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By M. Mazzenga

This book examines how American Protestants, Catholics and Jews answered to the persecution of Jews in Germany and German-occupied territory within the Thirties. The essays specialise in American spiritual responses to Kristallnacht and signify the 1st exam of multi-religious workforce responses to the beginnings of the Holocaust.

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The fact that many of the Jews suffering under Hitler were not even Jews by faith seems to have almost entirely escaped the American Protestant community, though it was a regular point made by Frank Ritchie and his colleagues in the American Committee for Christian German Refugees, and taken up regularly in the Churchman and other liberal Protestant publications. For instance, the Christian Science Monitor publicized a Foreign Policy Association report, which released in Washington just before Kristallnacht.

In most cases, responses focused on outrage at German brutality, the threat to Western civilization, and the call for humane treatment of Jews and other victims of Nazism. Both ideologically and practically, these Protestant responses were enmeshed in broader public reactions to the German persecution of Jews. This is not surprising given the extent to which mainline Protestants came to understand the world in largely secular terms, based on their confidence in reason and their adoption of bourgeois, reformist values.

Guy Emery Shipler admitted that many had begun to question whether pacifism would still work in a time in which the power of Hitler and the Japanese was growing, and in which other world leaders kept giving them what they wanted. Was pacifism, he wondered, really just cowardice. 16 It was this mixture of factors—public mistrust and criticism of Hitler and the German government, an even greater fear of communism, and antipathy and hostility toward Jews, contrasted (at least in part) by mainline Protestant press coverage that was almost unequivocally anti-Nazi, concerned for Jewish and “Non-Aryan” refugees, critical of American antisemitism, and pacifist by conviction—that formed the context in which American mainline Protestants encountered news of the Kristallnacht pogrom.

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