsirven, and the executed Yves de Montecheuil. Some fifty Jesuits operated in opposition to an authoritarian ecclesiastical establishment that embraced the Vichy regime as a restoration of Christian values. The Jesuits founded the journal Cahiers du témoignage chrétien , which was ecumenical in reach and became the most forceful voice of concern for Jews in the French resistance. They were also men of action who rescued Jews from their Nazi fate, and some of them have been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center. On the other side of the Rhine there was also a formidable German Jesuit resistance to National Socialism. In its ranks were to be found such names as Josef Spieker, Rupert Mayer, Jakub Overmans, Augustin Rösch, and the executed Alfred Delp. These two movements were the most important in the Jesuit resistance and made it possible to break out of a Jesuit hostility to Jews and into an effective partisanship for new bonds with Jews and Judaism.
My final chapter, “Spiritual Exercises,” focuses on the forces that have already begun to give rebirth to the Jesuit relationship with the Jewish people. The exercises it contains are spiritual exercises for a reformed Jesuit ethos and, as such, require ongoing devotion and practice. The foundation stone for this renewed structure is a legacy of Ignatius of Loyola, an encounter with the historical Jesus in the flesh. This is the Jesus who physically came from the Jewish people and who spiritually lived as a pious Jew until his death in Jerusalem. Meditation on this Jewish Jesus places the Jesuit in one of the most exciting territories in contemporary religious scholarship, that of an examination of the gradual parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, which no longer needs to be regarded in terms of polemical hostility. An encounter with Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the second key encounter for spiritual renewal. Her appearances need to be appreciated as disclosures of sanctified life and feminine concern. Mary represents the ambition to overcome traditional dualisms of flesh versus spirit, body versus soul. It is not surprising that the figure of the pietà was chosen by Germany as the image for symbolic remembrance of its tragic history. Reflection on Mary turns the contemporary Christian to the frequently overlooked witness of the heroic women of the twentieth century, women such as Edith Stein, Margit Slachta, Germaine Bocquet, Irene Harand, Margarete Sommer, and Gertrud Luckner. It also moved the Society of Jesus to adopt, in 1995, an unprecedented decree, “Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Society.” This formal statement made the treatment of women a “central concern of any contemporary mission which seeks to integrate faith and justice.” 44
Spiritual exercises have already created an awareness of the rapport between Jesuit and Jewish spiritualities and the commitment to human rights that they foster. They affirm both the holiness of the world and the mutual respect that must precede fraternal dialogue. The Jesuits have formally stated: “To be religious today is to be interreligious in the sense that a positive relationship with believers of other faiths is a requirement in a world of religious pluralism.” 45 Dialogue with the Jewish people is recognized as holding a unique place, and the fruit of that dialogue will transform Jesuit theology itself. In concluding Jesuit Kaddish it is appropriate to propose a “statement of repentance” for the Society of Jesus to adopt at some future date, a statement that will reflect the history studied here. The sincerity of the repentance, of the Jesuit’s Kaddish, is best understood as rooted in the witness and the sacrifice of those Jesuits honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations,” who are recalled in this volume’s appendix. We thank them for saving Jewish lives, for giving refuge to children, for providing food and false documents for people who were being hunted. We honor them for the risks they took, for the beatings they endured, for the fears with which they had to live. We are grateful for the relationships they developed and the organizations they established in order to enhance Jewish-Christian friendship.
The Exorcising Examen of John Paul II
It may seem incongruous that our study of the Jesuits and the Holocaust would begin with a focus on papal activity. The particular conduct of the Jesuits that is this work’s concern is inexplicable, however, apart from their dealings with popes. This is not a novel theme, of course, because of the traditional relationship of the Jesuits with the papacy, which goes back to the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540, when the Jesuits decided to take a special fourth vow (in addition to poverty, chastity, and obedience) to the popes of their availability for global missionary service. When the papacy became a more centralized institution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this missionary utility expanded to include general assistance to Vatican bureaucracies. 1
While ecclesiastical historians tend to emphasize the contributions of the Jesuits to the Church and its leadership, our focus in this first chapter is on a particular service the papacy has rendered to the Society of Jesus. Certainly the contemporary approach of Jesuits to their conduct during the period of the Holocaust could not have been anticipated without the initiatives of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Traditional Jesuit practices of examination of conscience and discernment of spirits have been brought by papal statements into the present moment of the Catholic Church’s encounter with Jews, Judaism, and Holocaust tragedy. It is fitting, therefore, that Pope Saint John Paul II’s transforming ministry be featured at the beginning of our study. Many regard the contribution he made to the collapse of Communism as this pope’s greatest historic achievement. As great an accomplishment as that was, however, it should not be allowed to overshadow his effort to lay the foundation for a renewed Christianity for the third millennium. For him the Jubilee year of 2000 was both the culmination of Vatican Council II and the key to understanding his pontificate. The foundation for the year was sculpted by confessions of sin, proclamations of repentance, and promises of reform. The pope’s confessions of sin reached out to diverse communities: for example, to those who had suffered from the Crusades, from the wars of religion, and from the Inquisition and the papacy itself; to Protestants, native peoples, women, and blacks. 2
The figure who was at the center of this stage of remorse was the Jew, defiled and persecuted through the centuries of Christian hegemony and, finally, murdered on a mass scale in the lands of Christian civilization. John Paul II initiated an examen that aimed at exorcising an evil past. As I mentioned in the prelude, the examen is one of the most distinctive practices in Jesuit spirituality, the regular scrutinizing of how our lives have traveled down paths of goodness or have wandered into evil doing. Far more than a preparation for confession, the examen is an encounter with the very dynamic of one’s life, the movement of one’s heart and one’s mind. In the title of this chapter I have tried to capture the gravity of the self-examination to which John Paul summoned Christianity; this was intended as the taking stock not of everyday failures but rather of epochal depravity.
Man of the theatre and seismographer of symbols that he was, John Paul II created a religious drama in which Catholics were performing against a backdrop of overwhelming evil. But the Pope’s pleas for forgiveness scripted Catholics into a liturgical performance before they were completely clear about what it was exactly for which they should feel a collective responsibility and embrace a penitential spirit. We are still early into the performance, but many already ache for catharsis. But why did it take so long to seek forgiveness, especially with respect to the Jews? The Catholic Church did not sleepwalk through the past century. It knew a great deal about what was happening to the Jews of Europe during the actual genocide, and, in the decades since, the historical record has cast light into many of the darkest recesses. Hannah Arendt is surely correct in claiming that forgiveness is intimately connected to the desire for a new beginning. 3 But it was precisely that aspiration that was absent in the Catholic world for so long—the desire to begin a new relationship with the Jewish people after the Holocaust.
Without such a desire, why perform penance, why plead for forgiveness? The relationship between Christians and Jews seemed theologically frozen, out of time, a stranger to those domains in which tragedy and sorrow could transform hearts and minds. As we shall see, there were a few who did prepare for the charismatic role seized by John Paul II: the elderly Jewish scholar Jules Isaac, who pressed to meet with Pope John XXIII to talk about the Church’s historical contempt for the Jews and who actually wrote of the Vatican Council II as a vast “examination of conscience”; Pope John, who was determined to end that disdain; and the bishops, who in 1965 adopted the “Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” at the Second Vatican Council. 4
Still, it was John Paul II who dramatically advanced a new relationship with the Jewish people. How it will develop is for the future to disclose, but, if we have any appreciation for how the earlier relationship shaped and malformed Christianity, we are able to sense the radical reinvention that a loving relationship might entail. Catholicism’s desire for a new beginning with Judaism is, in effect, the desire for a new relationship with itself, a desire to get beyond Christendom. Christendom is not a historical epoch but rather a set of attitudes that generated a fortress Christianity. I shall mention but two of these attitudes. The first is that Christianity best interpreted itself through a particular form of European culture that asserted its spiritual surpassing and discarding of Judaism. The second maintains that the modern world is a definitive repudiation of Christianity and that the Church is responsible for neither its achievements nor its crimes. These distinctions stand behind the continual argument of Church authorities that there is an absolute border between medieval anti-Judaism and modern anti-Semitism.
Taking a cue from the philosopher Charles Taylor, perhaps it could be claimed that modernity is frequently an embrace rather than an abandonment of Christianity. Taylor gives the example of modern liberal political culture’s proclamation of universal human rights as a “great advance in the practical penetration of the gospel in human life.” 5 It was a progress that rested upon exit from an earlier version of Christian practice and rhetoric, as the historian James Chappel has argued. In Chappel’s analysis, twentieth-century totalitarianism drove Catholic thought to a language of human rights, human dignity, and religious freedom. 6 While Taylor has stressed the positive side of Christianity’s survival in modern culture, the murder of European Jews may force us to regard the often toxic effects of that endurance as well. Do anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism interpenetrate in ways that have not yet been adequately mapped? 7 Certainly Christendom’s historical contempt for the Jews is not a place from which some mere new set of ideas allows us egress. Like the Holy Roman Empire, Christendom formed an intoxicating, imaginative piece of theological and spiritual theatre. Only another drama of more than equal appeal will displace it. The new century witnessed the opening scenes of that new play.
If we look for the roots of John Paul’s desire for a new relationship with the Jewish people, his personal connection to the many Jews with whom he had lived as a child in Wadowice, Poland, has a chronological and emotional priority. His long-serving secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz, now his successor as Cardinal of Krakow, titled a chapter in his memoirs “John Paul II’s Jewish Roots.” The Pope was not Jewish, of course, but we still underestimate how intimately he lived with the Jewish community of Wadowice, a third of whose citizens were of the Jewish faith. Dziwisz comments: “So, thanks to a daily routine of friendship, esteem and tolerance, Karol Wojtyla got to know Judaism from the inside which included, of course, in the religious and spiritual sense.” 8 At the end of the war, the future pope was devastated to learn of the extermination of almost all of the community’s Jews.
There was one warm friendship from those days that possessed paramount significance, though—that with his classmate through grammar and high schools, Jerzy Kluger. Although they lost contact in the postwar period, their relationship was renewed in the early 1960s, when Karol Wojtyla participated in the Vatican Council in Rome, where Kluger had come to live. That friendship flourished after Cardinal Wojtyla was elected to the papacy, and it was Kluger and his family who were given the first private audience with the new pope. 9 Through the years of his papacy, John Paul II would have regular, generally weekly, meals and meetings with Kluger. Well before then, however, Kluger had experienced his friend’s spiritual hospitality. He tells how, even before they were teenagers, he had rushed to the church where Wojtyla was attending Mass in order to bring him a message but had been challenged by a woman there who knew that he was Jewish and told him that Jews were not allowed to enter churches. Wojtyla countered the admonition by saying loudly, in the woman’s presence, “Doesn’t she know that Jews and Catholics are all children of the same God? . . .You can come here whenever you want.” 10 This openness was strengthened as the result of the suffering that the Jews had experienced in the Holocaust. In a letter to Kluger on the occasion of the commemoration of a destroyed synagogue in their hometown, the pope wrote: “I remember very clearly the Wadowice Synagogue which was near to our high school. I have in front of my eyes the numerous worshipers, who during their holidays passed on their way to pray there.” He went on to request that at the ceremony Kluger “tell all who are gathered there that, together with them, how I venerate the memory of their cruelly killed coreligionists and compatriots and also this place of worship, which the invaders destroyed.” 11
His exposure to Nazi crimes and to Jewish and Polish suffering was to mark the pope’s entire life, and, well before it found eloquent witness in his years as pope, he was afflicted with the questions raised by the murder of European Jews. As Kluger recalls: “One question that tormented him was whether the Church was in part to blame for the Holocaust.” 12 Among the many places where this torment was expressed was in the apostolic letter he issued on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II: “We have just recalled one of the bloodiest wars in history, a war which broke out on a continent with a Christian tradition. Acknowledgement of this fact compels us to make an examination of conscience about the quality of Europe’s evangelization. The collapse of Christian values that led to yesterday’s moral failures must make us vigilant as to the way the Gospel is proclaimed and lived out today.” 13
On the first Sunday of the Church’s Lenten season in the new millennium, the pope presided at an extraordinary service held to confess sin and to request forgiveness. At the heart of the service was the seeking of pardon for sins against the Jewish people. Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, opened the prayer: “Let us pray that, in recalling the sufferings endured by the people of Israel throughout history, Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the covenant and the blessings, and in this way purify their hearts.” The pope continued: “God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your name to the nations: We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant.” 14 This confession and plea for forgiveness emerged from the pope’s own journey into an ever deeper and more effective desire for a totally new relationship between Christians and Jews.
There were several major moments in that journey. The initial one was his visit to Auschwitz in June of 1979, during his first papal visit to Poland less than one year after his election to the papacy. He described the camp as the “Golgatha of the modern world” and, while acknowledging the deaths suffered by other national groups, he paused and spoke before the Hebrew inscription that commemorated the Jewish victims: “The very people who received from God the Commandment, ‘thou shalt not kill,’ itself experienced in a special measure what is meant by killing. It is not permissible for anyone to pass by this inscription with indifference.” 15 Fourteen years later, in response to numerous requests, he asked that the Carmelite sisters who lived at the camp move from their convent there so that the overwhelming reality of Auschwitz as a Jewish place of death be preserved. At the same time his letter to the sisters honored the significance of their ongoing spiritual presence to the memory of the suffering of the Polish people: “How the future will grow from this most painful past largely depends on whether, on the threshold of Oswiecim, ‘the love which is greater than death’ will stand watch. You, dear sisters, in a particular way, are entrusted with the mystery of this redeemed love—this love which saves the world.” 16 For John Paul II, even the death camps—especially the death camps—must incite love.
The second major moment was his visit to and address at the Synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986. For the first time, a pope entered a synagogue and sat as an equal with its chief rabbi. John Paul had been in synagogues before, both as a child with his father and in 1968 as archbishop of Krakow, when he expressed solidarity with the Jewish community at a time of Communist purges of Jews in Poland. 17 But the visit of a pope was very different, an event that announced, as perhaps no other could have, how unprecedented was this pope’s ambitious vision of a new relationship with Judaism. His friend and confidant Jerzy Kluger recalls the papal event: “There was one word burning inside him more than any other: genocide.” 18 Kluger is accurate in remembering that the pope used the term in expressing his “abhorrence for the genocide decreed against the Jewish people during the last war, which led to the Holocaust of millions of innocent victims.” 19 And John Paul II did not refrain from recalling pre-Nazi manifestations of hate. While pointing out that acceptance of religious pluralism was a achievement slowly arrived at, he went on to state that a “centuries-long cultural conditioning could not prevent us from recognizing that the acts of discrimination, unjustified limitation of religious freedom, oppression also on the level of civil freedom in regard to the Jews were, from an objective point of view, gravely deplorable manifestations.” 20
Nevertheless, far more than “genocide,” the word that permeated the pope’s address was “love.” John Paul II expressed three convictions stemming from Vatican Council II’s “Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” (“Nostra Aetate”). These grounded the new relations between Catholics and Jews, relations that he did not want reduced to mere “coexistence.” The first conviction is that the Christian relationship with Judaism is unique: “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” Secondly, no collective blame may be attributed to Jews for what happened to Jesus during his passion. “So any alleged theological justification for discriminatory measures or, worse still, for acts of persecution is unfounded.” 21 Third, far from being accursed, “the Jews are beloved of God who has called them with an irrevocable calling.” 22 The pope stated that the new relationship was only at its beginning but that it was full of promise because both communities had faith in the one God who loves strangers and renders justice to the orphan and the widow. Nearing the end of his speech, the pope recognized the desire for love and justice that Christians had learned “from the Torah, which you here venerate, and from Jesus, who took to its extreme consequence the love demanded by the Torah.” 23 Not only did the pope and the chief rabbi share the same platform; they also embraced a similar duty. In his formulation, Rabbi Elio Toaff spoke of a “right to life” that was the right not only to exist but also to have confidence that one’s life was guaranteed against every threat and violence. He said: “It means the condemnation of every attack on a person’s self-respect, considered by Judaism to be equivalent to bloodshed.” 24 Freedom from campaigns of conversion had been recognized as a human right.
The third moment in John Paul II’s pilgrimage came two years after the second, in 1988, with his lamentation at Austria’s Mauthausen concentration camp, where he acknowledged that from the Holocaust “Europe emerges defeated.” While he spoke of Nazism’s program of extermination as an “insane plan” that aimed to turn “Europe back from the path it had followed for thousands of years,” his dramatic plea to the dead looked to a future that would learn from their suffering. He pleaded:
Tell us, what direction should Europe and humanity follow “after Auschwitz” . . . and “after Mauthausen”? Is the direction we are following away from those past dreadful experiences the right one? Tell us, how should today’s person be and how should this generation of humanity live in the wake of the great defeat of the human being? How must that person be? How much should be required of himself? Tell us, how must nations and societies be? How must Europe go on living? Speak, you have the right to do so—you who have suffered and lost your lives. We have the duty to listen to your testimony. 25
That same day, in an address to the Jewish community of Vienna, he spoke of the lesson he drew from the Holocaust: “To remember the Shoah also means to oppose every germ of violence and to protect and promote with patience and perseverance every tender shoot of freedom and peace.” 26
An important but easily overlooked fourth station on the papal pilgrimage was his stopping along the way for beatifications and canonizations of Christians who, in resisting Nazism, lost their lives in such castles of the night as Dachau, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Buchenwald. 27 In elevating these martyrs of Nazism, the pope was directly challenging that culture of excuse, which argued that nothing could have been done against such brutal force as the Nazis exercised.

While this honoring of Christian heroes and heroines continued throughout his papacy, he particularly drove this point home during his pastoral visits to Germany. During his 1987 trip he beatified the Jesuit resister Rupert Mayer of Munich as well as the Jewish convert and later nun, Sister Edith Stein, who would be canonized in 1998. It was on his third visit there, in 1996, that he held up for devotion and imitation two priests, Karl Leiser and Bernhard Lichtenberg, both of whom had been martyred by the Nazi state. His remarks to the Jewish community paid special tribute to Lichtenberg, who had been provost of Saint Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin and whom the State of Israel recognized as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for having risked his life trying to save Jews. Even before Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nazis denounced Lichtenberg for his articulate opposition to them. During Kristallnacht he proclaimed from the pulpit that the Jewish temples that had been set on fire were also houses of God. From then on he offered public prayers every evening in the cathedral for persecuted Jews, and he was arrested for doing so on October 25, 1941. He died two years later while being taken to the Dachau concentration camp. The pope declared: “Among all the memories that weigh heavily on us today, the precious historical fact that Berhard Lichtenberg was not alone in his commitment to those persecuted by the Nazi regime comes to mind. This shows the involvement of many Catholics, alone or in groups and at the cost of their lives, who offered their active assistance, often secretly.” 28 John Paul then pointed to the activities of two laywomen, Margarete Sommer and Maria Terwiel, as well as to the bishop of Berlin at the time, Konrad von Preysing. Some years later, at a pivotal ecumenical service, John Paul II insisted that the twentieth century’s martyrs “must not be forgotten; rather they must be remembered and their lives documented.” He praised the witness of their refusal to “yield to the false gods” of Nazism and Communism: “Where hatred seemed to corrupt the whole of life, leaving no escape from its logic, they proved that ‘love is stronger than death.’” 29
The culmination of the pope’s personal journey came with his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the year 2000 and especially his speech at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. On that institution’s large campus, the Hall of Remembrance was selected as the location for his allocution, as if to inscribe Catholic sorrow into one of the most revered sanctuaries of Jewish memory. It is a simple, solemn structure of stone and concrete, and engraved on its floor are the names of twenty-two concentration camps and extermination sites that represent the hundreds of places where Jews were tortured and killed. An eternal flame illumines the hall in front of the ashes of murdered Jews that were brought to Israel from European death camps.
John Paul’s secretary recalls: “When we entered Yad Vashem, I understood from the emotion on the Holy Father’s face why he absolutely wanted to go there. And I think the emotion he showed was just a tiny part of the emotion he was feeling inside, of the feelings he was sharing with the Jewish people. Maybe . . . the Holy Father, feeling the end of his life approaching, was worried that he hadn’t done enough to condemn the people and ideologies responsible for the tragedy of the Holocaust.” 30
Paying homage to the victims of the Holocaust, the Pope said: “Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry?” He went on to attribute Nazi crimes to a “godless ideology,” but then expressed the sorrow that he hoped would be the foundation for a new relationship between Christians and Jews. The pope declared: “As bishop of Rome and successor of the apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.” 31 Once again, in tribute to martyrs who had resisted the Nazis, he recalled Yad Vashem’s own program for honoring gentiles who had come to the rescue of Jews: “The honor given to the ‘just gentiles’ by the State of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished.” 32
The Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud

  • Accueil Accueil
  • Univers Univers
  • Ebooks Ebooks
  • Livres audio Livres audio
  • Presse Presse
  • BD BD
  • Documents Documents