Why did the Catholic Church not oppose Nazi racial policy?

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The depths of antisemitism

It was not until 1965 that the Vatican finally acquitted the Jews of deicide for all time, even though they still insisted that the Jews at the time of Jesus were guilty of his death. In order to understand the depths of antisemitism it is important to remember that it is this that primarily made the Jews a scapegoat across the Christian world.


Click here to look back at the 'Nazification of Germany' section.

Make a two column list. At the top add the headings 'Support' and 'Opposition'.

  • Under these two headings add notes about the ways in which the Catholic Church supported and opposed the Nazis.
  • Look for reasons why the Church did not help the Jews. Add these to your notes.
  • Now produce a structured essay answer to the question: Why did the Catholic Church not oppose Nazi racial policy?

“We demand freedom for all religious denominations, provided that they do not endanger the existence of the State or offend the concepts of decency and morality of the Germanic race. The Party as such stands for positive Christianity, without associating itself with any particular denomination.”

Clause 24 of the Program of the National-Socialist (Nazi) German Workers Party

In July 1933, the Nazis signed an agreement (Concordat) with the Catholic Church. Whereby the Vatican would accept the Nazi government in return for the Nazis not interfering with the Catholic Church.

The Pope

In 1939 Eugenio Pacelli was elected Pope Pius XII. He had been the Papal representative in Munich in the 1920s. It was he who had signed the Concordat with the Nazis in 1933.

The Catholic Church, as an organisation, did not protest against any of the anti-Jewish policies of the Nazi state.

The Pope believed that primarily it was his duty to save and look after Catholics. In 1939, he obtained 3,000 visas to Brazil for Jews who had been baptised, and were, therefore, members of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately the Nazis defined Jews racially and not religiously, so in their eyes these people were Jews

Nothing significant?

The Vatican knew of the murder of the Jews very early on, as they had religious representatives in all of the occupied countries. Certain individual priests saved Jews but the Church, as an official body, did nothing significant to save the Jews of Europe.