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PIUS XII & THE HOLOCAUST (by Rabbi David Dalin)

Pope Pius XII

(1876 - 1958)

[Portrait by Yousuf Karsh of Ottawa]

(The Pope who saved the Jews from the Nazis.)

"Pius XII? This is the only human being who has always contradicted me
and who has never obeyed me."
Adolf Hitler --- from Hans Jansen's The Silent Pope? (2000)

Contrary to the fabrications (originating with Rolf Hochhuth, a playwright who was a member of the Hitler Youth, and continuing down to the present with John Cornwell, a journalist who is "Rolf Hochhuth Redivivus," and others), there are
the following testimonies emphasizing the truth of what really happened
in that period when Pope Pius XII was confronting the Holocaust.
"No Christmas sermon reaches a larger congregation than the message Pope Pius XII addresses to a war-torn world at this season.  This Christmas more than ever
he is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent."
The New York Times, December 25, 1942
"I should like you to take this occasion to express to His Holiness my deeply-felt appreciation of the frequent action which the Holy See has taken on its own
initiative in its generous and merciful efforts to render assistance
to the victims of racial and religious persecutions."
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Myron C. Taylor, August 3, 1944
". . . I told him [the Pope] that my first duty was to thank him , and through him, the Catholic Church, on behalf of the Jewish public, for all they had done in the
various countries to rescue Jews, to save children, and Jews in general."
Moshe Sharett, Later First Israeli Foreign Minister (April 1945)
"In all these painful matters, I referred to the Holy See and afterwards I simply
carried out the Pope's orders: first and foremost to save human lives."
Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, Patriarch of Venice, Later Pope John XXIII  (1957)
"When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the
pope was raised for its victims."
Golda Meir, Israeli Foreign (October 1958)
"He was a great and good man, and I loved him."
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery,London Sunday Times (October 12, 1958)
"It seems evident to me that the principles, reaffirmed by Pope Pacelli in his first encyclical [Summi Pontificatus], and repeated forcefully at every circumstance, above all in the Christmas messages of the war years,
constitute the most concrete condemnation of the Hitlerian type of absolutism."
Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, New York Times (February 26, 1964)
"Pope Pius XII did not remain silent."
Jeno Levai (1966)
". . . the Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pope Pius XII was instrumental
in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000,
Jews from certain death at Nazi hands."
Pinchas E. Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews (1967)
"Pope Pius XII, the one pontiff with whom I was acquainted, was an interesting man who, after 1945, came in for what almost surely is an unfair amount of criticism
because he didn't stop the conflict Hitler started and because he didn't
do more to save Europe's Jews from Nazi extermination."
C. L. Sulzberger, Go Gentle Into the Night (1976)
"What we can say already, in light of what we have learned, is that
the Nazis considered Pius XII and his collaborators as their greatest enemies,
and that, reciprocally, the Pope and his entourage saw the Nazis as criminals
working for the destruction of the Church and civilization."
Jean Chelini, Le Figaro (October 8, 1983)
"The gratitude [to Pope Pius XII] of the world Jewish leaders, for deeds to which their own archives are witness, was transformed after 1963 into totally negative commentary.  The well-intentioned, informed world Jewish community was downgraded to 'disgraceful testimonials of a few Jews' (New York Times, September 27, 1989), Letters)."
Rev. Robert A. Graham, S. J. (October 1989)
". . . that there was no direction given by the Pope in helping the Jews  recalls the argument of David Irving, the English author, who in 1977 tried to absolve Adolf Hitler of any responsibility for the Final Solution simply because historians could not find a document proving his responsibility for persecuting the Jews.  The failure of historians to find any explicit instructions does not necessarily consititute proof that Hitler was not behind the persecution of the Jews or that Pius XII did not encourage the help given by the Catholic clergy and laity to the Jews, since, as any historian knows, directives can be given orally as well as in writing [actually, as early as 23 December 1940, Pius did send a secret instruction, Opere et caritate, to his bishops to help victims like the Jews]."
Rev. Vincent A. Lapomarda, S. J. (July 31, 1992)
"Anyone who does not limit himself to cheap polemics knows very well what
Pius XII thought of the Nazi regime and how much he did to help countless people
persecuted by the regime."
Pope John Paul II (1995)
"He was a great pope."
Pope John Paul II (March 21, 1998)
"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 the Holocaust."
Kenneth Woodward, Newsweek (March 30, 1998)
"Before any more fingers are pointed at Pius XII --- who did more to save the Jews than anyone else --- let him first take a hard historical look at what his ideological kinfolk did at the time of the Holocaust. The New Republic, like The New York Timesand The Washington Post, are the ones who need to apologize for their shameful silence in the face of genocide and stop with the scapegoating of Pius XII."
William A. Donohue, President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Catalyst, 27, No. 4 (May 2000), 10
". . . Pius XII was, genuinely and profoundly, a righteous gentile."
Rabbi David G. Dalin, The Weekly Standard, February 26, 2001
(also see his "History as Bigotry," in the February 10, 2003 issue).

  Did Pius XII Do Enough?
   Years of Praise, Years of Blame
     We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah
Pius XII is Victim of Calumny, Scholar Says
  Pius XII and the Holocaust
     Pius XII Was Not Hitler's Pope
   The Cause of Pope Pius XII
Regarding recent books on Pope Pius XII, the division of interpretations about him continues: John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope (1999),  Garry Wills'  Papal Sin (2000), Michael Phayer's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust (2000),  James Carroll's Constantine's Sword (2001),  Daniel J. Goldhagen's essay in  The New Republic (January 21, 2002) along with his A Moral Reckoning (2002), and Paul O'Shea's A Cross Too Heavy (2008) are critical of the Pope while  and Ronald J. Rychlak's Hitler, the War, and the Pope (2000), Ralph McInerny's The Defamation of Pius XII (2000),  Michael F. Feldkamp's Pius XII und Deutschland (2000), and M. L. T. Brown's Eugenio (2001) defend him.  For those, sympathetic to Pope Pius XII, like Hans Jansen, who has written The Silent Pope? (2000),  no explanation is necessary; for those who are not, like Susan Zuccotti, author of the work, Under His Very Windows (2001), no explanation is satisfactory. Yet, anyone who studies the objective evidence with an open mind and understands the whole context of those times will conclude that Pope Pius XII did just about all that was humanly possible in those inhumane circumstances of  World War II.  Recent works by Jose M. Sanchez, Pius XII and the Holocaust (2001) and Justus George Lawler's Popes and Politics (2002) show how really outrageous are the positons of many of those who have attacked Pope Pius XII.  To condemn Pius for not seizing every opportunity to protest the crimes against the Jews overlooks the fact that he could not even save his own priests.  What is amazing is that the Catholic Church under the Pope's leadership did far more to help Jews than any other international agency or person, a fact generally recognized by both Jewish (Richard Breitman, David G. Dalin, Patrick J. GalloMartin GilbertPinchas E. LapideJeno LevaiLivia Rothkirchen, and Michael Tagliacozzo)  and Christian (Pierre Blet, Antonio Gaspari, Robert A. Graham, Peter Gumpel, Matteo Luigi Napolitano, Margherita Marchione, Michael O'Carroll, Pietro Palazzini,Ronald J. Rychlak,  and Kenneth D. Whitehead) scholars as well as by many of his contemporaries, not to mention a number of  recent works by Andrea Tornielli,  that show how Pius was, in fact, "The Pope of the Jews" as evident from the latter's work, Pio XII: Il Papa degli Ebrei (2001).    At the same time, there is the strange logic of some who criticize Pius XII by alleging, on the one hand, without proof that individual priests, not the Pope, helped the Jews, and, on the other hand, by alleging without proof that the Pope, not individual priests,  helped Nazis escape justice while others go so far as to  charge,  without any solid  evidence,  that  the Vatican held Nazi gold  during World War II.  Of course, such scapegoating of the Pope, as his defenders point out,  turns the focus away from those upon whom the blame chiefly rests for the Holocaust, namely, the Nazis and their collaborators, and dishonors the victims.  While the Pope's critics like Susan Zuccotti have resorted to the charge that the statistics set forth by Pinchas Lapide claiming that the Catholic Church under Pius XII was responsible for rescuing 700,000 to 860,000 Jews during the Holocaust cannot be supported by the objective evidence, the fact is that those same historians have not been able to document and support their claim as much as the author who made it was able to reason to it as a conservative estimate.  This was based on the research he had done at Yad Vashem, the interviews  he had conducted with survivors, and on a comparision of  the number of Jews who existed before World War II  with the number who survived after the Holocaust.   "It's a big number, to be sure," wrote Sidney Zion in the Houston Chronicle (March 16, 2000), "but even if we halve it and then substract by two, we have more Jews saved by the Vatican than by the Allies."   For a thorough survey of the literature on Pope Pius XII, see` "An Annotated Bibliography by William Doino, Jr., in The Pius War (2004) edited by Joseph Bottum and David G. Dalin.

"Nazi Protest U. S. Cardinal's Hitler Attack"
Thursday, May 20, 1937, The Houston Press on George Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago
"Assails Nazi Persecution of Jews, Prelate Dares Der Fuhrer to Complain"
Monday, November 4, 1938, The Baltimore Sun on its own Archbishop Michael J. Curley
Filippo Bernardini in Switzerland
Giuseppe Burzio in Slovakia
Andrea Cassulo in Rumania
Angelo Roncalli in Turkey
Angelo Rota in Hungary
Valerio Valeri in France
Pierre-Marie Cardinal Gerlier of Lyons
Archbishop Jules Saliege of Toulouse
Bishop Piere Theas of Montaubaum
Bishop Vilmos Apor of Gyor
Archbishop Jozsef Mindszenty of Vesprem
Bishop Carlo Agostini of Padua
Archbishop Pietro Boetto of Genoa
Archbishop Elia Dalla Costa of Florence
Bishop Federico Dalla Zuanno of Cardi
Archbishop Maurillo Fossati of Turin
Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini of Assisi
Bishop Antonio Santin of Trieste
Archbishop Ildefonso Schuster of Milan
Bishop Antonio Torrini of Lucca
Archbishop Mario Vianello of Perugia
Archbishop Romuald Jalbrzykowski of Wilno
Bishop Todor Kubina of Czestochowa
Bishop Jan Kanty Lorek of Sandomierz
Bishop Stanislaw Lukomski of Lomza
Bishop Karol Niemira of Pinsk
Archbishop Adam Sapieha of Krakow
Archbishop Boleslaw Twardowski of Lwow
Archbishop Jozef-Ernest van Roey of Mechlin
Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac of Zagreb
Archbishop Andrzey Szeptyckyj of Lwow
Pere Marie-Benoit / Padre Benedetti
Giorgio Perlasca
Aristides des Sousa Mendes
Padre Pietro Tacchi-Venturi
1. In two of the seven plots to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Pius XII was involved
in at least two of them.
2. Bishops in the Third Reich who vigorously opposed the Nazis: Wilhelm Berning of Osnabruck, Clements von Galen of Munster, Joseph Maschens of Hildesheim, Johannes B. Sproll of Rottenburg, and Konrad von Preysing of Berlin.
3. More than 4,000 priests were killed by the Nazis, incuding 868 Poles at Dachau,
780 from various nations at Mauthausen, and 123 shot in France (one estimate holds
that at least 4,000 were killed at Buchenwald alone).
4. Israel Zoller (Zolli), Rome's Chief Rabbi during World War II, converted to
Roman Catholicism and took the same baptismal name, Eugenio, as Pius XII
in appreciation of what the Pope had done for the Jews.
The eleven volumes, Actes et Documents du Saint Siege Relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1865-81), edited by Pierre Blet and other Jesuits, deal with the victims of the war (especially volumes 6, 8, 9, and 10)  and show that Pius and the Church, more than any individual or international agency rose to the challenge of the Holocaust and used the resources of the Roman Catholic Church to help the Jews.  This was at a time when the Pope and the Church were engaged in a struggle for survival against the Nazis who imprisoned, tortured, and killed thousands of clergy and religious, not to mention many more of the laity.  Unfortunately, while scholars like Walter Adolph and Ulrich von Hehl acknowledge this in their studies, others like John F. Morley and John T. Pawlikowski do not appear to understand this crucial aspect of the problem.  Though doubts have been raised in recent years, about the validity of these documents, they can be reviewed in general through John S. Conway's "Records and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War," Yad Vashem Studies, 15 (1983), 327-345.  In La Civilta Cattolica (March 21, 1996), in face of the criticism raised about these documents, Pierre Blet, one of the original editors of those documents, said: "But when a legend is created from unrelated elements and with the aid of imagination, discussion is meaningless.  The only thing possible is to counter the myth with the historical reality proved by incontestable documentation.  For this reason, Pope Paul VI, who was Substitute of the Secretariat of State had been one of the closest collaborators of Pius XII, as early as 1964 authorized the publication of the documents of the Holy See relating to the Second World War."  Doubts were raised about gaps in the documents selected as, for example, v. 8, p. 466, which refers to the controversial letter of Gerhart Riegner of the World Jewish Congress about the Nazi extermination of Jews, but that document was not included among the papal ones because it had already been published (pp. 105-109) in Saul Friedlander's Pius XII land the Third Reich (1964).  Consequently, a Catholic-Jewish Commission was set up in November of 1999 to review those same documents with three Catholic scholars (Eva Fleishner, Gerald Fogarty, and John Morley) and three Jewish scholars (Michael Marrus, Bernard Suchecky, and Robert Wistrich) which, divided in its reports, went out of existence in July of 2001.  Yet, to paraphrase Pierre Blet, even if "a smoking gun" were to be found in any review of the Vatican Archives, it is not clear how this would absolve Pius XII of his alleged failure during World War II.  This revisionist view of the pope has tended towards irrational behavior since ideas do have consequences.  Today this is evident in the outrageous interference in the internal affairs of the Roman Catholic Church when some Jewish leaders, to the pubic embarrassment of their own religious colleagues, have called for a  halt to any process leading to the beatification of Pius XII.
Doubts, then, about the validity of the papal documents of World War II are just ways of perpetuating "the black legend" about Pope Pius XII.  "Every historian knows that once a story or a legend is out there, you can't kill it," said Peter Hoffman, an historian writing in the February 2000 issue of Inside the Vatican.  "Never.  You can come up with the best arguments, it will stay there, especially if it's one that goes down easily."  Fabrications of documents against the Catholic Church arouse during the Cold War in both Eastern and Western Europe, as Robert A. Graham's refutation of Virgilio Scattolini's writings make clear in La Civilta Cattolica (1973: III, 467-478.  These were also reported by Agostino Bono in The Boston Globe (February 1, 1992).  Such allegations, including one mentioned in US News & World Report (March 30, 1998) alleging that the Vatican had stashed away gold taken from the Jews during the Holocaust  or similar stories found in the works of writers like Avro Manhattan and Edmond Paris that one Dragutin Kamber (1901-69) was a Jesuit who was a leader of the executions that took place in the concentration camp at Jasenovac in Croatia during World War II (in this connection, see "The Inventions and Lies of Dr. [Milan] Bulajic on the Internet," as refuted by Vladimir Zergavic in 1997).  If these writers can be found lacking in the essential components of historical accuracy, specificlaly, knowledge and truth, how can they be trusted to portray what really happened in the past?  Obviously, such historians have their own agenda and forget that objective evidence is the fundamental criterion of historical truth.
The Vatican, from Pius XII through John Paul I, had refused to recognize the State of Israel.  This was underscored in Pius' major disciple, Pope Paul VI who, during his trip to Israel in January of 1964, refrained from even mentioning Israel other than to refer to it in terms of the Holy Land.  Since those popes insisted on the internationalization of Jerusalem, the effect was to harden Israel's view towards the Vatican and even towards Pius XII forgetting that the latter had sympathy for the Zionist dream of a homeland for the Jews.   In fact, the pope's position was minor compared to the opposition of  leading Americans like Dean G. Acheson, George C. Marshall, and James V. Forrestal in opposing the creation of the State of Israel.  That the pope's position was based on his legitimate concerns for the Roman Catholics living in Israel and for the holy shrines in Jerusalem itself were not taken into account.  Some contemporary Jewish leaders think that Pius was more concerned about safeguarding the Church, objectively his primary obligation as pope, than in saving Jews during the Holocaust when, in fact, he was even handed in his attempts to help both Christians and Jews.  While it is easy today for the pope's critics to put the Catholic Church on the defensive by saying that Pius XII coud have done more, this was not so clear during those horrible days of World War II when he was recognized as "a lonely voice" (and the only voice) raised in defense of those victims, among them many Catholic priests whom he could not save from extinction.  Yet, despite what his critics say today to confuse the issue and to belittle the testimones from prominent Jewish agencies and their representatives during the life of Pius, such opponnents cannot annul the historical redcord of his help during the Holocaust.  All this was recognized and affirmed by the World Jewish Congress, the World Zionist Organization, and the State of Israel itself, not to mention such a prominent newspaper as The New York Times.  Even a revisionist approach to the study of the past can help enrich our understanding of it, it cannot reject a basic principle of historical study, that is, to evaluate a person not only according to one's own times but also according to the times in which he lived.  According to his own times, Pope Pius XII was a hero, but according to our own times, in the opinion of these revisionists,  he is a villain.   In fact, at the pope's death, some Israelis had suggested that a forest be planted in Israel for all that Pius had done to save Jews during the Holocaust.  To this day, that expectation remains unfulfilled to the amazement of those who know how widespread was the expression of gratitude by Jews at the end of World War II and at the time of his death.  This is particularly so when one recalls that the State of Israel wanted to honor a chief assistant to Pius, the future Pope Paul VI, who did not think that he should accept a distinction for merely doing his duty in organizing the papal relief efforts during World War II.  However, Pope John Paul II turned all that around by recognizing the State of Israel in the agreements signed on December 30, 1993 and by following up this  with his historic trip to Israel in March of 2000, thereby dramatically turning around relations between Israel and the Vatican.


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