From now on, as we celebrate the memory of this new saint every August 9, we cannot fail to remember the Holocaust.
–Pope St. John Paul II, at the canonization of the Jewish philosopher Edith Stein–who had become Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
She did not die on August 9, 1942, in a wild frenzy of racist violence. She died in the due course of the Nazi’s systematic implementation of an explicit policy–a policy they had developed over the course of two decades.
According to National-Socialist racial doctrine—which Hitler and his allies openly proposed as their party platform during the 1930’s—Jews had ‘infiltrated,’ had ‘invaded,’ had aspired to ‘conquer’ the German nation. Hitler alone had the clarity and courage to ‘fight back,’ to enunciate clearly that Germans must preserve the purity of their race.
The Nazis declared this the fundamental national priority. The presence of Jews in the life of the German nation was not, in their eyes, the simple reality of history. It was a problem. The #1 problem.
Hitler and the Nazis unapologetically proposed this idea as the basis for an entire political, legal, and military regime. The power that martyred Sister Teresa Benedicta was not a band of bloodthirsty marauders, obvious monsters, or stereotypical jackbooted thugs. No. A political alliance, based on Hitler’s ideas about German blood, developed an extensive technical and bureaucratic organization. Over the course of a decade, the Nazis established their idea as the organizing principle of German national life.
At Holy Mass today, we hear Moses rejoicing in the gift of God’s law. He revealed it fully on the cross, when the soldier pierced His Heart: the eternal law of love.
We human beings can go wrong. Our laws do not always correspond to the divine decree revealed in the wounded Heart of the Savior. We must constantly search ourselves for the evil of racism. And pray that, by the grace of God, we will see each other as who we truly are–one human family, with the loving God as our Father.