Broken Gospel?: Christianity and the Holocaust

By Peter M. Waddell

A searching re-examination of Christianity’s core beliefs in the light of the Church’s complicity in the Holocaust.

ISBN: 9780227178478


The Holocaust lies, often unacknowledged, near the heart of our contemporary crisis of religious faith. The horrific fruit of two millennia of Christian antisemitism, the slaughter calls into sharp question the moral and intellectual credibility of the Churches and the Christian faith itself. Can Christianity ever recover? In Broken Gospel? Peter Waddell suggests that it can, but only by facing unflinchingly the history that paved the way for the Nazi genocide, and the Churches’ sins of omission and commission as it took place.

Engaging with both Christian and Jewish scholarship, Waddell also approaches with sensitivity the theological issues that arise from the horror: questions of how the claimed holiness of the Church relates to its wickedness; of Christian-Jewish relations; of prayer and providence; of heaven and hell, and the faint possibility of forgiveness. Scholars, clergy and general readers alike will be challenged by this exercise in repentance and reconstruction, and inspired by the possibility it offers for Christian theology and practice to flourish once more.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 188

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Peter Waddell is Vicar of Abbots Langley and Bedmond in the Diocese of St Albans. After receiving a doctorate in theology from the University of Cambridge, he taught theology there and subsequently at the University of Winchester, where he remains a Visiting Research Fellow. He is the author of Joy: The Meaning of the Sacraments and Charles Gore: Radical Anglican.



1. Barabbas and His Afterlife
The Story of Barabbas
What Really Happened?
Bearing the Blood: The Consequences of a Story
Coda: Reading the Barabbas Story Today

2. Reaping the Whirlwind: The Christian Churches and the Killing
Pius XII: Hitler’s Pope?
The Case for the Defence
The Case for the Prosecution
The Protestants and the Killing
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and ‘the Jewish Question’
The Broader Protestant Response
Coda: Christian Nazis?

3. The Aftermath
The Protestants and the Aftermath
The Catholics and the Aftermath: We Remember Assessed

4. Has the Church Disproved the Gospel?
Why Is There a Problem at All?
The Usual Defence: Augustine and the Donatists
A Broken Church

5. Christians, Jews and Israel
The Nostra Aetate Revolution
Two Covenants?
Coda: Christians and the State of Israel

6. Where Was God?

7. Is Hitler in Heaven?
Why Even Ask the Question?
A Very Popular, Wrong Answer: Universalism
If Universalism Is Not the Answer, What Is?

Select Bibliography


Endorsements and Reviews

I can think of no other recent work on this subject which offers so unsparingly honest and so theologically intelligent a perspective. Dr Waddell recognises with complete clarity the degree to which the Holocaust puts in question the moral integrity of Christian language, and his proposals for responding to this challenge are deeply thoughtful and constructive. Th is is a very significant essay for Jewish-Christian relations.
The Rt Revd Rowan Williams

With meticulous attention to texts, statements and facts, Peter Waddell sets out with great clarity the historical, theological and spiritual record for which Christianity must account. This does not make for comfortable reading, but the issues he raises are unavoidable and of existential import. In particular, the discussion on the shaping of Christian-Jewish relations – the question of covenant(s), the place of evangelism, the idea of fulfilment – is handled with a sensitivity and nuance which are exemplary but rare. This is a book which deserves serious attention from all who take seriously the need for Christian repentance in light of the long and painful history of our relationship with our first and most significant other.
The Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, Chair of the Council of Christians and Jews

Anti-Semitism is not limited to the Christian world, but that is where it has been at
its most vicious and enduring, culminating in the Holocaust. How could this
happen in a society that was the heir to 2,000 years of Christian values of loving
your neighbour as yourself? Is that not only a terrible indictment of the perpetrators
and bystanders, but also a stinging challenge to the integrity of Christianity
itself? These are the painful questions that Peter Waddell confronts Jonathan Romain, Maidenhead Synagogue, Theology – 2023, Vol. 126(2) 81–83.