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taining “more than one large non sequitur”. He goes on: “The exclusion of God might lead ultimately to a truncated vision, but then, it might not. And we might also reflect on the sobering lessons of the religious extremism of the twentieth century, such as the victory of General Franco in Spain, or the conduct of the Catholic-backed regime of Pavelic in Croatia against the Orthodox Serbs, which shocked even the Nazis.”

On the issue of the wider responsibility of

the German people, including Catholics, for Hitler’s rise and its consequences, historians have focused on the element of “fellow travelling” – evident among a variety of Germany’s professions and sectors of society and the state, including the judiciary, academia and the Churches. This perspective dates back to Alan D.

Beyerchen’s Scientists Under Hitler (1977), which revealed the extent to which virtually an entire academic discipline, from 1933, and well in advance of the establishment of Hitler’s all-embracing police state, took benefits from the dictator, and turned a blind eye to Jewish dismissals. That the scientific community distanced itself from Nazi ideology did not alter, accord- ing to Beyerchen, the consequences. The argument insists that fellow-travelling dig- nified the regime, discouraged resistance and encouraged the younger generation to accept the status quo. Later historians of German academia, the medical profession and the

legal profession of this period argue that fellow-travellers did more, unintentionally, to aid Hitler, than card-carrying Nazi mem- bers of the professions.

Against this background, the role of the Catholic Church in Germany, and the Vatican, continues to be studied in the light of newly released documents. Hubert Wolf’s recent study confirms that acceptance of advantages from the regime, despite remaining aloof from it, in the crucial spring and summer of 1933,

‘The conduct of the Catholic-backed regime of

Pavelic in Croatia against the Orthodox Serbs shocked even the Nazis’

after Hitler came to power, gave credibility to the new German leader at home and abroad. Wolf fails to mention, however, that while

Hitler granted the Catholic Church extra fund- ing for its school buildings, more teachers and more pupil places, Jewish school teachers were being fired and their school places reduced. This does not mean that Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII), as Secretary of State, Pius XI’s principal negotiator with Hitler, or the German Catholic hierarchy, sup- ported Hitler or Nazism; but the message

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they gave to Catholics and the wider popula- tion, and the comfort that they unintentionally gave to the regime, is now abundantly clear. Amid the tragic ironies of fellow-travelling, if not outright complicity, is the decision of the Catholic Centre Party, under the leadership of Pacelli’s close collaborator and friend, Mgr Ludwig Kaas, to vote for the Enabling Act that gave Hitler dictatorial powers in 1933. The advantages of the vote are to be found in the promised privileges and the protection (albeit spurious) granted to the Catholic Church in the Reichskonkordat. But the boost it gave to Hitler was undeniable. As Professor Owen Chadwick, emeritus Regius professor of church history at Cambridge, has stated, Mgr Kaas’ “role in making the party vote for Hitler’s Enabling Bill of March 1933 is still one of the most con- troversial acts of German history”. These reflections may well benefit from hindsight, to the point of being technically anachronistic, but there are surely lessons to be drawn from history for the present and the future. As the cause for the beatification of the Venerable Pius XII goes forward, these themes and issues will no doubt come under renewed and close scrutiny.

■John Cornwell’s most recent book is Newman’s Unquiet Grave: the reluctant saint published by Continuum. He is also the author of Hitler’s Pope: the secret history of Pius XII, published by Penguin.

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