In a letter to the Vatican, AJC has expressed profound concerns regarding the Pope’s announcement recognizing Cardinal August Hlond, the Polish Primate during World War II, as having “heroic virtues” – a stage towards being made a saint.

Moving forward with the canonization process “will be perceived within the Jewish community and beyond as an expression of approval of Cardinal Hlond’s extremely negative approach towards the Jewish community,” wrote Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s Director of International Interreligious Affairs, in the letter to Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Rosen cited examples of Hlond’s hostility towards Jews, and his refusal, despite repeated requests from Polish Jewish leaders, to take any action to protect the Jewish community.

In his 1936 pastoral letter, Cardinal Hlond “condemned Judaism and Jews for rejecting Jesus” and “advocated a virtual boycott of Jewish establishments,” Rosen wrote.

Quoting from that pastoral letter, Rosen noted that it stated: “It is good to prefer your own kind when shopping, to avoid Jewish stores and Jewish stalls in the marketplace (...) One should stay away from the harmful moral influence of Jews, keep away from their anti-Christian culture, and especially boycott the Jewish press and demoralizing Jewish publications.”

Ten years later, Rosen pointed out, Hlond refused to meet with Polish Jewish leaders who had sought to discuss with him their memorandum detailing “the constant circulation of accusations of ritual murder and the consequent danger of mass pogroms” on the eve of Passover 1946.

The leaders, Dr. David Kahane, Chief Rabbi of the Polish Army, and Professor Michael Ziberberg, General Secretary of the Jewish Communities in Poland, had “asked the Cardinal to issue a pastoral letter to all churches, urging them to intervene on behalf of the Jews,” wrote Rosen, but “Cardinal Hlond responded by returning the memorandum and refusing to meet with them.”

A month later, Rosen continued, Joseph Tenenbaum, the president of the World Federation of Polish Jews, did meet with Hlond, but, again, he refused to issue a statement condemning the murders of Jews that had been taking place since the end of the war. Tenenbaum, Rosen wrote, maintained at the time that the killings “are only possible in an antisemitic atmosphere” and “to eliminate the poison from the population is clearly the duty of the Church.”

The culmination of anti-Jewish propaganda came on July 4, 1946, when the building of the Jewish Committee in Kielce was attacked by a mob, leaving 42 Jews dead and more than 40 wounded. Seven days later, “Cardinal Hlond held a press conference but he did not condemn the pogrom nor urge Poles to stop murdering Jews. Rather, he pointed out that the Jews were all communists or supporters of communism and that the pogrom was their own fault,” Rosen wrote to the Vatican.

The AJC letter has been shared with the Vatican Secretariat of State and Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the two Holy See bodies that are key to advancing the canonization process.

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