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1937–1939
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

Chapter 3 opens with analysis of a July 1937 ICCAJ study on antisemitism at an international conference in Vienna, advanced by delegates from eighteen countries. The consultative statements on racial antisemitism delivered ten days later to the historic UCCLW Oxford conference that ushered in the World Council of Churches in Formation (WCCIF) bore significantly on ICCAJ’s increasing status as ecumenical expert on the Jewish problem. The subsequent restructuring of UCCLW into WCCIF in 1938 moved the social-issue and conversionary arms of the movement into closer proximity by way of powerful overlapping roles in leadership. Ongoing Nazi aggression increasing the refugee crisis furthered the move by bringing ICCAJ and the social-issue arm of WCCIF into collaborative proximity. Both trajectories responded by taking on new refugee-related roles that led incrementally to collaboration on other Jewish issues. Beginning with Germany’s Anschluss of Austria in March 1938 and increasing after Kristallnacht in November, joint efforts led to a spring 1939 launch of an ecumenical office for non-Aryan Christian refugees in London. The directorship, which was slated for the ICCAJ director, was inadvertently altered by the sudden onset of war and the subsequent relocation of the refugee office to Geneva. Against these backdrops and woven throughout were the ongoing efforts of UCCLW, and then WCCIF, to advance ecumenical unity through maintenance of relations with all parts of the German Protestant church, including the Reich church aligned with the Nazi state.

in Tracking the Jews
1925–1932
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

To place the unprecedented initiative within that historical development, the 1925 conference that evolved into UCCLW unanimously affirmed the need for a marshalling of Christian forces in the area of ‘burning’ social problems. Two months later, the IMC missionary thrust so central to ecumenical aims issued a call for Christian experts to take up the study of the ‘Jewish problem’. At the centre of the call was belief that a universal Jewish problem would not have emerged had the Church not failed historically to ameliorate world Jewry through Christianisation. By the spring of 1927 the unanimity of 175 delegates from mainstream Protestant bodies in twenty-six countries had produced a series of transnational conference findings on relations between the Jewish problem and the societal need for Jewish conversion. The International Committee on the Christian Approach to the Jews (ICCAJ), whose theoretical base was grounded in the claims of those findings, was brought into existence in 1929 as an international lobbying initiative for adoption of official church policy on Jews and Jewish missions. By the eve of Hitler’s rise, with regional sectors in Continental Europe, Britain and North America, it was a fully constituted body, a brand name programme of Jewish evangelisation said to be promoted in thirty-six countries, and the self-christened agent for educating Protestant churches on the ‘right’ Christian attitude toward Jews, the Jewish problem and Nazi antisemitism. The long-term result was a widely disseminated discourse on conversionary solution under the banner of an enlarging vision of Christian benovolence.

in Tracking the Jews
1933–1936
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

The lens is adjusted so that over the next three chapters ICCAJ’s developing views on antisemitism and the Jewish problem are juxtaposed on a shared landscape of UCCLW-WCCIF responses to unfolding Nazi persecution of Jews. Beginning with the ascension of Hitler in January 1933, three events shaped the parameters of response. First, the threat of ecumenical division was reignited in March over Germany’s handling of its Jewish problem, lodging as a permanent feature informing decisions about what could and could not be said about Germany. Second, the introduction of Nazi Aryan legislation began to be viewed as an attack against Christianity, moving the perceived anti-Christian aspects of Nazi antisemitism to the forefront of transnational ecumenical concerns. Third, the September adoption of the Aryan Paragraph by the Prussian Synod and the subsequent outbreak of the Confessing church internal struggle against the Deutsche Christen faction began to be ecumenically explained as a representative fight on behalf of the Church Universal. As this path was being sedulously cut by UCCLW leaders, ICCAJ’s goals remained focused on efforts to educate Protestant audiences about the Jewish problem, convince them of the need for conversionary cure and disseminate theory about the causes of antisemitism. Both before and after enactment of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws and the corresponding increase in Nazi propaganda on ‘Judaisation’, ICCAJ pointed with frequency to a ‘renaissance of Jewishness’, Jewish racial identity with nationalism and increasing atheistic Jews as ‘undeniable entrenchment of Jewry in opposition to Christianity’.

in Tracking the Jews
Abstract only
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

The postwar milieu in which the unprecedented initiative was conceived had at its centre a global network of Protestant interests that identified as ‘ecumenical’. The use of ‘world’, ‘international’ and ‘universal’ in the names of the bodies that evolved in the 1920s – International Missionary Council (IMC, 1921), Universal Christian Council of Life and Work (UCCLW, 1925), Universal Christian Council of Faith and Order (UCCFO 1927) – signified the breadth of vision for a unified field of world Protestant outreach. The creation of the conversionary project within this structure was purposed by its mandate for the unified world evangelisation of Jews. Critically, all of the bodies emerging in the 1920s did so under the intensity of a bitter World War I debacle between German and non-German churchmen over the issue of Germany’s war guilt. When the first signs of resolution appeared at the 1925 launching of UCCLW, visionaries were driven by concern that further division would recoil on the future of ecumenism itself. UCCLW, forged in the fire of that understanding (1930–38), was the social-action arm of ecumenism until WCCIF was brought into existence (1938–48). The development of the conversionary initiative on Jews within these contexts is one part of the story of how it came to be seen as expert on the Jewish question in the same years that its ‘Final Solution’ was being sought by Nazi Germany. The other is how it came to intersect with the arm of the movement that evolved into the World Council of Churches.

in Tracking the Jews
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

This book brings into focus a set of ardently held transnational beliefs about the place, role and world destiny of the Jewish people. In that process it reveals a wave of conversionist responses to movements of Jews in western society between 1925 and 1948: post-World War I fears about Jews moving into the domains of societal influence; the flight of Jews from Hitler’s Germany; forced migration and deportation from all of occupied Europe; and for the one-third who survived killing squads, gas chambers and death marches, the heavy trudging of displaced persons in search of rest and solace. The final chapter looks back at the historical complexities, intrigues, contradictions, ambivalences and incongruities in and around those responses, asking difficult questions about the conversionary benevolence at the core of certitudes held by one group about the place, role and destiny of another. Can the beneficently intended actions of one people for another become unintended malfeasance? Can the aims and goals of perpetrators be furthered by the benevolent intentions of others? Is everything that ensues within the context of declared benevolence really ‘benevolent’?

in Tracking the Jews
1945–1948
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

As claims of German collective guilt for World War II spewed from both sides of the Atlantic in early 1945, WCCIF principals were occupied with circumventing the war guilt divisions of World War I, and ICCAJ was immersed in the work of reconstructing Jewish missions on the Continent. Chapter 5 examines in detail how each argued for co-responsibility and universal guilt of Christianity for failing to prevent the war, and how each was related to expansion of pre-war goals. It reconstructs from archival sources the highly orchestrated strategies of WCCIF to secure ‘a formal entente’ of reconciliation between the German Protestant church and churches of countries that suffered due to Germany – which came to be known as the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. On a coordinate plane of lobbying, arguments for postwar expansion of Jewish missions were linked to Christianity’s failure to prevent Nazi extermination of European Jews. ICCAJ lobbied robustly that the failure of the Christian world to raise its voice sufficiently during the Nazi onslaught gave new cause and reason for reparatory expansion of Jewish evangelisation. Within these frameworks of understanding, postwar mission planning was contoured to fit the 1948 constitutional founding of the World Council of Churches, with the mutual goal of evangelising surviving Jewry in WCC constituency countries.

in Tracking the Jews
Abstract only
Ecumenical Protestants, Conversion, and the Holocaust

Tracking the Jews analyses the beliefs, ideas, concepts, arguments and policies of the people who tracked the Jews in an unprecedented conversionary initiative during the years immediately before, during and after the Holocaust. From the rubble of World War I to the ashes of World War II, it reconstructs from more than twenty thousand pages of archival documents the vision and motives of ecumenical Protestant architects, builders and supporters of the initiative, as well as major opposers. The narrative moves in chronological time with unfolding events and developments, back and forth between Budapest, Warsaw, London, New York, Geneva, Berlin, Vienna and other locations on a landscape of rapidly accelerating Nazi persecution. In charting the path on which the conversionary initiative was becoming ecumenical expert on the ‘Jewish problem’, it locates and follows a second social-issue trajectory as the two intersect and converge in conversionary purpose on a war-laden refugee landscape. With Nobel Peace Laureates of 1930 and 1946 on either end of a richly populated field of involvements, it marks the path taken from a 1925 call for Christian experts on the Jewish problem to the 1948 World Council of Churches founding statement on Jews, which recognised the extermination of six million Jews, while calling attention to the ‘continuing presence of a people which did not acknowledge Christ’. In so doing it brings into focus on each end of its chronological structure the theological conception of the ongoing existence of ‘the Jews’ as an unsolved problem for Christianity.

1940–1944
Carolyn Sanzenbacher

Chapter 4 interrogates the voices and silences of both trajectories by placing under a spotlight the back-room dynamics and politics of arriving at official organisational responses as Nazi aggression spread across Europe between 1940 and 1944. It examines the many-dimensioned role of refugee information pouring into the ecumenical network through Geneva, and it does so in the light of WCCIF attempts to stir a course of neutral silence on divisive issues, while advancing ecumenical unification of the churches. The strategic location of WCCIF on the crossroads of neutral Switzerland, along with London connections to the League of Nations High Commission, allowed for a continuous flow of privileged information through the ecumenical channels of Geneva, London and New York. Information flowed into WCCIF from constituency sources in Germany and all occupied and satellite countries, as well as unoccupied France, neutral Spain, Portugal and Sweden, World YMCA, International Red Cross, British Ministry of Information, World Jewish Congress, Jewish Agency and the Emergency Committee of Christian Organizations, known as ECCO. For ICCAJ, beyond work for the WCCIF refugee office by soliciting material and spiritual aid for non-Aryan Christians, the predominant response was the theoretical management of geographic mission fields for postwar reoccupation. Jewish refugee populations were tracked to determine redistribution figures; conferences were convened on the just division of the global mission field; and restoration of human rights for Jews was studied in the context of ensuring that Christianity retained the rights to postwar evangelisation of surviving Jews.

in Tracking the Jews
Ulf Zander

Some musical works that build on Raoul Wallenberg’s actions and fate form the point of departure for an argument aimed at problematizing a previously predominant view of the Americanization of the Holocaust. According to that view, adaptation to the conceptions of US audiences mostly involves simplification and a reduction of nuance. With an eye on increasing interest in Wallenberg in the 1970s, the chapter analyses how he became an important factor in American foreign policy and popular culture. The chapter discusses examples of creative negotiation between information about his life drawn from scholarly studies on the one hand and representations of Wallenberg on the other, especially with reference to the American television serial Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story and the Swedish-Hungarian feature film Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg.

in Raoul Wallenberg
Ulf Zander

The final chapter summarizes the main findings of the study. A vital aspect of that study is that scholarship and popular culture are interrelated, as the Raoul Wallenberg example demonstrates. Another realization becomes apparent: while secret/silent diplomacy is in many respects directly opposed to public diplomacy, the two have become increasingly interdependent. How views on Wallenberg have changed in Sweden, Hungary, and the US is shown in a partly different light as comparative aspects are given increased attention. Finally, the chapter addresses the question of how the memory of Wallenberg’s achievements can and should be passed on to future generations.

in Raoul Wallenberg