Vatican to reveal truth about ‘Hitler’s Pope’

By Editorial | 2 December 2014
War History Online

Cesare Orsenigo, the Vatican’s representative to Nazi Germany, meets with Adolf Hitler and Joachim von Ribbentrop in early 1939. He is accused of advocating for ‘compromise and conciliation’ with the Nazis.

Pius has been branded “Hitler’s Pope”, who did not do enough to try to save the doomed Jews of Europe.

After the war “rat lines” assisting top Nazi war criminals to escape to South America were set up in Rome by Bishop Hudal, a German who critics say acted with papal approval. Now current Pope Francis has reiterated his position on opening secret Vatican archives to researchers. During an extensive interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot, Francis said there was “an agreement between the Vatican and Italy from 1929 that prevents us from opening the archives to researchers at this point in time. But because of the time that has passed since World War Two, I see no problem with opening the archives the moment we sort out the legal and bureaucratic matters”.

The pope expressed worries that the current debate about Pius XII was unfair. “One thing worries me – the image of Pope Pius XII. Pope Pius XII has been accused of all sorts of things, including having been aware of the extermination of the Jews and doing nothing. I’m not saying he didn’t make mistakes. He made a few. I get things wrong often too.” During the Holocaust, Pius gave refuge to many Jews in monasteries in Italy. In the pope’s bed at Castel Gandolfo, 42 children were born to couples who found refuge there from the Nazis. These are things that people don’t know reports

“When Pius XII died, [former Israeli premier] Golda Meir sent a letter that read: ‘We share in the pain of humanity. When the Holocaust befell our people, the pope spoke out for the victims.’” Francis claims a 1963 play that portrayed Pius as a Nazi sympathiser was to blame for his woes. He went on: “When you interpret history, you need to do so from the way of thinking of the time in question. I can’t judge historical events in modern-day terms. It doesn’t work. I’ll never get to the truth like that.

Cries for Help

Throughout the Holocaust, Pius XII was consistently besieged with pleas for help on behalf of the Jews.

In the spring of 1940, the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Isaac Herzog, asked the papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione to intercede to keep Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany. He later made a similar request for Jews in Lithuania. The papacy did nothing.

Within the Pope’s own church, Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna told Pius XII about Jewish deportations in 1941. In 1942, the Slovakian charge d’affaires, a position under the supervision of the Pope, reported to Rome that Slovakian Jews were being systematically deported and sent to death camps. In October 1941, the Assistant Chief of the U.S. delegation to the Vatican, Harold Tittman, asked the Pope to condemn the atrocities. The response came that the Holy See wanted to remain “neutral,” and that condemning the atrocities would have a negative influence on Catholics in German-held lands.

In late August 1942, after more than 200,000 Ukrainian Jews had been killed, Ukrainian Metropolitan Andrej Septyckyj wrote a long letter to the Pope, referring to the German government as a regime of terror and corruption, more diabolical than that of the Bolsheviks. The Pope replied by quoting verses from Psalms and advising Septyckyj to “bear adversity with serene patience.”

On September 18, 1942, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, wrote, “The massacres of the Jews reach frightening proportions and forms.” Yet, that same month when Myron Taylor, U.S. representative to the Vatican, warned the Pope that his silence was endangering his moral prestige, the Secretary of State responded on the Pope’s behalf that it was impossible to verify rumors about crimes committed against the Jews.

Wladislaw Raczkiewicz, president of the Polish government-in-exile, appealed to the Pope in January 1943 to publicly denounce Nazi violence. Bishop Preysing of Berlin did the same, at least twice. Pius XII refused.

On 28 October 1943, Ernst von Weizsäcker, the German Ambassador to the Vatican, telegraphed 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.”

In March 1944, through the papal nuncio in Budapest, Angelo Rotta, the pope urged the Hungarian government to moderate its treatment of the Jews. The pope ordered Rotta and other papal legates to hide and shelter Jews. 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. 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. The Kaltenbrunner Report to Hitler, dated 29 November 1944, against the backdrop of the 20 July 1944 Plot to assassinate Hitler, states that the Pope was somehow a conspirator, specifically naming Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII), as being a party in the attempt

Geoffrey Robertson QC: Pope Pius XII did everything to help the Nazis, and nothing to save the Jews

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