World Report

BBC acknowledges falsely accusing wartime Church of ‘silence’

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has acknowledged that it incorrectly accused the Catholic Church of failing to speak out or act against the persecution of Jews in Europe during World War II.

During a BBC news broadcast in July, covering Pope Francis’ visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp, a reporter stated: “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonised Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.” The statement led to a complaint from Lord David Alton, a noted advocate for Christians in Britain, and Fr Leo Chamberlain, a Benedictine and historian. A formal complaint to the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) followed after what Lord Alton said were “several unsuccessful attempts to seek a correction”. The pair also supplied documentary evidence to back the complaint.

The ECU has subsequently found that the July broadcast had failed to give “due weight to public statements by successive Popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”

In an online blog dealing with his complaint, Lord Alton has written: “Ironically, part of the BBC report came from St Maximilian Kolbe’s cell at Auschwitz. St Maximilian, was executed after taking the place of another prisoner. He had been arrested for publishing a denunciation of the Nazis in his magazine, Knight, which had a circulation of around one million people. Hardly silence, then.”

Lord Alton concludes: “One charitable interpretation  of the Auschwitz report was that it was a sloppy, lazy, throw-away remark - indicative of the sort of religious illiteracy that can cause so much offence; and part of a blurring between the straightforward reporting of news and the desire to add some melodrama to spice it up. Don’t let facts or truth spoil a good story.

“Less charitably, the BBC report may be seen as the simply latest example of a long running attempt to rewrite history.”