June 6, 2006
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Pope on Nazism

I've run across several notes on the Pope's recent visit to Auschwitz, where he said that the extermination of the Jews was aimed, in the end, at oppressing Christianity.

By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.

I've seen praise of these remarks as moving, and criticism of them as impolitic. What no article I've seen has mentioned is that they are untrue.

The thoughts of the Spartans, the Visigoths, the Aztec are largely lost to us save through their few surviving writings. We don't really know exactly what they were trying to do, or why. But the Nazis are not lost to history. They are a living memory -- the Pope himself remembers them. We know, as much as we can know any other man's mind, why they wanted to move or exterminate the Jews.

And the Pope's reason was not the Nazis'.

Why would this man distort history in this way? Perhaps because he longs to hold a vision of Auschwitz in the form of a quattrocento altarpiece with a circle of Catholic martyrs in the center, praying, surrounding by an enormous host of tiny, nameless Jews and even greater hosts of angels.

Perhaps he finds that a comforting image. I don't.