Posts Tagged ‘Cardinal Faulhaber’

* Lew’s comments on “The Holocaust and the Church” … and Cardinal Faulhaber

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 30, 2014


Sciolino provides a useful overview of a truly despicable history. In particular, he shows how the Catholic Church supported the Enabling Act of 1933 which gave Hitler dictatorial powers, and that the Church never objected to the deportation and murder of Jews in the 1940s, of which they were well aware.

For my purposes, there were several references to Cardinal Michael Faulhaber of Munich which will be helpful to me in my novel-in-progress.

Cardinal Faulhaber

Cardinal Faulhaber … is a fascinating character. In the 1920s he appears to have been openly supportive of Jews, tolerant and opposing Nazi street violence and other forms of persecution. He was a member of a group called “Friends of Israel” until it was disbanded by the Vatican. In the 1930s, however, Faulhaber and other German bishops were forced by the Vatican to collude with Hitler, both before and during the Holocaust, so long as Church property and other assets were not taken.

It is of course the height of hypocrisy to claim to be a moral force in the world and yet to sit by without saying a word while millions were murdered simply for being Jews. For this the Catholic Church has never, in my opinion, sufficiently atoned. After the Holocaust, the main action of the Church was to ferociously keep hidden Vatican archives which described what it did and did not do. Even today, much of this record remains secret.

In my new novel … 

I look forward to exploring how Cardinal Faulhaber, who I believe was actually a quite decent person, might have felt about the Vatican-generated facade in which he participated. He lived through it all, as Archbishop of Munich from 1917 to his death in 1952. Little is written by or about Faulhaber. Who, if anyone, was his confidant?

To show Faulhaber’s thoughts in the context of my story, I am creating a fictional young priest (Fr. Johannes) who will, through his discussions with Faulhaber, recognize the Church’s hypocrisy and the consequences of Church inaction for the Jews and the world. Fr. Johannes’ interactions with my main German character (Berthold Becker), if I can write those scenes the way I hope to, will be heartbreaking and damning.

Ah … the power of historical fiction.



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* Research Report: Day One in Munich … German guilt, defying Hitler, Catholic opportunities lost, Jews who will not go away

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 23, 2012

I had a remarkable telephone conversation with a German who has spent his entire life trying to come to grips with the fact that his parents were Nazis, his mother enamored with Hitler and his father a soldier on the Russian front. He was 10 years old when the war ended, and more years passed before he began to learn enough to ask questions which his parents would never answer. His entire life since has been devoted to learning the truth of the Nazi atrocities and living with “an overwhelming guilt over what we Germans did to the Jewish people.” This despite his obvious personal innocence.

Soon after this conversation, I read a memoir by Sebastian Haffner. Titled “Defying Hitler,” it was written in 1939 just after the author, then in his early 30s, had left Germany. Haffner powerfully presents what he characterizes as a nationwide nervous breakdown that paralyzed German opposition to Hitler. His own “defiance” was mainly in his mind, where he struggled to maintain a sense of personal morality.

Almost the precise age of my primary character in my new novel-in-progress, Haffner’s internal struggles offer rich pathways into the mind of my fictional Berthold Becker, although their lives were very different. Haffner was a passive Nazi. Becker was active (or will be when I write it), performing deeds evil enough to qualify him for trial at Nuremberg. What did he think as he committed those horrific acts? Did he, like Haffner, struggle to defend a personal, internal morality even as he was an important participant in the Nazi flood of mechanized, methodical death? That’s what I hope to be able to write.

Next came a conversation with Dr. Andreas Heusler, a highly regarded historian who directs the Jewish section of the Munich City Archives. Among many other topics, we discussed German guilt, which Dr. Heusler indicated was still pervasive but not often spoken of.

I asked Dr. Heusler whether there had been opportunities to stop Hitler, with particular focus on the capitulation of the Catholic Church before and after the 1933 Concordat. Dr. Heusler ‘s response was telling. He stated that Cardinal Faulhaber, archbishop of Munich during the entire period of Nazi ascendency and through the war years, was an “untouchable” figure who could have spoken out with personal impunity. Faulhaber, who had spoken forcefully against Hitler’s brutal anti-semitism in the 1920s,  later offered no criticism of even the worst Nazi atrocities against Jews.

The reasons for Cardinal Faulhaber’s reticence are, I believe, crucial to an understanding of why the attitudes of the fictional Berthold Becker, along with those of millions of actual Germans, developed as they did. I hope to pursue this line further next week in a meeting tentatively scheduled with a historian attached to the Munich archdiocese. As Pat often says, “Good luck.”

To conclude an exhausting two days, from Collioure to Barcelona and then to Munich – too many planes , trains and automobiles – Pat and I went to Friday night services at the new synagogue in Munich, escorted by our fascinating guide Chaim Frank.

Think about that. The predecessor Munich synagogue was destroyed by Hitler in 1938. All the Jews of Munich were later assembled and taken to death camps. And yet here, in 2012, almost 100 Jews prayed and celebrated the Bat Torah of a new generation of Jewish women. This in Munich, from whence Hitler originated his madness.

“We are a remarkable people,” I said to Chaim. “We simply will not go away.”


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