Although sterilization and the promotion of Aryan children through the Nazi breeding program (Lebensborn) would eventually change the profile of the German people, it was too slow for the Nazi leadership. Perhaps an event on 1939 gave them an idea. Nearly 1,000 Jews crowded the SS. St. Louis to try to escape the Nazi regime. They came to our shores, but we sent them back, most to end up in death camps. If they wanted to leave so badly, perhaps the Reich could help, and be rid of them.

Australia was a penal colony. The State of Georgia had been a place to dump debtors. The age-old method of getting rid of the unwanted by shipping them out appealed to the Nazi mind. On Aug. 15, 1940, Hitler ordered Adolf Eichman to send a million Jews per year to Madagascar for the next four years. There is something written about the best laid plans of mice and men — a blockade prevented the German ships from landing. Thus the architects of the Third Reich had to find some other solution to the Jewish “problem.”

As the United States provided an example for sterilization, so we had also made use of the principle of “out of sight, out of mind.” The white European settlers of this land wanted the land of the Indigenous people for homes and farms and natural resources. We now have that land, so depriving them of home and livelihood.

I want to give an example of haw a pagan government treated early Christians in the matter of confiscated goods. With the legalization of Christianity by the Edict of Milan in 313, there also came the order regarding Christian properties: “Everything was to be handed back to the faithful ‘without compensation, without charge, and without delay, without legal proceedings.’ The State itself assumed the burden of compensating the parties who had acquired these properties and possessions in good faith” (Henri Daniel-Rops, “History of the Church” paperback edition, v. 2, p. 155).

By enjoying our real estate and the produce of our great farmlands, in a measure, we are complicit in the injustice on our Indigenous neighbors.

O Christian! I know what I am doing quietly and without fanfare to acknowledge complicity and to accomplish something positive for Native Americans. What can, should, will you do? Yes, in the light of this complicity we must pause and re-examine the various aspects of “we the just” and “they the unjust.”

Reflections of Rabbi Raphael Kanter, a friend and colleague of Father Buote:

Father Martin Buote’s meditations on genocide (Genocide I) are stark reminders that the Holocaust carries with it some of the most heinous and evil ideas about humanity. These ideas stand in stark contrast to the understanding of each human being is created in the image of God, Btzelem Elohim, as articulated in the Biblical book of Genesis.

His meditation on genocide begins with eugenics and how the understanding of White U.S. citizens and sterilization laws lead us down a path to the idea that some lives are more valuable than others and then to the understanding that some human lives represent an evil within the world simply built on fantasies of who does and does not have power. The Jew has always carried that burden but it is not exclusive to the Jew.

Any group can be marginalized and any group can be attributed as an evil as part of that marginalization. Father Buote calls this out. He calls us to look at all actions in our society through the ethical lens of the Divine standard. 

In Genocide II, Father Buote moves from sterilization to the Aryan ideal that leads to death for the anti-Aryan ideal that is the Jew. First unwanted in the case of the SS. St. Louis in 1939 where Jews on this boat were turned away and ultimately sent back to Germany. He then moves on to 1940 when Adolf Eichman, Hitler’s second in command, ordered a million Jews per year to go to Madagascar and leading to the “Final Solution,” the liquidation of Jews from the world through mass murder.

Other such “problems” lead to solutions of other kinds such as the confiscation of Indigenous peoples’ lands by European settlers. Again the evil of man to ignore the Divine spark that resides within each human being leads to the perpetration of evil.

I am pleased to see him boldly call to arms against anything that denigrates the ultimate standard of each life valued and Divine.

Father Buote is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fall River, and a regular Anchor contributor.