Friday, March 26, 2010

Actes et Documents goes online.

In the early hours of the morning (Eastern Australian time) a message arrived in my inbox notifying me of the latest addition to the Vatican webpage. On 12 February 2010 it was announced that the entire 12 volumes of Actes et Documents du Saint Si├Ęge relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale [Acts and Documents of the Holy See relative to the Second World War]would be scanned and made available online.

I have had a look at Volume 2 - Letters of Pius XII to the German Bishops. What you will see is Volume 2 in PDF format. It is good that ADSS are now readily available. I believe it is a greatly underused resource.

In summary:

Volumes 1, 4, 5, 7 and 11 contain documents about the Vatican and the prosecution of the war in Europe and later, the global conflict.

Volumes 6, 8, 9 and 10 are devoted to the work of the Holy See and the victims of the war, including the Jews of Europe.

Volume 2 contains a selection of the letters of Pius XII to the bishops of Germany. Some of the letters of the German bishops to Pius are found throughout the other volumes or in independent references.

Volume 3 is divided into two parts that deal with the Vatican, Poland and the Baltic States – ‘the East’.

There is a detailed introduction and index (in French) in each volume.

I am in the process of reading my way through the entire ADSS and making my own tables and notes as I go. Over the last 18 months I have made my through Volumes 1-4 and am about half-way through Volume 5. I have read much of the volumes on the victims of the war, but had not read very much in the other volumes. It is prooving to be a fascinating exercise. It is helping put many aspects of Pius into a much richer context. One of the "drawbacks" is the ready drifting off on tangents to follow up interesting footnotes, references and other things that catch my eye.

Anyone who wants to study Pius XII seriously, must read ADSS. It will be a tough task, but one that will give as close an insight to the working of the Vatican between 1939-1945 until the ASV open the rest of the files for the period.


  1. Making the documents in the “Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relative to the Second World War” volumes widely available online is a good thing. However, it is important to point out that these documents had been available for decades and the commission established to elucidate the role of the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII during the Nazi Era based on these documents disbanded after it was unable to do just that with just those documents. The commission had requested further material from the Vatican Secret Archives but these were denied. Thus, no one should expect this material to make new revelations.

    Gabriel Wilensky

    Six Million Crucifixions:
    How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
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  2. Gabriel,

    Your point is valid. ADSS was published between 1965 and 1981 and has been readily available in most university, theological and other libraries for most of that time. So, there are no surprises in the online publishing that the Vatican has done.

    The International Catholic Jewish Historical Commission was asked to review ADSS and present their findings to the Vatican. Their report was judged to be not what they were commissioned to do. The ICJHC disbanded after that. Their report is available at It is worth reading.

  3. Having the most cursory of looks through 'SixMillionCrucifixions' twitter feed, I am saddened to see what could only be described as virulent anti-Catholicism dressed up as history. No doubt hatred goes both ways. It seems that Gabriel Wilensky has done little more than rehash Daniel Goldhagen's infamous and discredited ‘scholarship.’

    Yet having become well-acquainted with one of Australia's leading Jewish Holocaust historians as a student, I was made aware that most Jewish historians reject Goldhagen’s (and by that token, Wilensky’s) thesis since it downplays the crucial influence of pseudo-scientific opinion (Social Darwinism in particular) in providing the necessary impetus for calculated extermination. Saul Friedlander argues that the components of the Nazi belief system – anti-Semitism, social-Darwinism, the geopolitics of eastern expansion, and anti-Marxism – formed a ‘syncretic ideology’ of particularly weak linkages. It is precisely this sycretic motivation which Goldhagen and Wilensky ignore. It seems they fall victim to that old logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. The notion that Catholicism teaches Jews should be systematically exterminated is nonsense and profoundly calumnious. Unjust and sinful Jew-baiting has sadly existed amongst Catholics and the Nazis may have drawn upon this to encourage indifference to their slaughtering of the Jews. But there has always been a desire implicit within Catholic tradition for the Jews to acknowledge the light of the Truth which is Christ and it is precisely this desire which prohibits their harm. Maybe this desire isn’t the most politically-correct for ultra-sensitive and increasingly vocal Jewish advocates but we are simply espousing Christ’s own hope for His holy people. To believe anything short of this, as many dissenting Catholics do, is a patent misrepresentation of our faith.

    In response to another point Wilensky seems to make, the fact that the SS may have included Catholics who were ministered to by Catholic priests suggests nothing. My first cousin (once removed) fought valiantly in the RAAF/RAF against Rommel in North Africa (whose army – recent research has revealed – contained Einsatzgruppen destined to purge Jews from Palestine) and was thus awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by King George VI. But he was a Catholic, a fact he proudly registered on his enlistment forms, and was educated by priests in the same faith you say led to Jewish hatred and Nazi sympathy. I think you, Mr. Wilensky, dishonour every Catholic soldier who fought bravely against the Nazis, many of whom were involved in the liberation of those Jews who survived the horrors of the camps. Not only this, you dishonour the countless Catholic Righteous Among the Nations whose same faith inspired them to save Jews from certain death. They were the ones who were truly acting in accordance with the two thousand year old tradition of Catholic Christianity. I only wish you could have met the late Irena Sendler, a devout Polish Catholic woman who smuggled hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and justified her actions on the basis of the same faith you unfairly malign. The Gestapo eventually caught, tortured and sentenced her to death. Thankfully, this brave Catholic woman survived.

    Paul, I do wish you would disassociate yourself from these fringe-dwellers since the only way Catholic-Jewish relations are going to progress is if we discard the ancient prejudices which exist on both sides and move forward in the spirit of the truth. And that includes Catholic-baiting polemicists, your petulant critics over at ‘True Catholic’ and dare I say, the self-hating ones at Catholica!’

  4. I have posted Thomas' comments after waiting for him to write back to me - I would prefer to have published without the last paragraph. I am keen to promote honest and open historic argument and debate on this blog. Pius XII has not been served well by many - friend, foe or fence-sitter. I see no point or value in describing others with emotive names etc. The years since Pacelli's death has had enough of that. Let's keep things civil and based on fact and evidence.


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