The response of the English churches to the Nazi persecution of the Jews 1933-1945
Tastard, Terence Iain Robert
The background to this thesis is the scholarly debate about bystanders to the Holocaust. Also pertinent is the debate about the conduct of Pius XII in relation to the persecution of the Jews. During the 1930s the Church of England's focus on the persecution of the Jews was complicated by Bishop George Bell's campaign for what were called non-Aryan Christians. He continued his campaign despite being warned that he had exaggerated the numbers of such refugees who would be seeking assistance. The churches in England were challenged to respond to persecution of the Jews by helping fellow- Christians deemed to be of Jewish descent, which confused the understanding about who was being helped. Bell side-stepped calls for him to condemn in outright terms what was happening in Germany. When the Church of England did seek to use its influence with the government, the church had very little suasive force. Specific instances are cited where Archbishop Cosmo Gordon Lang sought government action, but was rebuffed. The persecution of the Jews led to high-profile public meetings and other forms of protest. However, the liberal culture of the times tended to present antisemitic persecution as a challenge to liberal values. This effectively downplayed the persecution's targeting of Jews and its racist basis. Even Jewish requests for church involvement stressed the importance of making the issue a humanitarian one and not a specifically Jewish one. The Council of Christians and Jews also stressed the threat to civilization rather than the threat to Jews. Even so, the CCJ's formation was in itself a response to antisemitism and showed a desire for Christian-Jewish Co-operation and respect. Missionary societies continued to seek to convert the Jews and saw the crisis of the times as an opportunity. Indeed, some missionaries believed it might be the fulfilment of prophecy. The pioneer in Jewish-Christian dialogue, James Parkes, strongly opposed such conversionism. Lang's successor at Canterbury, William Temple, treated the Jewish situation as urgent. He also saw it as challenging Europe's claims to a Christian heritage. Temple's high-profile campaign helped create a wave of Christian support for the Jews, and a flood of petitions. There was a strong tradition of English Catholic antisemitism. Cardinal Arthur Hinsley broke with this to condemn antisemitism with increasing force, though he always mentioned persecution of the Jews in tandem with persecution of Catholics. Evidence suggests that Hinsley may have been compensating for reticence on the part of Pius XII. The thesis also provides a briefer survey of the response of the Quakers, the Methodists and the Baptists.