Some Austrians were clearly not ready for Stefan Moritz's book about their country's pro-Nazi priests — bishops who hushed up the Holocaust and a prelate who helped thousands of Hitler's henchmen escape justice. "A woman just screamed 'Heil Hitler,' and hung up," said Mr. Moritz. "Another caller asked me if I were a Jew, because only a Jew could write garbage like this."Mr. Moritz, who isn't Jewish, has shaken up his country with a book claiming Austria's Roman Catholic Church ignored and even abetted Nazi horrors.By publishing "Gruess Gott und Heil Hitler" ("Greet God and Hail Hitler"), Mr. Moritz, 36, is treading on sensitive ground. After all, close to 80 percent of Austrians are Roman Catholics.
Not all Austrian clergy were cowards or collaborators.Mr. Moritz cites the case of the Rev. Franz Reinisch, banned from preaching because of his critical stance toward the Nazis. The church, instead of backing Father Reinisch, expelled him from his Pallotine order, and he was executed in 1942 after refusing to swear loyalty to Hitler and join his army, Mr. Moritz writes. That's only one example in his argument that the Austrian church in general struck a bargain with the devil in order to survive, and that many priests and bishops went beyond silence to actively support the Nazis.