Gabriel Wilensky’s first book, “Six Million Crucifixions: How Christian Teachings About the Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust” traces the history of the Christian church (and specifically the Vatican) to plausible causes of the Holocaust. The author’s lifelong fascination with the subject and years of research culminated in his very detailed book on the subject.
With a foreword by world-renowned Holocaust scholar John K. Roth and endorsements by several Holocaust survivors, the book traces 2,000 years of history in an easy to read format.
Says Wilensky of the topic, “The role of the German churches during the Nazi era and legal aspects of crimes that members of the clergy committed before, during and after the Holocaust is largely unknown by those young Christians raised after the second Vatican council in 1965.”
Based on this view that many Christians live unaware of the Church’s history of Jewish persecution, Wilensky says he wrote his book to raise awareness about the series of events that led up to the Nazis’ Final Solution. This includes the silent acts of the Church and its members.
“The silence of the church is deafening,” Wilensky says. “[The clergy] hid information from the public. Pope Pius XII held the interest of the Church first, and the Church never saw fit to publicly denounce the Holocaust, never called Nazis murderers and never mentioned that the Jews were victims. This pattern of silence began long before.”
Wilensky says the silence of the Church was not as bad as its support for the Nazi party. He says the clergy had many chances to prevent the events that eventually led to the holocaust.
“The Church materially helped the Nazis from the 1930s on, providing them with baptismal records — needed in Germany because Jews there dressed and spoke like everyone else — which showed who was a Christian, and by exclusion who was not,” Wilensky says.
Wilensky, who was born in Uruguay, came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago to work in the computer software industry, but he says the Holocaust has always fascinated him.
“I remember very clearly reading countless books, and I could never really comprehend why the Germans and their helpers did what they did,” he says. “I knew there was propaganda and brainwashing, but it seemed to me that something was missing. Not only Germans, but also Ukrainians and Latvians, did what they did because they already felt a visceral hatred toward Jews. It had been ingrained in their minds by their church and priests.”
Wilensky had been compiling research for almost a decade before he decided to write the book, which he originally wanted to be a fictionalized novel.
“I initially wrote [the book] as a novel, but after I did, I realized it didn’t really work as a novel because it was too history-heavy, so I scrapped the novel and rewrote the whole thing as a nonfiction book,” he says.
The final product tells the story of the Church and its relationship with the Jews chronologically from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion to the end of World War II, with legal analysis of crimes committed by clergy before, during and after the Holocaust. The final section details recommendations for the future.
“Anti-Semitism has a way of morphing itself into many different forms,” Wilensky says. “The religious, racial form [of anti-Semitism] in the 19th century has grown into the new anti-Semitism, which is political and manifests itself as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism. Many people in academia and in Europe in particular express their anti- Jewish feelings in the form of anti-Israel feelings, but they don’t understand why they are so inclined to protest everything that Israel does. People have suppressed the anti-Semitism for so many years and have found a way to express it in a way that is politically correct. I hope my book will raise awareness to this problem and show that something very wrong was done, and that it’s manifesting itself now in other ways.”
Wilensky, who was raised Jewish, no longer practices any formal religion, but he admits that being raised in a Jewish household affected his fascination with the Holocaust.
“Based on the number of books and novels and movies made, the Second World War is the biggest, most satanic thing of all time,” Wilensky says. “The Holocaust is the biggest event like this ever perpetrated; there is no other example of something so horrible as the Holocaust. This particular type of genocide is unique because the hatred was very visceral and ingrained in the psyche of the people,” Wilensky says.
Wilensky explains that he does not intend to argue that all Christians hate Jews, or that all Christians during the Holocaust went along with Church teachings in silence.
“There were many thousands of Christian individuals who helped the Jews, including those who risked their lives to save the Jews…by hiding them or providing shelter in some way, or helping in any way they could,” he says.
Wilensky notes the best example of Christians acting as righteous gentiles was the reaction of the Danish Lutheran Church during World War II. The church created a campaign to defend Jews, writing sermons and reading them from every pulpit in every church in the country
“They taught [church goers] that killing Jews was wrong and they needed to do everything in their power to help,” Wilensky says.
The king of Denmark even made all citizens wear a yellow star so Nazis couldn’t identify which people were the Jews.
“There was a general mobilization of the country instigated by the Church,” Wilensky says. “The end result was that many Jews were transported to neutral Sweden, and a very large percentage of Denmark’s Jews survived the war.”
Through his research, Wilensky has found that all genocides include certain components, which other factions of the Church helped to facilitate through their negative teachings about Jews.
“[In genocide] there needs to be a prejudice or a preconceived idea about the victims that is widespread and that everybody shares,” Wilensky says. “There also has to be a participation or a promotion of genocide from the government. Without approval by the government, genocide does not really happen, so at the very least these two things need to be present. In the case of the Holocaust, the hatred had been there for almost two millennia, but [the Nazis] only needed to light the match.”
Wilensky will discuss his book and findings at the Central Library in downtown San Diego at 6:30 p.m. July 28. The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the book or the discussion, visit the author’s Web site at www.sixmillioncrucifixions.com.