German Court Halts Book on Catholics and Third Reich | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 10.10.2002
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German Court Halts Book on Catholics and Third Reich

A German court has issued a temporary injunction against publication of a new book by controversial American author and historian Daniel Goldhagen about the Catholic Church's history in Third Reich Germany.


The Catholic Church says Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's new book is inaccurate.

The regional court in Munich responded to a demand by Munich's Archdiocese that the book be withdrawn from publication over a factual error.

The district court issued its ruling on Tuesday based on evidence that information contained in the publication implied false association of a member of the Catholic Church with Hitler's Third Reich in World War II.

In Goldhagen's new book, A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair, a photograph showing a person marching with SS officers at a Nazi rally in Munich comes with a caption identifying the man as the city's then-Cardinal, Michael Faulhaber.

Church says man in photograph not Cardinal

The caption accompanying the photo reads: "Cardinal Michael Faulhaber marches at a Nazi rally in Munich through an S.S. honour guard." The church claims the caption is false and that the Cardinal was not the person in the picture. Catholic officials say the person shown in the photograph with former Propaganda Minister Hermann Göring, among others, was most likely the Vatican's then-ambassador to Germany, Nuntius Orsenigo.

Christian Ottmann, spokesperson for the Munich diocese, told the Associated Press that "the publishing house must recall the book or black out the caption." If this is not done, the book's Berlin-based publisher, Wolf Jopst Siedler, could face a 250,000 euro ($246,000) fine.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which holds the original photograph, initially disputed the claim that the person in the photograph was someone else. On Thursday, a spokesman told DW-WORLD that the museum is taking another look.

"We have stopped circulating it," said deputy spokesman Andew Hollinger. "As far as I know, we are revisiting trying to confirm this person's identity."

The Church, meanwhile, has invited researchers to take a look at the recently-released Faulhaber archives in an effort to clarify the matter.

Although the contentious caption and its offending photograph are quoted as the main reason behind the action taken against the book and its author, it is likely that its content could also be seen as a catalyst for the Catholic Church's anger.

Content of book likely to agitate Catholics

Deportation der Juden aus dem Warschauer Ghetto

Goldhagen holds the Catholic Church responsible for not protecting the Jews.

Some of the book's core research material appeared as a 27,000-word essay in the American political magazine "The New Republic" in January. In the essay, Goldhagen reiterates widely reported allegations that suggest that Pius XII, the wartime Pope, did not do enough to protect the Jews, even though he likely knew of the fate which awaited them.

The Vatican has always argued that its cautious, non-confrontational policy saved more people than would have been the case if it had spoken out in condemnation of the Nazis.

Goldhagen says such arguments are bizarre and nonsensical, topped only by those of revisionist historians, who try to argue the Holocaust never actually happen.

Goldhagen, a professor of government and social studies at Harvard University, is no stranger to controversy or ruffling the feathers of Germans. His best-known book, Hitler's Willing Executioners, blamed ordinary Germans for the Holocaust.

Although some critics accused him of taking liberties with the truth and writing in a confrontational style, the book became a best-seller and award winner.