“The Holocaust and Its Implications for Contemporary Interreligious Studies: An introduction to this issue of the Journal of Inter-religious Studies,” by Victoria J. Barnett

History as a discipline, and this history in particular, can offer powerful insights into such engagement. Historical work gives us the concrete record and the actual details that must be considered when we attempt to draw theological and ethical conclusions. The historical record of religious leaders and communities during the Holocaust is a complex one that prevents simplistic conclusions. It includes the record of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox church leaders who embraced National Socialism, as well as those who courageously opposed it. It includes the records of Muslims who rescued their neighbors in countries like Albania and Tunisia, as well as the history of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who embraced common cause with the Nazi regime for his own political aims. The reactions of some religious leaders were shaped by their theological understandings; others were driven more by factors like nationalism and institutional self-interest. This history shows us how certain theological interpretations of scriptural texts can be used to justify the murder of innocent human beings. It illustrates the ways in which the institutional church all too often made the same moral compromises as other German institutions. The ways in which Germans, church leaders, and others addressed this historical record after 1945 is instructive for other post-genocidal situations. The unfolding history of Jewish-Christian dialogue after 1945 offers rich insights into other difficult interreligious conversations.

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