Was there a direct line from the anti-Jewish passages in the New Testament to the gas chambers at Auschwitz, as some have alleged? Probably not. The line was indirect, beginning around 150 with gentile misreadings of the bitter intra-Jewish polemic contained in those writings. The theological anti-Judaism of the Church fathers, repeated endlessly in medieval and Renaissance-Reformation preaching, was the far greater culprit. It was the continuing rationale for the indefensible Christian conduct of the Middle Ages onward that was xenophobic and angry at Jewish resistance to absorption into the cultural mainstream. But because the Church’s preaching and its catechizing had long shaped the popular mind, a new phenomenon was able to come to birth: modern anti-Semitism.
Can the mischief of eighteen and one half centuries be reversed? Catholics point to statements like section 4 of the Vatican II statement on non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate, October, 1965) which exculpated the Jews of all time of the charge of deicide ("killing God"), and warned Catholics against thinking that anything in their scriptures taught that Jews were a people accursed or rejected. Numerous statements have come from Protestant bodies in the U.S. and Europe deploring Christian anti-Semitism.
Documentation of this sort is important, but it is ineffective unless it is implemented from the pulpit and in church publications and educational materials. Christians need to become aware of their almost total ignorance of postbiblical Judaism, the hatred some have for Jews, and the violence perpetrated against Jews by their fellow Christians.
Visitors to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and other exhibits from the Nazi period usually say: "Why has no one told us of these things?" It may well take centuries of education and prayer to reverse the evils of two millennia. The Christian communions have at least made a start.