Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Berlin Anti-Jewish Riots of 1935 (3rd of 3)

In the previous two posts, I described the Berlin anti-Jewish riots of 1935. How to interpret such events from the past has been, and continues to be, a major question for those who study the Holocaust. Who was ultimately responsible?

In this particular case we know that, at the time, Hitler and the Nazi party had compelling reasons for creating at least the appearance of fairness for German Jews. For one thing, the leaders of the Third Reich did not want to risk a boycott of the next year’s Olympic Games, the threat of which was now renewed. [1] As early as mid-March 1933, Hitler had met with Dr. Theodor Lewald and Heinrich Sahm, president and vice-president of the German Olympic Committee. Following his conference with them, he “expressed great interest in the arrangements and said: ‘I will do everything possible to advance the Games, as well as all sports interests’.” [2] From that time until the successful production of the winter and summer Games of 1936, the regime did what was necessary in order to prevent a boycott. [3]

More-general economic concerns loomed as well. For example, on August 20, 1935 several ministers of the regime met in a conference called by Hjalmar Schacht, the Minister of Economics. Schacht emphasized to his peers “the damage caused by the anti-Jewish disorders and warned that the developing situation could threaten the economic basis of rearmament.” As one might expect, he was worried about present and future economic conditions. Of course, Schacht “agreed that the party program had to be implemented.” But he also insisted “that the implementation had to take place within a framework of legal instructions alone.” Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick, and Gauleiter and Bavarian Minister of the Interior Adolf Wagner agreed with Schacht, and their conclusions were soon communicated to the Fuehrer.

Less than a month later, Hitler delivered a speech before the Reichstag, assembled at Nuremberg on September 15, 1935. He blamed international resistance to his regime for a supposed recent Jewish uprising in Germany. According to the Fuehrer, Jews living within the Reich sensed that they had strong support abroad. As a result, they had now concluded that the time had come for them “openly to oppose Jewish interests to those of the German nation.” Hitler continued with a general characterization and with a specific example from Berlin:

From numerous places vigorous complaints have been received of the provocative action of individuals belonging to this people, and the remarkable frequency of these reports and the similarity of their contents point to a certain system of operations. This attitude actually resulted in demonstrations which in a Berlin cinema were directed against a foreign film by which, though harmless in itself, certain Jewish circles felt themselves to be offended.

Having established the need for the German people to be protected from the supposed menace of an unresolved Jewish problem, Hitler then announced that a resolution was possible:

If this proceeding is not to lead to very determined action in its own defense by the outraged population—the consequences of which in any single case cannot be foreseen—the only way to deal with the problem which remains open is that of legislative action. The German Government is in this governed by the thought that through a single secular solution it may be possible still to create a level ground on which the German people may find a tolerable relation toward the Jewish people. Should this hope not be fulfilled and the Jewish agitation both within Germany and in the international sphere should continue, then the position must be examined afresh. [4]

And with that, Hitler initiated the so-called Nuremberg Laws which were then unanimously promulgated by the Reichstag.

Clearly, the Berlin riots of 1935 were connected to the enactment of the Laws. But more than that, they were a major part of the pretext for the Laws. To that extent, the riots represent a significant step in the long march from persecution to extermination. But exactly how significant were they? As I see it, Moshe Gottlieb oversimplified and overreached when he summarized the meaning of these events as follows: “The Berlin Riots mark the turning point in the final annihilation of German Jewry; for these attacks led directly to the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws, the Kristallnacht episodes of 1938, and the ‘final solution’ of the 1940’s.” [5]

Why should that statement be regarded as a stretch? For two main reasons. First, as the earlier parts of this paper show, the Berlin riots were especially notorious because they occurred in a section of the capital city that was full of visitors from other countries, press correspondents, and representatives of foreign governments. They were far from being the only major persecutions or the worst measures taken against German Jewry in 1935. Second, as Daniel Fraenkel explains, the Nuremberg Laws were indeed “an essential and logical step in the process of destruction unleashed against European Jews.” But he adds that “it would be a mistake to construe the enactment of the September laws as a direct prologue to the Final Solution.” Instead of “a frontal assault on the physical foundations of Jewish existence,” the Laws represented “an act of public and symbolic humiliation of German Jews.” [6]

Contrary to Gottlieb’s assertion, not even the Nuremberg Laws were decisive in any final sense. In my opinion, the complexity of the dynamic between expediency and the long-term goals of Hitler and other leaders of his party has been expressed quite well by Saul Friedlander:

The crimes committed by the Nazi regime were neither a mere outcome of some haphazard, involuntary, imperceptible, and chaotic onrush of unrelated events nor a predetermined enactment of a demonic script; they were the result of converging factors, of the interaction between intentions and contingencies, between discernable causes and chance. General ideological objectives and tactical policy decisions enhanced one another and always remained open to more radical moves as circumstances changed. [7]

The anti-Semitic riots in Berlin during the second half of July 1935 bear every indication of having been carried out, or at least permitted and controlled, by the leadership of the Nazi regime. It was in this way that Hitler and the party elite not only attacked the relatively-prosperous and significant Jewish population of the capital city, they also tested the resolve of the world community. Because they discovered an attitude that was unbelieving, lax, and even complicit, they then took the next steps along their ever-evolving but resolute path.

[1] “Berlin riots mar Olympic planning,” New York Times, July 26, 1935. In the second half of 1935, the push for the U.S. Olympic team to abandon the games in Berlin intensified. See, for example, “Statement of non-Jewish advocates of boycott,” New York Times, October 25; “Jahncke asks ban on Olympic games,” November 27; and “N.A.A.C.P. asks A.A.U. to abandon Olympics,” December 14.

[2] “Hitler promises full support for the 1936 Olympic games,” New York Times, March 17, 1933. See also a piece that appeared in the Times two days earlier, “Hitler support expected for Olympics of 1936 in Berlin,” March 15, 1933. See also Saul Friedlander, Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 138.

[3] In addition to the sources identified in the previous two notes, the pertinent literature on the story of the 1936 Olympic Games includes the following pieces from the New York Times: “Germany seeks 1936 Olympics for Berlin: government funds aiding 1928 campaign,” February 16, 1927; “Brundage’s views stir Berlin press,’ April 20, 1933; “Reich now says status of German Jews in next Olympics has not been settled, May 29, 1933; “Proposal to shift Olympics growing,” June 4, 1933. See also Moshe Gottlieb, “The American Controversy Over the Olympic Games,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly 61, No. 3 (March 1972): 181-213; Bruce Kidd, “The Popular Front and the 1936 Olympics,” Canadian Journal of History of Sport and Physical Education 11, No. 1 (May 1980): 1-18; Allen Guttmann, The Games Must Go On: Avery Brundage and the Olympic Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984); “Olympic Games,” in Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, ed. Christian Zentner and Friedemann Bedurftig, trans. Amy Hackett (New York: Macmillan, 1991), 2:669-71; David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936 (New York: Norton, 2007).

[4] Adolf Hitler, My New Order, ed. Raoul de Roussy de Sales (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941), 339. I owe this quote to Moshe Gottlieb, "The Berlin Riots of 1935 and Their Repercussions in America," American Jewish Historical Quarterly 59, No. 3 (March 1970), 308, note 9.

[5] Gottlieb, 328.

[6] “Nuremberg Laws,” in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. Walter Laqueur (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 454.

[7] Friedlander, 5.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Berlin Anti-Jewish Riots of 1935 (2nd of 3)

The foregoing reports match up perfectly with dispatches issued during the spring and summer of 1935 by William E. Dodd, U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Dodd--pictured above with his wife in Berlin in 1935--wrote several lengthy reports for Secretary of State Cordell Hull. The gist of his communications was that the situation for Jews in Germany was then taking a turn for the worse. Ever since the early part of 1933, when Hitler and the Nazi party came to power and forced many Jewish professionals from their positions, the status of German Jews had actually stabilized. But now things were different. On April 1, Dodd wrote to Hull:

. . . there have been signs of an intensification of pressure upon the Jews in Germany. Fresh outbursts against the Jews in public speeches, additional discriminatory ordinances, and finally undercover work by the police all seem to furnish evidence that the State, profiting by the period of internal calm and by the strengthening of its hand through the declaration of military subscription, is engaged in a new anti-Jewish drive. [1]

Dodd noted, however, that compared to the obvious terror of 1933, the new campaign was being carried out, for the most part, “unobtrusively.” Furthermore, the recent measures seemed “to be directed at a further restriction of Jews’ legal rights.” Dodd said that he had no idea how far the regime might take the new measures, but he thought it was worth mentioning that an announcement had been made “of an early codification of the German citizenship laws and that in this connection many Jews here fear the worst.” By the end of April, things were much clearer. Dodd wrote to Hull:

Reichsminister of the Interior Frick, in an interview published in the Berlin Nachtausgabe of April 27, briefly outlined some of the details of the forthcoming citizenship law which, if they are ultimately incorporated in that law, will undoubtedly make it unique of its kind, inasmuch as it may be inferred from his remarks that citizenship shall be denied all non-Aryans and furthermore may only be acquired after the taking of a solemn oath to the Nazi State. [2]

By May 17, the situation had worsened. On that date, yet another dispatch from Dodd reported the following:

As the anti-Jewish campaign proceeds with official encouragement, it is only natural that, as is being continually reported by our consulates in various German cities, the instances of persecution should multiply in acts of personal humiliation of the Jews, press attacks against individuals, appeals to boycott Jewish stores, the changing of Jewish-named streets, and so forth. . . . The Consul General in Frankfurt has submitted a summary, enclosed as of possible interest, prepared by the National Society of Baptized Jews, showing the professions and callings barred to non-Aryan Germans. It will be seen that the disqualifications extend over practically the whole field of German life. . . . [3]

From these and other messages prepared for the U. S. Secretary of State and sent from Berlin, one can easily gather that the Nuremberg Laws, promulgated on September 15, 1935, had been in the planning for several months. What also seems clear enough is that the intensification of anti-Jewish measures that same year—even the ones blamed on rowdies or the public—were in fact well-coordinated. In yet another one of his communications to Hull, Dodd provides what appears to be independent evidence that the Berlin riots were not spontaneous. On July 17, two days after the outbreak of violence, Dodd wrote that the anti-Jewish campaign in the German press had “prepared the public mind” for the subsequent atrocities. Moreover, “[a]ccording to the best eye-witness accounts, outbreaks occurred at various times and places, but with a precision and common purpose evincing some sort of advance plan. . . .” [4] Significantly, Dodd’s communication was dispatched from Berlin on July 17, but was not received until July 26, nine days later. Moreover, it was apparently never answered. [5]

[1] Moshe Gottlieb, “The Berlin Riots of 1935 and Their Repercussions in America,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly 59, No. 3 (March 1970), 309. For the Dodd correspondence, Gottlieb quotes from Foreign Relations of the United States, 1935, Vol. II: Germany, 392-95.

[2] Gottlieb, 310.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 311.

[5] Ibid.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Berlin Anti-Jewish Riots of 1935 (1st of 3)

The next three posts will present some of my research on the 1935 anti-Jewish riots in Berlin. These events represent only one of the countless episodes in the unspeakable history of the Nazi regime. I say "unspeakable." And yet we must speak. Otherwise we fail to chronicle what fascist politics can do. If silent, we also run the risk of cooperating with those who, to this day and with increasing sophistication, deny the monumental atrocity of the Holocaust and downplay its horror.

I plan to eventually extend my study of this specific topic. And I want to improve the piece that follows here. So I welcome your comments, and am especially interested in hearing from those who are familiar with Holocaust studies. I thank you in advance for any feedback.

Abstract of the Entire Piece: My paper provides an overview of the atmosphere and activities of the anti-Jewish riots in Berlin in the summer of 1935. These incidents represent the pinnacle of the second major wave of disturbances following the Nazi takeover in early 1933. They were also significant because these events did not take place in a village in a remote part of Germany. Instead, they were perpetrated in the capital city, mostly along the Kurfuerstendamm, an elegant boulevard of Berlin. A major question—one that is difficult if not impossible to answer—is the degree to which Hitler and the Nazi high command were responsible for the Berlin riots. Had the regime simply set the tone? Or did they permit, or even commission, these atrocities? If the riots were permitted or even ordered, why did the leadership of the Third Reich disregard the possibility of losing the 1936 Olympic Games? Why would they come so close to an economic boycott? At any rate, what does seem certain is that in early-to-mid 1935, the regime decided to use the anti-Jewish disturbances throughout Germany, and especially the riots in Berlin, as a pretext for the promulgation of the notorious Nuremberg Laws. In fact, before he commended this legislation to the Reichstag, Hitler specifically mentioned the riots in Berlin as an example of why the races had to be separated. In that sense, then, we should understand the Berlin riots as a milestone in the road from persecution to extermination.

Conventions: I place short quotations within quotation marks. Block quotes appear as paragraphs in italics. In addition to the endnotes, where appropriate and when possible I provide links to pertinent Internet sources.

Sometime after 8 o’clock on the evening of Monday, July 15, 1935, anti-Semitic terror broke out along the Kurfuerstendamm, a well-known thoroughfare in Berlin. It was an unlikely scene for an outbreak of terrible violence. Known to many as Berlin’s "Great White Way,” the Kurfuerstendamm was brightly-lit and one of the most-fashionable places in the city’s West End. The area was also home to many of Berlin’s Jews who at that time still numbered as many as 150,000. [1]

According to that morning’s issue of the Voelkischer Beobachter, the official newspaper of the Nazi Party, a large number of Jews had booed at a recent showing of “Petterson and Bendel,” a Swedish anti-Semitic film. The newspaper account concluded with the words, “such insolence is not to be endured.” That afternoon’s edition of Der Angriff, founded by the notorious Joseph Goebbels, included a fiery editorial on the alleged Jewish response to the film. Not surprisingly, the riots that night began in front of the theater where the movie was showing. As they exited, those who appeared to be Jewish were seized, beaten, and chased. Victims were seen running down the street with blood streaming down their faces. Several area businesses owned by Jews were completely wrecked. Within hours, the Reich’s news bureau issued a statement: an attempt by Jews to disturb a presentation in a photoplay house on Kurfuerstendamm had resulted in spontaneous protests from “the public.”

The report went on to mention “minor accidents” and that “a window was broken” before police arrived and prevented further clashes. But according to a front-page story that appeared in the next day’s New York Times, the official statement had misreported the source, the extent, and the true nature of the events. In fact, an all-out riot, “which gave every evidence of careful planning,” was undertaken “by well-organized groups of young men who evidently had specific instructions.” Although these “rowdies,” around 200 in number, were dressed in civilian shirts, many of them were also wearing “Storm Troop boots and trousers.” At one point, “three men in Storm Troop uniform motored up and down the avenue giving orders to the rioters.” The growing crowds reduced the boulevard to a narrow lane, slowing traffic.

Every car that appeared to be driven by a Jew was greeted with shouts of ‘Out, Jew! Get out, Jew! Destruction to the Jews!’ Windshields were freely smashed.” The truckloads of police who eventually arrived seemed reluctant to intervene, unwilling to do much to restore order. To top it off, agents selling Julius Streicher’s notorious anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stuermer went from one café to the next wearing “placards that reached from their shoulders to their feet bearing the customary scurrilous caricatures." [2]

The Wednesday edition of the Times contained a story from the Associated Press that was almost entirely a first-person account provided by Varian Fry, the newly appointed editor of an American journal called The Living Age. Fry, a young, Harvard-educated journalist, had been in Germany on study tour for about a month. His account corroborated several details from the earlier story, including the time that the riots broke out on Monday night as well as how the crowd lined up on both sides of the street “forcing each car which came by to run the gauntlet.” He must have been jarred by the sheer ugliness of what he witnessed:

I saw one man brutally kicked and spat upon as he lay on the sidewalk, a woman bleeding, a man whose head was covered with blood, hysterical women crying, men losing their temper at the police or the Storm Troopers and being kicked or dragged off, women begging their men to keep out of the fight and crying and pleading.

Fry also remarked on the variety that he noticed among the perpetrators and enthusiastic onlookers:

Old men and young men, boys, Storm Troops, police, young girls of the domestic servant type, well-bred women, some even in the forties and over—all seemed to be having a good time. One youth told him, This is a holiday for us.

Yet another AP article that appeared in the Times told the story of a U.S. Navy midshipman, E. W. Wood Jr., who got into a fistfight with a man who had brutalized two women along the Kurfuerstendamm Monday night. [4]

The events of Tuesday, July 16, made it apparent that the Nazi regime was alarmed by what the Times called “the foreign and notably the British reaction” to what had happened the previous night. Reportedly, on Tuesday morning the commander of the Berlin Storm Troopers ordered members of the SA to avoid all questionable public demonstrations. For an indefinite period of time Troopers were to regularly wear their uniforms, except when at work in an office or factory. These precautions, it was said, would “deprive opponents of any opportunity to vilify or slander the party.” Also that morning, an official communiqué was released saying that “the beatings and destruction of property” the night before “were the work of ‘agents provocateurs’.” The story in the Times registered a strong doubt: “It should be noted that on previous occasions when similarly embarrassing events occurred, it has been, officially speaking on the morning after, the work of agents provocateurs.”

The local press in Germany did what it could to blame the victims. Tuesday’s edition of the Zwoelf Uhr Blatt remarked that the Jews considered themselves “again at home” and had assumed “the right to reject by whistling and whispering mocking remarks in a German photoplay house a film that had been declared ‘valuable for the interests of the State’.” It was the Jews “through their provoking behavior” who were responsible for “spontaneous demonstrations by German citizens.” Likewise, the Nachtausgabe said,

Certain Jewish groups began to regard themselves again as the masters of the situation. When ill feeling expressed itself yesterday on the Kurfuerstendamm, then that was simply evidence of how unendurable Jewish provocations had become. The responsibility lies with those who will not realize that the German people has no desire to return to Jewish rule.

Tuesday afternoon witnessed several aftershocks from the previous night’s earthquake. Customers at some of the ice cream parlors along the Kurfuerstendamm were harassed, and “a dozen young anti-Semites” chased one young man up the street yelling, “Traitor! Down with him!” That evening, supporters of Julius Streicher again came out in full force, wearing armbands that advertised Der Stuermer. Up and down the boulevard on windows and posts they placed stickers that bore the ominous slogan of the paper: “The Jew is the cause of all our troubles.” On certain shops they placed stickers that read, “I am a Jew. Aryans enter my establishment at their own risk.” [5] It was later reported that on Tuesday night, Adolf Hitler himself “patrolled the Kurfuerstendamm,” really or ostensibly, “to see that there was no new outbreak of anti-Semitic rioting.”

The Fuhrer twice rode up and down the fashionable thoroughfare in an automobile. He was dressed in a white raincoat and white traveling cap, and was accompanied by adjutants and Secret Service men. He made the personal survey, it was said, to assure himself that firm steps were being taken to prevent a repetition of the disturbances. [6]

The same piece also reported that the Nazi regime was pushing its sterilization program “despite Catholic protests,” and that the state-controlled press in Germany was devoting “entire columns to violent attacks on foreign reports of anti-Semitic disorders.” It went on to tell how the National Sozialistische Partie Korrespondenz, the Nazi party’s syndicate service, was now demanding that Jews, “on pain of death if necessary,” were thereby forbidden to rent an apartment to “Aryans.” Furthermore, no Jew was to engage Aryan domestic help, attend an Aryan physician, or accept an Aryan as a client.

Nonetheless, the article included the hopeful note that “a recurrence of Monday’s riots seemed unlikely.” [7] At the same time, it was noticed that in some towns and villages in Germany, the old signs reading “Jews are not wanted here,” had been replaced by new ones that said, “Jews enter at their own risk.” [8] Meanwhile, an official Nazi party bulletin insinuated that the press and the shapers of popular culture outside of Germany were guilty of communicating misinformation about life in the Third Reich. The bulletin asked why more attention had not been given to the plea issued by Reichsfuehrer Hitler in a recent foreign policy speech in which he had said:

The German Government is of the opinion that all attempts to achieve an effective lessening of the tension between individual States by means of international agreements or agreements between several States are doomed to failure unless suitable measures are taken to prevent the poisoning of public opinion in the nations on the part of irresponsible individuals in speech, in writing, in films and in theatre. [9]

By Thursday night of the same week, anti-Jewish rioting had broken out again in Berlin. Judging from the reports, though, these events were not nearly as severe as those of Monday night. [10] Nevertheless, the Times published many more stories over the next few days and weeks that indicated a relentless anti-Semitic drive in Germany. [11] They reveal something that Saul Friedlander has pointed out: though better-known than many of the other atrocities of 1935, the Berlin riots were only part of a much larger set of incidents. Most notably, as early as March of that year, Germany’s Ministry of the Interior announced that the new Wehrmacht would exclude Jews and that anti-Jewish legislation was in the offing. By the end of April, the city of Munich had witnessed several weeks of well-organized disturbances:

Jewish stores were sprayed nightly with acid or smeared with such inscriptions as JEW, STINKING JEW, OUT WITH THE JEWS, and so on. According to the report, the perpetrators knew the police patrol schedule exactly, and could therefore act with complete freedom. In May the smashing of window panes of Jewish shops began. The police report indicates involvement by Hitler Youth groups in one of these early incidents. By mid-May the perpetrators were not only attacking Jewish stores in broad daylight but also assaulting their owners, their customers, and sometimes even their Aryan employees. [12]

By Saturday, May 25 the attacks in Munich “had spread to every identifiable Jewish business in the city.” [13] Smaller cities and towns were also the scenes of attacks and locally-initiated measures against Jews. [14]

Yet another related article, published in the Times dated July 26, 1935, bolsters the idea that the wave of anti-Jewish incidents of that year were both planned and purposeful. By then, the aforementioned Virgil Fry had returned from Germany. Now he had a new twist to the story of the recent Berlin riots. While still in Berlin, he had spoken with Dr. Ernst Franz Sedgwick Hanfstaengl, press advisor to Reichsfuehrer Hitler. In their interview, Hanfstaengl admitted to Fry that it wasn’t Jewish patrons who had hissed during the showing of the Swedish film “Petterson and Bendel.” A different group was responsible for the instigation. As Fry reported:

Dr. Hanfstaengle told me many things and asked me not to mention some of them, but he did not give me this information in confidence, and I see no reason why I should not tell you. . . . The original hissing took place on Friday, three days before the Monday rioting, which I witnessed. Dr. Hanfstaengle said he had reliable information that those who did the hissing were Storm Troopers. [15]

Not only that, on Tuesday, July 16, the day after the outbreak of the anti-Jewish riots along the Kurfuerstendamm, Fry had taken a walk down the boulevard to see some of the aftermath. Allowing himself to be seen as a foreigner who was nonetheless sympathetic to the events of the previous night, he asked two Berlin policemen if they thought that the rioting had been sponsored by the Nazi party. “The policemen,” said Fry, “replied in the affirmative.” [16]

[1] The population number comes from “Berlin,” an unsigned article in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s online encyclopedia. The piece reports that the census of June 16, 1933 indicated that 160,000 Jews lived in Berlin. Some German Jews moved into the city during the pre-War years of the Nazi regime. Yet, by 1939, the total Jewish population of Berlin had dropped to 80,000.

[2] “Jews are beaten by Berlin rioters; cafes are raided,” New York Times, July 16, 1935. Evidently, something of this had already broken out as early as the previous Saturday, July 13. In his dairy on that date, Jochen Klepper, a Protestant author who had married a Jewish widow, wrote: “Anti-Semitic excesses on the Kurfuerstendamm. . . . The cleansing of Berlin of Jews threateningly announced.” Saul Friedlander, Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 138 who cites Klepper, Unter dem Schatten deiner Fluegel: Aus den Tagebuechern der Jahre 1932-1942, (Stuttgart, 1983), 269.

[3] “Editor describes rioting in Berlin,” New York Times, July 17, 1935. Varian Fry’s experiences in Berlin revealed to him the true Nazi spirit. In June 1940, he became one of the founders of the independent Emergency Rescue Committee. In August of that year, living in Marseilles, he created a clandestine network whose goal it was to smuggle refugees out of Nazi-occupied France. By August 1941, when Fry was expelled from the country, he and his associates had saved approximately 2,000 people from certain death. In 1976, nearly a decade after his demise, the United States awarded him the Eisenhower Liberation Medal. In 1993, he was honored by an exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. And in a 1996 ceremony attended by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem declared him “Righteous Among the Nations.” Justus Rosenberg, “Fry, Varian,” in American National Biography, Supplement 2, ed. Mark C. Carnes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 183-85.

[4] “Midshipman tells of fight in Berlin,” New York Times, July 17, 1935.

[5] “Reaction to riots alarm Germans; baiting continues” New York Times, July 17, 1935.

[6] “Nazis tighten law on sterilization; answer Catholics,” New York Times, July 18, 1935.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Signs of the new drive in Munich,” New York Times, July 18, 1935. See also an earlier piece, “Ban on Jews increased,” July 12, 1935, which reports how a German health resort had recently replaced signs that read, “Jews are not wanted” with different signs reading, “Jews are forbidden to enter the gardens.”

[9] “Boycott is pushed,” New York Times, July 19, 1935.

[10] “Anti-Jewish riots renewed in Berlin,” New York Times, July 19, 1935.

[11] See, for example, “Anti-Semite police chief named to ‘purge’ Berlin of Jews and Communists,” New York Times, July 20, 1935; “Nazi reich in throes of new ‘purification,” July 21; “New Nazi drives on ‘reactionaries’ spread to nation,” July 23; “Anti-Semites firm in the saddle as persecution spreads in reich,” July 24.

[12] Friedlander, Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I, 137.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 138-39.

[15] “Editor holds riots inspired by Nazis,” New York Times, July 26, 1935.

[16] Ibid.

Friday, July 08, 2011

MacCulloch, Chapter 14

"Orthodoxy: More Than an Empire (900-1700)" is the title of this chapter.

Crises and Crusaders (900-1200)

At the millennium, Constantinople, with somewhere around 600,000 residents, was easily the biggest city in the known world. It was a time of relative strength and prosperity in the eastern empire. However, it was also a time of theological challenge, exemplified by Symeon "the New Theologian" who argued that true ordination came from God and not from men; that authority was rooted in character, not in office; that power was the result of godly simplicity, not worldly sophistication.

The eleventh century also saw Constantinople trying to fend off Muslim encroachment. "The most decisive battle in the Byzantine confrontation with the Seljuk Turks was at Manzikert in Asia Minor in 1071, at which the reigning Emperor Romanus was not only crushingly defeated, but suffered the humiliation of being taken prisoner" (470). His successor, Alexios "repeatedly appealed to Western leaders for help against various enemies, and in 1095 for the first time he was given a serious hearing. It as this request which led [Pope] Urban II to launch the publicity campaign which triggered the First Crusade" (470). The Crusades had the effect of increasing tension between East and West. The presence of armies from the West in and around Constantinople unnerved the East. At times, mayhem against Muslims spilled over into violence against Byzantines. The two sides had long since lost their ability to comprehend each other. And the papacy was increasing its claim to a universal monarchy.

The Fourth Crusade and its Aftermath (1204-1300)

MacCulloch singles out the Fourth Crusade because of its focus: "attacks on Constantinople in 1203 and 1204, horrible deaths in quick succession for a series of Byzantine emperors, including the little-regarded Alexios, the trashing of the Christian world's wealthiest and most cultured city--in short, countless incentives for centuries of Orthodox fury against Catholics" (474). The Byzantine Empire was forever damaged. In early response, a few "statelets" sprang up, the most impressive one at Nicaea in the mountains of Asia Minor. The rulers of Nicaea were the ones who recaptured Constantinople from the Latins in 1261. "Even though Constantinople was restored to Byzantine control . . . , the empire's unity, that fundamental fact of Byzantine society from Constantine the Great onwards, never again became a reality" (477).

Orthodox Renaissance, Ottomans and Hesychasm Triumphant (1300-1400)

The post-1261 Byzantine Empire was never the same, and it experienced disintegration and pressure as a result of "a new branch of Turkish tribes who had carved out for themselves a principality in north-west Asia Minor and who survived a determined effort by the Byzantines to dislodge them in a significant victory in 1301. Their warlord leader was called Osman, and they took their name of Ottomans from him" (483).

As MacCulloch points out, it's ironic that this age saw a good bit of interchange between East and West. He discusses the similarities and differences of the liturgies and physical features of the two great Churches. A good number of Latin texts by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas were translated into Greek during this period.

At this same time, the East "was convulsed by a dispute about the validity of a style of mystical prayer known as Hesychasm" (487). Hesychasm connotes the idea of silence and stillness, like an ancient form of Quakerism. Its main proponent was Gregory Palamas taught that this form of prayer enabled the worshipper to reach visions of divine light, to see the Holy Spirit as it were. On the other side was Barlaam who cited the Maximus tradition, according to which the essence of God is unknowable. Ironically, both of them cited newly-translated Latin theological texts. Ultimately, Barlaam's side lost the debate and Gregory triumphed. By 1341, Barlaam was condemned as a heretic. So he went west and joined the Roman Catholics!

Hopes Destroyed: Church Union, Ottoman Conquest (1400-1700)

By the end of the fourteenth century, the last emperors in Constantinople had resigned themselves to being vassals of the Ottoman sultan. Appeals to the West were and would have been futile. The hostility between the two had been growing for a long time. The Great Papal Schism of 1378, in which two and then three different people were claiming to be Pope, revealed that Catholicism had major problems of its own.

The fifteenth century witnessed an attempt on the part of the two sides to mend the rift. But from the standpoint of the East, issues like the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, their use of unleavened bread, and the powers and claims of the papacy, made the gap impossibly wide. In its homeland, Orthodoxy withered under Muslim domination.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

MacCulloch, Chapter 13

This is the first chapter in Part V, which is titled, "Orthodoxy: The Imperial Faith (451-1800)". Like myself, most Westerners know very little of Eastern Christianity. So I'm especially looking forward to reading this part of the book. The title of Chapter 13 is "Faith in a New Rome (451-900)".

A Church to Shape Orthodoxy: Hagia Sophia

MacCulloch explains Eastern Orthodoxy by way of describing the symbolism and worship associated with the great Hagia Sophia (Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople.

In its present form, it is the achievement of the Christian monarchs Justinian I and his consort, Theodora (429) who succeeded in "sacralizing Byzantine society" (434). This was possible because of "an idea which over centuries became basic to Christian Orthodox spirituality: union with the divine, or theosis . . . a very different direction from Augustine's Western emphasis on the great gulf between God and humanity created by original sin" (433). Although the heirs of Justinian did much to root out anything that was Roman or non-Christian, the Byzantine empire had its enemies not the least of which were invading Muslims and a major plague which began in the 540s and continued well into the 700s, spreading west.

Byzantine Spirituality: Maximus and the Mystical Tradition

Since the Byzantine Empire disposed of the academies that anchored the intellectual world of the past, monasteries emerged in the East as "the safe-deposits and factories of learning" (436). By the eleventh century, it was the standard in Orthodoxy that bishops would first be monks (437). Two Orthodox monasteries survived the Muslim takeover of the East: St. Sabas near Jerusalem, founded in the 480s, and St Catherine's at the foot of traditional Mount Sinai, home to John of the Ladder (a.k.a. Climacus), author of a classic of Eastern monasticism, the Ladder of Divine Ascent.

But the "greatest theologian of the Byzantine tradition" (p. 438) was Maximus (or Maximos, c. 580-662), "the Confessor." Maximus consistently cited tradition that supposedly went back to Dionysius the Areopagite whom Paul the Apostle converted in Athens (Acts 17). In reality, this body of teaching likely went back no further than 80 years or so. With it, Maximus advanced the notion that theosis, deification, was the destiny of the saved, who would become "gods through grace," and even of the cosmos itself (439-40). In the Eastern tradition, the Church's liturgy is the chief means of such ascent to the divine.

Smashing Images: The Iconoclastic Controversy (726-843)

MacCulloch begins this section by addressing the question, "Where did the iconoclastic controversy come from?" One strong impulse came from Islam's rejection of images combined with Muslim military success. Maybe they were on to something. Maybe divine favor would return to a Byzantium free of its damning sculpture.

As a way of getting around the prohibition in the Ten Commandments--"You shall not make for yourselves any graven images"--Eastern Christians turned to the icon, an image that was painted, not graven or sculpted, on wood. But even these were officially prohibited, which sent them underground; they were kept and used in homes of believers, though they were not found in churches. This is not to say that images and icons had no defenders in the East. The Arab Christian John of Damascus criticized neighboring Islam for its hypocrisy: it made no room for images, but venerated the Black Stone housed in the Ka'aba. John was a great thinker and writer, "the last Eastern theologian to have a continuous impact on Western Christian thinking until modern times" (447). Thomas Aquinas claimed that he read from John every day!

In his defense of the use of icons, John advanced an earlier distinction made between two Greek words: latreia and proskynesis. The first is roughly equivalent to our English word "worship," and is appropriate only when directed toward God. On the other hand, proskynesis means something more like "honor" and can be appropriate when directed toward, say, an emperor or a holy person. Honor given to something or to someone ultimately goes to the One who made and shaped that something or someone. Through the veneration of images, the worshiper indirectly, but ultimately, worships God. Nonetheless, icono-clasm versus icono-phila was the norm in the East for centuries. Iconoclasm was finally crushed around 843.

Photios and the New Missions to the West (850-900)

Photios was an Orthodox Patriarch of the late ninth century who, as a result of reading very widely as a young man, was one of the most learned men of his day. He came to power at about the same time that Byzantine monarchs were restoring political stability and military power to the empire. His expansionist activities brought him into conflict with the popes in the West. Anticipating the rift that was to come in 1054, Photios and Pope Nicholas personally excommunicated each other in the year 867 (p. 460). One tactic of the Photios campaign was to create alphabetic systems which would become the scripts for a liturgy and theology that matched Orthodox norms, such as the Greek rite of St. John Chrysostom. This established that the Greek language did not have a monopoly over the Orthodox tradition, which experienced a real triumph during the ninth century.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

MacCulloch, Chapter 12

Theology, Heresy, Universities (1100-1300)

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries saw the advent of universities in Christianized Europe. Few people would guess, however, something that MacCulloch mentions about these schools: they were modeled after institutions of higher learning in the world of Islam (398). The scholastic approach to understanding God, the Bible, the way of Christ, etc. led to the development of a much more formal theology. Thus the scholastic theologians drew the precise lines by which some believers were deemed out of bounds, i.e., heretics. MacCulloch emphasizes that the universities, though they grew up in a thoroughly Christian society, had a good bit of independence from the Church, and dealt with ecclesiastical leadership in an advisory role.

A Pastoral Revolution, Friars and the Fourth Lateran Council (1200-1260)

Dominic began an order of friars (related to the term fraternity, brothers) that was dedicated to radical poverty and intellectual rigor. Dominicans were also called Blackfriars.

Francis of Assissi grew up in a wealthy family but rejected his upbringing, emphasizing that Christ was, to borrow the words of the song, "despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected, and poor." Francis was the first person we know of to have suffered stigmata, the physical marks of the crucified Christ (403). The Franciscan friars grew from his legacy. Franciscans were also called Greyfriars.

Pope Innocent III's push for greater definition of the beliefs and practices of the Church, for order and standardization, in effect generated the Inquisition. The activities of this episode, which are often misunderstood and exaggerated, were carried out by the Dominicans. The interests of Innocent were behind the calling of Lateran IV. "This fourth Lateran Council embodied the Gregorian aim of imposing regulated holiness on the laity and ensuring uniformity in both belief and devotional practice" (405). One idea was that every Christian should know what he's doing and why, what's going on in the Eucharist, etc. Such interest led to the closer definition of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Along this line, MacCulloch wisely notes: "It is easy to confuse the doctrine of the 'Real Presence," the general devotional belief that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are to be identified with the body and blood of Christ, with the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is just one explanation of the miracle" (406).


Thomas Aquinas: Philosophy and Faith

Thomistic theology, highly influential, was a blend of Aristotelian philosophy and Church doctrine. Thomas's great work was his Summa Theologica (which MacCulloch translates "Sum total of Theology") and which runs to 61 volumes in its standard English translation.

Love in a Cold Climate: Personal Devotion After 1200

The climate of Europe began to turn much colder, beginning around 1200. MacCulloch suspects that this unfortunate change may have led to the "personalization" of God and Christ in the years that followed. The period exhibits a deep thirst for God. St. Francis's popular book Meditations on the Life of Christ (most likely written by John de Caulibus, a.k.a. pseudo-Bonaventure) expands on the life of Jesus as we know it from the gospel accounts. These embellishments strike MacCulloch as part of the evidence that people of the time wanted to know Jesus better, to have a closer view of him.

Friday, July 01, 2011

MacCulloch, Chapter 11

"The West: Universal Emperor or Universal Pope? (900-1200)" is the title of this chapter.

Abbots, Warriors and Popes: Cluny's Legacy

MacCulloch begins by describing the massive abbey at Cluny in Burgundy and how it represented devotion to "the creation of ever more splendid Benedictine houses" (p. 363). During this same time in England, the powerful influence of Bishop Aethelwold led to the building of cathedral churches which also served as monasteries. Along this line, the author remarks: "One should never underestimate the significance of architecture in Christianity and particularly not in the era of reform which now emerged" (365). MacCulloch also relates the expansion of Christian pilgrimage, especially to Santiago de Compostela located in northwestern Spain. Together, these developments expressed and led to what the author calls a real "Reformation" (366) of the eleventh century.

Along with this "Reformation of the Middle Ages," there was an economic boom that accompanied increased farm production and with it a change in "the nature of the Western Church's ministry to society, making it pay more attention to the needs and obligations of the humble and relatively poor" (368). The need to organize an expanded ministry led to the invention of the parochiae, parishes.

Ministry among the emerging middle classes had a major unintended consequence: unlike the wealthy, these people could not afford full payment for their sins. And this, says MacCulloch, "was where the idea of a middle state between Heaven and Hell, first envisaged in the theology of the Alexandrian theologians Clement and Origen at the turn of the second and third centuries, proved so useful and comforting" (370). By the late twelfth century, people were talking about a place called Purgatory. Something else: new found wealth led to local battles for it, and so it was that the church emerged as arbitrator and peacemaker.

The Vicar of Christ: Marriage, Celibacy and Universal Monarchy

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Western Church "did its best to gain more control over the most intimate part of human existence, sexual relations and marriage" (371). Part of the motivation for this new effort was based on a fear: "Married clergy might well found dynasties, and might therefore be inclined to make Church lands into their hereditary property, just as secular lords were doing at the same time. The result was a long battle to forbid marriage for all clergy" (372-73).

The period also saw the growth of the papacy. A new era came with Gregory VII (reigned 1073-85), the pope "who drew together all the strands of papal self-assertion" (374). The development of the papacy generated "a complex central bureaucracy," the cardinals, as well as canon law and "a staggering heritage of architectural beauty: the cathedrals of medieval Catholic Europe" (376-78). "Perhaps the most perfect of all is the cathedral of Chartes" (380).

The Age of the Crusades (1060-1200)

Overall, I thought this section was inadequate. But maybe that had more to do with my interest in the Crusades than any deficiency in the author. Either way, MacCulloch identifies some of the factors that led to the Crusades. For decades on end, the Church in Spain had been driving out the Muslims; a certain Caliph al-Hakin in Egypt had ordered the demolition of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem; and much like the growing phenomenon of pilgrimage, warfare had become a means of accruing spiritual merit.

Cistercians, Carthusians and Mary (1100-1200)

Here MacCulloch describes the reaction away from the lavish institutional Church. In short, the Carthusian monastic order emphasized "simplicity and self-denial" (389), while the Cistercians focused on separation from the world and built austere churches, unlike those of "Clunaic splendor" (390). Last but not least during this time was the further development of the cult of Mary. When the Greek theotokos (God-bearer) was translated into Latin, the expression signified something more like "Mother of God." Such language led to the full adoption of Mary's perpetual virginity; to the development of the doctrine of her immaculate conception (which refers to the conception of Mary and is different from the doctrine of the virginal conception of Christ); and to the origin of the story of Mary's assumption. In Catholicism, it's not just "something," it's a lot of things about Mary.