ABSTRACT | The leadership of the Catholic Church, Pope Pius XII and his closest advisors, as well as many cardinals and bishops, were critical of the Nuremberg war crimes trials and the denazification effort after the Second World War. Papal interventions ultimately culminated in demands for a general amnesty. The Vatican tried to derail many initiatives by the Allies to bring Nazi perpetrators to justice. Why did the Catholic Church leadership so vigorously oppose the punishment of war crimes through criminal justice? What alternatives did the Vatican and especially the Pope have to deal with guilt and responsibility? In the immediate postwar period, many considered Pope Pius XII an outstanding moral authority, and the Catholic Church maintained a powerful position in Southern and Western Europe. Austria and Italy were predominantly Catholic, as was a substantial part of Germany. The position of the Catholic Church on the ‘fair’ punishment of crimes under the previous regimes is therefore particularly important for understanding these societies and the moral tenor of their time.
BIO |Gerald J. Steinacher is the James A. Rawley Professor of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prof. Steinacher has held many distinguished research fellowships, including at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. He has published four monographs, eleven edited volumes, and many articles and book chapters on the Nazi regime and Italian Fascism. His book Nazis on the Run: How Hitler's Henchmen Fled Justice (OUP) was translated in several languages (including French and Polish) and awarded the 2011 National Jewish Book Award.