Italian Lefebvrite priest questions Holocaust
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR., NCR Staff
Jan. 29, 2009
Fr. Floriano AbrahamowiczFr. Floriano AbrahamowiczIn the wake of a
global furor triggered by Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to lift the
excommunication of four traditionalist Catholic bishops, including
one who cast doubt on the Holocaust, another leader in the
traditionalist Society of St. Pius X has questioned whether the
Nazis used gas chambers for anything other than “disinfection,”
and said that people who hold revisionist views on the Holocaust
are not anti-Semites.
Fr. Floriano Abrahamowicz, a pastor and spokesperson for the
Society of St. Pius X in northeastern Italy, also referred to Jews
as “a people of deicide,” referring to the death of Christ, and
suggested that the Jewish Holocaust has been “exalted” over what
he called “other genocides,” such as the Allied bombing of German
cities and the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip.
On the other hand, Abrahamowicz insisted that the traditionalist
movement founded by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre is
not “anti-Semitic.” Among other things, Abrahamowicz said, he
himself has Jewish roots on his father’s side.
The comments came in a Jan. 29 interview with the Italian
newspaper La Tribuna di Treviso. (An NCR translation of the full
text of the interview appears below.)
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Benedict's reconciliation efforts continue to fall short
Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, has
apologized for the remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson, who in a
recent interview with Swedish television claimed that the Nazis
had not used gas chambers and estimated the number of Jewish
deaths during World War II at no more than 300,000. Fellay has
also barred Williamson from further comment. However, the
Abrahamowicz interview suggests at least some degree of sympathy
for Williamson’s views within the traditionalist group.
Reacting to protest in Italy over the Abrahamowicz interview, the
Italian superior of the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Davide
Pagliarani, issued a press release saying that the society
confirms Fellay’s earlier statement on Williamson and “reproves
every single word inconsistent with it.”
Abrahamowicz is himself a well-known figure in Italy. In 2006, he
gave a television interview in which he said that Erich Priebke, a
German SS officer convicted of war crimes for a 1944 massacre in
Rome, in which 335 Italian civilians were killed in reprisal for
the deaths of 33 German soldiers, should not be seen as an
“executioner” but rather a soldier who acted “with regret and a
heavy heart.” In 2007, Abrahamowicz celebrated a Latin Mass for
Italian politician Umberto Bossi, leader of the far-right Northern
League party. Bossi and his party have sometimes been accused of
xenophobia, particularly towards Muslim immigrants.
In 2008, after Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan had expressed
support for Muslims seeking to open new mosques in Italy,
Abrahamowicz said on Italian radio that Tettamanzi was an example
of “infiltrators” attempting to “subvert the church from within.”
Abrahamowicz’s latest comments come just one day after Benedict
XVI pledged his “full and indisputable solidarity” with the Jewish
people, and recalled the deaths of “millions of Jews” in the Nazi
* * * * *
La Tribuna di Treviso
Interview with Fr. Floriano
Abrahamowicz, Jan. 29, 2009
By Laura Canzian
Fr. Floriano, is the Lefebvrite community anti-Semitic?
It’s truly impossible for a Catholic Christian to be anti-Semitic.
I myself, on my father’s side, have Jewish roots. My last name
even suggests this. This entire polemic regarding the statements
of Bishop Williamson concerns the existence of gas chambers, and
has been strongly instrumentalized for anti-Vatican purposes.
Williamson simply expressed his doubts, and his ‘denial’ is not of
the Holocaust – as newspapers have falsely said – but of the
technical aspect of the gas chambers.
In your view, what’s the ‘technical aspect’ of the gas
Certainly, it was imprudent of Williamson to get into technical
questions. In the famous interview, you can see that the
journalist was obviously leading up to this specific aspect. But
you have to understand that the theme of the Holocaust is situated
on a much higher level than the question of knowing whether the
victims died from gas or from other causes.
What do you think? About the gas chambers, I mean.
Truly, I don’t know. I know that gas chambers existed at least for
disinfection, but I don’t know if they were used to kill people or
not, because I haven’t studied the question. I know that,
alongside the official version [of events], there’s another
version based on the observations of the first Allied technicians
who entered the camps.
Do you cast doubt on the number of victims of the
No, I don’t cast doubt on the numbers. There could have been more
than six million victims. Even in the Jewish world, the number has
a symbolic value. Pope Ratzinger says that even one person killed
unjustly is too many, which is a way of saying that it’s equal to
six million. To speak about numbers doesn’t change anything with
respect to the essence of genocide, which is always an
An exaggeration? In what sense?
The number [of six million] is derived from what the head of the
German Jewish community said to the Anglo-Americans shortly after
the liberation. In the heat of the moment, he fired off a number.
But how could he know? For him, the important point was that these
victims were unjustly killed for religious motives. If there’s a
criticism to be made of the way in which the tragedy of the
Holocaust has been handled, it’s in giving it a supremacy with
respect to other genocides.
To which other exterminations are you referring?
If Bishop Williamson had gone on television to deny the genocide
of 1.2 million Armenians by the Turks, I don’t think that all the
newspapers would have talked about his statements in the same
terms they’re using now. Who has ever talked about the
Anglo-American genocide in the bombing of German cities? Who has
ever talked about Churchill, who ordered the phosphorous bombing
of Dresden, where there were not only many civilians, but also
many Allied soldiers? Who has spoken about the English air force,
which, in the bombing of the cities, killed hundreds of thousands
of civilians? And the Israelis certainly can’t tell me that the
genocide they suffered from the Nazis is less serious than that of
Gaza, simply because they’ve taken out a few thousand persons,
while the Nazis took out six million. This is where I fault
Judaism, which exasperates rather than honoring the victims of
genocide decently. It’s as if there were only one genocide in
history, that of the Jews during the Second World War. It seems
like you can say anything you want about all the other
exterminated peoples, but no one at the global level has spoken in
the terms in which people are speaking today after the
declarations of Bishop Williamson.
Why do so many people still cast doubt on the Shoah? Why
is it a subject that still divides people so viscerally?
Because the whole history of humanity is marked by the people of
Israel, who initially were the people of God, who then became the
people of deicide, and who at the end of time will reconvert to
Jesus Christ. Behind it all is a mysterious theological aspect,
which is that of the people of God which rejected its Messiah and
which still combats him. It’s a mystery of doctrine. Anti-Semitism
is born from the illuminated liberal and Gnostic world. The church
throughout history has always protected the Jews from pogroms, as
one reads, for example, in Domenico Savino’s book on ritual
What do you think of [Holocaust] denial?
Denial is a false problem, because it focuses on methods and
numbers and doesn’t address the substance of the problem. Those
who have studied the technical data, and who have cast certain
doubts on the versions that we find in history books, aren’t
anti-Semites. It’s enough to recall that the first ones to find
this data were also those who saved the Jews, meaning the Allies.
Do you want to offer a message to the Jewish community?
One message: As a Catholic Christian, adding that little Jewish
blood that runs in my veins, I express the hope that the Jews will
embrace Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.