Monday, September 22, 2014

Update on Emil Floris and the sermon in Slovakia

There has not been much in the media about the comments made by Fr Emil Floris in Slovakia several weeks ago.  Other than the JTA most media have been very quiet. 

The most comprehensive reports I have read that comes close to giving me a full English summary has been on the US based conservative Truth Revolt and the British atheist journal The Freethinker sites. Journalist Jeff Dunetz reported that Floris claimed the era of Slovakian-German collaboration was a period of freedom. This does not auger well and is at odds with both Pope Francis, the Catholic bishops of Slovakia and the Prime Minister, Robert Fico, who issued a formal apology for Slovakia's persecution of the Jews.

If any reader has an English translation of the sermon, I am prepared to post it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

This is 2014 not 1944 - appalling sermon from Slovakia

I read this this morning.  It is disturbing to say the least.  If it had been written in 1944 I might be able to put an historical context about it, but it was written in the last two days.

Emil Floris (born 1955) is a priest of the diocese of Zilina in Slovakia.  Ordained in 1981 he holds degrees from the Pontifical University of Krakow at doctoral level. At present he is the parish priest of Cadci (or Cadca).  I hope we do not have to wait long to hear of an official response from the bishop, Tomas Galis. 

Fr Emil Floris

He warns that the Roma are headed in the same direction

Prague, Sept 6 (ČTK) — Slovak Catholic priest Emil Floriš said the Jews themselves are to blame for the Holocaust and the same can happen to Romanies, the Czech daily Právo writes.

"A part of the speech by Floriš, who spoke at a mass in Čadca, north central Slovakia, that was devoted to Jews and the Holocaust offends and humiliates the memory of the victims," Lucia Kollárová, spokeswoman for the Headquarters of the Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia, told the Slovak news agency SITA, Právo writes.

Kollárová said a part of Floriš's speech included untruths and anti-Semitic cliches, relativizing the suffering of the Jewish population during World War Two, also on the territory of present-day Slovakia.

Floriš reportedly said Jews from all over Europe had been transported to the concentration camps because they were hated, for which they themselves were to blame, Právo writes.

"Now the same is threatening Romanies. Do you know why? Because they abuse the system and charity of people," Floriš said before hundreds of church-goers, Právo writes.

About 70,000 Jews were deported from war-time Slovakia, a Nazi-controlled puppet state, during the war. About 67,000 of them perished in Nazi death camps.

The head of wartime Slovakia, Catholic priest Jozef Tiso was executed as a war criminal in 1947.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Polish Catholics rescuing Jews near Treblinka

This article was published in April 2014.  It has been sitting in my "in tray" since then waiting to be read.  It is a wonderfully positive story about a Catholic priest's commitment to research and tell another part of the story of the Holocaust in Poland, focusing on the area where he grew up, a place known to history as Treblinka.

Treblinka, August 2005
Each stone represents a murdered community of Jews of more than 5000 people.  
Historians estimate the number of Jewish children, women and men murdered on this site to be between 800,000 - 900,000.  It is the largest killing ground in the world after Auschwitz.

Growing up near Treblinka 
inspired priest's Holocaust research

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The Nazis' Treblinka concentration camp has always been a part of Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik's life.

Growing up in the shadow of the camp, located just three miles from his home in northeastern Poland, Father Rytel-Andrianik, now 37, would listen to his grandfather's account of his eight-month imprisonment there and how he contracted typhus under inhumane conditions.

The priest's grandfather, Stanislaw Rytel, was jailed for failing to collaborate with the Nazis, ultimately to be saved by a friend and fellow prisoner, who convinced camp guards that Rytel was his brother and his labor was needed to build a new barrack at the camp.

Such stories have inspired Father Rytel-Andrianik to learn more about people who risked their lives to save Jews and others during Europe's Nazi era.

Father Rytel-Andrianik, professor of Scripture at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, is collecting the stories and building lists of names of average people, priests and nuns who risked their lives to save Jews. In 2011, he published a book about the heroic acts of Poles protecting Jews, "I Will Give Them an Everlasting Name (Isaiah 56:5) Poles Savings Jews in the Area of Treblinka." It was written in Polish with Hebrew and English summaries.

The priest spoke with Catholic News Service in April in Jerusalem, where he regularly visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority and interviews Holocaust survivors.

Working with a small team of researchers, the priest recently completed the Priests for Jews project, with support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and the Saeman Family Foundation. He discovered the names of 1,000 priests who saved Jews from certain death. The completed project is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2014 and will include a book and a website with archival documents and firsthand testimonies. 

He also is compiling a list nuns who helped saved people, building on the work of Polish researcher Ewa Kurek, whose own research uncovered that nearly two-thirds of the 85 women's religious communities in 360 convents in Poland during World War II were engaged in rescue work.

Father Rytel-Andrianik said the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland is better known than Treblinka, because all that remains of the second camp is a 26-foot memorial in Poland's northeastern forest.

"This is the atmosphere I grew up with. I always wanted to know more and more about what happened in Treblinka. I read and listened. My mother always reminded me that I was given a life because someone saved my grandfather's life," he said.

Father Rytel-Andrianik is driven by a sense of indebtedness to the man who saved his grandfather's life and the thousands of others who risked their lives to protect Jews. At first he wanted to record the brave acts of Poles who dared defy Nazi rule. His work led him to discover that many Polish nuns and priests -- among them some he knew as a child -- also rescued Jews.

The priest said he wanted to highlight the good that existed in people in the darkest times of World War II, when it seemed that God was absent.

"The Holocaust shows what humanity can do with the exclusion of God," he said.

Of the 16,000 priests in Poland during World War II, 4,000 were imprisoned not only for helping Jews but also for a variety of violations of Nazi law, Father Rytel-Andrianik said. About half of the clergy were killed in the camps, according to his research.

Jesuit Father Adam Sztark and the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the parish in Slonim are among those whose bravery has been recorded and recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority

Father Sztark and Sister Maria Marta, superior at the convent, and Sister Maria Ewa, a medical doctor, provided food and money to Jews, issued false baptismal records, urged parishioners to help their Jewish neighbors and hid Jewish children in the convent. They were executed along with thousands of Jews in December 1942.

The priest was surprised to discover that 100 people who lived near Treblinka have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

Despite such heroic actions, anti-Semitism was strong in Poland, and questions have been raised about the reliability of the numbers of priests and religious who protected Jews.

In an article published in 2000 in the journal Yad Vashem Studies, historian Dariusz Libionka of the Polish Center for Holocaust Studies cited the strongly anti-Semitic 1936 pastoral letter of Cardinal August Hlond as an example. The letter accused Jews of being "free-thinkers, atheists and Bolsheviks," and of having a "disastrous effect on morality." In addition, Libionka noted that, unlike communications from the bishops of other occupied countries, the communications from Polish bishops to the pope made little mention of the annihilation of the Jews.

In the introduction to Father Rytel-Andrianik's 2011 book, Brandeis University Holocaust scholar Antony Polonsky wrote that the accepted number of 20,000 Jews who survived on the "Aryan" side should be doubled or tripled, which would also indicate more rescuers than previously believed.

Havi Dreifuss, director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust in Poland at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, told CNS that interest has risen in trying to find people who helped Jews in Poland. She cautioned that such research must be conducted carefully.

"Jewish-Polish relations in general and with segments of (the) priesthood are very complex," Dreifuss said, adding that she was not familiar with Father Rytel-Andrianik's work. "Today we can say that the vast majority of Polish society was quite indifferent to the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust as they were quite occupied with their own suffering under German occupation.

"There was a small portion of Poles who helped and they were from all parts of Polish society ... priests and nuns for sure were among them. Things were so complicated it is very difficult to assess today what happened," she said.

Father Rytel-Andrianik said although some people believe that priests did not do enough to oppose the Nazis, he believes many priests did more than is known.

The research "is crucial. If we don't do it now, everything will be lost. All the survivors will be gone," Father Rytel-Andrianik said. "We interview survivors but also priests and other witnesses. The whole idea is to commemorate. No one did enough. Only the person who risked his own life did enough."

Fr Pawel Rytel-Andrianik