The Cry, by Patricia Juster

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Looking for something a little lighter, something that will make you giggle? Read any of James Herriot's books: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful. Depending on the story you might laugh out loud. Warning: there are some stories that will bring a tear to your eye, but it's worth it.

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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas,
     read Winter 2010-11
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'Hitler's Pope' has 384 pages of startling content and I think I've underlined something on every page. Or maybe every other page. I have a very limited knowledge of Catholicism and history in general, so reading this book has educated me on several topics. There is so much I could share with you about this book, things that made me shake my head and gasp. It's a good follow-up to 'The Righteous'. This biography of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, is not a feel good book, especially if you are Catholic.

In John Cornwell's preface he writes: "I applied for access to crucial material in Rome, reassuring those who had charge of the appropriate archives that I was on the side of my subject... By the middle of 1997, nearing the end of my research, I found myself in a state I can only describe as moral shock. The material I had gathered, taking the more extensive view of Pacelli's life, amounted not to an exoneration but to a wider indictment."

What follows is a thorough history of Pacelli, how he was raised in a family of Vatican lawyers, how he spent time in Germany and how he became the right hand man of Pius XI, whom he would succeed. In the midst of all this is information of his anti-Semitic behaviour, his desire for power in the Vatican and his push for a German Concordat which eventually handed Germany to Hitler by removing Catholics from politics.

Since I can't include it all (380+ pages, people) I will share with you the one quote from Pacelli that the Vatican uses to show Pacelli was against the killing of the Jews, and yet it very clearly does not. On December 24, 1942 he made his traditional Christmas Eve broadcast to the world. 'Then came the famous statement intended, as he later claimed, to be understood as a clear denunciation of the Nazi extermination of the Jewish people: "Humanity owes this vow to those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or gradual extinction."...  Here was the fullest extent of his protest and denunciation, after a year of encouragement, pleading, argument, proof upon proof of what had been happening in Poland and all over Europe... He had scaled down the doomed millions to "hundreds of thousands" and expunged the word Jews, making the pointed qualification "sometimes only." Nowhere was the term Nazi or Nazi Germany mentioned. Hitler himself could not have wished for a more convoluted and innocuous reaction from the Vicar of Christ to the greatest crime in history (292)."

Harold Tittman, the U.S. counselor at the Rome embassy, who took up residence within the Vatican after America entered the war, summarized Pacelli's action, or inaction, this way: "Pacelli thought it better to anger his friends rather than his enemies, since the friends were more likely to forgive the sins of omission (283).

There is too much information in this book to blog about: what led to Hitler's control of Germany via Pacelli; Pacelli's time in Germany; the Vatican's support of enforced conversion of Orthodox Christians (and their massacre) in Croatia; how Pacelli climbed the Vatican ladder. If you're looking for a startling walk through history then come check it out. Once I've finished it, that is.
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I have some books listed on my sidebar that I am reading. Some I read more frequently than others. The one that I am reading every day is 'The Righteous' by Martin Gilbert. He tells the abbreviated stories of non-Jews who aided Jews during the Nazi Occupation of Europe. Some interesting ones...

Nechama Singer recalled that her Gentile rescuers "had dug up extra potatoes and beets from their fields so that she and her mother could observe Passover and refrain from eating leavened bread. The Vavruseviches also helped those in hiding observe the Sabbath each Friday by lighting a makeshift candle: an oil-dipped piece of thread in a hollowed out potato. (8)

David Prital found two Ukranian Baptists who were willing to take him in: "Together we entered his house and I understood instantly that I had met a wonderful person. "G-d brought an important guest to our house," he said to his wife. "We should thank G-d for this blessing." They kneeled down and I heard a wonderful prayer coming out of their pure and simple hearts, not written in a single prayer book. I heard a song addressed to G-d, thanking G-d for the opportunity to meet a son of Israel in these crazy days. They asked G-d to help those who managed to stay alive hiding in the fields and in the woods." (13)

A devout Catholic couple took in a two year old Jewish boy, Shachne Hiller. His mother told the woman taking him, "'Regardless of the fate of my husband or myself, I want my son brought up as a Jew.'" The little boy's protectors treated him like a son, taking him to church and teaching him hymns. Mrs Jachowicz, Shachne's caregiver, wanted to have him baptized. She went to her priest, Karol Wojtyla, and told him her desire for Shachne to become a "'a true Christian' and a devout Catholic like herself. Wojtyla listened intently to the woman's story. When Mrs Jachowicz had finished, he asked: 'And what was the parents' wish, when they entrusted their only child to you and to your husband?' Mrs Jachowicz then told him that Helen Hiller's last request had been that her son should be told of his Jewish origins, and 'returned to his people' if his parents died. Hearing this, Wojytla
 Shachne Hiller survived the war [his parents were murdered after being deported from the Cracow ghetto] and was eventually united with his relatives in the United States. Karol Wojtyla, the young priest who had ensured that the boy remained Jewish, was later to become Pope John Paul II." (168)

--Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to ever publicly visit a synagogue and during his address to the congregants of the Rome Synagogue stated: ''The Jews are beloved of God, who has called them with an irrevocable calling''.

When the Berlin Gestapo rounded up 4,700 Jewish men who were married to non-Jewish women and took them to a collection and detention centre their wives protested. "[A]n estimated 2,000 of the non-Jewish wives gathered to demonstrate -- as close as they could to where their husbands were being held -- and demand the men's release. Their protest began on a Sunday morning. By nightfall as many as two thousand more wives had joined them. They stayed in the street for a whole week, refusing to leave until their husbands were set free. At midday on Monday, March 6, Dr Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda and one of the most actively anti-Jewish members of Hitler's inner circle, gave in. Suddenly the Jews who had been about to be deported became 'priveleged persons': free men who, the official announcement explained, 'are to be incorporated in the national community'. The 4,700 Jewish husbands thereby survived the war, living in Berlin. Their wives' protest is a little-known tale of courage -- and of successful defiance." (191-2)

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