David Kertzer, author of the book “The Popes Against the Jews,” will speak on the Catholic Church’s role in the Holocaust at Hillel and the University Bookstore on Wednesday.
Kertzer’s book explores the Catholic Church’s role in fostering anti-Semitism, eventually leading to the Holocaust. He will be reading from his book at the University Bookstore at 6 p.m., and will lecture at Hillel, 611 Langdon St., at 7:45 p.m.
According to the New York Times Book Review, Kertzer “has done a staggeringly thorough job of tracing Catholic statements on the Jews, and in using the Vatican archives to show what support was given to the people making these statements.”
Kertzer examined the Vatican archives of the Inquisition, containing church-sponsored newspapers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These newspapers featured articles denouncing Jews, charging them with murders of Christian children and hoarding money.
“The Popes Against the Jews” chronicles the Vatican’s role in creating these sentiments using Papacy-sponsored newspapers and journals, focusing on the actions of Popes Pius IX to Pius XII.
The book also explains how the Catholic Church’s anti-Semitism created the conditions that allowed the Holocaust to happen, searching deeper than Pope Pius XII’s failure to protest the Holocaust during World War II.
John Malicsi, events coordinator at University Book Store, said the Catholic Church’s role in anti-Semitism was widely speculated by scholars but never demonstrated with the Vatican’s own archives.
“What makes it different is that it’s incontrovertible, it’s on the page,” Malicsi said. “He actually went to their archives. It’s on paper.”
Although the subject matter is potentially controversial, Joshua Schwartz, program associate at Hillel, said Kertzer’s work comes from a historical rather than a political point of view.
“I think that Kertzer makes it clear that he’s talking about popes from the earlier twentieth century, before Vatican II,” he said, referring to the Catholic Church’s doctrine changes in the 1960s. “He’s fairly benign.”
“It’s nothing new,” he said. “It just hasn’t been proven with the Vatican’s own papers before. If the book is challenged, it will be on the grounds of how he did his research, rather than the research itself.”
Kertzer’s visit is the third of four scheduled events put on by Hillel in conjunction with the University Bookstore. The first, scheduled for Sept. 13 with Philip Gourevitch, a staff reporter from the New Yorker, was cancelled due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Hillel will close the program Oct. 25 with author Stephen Bloom, author of the book “Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America.” He will be reading from his book and leading a discussion afterward.