Benedict, German Catholics & the Holocaust

Justus George Lawler


John Connelly’s previous contributions to Commonweal—particularly his balanced assessment of Fear, Jan T. Gross’s book on the Kielce pogrom in postwar Poland (“Ordinary Poles,” February 23, 2007)—did not prepare me for the cliché history in his article on the paradoxical legacy of Karl Adam, “Reformer and Racialist” (January 18, 2008). That article began with a quote intended to confirm a stereotype: readers learned that in Czestochowa in 2006, Benedict XVI told Polish bishops that the church “looks upon the past with serenity, and does not fear for the future.” Connelly then asked: “Are these not strange words to be spoken by a German to Poles?” The implied answer is: “Of course they are.” And so they would have been, but these words were never uttered in Czestochowa during that supposedly fateful visit in 2006. What the pope did talk about that day at Mary’s shrine was Mary. Nor were those “strange words” uttered two days later when the pope visited Auschwitz. There he spoke at length, and with visible emotion, about how his presence at “that place” was “particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a pope from Germany.” What is even more to be regretted about Connelly’s introductory question is its air of complicity with...

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About the Author

Justus George Lawler is author of Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment, and the Holocaust (Continuum).