Pope John Paul II

Dialogika Resources

Apostolic Letter on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Beginning of the Second World War (sections 5 & 6)

Vatican City


Among all these antihuman measures, however, there is one which will forever remain a shame for humanity: the planned barbarism which was unleashed against the Jewish people.

As the object of the "Final Solution" devised by an erroneous ideology the Jews were subjected to deprivations and brutalities that are almost indescribable. Persecuted at first through measures designed to harass and discriminate, they were ultimately to die by the millions in extermination camps.

The Jews of Poland, more than others, lived this immense suffering: The images of the Warsaw Ghetto under siege, as well as what we have come to learn about the camps at Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka, surpass in horror anything that can be humanly imagined.

One must also remember that this murderous madness was directed against many other groups whose crime was to be "different" or to have rebelled against the tyranny of the occupier.

On the occasion of this sorrowful anniversary, once again I issue an appeal to all people, inviting them to overcome their prejudices and to combat every form of racism by agreeing to recognize the fundamental dignity and the goodness that dwell within every human being, and to be ever more conscious that they belong to a single human family, willed and gathered together by God.

I wish to repeat here in the strongest possible way that hostility and hatred against Judaism are in complete contradiction to the Christian vision of human dignity.


The new paganism and the systems related to it were certainly directed against the Jews, but they were likewise aimed at Christianity, whose teaching had shaped the soul of Europe. In the people of whose race "according to the flesh, is the Christ" [Rom. 9:5], the Gospel message of the equal dignity of all God's children was being held up to ridicule.

In his encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937), my predecessor, Pope Pius XI, clearly stated: "He who takes race, or the people or the State, or the form of government, the bearers of the power of the state, or other fundamental elements of human society ... and makes them the ultimate norm of all, even of religious values, and deifies them with an idolatrous worship, perverts and falsifies the order of things created and commanded by God" [March 14,1937: AAS 29 (1937) pp. 149 and 171].

This pretension on the part of the ideology of the National Socalist system did not spare the Churches, in particular the Catholic Church, which before and during the conflict experienced her own "passion." Her fate was certainly no better in the lands where the Marxist ideology of dialectical materialism was imposed.

We must give thanks to God, however, for the many witnesses, known and unknown, who in those hours of tribulation had the courage to profess their faith steadfastly, who knew how to rise above the atheist's arbitrariness, and who did not give in to force.