Saturday, March 19, 2011

ADSS 6 Document 3 and the Attachments

Gabriel Wilensky alerted to me Michael Hesemann's latest attempt at historical revisionism.  I went to Gabriel's blog on his website - Six Million Crucifixions - and read Michael Hesemann's response to the original post.  It makes for VERY interesting reading (for those who are interested in the minutiae of papal archives - like me!)  On a serious note, Hesemann's manipulation of historical records to make claims that just don't bear closer scrutiny ruin his own integrity, not that of historians undertaking research into papacy of Pius XII. 

Rather than launch into a polemic, I am posting a summary of what this particular collection of documents does say.

ADSS Volume 6, Document 3. (pages 45-52)

Context: 

Upon his election as pope on 3 March 1939, Pius XII was approached by many different groups, similar to lobby groups, appealing for papal support for various works.  Among them was a representation sent to Pius by a Dutch-based committee for refugees.  The two men who wrote to the pope were both well known in refugee circles in the late 1930s.  The letter is followed by several attachments.  The six documents are footnoted with considerable details regarding the people mentioned and other relevant facts.  For brevity's sake I have left most of them out.  The interested reader can find them online at the Vatican's website or Pave The Way. (Registration is required to access material via PTW).

The authors:

Josef Ignaz Julius Schmutzer (1882-1946), was a geology professor at the university of Utrecht. He was also President of the National Committee for Refugees (founded 1936) and President of the International Catholic Bureau for Refugee Affairs (founded 1938).  He was also active in the Roman Catholic State Party, a Dutch Catholic political party that attempted to incorporate Catholics into full participation in the life of the state.  After the German invasion of Holland in May 1940, Schmutzer was arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen and then Buchenwald concentration camps before being returned to Holland and incarcerated in local camps from where he eventually escaped.  As Holland was liberated, Schmutzer, who had been in hiding, was appointed minister of overseas territories.  He returned to Utrecht but the effects of the war proved too much and he died in September 1946.

The second author of the March 1939 letter was Fr Francis Mary Strathmann, (1883-1971) a German Dominican.  The following information was supplied by Fr Elias Füllenbach, Dominican archivist in Düsseldorf and the Dominican history found on the German provincial website.  Strathmann entered the Dominicans in 1905 and shortly after his ordination in 1914 became active in peace movements.  He remained a convinced pacifist all his life.  In 1933 he wrote to Cardinal Faulhaber in Munich recounting his experience of the government organised boycott of Jewish businesses and his dismay at the role played by more than a few Catholic priests in supporting antisemitic action.  His outspoken criticism of the regime led to his arrest in July 1933.  The Dominicans were able to secure Strathmann's release and sent him to Rome where he remained until November of that year before heading to Holland where he became involved in refugee assistance.  At some point Strathmann met Schmutzer and the two men began collaborators.  Strathmann survived the war avoiding contact with the Germans largely through the assistance of the Dominican nuns in Belgium.  He returned to Germany in 1947 and attempted to revive his peace activities.



Francis Strathmann OP (1938)

The document:

Holy Father,


On 09.01.1939 while Your Holiness was still Cardinal Secretary of State to Pius XI, you wrote a letter to the Bishops [Attachment 2, pp 48-49], which referred to the necessity demanded of brotherly love to care for the many non-Aryan Catholics forced to emigrate and become refugees.

Your Holiness remembers that in 1936 in Utrecht the first Catholic Committee for Refugees was the first one founded. In these two years our committee has undertaken a very extensive activity and has been able to help numerous refugees find new lives abroad.

It hardly requires the mention that the committee acts in a completely non-political manner and is purely concerned with charitable works.

The welfare service work for refugees performed by our committee has helped many emigrate overseas, particularly to Brasil.

The emigration problem has become so large of late that it is need of extension and expansion as the existing auxiliary equipment is short. The most urgent need appears at present centralization of the existing Catholic refugee committees in a yet to be created international head office.

The Protestant and Jewish Committees have done this and are, consequently, much better able to work consistently and in a positive relationship with the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the care of the refugees.

The High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Emerson, has personally expressed that it is not possible for him to negotiate with all individual Catholic Committees, and asks for a single central Catholic agency similar to the Protestant and Jewish agencies.

An approved Catholic Central Bureau for Refugee Affairs could then also be far more ambitious in the carrying out of the instructions set out in Your Holiness’ letter of 9 January 1939 to the reverend bishops.

We take our task to show the whole world, in serving Christ in the persecuted, as an apostolate which is significant enough to join, even as a smaller agency, the great work of Catholic mission. We believe this work to be the will of God, a “crusade for God and neighbour”.

We would be very happy if your Holiness would approve and bless this work. The inner and outer support of this work will be more valuable with the express approval and recommendation of Your Holiness.


Humbly prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness we ask for this grace and remain with deepest reverence and perfect obedience.

The Attachments:

1. (pages 47-48) Cover letter from Paolo Giobbe, Internuncio to the Hague to the Secretary of State. Cardinal Luigi Maglione, supporting the request from Professor Schmutzer.

2. (pages 48-49) Circular letter of Cardinal Pacelli, 09.01.1939 relaying instructions from Pius XI recommending the formation of committees of assistance for an estimated 200,000 Non-Aryan Catholics.  This letter was sent to the Archbishops of England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the USA, Costa Rica, Chile, Columbia, Argentina. (Footnote 2, page 45)

3. (pages 49-50) Circular letter from Cardinal Pacelli, 30.11.1939 , addressed to the representatives of the Holy See in Ireland, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Cuba, Costa Rica, the USA, Australia, Turkey, Belgian Congo, French Indo-China, Lebanon, Egypt and South Africa.  Pacelli relayed instructions from Pius XI asking the papal representatives to do whatever they could for converted Jews forced to flee Germany and Italy.

4. (pages 50-51) Circular letter from Cardinal Pacelli, 10.01.1939, addressed to the Cardinal Archbishops of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Quebec and Buenos Aires.  Pacelli relayed  instructions from Pius XI to help Jews forced to leave Germany.

5. (pages 51-52) Undated promemoria of Cardinal Giovanni Mercati (1866-1957), Vatican Archivist and Librarian, writes of the precarious situation of Jewish scholars in Germany and makes an appeal to American universities.

Michael Hesemann's claim:

I never denied that the main document of the stock I found in the Vatican Secret Archives was already quoted in the “Actes et Documents du Saint Siege relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale”, vol. 6, Citta del Vaticana 1972, p. 48-50.



What I discovered and what was NEVER published before is the distribution list, the list of recipients: For the telegraph of November 30, 1938, asking the Nuntiatures in Ireland, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Cuba, Central America and Lithuania as well as the Apostolic Delegations in the U.S., Australia, Albania, Belgish Congo, Indochina, Syria, Egypt and Central Africa for urgent help to request invitations, jobs and visa German Jews, as well as for the letter to the Bishops and Archbishops of the Catholic World of January 9, 1939, namely of Lima/Peru; Quito/Ecuador; Merida and Santiago/Venezuela; Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne,Perth, Sydney/Australia; Westminster, Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool/England; Armagh, Cashel, Dublin, Tuam/Ireland; Edinburg/Scotland; Kaunas/Lithuania; Utrecht/Netherlands; Luxemburg; Winniped, Edmonton, Halifax, Kingston, Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Quebec, San Bonifaz, Toronto, Vancouver/Canada; Baltimore, Cincinatti, Detroit, Dubuque, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Louisville, Milwaukee, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Portland, San Francisco, S. Louis, S. Paul, Santa Fe, San Antonio/USA; San Jose/Costa Rica; San Salvador; Bolivia; Santiago del Chile; Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, Popayan/Clumbia; Cordoba, La Plata, Parana, Salta, San Juan, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires/Argentina, asking them to obtain Visa for 200.000 German Jews!

Hesemann places great emphasis on the discovery of the list of people to whom Pacelli's circular was sent.  Impressive as the list is, why should this be a focus for contention? 

Yes, the papal diplomatic network was extensive.  The footnotes of the documents cited above already set out the broad parameters of the recipients. 

What is of greater concern is the figure of "200,000" and the use of the word "visa".

I have written of the 200,000 figure before and so will not re-visit it here. 

The document is a general appeal to the bishops to do whatever they can to help Jewish Catholics leave Germany and re-establish themselves in new countries.  It may be inferred that Pacelli asks the bishops to work to obtain visas, but that is "drawing a long bow" and I do not think the document, as it stands, can be said to focus on visas.  There is no instruction asking bishops to obtain visas.

In short, I believe Hesemann's claims to "discovery" are not of great import in our understanding of the issue, but, more importantly, his inaccurate focii on the 200,000 and "visas" is not supported by the published documentary record or secondary pieces of information that lie in the Vatican Archives. 

What is of importance in these documents is the record of a serious papal attempt to coordinate refugee agencies and rally the bishops to work to help get converted German and, to a lesser extent, Italian Jews out of Europe.  The dates are significant - post Reichskristallnacht (the pogrom of 8-9.11.1938).  We must also be wary of letting hindsight, cloud judgement.  What remains a glaring fact is the late-1938 and early-1939 Vatican refugee work was the most global reaching of any government and certainly, the most active.  The great sadness is our knowing that it was far too little, far too late - bit it was something.

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