Thursday, December 18, 2003
“This Museum presents the ultimate consequences of unchecked antisemitism.”
—Sara J. Bloomfield, Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Recent events in Europe…statements in the Islamic world…the controversy surrounding an upcoming Hollywood movie… these, and more, have made antisemitism a matter of increasing concern.
As part of its mission to focus scholarly attention on key issues in the field of Holocaust studies that require investigation and to serve as a principal venue for scholars to meet for discussion and deliberation, the Center organized two programs with recognized experts who explored Antisemitism in the context of Holocaust history and its troubling resurgence today. These programs were made possible by the Hoffberger Family Fund and the Chrysler Corporation Fund.
Panelists discussed the origins and spread of antisemitism in Europe, with particular attention to its manifestations in the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Germany before and during the Holocaust. Nearly 300 people attended the programs, which were held at the Museum.
The Scholarly Presentation
This panel explored the particular history of antisemitism in the German Protestant and Catholic churches. William Brustein introduced the topic with an overview of the greater political and social context of the emergence of antisemitism throughout Europe; his analysis included a review of the periods of violence against Jews and their immediate historical context. Victoria Barnett analyzed the debate within German Protestantism about how to respond to the Nazi persecution of Jews, particularly the record of the Confessing Church in this regard. Kevin Spicer explored the relationships between Roman Catholics and Jews in Berlin, offering both a historical overview of the interaction between the two communities and an explanation of the theological perspectives that informed the Catholic response. In the discussion period that followed, panelists looked at the contemporary implications of this history: how different Christian churches have reacted to the history of the Holocaust and its critical challenges to the churches; current discussions about antisemitism in Christian churches; and the significance of other aspects of this history, such as studies of rescue and resistance.
PART 1: German Churches, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust
Thursday, December 18, 2-4 p.m.
Moderator—Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM, former Fellow at the Center, and author of The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany.
“The Religious, Racial, Economic, and Political Roots of Antisemitism in Europe before the Holocaust”
William I. Brustein, Director and Professor, University Center for International Studies, and Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and History at the University of Pittsburgh; and author of Roots of Hate: Antisemitism in Europe Before the Holocaust (2003).
“The Response of the Confessing Church to the Persecution of European Jewry”
Victoria Barnett, consultant, Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust, United States Holocaust Memorial Council (USHMC); and author of Bystanders: Conscience and Complicity during the Holocaust (1999) and For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler (1992).
“Christian Echoes in an Antisemitic Past: Roman Catholics and Jews in Nazi Berlin”
Kevin Spicer, C.S.C., Assistant Professor of History, Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts; Member, Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust, USHMM; and author of Resisting The Third Reich: Catholic Clergy in Hitler's Berlin (forthcoming).
PART 2: How Deep are the Roots? Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Now
Panel Presentation and Roundtable
Thursday, December 18, 7-8:30 p.m.
Introduction—Sara J. Bloomfield, Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Moderator—Margaret Obrecht, Staff Director, Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust, USHMM
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
- When Hitler came to power, German theologians largely accepted, in fact, enthusiastically accepted, the rise of Hitler, as did most of the Protestant church leaders. View video
- 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. View video
John T. Pawlikowski, O.S.M., Professor of Ethics and Director, Catholic-Jewish Studies Program, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois
- Any church that loses a sense of the dignity of all people and is unwilling to stand up for that dignity at key moments of social tension I think really is threatening its own well-being, its ultimate purpose, and that’s one of the strongest convictions that I have drawn from the study of theology after the Holocaust. View video
- And so I think the biggest failure was Jews were simply not seen as a high priority in terms of rescue by the Christian churches. View video
Aron Rodrigue, Eva Chernov Lokey Professor of Jewish Studies, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
- First of all, in order to understand the emergence of what we can now legitimately call antisemitism among Islam we have to understand certain attitudes within Islam that preceded the modern period and the absolutely radical nature of what has been happening now. View video
- Perhaps sometimes it is useful to be reminded of the fact that the very term “antisemite” is invented in the 1870s. And that I think sort of points to a very profound mutation that what would be called traditional anti-Judaism, which was part and parcel of Christian theology, was beginning to undergo. View video
For more information
Sometimes called “the longest hatred,” antisemitism has persisted in many forms for over two thousand years. Yet, antisemitism did not end with the Holocaust. Whether expressed through hate speech, Holocaust denial, or violence against Jews and Jewish institutions, antisemitism is on the rise today.