German Holocaust Censorship Alleged

Mexican actors Jose Maria Yazpik and Diego Luna talk during the presentation of the film "Solo Quiero Caminar," or "I Just Want to Walk," in Mexico City, Monday, Aug. 17, 2009. AP

American historian Daniel Goldhagen accused Germany's Roman Catholic Church on Friday of seeking an injunction against his latest book to silence discussion of the church's actions during the Nazi Holocaust.

Goldhagen's latest book, published last month in German, has been assailed by critics and church officials as lacking historic foundation. The U.S. edition is due out Oct. 29.

The book, "A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair," re-examines charges against the church that it failed to speak out against the Nazi Holocaust and to properly acknowledge its silent complicity.

But earlier this week a German court said it was persuaded that a caption in the book misidentified a church official at a Nazi event with Hitler aide Hermann Goering as then-Munich Cardinal Michael Faulhaber.

The court, acting on a complaint by the Munich diocese, ordered the caption blacked out of books still in the publisher's possession and to recall 30,000 books already in circulation.

However, the publisher, Siedler Verlag, said books already distributed were not affected by the legal proceedings and no recalls have been made.

Speaking at the Frankfurt Book Fair where he was promoting the German translation, Goldhagen called the injunction a ploy to stifle debate on the church's role in the Holocaust.

"This is a desperate attempt on the part of the church to try and torpedo this book and avoid a real discussion," Goldhagen told reporters, adding that misidentification in the photo was made by the archive that provided the picture and has since been corrected.

German historians have faulted the work for making broad-brush, unsubstantiated statements accusing Pope Pius XII and German church officials of supporting the Nazis, while overlooking the generous acts of priests who helped save Jews.

Goldhagen insisted, however, the book does not blame the church for the Holocaust, but seeks to provoke an examination of the church's role in encouraging the anti-Semitism that made it possible.

"An institution that has officials and an official policy can be held culpable for its policies," Goldhagen said. "Institutions have the responsibility to make amends for their misdeeds."

The topic has been previously examined by several German historians as well as John Cornwell, who addressed it in his 1999 book, "Hitler's Pope," which said Pius XII betrayed Christian teachings by making deals with the Nazis to protect the church's power.

Goldhagen, an American professor of political science, stirred controversy in Germany with an earlier book that said average Germans willingly participated in Hitler's plans to exterminate the Jews.

The head of the German Bishops' Conference, Mainz Cardinal Karl Lehmann, last month called for the Vatican to open all of its Nazi-era archives for the first time to help defuse persistent criticism that the church covered up its wartime activities.


By Melissa Eddy
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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