The Complicated Story of Jesuits and the Holocaust

Since its founding by Ignatius Loyola in 1534, the Society of Jesus has been one of the most influential Catholic orders. In a new book, James Bernauer, himself a Jesuit priest, describes the deafening silence—and worse—that characterized many of his fellow Jesuits reaction to Nazi persecution of the Jews, as well as the heroic actions of a select few. Rich Tenorio writes:

When the Nazis launched the Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews during November 9-10, 1938, the reaction from many religious leaders was muted. Most Catholic leaders in Germany did not criticize the destructive pogrom and across the Atlantic, there was similar silence from the flagship Jesuit journal America.

But a new book portrays how not all Jesuits . . . kept silent about the Nazis. The daringly titled Jesuit Kaddish: Jesuits, Jews, and Holocaust Remembrance depicts how some priests joined the resistance, some gave their lives to it, and fifteen even became recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

Yet it’s those who did not speak out—or who even joined the Wehrmacht as chaplains—who remain a primary source of concern for [the] author. . . . The book discusses individual Jesuits’ hostility to Jews and Judaism through World War II, expressed not only through anti-Semitism but also what Bernauer calls “asemitism”—a belief in a world without Jews.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Jesuits, Jewish-Catholic relations

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy