Christian Persecution of Jews over the Centuries
Gerard S. Sloyan
Professor Emeritus of Religion, Temple University
It is almost as painful to read or write of the mutual antipathy between Christians and Jews as it is to
learn of the horrible events of the Nazi period sixty years and an ocean’s distance away. Many in this
country have childhood memories of those horrors. Others who were not in Europe have relatives who
were put to death there. There are, moreover, not a few escapees living among us who were never in
death camps but who made their way here via Switzerland, the Low Countries or England, in some cases
all three. Americans in their seventies and upwards, gentiles and Jews alike, have the uncomfortable role
of being guilty bystanders. What did they [we] know, if anything? What did they [we] do about it, if
Probing the root causes of the irrational hatred that led to the death of millions is terribly important, if
only to give some small assurance that nothing like it can happen again. An open wound can be
cauterized. A hidden, festering one cannot be healed.
Many of today’s Jews are convinced that the horror of Hitler’s days was simply the culmination of
centuries of Judenhass (“Jew Hate”). They may be right but the question needs examining. Books appear
regularly that explain the Endlösung, the “final solution” worked out at Wannsee, Berlin in 1942 and
referred to as a plan for the total liquidation of European Jewry. The “final solution” is understood by
many to be the result of the contempt for Jews that had been taught for centuries and taken root in
Austria, Germany, France, Poland, and Lithuania. But is this what happened? Were the baptized
Christians of Europe ripe for the pagan nationalism of Hitler, Rosenberg, Göring, Himmler, and the rest?
Were they eager to be rid of their Jewish merchant, artist and professional neighbors, finally and forever?
If not, were they willing to rid themselves of Jews as threats to their economic wellbeing in the Europe
that followed Ve