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Abstract

This essay examines the role of the Catholic Church in the Nazi racial persecution of Jews that culminated in the Final Solution. Recent historical studies have made revealing discoveries despite the steadfast refusal of the Vatican to open up its most important archives. For an institution with higher moral calling, how did the Catholic Church react to the uptick in German anti-Semitism under Adolf Hitler? Using some most up-to-date research findings—as well as its own synthesis—this essay addresses this question by breaking up the Church hierarchy into the institutional and the individual, local levels. It demonstrates that, through a policy of inaction and passivity under Pope Pius XII, the Church was deeply complicit in the built-up to the Holocaust. Against the official dogma of the Church, a small number of Catholics—working alongside foreign diplomatic representatives—looked to revive the conscience of their spiritual leaders, often to no avail. As “the only true bulwark against evil,” the Church did next to nothing while the Nazi killing machine ran roughshod over Europe, deporting and murdering in large numbers her most hated enemies, in regards to whom the Church had a very questionable record of its own.

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