Films of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
Amen. (2002), the Catholic Church, and the Holocaust: Kevin P. Spicer, CSC
Kevin P. Spicer, CSC
Shortly after depicting Pope Pius XII deliver his 1942 Christmas address, the film, Amen., fast-forwards to a scene in Rome in which prelates, diplomats, and counsels are seated together at a table sharing a meal. This, however, is not just any ordinary meal. Something unsettling is being discussed. Father Ricardo Fontana, a protagonist in the film, is exhibiting to the dignitaries a map detailing the number of German concentration camps extant in Europe at the time. He is also listing for them the number of Jews already murdered in these camps. Continuing their meal, one by one the dignitaries advance arguments as to why the Church is unable to ask the Allied powers to intercede on behalf of the Jews. One guest even goes so far as to suggest that if the Pope protested, the Germans would invade the Vatican and all would be lost. Father Ricardo assails such argument, pleading: “Should we save the Vatican or Christianity?” The dignitaries are not impressed. An elderly prelate, clearly in disagreement, counsels, “The Church is made of patience, faith, and hard work.”1
In Amen., screenwriters Costa-Gavras and Jean-Claude Grumberg recreate many such scenes, mixing historical facts with fictional encounters, in an attempt to uncover the deeper, more unsettling realities of the Catholic Church’s actions during the Holocaust. The screenwriters, however, did not start from scratch. Rather, they based their screenplay on the 1963 stage play Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) by German playwright Rolf...
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