Our newest primary source materials 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. The materials on the site 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. Users will find, for example, a recently discovered November 16, 1938 broadcast featuring a group of 5 American Catholic clerical leaders and one layperson 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 users contextualize the broadcasts.
Just a note on some new web materials we will be posting soon. By November, we hope to have additional materials relating to Catholic responses to Kristallnacht up on the American Catholic History Classroom website. The materials include responses to the CUA anti-Nazi broadcast from our collection, and a transcript of a broadcast delivered by Father Charles E. Coughlin on November 20, 1938. Coughlin’s speech is, in part, a response to the CUA anti-Nazi broadcast, and a very different perspective on the Nazi pogrom against the Jews–where the CUA broadcast condemns Kristallnacht, the Coughlin broadcast justifies it. The Coughlin broadcast, which is anti-Semitic, causes him to become increasingly marginalized among Church leadership, while the CUA broadcast marks a move among US Catholic institutional leaders toward ecumenism.
Secondly, we have just completed a website on Father John A. Ryan, Father Coughlin, and the Presidential election of 1936. Again, we have here two different Catholic perspectives… Father Ryan delivers a radio broadcast supporting incumbent Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while Coughlin rails against the re-election of the president. This site will contain about 40 documents and supplementary educational materials and will be up early next year. The new sites mark a continuation of our attempt to make our materials available to educators and researchers alike.