American Catholics and Nazi Antisemitism

American Catholics and Nazi Antisemitism:
Sheehy, Coughlin, and the 1938 CUA Kristallnacht Broadcast

 

Sheehy
Father Maurice Sheehy
Courtesy of ACUA

This website features digitized primary documents and audio from the American Catholic History Center and University Archives related to U.S. Catholic responses to the Nazi regime in 1930s Germany.

Specifically, the materials collected here suggest that American Catholics responded to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany during the anti-Jewish pogrom known today as Kristallnacht in ways distinct from Catholics outside of the United States. Here you will find, for example, a November 16, 1938, broadcast featuring a group of 5 American Catholic clerical leaders and one layperson (pictured to the right and left, click on images for more information) condemning the Nazi violence against Jews. The broadcast was made under the auspices of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and received considerable media attention as it presented an instance, unusual at the time, of Catholic priests and bishops voicing support for a religious group other than their own on a national level.

In contrast, another prominent Catholic clerical leader with millions of devoted fans, Father Charles Coughlin, responded to Kristallnacht with a November 20, 1938 broadcast that justified the Nazi atrocities as a natural defense against a Jewish-dominated global communist movement. A transcript of that Coughlin broadcast is reproduced here. In addition to the CUA broadcast audio and the Coughlin transcript this site features a photo gallery of participants in the CUA broadcast and related correspondence and press materials that help contextualize the broadcasts.

See "Background" to begin