The Full Wiki

Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The relationship between Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust has long been controversial[Note 1], with some scholars arguing that he kept silent during the Holocaust, while others have argued that he saved thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Although Pius generally made only muted criticisms of Hitler and Nazi Germany, he was willing to apply direct diplomatic pressure when dealing with Axis satellite states such as Hungary, Romania, Slovakia where he deemed that doing so could achieve positive outcomes. His efforts resulted in the saving of thousands of lives. Similarly, there are many documented instances of initiatives taken by local Catholics under the covert direction and moral support of Pius XII.




Reaction to the Racial laws

In 1939, the newly-elected Pope Pius XII appointed several prominent Jewish scholars to posts at the Vatican after they had been dismissed from Italian universities under Fascist leader Benito Mussolini's racial laws.[2] Pius later engineered an agreement — formally approved on June 23, 1939 — with Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas to issue 3,000 visas to "non-Aryan Catholics".

However, over the next eighteen months Brazil’s Conselho de Imigração e Colonização (CIC) continued to tighten the restrictions on their issuance — including requiring a baptismal certificate dated before 1933, a substantial monetary transfer to the Banco do Brasil, and approval by the Brazilian Propaganda Office in Berlin — culminating in the cancellation of the program fourteen months later, after fewer than 1,000 visas had been issued, amid suspicions of "improper conduct" (i.e. continuing to practice Judaism) among those who had received visas.[3][4]

Hidden encyclical

Some historians have argued that Pacelli, as Cardinal Secretary of State, dissuaded Pope Pius XI — who was nearing death at the time[5] — from condemning Kristallnacht in November 1938,[6] when he was informed of it by the papal nuncio in Berlin.[3] Likewise the prepared encyclical Humani Generis Unitas ("On the Unity of Human Society"), which was ready in September 1938 but, according to the two publishers of the encyclical[7] and other sources, not forwarded to the Vatican by the Jesuit General Wlodimir Ledochowski.[8] On January 28, 1939, eleven days before the death of Pope Pius XI, a disappointed Gundlach informed the author La Farge: "It cannot continue like this" The text has not been forwarded to the Vatican.

He had talked to the American assistant to Father General, who promised to look into the matter in December 1938, but did not report back.[9] It contained an open and clear condemnation of colonialism, racism and antisemitism.[8][10][11] Some historians have argued that Pacelli learned about its existence only after the death of Pius XI and did not promulgate it as Pope.[12] He did however use parts of it in his inaugural encyclical Summi Pontificatus, which he titled "On the Unity of Human Society."[13]

Invasion of Poland

In his first encyclical Summi Pontificatus (October 20, 1939), Pius XII publicly condemned the invasion, occupation and partition of Poland.

The blood of countless human beings, even noncombatants, raises a piteous dirge over a nation such as Our dear Poland, which, for its fidelity to the Church, for its services in the defense of Christian civilization, written in indelible characters in the annals of history, has a right to the generous and brotherly sympathy of the whole world, while it awaits, relying on the powerful intercession of Mary, Help of Christians, the hour of a resurrection in harmony with the principles of justice and true peace.
- Summi Pontificatus, 106.

In Poland, the Nazis murdered over 2,500 monks and priests and even more were imprisoned.[14] In the Soviet Union an even more severe persecution occurred.[14] After the war, historians such as David Kertzer accused the Church of encouraging centuries of antisemitism, and Pope Pius XII of not doing enough to stop Nazi atrocities.[15]

Prominent members of the Jewish community contradicted the criticisms of Pius and spoke highly of his efforts to protect Jews.[16]

A week after Pope Pius XII ordered the programming, Vatican Radio broadcast to an unbelieving world that Poles and Jews were being rounded up and forced into ghettos. The Society of Jesus has been charged with the management of Vatican Radio since its inception. During World War II and the rise of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, Vatican Radio served as a source for news for the Allies as well as broadcasting pro-Allied (or simply neutral) propaganda.[17]


1940 request on behalf of Jews

In 1940 Pius asked members of the clergy, on Vatican letterhead, to do whatever they could on behalf of interned Jews.[18]

Meeting with German Jewish visitor in 1941

Testimony has emerged revealing that, in 1941, Pope Pius XII received a German Jewish visitor at the Vatican who was seeking help for certain Jews who were being held in an Italian internment camp. After welcoming the young man and promising him help, Pius told him not once but twice, in emotional language, in front of a large group that included German soldiers, "Be proud to be a Jew!".[19]­

Alleged silence

President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Myron C. Taylor as his special representative to the Vatican in September 1941. His assistant, Harold Tittman, repeatedly pointed out to Pius the dangers to his moral leadership by his failure to speak out against the violations of the natural law carried out by the Nazis.[20] Pius XII responded that he could not name the Nazis without at the same time mentioning the Bolsheviks.[21]

Pius XII also never publicly condemned the Nazi massacre of 1.8 - 1.9 million mainly Catholic Polish gentiles (including 2,935 members of the Catholic Clergy) [22][23], nor did he ever publicly condemn the Soviet Union for the deaths of 1,000,000 mainly Catholic Polish gentile citizens including an untold number of clergy.[24]

After reviewing documents that had been in the control of the Secret Services and of Hitler's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Robert Kempner determined that Pius XII and the Catholic Church had, in fact, sent a great number of protests, both direct and indirect, diplomatic and public, secret and explicit, to which the Nazis never responded. Kempner publicly defended the role and charity endeavors of Pius XII.[25]


1942 Address to College of Cardinals

In the summer of 1942, long after the Roman curia had become aware of the mass murders, Pius explained to his college of Cardinals the reasons for the great gulf that existed between Jews and Christians at the theological level: "Jerusalem has responded to His call and to His grace with the same rigid blindness and stubborn ingratitude that has led it along the path of guilt to the murder of God." Historian Guido Knopp describes these comments of Pius as being "incomprehensible" at a time when "Jerusalem was being murdered by the million".[26]

1942 letter

On September 18, 1942, Pius received a letter from Monsignor Montini (future Pope Paul VI), saying, "the massacres of the Jews reach frightening proportions and forms". Later that month, Myron Taylor, U.S. representative to the Vatican, warned Pius that the Vatican's "moral prestige" was being injured by silence on European atrocities — a warning which was echoed simultaneously by representatives from Great Britain, Brazil, Uruguay, Belgium, and Poland[27] — the Cardinal Secretary of State replied that the rumors about genocide could not be verified.[28]

In December 1942, when Tittman asked Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione if Pius would issue a proclamation similar to the Allied declaration "German Policy of Extermination of the Jewish Race", Maglione replied that the Vatican was "unable to denounce publicly particular atrocities."[29]

Christmas 1942 message

In his Christmas address of 1942, Pius XII appealed to the world to take a long, hard look at "the ruins of a social order which has given such tragic proof of its ineptitude".[30]

"Mankind owes that vow to the numberless exiles whom the hurricane of war has torn from their native land and scattered in the land of the stranger; who can make their own the lament of the Prophet: 'Our inheritance is turned to aliens; our house to strangers.' Mankind owes that vow to the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or slow extermination."

Reinhard Heydrich's Reich Central Security Office analyzed Pius' Christmas message and concluded:

In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order. His radio allocution was a masterpiece of clerical falsification of the National Socialist Weltanschauung...the Pope does not refer to the National Socialists in Germany by name, but his speech is one long attack on everything we stand for...God, he says, regards all peoples and races as worthy of the same consideration. Here he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews...That this speech is directed exclusively against the New Order in Europe as seen in National Socialism is clear in the papal statement that mankind owes a debt to 'all who during the war have lost their Fatherland and who, although personally blameless have, simply on account of their nationality and origin, been killed or reduced to utter destitution.' Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.


Ad maiora mala vitanda

On April 30, 1943, Pius wrote to Bishop Von Preysing of Berlin to say: "We give to the pastors who are working on the local level the duty of determining if and to what degree the danger of reprisals and of various forms of oppression occasioned by episcopal declarations... ad maiora mala vitanda (to avoid worse)... seem to advise caution. Here lies one of the reasons, why We impose self-restraint on Ourselves in our speeches; the experience, that we made in 1942 with papal addresses, which We authorized to be forwarded to the Believers, justifies our opinion, as far as We see.... The Holy See has done whatever was in its power, with charitable, financial and moral assistance. To say nothing of the substantial sums which we spent in American money for the fares of immigrants."[31]

News from Father Scavizzi

In the spring of 1943 Pirro Scavizzi, an Italian priest, told Pius that the murder of the Jews was "now total", even the elderly and infants were being destroyed "without mercy". Pius is reported to have broken down and wept uncontrollably.[32]

Pius said to Father Scavizzi “I have often considered excommunication, to castigate in the eyes of the entire world the fearful crime of genocide. But after much praying and many tears, I realize that my condemnation would not only fail to help the Jews, it might even worsen their situation… No doubt a protest would gain me the praise and respect of the civilized world, but it would have submitted the poor Jews to an even worse persecution.”[33]

Attempted kidnapping

In 1943, plans were allegedly formulated by Hitler to occupy the Vatican and arrest Pius and the cardinals of the Roman Curia.[34][35][36] According to Rev. Peter Gumpel, a historian in charge of Pius' canonization process, the Pope told leading bishops that should he be arrested by Nazi forces, his resignation would take immediate effect and that the Holy See would move to another country, specifically Portugal, where the College of Cardinals would elect a new pope.[37] Some historians argue that the reason Hitler wanted to capture the Pope was because he was concerned Pius would continue speaking against the way the Nazis treated the Jews.[37][38] However, the plan was never brought to fruition, and was reportedly foiled by Nazi general Karl Wolff. Both British historian Owen Chadwick and Jesuit ADSS editor Robert A. Graham dismissed the existence of a plot as British wartime propaganda. However, subsequent to those accounts, Dan Kurzman in 2007 published a work which he maintains establishes the plot as fact.[39]

German occupation of Rome

When 60,000 German soldiers and the Gestapo occupied Rome in 1943, thousands of Jews were hiding in churches, convents, rectories, the Vatican and the papal summer residence.

On September 27, 1943, one of the Nazi commanders in Rome demanded that the Jewish community pay one hundred pounds of gold within thirty-six hours or three hundred Jews would be taken prisoner. When the Jewish Community Council was only able to gather only seventy pounds of gold, they turned to the Vatican. In his memoirs, the then Chief Rabbi Zolli of Rome writes that he was sent to the Vatican where he was met by the Vatican treasurer and secretary of state who told him that the Holy Father himself had given orders for the deficit to be filled with gold taken from the Treasury."[40]

Despite the payment of the ransom 2,091 Jews were deported on October 16, 1943, and most of them died in Germany. Many others were also killed on March 24, 1944, at the Fosse Ardeatine.[citation needed]

Nuncio Orsenigo's appeal to Hitler

Cesare Orsenigo with Hitler and von Ribbentrop

In November 1943, nuncio Cesare Orsenigo spoke to the leader of the Third Reich on behalf of Pope Pius XII. In his conversation with Hitler, he talked about the status of persecuted peoples in the Third Reich, apparently referring to Jews. This conversation with the Nazi leader led to no success. Over large parts of the conversation Hitler simply ignored Orsenigo, he went to the window and did not listen.[citation needed]


Actions of Angelo Roncalli

Part of the historical debate surrounding Pius XII has concerned the role of nuncio Angelo Roncalli, the future John XXIII, in rescuing Jews during the War. While some historians have argued that Roncalli was acting as a nuncio on behalf of the Pope, others have said that he was acting on his own when he intervened on behalf of Jews, as it would appear by the rather independent position he took during the Jewish orphans controversy.[41]

According to the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Roncalli forwarded a request for the Vatican to inquire whether other neutral countries could grant asylum to Jews, to inform the German government that the Palestine Jewish Agency had 5,000 immigration certificates available and to ask Vatican Radio to broadcast that helping Jews was an act of mercy approved by the Church. In 1944, Roncalli used diplomatic couriers, papal representatives and the Sisters of Our Lady of Zion to transport and issue baptismal certificates, immigration certificates and visas – many of them forged – to Hungarian Jews. A dispatch dated Aug. 16, 1944 from Roncalli to the papal nuncio to Hungary illustrates the intensity of "Operation Baptism":

Roman razzia

In August 2006, extracts from the 60-year-old diary of a nun of the Convent of Santi Quattro Coronati[42] were published in the Italian press, stating that Pope Pius XII ordered Rome's convents and monasteries to hide Jews during the Second World War.[43]

On October 28, 1943, Ernst von Weizsäcker, the German Ambassador to the Vatican, telegrammed Berlin that "...the Pope has not yet let himself be persuaded to make an official condemnation of the deportation of the Roman Jews.... Since it is currently thought that the Germans will take no further steps against the Jews in Rome, the question of our relations with the Vatican may be considered closed."[44]

Eichmann wrote in his diary that the Vatican "vigorously protested the arrest of Jews, requesting the interruption of such action; to the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly."[citation needed] Eichmann added that "the objections given and the excessive delay in the steps necessary to complete the implementation of the operation, resulted in a great part of Italian Jews being able to hide and escape capture" [45]

Eichmann wrote in his diary that

"At that time, my office received the copy of a letter, that I immediately gave to my direct superiors, sent by the Catholic Church in Rome, in the person of Bishop Hudal, to the commander of the German forces in Rome, general Stahel. The Church was vigorously protesting the arrest of Jews of Italian citizenship, requesting that such action interrupted immediately throughout Rome and its surroundings. To the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly. The Curia was especially angry because these incidents were taking place practically under Vatican windows. But, precisely at that time, without paying any attention to the Church’s position, the Italian fascist government passed a law ordering the deportation of all Italian Jews to concentration camps."[citation needed]

Conversions of Jews to Catholicism

The conversion of Jews to Catholicism during the Holocaust is one of the most controversial aspects of the record of Pope Pius XII during that period.

According to Roth and Ritner, "this is a key point because, in debates about Pius XII, his defenders regularly point to denunciations of racism and defense of Jewish converts as evidence of opposition to antisemitism of all sorts.[46] The Holocaust is one of the most acute examples of the "recurrent and acutely painful issue in the Catholic-Jewish dialogue", namely "Christian efforts to convert Jews".[47]

Holocaust by country


In 1941, Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna informed Pius of Jewish deportations in Vienna.


Archbishop Stepinac called a synod of Croatian bishops in November 1941. The synod appealed to Pavelić to treat Jews "as humanely as possible, considering that there were German troops in the country". The Vatican replied with praise to Marcone with praise for what the synod had done for "citizens of Jewish origin", although Israeli historian Menachem Shelah demonstrates that the synod concerned itself only with converted Jews. Pius XII personally praised the synod for "courage and decisiveness".[48]


Later in 1941, when asked by French Marshal Philippe Pétain if the Vatican objected to anti-Jewish laws, Pius responded that the Church condemned antisemitism, but would not comment on specific rules. Similarly, when Philippe Pétain's puppet government adopted the "Jewish statutes," the Vichy ambassador to the Vatican, Léon Bérard (a French politician), was told that the legislation did not conflict with Catholic teachings.[49] Valerio Valeri, the nuncio to France was "embarrassed" when he learned of this publicly from Pétain[50] and personally checked the information with Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione[51] who confirmed the Vatican's position.[52]

Yet in June 1942 Pius personally protested against the mass deportations of Jews from France, ordering the papal nuncio to protest to Marshal Pétain against "the inhuman arrests and deportations of Jews".[53] In October 1941 Harold Tittman, a U.S. delegate to the Vatican, asked the pope to condemn the atrocities against Jews; Pius replied that the Vatican wished to remain "neutral,"[54] reiterating the neutrality policy which Pius invoked as early as September 1940.[49]


In March 1944, through the papal nuncio in Budapest, Angelo Rotta, the pope urged the Hungarian government to moderate its treatment of the Jews.[55] The pope also ordered Rotta and other papal legates to hide and shelter Jews.[56] These protests, along with others from the King of Sweden, the International Red Cross, the United States, and Britain led to the cessation of deportations on 8 July, 1944.[57] Also in 1944, Pius appealed to 13 Latin American governments to accept "emergency passports", although it also took the intervention of the U.S. State Department for those countries to honor the documents.[58]


Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione received a request from Chief Rabbi of Palestine Isaac Herzog in the Spring of 1940 to intercede on behalf of Lithuanian Jews about to be deported to Germany.[3] Pius called Ribbentrop on March 11, repeatedly protesting against the treatment of Jews. In his 1940 encyclical Summi Pontificatus, Pius rejected anti-semitism, stating that in the Catholic Church there is "neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision."[59] In 1940 Pius asked members of the clergy, on Vatican letterhead, to do whatever they could on behalf of interned Jews.[18]

The Netherlands

After Germany invaded the Low Countries during 1940, Pius XII sent expressions of sympathy to the Queen of the Netherlands, the King of Belgium, and the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. When Mussolini learned of the warnings and the telegrams of sympathy, he took them as a personal affront and had his ambassador to the Vatican file an official protest, charging that Pius XII had taken sides against Italy's ally Germany. Mussolini's foreign minister claimed that Pius XII was "ready to let himself be deported to a concentration camp, rather than do anything against his conscience."[60]

When Dutch bishops protested against the wartime deportation of Jews in 1942, the Nazis responded with harsher measures[61] rounding up 92 converts including Edith Stein who were then deported and murdered.[62] "The brutality of the retaliation made an enormous impression on Pius XII."[62]


In September 1941 Pius objected to a Slovakian Jewish Code,[63] which, unlike the earlier Vichy codes, prohibited intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews.[64]

In 1942, the Slovakian charge d'affaires told Pius that Slovakian Jews were being sent to concentration camps. On March 11, 1942, several days before the first transport was due to leave, the chargé d'affaires in Bratislava reported to the Vatican: "I have been assured that this atrocious plan is the handwork of... Prime Minister (Tuka), who confirmed the plan... he dared to tell me - he who makes such a show of his Catholicism - that he saw nothing inhuman or un-Christian in it... the deportation of 80,000 persons to Poland, is equivalent to condemning a great number of them to certain death." The Vatican protested to the Slovak government that it "deplore(s) these... measures which gravely hurt the natural human rights of persons, merely because of their race."[65]

On April 7, 1943, Msgr. Tardini, one of Pius’s closest advisors, told Pius that it would be politically advantageous after the war to take steps to help Slovakian Jews.[66]

Later historiography

Post-war praise

Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish theologian and Israeli diplomat to Milan in the 1960s, claimed in Three Popes and the Jews that catholics were "instrumental in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands."[67] Some historians have questioned this oft-cited[68] number, which Lapide reached by "deducting all reasonable claims of rescue" by non-Catholics from the number of Jews he claims succeeded in escaping to the free world from Nazi-controlled areas during the Holocaust.[69]

The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, sent the Pope a personal message of thanks on February 28, 1944, in which he said: "The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundations of true civilization, are doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world."[70]

Other Jewish leaders chimed in also. Rabbi Safran of Bucharest, Romania, sent a note of thanks to the papal nuncio on April 7, 1944: "It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the supreme pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews. . . . The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance." [70][71]

The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, also made a statement of thanks: "What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts. ... Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism."[72]

Catholic scholar Kevin Madigan interprets such praise from prominent Jewish leaders, including Golda Meir, as less than sincere; an attempt to secure Vatican recognition of the State of Israel.[73]

On September 21, 1945, the general secretary of the World Jewish Council, Dr. Leon Kubowitzky, presented an amount of money to the pope, "in recognition of the work of the Holy See in rescuing Jews from Fascist and Nazi persecutions."[74] After the war, in the autumn of 1945, Harry Greenstein from Baltimore, a close friend of Chief Rabbi Herzog of Jerusalem, told Pius how grateful Jews were for all he had done for them. "My only regret," the pope replied, "is not to have been able to save a greater number of Jews."[75]

The Deputy

A rare 1899 handwriting of Eugenio Pacelli with text in Latin.

In 1963, Rolf Hochhuth's controversial drama Der Stellvertreter. Ein christliches Trauerspiel (The Deputy, a Christian tragedy, released in English in 1964) portrayed Pope Pius XII as a hypocrite who remained silent about the Holocaust. Books such as Dr. Joseph Lichten's A Question of Judgment (1963), written in response to The Deputy, defended Pius XII's actions during the war. Lichten labelled any criticism of the pope's actions during World War II as "a stupefying paradox" and said, "no one who reads the record of Pius XII's actions on behalf of Jews can subscribe to Hochhuth's accusation."[76] Critical scholarly works like Guenter Lewy's The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany (1964) also followed the publication of The Deputy. Lewy's conclusion was that "the Pope and his advisers—influenced by the long tradition of moderate anti-Semitism so widely accepted in Vatican circles—did not view the plight of the Jews with a real sense of urgency and moral outrage. For this assertion no documentation is possible, but it is a conclusion difficult to avoid".[77] In 2002 the play was adapted into the film Amen.

An article on La Civilità Cattolica in March 2009 indicated that the accusations that Hochhut's play made widely known originated not among Jews but in the Communist bloc. It was Moscow Radio, on 2 June 1945, that first direct against Pius XII the accusation of refusing to speak out against the exterminations in Nazi concentration camps. It was also the first to call him "Hitler's Pope".[78]

Former Securitate General Ion Mihai Pacepa has stated that the play of Hochhuth and numerous publications attacking Pius XII as allegedly having been a Nazi sympathizer were fabrications from the KGB and Eastern bloc Marxist secret services leading a campaign to discredit the moral authority of the Church and Christianity in the West.[79] Pacepa also claims that he was involved in contacting East bloc agents close the Vatican in order to fabricate the story to be used for the attack against the wartime pope.[79]

Paul VI's defense of Pius

During his 1964 visit to Jordan and Israel, Paul VI passionately spoke out in defense of Pius during his farewell to the Israeli authorities. He said that all know what he accomplished in defense and for the rescue of all those who faced difficulties, with no distinction whatsoever. He added that nothing is more unjust than this outrage against such a venerable figure.[80]

Hitler's Pope and The Myth of Hitler's Pope

In 1999, John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope criticized Pius for not doing enough, or speaking out enough, against the Holocaust. Cornwell argued that Pius's entire career as the nuncio to Germany, cardinal secretary of state, and pope was characterized by a desire to increase and centralize the power of the Papacy, and that he subordinated opposition to the Nazis to that goal. He further argues that Pius was anti-Semitic and that this stance prevented him from caring about the European Jews.[81] However, as noted below, Cornwell recanted, now stating he is unable to judge the Pope's motivation.

Cornwell's work was the first to have access to testimonies from Pius's beatification process as well as to many documents from Pacelli's nunciature which had just been opened under the seventy-five year rule by the Vatican State Secretary archives.[82] Cornwell's work has received much praise and criticism. Much praise of Cornwell centered around his disputed claim that he was a practising Catholic who had attempted to absolve Pius with his work.[83] While works such as Susan Zuccotti's Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy (2000) and Michael Phayer's The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965 (2000) are critical of both Cornwell and Pius XII, Ronald J. Rychlak's Hitler, the War and the Pope is critical as well but defends Pius XII in light of his access to most recent documents.[84] Cornwell's scholarship has been criticized. For example, Kenneth L. Woodward stated in his review in Newsweek that "errors of fact and ignorance of context appear on almost every page."[85] Five years after the publication of Hitler's Pope, Cornwell stated: "I would now argue, in the light of the debates and evidence following Hitler's Pope, that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany".[86][87][88]

Most recently, Rabbi David Dalin's The Myth of Hitler's Pope argues that critics of Pius are liberal Catholics and ex-Catholics who "exploit the tragedy of the Jewish people during the Holocaust to foster their own political agenda of forcing changes on the Catholic Church today" and that Pius XII was actually responsible for saving the lives of many thousands of Jews.[89].

International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission

In 1999, in an attempt to address some of this controversy, the International Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission (Historical Commission), a group of three Catholic and three Jewish scholars was appointed, respectively, by the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews (Holy See's Commission) and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), to whom a preliminary report was issued in October 2000.[90]

The Commission did not discover any documents, but had the agreed-upon task to review the existing Vatican volumes, that make up the Actes et Documents du Saint Siege (ADSS) [91] The Commission was internally divided over the question of access to additional documents from the Holy See, access to the news media by individual commission members, and, questions to be raised in the preliminary report. It was agreed to include all 47 individual questions by the six members, and use them as Preliminary Report.[92] In addition to the 47 questions, the commission issued no findings of its own. It stated that it was not their task to sit in judgement of the Pope and his advisors but to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the papacy during the Holocaust.[93]

The 47 questions by the six scholars were grouped into three parts: (a) 27 specific questions on existing documents[94], mostly asking for background and additional information such as drafts of the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, which was largely written by Eugenio Pacelli.[95] (b) Fourteen questions dealt with themes of individual volumes [96], such as the question how Pius viewed the role of the Church during the war.[97] (c) Six general questions[98], such as the absence of any anti-communist sentiments in the documents.[99] The disagreement between members over additional documents locked up up under the Holy See's 70 year rule resulted in a discontinuation of the Commission in 2001 on friendly terms.[92] Unsatisfied with the findings, Dr. Michael Marrus, one of the three Jewish members of the Commission, said the commission "ran up against a brick wall.... It would have been really helpful to have had support from the Holy See on this issue."[100]

Yad Vashem controversy

An inscription at Yad Vashem states that Pius XII's record during the Holocaust was controversial, and that he negotiated a concordat with the Nazis, maintained Vatican neutrality during the war and took no initiatives to save Jews.

In 1985, Pietro Palazzini was honored by the museum, where he protested the repeated criticisms against Pius, on whose instructions Palazzini declared to have acted. Palazzini, an theological advisor to the Pontiff, had taught and written about the moral theology of Pope Pius XII.[101]

Rabbi David G. Dalin argues in The Myth of Hitler's Pope that Yad Vashem should honor Pope Pius XII as a "Righteous Gentile", and documents that Pius was praised by all the leading Jews of his day for his role in saving more Jews than Oskar Schindler.

Rabbi David Rosen has taken exception to the caption, stating when Pius died both Moshe Sharett and Golda Meir sent telegrams stating that when darkness reigned over Europe, he was one of the few who raised his voice in protest. "What Yad Vashem says is not necessarily wrong," conceded Rosen, "but it doesn't give us all the information." Rabbi Rosen later quoted eminent historian Martin Gilbert, who says that Pius saved thousands of Jews.[102]

We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah

In 2000, Pope John Paul II on behalf of all people, apologized to Jews by inserting a prayer at the Western Wall that read "We're deeply saddened by the behavior of those in the course of history who have caused the children of God to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant."[103]

This papal apology, one of many issued by Pope John Paul II for past human and Church failings throughout history, was especially significant because John Paul II emphasized Church guilt for, and the Second Vatican Council's condemnation of, anti-Semitism.[104] The papal letter We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, urged Catholics to repent "of past errors and infidelities" and "renew the awareness of the Hebrew roots of their faith."[104][105]

Recent developments

A special conference of scholars on Pius XII on the 50th anniversary of his death was held in Rome on September 15-17, 2008, by Pave the Way Foundation [1]. Pope Benedict XVI held on September 19, 2008 a reception for the conference participants, where he praised Pius XII as a pope who made every effort to save Jews during the war [2]. A second conference was held on November 6-8, 2008 by the Pontifical Academy for Life [3].

On October 9, 2008, the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's death, Benedict XVI celebrated pontifical mass in his memory. Shortly prior to, and after the mass, dialectics continued between the Jewish hierarchy and the Vatican as Rabbi Shear Yeshuv Cohen of Haifa addressed the Synod of Bishops and expressed his disappointment towards Pius XII's "silence" during the war.[106]

The CRIF, an organization which represent Jews in France, has opposed the beatification of Pius XII.[107]

The Pave the Way Foundation, sponsored by an American Jew, has offered new research vindicating Pius XII. The documents found by this foundation were never examined by Pius XII's critics or used as sources in the many books accusing him of not doing enough.[108]

External links


  • Bokenkotter, Thomas (2004). A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Doubleday. ISBN 0385505841. 
  • Chadwick, Owen (1995). A History of Christianity. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0760773327. 
  • Deák, István (2001). Essays on Hitler's Europe. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803266308. 
  • Zolli, Israel. 1997. Before the Dawn. Roman Catholic Books (Reprint edition). ISBN 0-912141-46-8. Also see Amazon Online Reader
  • Falconi, Carlo. 1970 (translated from the 1965 Italian edition). The Silence of Pius XII. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. ISBN 0-571-09147-4
  • Friedländer, Saul. 1966. Pius XII and the Third Reich: A Documentation. New York: Alfred A Knopf. ISBN 0-374-92930-0
  • Gallo, Patrick J., ed. 2006. Pius XII, The Holocaust and the Revisionists. London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. ISBN 0-7864-2374-9
  • Goldhagen, Daniel. 2002. "A Moral Reckoning - The role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair". Little, Brown ISBN 0 316 724467
  • Gutman, Israel (ed.). 1990. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0-02-864529-4
  • ICJHC. 2000. The Vatican and the Holocaust: A Preliminary Report.
  • Lapide, Pinchas 1980. The Last Three Popes and the Jews. London and Southampton: Souvenir Press.
  • Pham, John Peter (2006). Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195178343. 
  • Phayer, Michael. 2000. The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-33725-9.
  • Rychlak, Ronald J. 2000. Hitler, the War, and the Pope. Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 0-87973-217-2. Also see Amazon Online Reader
  • Sánchez, José M. 2002. Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 0-8132-1081-X
  • Scholder, Klaus. 1987. The Churches and the Third Reich. London.
  • Vidmar, John (2005). The Catholic Church Through the Ages. Paulist Press. ISBN 0809142341. 
  • Zuccotti, Susan. 2000. Under his very Windows, The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08487-0


  1. ^ Michael Phayer wrote that "the historical debate about Pope Pius and the Holocaust is nearly as long-standing as Holocaust study itself".[1]


  1. ^ Phayer, 2008, p. 42.
  2. ^ Dalin, 2005, p. 70
  3. ^ a b c Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1136.
  4. ^ Lesser, Jeffrey. 1995. Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question. University of California Press. p. 151–168.
  5. ^ Phayer, 2000, p. 3.
  6. ^ Walter Bussmann, 1969, "Pius XII an die deutschen Bischöfe", Hochland 61, p. 61–65
  7. ^ Passelecp, Suchecky p.113-137
  8. ^ a b Hill, Roland. 1997, August 11. "The lost encyclical." The Tablet.
  9. ^ Passelecq, Suchecky. p.121.
  10. ^ Humani Generis Unitas
  11. ^
  12. ^ On March 16, four days after coronation, Gundlach informs LaFarge, that the documents were given to Pius XI shortly before his death, but that the new Pope had so far no opportunity to learn about it. Passelecq, Suchecky. p.126.
  13. ^ Encyclical of Pope Pius on the unity of human society to our venerable brethren: The Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other ordinaries in peace and the communion with the Apostolic see (AAS 1939).
  14. ^ a b Chadwick, Owen pp. 254–255.
  15. ^ Eakin, Emily (1 September 2001). "New Accusations Of a Vatican Role In Anti-Semitism; Battle Lines Were Drawn After Beatification of Pope Pius IX". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 March 2008. 
  16. ^ Bokenkotter, pp. 480–481, quote:"A recent article by American rabbi, David G. Dalin, challenges this judgement. He calls making Pius XII a target of moral outrage a failure of historical understanding, and he thinks Jews should reject any 'attempt to usurp the Holocaust' for the partisan purposes at work in this debate. Dalin surmises that well-known Jews such as Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, and Rabbi Isaac Herzog would likely have been shocked at these attacks on Pope Pius. ... Dalin points out that Rabbi Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel, sent a message in February 1944 declaring 'the people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness ... (is) doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history.'" Dalin cites these tributes as recognition of the work of the Holy See in saving hundreds of thousands of Jews."
  17. ^ "Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust". 
  18. ^ a b Ewers, Justin (November 17-24, 2008). Sainthood on Hold. U.S. News and World Report. 
  19. ^ Pope Pius XII: "Be proud to be a Jew!"
  20. ^ "Controversial concordats", Frank J. Coppa, p.175, CUA Press, 1999, ISBN 081320920X
  21. ^ Hilberg, Raul (2003). The Destruction of the European Jews (3rd Ed. ed.). pp. 1204-1205. 
  22. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Polish Victims, Accessed December 17, 2008.
  23. ^ Craughwell, Thomas J.The Gentile Holocaust Catholic Culture, Accessed December 17, 2008
  24. ^ Poland's Holocaust, Tadeusz Piotrowski, 1998 ISBN 0-7864-0371-3, P.20
  25. ^ [Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy: Pope Pius XII did not remain silent: reports, documents and records from Church and State archives assembled by Jeno Levai; translated [from the German version of the Hungarian MS.] by J. R. Foster; with a prologue and epilogue by Robert M. W. Kempner]
  26. ^ "Hitler's Holocaust", Guido Knopp, Sutton,2000, p. 250, ISBN 0 7509 2700 3
  27. ^ Phayer, 2000, p. 27–28.
  28. ^ Israel Pocket Library, Holocaust, p. 133; Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1137.
  29. ^ Hilberg, Raul, The Destruction of the European Jews, p. 315.
  30. ^ "Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII and Two Different Responses to Hitler’s Anti-Jewish Laws". 
  31. ^ Letter of Pius XII of 30th April, 1943 to the Bischop of Berlin, Graf von Preysing, published in "Documentation catholique" of 2nd February, 1964.
  32. ^ "Pius XII: The Holocaust and the Cold War", Michael Phayer, p. 253-254, Indiana University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-253-34930-9
  33. ^ McInerny, Ralph (2001). THE DEFAMATION OF PIUS XII. South Bend, Indiana: St Augustine's Press. 
  34. ^ Haberman, Clyde (1991-07-21). "Magazine Says Hitler Planned to Abduct Pope". The New York Times. 
  35. ^ O'Brien, Nancy Frazier (2007-06-01). "New book details Hitler plot to kidnap pope, foiled by Nazi general". Catholic News Service. 
  36. ^ Kurzman, Dan (2007-06-01). "Hitler's Plan to Kidnap the Pope". Catholic League. 
  37. ^ a b Squires, Nick and Simon Caldwell (2009-04-22). "Vatican planned to move to Portugal if Nazis captured wartime Pope". The Daily Telegraph. 
  38. ^ "Pope would have quit if captured by Nazis". 
  39. ^ Chadwick, Owen. 1988. Britain and the Vatican During the Second World War. Cambridge University Press, p. 275; Alvarez, David J., and also Graham, Robert A. 1997. Nothing sacred: Nazi espionage against the Vatican, 1939-1945, p. 87
  40. ^ Lichten, p. 120
  41. ^ Pope John XXIII and the Jews
  42. ^ Baglioni, Pina (August 2006). "30Days - The Holy Father orders…". 30 Days. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  43. ^ Davies, Bess Twiston (2006-08-19). "Faith news - Comment - Times Online". The Times.,,3933-2319147.html. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  44. ^ Berel Lang. "Not Enough" vs. "Plenty": Which did Pius XII do?. Judaism. Fall 2001. and "Jewish Virtual Library: 860,000 Lives Saved - The Truth About Pius XII and the Jews"
  45. ^ Eichmann's diary reveals Catholic Church's assistance to Jews
  46. ^ Roth and Ritner, 2002, p. 44.
  47. ^ Roth and Ritner, 2002, p. 236.
  48. ^ Phayer, 2000, p. 37.
  49. ^ a b Perl, William, The Holocaust Conspiracy, p. 200.
  50. ^ Phayer, 2000, p. 5.
  51. ^ Michael R. Marrus and Robert O. Paxton, 1981, Vichy France and the Jews, New York: Basic Books, p. 202.
  52. ^ Delpech, Les Eglises et la Persécution raciale, p. 267.
  53. ^ Dalin, 2005, p. 74
  54. ^ Perl, William, The Holocaust Conspiracy, p. 206.
  55. ^ Gutman, Israel, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, p. 1138.
  56. ^ Dalin, 2005, p. 87–89
  57. ^ Gilbert, Martin, The Holocaust, p. 701.
  58. ^ Perl, William, The Holocaust Conspiracy, p. 176.
  59. ^ Dalin, 2005, p. 73
  60. ^ Dalin, David G. The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis. Regnery Publishing. Washington, 2005. ISBN 0-89526-034-4. p. 76.
  61. ^ Bokenkotter, pp. 389–392, quote "And when Hitler showed increasing belligerance toward the Church, Pius met the challenge with a decisiveness that astonished the world. His encyclical Mit Brenneder Sorge was the 'first great official public document to dare to confront and criticize Nazism' and 'one of the greatest such condemnations ever issued by the Vatican.' Smuggled into Germany, it was read from all the Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday in March 1937. It exposed the fallacy and denounced the Nazi myth of blood and soil; it decried its neopaganism, its war of annihilation against the Church, and even described the Fuhrer himself as a 'mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance.' The Nazis were infuriated, and in retaliation closed and sealed all the presses that had printed it and took numerous vindictive measures against the Church, including staging a long series of immorality trials of the Catholic clergy."
  62. ^ a b Vidmar, p. 331.
  63. ^ John F. Morley, 1980, Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews during the Holocaust, 1939–1943, New York: KTAV, p. 75.
  64. ^ Phayer, 2000, p.5
  65. ^ Lapide, 1980, p139.
  66. ^ (French) Actes et documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre mondiale / éd. par Pierre Blet, Angelo Martini, Burkhart Schneider. 7th April 1943
  67. ^ Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews, 1967, quoted in Dalin, 2005, p. 11.
  68. ^ E.g. Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust, p. 623.
  69. ^ Lapide, 1967, p. 269.
  70. ^ a b Graham, 62.
  71. ^ Lichten, 130
  72. ^ American Jewish Yearbook 1944-1945, 233.
  73. ^ Kevin Madigan. Judging Pius XII, page 1. Christian Century. March 14, 2001.
  74. ^ McInernny, 2001, p155.
  75. ^ McInernny, Ralph, The Defamation of Pius XII, 2001.
  76. ^ Lichten, 1963, A Question of Judgement.
  77. ^ Marchione, 2000, pp. 16-17.
  78. ^ Giovanni Sale, Il Novecento tra genocidi, paure e speranze, Jaca Book, Milan 2006, p. 214, quoted in La Civiltà Cattolica 2009 I 540
  79. ^ a b "Moscow's Assault on the Vatican", National Review Online, January 25, 2007
  80. ^ The Church truly loves you all
  81. ^ Phayer, 2000, p. xii-xiii.
  82. ^ Sanchez, 2002, p. 34.
  83. ^ Sanchez, 2002.
  84. ^ Ronald J Rychlak Hitler, the War and the Pope Genesis Press, Columbus, MS, 2000, pp 401 ff.
  85. ^ Kenneth L. Woodward. The Case Against Pius Xii, Newsweek. September 27, 1999.
  86. ^ Economist, Dec. 9, 2004.
  87. ^ For God's sake. The Economist. Dec 9th 2004.
  88. ^ John Cornwell, The Pontiff in Winter (2004), p. 193
  89. ^ Dalin, 2005, p. 3.
  90. ^ The Vatican and the Holocaust: A Preliminary Report. ICJHC, 2000.
  91. ^ Preliminary Report, 2
  92. ^ a b Gerard P Fogarty, The Vatican and the Holocaust, Presentation to the Dominican House of Studies, Washington D.C. December 9, 2000
  93. ^ Preliminary Report, 5
  94. ^ Pages 5-10
  95. ^ Question One
  96. ^ Pages 10-13
  97. ^ Question 28
  98. ^ Pages 13-14
  99. ^ Question 42
  100. ^ Melissa Radler. "Vatican Blocks Panel's Access to Holocaust Archives." The Jerusalem Post. July 24, 2001.
  101. ^ Pensieri die Pio XII,con una nota del Card. Pietro PalazziniVicenza, 1984
  102. ^ Jerusalem Post article
  103. ^ Randall, Gene (26 March 2000). "Pope Ends Pilgrimage to the Holy Land". CNN. Retrieved 9 June 2008. 
  104. ^ a b Bokenkotter, p. 484
  105. ^ Vatican (12 March 1998). "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 7 November 2008. 
  106. ^ Synod Controversy
  107. ^ Ejpress
  108. ^ News


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address