How did Black Death and World War II affect religious beliefs in Europe, with a focus on the effects it had on both the Roman Catholic Church and Jews?
Candidate Name: Katie Miller
History Extended Essay
Supervisor: Mr. Derek Parsons
Word Count: 3,133
This essay is a comparative analysis of the effect that two major crises in Europe had upon religion. Europe was a central hub for both the events of the Black Death, as the place where the devastation of the plague was most accurately documented, and World War II, as it was the main theater during the conflict. Both events are defining moments in history, with the Black Death holding the title of the worst biomedical disaster ever,2 and World War II being named the worst war in history.3 The Black Death occurred in the Fourteenth Century, whereas World War II occurred in the Twentieth Century. In both cases, the Jews were blamed for the events that took place, and were persecuted for these biased perceptions. During the Black Death, the churches lost followers as a result of corruption and overall ineffectiveness. Several churches were forced to close due to the loss of so many religious leaders as a result of the plague. During World War II, even though the churches were still corrupt, these faults were overlooked in favor of the services they rendered. Though church was no longer the main focus of the culture at the time, it still held an important role in the lives of the European people. This investigation covered sources with and without known biases in order to fully illustrate the impact these two events had upon religion in Europe.
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Throughout history, events have occurred that have changed the religious beliefs of Europe, for better or for worse. Two such events are the Black Plague and World War II (WWII). During the Fourteenth Century, in Medieval Europe, a plague swept across the land, leaving devastation and destruction in its wake. It was, and still is, the greatest natural disaster ever to occur, afflicting humans and animals alike. “All those dwelling in the same house with him, even the cats and other domestic animals, followed him in death.”1 The beliefs as to the cause of the plague were varied, ranging from the sins that were Opera and Theater, to the marriages made by the three princes of Spain, to star alignment and comets movements, to the abandonment of God.1 At the time, it was known as the “Great Mortality,”, “the Black Plague,” the “pestilence,” and, as of the Eighteenth Century, the name it is more commonly known by: “Black Death.”2 Seeking answers along with salvation, many of the people of Europe turned to their religious beliefs. The primary religions of this period in Europe were Christianity, such as the Roman Catholic Church, and Judaism, each of which at this point were more than religions; they were a culture and a lifestyle. When the Catholic Church was unable to provide relief from the Black Plague, many people lost faith and a decline in the Roman Catholic Church began. During the Twentieth Century, people were again faced with a situation they felt was out of their control. World War II is still the worst war ever to have occurred, with the most casualties to both soldiers and civilians alike.3 The people put their faith in their religious beliefs, which were unable to provide them with the control and answers they sought. In fact, corruption in the Roman Catholic Church was a contributing factor to some of the miseries during the war. The Pope, Pius XII, sought a concordat with Hitler, and in 1933...