"Ideologies of Evil," as Remembered by John Paul II

Excerpts From His Upcoming Book «Memory and Identity»

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ROME, OCT. 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is an excerpt from John Paul II’s forthcoming book, «Memory and Identity: Conversation Between Millennia,» presented Wednesday at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany.

The book will go on sale next spring. The translation of the following paragraphs, published in the Italian newspaper Avvenire, is by ZENIT. They are taken from Chapter 3, which tells of the «limit imposed on evil in the history of Europe.»

* * *

It was given to me to have personal experience of the reality of the «ideologies of evil.» It is something that remains indelible in my memory. First it was Nazism. What was seen in those years was already something terrible. But many aspects of Nazism, in that phase, in fact, were concealed. The real dimension of evil that was unleashed in Europe was not perceived by everyone, not even by those among us who lived in the very center of that maelstrom.

We lived precipitated in a great eruption of evil (…). Both the Nazis during the War, as the Communists, later, in Eastern Europe, tried to conceal what they were doing from public opinion. For a long time the West did not want to believe in the extermination of the Jews (…). Nor was it known in Poland all that the Nazis had done and were doing to Poles, or what the Soviets had done to the Polish officers in Katyn (…).

Later, already after the War, I thought to myself: the Lord God has granted Nazism twelve years of existence and after twelve years that system collapsed. One understands that that was the limit imposed by Divine Providence on such madness. In fact, it had not just been madness — it had been «bestiality,» as Konstanty Michalski wrote. But in fact Divine Providence granted only those twelve years to the unleashing of that bestial rage. If Communism survived longer and if it has before it, I then thought to myself, a prospect of further development, there must be some meaning in all of this (…).

There was then the clear sensation that the Communists would have conquered Poland and would have gone beyond, to Western Europe, planning the conquest of the world. In reality, it did not go that far. «The Miracle of the Vistula,» that is, the victory of Pilsudski in the battle against the Russian Army halted these Soviet pretensions. After the victory over Nazism in the Second World War, in fact, the Communists were preparing with audacity to take over the world and, in any case, Europe. In the beginning it led to the division of the Continent in spheres of influence. This was the agreement reached at the Yalta Conference of 1945, an agreement only apparently respected by the Communists, who transgressed it, in fact, in various ways. (…).

For me, then, it became immediately clear that that would last a far longer time than the Nazi madness. How long? It was difficult to foresee. What came to mind is that that evil was in some way necessary for the world and for man. It happens, in fact, that in certain concrete situations of human existence evil reveals itself in some measure useful — useful in so far as it creates occasions for good.

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