For immediate release.
February 23, 2003

Letter of Saint Edith Stein to Pope Pius XI in 1933


The attached text was sent by Dr. Edith Stein, then noted philosopher, writer and educator in Germany in the Spring of 1933. She had not yet entered the Carmelite monastery of Cologne (being received there on October 14, 1933) and she saw her lectureship at the German Institute for Scientific Pedagogy terminated in the Spring, because of anti-Semitic Nazi laws. The date of April 20, 1933 probably indicates the delivery time since a cover letter of presentation to Vatican officials that was written for it by her spiritual director, Archabbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey, bore that date.

For years the letter was kept in the Vaticanís archives and not even released for inclusion in the published correspondence of Stein, who lately has been canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church (on October 11, 1998). It was released to the public on February 15, 2003 as part of the documentation dating from the pontificate of Pius XI now available for study.

The current text was translated from the original German in a collaborative effort by Mrs. Suzanne Batzdorff, Jewish niece of Edith Stein and frequent author of both books and articles increasing knowledge of her aunt; Sr. Josephine Koeppel, the Carmelite nun translator of Steinís autobiographical work Life in a Jewish Family and also her correspondence Self-portrait in Letters, 1918-1942; and Rev. Dr. John Sullivan, publisher for the Discalced Carmelites of The Collected Works of Edith Stein (see attachment after text of the letter).

For more information contact: John Sullivan, ocd


Text of Letter to the Pope from Edith Stein


Holy Father!

As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews. Now that they have seized the power of government and armed their followers, among them proven criminal elements, this seed of hatred has germinated. The government has only recently admitted that ex- cesses have occurred. To what extent, we cannot tell, because public opinion is being gagged. However, judging by what I have learned from personal relations, it is in no way a matter of singular exceptional cases. Under pressure from reactions abroad, the government has turned to "milder" methods. It has issued the watchword "no Jew shall have even one hair on his head harmed." But through boycott measures--by robbing people of their livelihood, civic honor and fatherland--it drives many to desperation; within the last week, through private reports I was informed of five cases of suicide as a consequence of these hostilities. I am convinced that this is a general condition which will claim many more victims. One may regret that these unhappy people do not have greater inner strength to bear their misfortune. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.

Everything that happened and continues to happen on a daily basis originates with a government that calls itself "Christian." For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christís name. Is not this idolization of race and governmental power which is being pounded into the public consciousness by the radio open heresy? Isn't the effort to destroy Jewish blood an abuse of the holiest humanity of our Savior, of the most blessed Virgin and the apostles? Is not all this diametrically opposed to the conduct of our Lord and Savior, who, even on the cross, still prayed for his persecutors? And isn't this a black mark on the record of this Holy Year which was intended to be a year of peace and reconciliation?

We all, who are faithful children of the Church and who see the conditions in Germany with open eyes, fear the worst for the prestige of the Church, if the silence continues any longer. We are convinced that this silence will not be able in the long run to purchase peace with the present German government. For the time being, the fight against Catholicism will be conducted quietly and less brutally than against Jewry, but no less systematically. It won't take long before no Catholic will be able to hold office in Germany unless he dedicates himself unconditionally to the new course of action.

At the feet of your Holiness, requesting your apostolic blessing,

(Signed) Dr. Edith Stein, Instructor at the German Institute for Scientific Pedagogy, MŁnster in Westphalia, Collegium Marianum.

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