Monday, September 30, 2013

Updating current news on Pius XII and the Shoah

Work commitments have kept me away from the blog for much longer than I anticipated.  Some might think that a good thing!

Here in summary are some items of interest that have ended up in my email throughout September.

1.  It is always good to see that works of note still enjoy a wide readership.  Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy (2002) by Jose Maria Sanchez is one of the best introductions to the whole topic.  Matt Mazewski's comments are proof that a sturdy, evidence based work will always contribute to helping us understand the past and look at shaping questions based on fact rather than polemic.

2. World Net Daily - WND - a conservative American news service, ran an article entitled Call Issued to stop Communist Smear Campaign. After I checked the date to be certain this article was written in 2013 and not 1953, since Stalin's picture glowers out from the screen, I read about an appeal from Chuck Morse, author of On the Jewish Question - Karl Marx, anti-Semitism and the war against the West, and host of "Chuck Morse Speaks", made to Yad Vashem to have Pope Pius XII honoured as a "Righteous Gentile".  The basis of his appeal lies in his enthusiasm for the new book, Disinformation, by former Romanian communist spy, Ion Mihai Pacepa.  The article contributes nothing new to the discussion about Pius nor does it give any evidence of being aware of the comprehensive "de-bunking" of much of Pacepa's allegations that have been posted earlier.

3.  William Oddie wrote another column in the Catholic Herald related to Pius XII in mid-September.  I have written about Oddie's journalism and use of history a number of times and do not feel the need to write it again.  It is time to move beyond the old chestnuts of "calumny" and "canonise him now".  Let's deal with accurate history, not with defensive jabs at largely imaginary enemies.  The interested reader can look at past posts.

4. Filip Mazurczak interviewed Gary Krupp and posted it on the First Things site.  Mr Krupp has not changed his position over the years, which in one respect is commendable, the man is consistent and persistent.  However, I think it rather silly to say this:

The debate is over. Those who attack Pius XII still do not have a shred of documented evidence to support their claims. They base their theories on the books and research of historical revisionists whose research is weak and faulty. Every charge against Pius XII can be proven wrong. The problem is getting this information out there so that fresh, neutral minds can review and process it and render an opinion.

I respectfully suggest that Mr Krupp along with the journalists at First Things engage in some serious contemporary reading.  I recommend starting with Robert Ventresca and Frank Coppa's books.  The debate is definitely not over.

5. Catholic Culture, a conservative Catholic website from Virginia, USA, published a detailed chronology of Pope Pius XII's opposition to Hitler.  Their reason for publishing what is in fact a handy timeline that would be of great use for students is something less than salutary.

Both the Nazis of 60 years ago and today’s accusers have one common goal—to destroy the moral authority of the Papacy. Because Pius was such a strong Pope, destroying his good name would weaken the confidence of many Catholics and increase hostility to the Church everywhere. Scripture describes the cruel logic of Pius’s detractors in a single sentence: Strike down the shepherd and the flock will be scattered. (Mark 14: 27)

I imagine I would be one of those the author/s would consider out to destroy the "moral authority of the Papacy".  If so, I am flattered to be thought of as someone with such great power and influence.  It smells a bit like old fashioned conspiracy theory to me, and not dissimilar to the pernicious Jewish conspiracy theories peddled by the Nazis and their fellow travellers.

6. In two weeks Italian Jews will remember the great raid on the community in Rome on 16 October 1943.  In her article in the Edmonton Journal "The complex Holocaust legacy of Pius XII", Susan Zuccotti writes in her usual clear and unambiguous prose.  Zuccotti sets out the historical circumstances of the raid and the position of the pope.  Her closing paragraphs leave us with the timely reminder that history is not relegated to the past.  It is always in a state of discovery, interpretation and dealing with new questions.  In that sense, the debate over Pius XII is most definitely not over.

What are we to make of this complex legacy? The errors and omissions of Pius XII are not more glaring than those of other national and religious leaders, unless one believes that the head of the Roman Catholic Church should be held to a higher moral standard.

Furthermore, the Church of the past is not the Church of today. But it is important to study the historical record carefully and dispassionately, to define those errors and omissions with a view toward understanding the past and improving our responses to humanitarian crises in the future.

Finally, another review of A Cross Too Heavy has been published in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.  Mark Ruff, Associate Professor of History at St Louis University, has written a fair and balanced critique of the book.  I think he is right to criticise my lack of reference to many of the available German sources, something I am now more than well aware of and engaged in redressing.   

September 2013 - stats are at an all time high - thanks.

It's been interesting watching the statistics of the blog over the years.  Just when I thought things had levelled out at about 2000 individual page openings per month the stats went off the scale during September.  Today is the end of September and the number of individual page viewings to date now exceed 3100.  For many bloggers this probably appears in the "so what" category.  A friend who has a Greek cooking blog numbers about 2500 hits per day!  And I can't argue with that.  After all recipes for Gemista and the perfect Greek lamb are far more positive and agreeable than most of what I engage in here with the Pope and the Holocaust.

What I want to say is a big "thank you" for all who have read these pages over the years and especially to those who have written words of positive criticism and encouragement.  I have learned that there are several education institutions that are using some of the resources here for their students.  That is the greatest thanks I can receive.  If this blog here in Australia is helping students gain greater and more accessible access to material and resources, then I am very happy.

The Pope and the Fascists: Karlheinz Deschner

Earlier this year I was asked to read a manuscript that had been sent to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.  The request was simple. Would I give my opinion on the manuscript?  The title grabbed my attention and I started reading.  Any initial enthusiasm that this text would add to our knowledge of the fascist era in Europe was quickly squashed.  I think it safe to say that I have not read a more amazing piece of near-hysterical anti-Catholic polemic and propaganda than this.  Its style ranks alongside the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" though, mercifully, without the bloodshed that ensued from its use.

Who is Karlheinz Deschner?  From the little information available online I have discovered he is a former Catholic who has spent his much of his life in a war against Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.  His academic qualifications begin with a degree in Forestry from the University of Munich.  Shortly afterwards he began studies in philosophy, theology and psychology at Bamburg, although it is not clear if he was awarded a degree.  Between 1947 and 1951 Deschner studied at the University of Wurzburg where he completed his doctoral studies in contemporary German literature.

I have not found any critical reviews of Deschner's work from any church historians, historians of the fascist and Nazi eras, holocaust historians or anywhere else.  And while I admit my skills in German are minimal, I have not found much through trawling the Internet.  Which makes me wonder why this book written in 1965 is to be re-published unchanged in 2013?  This will be the first of Deschner's fifty or so books to be published in English.

The only benefit I see in publishing this work is to provide students with an example of vicious, polemic and propaganda with the reminder that history is built on fact, not hysteria.

Deschner's supporters believe his is a voice the English-speaking world needs to hear and so this book is due to be published by Prometheus Books early in October.

My review can be found on the pages section of the blog

Karlheinz Deschner 1924-