.- Along side of the millions of Jews, horrifically murdered in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II, were an often overlooked segment of victims--Catholic priests. This is the backdrop for a new film by German director, Volker SchlÃ¶dorff, called âThe Ninth Day,â a special viewing of which was held in Denver last evening. The Chez Artiste theater on Denverâs south side was filled with supporters of Annunciation radio, who sponsored the premiere viewing. Also on hand for the event were Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan, concentration camp survivor Jack Goldman, one of the campâs U.S. liberators, Dick Bayless, and religious history expert Dr. Seth Ward.
The film, based on a true story and one of the latest from award-winning SchlÃ¶dorff, depicts the struggle of one Catholic priest against the Nazi regime and conflicting suggestions of how best to protect the Church--and his own life.
Following his release from the death camp of Dachau, German priest Henri Kremer learns that the Nazis are giving him nine days to convince his staunch Bishop to cooperate with their plans--and muster support from the Vatican, or else be returned to Dachau.
The film also addresses the role of Pope Pius XII in World War II.
Dr. Ward, professor of religious history at the University of Wyoming, noted that the central question, which was touched upon in the film, was whether Pope Pius should have been more vocal, or did he literally save millions of lives by keeping relatively silent?
The film puts the question in even starker light, noting a bishop in the Netherlands who caused 40,000 to be sent to death camps because of a pastoral letter decrying Nazism.
At its heart, he added, âthe movie was about struggles between choosing different goods; saving self, family, the Churchâ¦.â
Ward, a Jew himself, praised the Catholic Church for itâs work following the war.
He noted then Cardinal Ratzinger, who, in a homily just before becoming Pope Benedict XVI, âtalked about the evils of totalitarianism and relativism.â
âIt was a very strong statement,â he said, âabout just this sort of thing.â
He paralleled situations today with that of Europe in the 1930âs and 40âs, saying that âhuman totalitarian groups donât have the fear of God referred to in scriptureâ¦totalitarians donât fear God and imprison everybody.â
Dachau survivor Goldman added that we must learn from our past, specifically referring to regions like Darfur, where âpeople are dying seemingly wantonly.â He also noted the many atrocities he witnessed toward Catholics in addition to his fellow Jews in the camp, even noting âan entire French monastery who were brought in.â
Mr. Bayless, one of the liberators of Dachau, noted that âmore Catholic priests were put [there] than in any other campâ¦They didnât have to kill too many people in Dachau because they died too fast, [due to the horrific conditions].â
After the showing, Bishop Sheridan told CNA that he âenjoyed the filmâ¦if thatâs even an appropriate word.â
âI thought it was a wonderful filmâ, he said, âand appreciated its portrayal of human struggle.â