In Memory of Eva Fleischner

In Memory of Eva Fleischner

Fleischner EvaEva Fleischner, beloved sister, aunt, great aunt and friend, died peacefully at the Pilgrim Place Health Services Center in Claremont, California on July 6, 2020 after a long illness. 

Born in 1925 in Vienna, Austria to Dr. Konrad and Gabriele Schoenfeld Fleischner, Eva spent her early years with her younger brother, Hans. After Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938, the family emigrated to England, the children to separate boarding schools, the parents eventually to the United States in 1940. Eva went to the United States in 1943 and enrolled in Radcliffe College, graduating magna cum laude in 1946.  From 1946 to 1949 Eva worked at Houghton Mifflin in Boston. From 1949 to 1950, she was one of the earliest Fulbright Scholars at the University of Paris. There she was introduced to the pre-Vatican II renewal of the French, post war Catholic Church. She discovered the “deep Nature” of the Church and felt compelled to actively pursue her faith journey.  

After returning to the United States in 1950, she joined the recently founded Grail, an international movement of Catholic lay women. She participated in the Grail formation program at its headquarters in Loveland Ohio. She remained there for twelve years, first as a student and then on the staff of the liturgy, music and religious education centers. While at Grailville, she obtained an M.S. in liturgical studies at Notre Dame during the summers.

In the fall of 1962, she was appointed a delegate to the Vatican Council II and a correspondent for the Grail Ecumenical News.  While abroad, she spent time with Grail people in Egypt and visited Israel, before becoming a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Catechetical Studies in Paris. She subsequently moved to Milwaukee to pursue studies at Marquette University. 

It was as a doctoral student at Marquette that she became interested in the Holocaust. This led her to a study of Judaism and of Christian antisemitism. The focus of her doctoral dissertation “The impact of the Holocaust on German Christian theology since 1945” was published as a book in 1975.

After completing her Ph.D., she accepted a position in the department of philosophy and religion at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and subsequently at Marquette, where she was the Women’s Chair in Humanistic Studies.  Her focus over the years has been to awaken her fellow Christians to the riches of the Jewish tradition and the horrors of the Holocaust, in which Christianity had played a part. 

After retiring in 1999, she moved to Claremont California to become part of the Pilgrim Place ecumenical retirement community.  There she connected with Grail friends and others who give their lives in service through Christian institutions around the world.

Eva continued her national and international work with Holocaust studies and Jewish-Christian relations.  She was a member of the U.S. Bishop’s Office of Catholic-Jewish Relations' Advisory Committee and the Committee on Church Relations and the Holocaust at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; The Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations; the Advisory Board of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, Seton Hill College, Greensburg, PA and the Board of Milwaukee Catholic-Jewish Conference.Eva continued her national and international work with Holocaust studies and Jewish-Christian relations. 

In 1999 Dr. Fleischner was invited to join the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission. It was composed of three Catholic and three Jewish international scholars.  It was their work to assess the 11 volumes of material concerning the Holocaust period published by the Holy See’s Secretariat of State and to report on the adequacy of Pope Pius XII efforts to rescue Jews during the war.  The committee completed a draft report and raised 47 questions which required access to the Pope’s own papers. This report was denied, and the committee disbanded.

Among her numerous publications are:

  • The Christian and the Holocaust (1970); Auschwitz:
  • Beginning of a New Era?; Reflections on the Holocaust (ed 1977); Commentary in “The
  • Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness,” Simon Wiesenthal, (1977); Cries in the Night: Religious Gentiles in the Holocaust in Germany, France, and Poland (with Michael Phayer, 1997); The Spirituality of Pius XII, (in Rittner and Roth); and Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, (2002).

In 2005 Dr. Fleischner was a panelist at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Interfaith Story Behind Nostra Aetate, and lectured in Milwaukee, WI, on Abraham Heschel’s Significance for Christian-Jewish Relations.

She once summed up her work as a teacher, scholar and lecturer as one of “helping Christians to deepen their knowledge of the Jewish experience and tradition with the hope that Jews and Christians can come to a full understanding of what it means to be people of God in the world.”   

See also a moving tribute to her by Mary C. Boys in the National Catholic Reporter HERE