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For You, Colonel Dreyfus, As Much as Anyone

European anti-Semitism, long a cover for church and Catholic incompetence and venal desires, came to a head with Al Dreyfus long before Hitler and wasn't avenged till D-Day

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, June 01, 1994.

Fifty years ago, the Second World War took a decided turn for the better when a Second Front opened north of the Alps, the Allies entered Rome the same day, and the Germans were clearly on the way out. But what event, just as important, happened one hundred years ago in Europe, one that led, with some divagations, directly to the Shoah and the devastation of Europe? Give up?

Well, here's a hint. The Catholic Church, this year, is about to issue a mea culpa that dropped so many jaws in Israel and Jewish communities around the world that words absolutely escaped spokesmen. It says in effect that the Catholic Church is guilty of not having done enough to stop anti-Semitism and thereby contributed to it and the Holocaust. It comes from a Polish Pope, a man from a community just as anti-Semitic as Austria's, which gave us Hitler. Nothing in the history of pseudo-diplomacy exists to parallel it. It is so needed; and so true. There are about twenty other countries that need to do it, most of them Catholic.

And no clearer example of the Church's role in allowing the atmosphere to foul to the point of Kristolnacht is the event 100 years ago. A pedantic, icy cold, bureaucratic military factotum, Captain Alfred Dreyfuss, was arrested and charged with treason by the French government. When no evidence worthy of the name was produced, it was forged by the right wing powers of the military, the man was convicted and sentenced to Devil's island. He was there for years before enough revulsion in the light of actual evidence - also produced by the military along with left wing politicos - led to his re-trial. After that, he was convicted again and sentenced to time already served. Eventually, he was reinstated and served against the Germans in WWI. The Dreyfus case indicated to the world what evil forces were at work.

Dreyfus' only crime was that he was a Jew and available for persecution. The forces against him were powerful, reactionary against the French Revolution, and virtually all Catholic. To read about the Dreyfus case recalls the old canard. The most amazing thing about Hitler and his final solution is that he was not French.

The immediate causes of anti-Semitism within the Catholic community had to do with the Union General, a Catholic bank that went belly up in competition with the Rothchilds, and of course the Panama canal debacle where the two main financial powers were two Jews. Both fiascoes cost faithful Catholics millions, and the bitterness was clearly directed against the Jews rather than the monumental incompetence and insular corruption of the Catholic power structure. Further, the church, looking out for Number One, did nothing to encourage justice or even civilized decency during the Dreyfus case, and was happy that attention was directed away from it, and looked with approval as powers closely linked to it arose in troublesome France. Militant French Catholicism became a weird sub-sect 100 years ago, and modern popes have been dazed by their foolishness. Pope Paul the 6th, hardly a burning bush of liberalism, once turned to a friend in hearing of the press and muttered 'They're crazy, aren't they?'

In later years, the church, in exchange for Vatican City as a nation, supported Mussolini and made millions during the fascist regime in Rome. Because of its strong financial ties to the fascists and their fortunes, and therefore with the major ally, Hitler, the Catholic Church did next to nothing during the Holocaust, did in fact hamper the efforts of individual heros from its ranks who fought the Nazis. It is a linear progression, and it came to focus in modern times only when the French tried one of their own for treason solely because he was a Jew and became a scapegoat for Catholic financial incompetence. Fifty years later, because rational dissent, discourse, and elements had been eliminated in Europe but especially in the Teutonic nations, the Allies had to land at Normandy.

Just as people have tried to deny that slavery was a direct or major cause of our Civil War, there are those that suggest the fate of minorities in Europe was not a real element in our participation. While the correlation is less distinct, it is there. In the Great War, Pershing announced "Lafayette, we are here." It would not have been inappropriate if Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the first general on the beach and destined to die within a day, had issued a press release that said "Hey Al, we hear ya."

Late, in distance, and with determination by someone in the Catholic hierarchy, probably JP himself, the Catholic church is admitting they had heard Al too, and deserted him and principal to cover financial blunders. It is hard to overestimate the ethical and social importance of what John Paul has done, and Israel, if nobody else, understands what has been overcome. This is one good deed that will go unpunished, and the recipients appreciate it deeply.

How often does that happen?