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Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust
     

Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust

by Kevin P. Spicer (Editor)
 

See All Formats & Editions

In recent years, the mask of tolerant, secular, multicultural Europe has been shattered by new forms of antisemitic crime. Though many of the perpetrators do not profess Christianity, antisemitism has flourished in Christian Europe. In this book, thirteen scholars of European history, Jewish studies, and Christian theology examine antisemitism’s insidious

Overview

In recent years, the mask of tolerant, secular, multicultural Europe has been shattered by new forms of antisemitic crime. Though many of the perpetrators do not profess Christianity, antisemitism has flourished in Christian Europe. In this book, thirteen scholars of European history, Jewish studies, and Christian theology examine antisemitism’s insidious role in Europe’s intellectual and political life. The essays reveal that annihilative antisemitic thought was not limited to Germany, but could be found in the theology and liturgical practice of most of Europe’s Christian churches. They dismantle the claim of a distinction between Christian anti-Judaism and neo-pagan antisemitism and show that, at the heart of Christianity, hatred for Jews overwhelmingly formed the milieu of 20th-century Europe.

Editorial Reviews

Shofar
"... sheds light on and offers steps to overcome the locked-in conflict between Jews and Christians along the antisemitic path from Calvary to Auschwitz and beyond." —Zev Garber, Los Angeles Valley College and American Jewish University, SHOFAR, Vol. 27, No. 1 Fall 2008

— Zev Garber, Los Angeles Valley Collegeand American Jewish University

www.theologie.geschichte
"... Spicer’s anthology convinces by its breadth and depth and is indispensable for all scholars in the field." —Katharina von Kellenbach, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, theologie.geschichte, 3. 2008

— Katharina von Kellenbach, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Journal Church and State
"... a wellpacked collection of twelve articles on the ambivalence of the Christian Church toward the Holocaust and antisemitism. The collection is introduced by Kevin P. Spicer and Father John T. Pawlikowski, both well-known authors on the subject. Each article is followed with extensive endnotes, and the editorial work, by both Spicer and the publisher, is superb. The flow of thought is easy to follow." —JOHN JOVAN MARKOVIC, ANDREWS UNIVERSITY, Journal Church and State, Vol 50, 3 Summer 2008

— JOHN JOVAN MARKOVIC, ANDREWS UNIVERSITY

Catholic Historical Review
"[An] excellent collection...." —EUGENE J. FISHER, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
(Associate Director Emeritus)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW, Vol. 94, 4 October 2008

— EUGENE J. FISHER, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs(Associate Director Emeritus)United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

H-Catholic
"This volume's inclusion of essays on several different Christian traditions, as well as the Jewish perspective on Christian antisemitism make it especially valuable for understanding varieties of Christian antisemitism and ultimately, the practice and consequences of exclusionary thinking in general. In bringing a range of theological and historical perspectives to bear on the question of Christian and Nazi antisemitism, the book broadens our view on the question, and is of great value to historians and theologians alike." —Maria Mazzenga, Catholic University of America, H-Catholic, January 2009

— Maria Mazzenga, Catholic University of America

theologie.geschichte - Katharina von Kellenbach

"... Spicer’s anthology convinces by its breadth and depth and is indispensable for all scholars in the field." —Katharina von Kellenbach, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, theologie.geschichte, 3. 2008

SHOFAR - Zev Garber

"... sheds light on and offers steps to overcome the locked-in conflict between Jews and Christians along the antisemitic path from Calvary to Auschwitz and beyond." —Zev Garber, Los Angeles Valley College
and American Jewish University, SHOFAR, Vol. 27, No. 1 Fall 2008

Journal Church and State - JOHN JOVAN MARKOVIC

"... a wellpacked collection of twelve articles on the ambivalence of the Christian Church toward the Holocaust and antisemitism. The collection is introduced by Kevin P. Spicer and Father John T. Pawlikowski, both well-known authors on the subject. Each article is followed with extensive endnotes, and the editorial work, by both Spicer and the publisher, is superb. The flow of thought is easy to follow." —JOHN JOVAN MARKOVIC, ANDREWS UNIVERSITY, Journal Church and State, Vol 50, 3 Summer 2008

CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW - EUGENE J. FISHER

"[An] excellent collection...." —EUGENE J. FISHER, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
(Associate Director Emeritus)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW, Vol. 94, 4 October 2008

H-Catholic - Maria Mazzenga

The twelve essays comprising this volume originated with a two-week workshop
sponsored by the Center for Advanced Historical Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. One of the book's chief aims, according to editor Kevin P. Spicer, is to challenge the "strict but misleading separation between Nazi 'racial antisemitism' and 'Christian antisemitism'" (p. ix). The contributors specifically address the role of antisemitism in the Christian response to Nazism, chronicling multiple
points of overlap between Christian and Nazi antisemitism. The volume's weakness is that it contains a wide range of cross-disciplinary essays not overtly connected to each other. At the same time, the book's range and scope give it two great strengths: first, it includes work by historians and theologians, thereby representing both disciplinary perspectives; and second, it represents a wide range of Christian perspectives, and includes valuable analyses of Jewish views of Christian antisemitism.

Organized into four parts, the book's first section addresses theological antisemitism. Essays by Thorstein Wagner, Anna Lysiak, Robert A. Krieg, and Donald Dietrich touch on a variety of expressions of antisemitism by priests, theologians, and other prominent religious figures in Denmark, Poland, Germany, and France. Ultimately, these authors show, Christian theology informed Nazi antisemitism in myriad ways that blended with
national sentiment, and those bold Christian thinkers who sought to use their theology to resist Nazi anti-Jewishness found themselves bereft of the doctrinal tools to do so.Indeed, as Wagner's essay on the Danish Lutheran Church and the Jews shows, even Denmark's Lutheran clergy, who played a key role in the remarkable rescue of thousands of Danish Jews to Sweden in October 1943, were not free of antisemitism. Challenging the "narrative of heroic humanism" that has emerged as a result of the rescue, Wagner finds that Danish assistance to Jews was less rooted in a belief in religious pluralism and a regard for Jews than in a Danish nationalism constructed in opposition to Nazism and Nazi antisemitism. Further east, Christian thinkers in Poland and Germany deliberately misinterpreted Jewish texts, held fast to supersessionism (the idea that Christians replaced Jews in God's plan for salvation), maintained precritical interpretations of the Bible, and rejected the concept of religious freedom--positions that enabled the
rapid spread of Nazi antisemitism. Even those who did think progressively
about Christian-Jewish relations during the Nazi era, Dietrich shows, would
not see their ideas come into wider acceptance until the Second Vatican Council.
If those who sought to use Christian principles to resist Nazi antisemitism
in the 1930s and 40s had difficulty doing so because of Christianity's
inherent anti-Jewishness, it should come as no surprise that right-wing
Catholic and Orthodox clergy were able to place antisemitism at the very
center of their religious view of the world. The essays comprising part 2
of the book examining extreme right-wing Christian clergy in Germany and
Romania are particularly good because of the authors' careful
historicization of their subjects. Spicer, who recently published a
separate full-length study of "brown priests"--enthusiastic clerical
promoters of the Adolf Hitler regime--(Hitler's Priests: Catholic Clergy and
National Socialism [2008]) focuses here on Dr. Philip Haeuser, one of the
most well-known of the roughly two hundred such priests. Haeuser eagerly
participated in the fashioning of a "Hybrid Catholic theology" that promoted
the Nazi Party's agenda and fused traditional Catholic theological
antisemitism with Nazi antisemitism. Church authorities in a position to
condemn Haeuser's antisemitism chose instead to express concern over Christ's
mission and the church in Germany, which they knew would be jeopardized if
they condemned avid party supporters like Haeuser. Though the
anti-Jewishness present in Christian traditions throughout Europe informed
support for Nazi antisemitism, Romanian antisemitism, Paul Shapiro points
out, had particularly deep roots in the Romanian Orthodox Church. Members
of the notorious Iron Guard, the most powerful radical Right movement in
Romania, drank deeply of Orthodox symbolism, poetry, speeches, and songs.
Shapiro carefully details the historical antecedents within the Orthodox
Church shaping the antisemitism of the Iron Guard.

If the exigencies of the war prevented open discussion of antisemitism
within Germany's Christian churches during the conflict, the immediate
postwar period saw the first tenuous steps toward dialogue on the matter.
The second half of the book, divided into two sections, "Postwar Jewish
Encounters" and "Viewing Each Other," deals almost entirely with the
Christian-Jewish relations during the postwar period. Supersessionism again
is prominent in essays by Matthew D. Hockenos, who discusses the German
Protestant Church and its Judenmission (mission to the Jews), and Elias H.
Fullenbach, who focuses on German Catholic efforts to transcend Catholic
antisemitism in the postwar years. The view that Jews needed converting to
Christianity persisted (officially) until the issuance of the
Berlin-Weissensee statement in 1950 by the German Protestant churches, which
maintained some elements of missionary thinking, but rejected
supersessionism. Fullenbach's essay focuses on the work of Karl Thieme,
Gertrud Luckner, and the Frieburg Circle, whose members sought to
illuminate, among other things, how the view of Jews as potential converts
was antisemitic. Their work, controversial in the immediate postwar period,
laid the groundwork for the issuance of Nostra Aetate in 1965, which
acknowledged the "spiritual patrimony" between Jews and Christians and
rejected the idea of Jewish guilt in the death of Christ.

Gershon Greenberg, the author of one of this volume's final essays, cogently
argues that "attitudes and views should be studied in terms of the
dialectical relationship that existed during the war, interrelating Judaism
and Christianity in terms of each other's perceptions; their separate study
creates an independence and an active-passive dichotomy that did not exist
historically" (p. 264). Greenberg focuses on Orthodox Jewish responses to
Holocaust Christianity, while Suzanne Brown-Fleming examines the largely
unsuccessful efforts of American Rabbi Philip Bernstein to persuade a series
of Catholic prelates to renounce antisemitism in several forms. The book's
final essay by Richard Steigmann-Gall begins with a discussion of the
controversies surrounding Dabru Emet, the statement on Christians and
Christianity issued in 2000 under the signature of more than 170 rabbis and
Jewish scholars. His essay, however, is more of an analysis of the writings
and speeches of several prominent Nazi ideologues, including Joseph Goebbels
and Hitler. Steigmann-Gall, who has authored a full-length study of Nazi
conceptions of Christianity (The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of
Christianity [2004]), finds that "the same antisemitism that is usually
regarded as a function of racialism was for many Nazis conceived within a
Christian frame of reference" (p. 304). This final disquieting essay of the
volume, in concluding that antisemitism was for key Nazi figures a function
of Christianity rather than racialism, reveals the least ambivalence
concerning the relationship between Christian and Nazi antisemitism--for
Steigmann-Gall's subjects, Nazi antisemitism was forged within a Christian matrix.

This volume's inclusion of essays on several different Christian traditions,
as well as the Jewish perspective on Christian antisemitism make it
especially valuable for understanding varieties of Christian antisemitism
and ultimately, the practice and consequences of exclusionary thinking in
general. In bringing a range of theological and historical perspectives to
bear on the question of Christian and Nazi antisemitism, the book broadens
our view on the question, and is of great value to historians and theologians alike.Maria Mazzenga, Catholic University of America, H-Catholic, H-Net, January, 2009

From the Publisher
"This volume's inclusion of essays on several different Christian traditions, as well as the Jewish perspective on Christian antisemitism make it especially valuable for understanding varieties of Christian antisemitism and ultimately, the practice and consequences of exclusionary thinking in general. In bringing a range of theological and historical perspectives to bear on the question of Christian and Nazi antisemitism, the book broadens our view on the question, and is of great value to historians and theologians alike." —Maria Mazzenga, Catholic University of America, H-Catholic, January 2009

"... a well packed collection of twelve articles on the ambivalence of the Christian Church toward the Holocaust and antisemitism. The collection is introduced by Kevin P. Spicer and Father John T. Pawlikowski, both well-known authors on the subject. Each article is followed with extensive endnotes, and the editorial work, by both Spicer and the publisher, is superb. The flow of thought is easy to follow." —JOHN JOVAN MARKOVIC, ANDREWS UNIVERSITY, Journal Church and State, Vol 50, 3 Summer 2008

"... sheds light on and offers steps to overcome the locked-in conflict between Jews and Christians along the antisemitic path from Calvary to Auschwitz and beyond." —Zev Garber, Los Angeles Valley College
and American Jewish University, SHOFAR, Vol. 27, No. 1 Fall 2008

The twelve essays comprising this volume originated with a two-week workshop
sponsored by the Center for Advanced Historical Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. One of the book's chief aims, according to editor Kevin P. Spicer, is to challenge the "strict but misleading separation between Nazi 'racial antisemitism' and 'Christian antisemitism'" (p. ix). The contributors specifically address the role of antisemitism in the Christian response to Nazism, chronicling multiple
points of overlap between Christian and Nazi antisemitism. The volume's weakness is that it contains a wide range of cross-disciplinary essays not overtly connected to each other. At the same time, the book's range and scope give it two great strengths: first, it includes work by historians and theologians, thereby representing both disciplinary perspectives; and second, it represents a wide range of Christian perspectives, and includes valuable analyses of Jewish views of Christian antisemitism.

Organized into four parts, the book's first section addresses theological antisemitism. Essays by Thorstein Wagner, Anna Lysiak, Robert A. Krieg, and Donald Dietrich touch on a variety of expressions of antisemitism by priests, theologians, and other prominent religious figures in Denmark, Poland, Germany, and France. Ultimately, these authors show, Christian theology informed Nazi antisemitism in myriad ways that blended with
national sentiment, and those bold Christian thinkers who sought to use their theology to resist Nazi anti-Jewishness found themselves bereft of the doctrinal tools to do so.Indeed, as Wagner's essay on the Danish Lutheran Church and the Jews shows, even Denmark's Lutheran clergy, who played a key role in the remarkable rescue of thousands of Danish Jews to Sweden in October 1943, were not free of antisemitism. Challenging the "narrative of heroic humanism" that has emerged as a result of the rescue, Wagner finds that Danish assistance to Jews was less rooted in a belief in religious pluralism and a regard for Jews than in a Danish nationalism constructed in opposition to Nazism and Nazi antisemitism. Further east, Christian thinkers in Poland and Germany deliberately misinterpreted Jewish texts, held fast to supersessionism (the idea that Christians replaced Jews in God's plan for salvation), maintained precritical interpretations of the Bible, and rejected the concept of religious freedom—positions that enabled the
rapid spread of Nazi antisemitism. Even those who did think progressively
about Christian-Jewish relations during the Nazi era, Dietrich shows, would
not see their ideas come into wider acceptance until the Second Vatican Council.
If those who sought to use Christian principles to resist Nazi antisemitism
in the 1930s and 40s had difficulty doing so because of Christianity's
inherent anti-Jewishness, it should come as no surprise that right-wing
Catholic and Orthodox clergy were able to place antisemitism at the very
center of their religious view of the world. The essays comprising part 2
of the book examining extreme right-wing Christian clergy in Germany and
Romania are particularly good because of the authors' careful
historicization of their subjects. Spicer, who recently published a
separate full-length study of "brown priests"—enthusiastic clerical
promoters of the Adolf Hitler regime—(Hitler's Priests: Catholic Clergy and
National Socialism [2008]) focuses here on Dr. Philip Haeuser, one of the
most well-known of the roughly two hundred such priests. Haeuser eagerly
participated in the fashioning of a "Hybrid Catholic theology" that promoted
the Nazi Party's agenda and fused traditional Catholic theological
antisemitism with Nazi antisemitism. Church authorities in a position to
condemn Haeuser's antisemitism chose instead to express concern over Christ's
mission and the church in Germany, which they knew would be jeopardized if
they condemned avid party supporters like Haeuser. Though the
anti-Jewishness present in Christian traditions throughout Europe informed
support for Nazi antisemitism, Romanian antisemitism, Paul Shapiro points
out, had particularly deep roots in the Romanian Orthodox Church. Members
of the notorious Iron Guard, the most powerful radical Right movement in
Romania, drank deeply of Orthodox symbolism, poetry, speeches, and songs.
Shapiro carefully details the historical antecedents within the Orthodox
Church shaping the antisemitism of the Iron Guard.

If the exigencies of the war prevented open discussion of antisemitism
within Germany's Christian churches during the conflict, the immediate
postwar period saw the first tenuous steps toward dialogue on the matter.
The second half of the book, divided into two sections, "Postwar Jewish
Encounters" and "Viewing Each Other," deals almost entirely with the
Christian-Jewish relations during the postwar period. Supersessionism again
is prominent in essays by Matthew D. Hockenos, who discusses the German
Protestant Church and its Judenmission (mission to the Jews), and Elias H.
Fullenbach, who focuses on German Catholic efforts to transcend Catholic
antisemitism in the postwar years. The view that Jews needed converting to
Christianity persisted (officially) until the issuance of the
Berlin-Weissensee statement in 1950 by the German Protestant churches, which
maintained some elements of missionary thinking, but rejected
supersessionism. Fullenbach's essay focuses on the work of Karl Thieme,
Gertrud Luckner, and the Frieburg Circle, whose members sought to
illuminate, among other things, how the view of Jews as potential converts
was antisemitic. Their work, controversial in the immediate postwar period,
laid the groundwork for the issuance of Nostra Aetate in 1965, which
acknowledged the "spiritual patrimony" between Jews and Christians and
rejected the idea of Jewish guilt in the death of Christ.

Gershon Greenberg, the author of one of this volume's final essays, cogently
argues that "attitudes and views should be studied in terms of the
dialectical relationship that existed during the war, interrelating Judaism
and Christianity in terms of each other's perceptions; their separate study
creates an independence and an active-passive dichotomy that did not exist
historically" (p. 264). Greenberg focuses on Orthodox Jewish responses to
Holocaust Christianity, while Suzanne Brown-Fleming examines the largely
unsuccessful efforts of American Rabbi Philip Bernstein to persuade a series
of Catholic prelates to renounce antisemitism in several forms. The book's
final essay by Richard Steigmann-Gall begins with a discussion of the
controversies surrounding Dabru Emet, the statement on Christians and
Christianity issued in 2000 under the signature of more than 170 rabbis and
Jewish scholars. His essay, however, is more of an analysis of the writings
and speeches of several prominent Nazi ideologues, including Joseph Goebbels
and Hitler. Steigmann-Gall, who has authored a full-length study of Nazi
conceptions of Christianity (The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of
Christianity [2004]), finds that "the same antisemitism that is usually
regarded as a function of racialism was for many Nazis conceived within a
Christian frame of reference" (p. 304). This final disquieting essay of the
volume, in concluding that antisemitism was for key Nazi figures a function
of Christianity rather than racialism, reveals the least ambivalence
concerning the relationship between Christian and Nazi antisemitism—for
Steigmann-Gall's subjects, Nazi antisemitism was forged within a Christian matrix.

This volume's inclusion of essays on several different Christian traditions,
as well as the Jewish perspective on Christian antisemitism make it
especially valuable for understanding varieties of Christian antisemitism
and ultimately, the practice and consequences of exclusionary thinking in
general. In bringing a range of theological and historical perspectives to
bear on the question of Christian and Nazi antisemitism, the book broadens
our view on the question, and is of great value to historians and theologians alike.Maria Mazzenga, Catholic University of America, H-Catholic, H-Net, January, 2009

"[This] book displays the sort of thematic and methodological diversity one might expect from a project designed to foster dialogue across disciplinary lines by historians and theologians." —HOLOCAUST aND GENOCIDE STUDIES

"[An] excellent collection...." —EUGENE J. FISHER, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
(Associate Director Emeritus)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW, Vol. 94, 4 October 2008

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780253348739
Publisher:
Indiana University Press
Publication date:
05/28/2007
Pages:
360
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt

Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust


By Kevin P. Spicer

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2007 Indiana University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-11674-1



CHAPTER 1

Belated Heroism

THE DANISH LUTHERAN CHURCH AND THE JEWS, 1918–1945

Thorsten Wagner


A Light in the Darkness?

Compared to most other countries, the Danish-Jewish experience seems to stand out as a remarkable exception in modern European history. Obviously, this perception is intrinsically linked to the unique rescue effort of the Danish people in October 1943, causing Nazi Germany's attempt at rounding up and arresting Danish Jews to fail: only a few hundred Jews ended up being deported to Theresienstadt, and even of these, only about fifty—less than 1 percent of the more than seven thousand Jews living in Denmark at the time—perished.

One may date the origins of the positive image of Danish-Jewish relations back to the seventeenth century, when Glikl von Hameln, a merchant woman from Hamburg-Altona, praised the Danish king as just, pious, and extraordinarily benevolent toward Jews. The only dissertation on Danish-Jewish history published so far, Nathan Bamberger's Viking Jews, traced this presumably exceptional phenomenon throughout Modern Danish history and concluded: "In the admirable history of Danish Jewry, one cannot overlook the Danes' strong humanistic values, their sense of decency, and their care for all citizens." Organizations such as "Thanks to Scandinavia" promote the Danish commitment to human dignity and ethical values in World War II as a role model for moral behavior today by stating: "The selfless and heroic effort of the Scandinavian people through the dark days of Nazi Terror is a shining example of humanity and hope for now and tomorrow." In addition, books such as Moral Courage under Stress and The Test of a Democracy attest to this glorification of the Danish past in a Jewish perspective.

Over the last two decades, in the collective memory of American Jews, Denmark has become the antithesis of a Nazi-dominated Europe bogged down by the collaborators' active complicacy and the bystanders' indifference. Despite this dominating perception of Denmark as a Righteous Nation—even honored as such by Yad Vashem—recent political developments suggest that it may be necessary to take a closer look at these positive portraits of Danish-Jewish relations. In 1999, the nationalist-conservative publishing house Tidehverv, run by Jesper Langballe and Søren Krarup, right-wing theologians and clerics, republished Martin Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies. Langballe and Krarup are also both highly influential members of parliament for the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti), a populist radical right-wing party that constitutes the parliamentary basis of the present center-right government. In the introduction, the editors stress the work's "contemporary relevance" in affirmative terms without any critical commentary, while employing anti-Jewish traditions to legitimize their xenophobic populist agenda. In light of the enduring positive image of Danish-Jewish history, this republication—and even more the fact that it did not provoke any academic protest, let alone public outcry—indicates that this perception deserves more scrutiny.

Recently, however, a series of newspaper articles that focused on Krarup and his anti-Jewish rhetoric sparked public criticism of these tendencies. Repeatedly, Krarup has attempted to exculpate Harald Nielsen, a writer who welcomed Nazi antisemitic legislation and favored the introduction of the Jewish star. Krarup has also sympathized with Nielsen's attack on the Danish-Jewish literary scholar Georg Brandes by stating, "Because of his Jewish blood he felt no reverence towards or intimate connection with the country's past." Krarup reacted to allegations of antisemitism by emphasizing his rejection of racism and racial antisemitism as ideologies incommensurate with a Christian worldview. He also emphasized that his family had fought in the national-conservative resistance against the Nazi occupiers in Denmark. Through his reference to Christian convictions and nationalist orientations, Krarup positioned himself in line with key dimensions of Danish memory culture. To many observers, the most salient event in the history of the Jews of Denmark was their successful attempt to escape the Nazi roundup action of October 1943. As hundreds of non-Jewish Danes assisted them, this rescue operation over the Øresund added to the triumphalist narrative of successful integration that dominates the perception of Danish-Jewish history. This narrative, augmented by the sense of gratitude displayed by many Danish Jews for the rejection of antisemitism, has helped to view Danish Jews as the exceptional case of the European-Jewish experience. Danish Lutheran clergy played a key role in these rescue activities. Pastors warned Jews of the imminent danger of deportation, offered them hiding places, and facilitated their escape to Sweden. The pastor of Trinitatis Church in central Copenhagen even received the Torah scrolls from the nearby synagogue in Krystalgade and hid them in a secret chamber in his church. Even more explicit was the protest pastoral letter initiated by the bishop of Copenhagen, Hans Fuglsang-Damgaard, and signed on September 29, 1943, by all the Danish Lutheran Church bishops. It was an immediate reaction against the roundup of Danish Jews. On the following Sunday, October 3, 1943, Lutheran pastors throughout Denmark read the letter. Repeatedly, reports told of congregants rising from their pews to express their solidarity and support. The pastoral letter boldly stated that was the duty of the Lutheran Church to protest against the persecution of Jews because of Jesus' own Jewish heritage and his command to love your neighbor. The letter also added an additional reason for protest:

Because [the persecution of Jews] conflict[s] with the understanding of justice rooted in the Danish people and settled through centuries in our Danish Christian culture. Accordingly, it is stated in our constitution that all Danish citizens have an equal right and responsibility towards the law, and they have freedom of religion, and a right to worship God in accordance with their vocation and conscience and so that race or religion can never in itself become the cause of deprivation of anybody's rights, freedom, or property. Irrespective of diverging religious opinions we shall fight for the right of our Jewish brothers and sisters to keep the freedom that we ourselves value more highly than life. The leaders of the Danish Church have a clear understanding of our duty to be law-abiding citizens that do not unreasonably oppose those who execute authority over us, but at the same time we are in our conscience bound to uphold justice and protest against any violation; consequently we shall, if occasion should arise, plainly acknowledge our obligation to obey God more than man.


This unequivocal declaration of solidarity with Denmark's Jews seems to confirm the exceptional status of Danish-Jewish relations. Nevertheless, the case of Krarup alerts us to the fact that the picture is more complex than this episcopal statement indicates. The work of Benjamin Balslev offers a starting point for an investigation of these ambiguities of Christian and clerical thinking about Jews.


The Ambiguities of the Christian Danish Perspective on Jews and Judaism

Benjamin Balslev was pastor at the parish of Soderup, an activist of Mission to Israel (Israelsmissionen), an organization committed to converting Jews, and the author of one of the early popular works on the history of Danish Jewry, The History of Danish Jews, published in 1932 in Copenhagen. In 1934, Balslev published an article on the "Race-Struggle in Germany" in the theological journal Nordisk Missions-Tidsskrift. Also published separately in the same year, this publication to some degree justified the persecution of Jews. Reports of a Nazi rule of terror did not dissuade Balslev in his beliefs that he developed over the previous two decades. Rather, he argued that there was merely a struggle going on between two peoples: Germans and Jews. Jews, he wrote, had an enormous and destructive influence both morally and economically in Germany. Furthermore, Jews constituted the bulk of an ethnically indigestible anti-Germanism that the Nazis fought to neutralize: "Germany has taken notice of its Jews and its Jewish question to a degree which is unknown to us. ... While countries such as England and, we could add, Denmark always have had a homogeneous population, Germany has internally suffered from an anti-Germanism, something ethnically indigestible, and among these ranks, Germany's Jews were disproportionally well represented." Such thinking led Balslev to argue that the burning of allegedly morally detrimental books was a meaningful act of self-defense.

While Balslev purported to have the main objective to refute racist antisemitism and to reject racial theories and generalizing accusations against all German Jews, he still presented the ongoing disenfranchisement and persecution of Jews as the battle between two peoples. In Balslev's twisted worldview, one should refute racial antisemitism because it defied conversion, God's solution to the Jewish question. Nevertheless, he held that antisemitic perceptions, attitudes, and practices were legitimate since they constituted Germans' defense against the detrimental influence of Jews on the economy and culture. His argument would then hold true for Denmark if its population were not homogeneous and if its Jewish community were less assimilated and more significant in terms of size and influence. Balslev's point of view implied that, under these circumstances, such a reaction would be meaningful and necessary. Thus, the dream of an ethnically and culturally homogeneous nation proved to be the crucial pitfall of both Danish history and present politics.


Sources and Historiography

In order to understand the historical underpinnings of Danish Lutheran clergy's attitudes toward Jews, one must examine the history of Danish-Jewish relations. In turn, this will provide a basis for an analysis of the dream of a homogeneous nation as it played itself out in the context of Danish clerical discourses and practices from 1918 to 1945. The discussion of these problems is, in contrast to the case of Norway, hampered by the still sizeable lacunae of research in this field. This is even more true in regard to the period's church history. Recent publications are of limited use since they idealize the rejection of anti-semitism in regard to clerical attitudes toward Jews. Here, my focus will not be on individual theologians or specific organizations, but rather on the "public sphere" of the church in its declarations, pastoral letters, protests, and written works. Because of this approach of mine, a certain bias in favor of those pastors and scholars who made the church's views heard in public is naturally unavoidable. A lack of sources makes it very difficult to draw any "representative" conclusions on attitudes toward Jews among rank-and-file laymen, be it church members or activists, let alone conclusions regarding the relevance of clerical attitudes for the rescue action itself.

Frequently, scholars, journalists, and other intellectuals have presented "October 1943" as proof of the irrelevance or even absence of anti-Jewish resentment in modern Danish society. Similar to the case of England, antisemitism is understood to be an essentially un-Danish phenomenon. The roots of this concept are manifold: Danes are supposedly carrying an innate immunity against Jew-hatred—an immunity that is defined either in an essentialist way, by pointing to the humane and tolerant national character of the Danish people, or in historical terms, by referring to a specifically smooth "Danish Path" into a democratic, pluralistic, modern society. Furthermore, dubbing antisemitism as an import—a German import—without autochthonous roots and traditions, helped to reinforce this notion of immunity.

Finally, reference is often made to the specific nature of the Jewish community in Denmark, its "invisibility," caused by the small number of Jews and their high degree of acculturation and integration. The successful story of integration and the notion of innate tolerance has contributed to dramatic lacunae of critical research in terms of both Danish-Jewish history and the history of antisemitism in Denmark. There is no need to investigate an issue that is perceived to be nonexistent. Furthermore, the interpretative confinement of the concept of antisemitism as un-Danish has frequently been accompanied by an often implicit comparative perspective that reinforced the notion of immunity. If German racial antisemitism and systematic genocide do not provide the standard of comparison, one may perceive other xenophobic and anti-Jewish stereotypes as marginal. One may dismiss single unequivocal expressions of antisemitism as irrelevant exceptions rather than investigate the origins, traditions, and functions of these concepts and explore the ways in which they have been instrumental in construing individual and collective identities by defining the Jew as "the other."

More recent research pursued by a younger generation of Danish scholars has begun to question the narrative of heroic humanism that would imply an immunity against fascism and antisemitism. Lone Runitz's investigation of the government's restrictive refugee policy in the interwar period and the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies' research project on German and Austrian Jewish immigrants who attempted to seek refuge in Denmark are just two examples of this more critical research. In addition, Michael Mogensen has examined the antisemitic attitudes prevalent among the members of the Danish exilian community in Sweden, and together with Rasmus Kreth, has produced the first thorough research on the rescue operation itself. Mogensen and Kreth have stressed the importance of the Swedes' willingness to help and of the intentional passivity of key German authorities. In addition to this, their research has highlighted the less flattering fact that the much-celebrated Danish fishermen sailing the Jews to the safe shores of Sweden frequently demanded exorbitant payments, which in no way was justifiable by reference to their personal risk and often was legitimized by antisemitic references to Jewish wealth. Furthermore, Sofie Bak has published an introductory survey of the representations of the rescue operation in Danish postwar historiography and memorial culture. In addition, her work on Danish antisemitic movements in the early twentieth century is groundbreaking.

In the framework of these attempts of reevaluation, a more critical view of the policy of collaboration has developed. "Cooperation" that implied the acceptance and implementation of limited discriminatory measures against Danish Jews actually did lead to an offer by the Danish authorities to inter Danish Jews in September 1943 in an attempt to prevent the SS and Gestapo from pursuing a roundup. This contribution is obviously sharing a "revisionist" point of view since it argues that though an aggressive racial antisemitism found only little support in milieus affiliated with the Lutheran Church, negative stereotypes about both Jews and Judaism nevertheless were widespread and constituted core elements of identity formation and group formation in these milieus. This is not to suggest that this ambiguity characteristic of clerical writing on Jewish issues accounts for the impact of antisemitism in Danish society or for the successful rescue of Danish Jews to Sweden.

Previous articles have addressed the often overlooked complexities of the history of Danish-Jewish relations by underlining the need for a critical revision of the existing and often idealizing scholarship. This essay will demonstrate that the problematic and often repeated claim about Denmark being less antisemitic than most other European countries is misleading. The issue at stake is not first and foremost the strength or weakness of Danish antisemitism, but the fact that in Danish Lutheran Church–affiliated contexts, the debate on the status of Jews as part of European culture and society was cast in an antimodernist, anticapitalist, and anticommunist mold. As the internal dynamics of this clerical discourse contributed only marginally to the incremental delegitimization of antisemitism in Denmark, one has to look for other factors to explain the absence of antisemitic persecution in Denmark.


The History of Danish-Jewish Relations

The beginnings of a Jewish presence in the Danish Commonwealth date back to the seventeenth century, when Sephardic Jews in the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein attained freedom of movement and residence permits for the kingdom. Jews settled in Gluckstadt (1620) and Altona (Danish since 1640), and then also in cities in the kingdom. In the course of the eighteenth century, Copenhagen became the primary center of Danish-Jewish cultural and political activities. In 1730, the Jewish community in Copenhagen consisted of approximately 300 members; in 1780 this number had risen to 1,600, which was more than 80 percent of the Jewish population residing in the kingdom and around 2 percent of the capital's inhabitants.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust by Kevin P. Spicer. Copyright © 2007 Indiana University Press. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., is Associate Professor of History at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. He is author of Resisting the Third Reich: The Catholic Clergy in Hitler’s Berlin.

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