The polemics surrounding the relationship between Catholicism and antisemitism are fraught with emotions, but two points are hard to dispute: 1) discussions about the Jews in Catholic texts (particularly prior to WWI) did indeed differ in important ways from the writings of secular, racial antisemites; but nonetheless 2) it is impossible to completely separate Catholic antisemitism from racial antisemitism, because religious hatred and secular hatred coexisted in mutually formative ways. The interwar Catholic Church—in Poland just as everywhere else in Europe—was thoroughly penetrated by paranoia over Jewish conspiracies and stereotypes of Jewish vice, but these ideas carried different meanings in different contexts. The conspiracy theories of secular antisemites differed from those of Catholic antisemites insofar as the latter had to work around some important doctrinal constraints. Not only was the idea of a “struggle for survival” difficult to reconcile with the commandment to love one’s neighbor and enemy, but it was even harder for a faithful Catholic to cope with the essentializing racism at the core of early 20th-century antisemitism.
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