German Court Bans Book Accusing Church of Aiding Nazis

Photograph Comes Under Scrutiny

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ROME, OCT. 11, 2002 ( A Bavarian court in Germany ordered Siedler publishers to withdraw all copies in circulation of a book that accuses the Catholic Church of collaborating with the Nazis.

«Die Katholische Kirche und der Holocaust» (The Catholic Church and the Holocaust) was written by Daniel Goldhagen. The court justified its decision because the volume includes a photograph on Page 237 in which a bishop appears to be reviewing Nazi SS troops.

At the bottom of the photograph the bishop is identified as Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, the then archbishop of Munich.

After comparing the photograph with those of the cardinal on file, and after receiving the testimonies of people who knew him, lawyers of the Munich Archdiocese presented a libel complaint to the court. Earlier, the lawyers had contacted the Siedler firm, which shrugged off the complaints.

After deliberation, the court banned the publishers from issuing the book, and ordered that all copies be withdrawn until the page in question is omitted. Siedler faces a fine of 250,000 euro ($246,200) if it doesn’t comply.

The question is complex because the book says the photograph was taken from Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archives. It is unclear if the writing at the bottom of the photograph was invented by Goldhagen or if it was written by the museum.

Two days after the court order, Siedler has made no comment, while numerous articles have been published in England and Germany criticizing other serious errors of the book, including accusations of anti-Semitism against people who, in fact, risked their lives to save Jews.

Given the book’s thesis, which accuses the Church of collaboration with the Nazis, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German episcopal conference, explained that «70% to 80% of Jews who survived under the Nazi occupation were saved by ecclesiastical institutions.»

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