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Articles on Pope Pius XII and the Vatican Diplomacy

during the II World War




Pius XII's Aid to Jews Was So Great That It Stirred Protests New

Revelations of Vatican Archives, Analyzed by Historian

(JULY 4, 2004


ROME, - Documentation from the Vatican Secret Archives has revealed that Pope Pius XII's wartime assistance to Jews was so great that it stirred protests in some Catholic circles. This is confirmed in letters published together with the registers of the Vatican Information Office on Prisoners of War, established by Pius XII, with the title "Inter Arma Caritas." Press agencies published one of the letters reproduced in Volume 2, pages 950-951, sent to the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, on July 21, 1943, by Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, apostolic nuncio in Romania, in which he referred to "some protests." Bishop Agostino Pacha of Timisoara, Romania, wrote that in his community there were protests, "as the greater part of messages transmitted to this nunciature are for persons of the Jewish race," to the point that he spoke of the Holy See's "preference" for Jews. Archbishop Cassulo presented a copy of a letter in Latin, written by a Monsignor Tacha, in which he spoke about the protests of his faithful -- 78% of whom were of German origin -- who accused the Church "openly and publicly" of supporting and having good relations with the Jews, "enemies of the Germanic people." In the letter, the apostolic nuncio explained that he sent a circular to the Romanian bishops in which he clarified the reasons for the Holy See's assistance "not taking into account any political consideration or any nationality or race." In the missive, the nuncio asked the secretary of state to advise him what he should do. In order to understand better these new discoveries of the Vatican archives, ZENIT interviewed Father Peter Gumpel, a historian and expert on the matter. Q: What do the recently published Vatican archives say about the Holy See's relation with Jews and about the protests of some Catholic circles? Father Gumpel: First of all, it must be recognized that the Catholic Church carried out an enormous work of assistance to Jews. A. Safran, the rabbi of Romania, expressed on various occasions his gratitude to the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo. On April 7, 1944, he wrote him this message: "In these hard times, our thoughts go more than ever to what the Supreme Pontiff has done in favor of Jews in general and to Your Excellency in favor of Romania and Transylvania. These deeds will never be forgotten." [See Civiltà Cattolica, 1961, Volume 3, p. 462] Moreover, in Volume 10, pages 428-429, of the "Minutes and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War," in a message sent by Archbishop Cassulo to Monsignor Domenico Tardini [a future secretary of state], the full article appears which was published by the Romanian newspaper Mantuirea, in which Rabbi Safran recounts how, thanks to the interventions of the nuncio and "with the help of God, he succeeded in having no more deportations take place." Q: What can you say about the protests of Catholics because of the Holy See's help to Jews? Father Gumpel: The work of assistance to the victims of war and to Jews, ordered in particular by Pius XII, was so extensive and intense that it caused surprise even among some ecclesiastics. When Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli himself [the future Pope John XXIII], who did so much for the Jews, was apostolic delegate in Turkey, after the umpteenth recommendation by the Holy See to help and foster the Jewish emigration to Palestine, he wrote these words to Maglione on September 4, 1943: "I confess that this sending by the Holy See of Jews to Palestine, which seems a reconstruction of the Jewish Kingdom, beginning by making them leave Italy, causes me some uncertainty in spirit." Q: Do the testimonies contained in "Inter Arma Caritas" contribute something new? Father Gumpel: These new historical tendencies deny definitively many articles on the alleged silence and insensibility of Pope Pius XII in regard to the Jews. As can be seen, there were people who criticized the Pontiff for doing too much for the Jews. Also denied are theses, such as Susan Zuccotti's, according to which the work of assistance to Jews was the result of individual actions, of which Pius XII knew nothing. From all the correspondence of the nuncios, it is obvious that the work of assistance was determined, directed and organized directly by Pope Pius XII.



How a Wartime Vatican Agency Worked

Information Office Helped Family Members Contact One Another

(JULY 15, 2004

VATICAN CITY, - A Vatican agency that helped family members contact their loved ones during World War II handled up to tens of thousands of inquiries daily.  The agency's work is revealed in two volumes recently published by the Vatican Secret Archives.  In the introduction to the volumes entitled "Inter Arma Caritas," Francesca di Giovanni and Giuseppina Roselli, historians and officials of the Vatican archives, explain the history of the Vatican Information Office (1939-1947). Pope Pius XII established the office to assist people who were seeking information on their loved ones.  From the two volumes, ZENIT was able to reconstruct a sketch of the history of the information office.  Initially, the Vatican Information Office headquarters was in the Vatican Secretariat of State, in the Ordinary Affairs Section, in St. Damasus Patio.  It was headed by Russian Bishop Alexander Evreinoff, assisted by a secretary, Father Emilio Rossi. It started with two employees.  Papal representatives in various countries were in constant touch with the office. These included nuncios, apostolic delegates and vicars -- all of whom had organized information offices in their respective sees, following the Vatican model.  These offices received the dispatches sent by the Holy See. Replies were sent daily by messenger under diplomatic seal.  During periodic visits to internment camps, hospitals and other facilities, the papal representatives, in addition to offering spiritual help, distributed mail and aid among the prisoners, including books, medicines, food, clothing, tobacco and even musical instruments.  The activity of the Vatican Information Office changed greatly with the German invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France, beginning in spring 1940, and with Italy's entry in the war on June 10.  The number of requests for information rose to hundreds a day, so the office had to increase its staff from two to 16.  Given the difficulties of communications in occupied countries, Vatican Radio was tapped for help beginning June 20, 1940 to request information, give information, or to answer queries regarding refugees and missing persons.  By 1944, Vatican Radio was broadcasting 63 weekly programs dedicated exclusively to providing this sort of information, transmitting 27,000 messages a month.  On established days and times, Vatican Radio transmitted lists of prisoners' names, both civilian and military, and of refugees and missing persons. It also broadcasted news and messages gathered by nunciatures, papal delegations and diocesan curias, which tried to contact the families.  To expedite and increase the messages, conventional numbers were mentioned instead of phrases. For example, number 3 meant "I am well," number 11 "I await your news," and number 13 "my address is the following."  At the start of 1941, about 2,000 requests were sent daily to the Vatican Information Office. The staff grew to 100, and the office had to change its location. On April 1, 1941, it moved to St. Charles' Palace, within the Vatican territory.  The new headquarters were divided in two sections. One was for internal work, and the other was the reception for hundreds of persons who came to ask for information on their loved ones and to fill out forms.  Far higher was the number of requests that arrived by mail. A file card was filled out for each letter, and was assigned a protocol number. The inquiries were received with no distinctions made as to race, religion, nationality or civil status.  The records created by the various sections of the Vatican Information Office, divided in lots of a thousand, were put in wooden boxes at the end of the day. The records were updated daily.  To carry out this enormous work, an appeal was made to volunteers of Catholic Action and to numerous nuns in Rome.  Inquires were transmitted to papal representations worldwide. Forms with responses were classified in a special section, and the records were updated, noting information sent on to the families.  Every week, the substitute of the Secretariat of State, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Paul VI), called a meeting attended by Bishop Evreinoff, Father Rossi, and Monsignor Angelo Baragel of Vatican Radio, as well as other bishops and monsignors of the Roman Curia. The minutes of these meetings were later presented to Pope Pius XII.  Among its functions, the information office had to assist Jewish citizens living in territories occupied and controlled by Germany. Correspondence sent to Jewish Germans and Slavs was often blocked or rejected by the German censor.  St. Raphael's Society looked after the Jews from Slovakia to Croatia. It was headed by Father Anton Weber in the church of the Pallotine Fathers in Rome.  To promote the spread of this news, in the second half of 1942 the Vatican Information Office published the monthly magazine Ecclesia, founded and directed by Monsignor Montini. It was the information organ of the office from September 1942 to December 1945.  In 1943, the office reached the peak of its activity, with tens of thousands of daily inquiries. During this period, some 600 people worked in the information office. The office ceased its activities on Oct. 31, 1947.


New Look at Pius XII's Views of Nazis


(The New York Times, August 31, 2003)


Pope Pius XII has been branded by some authors and Jewish leaders as "Hitler's Pope" for his silence during the Holocaust. Now, diplomatic documents recently brought to light by a Jesuit historian indicate that while serving as a Vatican diplomat, the future pope expressed strong antipathy to the Nazi regime in private communication with American officials.One document is a confidential memorandum written in April 1938 from Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who the next year became Pope Pius XII, in which he says that compromise with the Nazis should be "out of question." The other is a report by an American consul general relating that in a long conversation in 1937, Cardinal Pacelli called Hitler "a fundamentally wicked person" and "an untrustworthy scoundrel." Historians who have seen the documents say they bolster the view that the man who became Pope Pius XII was not a Nazi sympathizer, and was in fact convinced that the Nazis were a threat to the church and the stability of Europe. But the historians also agreed that the documents in no way explained or exonerated Pius XII's inaction in the face of the Holocaust. Indeed, in neither document does the cardinal even mention the persecution of the Jews that was well under way when they were written. The documents were described by Charles R. Gallagher, a Jesuit historian at St. Louis University, in an article in the Sept. 1 issue of America, the Jesuit weekly. Mr.  Gallagher, 38, a former police officer who is a nonordained Jesuit studying to be a  priest, said he came across them while researching a biography about another more obscure papal diplomat. Pope Pius XII's record has been under scrutiny in recent years while the Vatican considers whether he should be beatified, the final step before sainthood. Church officials in Rome and in the United States have expressed concern that the case for Pius XII's canonization suffered a setback with the popularity of books like "Hitler's Pope," by John Cornwell, and "Constantine's Sword," by James Carroll, that argue that Pius XII was complicit in the genocide of the Jews. Some historians cautioned that Catholic officials were now eager to employ any evidence to rehabilitate Pius XII's image. Mr. Gallagher said in an interview that he merely hoped the documents would  illustrate that as a diplomat, Cardinal Pacelli made his case against the Nazis in  private, to other diplomats."I wouldn't go so far as to say that these documents exonerate him," Mr. Gallagher said. "What I think these findings might help to dispel

is the impression that this pope was, as others have called him, `Hitler's Pope.' " Mr. Gallagher found the Pacelli memorandum among the diplomatic papers of Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, which are housed at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Joseph Kennedy, whose son later became president, served as ambassador to England from 1938 to 1940. Ambassador Kennedy received the memorandum in April 1938 when he met in Rome with Cardinal Pacelli, who was then the Vatican's secretary of state. Cardinal Pacelli wrote that the memorandum reflected his "personal views" and that the ambassador had permission to share them with "your friend at home," which Mr. Gallagher said he believed was a reference to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Most of the memorandum is devoted to denouncing the stand taken by the Austrian bishops, who had recently made a statement in support of the occupying Nazi forces. Cardinal Pacelli suggests in the memorandum that the Austrian bishops had been coerced. The cardinal also wrote that the church "at times felt powerless and isolated in its daily struggle against all sorts of political excesses from the Bolsheviks to the new pagans arising among the young Aryan generations." He wrote that "evidence of good faith" by the Nazi regime was "completely lacking" and that "the possibility of an agreement" with the Nazis was "out of question for the time being." Mr. Gallagher found the second document among diplomatic papers at Harvard University. It was filed in 1939 by Alfred W. Klieforth, a former United States consul general, soon after Cardinal Pacelli was made pope. "His views, while they are well known, surprised me by their extremeness," Mr. Klieforth wrote, relating a conversation two years earlier with Cardinal Pacelli. "He said that he opposed unalterably every compromise with National Socialism. He regarded Hitler not only as an untrustworthy scoundrel, but as a fundamentally wicked person. He did not believe Hitler capable of moderation." The Rev. Gerald P. Fogarty, a professor of religious studies and history at the University of Virginia and an expert in Vatican diplomacy, said, "The documents make clear that from the 30's, Pacelli was opposed to National Socialism," primarily because the Nazis violated the rights of the church. Father Fogarty said that the memorandum to Mr. Kennedy had been in the public domain for nearly 50 years, but that Mr. Gallagher was the first to find a copy that proved it had been sent to the White House. Michael R. Marrus, dean of the graduate school at the University of Toronto, who holds a chair in Holocaust studies, said of  the documents, "If there are people out there who still believe, and doubtless there are, that the Vatican was in cahoots with Nazi Germany, then this is a useful finding."On the other hand," he said, "do I think this addresses the issue of the Vatican and the Holocaust? Absolutely not. And these are not trivial matters."


Riddle of Pius XII and Nazis given new twist
August 23, 2003 Los Angeles Times


Newly discovered US diplomatic documents, including a confidential memo written by the future Pope Pius XII, indicate that whatever the pontiff's failings to publicly confront Adolf Hitler, he came to privately believe that compromise with the Nazi regime was "out of the question". A year before Eugenio Pacelli cautioned against compromise in a 1938 memo intended for president Franklin Roosevelt, a US diplomat reported that Cardinal Pacelli had described Hitler as "an untrustworthy scoundrel" and "a fundamentally wicked person". The findings by Catholic historian Charles Gallagher, of St Louis University, to be published next week in the Jesuit magazine America, will renew debate over Pius's attitudes to Nazism. While some historians said that it has long been thought that Cardinal Pacelli held anti-Nazi views, the discovery of the two documents at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and at a diplomatic archive at Harvard University, may be the first written evidence.  "We've always known that Pius XII disliked Hitler and probably always thought he was an evil man," said Professor Michael Phayer, author of The Catholic Church and the Holocaust. "But we never had that in words before."




Leading Historian: "Pius XII Made the Right Decision"

In an exclusive interview, one of the world's leading historians praises Christians, Catholics... and Pius XII. A remarkable testimony at a time the Church is under attack from many quarters

From "INSIDE THE VATICAN" (August, 2003) (


In an exclusive interview in the August 2003 issue of “Inside the Vatican,” Sir Martin Gilbert, the outstanding World War II and Holocaust historian, and Winston Churchill’s official biographer, extolls the actions of World War II Christians, Catholics and Pope Pius XII in rescuing great numbers of Jews during the Holocaust. Gilbert's glowing tribute is based on careful analysis of thousands of eye-witness accounts and extensive documentary evidence. The wide-ranging conversation between Gilbert, who is Jewish, and “Inside the Vatican” contributor William Doino took place in conjunction with the publication of Gilbert's 72nd book, “The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust” (Henry Holt: New York, 2003; 529pp.). Here we present some highlights from the interview (for the complete text, see the august 2003 issue of “Inside the Vatican“).


Gilbert, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1995, granted the interview for the same reason he wrote “The Righteous” -- because of his conviction that it was vital for the world to understand how many Christians, and particularly Catholics, risked their lives and those of their families in acting to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

He left no doubt about his deep feelings on this matter: “It is especially important for Jewish people -- and I am Jewish myself -- to realize that there were so many Christian rescuers. The number of those who have been identified as Righteous by Israel now stands at 20,000. And of course there were many more rescuers who were murdered after they were caught, together with those they were trying to save, whose stories have never seen the light of day.”

Among these 20,000, Gilbert said that it is generally true that “almost none of these people only rescued one person,” and that because of their actions “we can be talking of as many as 100,000 Jews saved.” But these numbers, Gilbert stressed, only reflect those Christians who have been officially honored by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial institution which bestows the title, “Righteous Among the Nations,” upon Gentiles who rescued Jews. “The names of countless other rescuers have never become known, the people they saved have not come forward, or the people they saved died before they could come forward, or the rescuer and the rescued were both caught and killed, with nobody recording their story. It could well be that half a million Jews saved is not an exaggerated figure. We are certainly talking about something on the scale of hundreds of thousands rather than tens of thousands.“

Among the Righteous, said Gilbert, “were many non-Catholic heroes: the Lutherans in Norway, the Orthodox in Bulgaria, the Baptists in the Ukraine, the leadership of the Ukrainian Uniate Church, the Evangelicals in Germany, Protestants, nonconformists.... But essentially the predominant Church in Europe was the Roman Catholic Church, and the predominant clergy were Roman Catholic clergy, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII.”

Consequently, said Gilbert, the majority of Jews saved were saved by faithful, “Righteous,” Roman Catholics.

Asked if this meant he agreed with the Vatican’s 1998 declaration on the Holocaust (“We Remember”) that “hundreds of thousands” of Jews were rescued under Pius XII, Gilbert replied that if that estimate was meant to include the entire wartime Catholic Church, including the Vatican, the clergy, religious and the laity, the answer was, “Yes, that is certainly correct. Hundreds of thousands of Jews saved by the entire Catholic Church, under the leadership, and with the support of, Pope Pius XII -- would, to my mind, be absolutely correct.”

Discussing the wartime record of Pope Pius XII, the scholar rejected many of the accusations launched against the wartime pontiff in recent years. He pointed to Vatican Radio’s January 1940 condemnations against Nazi atrocities against “Jews and Catholics” in Nazi-occupied Poland, and explained its significance: “The Vatican, under Pius XII, had taken a public stand against Nazi atrocities in Poland, very early on. That is something on the public record which cannot be taken away, denied or disparaged. To assert Pius XII was ‘silent’about Nazi mass murder is a serious error of historical fact.” He said that the Pope’s Christmas message of 1942, which condemned the extermination of people based upon their “race or descent” was extremely important, because it “put the Pope squarely and publicly against the Holocaust.”

Further, he argued, because it came only a week after the Allies had published their own condemnation of the Nazi genocide, the two actions should be seen as part of the same anti-Nazi campaign: “The Allied declaration and Pius XII's Christmas message were directly and inextricably linked acts of denunciation.”

Gilbert noted that Pius XII was personally involved in rescue efforts during the German occupation of Rome, when he “personally ordered the Vatican clergy to open the sanctuaries of Vatican City to persecuted Jews and others in need of refuge at that time.”

He dismissed claims by recent polemicists that rescue activity in Italy and elsewhere was always independent of Pius XII: “I am on the side of those who argue for a connection between the Pope and the Catholic rescuers. You cannot say that the Pope is the supreme head of the Catholic Church and did nothing, and then, in the next breath, speak of all these wonderful acts of Catholic charity and rescue -- especially by senior men of the Church who pledged fidelity to the pontiff -- and claim that the Pope had nothing to do with their rescue efforts.”

Gilbert underlined the many rescue efforts of papal diplomats, such as Angelo Rotta in Hungary and Angelo Roncalli (the future Pope John XXIII) in Bulgaria and Turkey, who, acting upon the direct instructions of Pius XII, intervened to save thousands of persecuted Jews. Their heroism was clearly part of the overall rescue campaign carried out by the Church, of thousands upon thousands of faithful Catholics, acting in step with the Pope to defeat the Nazis and protect the persecuted.

A fact that Gilbert strove to make absolutely clear was that Pius XII and other rescuers acted under extremely dangerous circumstances, forcing them to act with caution, a necessary tactical policy that is today misunderstood and misrepresented as “timidity” by those who have no concept of what it is like to operate, day-by-day, under a ruthless totalitarian regime.

Far from being timid, said Gilbert, Pius XII was “very active” in early wartime plots to overthrow Hitler, via the anti-Nazi German Resistance.

Subsequently, according to Gilbert, Pius XII, through his many allocutions, instructions and activities, did “speak out” and provide clear moral guidance to the faithful, but did so in ways that were designed not to undermine the Church’s rescue efforts.

Gilbert said that it would have been “highly irresponsible” for the Pope to have gone beyond that and acted in a “provocative or foolhardy way” in public -- as some now imagine he should have.

Gilbert's considered conclusion: “I believe, all things considered, morally and politically, Pius XII acted appropriately and made the right decision.”

Gilbert also had some counsel for those Catholics who deal with the history of those tragic years of World War II.

He would not want anti-Semitism among Christians understated or underestimated, but he does feel strongly that “authentic Christianity” has been unfairly blamed for the Holocaust and that the facts of “authentic Christianity” in those years have not been fully told. He advised: “I think Catholics should give more publicity to these facts. As the saying goes, you have to ‘fly your flag at the main’; you have to raise your flag on the highest flagpole with pride.”



1923 Letter Shows the Future Pius XII Opposed Hitler

Magazine Cites Document from Vatican Archives


ROME, MARCH 5, 2003 ( A letter written in 1923 by the future Pope Pius XII shows his early opposition to Nazi anti-Semitism.

The magazine Inside the Vatican obtained a copy of the letter written by Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII. It was discovered in the last few days in the Vatican archives by a historian. The archives for the period 1922-1939 were opened in mid-February.

The letter dated Nov. 14, 1923, was written by then Archbishop Pacelli, the Holy See's ambassador in Bavaria, in southern Germany, to Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, Vatican secretary of state under Pope Pius XI.

The letter refers to Adolf Hitler's failed attempt to take over the local government in Munich in the National Socialist Party's putsch of Nov. 9, 1923 -- just five days before the day this letter was written.

In his letter, Archbishop Pacelli -- contrary to the allegations of a number of recent authors such as John Cornwell (author of "Hitler's Pope") on the relations between Pius XII and the Nazis -- denounces the National Socialist movement as an anti-Catholic threat and at the same time notes that the cardinal of Munich had already condemned acts of persecution against Bavaria's Jews.




Vatican to Release Archives Detailing Relations With Pre-WWII Germany to Counter Criticism

(The Associated Press December 28 2002)


VATICAN CITY. The Vatican will release archives documenting its relations with Germany in the years before World War II in an effort to counter criticism of papacy actions during the Holocaust. But the Vatican said Saturday that a chunk of the archive dating from 1931 to 1934 was "nearly completely destroyed or dispersed" during the 1945 bombing of Berlin and a fire at the apostolic nuncio's palace. The Feb. 15 release will be the Vatican's response to demands by Jewish groups for access to archives dealing with Pope Pius XII, the World War II pope. Critics of the pope charge that he failed to raise his voice and use his position to head off the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. Supporters of the pope insist he made every effort possible to help Jews and other victims, using quiet diplomacy. The documents scheduled for release do not involve the papacy of Pius XII but cover the years 1922-1939, when he was a Vatican diplomat in Germany and later secretary of state. Specifically, they cover the Vatican diplomatic missions in Berlin and Munich, and include a series of documents relating to the rise of "National Socialism" the Nazi ideology and the "condemnation of racism," a statement from papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said. The documents will not be released to the general public, but will be made available to scholars who request access, the statement said. The Vatican said in February it would open up its Germany-related archives to help end what it called the "unjust and ungrateful speculation" surrounding Pius XII's wartime actions. At the time, the Vatican was under fresh criticism from Jewish groups after a panel of Catholic and Jewish scholars studying the Vatican's wartime record said it was suspending its work because the Vatican had not released all its wartime archives. At the time, Jewish groups urged the Vatican to delay its plans to beatify Pius XII, pope from 1939 to 1958, until the record was straight. In October, the Vatican said the documents would be released in January. But earlier this month, the head of the Vatican archives, the Rev. Sergio Pagano, told The Associated Press the date would be missed by a few weeks because of the huge amount of material involved. The Vatican has said the documents, including files on wartime prisoners, would show historians "the great works of charity and assistance" undertaken by Pius XII for prisoners and other victims regardless of nation, religion or race. (Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)



Delay in release of Vatican war documents

AP 18/12/2002 - 11:28:09

The Vatican will be unable to meet its promised New Year’s Day target for the release of documents on the Holy See’s relations with Germany in the years leading up to Second World War, saying it is overwhelmed by the huge mass of material. It now plans to make the material available in mid-February as part of Pope John Paul’s wishes to show the Vatican “has nothing to fear,” said the Rev Sergio Pagano, head of the Vatican archives. “The date was too soon. We are not ready with the numbering , the seals and the binding of the thousands of documents involved,” Pagano said today. The release is the Vatican’s response to demands by Jewish groups for access to the archives dealing with Pius XII, the Second World War pope. Critics of the pope charge that he failed to raise his voice and use his position to head off the extermination of European Jews by the Nazis. Supporters of the pope insist he made every effort possible to help Jews and other victims, using quiet diplomacy. The documents scheduled for release will not involve the papacy of Pius XII, but cover the years 1922-1939 when he was a Vatican diplomat in Germany and later secretary of state. Specifically, they cover the Vatican diplomatic missions in Berlin and Munich. Critics say he was pro-German, and this influenced his papacy. Pagano said that later next year the Vatican hopes to start releasing more than three million files on prisoners of war, missing persons and some Holocaust victims, which they are preparing on CD-ROMs. They cover the years 1939-1945, during which the Vatican set up offices to help relatives trace family members. “These offices were set up at the request of Pius XII, that pope who is so criticised,” Pagano said. He said nuns worked on the files in their Roman convents during the night and a Vatican truck would pass by in the morning to pick them up. The files also include daily appeals broadcast by Vatican Radio. A joint Catholic-Jewish commission studying the record of Pius XII disbanded in the face of Vatican refusal to fully open its wartime archives. Pagano said he hopes the forthcoming release will help to overcome the “bitter taste” left on both sides by the commission’s break-up.



Chilling study blames Catholic Church for the Holocaust

Reviewed by Brian Richard Boylan

Brian Richard Boylan, the author of 14 books, has interviewed numerous Nazi fugitives, ranging from Eduard Roschmann to Josef Mengele.

(December 1, 2002 San Francisco Chronicle)

The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair

By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen KNOPF; 344 PAGES; $25


The subtitle of Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's new book, "A Moral Reckoning," comes directly to the point: "The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair." The Roman Catholic Church played an active role in centuries of anti-Semitism and knew from the start that the Jews were being persecuted then exterminated. The church, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII, did nothing to stop that Germanic frenzy of mass murder and genocide. If anything, according to Goldhagen's overwhelming study, the church encouraged participation in the Holocaust. Strong words for a church whose foundations have been rocked in recent years by the desire of women to be ordained priests, single-issue concerns such as abortion, birth control and gay rights, and the horror of its members at the willful and widespread misconduct of priests who sexually abuse altar boys. Now it is being blamed for the Holocaust. Goldhagen's book is the logical continuation of his earlier "Hitler's Willing Executioners," and it draws on such predecessors as "The Sword of Constantine" and "The Popes Against the Jews." Like these books, Goldhagen's draws a line in the blood and says that the church willingly crossed that line many times in previous centuries and during the Holocaust. These books are not argumentive so much as declamatory. They don't debate the question of the church's responsibility for the Shoah; this simply is a given. If you accept such a premise, you are in for a devastating reading experience. Be assured that this is a painfully thorough investigation; like any ghastly crime, its perpetrators stand bathed in the blood of innocents. Written with restrained fury, this book carefully sketches the long history of anti-Semitism in the church, based on the false premise that the Jews killed Jesus -- himself a Jew. It runs through the centuries of numerous pogroms, persecutions, enforced exiles, down to the systematic attempt to wipe out the Jewish "race" as part of Hitler's Final Solution. Although the pope had to know the details of the Jewish massacres in Poland, Eastern Europe and Russia -- from the very start -- he failed to speak out to Catholics who were busily exterminating the Jews, Goldhagen maintains. "What must a religion of love and goodness do to confront its history of hatred and harm?" Goldhagen asks. Pope Pius XII was so partial to the unholy German cause as to vigorously suppress an encyclical, Humanis Generis Unitas, which had been authorized by his predecessor, the equally anti-Semitic Pius XI. The encyclical would have spoken out against the persecution of any minority, without singling out the Jews. It would have been a watered-down protest but would have carried the weight of the Catholic Church behind it. But Pius, in his pre-papal role as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, was responsible for the concordat the Vatican struck with Hitler in 1933, shortly after the dictator came to power. Throughout the Holocaust, Goldhagen writes, the only time that church officials spoke out was to protest the persecution of Jews who had converted to Catholicism. Otherwise, they cheerfully released to the Nazis genealogical information regarding who had been a Jew in the past, which the Gestapo used with murderous efficiency. Goldhagen attacks academics who ignore that "the Germans killed willingly, freely, and with no force behind their murderous actions." At the end of the war, "a few superhuman monsters -- Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann -- were left in focus. They garnered almost all the attention, diverting our gaze from the tens of millions of Germans who, in some way, willingly supported and embraced Nazis, Hitler, and the country's other leaders." These ordinary Germans, who made this regime and its crimes possible were, after the war, "miraculously transubstantiated overnight into beings who had been terrorized and coerced, and were unknowing. . . . Germans were divested of moral responsibility, pre-emptively exculpated because little or nothing was left to investigate morally." These and "other political and intellectual distortions" left the study of the Holocaust containing "virtually nothing about the central actors, the perpetrators of the mass murders." The only ones to investigate them extensively were "the German judges who, after the war, sat in judgment" of them. Again and again, the courts judged the perpetrators "guilty for having killed Jews. They judged the perpetrators guilty, according to the most stringent rules of evidence, for having killed because of their 'base motive' of 'race hatred.' " The message of this book is chillingly simple. The overwhelming majority of Germans hated the Jews, just as their parents had hated the Jews, because these were the people who put Christ to death. They had been told so by their church, by their spiritual leaders and teachers for thousands of years. The chill is hardened by the fact that Goldhagen claims no German ever suffered for refusing to kill or to harm a Jew. Numerous individuals rebelled, as did a few German churchmen, and none was harmed. By contrast, the Danish people and the Danish Lutheran Church actively spoke out against anti-Semitism, and the citizens went out of their way to hide and to safeguard Danish Jews from the German occupying troops -- without ever suffering reprisals, air raids or slaughters. Jews were saved by clergy and citizenry; they were hidden, disguised as altar boys and smuggled into neutral Sweden. In this, the Danes were joined by some priests in Italy and a few other European countries. In Slovakia and Croatia, however, Catholic priests and church leaders openly sided with the Nazis and even participated in the mass murders. German priests accompanied the killer SS Einsatzgruppen into Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia, hearing confessions and dispensing the sacraments to the Catholic killers. "A Moral Reckoning" is not just the story of how a church betrayed its members by encouraging them to the ultimate in savagery. It is an indictment of the church, its leaders and its pope for supporting a Holocaust that it had long provoked. Yet today the Roman Catholic Church is on the threshold of declaring Pope Pius XII to be a saint. This book will not make that sainthood easier to digest for believer and non-Christian alike. Goldhagen's restraint is eloquent, even when he portrays that great Catholic order of priests, the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. the Jesuits, as more anti-Semitic than the Nazis, requiring that candidates for the order be free from any Jewish blood for at least five generations. However, "in 1923 the Jesuits further 'moderated' their racism by reducing the blood purity requirement to four generations." Thus, to become a member of the Society of Jesus, one could not be related to Christ or any of his apostles or early followers. This is not a book for the ambivalent or the casually curious. It is a thundering indictment that makes no apologies and takes no prisoners.



Bearing witness -- feisty nun fights back

by Joan Ruddiman

(November 21, 2002 Messenger-Press,


Margherita Marchione, a sister with the Religious Teachers Filippini, breaks every mold her heritage, calling and age might suggest. Her Italian immigrant parents were dismayed when their cherished youngest daughter at age 13 announced she was leaving home for the convent. As a sister in a conservative order, she attended Columbia University for both a master's and doctorate. Her first course was a study of Machiavelli, a critic of Catholicism. Now, at age 82, she travels the world, promoting causes that have earned her the name, the Fighting Nun. Sister Margherita is a professor emerita of Italian language and literature at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has published over 35 books and hundreds of articles in English and Italian. Like many nuns of her generation, she taught in parochial schools after receiving a degree in Italian at Georgian Court College in 1943. It was her dissertation on the Italian poet Clemente Rebora that launched her career as a noted scholar. Her work on Philip Mazzei, the Italian revolutionary and correspondent to Thomas Jefferson, and the role he played in the formation of our young country's democracy earned her the great respect of historians. She has received numerous national and international awards for her scholarly work. In a habit she's worn since 1938 — only slightly modified — Sister Margherita balances her devotion to God and her passion for scholarship. As a dedicated member of her order, Sister Margherita still serves as the treasurer at the Villa Walsh motherhouse in Morristown. But she also is active in the secular world, serving on the New Jersey Historical Commissions as well as with her extensive connections in the academic and business worlds. This tiny nun, not even five feet tall, has been described as charming, courageous and compassionate. The woman I heard speak deserves the descriptive "feisty." Her latest "mission," as she describes it, tends to incite feistiness. She is a passionate champion for canonization for Pope Pius XII. However, the movement toward canonization that seemed a "fait accompli" is now mired in accusations. A man once internationally acclaimed as "saintly" is now vilified as an anti-Semitic, accused of playing handmaiden to Hitler. Sister Margherita is on the offensive. She has several titles in print on the subject of Pope Pius XII, including a biography "Pope Pius XII, Architect for Peace." Two books tackle head-on the history of the Holocaust in Roman Catholic Italy and the Pope's role. "Consensus and Controversy: Defending Pope Pius XII" and "Yours is a Precious Witness: Memoirs of Jews and Catholics in Wartime Italy" make a strong case for the pro-active role the Vatican and Italians took to save the Jews. Even in her autobiography, "The Fighting Nun: My Story," she devotes more than two chapters to setting the record straight. She holds an unabashed reverence and respect for Pope Pius XII. In her long career in religion and academics, Sister Margherita has made many trips to Rome and met several popes. But Pius XII is the pope of her youth and the spiritual leader to whom she feels the closest affinity. She knows his sister and has close associations with his family. She is open about her bias. However, when Pope Pius XII's relationship with Hitler and the Nazis was questioned, Sister Margherita marshaled her formidable skills as a researcher and writer to provide evidence to counter what she saw as slander. She is more balanced in her response than those who revile him. The British historian John Cornwell, in his book, "Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII," claims that the pope's silence during the Holocaust condemned thousands of Jews to death by the Nazis. He further argues that the pope cut deals with Hitler in order to save German Catholics from persecution by the Nazis. Ultimately, Mr. Cornwell condemns Pope Pius XII as an anti-Semite who was a willing agent to Hitler's master plan. "Absolutely untrue!" bellows the tiny sister. In person and in her writing, she builds a dramatic counter argument based on extensive research, most of it primary documents, diaries and interviews of firsthand accounts from Italian lay people, religious and Jews. She has faced off with Mr. Cornwell on several occasions on radio and television programs and has successfully faced him down. As a historian, Sister Margherita explores the historical context in order to understand the historical record. Was Pope Pius XII silent? No. Actually, he spoke out officially on several occasions against Hitler and the actions of Nazi Germany. Sister Margherita provides photos of those official documents and newspaper accounts of the Vatican's official actions. Moreover, she connects the historical dots by providing the chronology of those official statements and the violent repercussions in Germany and in Poland to Catholics, including nuns and priests. In Dachau in Poland alone, 2,800 priests were imprisoned. More than half died there. What Pope Pius XII determined was the church, and Rome, could do more good by acting subversively rather than speaking officially against Hitler. To that end, convents, monasteries, even the Vatican itself, on the pope's orders, were opened as havens for Jews. One amazing photograph in Sister Margherita's collection shows a dozen young Jewish mothers holding their infants in what is captioned "the Nursery." Sister Margherita points out that the curtain visible in the background has the pope's seal. The pope gave up his private quarters to house these women and their babies. As a Filippini, Sister Margherita has access to the sisters of her order in Italy who participated in the sheltering of Jews. They share stories of setting up their cots throughout the convents, including the basements, so Jewish families could have the small bedrooms. The priests and nuns had other special resources besides having spacious buildings with a lot of rooms. Of critical importance, they maintained quantities of food for their own large populations and therefore did not raise suspicions when shopping for large orders. Moreover, she notes, "these people could take risks because they had no dependents." However, the religious were not immune to suspicion and arrest. She writes, "Those sent to prison were treated with brutality and contempt. Many were killed in reprisal for helping antifascists and Jews." In a lighter moment, Sister Margherita tells of one argument against Pope Pius XII that he did not send his army against the Nazis. She laughs, "The Vatican doesn't have an army. The Pope has the Papal Guard." At the beginning of the war, she further notes, there were maybe 400 in the ranks. But, by the war's end, there were over 4,000. "Many a Jewish man looked handsome uniformed and plumed as a Swiss Guard!" Not only Sister Margherita but also other reputable historians, including Martin Gilbert in "Never Again: The History of the Holocaust," are seriously questioning the caliber of historical research done by Mr. Cornwell and others who suggest Pope Pius XII worked in collusion with Hitler. Sheer quantitative numbers alone dispute the critics; Italy stands with Denmark in saving the greatest number of Jews from the Holocaust. The ugly term "revisionist history" therefore must be considered. Sister Margherita, in one of her feistier moments, takes on The New York Times for heralding books like Mr. Cornwell's that cast Pope Pius XII as a racist and hypocrite. She juxtaposes current book reviews, editorials and news articles in The New York Times that question Pope Pius XII's respected reputation with The New York Times' articles from as recent as 1993 and articles and editorials from throughout the 1950's that praise the pope's efforts on behalf of the Jews. She also cites a 1943 editorial in The New York Times that praised Pope Pius XII. "This Christmas more than ever, the Pope is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent." In 1940, to Time magazine, Albert Einstein said the same. "Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth." After the "fighting nun" takes apart her opponent's arguments, she asks the compelling question, "Why?" Not why the authors write such shoddy scholarship — that's a no-brainer. "Controversy sells, and they are making money," Sister Margherita says of Mr. Cornwell and others. But why are Time magazine, The Washington Post and, most especially, The New York Times, so eager to promote and praise what has proven to be worthless writing? Why do they disregard their own archives? "By discrediting Pope Pius XII, the Church is discredited," Sister Margherita suggests. "He was widely admired and is now no longer widely known. If his voice of moral authority, thus the church's moral presence, can be taken out of the social ratio, the media's voice is empowered." Fighting words from the fighting nun. She has a mind and a voice that are hard to ignore.





Historian's Accusations Against Wartime Holy See Are Refuted

Relator of Pius XII's Cause Answers Professor Michael Marrus


(November 21, 2002


ROME, NOV. 21, 2002 ( In a two-page article in the Roman newspaper La Repubblica, a Jewish historian has reopened the debate on the Vatican's relations with Nazism. Michael Marrus, professor of the history of the Holocaust at Toronto University and a former member of the now-dissolved commission of Jewish and Christian historians that looked at those difficult years, says the Vatican has yet to answer some critical questions. Although the Holy See has announced the publication in 2003 and 2005 of secret documents referring to relations between Germany and the Vatican, ZENIT asked Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, historian and relator of Pius XII's cause of beatification, to respond to Marrus' questions. The Toronto professor has doubts about the Vatican's reaction to "Kristallnacht" in Germany and the violence there encouraged by the authorities, which included attacks on Jewish neighborhoods, destruction of synagogues, and deportation of Jews to concentration camps. Father Gumpel responded: "When Lord Rothschild organized a protest meeting in London against Kristallnacht [in 1938], Eugenio Pacelli, Vatican Secretary of State, sent a statement of solidarity with persecuted Jews on behalf of Pope Pius XI." "The Holy See's protest was read publicly during the meeting," he said. "The complete text of the Vatican note is in the sixth volume of the 'Minutes and Documents of the Holy See Related to the Second World War' ['Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la seconde guerre mondiale,' or ADSS], in pages 12 and 13, and page 539 of the appendix." In his article in La Repubblica, Marrus said that he would like to know what the German cardinals said in the two meetings they had with Pius XII in 1939. Father Gumpel answered that "49 pages -- from page 387 to page 436 -- are published in the second volume of the ADSS, in which it is possible to read the full text of these two meetings. The Holy Father and the cardinals were totally against Hitler, but they knew that it was necessary to act with much caution, as the 1937 encyclical 'Mit Brennender Sorge' against Nazism had only caused persecutions, and the outbreak of war was imminent." Marrus also said that Pius XII only helped those Jews who converted to Catholicism. The Jesuit historian recalled, however, that "the facts speak for themselves: The Holy See spent millions of dollars to save Jews, regardless of whether or not they were baptized. In some cases, Pope Pacelli was not satisfied with obtaining entry visas for German Jews in South America, but also looked for the money to pay for their trip." Marrus also suggested that the Vatican abandoned the Polish government in exile in London. "As made clear in the third volume of the ADSS, the Polish bishops were not at all favorable to public protests, as they thought it would worsen their situation," Father Gumpel said. He added: "When, at the request of Pius XII, an Italian priest took pamphlets to Cardinal Adam Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow, so that he could distribute them among the Polish bishops and clergy, as the pamphlets said that the Pope was with them, the cardinal did not wish to accept them." Father Gumpel quoted the cardinal saying: "I thank the Holy Father. Dear Monsignor, no one better than us Poles know how grateful and sensitive is the interest the Pope has in us. But a public demonstration of the Pope's love and interest in our problems is not necessary, as it would only increase them. Don't you know that if I advertise this, if they find these papers in my home, there would not be enough Polish heads for the Nazis' reprisals." In his article in La Repubblica, Marrus also referred to a message written by Greek-Catholic Metropolitan Andrzeyj Szeptycky of Lviv, who said Catholics collaborated with Nazis. "I have read Metropolitan Szeptycky's letter several times and he says exactly the opposite," Father Gumpel said. "In a passage, he says: 'I must mention with great recognition the help we are given by German Catholics through the channels of an association dedicated to helping Germans outside of Germany.' I cannot see how an allusion to Nazism can be seen in this, totaling altering the sense of the letter." Lastly, Marrus referred to the appeals of Archbishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin, whom Pius XII later made a cardinal, and deplored that the Church did not make public appeals against Nazism in those years. Father Gumpel responded: "Bitter experience taught the leaders of the Catholic Church that, after each public protest, an opposite reaction took place than the one desired. Robert M.W. Kempner, United States attorney at the Nuremberg Trials, stated clearly that the Holy See could not act in any other way." "Any public action would have cost much blood, while a prudent attitude allowed Pius XII and the ecclesiastical authorities to help, in a hidden way, hundreds of thousands of Jews," he added. Father Gumpel concluded: "I share the hope of historian Michael Marrus to 'to see the debate on Pius XII normalized,' but it must be done with objectivity, honesty and justice."




Author: Church did little to end Holocaust

Daniel Goldhagen seeks a public apology from Catholic officials, but doesn't stop there: He wants Bible changed, too

By Maurice Timothy Reidy

(West County Times, CA - 29 Nov 2002)


In his first book, "Hitler's Willing Executioners," Daniel Jonah Goldhagen established himself as a serious moral "provocateur." His argument that ordinary Germans were the "principal perpetrators of the Holocaust" challenged years of perceived wisdom and caused an uproar, especially in Germany. In his sophomore effort, "A Moral Reckoning," Goldhagen proves once again that he is not afraid of shooting at big game. The book, which provoked an intellectual brawl when it was excerpted in the New Republic, is an investigation of the Roman Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust. More than a historical exercise, it is a moral inquiry, an analysis of what went wrong and how to make it right. What did the church do wrong? Lots, according to Goldhagen. Not only did Pope Pius XII fail explicitly to condemn the slaughter of the Jews, other church leaders actively collaborated with the Nazis. For example, parish priests in Germany provided the Nazis with genealogical records of those suspected of having Jewish blood. Goldhagen doesn't suggest that church leaders approved of the slaughter of the Jews -- he notes clearly that they did not -- but he does argue that church teaching laid the groundwork for the Holocaust. As one observer put it, the church-approved Jewish ghetto was "the anteroom of the gas chamber." This is damning stuff. But one wonders whether Goldhagen hasn't loaded the dice. He relies heavily on James Carroll, Gary Wills and other writers who have been criticized for their tendentious reading of history. His own historical account, therefore, is questionable. Still, it must be said that the church, like so many people and institutions during the Holocaust, did not do enough to prevent the slaughter. Goldhagen might be overstating his case against the church, but there is a case to be made. So what must the church do to set things right? Goldhagen calls for, among other things, a sincere public apology. This seems like the right thing to do. As Goldhagen rightly points out, the church's official statement on the Holocaust, "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah," was inadequate. He also calls for moral restitution, including the elimination of all anti-Semitic church teaching. For Goldhagen that means -- and this is where it gets dicey -- changing the Bible. The New Testament, he argues, is rife with anti-Semitic passages. Goldhagen says the Gospel of Matthew, for example, implies that the Jews killed Jesus when in fact it was the Romans, and such passages must be excised to prevent further misinterpretation. Goldhagen stops short of telling the church to do so but proposes a "congress" to consider the issue. This is a thorny issue. Yes, there are segments of the Bible that are problematic, but perhaps not as many as Goldhagen contends. And these passages must be considered alongside other church documents -- many of them released in the past 40 years -- that have tried to set the record straight. What's more, there is little, if any, chance that the church will change the Bible. It is, as Goldhagen concedes, a sacred text. So his demands are ultimately unreasonable, which reveals a larger problem with this book: It makes statements and demands more likely to start an argument than solve the problem at hand. Yes, there are things to be angry about. The church's history with the Jews is shameful. But Goldhagen's book will not improve things much. It will only serve to alienate Catholics, many of whom are more than willing to concede mistakes. Goldhagen's explosive argument might make for good copy, but one wonders whether it's good diplomacy.



Local man recalls visit to pope

Weiss met Pius XII while serving in U.S. Army during World War II

By Ben Baeder

(Whittier Daily News, CA -11 Nov 2002)

WHITTIER -- World War II still raged throughout much of Europe, but in a fresh ly liberated Rome, a 19-year-old Jewish kid from New York City on leave from his unit hitched a ride to the historic city. It was the summer of 1944, and Walter Weiss was taking in the sights, mingling with other ser vicemen, when an official- looking man walked up and asked him if he wanted to see the pope. It seemed like the man was serious, so Weiss said yes and got on a bus with 18 other Ameri can servicemen. After a short ride, Weiss and the other soldiers were led into a small room. There sat Pope Pius XII, along with two guards. "I was 19 and reasonably stupid," said Weiss, now 78 and living in Whittier. "We were going through a war. If I had met God, I probably would have just said, 'Hi.'" Weiss was an Army medic, and he saw some very gruesome in juries. About 114,000 American soldiers died in the Italian campaign. "Those poor kids," he said of the other soldiers. "I call them kids, because that's how I see their faces as young men, al most kids." Weiss, who taught history at El Rancho High School in Pico Ri vera for 28 years, says his pa pal encounter feels like it was a dream. He has no idea why he and the other men were chosen. Pius XII was about 6 feet tall and his face was covered with stubble. On his nose was perched a pair of thick glasses that cast dark shadows on his cheeks. All the young men agreed he weighed only about 140 pounds and would probably die soon. When the pope began speaking in French, the men told him they were American. The pope, who was 68 at the time, then spoke in passable English. He blessed them and he blessed some religious trinkets a few of the men brought along. "He told us there were many beautiful things to see in Rome besides the girls," Weiss said. Weiss said the pope kept the conversation light, recommend ing places to see in Rome. While he knew his Jewish kins men were in trouble, Weiss said he had no idea millions were being exterminated throughout most of Europe. "Soldiers and I'm not kid ding you were the last to know everything," he said. Pius XII led the Roman Catho lic Church from 1939 to 1958. The church is currently taking steps to make Pius XII, whose given name was Eugenio Pacel li, a saint. Many people across the world are against his canonization, criticizing Pius XII for never speaking out publicly against the Nazis. Weiss learned about the Holo caust when he got home, and his family sponsored a Europe an Jewish family to come to the United States. Now, with the debate swirling around sainthood for Pius XII, Weiss has started thinking back about the frail old man he met in Rome. He spoke about Pius XII to a group in Downey last week. "A lot of Jewish people loved him," Weiss said. "I believe he was a moral man. In fact, I have no question in my mind." Many historians say Pius XII and the Catholic Church were responsible for saving thou sands of Jews and other refu gees by hiding them in Vatican- owned properties. Some reports say 40 babies were born in Pius XII's apartment at the pope's summer home. Any public condemnation of the Nazis would only have incited Hitler and the Nazis to do more killing and put the church in danger, according to Jim Kramer, who runs a Web site dedi cated to Pius XII. The ranks of Pius XII's guards swelled during the war; many speculate the extra guards were Jews. The Vatican has sealed docu ments that would shed light on the matter, although it prom ised earlier this year to release a few documents, according to the Associated Press. Weiss is not sure where he stands on the issue of saint hood. But he believes the pope could have done more. "When you know something is the right thing to do, you go as far as it will take you," Weiss said. "He had the power to stand up for justice and morali ty. When a person has that power, and he sees an injustice, he doesn't weigh it out. He just acts."




Vatican Secret Archive Confirms Church's Opposition to Nazism

Months Still Before Archive Is Opened; ZENIT Story Confirms Information

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 15, 2002 ( The Vatican Secret Archive documents the Church's opposition to Nazism, as well as the persecution it endured under Hitler's regime, direct Vatican sources informed ZENIT. Months before the archive's date of opening, ZENIT found out from direct Vatican sources that, beginning February 2003, documents strictly concerning relations between the Vatican and Germany during the 1922-1939 pontificate of Pius XI will be made available to specialists. These documents will encompass material from two different archives: the Vatican Secret Archive and the Archive of the Vatican State Secretariat. The documents mostly contain instructions and correspondence between the Vatican, the Nunciatures, and German Bishops. This period of history is of critical interest, especially in regard to the advent of the Nazi regime in 1933, on until 1939, shortly before World War II. The documents also record the persecution endured by the Catholic Church because of the Nazi regime, ZENIT was told by individuals with access to the documents. With the opening of the Archive, the Vatican will publish 6 CDs containing the documents and names of the people helped by the Catholic Church between 1939 and 1946, the result of research carried out by the Vatican Bureau of Information. Pius XII created this department in September of 1939, for the specific purpose of rescuing and helping victims of war. ZENIT had access to the 1948 Vatican report "Apercu sur l'oeuvre du Bureau d'Informations Vatican 1939-1949", with statistical data and testimonies of the work carried out by this department. The office received 9,891,497 requests from individuals seeking information about vanished persons, and ascertained the whereabouts of at least 36,877 people. It had 16 Sections, the hardest working being those concerned with prisoners, exiles, and persecuted Jews. The story of Boston tailor Jacob Freedman testifies to the efficiency and work of this office. The Canadian Jewish Chronicle took up his story on January 26, 1940: Concerned about the fate of his sister and nephew, who were living in Nazi-occupied Poland, Freedman wrote to the U.S. State Department and the Red Cross, but neither was able to give him any information. He then wrote Pope Pius XII. Months later, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology, told Freedman that his family was safe and sound in Warsaw. According to the Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Freedman wrote: "I have no words to express what I feel. I am impressed that you are interested in my case, with all the important matters that must be concerning you." Freedman said it was "the best, most fantastic, and most beautiful thing that could happen to me."




Heroes of the Holocaust

The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

by Martin Gilbert

460pp, Doubleday, £25

Reviewed by Eva Figes

(November 23, 2002 The Guardian)


In the half-century since the end of the second world war, the Holocaust has received increasing attention from writers and professional historians. Rightly so. More than any other event of the 20th century, it has fundamentally changed our view of human nature and its potential. We feel there is no abomination of which apparently "civilised" people are not capable. But a period of recent history that brought out the very worst in the human race also brought out the best, and this has, for the most part, been neglected. All over Europe, while Jews were being rounded up for extermination, thousands of ordinary people put their own lives, and those of their families, at risk to try to save them. More often than not the Jews were strangers, and their helpers acted without hope of reward or recognition. They did it, quite simply, because it was the right thing to do. So far this story has only been told piecemeal. Grateful survivors have written modest memoirs published by small presses or not at all. Many more have acknowledged their gratitude by writing to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where Israel honours the Righteous Among the Nations. Martin Gilbert mainly used this archive to write what must be the first comprehensive account of an important subject. To date, more than 19,000 non-Jews have been honoured at Yad Vashem, and more than 800 are still being honoured every year. I have no doubt that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many have no one to remember them, others wish to remain anonymous. Modesty seems to be an overriding characteristic. "We only did what anyone would have done," they say. If only. Statistically, the information culled from the Yad Vashem archives is not reliable, because it is based on information voluntarily submitted. So Poland, with the largest Jewish population, also has the highest number of "righteous" when we know that anti-semitism was endemic both before and after the German occupation, and that many Jews survived the war only to be killed by Poles when they came out of hiding. Sometimes their rescuers were also killed, or forced to emigrate, because they had helped Jews. Holland comes second among the recorded righteous, and yet Belgium provided a far safer haven for Jews, since the Dutch population included many Nazi sympathisers. As a result, very few Jews resident in Holland survived. The Frank family was not the only one betrayed. Interestingly, France comes third in this league of honour. The collaboration of the Vichy government with the Germans, and their voluntary rounding-up of thousands of Jews for deportation, must forever be a stain on French national honour, but many ordinary French men and women did not follow the example of their disgraceful leaders. Countless Jewish children were taken in by French families, hidden in convents, or given false papers. Many Jews were helped across the Swiss or Spanish border. Village neighbours kept their mouths shut about the strangers in their midst. Of the 300,000 Jews resident in France at the outbreak of war, more than two-third survived. The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally had a very bad press with regard to the Holocaust but, leaving aside the controversial record of Pius XII, it has certainly done its Christian duty. In every occupied country nuns and priests hid people, particularly children, in convents and orphanages, handed out baptismal certificates and taught children to say Hail Marys. Saving life was the aim, not conversion, and after the war the children were scrupulously returned to Jewish communities if their relatives had not survived. Italy, having infuriated its German allies by refusing to enact anti-Jewish legislation, did everything to protect its Jewish population after the Axis fell apart. In 1944, "all the monasteries and churches were filled with Jews disguised as monks and nuns", and Assisi could boast "the only convent in the world with a kosher kitchen". Many Polish peasants who put their own lives at risk to help strangers saw it as their Christian duty to do so, despite the pervading anti-semitism. The book has unexpected surprises. The story of Denmark's heroic evacuation of its Jewish population is well known: in a period of three weeks the Danes evacuated more than 7,000 Jews and several hundred non-Jewish relatives to Sweden. But apparently the whole scheme was set in motion by a German diplomat, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz. He flew to Berlin to try to stop the planned deportation of Danish Jews, failed to do so, then flew to Stockholm and Copenhagen to set the rescue plan in motion. Why do we not know about him - just because he was German? This book should help us to rid ourselves of racial stereotypes. The executioners included many nationalities, many more willing than the Germans. Oskar Schindler was not the only ethnic German to protect his Jewish workforce. Many did so, often at gunpoint. As for Berlin, Hitler's capital, it was the least anti-semitic of German cities, left-wing, cosmopolitan, the least enamoured of National Socialism. Nobody knows exactly how many Jews survived by going underground in Berlin during the war. Gilbert puts the number at about 2,000. In Berlin the figure usually given, not without pride, is 5,000. Whatever the total, every life saved involved not just one rescuer but many. One survivor quoted in this book can list 50 people who helped him. Inge Deutschkron and her mother changed hiding places 22 times, and this was by no means unusual. Every hidden Jew meant a support team of Berliners who could provide false papers, food, medical attention, as well as the next hiding place. I have read the memoir of the flamboyant and courageous Countess Marie von Maltzan, who not only hid her Jewish lover but was involved with the Swedish Protestant Church in Berlin, smuggling Jews to Sweden on goods trains supposedly full of furniture belonging to Swedes going home. This involved highly dangerous treks through the woods at night. Clearly there had to be lots of helpers, but the detail that most sticks in my mind is that the local police, well aware of what was going on, would discreetly warn her if the Gestapo were planning a raid. This book is a timely one for a new century. Old hatreds are slow to die, old wounds never quite heal. But it is surely time to recognise the complexity of human dilemmas. The Germans were victims of history too. Many Jews who give testimony in this book admit they would not have acted as their rescuers did. One man takes in a total stranger, another betrays the neighbour he has known for years. The questions raised in this book lie at the heart of our humanity




Setting the record straight about a recent book

(L'Osservatore Romano - 13 October 1999)


A book with the provocative title Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII (London: Viking, 1999) was recently published in Great Britain and the United States of America. Translations of this work have also been released in other countries or will be soon. The author is Mr John Cornwell, who in various articles, some of which appeared before the book itself went on sale, claims: "I have attempted to write the first scholarly and honest appraisal of Pius XII" (The Sunday Times, 12 September 1999, p. 5). It is public knowledge that John Cornwell, a journalist, has no academic degrees in history, law or theology. It is no surprise, then, that the book he wrote (a harsh indictment of the person and work of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope from 1939 to 1958), has already been criticized from every angle by world-renowned scholars. In this regard it is necessary to clarify and correct what Mr Cornwell has publicly claimed about his research in the Vatican Archives of the Secretariat of State of His Holiness, precisely in those of the Holy See's Section for Relations with States. 1) Mr Cornwell says that he is the first and only person to have access to these Archives. This statement is completely false. In fact, many people have had access to these Archives, even before Mr Cornwell consulted them. It should further be pointed out that Mr Cornwell's research was limited to two series of documents: Bavaria (1918-1921) and Austria (Serbia, Belgrade: 1913-1915). Obviously, neither the book's author nor anyone else has ever had access to documents regarding the period not yet open to the public (from 1922 on). 2) Mr Cornwell says that he worked "for months on end" in the aforementioned Archives. But this statement does not correspond in any way to the truth. In these Archives, in fact, precise notations are carefully made and kept regarding the day and length of time (hours and minutes) that individuals are allowed to consult them. These records show that Mr Cornwell was admitted to the Archives from 12 May 1997 to 2 June 1997, hardly "for months on end", but for a period of about three weeks. They also show that in this very limited time period Mr Cornwell did not come every day and that on those days when he did come his visits were very brief. 3) In open contradiction to the truth, Mr Cornwell has also said that the documents he found had been kept strictly confidential until he began his research. In this regard he is referring specifically to a letter sent on 18 April 1919 by the then-Nuncio in Bavaria, Archbishop Pacelli, to the Secretariat of State. Concerning this document he adds that the letter remained hidden in the Vatican Archives "like a time bomb". In truth, the aforementioned letter (only a few sentences of which are quoted by Cornwell, and those out of context) had already been published in 1992, that is, seven years before the publication of Cornwell's book. The complete text of this document appeared in E. Fattorini's book, Germania e Santa Sede: Le nunziature di Pacelli tra la Grande guerra e la Repubblica di Weimar (Bologna: Società Edit. Il Mulino, 1992, pp. 322-325). 4) These facts had to be pointed out to warn readers about Mr Cornwell's publication, lest they be surprised by what he claims about materials kept in these Archives.




by Kenneth Woodward

(published in Newsweek, 30 March, 1998)

"The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas..He is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all". (Editorial, the New York Times, Dec 25, 1941). "A full explanation of Pope Pius' conduct is needed..It now falls to John Paul and his successors to take the next step toward full acceptance of the Vatican's failure to stand squarely against the evil that swept across Europe" (Editorial, the New York Times, Mar 18, 1998). How the times - and the Times- do change. During the second world war, Pope Pius XII was lauded for his singular efforts to halt the carnage. And for years after, he was praised for the Church's efforts in saving an estimated 700,000 Jews from the Nazi death camps - mainly by issuing false baptismal certificates to Jews, disguising some in cassocks and hiding others in cloistered monasteries and convents. But last week, after the Vatican issued its long awaited "mea culpa" for failing to do more, critics of the Church greeted the Vatican's statement with the sound of one hand clapping. Asa the Times editorial suggests, they are demanding nothing less than a moral outing by the Vatican of Pius XOO. Something shameful is going on. That Pius XII was silent in the face of the Holocaust; that he did little to help the Jews; that he was in fact a pro-German if not pro-Nazi; that underneath it all he was anti-Semite - are all monstrous calumnies that now seem to pass for accepted wisdom. Most of these accusations can be traced to a single originating source: "The Deputy", by Rolf Hochhuth's 1963 play that created an image of Pius as moral coward. That Golda Meir, later a prime minister of Israel, and leaders of the Jewish communities in Hungary, Turkey, Italy, Romania, and the USA thanked the Pope for saving hundreds of thousands of Jews is now considered irrelevant. That he never specifically condemned the Shoah is all that seems to matter. In fact, Pius XII was neither silent nor inactive. As the Vatican's secretary of State in 1937, he drafted an encyclical for Pope Pius XI condemning Nazism as un-Christian. The document was then smuggled into Germany, secretly printed there in German and read from Roman Catholic pulpits. The Nazis responded by confiscating the presses and imprisoning many Catholics. In his 1942 Christmas message, which the New York Times among others extolled, the Pope became the first figure of international stature to condemn what was turning into a Holocaust. Among other sins of the Nazi's New Order, he denounced the persecution "of hundreds of thousands, who without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or progressive extinction." The Nazis understood the Pope only too well. "His speech is one long attack on everything we stand for," declared the Gestapo. "Here he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews. He is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals." In February 1942, Protestant and Catholic leaders of Nazi-occupied Holland prepared a letter condemning the deportation of Jews to death camps in "the East". But only the Catholic bishops, "following the path indicated by our Holy Father", read the letter aloud from the pulpit despite threats from the Nazis. As a result, occupation forces swept Holland's Catholic convents, monasteries, and schools, deporting all Jews who had converted to Christianity, something that had never been done before. When word of this reached Rome, the Pope withdrew a four-page protest he had written for the Vatican and burned it. As the eleven volumes on the war years, published by the Vatican archives make clear, Jewish as well as Christian groups pleaded with the Pope not to make a public protest because it would only intensify the Nazi persecution. The Pope's crime - if that is what it is - is that he chose the role of diplomatic peacemaker rather than martyr for the cause. Both the Allies and the Axis powers pressured to take their side. It was clear, as the Times reported and the Nazis complained, that Pius XII stood for western freedoms. But the Pope refused to sign an Allied condemnation of Nazi attrocities against the Jews (and Christians) if he could not also condemn the slaughter of Jews and other religious believers by Stalin, then an ally of the United States. As it happened, about 5 million of the 6 million Jews who died came from Russia and Poland, where the Pope had no power to command anyone. Historian Christopher Browning is right in concluding that "the Holocaust is a story with many victims and not too many heros. I think we are naive if we think one more hero could have stopped it." It is also naive to complain - as the New York Times did last week - that Pius XII "did not encourage Catholics to defy Nazi orders." He could hardly direct others to court certain death and remain politically neutral himself. Morever, in the Roman Catholic Church that kind of pastoral leadership rests with the local bishops. Rightly, the hierarchies of Germany and France recently confessed the failure of wartime Catholics to oppose the Holocaust. That is where resistance was called for by sorely wanting. Those "righteous Gentiles" who did risk their lives to save Jews are rightly honored: they put themselves to the test, an ordeal the Pope could not demand from Rome. No one person, Hitler excepted, was responsible for the Holocaust. And no person, Pius XII included, could have prevented it. In choosing diplomacy over protest, Pius XII had his priorities straight. It's time to lay off this Pope.