Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah

Last updated

The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah (Holocaust) was the first official Vatican commemoration of the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II. It took place in the Sala Nervi (also called Paul VI Audience Hall) at the Vatican on April 7, 1994. The concert was conceived and created at the direct behest of Pope John Paul II by the American conductor Gilbert Levine, who had first met the Pope after he was appointed artistic director and conductor of the Krakow Philharmonic, in December 1987. [1] Pope John Paul II, Rav Elio Toaff, the Chief Rabbi of Italy, and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of Italy jointly presided over the event, [2] and viewed it from positions of equal honor. [3]

Contents

Event and program

The event was attended by 7,500 invited guests, including several hundred survivors of the Holocaust, from around the world. The six candle Holocaust candelabra was lit in the concert hall by six survivors and their descendants. One of these was Margit Raab Kalina, Maestro Levine's mother-in-law, [4] a survivor of Płaszów, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Bergen-Belsen. [5] The candelabra burned throughout the performance to demonstrate, as the Pope stated in his discourse at the end of the concert that, "The walls of this hall have no limits. The victims: fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends, are here with you, they are with us. They will never be forgotten." As the Pope also stated: It was like a night of "common meditation and shared prayer" in the Vatican. [6]

The program included Schubert Psalm 92, Bernstein Chichester Psalms (1965) (soloist: Gregory Daniel Rodriguez), Bernstein Symphony 3 "Kaddish" (1961-3) excerpt (narrator: Richard Dreyfuss), Bruch Kol Nidre, Op. 47 (soloist: Lynn Harrell), and Beethoven Symphony 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, Movement 3 "Adagio molto e cantabile." [2]

Selection of orchestra

Owing to Prague's long history of flourishing Jewish culture, and the terrible toll on that population during the Holocaust, the concert had been envisioned, at first, as a concert with the Czech Philharmonic. When it was proposed however, Gerd Albrecht, that orchestra's principal conductor, refused to allow the group to participate. This sparked a national outrage, including a denunciation of Albrecht's decision by the President of the Czech Republic and famed human rights leader, Václav Havel. [7] Albrecht prevailed in the short term, and the Czech Philharmonic did not perform at the concert in April 1994. Even after the concert, the Czech Philharmonic controversy endured, and Albrecht was forced to resign his position as principal conductor in 1996. [8]

Following Albrecht's decision to block the participation of the Czech Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London immediately accepted the invitation to participate in the concert. It was joined by the Cappella Giulia of Saint Peter's Basilica and the Chorus of the Accademia Filarmonica Romana.

Legacy

The concert is considered, along with the first-ever Papal visit to a synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Rome, in 1986, and the Papal visit to Israel in 2000, to be among the signal events in Catholic-Jewish relations during the 26-year-long pontificate of Pope John Paul II. The concert also followed the recognition of the State of Israel by the Holy See little more than three months earlier, in December 1993. The New York Times reported that in light of the concert, "[s]ome Jews said the Pope had revived the revolution in Catholic-Jewish relations set in motion by Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council." [9]

The concert was broadcast in Italy by RAI (Italian Television), to 52 countries around the world via Eurovision, and in the U.S. on PBS. The PBS broadcast was produced by John Walker of WNET Thirteen (New York). It was also released on CD (produced by Heinz Wildhagen) for Justice Records, and on video in a documentary film directed by Hart Perry for Rhino, a Time-Warner company. The event was reported on worldwide, in print, on radio, and on television.

For his contributions in creating and conducting this event, Gilbert Levine, was invested at the direct gift of the Pontiff as a Knight-Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great, in a ceremony in Paris presided over by Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger. Levine's was the first-ever Pontifical Knighthood accorded an American Jew in the history of the Vatican.

See also

Related Research Articles

Pope John Paul II 264th pope (1978-2005) and saint of the Catholic Church

Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was elected pope by the second papal conclave of 1978, which was called after John Paul I, who had been elected in August to succeed Pope Paul VI, died after 33 days. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected on the third day of the conclave and adopted the name of his predecessor in tribute to him. John Paul II is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and the rest of Europe.

Pope Pius XII 260th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, such as the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany. After his death the State of Israel declared him to be a Righteous Gentile in recognition of the estimated 800,000 Jewish lives he saved.

Rescue of Jews during the Holocaust

During World War II, some individuals and groups helped Jews and others escape the Holocaust conducted by Nazi Germany. A well-known example is Oskar Schindler, one of the thousands who have been so recognized.

Elio Toaff Italian rabbi

Elio Toaff was the Chief Rabbi of Rome from 1951 to 2002. He served as a rabbi in Venice from 1947, and in 1951 became the Chief Rabbi of Rome.

Catholic Church and Judaism Catholic Church and Judaism

The relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism deals with the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Judaism and Jews, the attitude of Jews toward Catholicism and Catholics, and the changes in the relationship since World War II.

Gerd Albrecht

Gerd Albrecht was a German conductor.

Sir Gilbert Levine, GCSG is an American conductor. He is considered an "outstanding personality in the world of international music television." He has led the PBS concert debuts of the Staatskapelle Dresden, Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, WDR Symphony Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the PBS premieres of works including the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, Bach Magnificat in D, Haydn Creation, and Bruckner Symphony 9.

Angelo Rotta Italian diplomat

Angelo Rotta was an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church. As the Apostolic Nuncio in Budapest at the end of World War II, he was involved in the rescue of the Jews of Budapest from the Nazi Holocaust. He is a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism.

Mordecai Waxman

Mordecai Waxman, KCSG, was a prominent rabbi in the Conservative Jewish movement for nearly 60 years. He served as rabbi of Temple Israel in Great Neck, New York for 55 years from 1947 through his death in 2002. He is most notable for his interactions with Pope John Paul II in the 1980s as chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations.

This is an index of Vatican City–related topics.

We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah is a document published in 1998 by the Catholic Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, under the authority of Pope John Paul II. In this document the Vatican condemned Nazi genocide and called for repentance from Catholics who had failed to intercede to stop it. It urges Catholics to repent "of past errors and infidelities" and "renew the awareness of the Hebrew roots of their faith" while distinguishing between the Church's "anti-Judaism" as religious teaching and the murderous antisemitism of Nazi Germany which it described as having "roots outside Christianity."

The Cappella Giulia, officially the Reverend Musical Chapel Julia of the Sacrosanct Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, is the choir of St. Peter's Basilica that sings for all solemn functions of the Vatican Chapter, such as Holy Mass, Lauds, and Vespers, when these are not celebrated by the Pope. The choir has played an important role as an interpreter and a proponent of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.

Pope John Paul II worked to improve relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism. He built solid ties with the Jewish community in the hope of promoting Christian–Jewish reconciliation.

Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust

The start of the pontificate of Pius XII occurred at the time of the Second World War and the Nazi Holocaust, which over the course of the war the pope would oversee the murder of millions of Jews and others by Adolf Hitler's Germany. Pius employed diplomacy to aid the victims of the Nazis during the war and, through directing his Church to provide discreet aid to Jews and others, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Pius maintained links to the German Resistance, and shared intelligence with the Allies. His strongest public condemnation of genocide was, however, considered inadequate by the Allied Powers, while the Nazis viewed him as an Allied sympathizer who had dishonoured his policy of Vatican neutrality.

Pope Pius XII's response to the Roman razzia, or mass deportation of Jews, on October 16, 1943 is a significant issue relating to Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. Under Mussolini, no policy of abduction of Jews had been implemented in Italy. Following the capitulation of Italy in 1943, Nazi forces invaded and occupied much of the country, and began deportations of Jews to extermination camps. Pius XII protested at diplomatic levels, while several thousand Jews found refuge in Catholic networks, institutions and homes across Italy, including in Vatican City and Pope Pius' Summer Residence. The Catholic Church and some historians have credited this rescue in large part to the direction of Pope Pius XII. However, historian Susan Zuccotti researched the matter in detail and discovered that although the pope was aware of the Holocaust, he did not issue a rescue order. Zuccotti states that there is "considerable evidence of papal disapproval of the hiding of Jews and other fugitives in Vatican properties."

Three Popes and the Jews is a 1967 book by Pinchas Lapide, a former Israeli Consul to Milan, who at the time of publication was a deputy editor in the Israeli Prime Minister's press office. The "three popes" are Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), and Pope Paul VI (1963-1978).

The Papal Concert of Reconciliation was a historic musical event in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. The concert took place in the Paul VI Auditorium at the Vatican on January 17, 2004, in the presence of the Pontiff, Rav Elio Toaff, the Emeritus Chief Rabbi of Rome, and Abdulawahab Hussein Gomaa, the Imam of the Mosque of Rome, and an audience of 7,000 invited guests. The concert also followed the first visit to the Vatican of Israel's two chief rabbis, both of whom attended the concert. It was conceived, created, and conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine, whose previous musical collaborations with the Pope, including the Papal Concert to Commemorate the Shoah in 1994 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Concert for the Pope's 80th Birthday in 2000 with the Philharmonia Orchestra, among others, had earned him the sobriquet "The Pope's Maestro." In realizing the concert, Levine sought to fulfill the Pontiff's wish to reach out to the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, as part of the celebrations dedicated to the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

Catholic resistance to Nazi Germany

Catholic resistance to Nazi Germany was a component of German resistance to Nazism and of Resistance during World War II. The role of the Church during the Nazi years was always, and remains however, a matter of much contention. Many writers, echoing Klaus Scholder, have concluded, "There was no Catholic resistance in Germany, there were only Catholics who resisted." The Vatican policy meant that the Pope never challenged Catholics to side either with National Socialism or with Catholic morality, and Pius XII was so adamant that Bolshevism represented the most terrible threat to the world that he remarked, 'Germany are a great nation who, in their fight against Bolshevism, are bleeding not only for their friends but also for the sake of their present enemies'. In a letter of autumn 1941 Pius XII wrote to Bishop Preysing, "We emphasise that, because the Church in Germany is dependent upon your public behaviour...in public declarations you are duty bound to exercise restraint" and "requires(d) you and your colleagues not to protest."

During the Holocaust, the Catholic Church played a role in the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Jews from being murdered by the Nazis. Members of the Church, through lobbying of Axis officials, provision of false documents, and the hiding of people in monasteries, convents, schools, among families and the institutions of the Vatican itself, saved hundreds of thousands of Jews. The Israeli diplomat and historian Pinchas Lapide estimated the figure at between 700,000 and 860,000, although the figure is contested.

References

  1. "Concert To Remember Holocaust Is Olive Branch From Pope To Jews".
  2. 1 2 "Pope John Paul Attends First Vatican Concert That Memorializes Holocaust".
  3. http://www.holocaustchronicle.org/StaticPages/HolocaustScans/HiRes/1947/19470008000113
  4. "The Polish Pope's Maestro: An Interview with Sir Gilbert Levine".
  5. Raab Kalina, Margit. Surviving a Thousand Deaths (1939-1945) in Stolen Youth: Five Women's Survival in the Holocaust. Yad Vashem & Holocaust Survivors Memoirs Project, 2005.
  6. "Discorso di Giovanni Paolo II al Termine del Concerto Eseguito in Commemorazione della "Shoah" Ebraica".
  7. "Conductor Says We've No Time For the Pope".
  8. Levy, Alan (Jan 31, 1996). "Storm at Czech Philharmonic". The New York Times. Retrieved Apr 29, 2020.
  9. "Holocaust Lamentations Echo at Vatican".