With the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Catholic – and extreme right-wing secular – anti-Semitism in Europe increased even more. Thus, in 1921, the Vatican magazine CiviltaCattolic conceptualised that “at bottom Bolshevism is not the old Judaism that embraces (…) the world revolution, to extend its plutocratic kingdom and to dominate and exploit the Christian peoples” (Jean Meyer – Iglesia Romana y antisemitismo (1920-1940); in Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales, No. 226, January-April 2016, p. 162).

And in 1922, in the same journal, the Jesuit Paolo Silva wrote that “Russia offers a unique example: the Slavic nation has been yoked to another nation, the Jewish nation (…) The Jewish republic is the application of a doctrine, the dogma of the Gospel of Marx and Engels (…) Only the perversion of a Semitic fantasy was capable of overthrowing all the traditions of humanity (…) Aryan common sense would never have invented it” (Ibid.; p. 165). Moreover, with the Russo-Polish war of 1920 there were many pogroms of Jews by Catholics, and the Polish bishops declared that “the real aim of Bolshevism is to conquer the whole world”; and that “the race that leads it wants to dominate everything through its gold and its banks” (Ibid.; p. 247).

And, tellingly, the papal nuncio in Poland, Achille Ratti (the future Pius XI!), in his reports to Rome noted that “one of the evilest and powerful influences perceived here, perhaps the evilest and powerful, is that of the Jews (…) the Jews in Poland are, in contrast to those who live in other parts of the civilised world, an unproductive element. It is a race of shopkeepers par excellence”, although he added that “the vast majority of the Jewish population is mired in poverty”. And that “we must draw attention to the role of the Jews in the Bolshevik movement. We do not want to say that every Jew is, ipso facto, a Bolshevik. Far from it. But we cannot deny the preponderant role that Jews play in this movement, both among the Polish and Russian Communists where – with the exception of Lenin – all the Bolshevik leaders are Polish or Lithuanian Jews” (Kertzer; pp. 251-2). Incidentally, a totally erroneous or false statement since of the 12 members of the Politburo which decided the October insurrection in Russia, only six were of Jewish origin….

On the other hand, a little earlier in 1919, the papal nuncio in Germany, Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII, visiting the building of the short-lived revolutionary government that took power in Bavaria, reported to Rome: “The scene that could be observed in the palace was indescribable … It looked like hell itself … and in the midst of all this a band of young women, of dubious appearance, Jewish like all the others … with libidinous gestures and suggestive smiles. The leader of this female mob  was (Max) Levien’s mistress, Jewish and divorced. This Levien is a young (…) Russian and Jewish. Pale, dirty, with drugged eyes, a hoarse voice, vulgar, repulsive, with a face at once intelligent and cunning” (John Cornwell – Hitler’s Pope. The true story of Pius XII; Planeta, Barcelona, 2005, p. 93).

Likewise, in the 1920s, Catholic anti-Semitism promoted the apocryphal and grotesque book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, produced by the Tsarist secret police at the beginning of the 20th century. It went so far as to say: “We have corrupted, brutalised and prostituted Christian youth by an education based on principles and theories which we know to be false. Having inoculated the poison of liberalism, the States are sick with a deadly disease, there is nothing left to do but wait for the end of their agony. It is necessary to constantly disturb in all peoples the relations between them and their governments with disunity, enmity and hatred, and even with martyrdom, hunger and the spread of disease and misery so that Christians will find no other salvation than to have recourse to our full and absolute sovereignty” (Edit. La Abadía, Buenos Aires, 1975; pp. 110, 117 and 121).

Prominent in its promotion was the French priest Ernest Jouin, who in 1912 had created the Revue Internationalle des Societes Secretes, aimed at combating Freemasonry and Judaism. His journal published it in full in France in 1920; in Italy it was published by Bishop Umberto Benigni. And as the campaign to disseminate Jouin’s Protocols was intensifying in 1923, Pius XI granted him a private audience and, according to Jouin, told him: “Continue with your magazine, despite your financial difficulties, since you are fighting our deadly enemy” (Kertzer; p. 269). Moreover, he obtained from Benedict XV and Pius XI the dignities of prelate and prothonotary apostolic, the highest distinctions to date for a non-bishop priest (see ibid.).

And remarkably, when faced with the verification of the book’s apocryphal character in 1921, Jouin had the effrontery to assert that “it matters little that the Protocols are authentic; it is enough that they are true; the things that are seen need no verification” (Jean Meyer, The Fable of the Ritual Crime. European anti-Semitism (1880-1914); Tusquets, Mexico, 2012; p. 227). Indeed, there was an indignant reaction from many Catholic priests and intellectuals to the book, particularly the Belgian Jesuit Pierre Charles, who in 1921 described it as a forgery “whose incoherence, ignorance, excessive impudence, in a word, odious madness, ooze from all its pages” (Jean Lacouture.- Jesuitas II. Los continuadores; Paidós, Barcelona, 1994; p. 420). And he was even more indignant to note that “Catholic opinion has become the ally of an anonymous policeman who slanders, in the most sordid manner the ‘filthy Jew’ . Do they want to return to the excellent customs of yesteryear and re-establish, with the yellow circle and the ghettos, the chronic persecution? One feels a little humiliated to note that a forgery, that a plagiarism as grotesque, as baroque, as ridiculous as The Protocols, could have passed in the eyes of men of letters for a wise conspiracy, a satanic and brilliant plan for the destruction of societies (…) There is food for melancholy reflections” (Ibid.; pp. 420-1).

Also positive was the French Jesuit journal Etudes, which between 1925 and 1938 published some twenty articles ‘expressing sincere sympathy for the Jews’ (Meyer, 2012, p. 175). And the most significant effort in this direction was the creation in 1926 of the Catholic organisation The Friends of Israel, which sought to do away with Catholic anti-Semitism, putting an end to all traditional anti-Jewish clichés and particularly to the notion of the “deicidal people” and “ritual murder” (see Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky – A silence of the Church in the face of fascism. La encyclica de Pío XI que Pío XII no publicó; PPC Editorial, Madrid, 1997; p. 130).

The organisation grew to 3,000 priests, 278 bishops and 19 cardinals (see Kertzer; p.269); and it enjoyed the full support of Catholic personalities such as Jacques Maritain and his wife Raissa. However, the Holy Office (successor of the Inquisition) put an end to that organisation on 25 March 1928, because “it had adopted (…) a way of acting and thinking contrary to the sense and spirit of the Church, to the thought of the Holy Fathers and to the liturgy” (Passelecq and Suchecky; p. 129).

Revealingly, the one who justified the Vatican ban was the editor of La CiviltaCattolica, the Jesuit Enrico Rosa, who on 19 May 1928 (The Jewish Danger and the ‘Friends of Israel’) pointed out that “the Jewish danger is a threat to the whole world because of its pernicious infiltrations or harmful interference, especially for the Christian peoples and, even more so, among Catholics and Latins where the blindness of the old liberalism favoured the Jews in a majority way, while persecuting Catholics and above all the ecclesiastics… It has been the merit of our newspaper, we can say in all sincerity, to have constantly denounced this danger from the beginning” (Meyer, 2016, p. 171). 171).

Moreover, Rosa expressed a diagnosis fully shared by the European far right of the time, including the already active Nazis: “We try in these pages to show how much the Jews are to be criticised for the Russian revolution and how the corrupt generation of Jews has been pre-eminent in it, just as previously in the French revolution, and also in the more recent revolution in Hungary (1919) The result has been the collapse of the Muscovite empire and the tyranny imposed by the Bolshevik takeover that threatens Europe” (Ibid. pp. 171-2).

In this context, it is hardly surprising that neither the Vatican nor the German episcopate said anything about the increasing persecutions of Jews in Nazi Germany that began after its establishment in 1933. Indeed, as early as April of that year in a lengthy missive – addressed to the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, Michael von Faulhaber – the then Vatican Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII), said that a protest against Nazi attacks on Jews “could only result in these aggressions being extended to the Catholic population. The Jews,’ he said, ‘will have to fend for themselves'” (Cornwell; p. 263).