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Antisemitism: Special Two-Part Presentation Browse

Robert P. Ericksen: Realities


There are a couple of really profound realities that we have to deal with in the Holocaust. One is the Holocaust itself and the extraordinary nature of the killing and the atrocities which took place, that grabs our attention and requires some explanation. The second profound reality is that it occurred within Christian Europe. It was generated by Germans, of course, a nation which was about 96 percent Christian in 1933 when Hitler came to power. And it took place in other Christian nations as well, in eastern Europe primarily, and it grabbed Jews out of countries in western Europe, also Christian countries. Alongside that, we certainly know historically that Christianity maintained a high level of hostility toward Jews for centuries. If you go to medieval churches in Europe you see that to this day, in the iconography of those churches, the treatment of Jews, the vicious treatment I think it’s fair to say, is a part of that Christian history. And we also know, as Father John has indicated, that in the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, there developed another version of antisemitism. Racial antisemitism. What the Nazis liked to call “scientific antisemitism.” But I think you cannot possibly tell the story of the antisemitic foundations of the Holocaust without acknowledging that it’s a story that runs some two thousand years.

—Robert P. Ericksen

Professor of History, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington; 2003 Charles H. Revson Fellow, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM; Member, Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust, USHMC

"There are a couple of really profound realities that we have to deal with in the Holocaust"