Historical Investigation to understand a troubling photograph

October 7, 2010

Investigation of Question 4: Other clergy with swastikas?

Filed under: — admin @ 8:06 pm

The photographic archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum contain illustrative examples of the Nazis’ propagandistic attainments in this field: pictures of Protestant leaders and meetings with swastikas in the background; swastikas displayed on the outside of Catholic and Protestant churches; and a picture of a Catholic archbishop shaking hands with Hitler in front of swastika banners in 1933.

The latter item was the most impressive such photo opportunity that came the Nazis’ way before Copello. Archbishop Vassallo di Torregrossa, the Vatican’s nuncio, or ambassador, to the German state of Bavaria, had shaken Hitler’s hand in a receiving line at the groundbreaking for a new art museum in Munich. Nazi propagandists exploited this brief encounter to create a campaign poster for the one-party election of November 1933 – ten months after Hitler had come to power – featuring the photograph with archbishop, Hitler, and swastikas.

The Nazis evidently made the most of what they could get. But their poster with the nuncio fell well short of the reality or the appearance of ecclesiastical endorsement for the symbol of Nazi ideology. There is no record that the Nazis ever found any Catholic bishop in Germany to bless a swastika.

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