Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Austen Ivereigh on Ambassador Lewy and Pius XII

In the latest edition of America, Austen Ivereigh has written an article on the comments, retractions and "fallout" caused by Mordechay Lewy's very cautious remarks at the ceremony to recognise Gaetano Piccinini as "Righteous Among the Nations".  The Israeli ambassador to the Holy See seems destined to remain in the media spotlight for a while longer.

I think the negative reaction to Lewy's comments has been enough.  The man can hardly be accused of a rash statement.  It was a guarded and cautious statement that could be interpreted in a number of ways.  I find nothing of concern in what he said.

I don't agree with everything in Ivereigh's article, especially the reference to Pius ordering the religious houses open, and then the reference to Benedict XVI as his support! I've highlighted that part in red.  I find his sense of disappointment at Jewish reactions to Lewy's statements a little frustrating.  The depth of unresolved pain and hurt, which Pope Benedict knows well after his visit to the Rome shul in 2010, is a reality in any discussion about Pius XII.  And while it should not dictate the historian's role in searching and researching the truth, it should be kept in mind and treated with respect.

Austen Ivereigh is well known in the English-speaking Catholic world as a former deputy editor of The Tablet and spokesperson for the Archbishop of Westminster, and in his current role as founder of the Strangers into Citizens campaign based in London.

Israel's Vatican ambassador silenced after praising Pius XII

Monday June 27, 2011

When Mordechai Lewy, Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, praised the role of Pope Pius XII in saving Jews during World War II, he managed to upset a lot of people -- hardly surprising, given the way an entire academic industry has been built on the idea that Pius XII failed to raise his voice against the Holocaust.

But Levy never actually contradicted that criticism during his remarks during a ceremony on Thursday night to honor Fr Gaetano Piccinini, a Catholic priest in Nazi-occupied Rome whose surviving family members received on his behalf a 'Righteous among the Nations' award from the Yad Vashem Institute.

Catholic convents and monasteries opened their doors to save Jews in the days following a Nazi sweep of Rome's Jewish ghetto on 16 October 1943, said Lewy. "There is reason to believe that this happened under the supervision of the highest Vatican officials, who were informed about what was going on," he said, adding that "it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews. To the contrary, the opposite is true".

He said the fact that the Vatican couldn’t stop the deportation of Jews from Rome’s ghetto "only increased the will, on the part of the Vatican, to offer its own sites as refuges for the Jews." That is why, he added, "the train that left on October 18 1943 was the only one that the Nazis managed to organize from Rome to Auschwitz."

That was a guarded, diplomatic way of saying that Pius XII had himself ordered Rome's Catholic communities to do what they could to help Jews facing deportation -- which of course they did, saving thousands. In his book-length interview last year, Light of the World, Pope Benedict XVI said that "no one did more" than Pius to save Jews.

Lewy was careful later to clarify that his remarks referred to direct actions to save Jews, not to the question of whether Pope Pius XII should have spoken out against the Holocaust -- a question hotly debated for years. "This refers to saving Jews, which Pius did, and does not refer to talking about Jews, which he did not do and which Jews were expecting from him," Lewy told Reuters.

But too late. The storm had broken. Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called Lewy’s comments "morally wrong" because Lewy had "disgracefully conflated the praiseworthy actions of elements in the Catholic Church to rescue Jews with the glaring failure of Pope Pius to do so" -- which implied that Pius XII had not rescued Jews, when he plainly did.

Equally depressing was Dr Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem and researcher of Nazi war crimes, who spoke of his fear that “what he said will be used by those with other agendas" -- which implies that truth should be suppressed in case it is misused.

But most depressing of all was the way Lewy pandered to these reactions, hastily backtracking on Sunday -- whether on his own initiative or on orders is not clear. His comments were "embedded in a larger historical context", he said, adding: "Given the fact that this context is still under the subject of ongoing and future research, passing my personal historical judgment on it was premature."

Austen Ivereigh

Monday, June 27, 2011

And now the Ambassador retracts his statement ...

As Alice said of her adventures in Wonderland things just get "curiouser and curiouser".  Less than 48 hours after making some very general comments that could be interpreted as making a positive statement about Pope Pius XII and his involvement in rescue efforts for the Jews of Rome, Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy has issued a retraction.  Who ordered the statement remains unknown, but it is probable that there were several phone calls between Jerusalem and Rome as well as calls from more than a few Holocaust survivor groups. 

The tensions over Pius will not abate until full access to the archives occurs.  Until then incidents such as this one, will continue.  I have written before that there is evidence that points to Pius having clear knowledge of resuce efforts especially in and around Rome.  What is not clear is to what extent the pope was directly involved.

Some Catholic commentators have hit on conspiracy theories linked to the so-called "black legend" that asserts a campaign of vilification of Pius by the Soviet Union from the late 1940s.  They continue to cite Albert Einstein, Golda Meir and Israel Zolli as "proofs" of the pope's role in rescuing Jews.  It is not convincing and does not bear close scrutiny. 

It is yet another example of why the archives must be opened as soon as possible.

This article is taken from The National Post (Canada).

Israeli official recants his praise of Pius XII

ROME – An Israeli official who caused a storm in the Jewish world by praising Pope Pius XII for saving Jews during the Second World War backtracked on Sunday, saying his judgment was “historically premature.”

The comments made last Thursday by Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, were some of the warmest ever made by a Jewish official about Pius. Most have been very critical of his record.

In an indication of how sensitive the subject of Pius is among Jews, Lewy was quickly assailed by some Jewish groups, including Holocaust survivors.

In a statement issued in what appeared to be an attempt to calm the dispute within the world Jewish community, Lewy said his comments were “embedded in a larger historical context.”

“Given the fact that this context is still under the subject of ongoing and future research, passing my personal historical judgment on it was premature,” Lewy said.

The question of what Pius did or did not do to help Jews has tormented Catholic-Jewish relations for decades and it is very rare for a leading Jewish or Israeli official to praise Pius.

Many Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked quietly behind the scenes because speaking out would have led to Nazi reprisals against Catholics and Jews in Europe.

Lewy, speaking at a ceremony to honour an Italian priest who helped Jews, had said Catholic convents and monasteries opened their doors to save Jews in the days following a Nazi sweep of Rome’s Ghetto on Oct. 16, 1943.

In his speech on Thursday night, Lewy said: “There is reason to believe that this happened under the supervision of the highest Vatican officials, who were informed about what was going on.”

“So it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews. To the contrary, the opposite is true,” he said.

Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called Lewy’s comments unsustainable.

“For any ambassador to make such specious comments is morally wrong. For the Israeli envoy to do so is particularly hurtful to Holocaust survivors who suffered grievously because of Pius’s silence,” Steinberg said in a statement.

Steinberg said Lewy had “disgracefully conflated the praiseworthy actions of elements in the Catholic Church to rescue Jews with the glaring failure of Pope Pius to do so.”

When Pope Benedict visited Rome’s synagogue last year, the president of the capital’s Jewish community told him that Pius’ “silence before the Holocaust” still hurt Jews because more should have been done.

Many Jews responded angrily last year when the pope said in a book that Pius was “one of the great righteous men and that he saved more Jews than anyone else.”

Jews have asked that a process that could lead to Pius becoming a saint in the Roman Catholic Church be frozen until all the Vatican archives from the period have been opened and studied.

Benedict XVI & Mordechay Lewy

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mordechay Lewy on Pius XII

The big news this week are the comments made by the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy.  The ambassador's comments have, according to several news agencies, "added to the controversy" over Pius XII and his actions or inactions during World War II.  I took this copy of the text from Speroforum.  The article also includes a link to YouTube clip from Rome Reports.  Some of Lewy's comments are recorded there.  Curiously, Lewy makes no mention of Pius XII.

So, what does the ambassador say?

Apparently breaking with a taboo among critics of the Catholic Church and of Pope Pius XII – who reigned during the Second World War and the Holocaust – Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican has recognized that the pontiff did actually save thousands of Jews during the years of Nazi predation.  An opening paragraph such as this one sets up what has become the classic "straw man" in populist Pius XII circles - the presumption that history is black and white, and that the Pope did nothing.  It is too easy, simplistic and makes a nonsense of what historians do.  It does, however, "hook" the reader.

Ambassador Mordechai Lewy affirmed on June 23 that “as of the raid of 16 October 1943 and the days following in the ghetto of Rome, the monasteries and orphanages of the religious orders opened their doors to Jews, and we have reason to believe that this occurred under the supervision of the highest authorities of the Vatican, who were aware of these measures.” The diplomat spoke at a ceremony in which a Catholic priest, Gaetano Piccinini of the order founded by Don Orione, was post-humously.

The language is important.  Lewy is an ambassador, not an historian.  While his general sweep of historical understanding is largely accurate, it is, as always, in the details, that the most significant things are found. 

Rome's religious houses had been offering shelter to Jews since the 8 September armistice and the German occupation of Rome in the days following.  Much ink has been spilt on whether this action came as a direct papal intervention or not.  Lewy is careful, as all diplomats are, and hedges his praise of the Vatican in very general language that can be interpreted a number of ways.  Re-read the blue highlighted sentence.  This is a statement that suggests there is more to be realised than what we know at present.  The work of Salesian sister, Grazia Loparco on the rescue of Jews by religious orders and congregations is a major research project that is helping fill in details about the "hows, whens. wheres and whys" of rescue.  She has found no concrete evidence of a papal order.

It is well-known that many religious houses used the presumed authority of the Pope to open doors and give shelter to Jews.  We also know that Pius knew, approved and encouraged such actions.  We know that hundreds of Jews were given shelter at the Papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo with explicit papal consent. 

Did Pius give an order?  I think it is the wrong question to ask.  More historically accurate is the presumption that when the situation for the Jews of Rome became precarious, Pius quietly endorsed any and all rescue efforts - and most of these were already in progress.  I do not believe any order was given.  Firstly, there was no need.  The evidence is overwhelming, Italian Catholics rescued and sheltered Italian Jews and non-Italian Jews.  Secondly, as Sr Margherita Marchione assured me some years ago, the Pope would not have commited anything to writing lest it put rescuers in danger.  And since a German invasion of the Vatican was considered a real enough threat throughout late 1943 and up to the moment of liberation in June 1944, it would defy sense and everything we know about the diplomatic instincts of Pius to even think he would give such an order. 

There may be material in the Archivo Segreto Vaticano that says otherwise, but, quite frankly, I doubt it.  ADSS has nothing along these lines, and I find it hard to think they would have omitted what would have been a document of major importance.  There is not written papal order and I do not think there was even an explicit verbal order.  There was no need.

Media reports in Italy claim that it was Pope Pius XII, who is largely dismissed as having done little to save the victims of the Holocaust, who transmitted an appeal to religious orders through his Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione. The pontiff’s desire that the Jews of Rome be sheltered from the Nazi storm was transmitted in conversations and messages so as to avoid Nazi reprisals. Besides the approximately 5,000 Jews who took refuge in Rome’s convents, schools, and monasteries, several thousands more were sheltered at the papal villa at Castelgandolfo in Rome.

This is a very broad assertion and one that creates difficulties.  ADSS 9.368, records the meetings between Maglione and German ambassador, von Weizsacker.  What ever description may be used to describe the encounter, "protest" at the treatment of the Rome Jews, is not one I would use. 

Pius was determined to avoid any public act that would damage Vatican neutrality.  Without access to the ASV material that could shed more light on this, the best interpretation I can give is the desire of the Pope to remain publically outside all engagement to do with the roundup of Rome's Jews so that the rescue and refuge work going on would not be damaged.  It is true that nearly 5000 Jews were hidden across Rome in religious houses and more at Castel Gandolfo.  I also stress here that these acts of rescue, many done in the name of the pope, should and must be noted.  It is the antidote to the mantra that "he did nothing"; Pius did act.  The questions remain though, how much did he do, and what were the possibilities for greater action?  And it is also important to bear in mind that the focus here is Rome.

Ambassador Lewy said “the fact that the Vatican could not prevent the departure of the train that took the captives from Rome to the extermination camps can only have contributed to reinforcing the desire, on the part of the Vatican, to offer its own premises as a refuge for Jews.” In any event, continued the diplomat, “we must recognize that the train that left on 18 October 1943 was the only convoy that the Nazis managed to organize in Rome for Auschwitz.”

All this is true, except for the need to recognise the "behind the scenes" activity undertaken by members of the German embassy and Vatican "go-betweens" including the Pope's nephew, Carlo Pacelli.  What stands out is the fact that the Germans believed Pius would definitely speak out if the Rome Jews were deported.  Weizsacker made that clear to Berlin.  The concern that the Pope would speak was sufficient for Himmler to apply the brakes to the raids in Rome (not elsewhere). 

Could the Jews held in the Collegio Militare have been rescued?  History deals with "what was", not "what ifs".  Based on the available historical records it is difficult to say.  Once in German hands, captured Jews were caught and the reality was that few, if any, were allowed to leave.  The attitude of Rome's Jews remained positive that the Pope would protect them.  All the activity of the Vatican "middle men", the German embassy staffers and others came to naught.  The SS were not about to let their prizes be snatched away.  The ambassador's statement that the 18 October 1943 transport was the only German one to leave Rome is true. I think that Pius knew, based on over two and a half years of reports on the fate of Europe's Jews, that those incarcerated next to the walls of the Vatican, would not be released. 

It is tantalising to wonder what may have happened had the Pope gone and stood outside the gates and demanded their release ... but that is a "what if".  We do know that when Rome was badly bombed in July 1943 Pius acted immediately and went to the worst hit part of the city to offer what comfort he could.  It makes a "what if" about Rome's Jews even harder to resist.

In view of these facts, Ambassador Lewy affirmed that “it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican or the Pope himself were opposed to activities to save Jews. It is quite certain that it was to the contrary: they always gave the help that they could.”

I agree.  There was no opposition to help rescue efforts - it is utter nonsense to suggest otherwise.  But, let us keep the perspective.  Rome and Italy were the two places where the Pope had serious "clout" and it is also important to remember that the full force of German brutality only began after September 1943 and lasted in Rome for nine months.  It is a very different reality to those who engaged in rescue in Poland, Ukraine etc where the German terror lasted for years.

Some historians, despite contrary claims made by writers such as John Cornwell, argue that it was the Catholic Church that saved more Jews than any other institution during the Second World War and the Holocaust. Historian Pinchas Lapide, an Israeli consul to Italy in the 1960s, claimed that this number may amount to 750,000. Renowned British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, who has written about righteous Gentiles who gave their lives to save Jews, has also praised the work of Pope Pius XII.

If in doubt, drag out Lapide!  My comments on Lapide's very rubbery figures appear in another entry on this blog.  Suffice to say here, that this paragraph could or should just be erased.

The Jewish Virtual Library, a website dedicated to the history and culture of the Jewish people, wrote however of the wartime pope, “Pope Pius XII's (1876-1958) actions during the Holocaust remain controversial. For much of the war, he maintained a public front of indifference and remained silent while German atrocities were committed. He refused pleas for help on the grounds of neutrality, while making statements condemning injustices in general. Privately, he sheltered a small number of Jews and spoke to a few select officials, encouraging them to help the Jews.”

Quod scriptum est!  What is written, is written.  The JVL is an online encyclopedia with brief articles that, hopefully, lead the reader to explore more deeply.  I tell my students to go beyond encyclopedias in their research.  Go and find the texts and the detailed studies.  In any case, the overall tenor of the JVL article is sound.

Pope Pius XII did receive thanks during his lifetime for his actions to save Jews. At the end of the Second World War, Chief Rabbi Israel Zolli of Rome entered the Catholic Church and took the name Eugenio in homage to the Pope whose baptismal name was Eugenio. In addition, a wealthy Italian senator and member of Italy’s Jewish community presented the pope with a luxurious villa in the center of Rome that still serves as the Vatican’s nunciature in the Italian Republic.

None of this adds to the thurst of the article.  Israel Zolli's history remains very controversial, to use an over used word.  He is still preceived as a renegade by many Italian Jews and others.  The questions about his disappearance just before the German raid on the Rome community remain unanswered to any degree of satisfaction.

Golda Meir, who would go on to become a prime minister, spoke as Israel’s foreign minister in 1958 and praised Pope Pius XII following his death. Speaking on behalf of her government, the US-born Meir said that “during the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people suffered the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice in condemnation of the oppressors and to lift up the victims.” While the pope had spoken generally against the extermination of human beings, his critics still maintain that he could have done more.

I find the term "critics" rather harsh in this context.  It is easy to posit those who have questions about the Pope's role as "critics" when placed beside the praises given by Golda Meir.  What is not noted is that serious Holocaust scholarship was barely in its infancy, the study of the Vatican's role/s during the early 20th century and its all too easy cohabitation with the regimes of the right had not begun, and the study of the war years was still only moving past individual countries and generals writing about their glorious achievements.  Meir's words are moving, but the historian must continue to place them into their appropriate context.

But, hang on a minute!  The main point of there being an article at all was to mark the presentation of the honour of Righteous Among the Nations in memory of Father Gaetano Piccinini (1904-1972), a priest in Rome who rescued Jews.  That event should be celebrated for the great moment that it was and is.

 Fr Gaetano Piccinini, Righteous Among the Nations.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Inside Rome with the Germans" - 1943-1944

The diary of the American-born religious sister, Jessica Lynch, is a valuable source of information on life in Rome between 8 September 1943 and the liberation of the City on 5 June 1944.  It has been used by defenders of Pius XII as evidence for papal rescue efforts of Jews.  Having read references to the book in other books, I decided it was time to get the book, read it and make an assessment.

"Inside Rome with the Germans" was title given to the diary kept by Mother Mary St Luke and published under her nom de plume, "Jane Scrivener".
Close friends of Mother Mary, Carlton and Mary Hayes, remained in contact with her throughout the war years.  Her letters to the Hayes' were filled with candid descriptions of life in Rome during the war and, from September 1943, under German occupation.  Carlton J Hayes (1882-1964) was appointed United States Ambassador to Spain in 1942.  At the end of his term in 1944, he asked Mother Mary for a copy of her diary, believing it deserved a wide audience for its vivid portrait of the city in the months before liberation.  Initially reluctant, Mother Mary finally agreed and Hayes organised its publication by Macmillan in 1945 

About Mother Mary St Luke surprisingly little is known.  She had lived in Rome for many years before the war and worked in the Vatican Information Service during the war.  Thus her diary entries reflected a high degree of accuracy in the details she recorded along with observations of daily life under the German occupation.  Always discreet, and with personal names of most people avoided, Mother Mary, penned a frank and clear narrative, that captures a sense of the nine months of a brutal and harsh occupation.  Curiously, she mentions nothing of her religious community and there are only glimpses of her own religious practices.  The entries were written after her return to the convent in which she lived on Via Veneto.

The diary is largely accurate in its description of Vatican relief efforts for the city of Rome which faced the real threat of starvation in the last months of the German occupation.  It is also accurate in the description of hiding Jews and "patriots" (anti-fascists).  She writes of well-known events such as the bombings of Rome from July 1943 onwards, the bombing of the Vatican in November 1943, the raid on St Paul outside the Walls in February 1944, the partisan attack in the Via Rasella in March 1944 and the fate of well known fascists and collaborators, for whom she clearly had little sympathy.  Interestingly, she writes very little about the grande razzia, the "great raid", on the Jews of Rome in October 1943, although she appears to be aware of the grave danger Rome's Jews were in after September 1943.

About Pope Pius XII, Mother Mary writes in a sober manner.  She records papal relief efforts, the opening of Piazza San Pietro and Castel Gandolfo to refugees, the muted expressions of horror at German atrocities through L'Osservatore Romano and Pius' appeals for calm and forbearance in the city until the Liberation.  What she does not make mention of is anything to do with a papal order to open the religious houses to take in Jews.  From the tone of her writing, I doubt she would have thought such an order necessary.  Religious houses were opening their doors to Jews, British and American airmen and escaped POWs, anti-fascists and others sought by the Germans and their Italian fascist collaborators.

I have read through the diary and noted passages that are of relevance to my study of Pius XII.  Below are extracts from "Inside Rome with the Germans" that deal with the Jews. Her comments reflect what was probably common opinion among many Romans, about events that were often not clear.  The perception that the Jews of Rome sought and received papal help with the ransom money is echoed in Mother Mary's diary, and is one example of what we now know to be inaccurate.  (The Rome Jews raised the gold and money for the ransom without papal aid).  Another is the lack of understanding about the inner workings of the Jewish community in Rome and the tensions that existed between the Rabbi, Israel Zolli and the community leadership.


P 15. Tuesday 14.09. “The Jews are in a panic trying to leave the city.  They fear being sent to Germany as hostages.  No one is safe.”

P 31 Tuesday 29.09.  “They’re at the Jews. One wondered when it would come.  Yesterday, the German authorities sent for the Chief Rabbi and told him that unless by midday today the Jews delivered one million lire and fifty kilograms of gold, some of them would be deported and others shot.  It was a terrible moment, but they managed it.  At the very last, they appealed to the Pope, who helped them to complete the amount.  Now they have paid their ransom, the Rabbi ought to destroy his register of Jewish residents in Rome.  Although the Germans said that on condition of this payment they would leave them alone, how can they be trusted?  The Romans are shocked and depressed; now that this sort of Jew-baiting has begun it has come home to them that they are really under the heel of the enemy.”

P 37. Friday 15.10. Notes the arrival of 2000 Gestapo and SS to “carry out the dirty work connected with the Jews

P38. Sunday 17.10. “The SS are doing exactly what one expected, and at 4.30 am began to round up the Jews in their own houses, The Rabbi did not destroy his registers, and they know where every Jew lives. And this, after the promise made when they produced that ransom … Some Jews escaped, others were herded into open lorries in the rain, and we know nothing about their destination. It is a nameless horror. People you know and esteem, brave, kind, upright people, just because they have Jewish blood, treated like this. Some of them are heroic. They came for the father of a family we know. He was out. The Germans said in that case they would take his wife. Whereupon the daughter said: ”Where my mother goes, I go too” – and although they did not want her particularly, she was taken as well.”

P39. Tuesday 19.10. “It is understood that the Pope has asked the German Ambassador to make an effort to help the Jews. It is difficult for von Weiszacker, of course, as the SS are independent of him. However, he did have some measure of success, for we hear that the women and children will be released.” (Probably a reference to non-Jews who were caught in the raid who were released.)

P44. Friday 29.10.  “The difficulty of hiding patriots and Jews is becoming more and more acute.”  SS-led raid on the Oriental Institute, an extraterratorial papal property protected under the Lateran Agreements of 1929.

P56. Tuesday 16.11. “A few Jews have been allowed to return to their homes, largely on account of action taken by the Pope. Is it possible to hope that the man-hunting is over?” (This reference is unclear. I do not know of any arrested Jews returning to their homes.  I suspect this was repeatnig a rumour she may have heard.)

P61. Friday 26.11. “Once more the Jews: all objects of art belonging to them are declared to be sequestered by the nation.”

P65. Friday 03.12. “Today the Vatican daily, the Osservatore Romano, publishes a strong protest against the treatment of Jews; it is called forth by the new directions issued by the “Republic” to the heads of the Provinces, to the effect that all Jews must be sent to concentration camps. The order was issued obviously at the instigation of the Germans. The Osservatore points out that it is unreasonable, unchristian and unhuman. Times are bad enough, it says, without our creating fresh sources of suffering and anxiety; we are sorely in need of God’s help, which we can gain by exercising charity towards his creatures, and all of us, nations aw well as individuals, are in need of that today … It was a bold protest, courageously made.”

P66. Saturday 04.12. “The Rome German-controlled press answered the Osservatore by asserting that Jews were considered foreigners, and as such they were potential enemies and therefore might with perfect justice be sent to concentration camps. This evening’s Osservatore replies firmly that no decree issued by any political party can change the status of an Italian-born citizen, possessing his nationality by the existing laws of the land; and that, even if enemy aliens were to be sent to concentration camps, the old and infirm, women and children are exempt.”

P74.  Wednesday 22.12.  “Unpleasant news this morning.  The patriots and Jews who have been sheltered in religious houses all over Rome will probably not be safe any more.  The Fascists – not the Germans this time – are raiding them.”  Raids on the Oriental Institute, Lombard College and the Russicum.


P141.  Tuesday 21.03.  “And now Hungary.  Another unfortunate country occupied.  Jew-baiting and man-hunting will follow.  We can sympathise.  Poor Hungarians.”

P176.  Monday 22.05.  “The enemy obviously realises that he is on the point of being beaten, and is showing signs of it here.  Within the last few days they have renewed the intensive search for Jews; SS men arrived at the house of a Swedish Jewess, married to an Italian, and said: ‘Tomorrow we shall come for you’.  The Swedish minister could do nothing.  Another, merely of Jewish descent, came to us this afternoon begging to be told where to hide; happily we were able to find a place for her.  In the course of these months of German occupation, persecution of the Jews followed a course parallel to the persecution in Germany.  Brutally rounded up without warning, men, women and children were deported wholesale, many of them to unknown destinations such as Poland; numbers were killed outright, and others were left to starve,  The following few statistics are trustworthy.  Of the 10,000 Jews who remained in Rome after the Fascist ‘Racial Laws’ were passed, about 6,000 were victims of Nazi brutality.  Among these, roughly 1,000 are known to have been killed, that is, either executed or left to die of hunger and want.  Of the remaining 5,000 there is no trace at present.  How many of these will return when the war is over?  It is a terrible question to ask, for the answer many be a terrible one.  But more terrible still is the responsibility weighing on the authors and instigators of this appalling ‘race war’.  No one will ever know, except a few Vaticanenjoyed the personal protection of the Pope in their darkest days.  Food, lodging, clothing and occupation were found for them in the Vatican itself, by special directions of the Sovereign Pontiff.  Warm and generous sympathy went out to them from Catholics throughout the city, regardless of race or creed, often at great personal risk.”

P184. Saturday 27.05.  “Two of the informers mentioned yesterday by the Anzio wireless are the porter of a house which we know, and his wife.  They have specialised in reporting the whereabouts of Jews.  This morning they are sitting in their lodge shedding tears; and well they may.”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pius XII's name day - St Eugenio

It would be remiss of me not to post something on Pius XII's name day.  It is the feast of St Eugenio, pope from 654 to 657. 

Our Sunday Visitor has just published a commentary on the recent "discovery" of a 1944 letter that is being used by some groups to prove papal activity in the rescue of the Jews.  I have already commented on it.

Here is the article:

Uncovered World War II-era cable adds to Pius XII debate

Some say the 1944 document supports the wartime pope’s legacy as a defender of the Jewish people

By Brian Fraga - OSV Newsweekly, 6/12/2011

Does a recently unearthed 1944 diplomatic cable shed a favorable light upon Pope Pius XII’s response to Nazi atrocities?

Gary Krupp, founder and president of Pave the Way Foundation, believes so.

“Anyone with even the lowest understanding of this issue can only come up with one conclusion after they review what we have discovered,” said Krupp, 63, a Jewish supporter of Pope Pius. Krupp founded his New York-based nonprofit organization in 2002 to defend and promote the wartime pope’s legacy as a champion of European Jews during the Holocaust.

“This is a man who saved Jewish lives when many people did not, and he’s attacked. It’s a shame,” he told Our Sunday Visitor.

However, some scholars criticize Krupp and his organization for waging a “campaign of misinformation” by using unsophisticated historical analysis and presenting individual documents out of context.

“Pave the Way are masters at creating a media flurry. They are not trained historians. They believe that by creating a deluge of paper with information that is favorable to their perception of Pius XII, they can create a new reality about the wartime pope,” said Paul O’Shea of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and author of “A Cross Too Heavy: Pope Pius XII and the Jews of Europe” (Palgrave Macmillan, $28).

The new flash point in the ongoing debate over Pope Pius centers on wartime correspondence between Myron Taylor, President Franklin Roosevelt’s representative to the Holy See, and his British counterpart, Sir D’Arcy Osborne.

In the note, dated Nov. 7, 1944, Taylor’s assistant, Franklin C. Owen, wrote that Osborne had called to say he feared that Pope Pius XII would make a radio appeal on behalf of Hungarian Jews and that he would also criticize the Russians for their actions in occupied territories.

“Sir D’Arcy said something should be done to prevail upon the Pope not to do this,” wrote Owen, adding that Osborne feared that it would have “very serious political repercussions.”

On its face, the document seems to support Pope Pius’ defenders, who counter critics’ arguments that he failed to condemn Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jewish people by saying that he had to balance any public statements and denunciations with deadly political repercussions that could include Nazi reprisals against Jews.

Pope Pius XII’s defenders say he, in fact, saved hundreds of thousands of Jews by giving them shelter in convents and monasteries, as well as the pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

“The document is confirmation of a position I’ve articulated for some time,” said Ronald J. Rychlak, a law professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He has written two books on Pope Pius, including “Hitler, the War, and the Pope” (OSV, $29.95).

Rychlak told OSV that he found the wartime correspondence in Archives Unbound, an online digitized collection of primary source material, and passed it along to Pave the Way, which has on its website about 46,000 pages of documents pertaining to Pope Pius’ papacy.

“The letter is mere confirmation of something those of us who study Pius XII have known about for a long time,” Rychlak said. “The pope was not blind to the Nazi or Soviet atrocities, and he was trying to walk a very delicate tightrope, to make certain that what he did could alleviate pain, suffering and help bring an end to hostilities.”

William Doino Jr., a contributor to Inside the Vatican who published an 80,000-word annotated bibliography on Pius XII in “The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII” (Lexington Books, $26.95), told OSV that the correspondence “reverses the usual accusation of (Pius XII) being silent.”

“What this shows is that the Allies themselves didn’t want him to speak out, and you can argue whether it would have been prudent to do so,” Doino said. “The Allies, in fact, wanted him to speak out in a certain way, but when he said that he would speak out completely and honestly, they didn’t want it, and they moved very quickly to beg and plead with him not to do so.”

“The information is incontrovertible,” Krupp said. “Pius XII was probably one of the greatest heroes of World War II.”

Opening the archives

But reaching such a conclusion is premature, said Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry.

He told OSV that the 1944 cable is an old, well-known document, and by itself does not make the case for Pope Pius.

“You can’t distribute or release an out-of-context letter or document and make a global claim for it. This is an example of Pave the Way’s campaign of misinformation that makes a disservice to Catholic and Jewish scholars,” said Rabbi Greenberg, whose organization has called for the expeditious opening of the Vatican Secret Archives’ documents dating from 1939-46.

“A conclusion on Pius XII shouldn’t be reached by either side until responsible scholars can study the archives and come to a reasonable historical conclusion,” he said.

Several prominent Catholics, including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, have called for the expeditious opening of the Vatican Secret Archives.

Father John T. Pawlikowski, professor of social ethics at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, has called for Pope Pius XII’s beatification to be put on hold until scholars can review all the documentation from his papacy. He advised taking a cautious approach to the diplomatic cable.

“You don’t build a case or a picture from a single document,” Father Pawlikowski said. “For example, there are other documents that include a Polish ambassador in exile urging Pius XII to speak out. We also have evidence that the pope opposed some of the instrumental activities of his papal nuncios during the war.

“If you want to disprove the argument that Pius XII was completely silent, then yes, this document does something, but it’s not necessarily the most relevant,” he said. “The real relevant question is: ‘What is expected of papal leadership in times of such crisis?’”

John Cornwell, the British journalist and author whose controversial 1999 book, “Hitler’s Pope” (Penguin, $17), criticized Pope Pius XII for not speaking out against the Nazis and for being manipulated by Hitler, told OSV in an email that Allied requests for the pope not to protest the deportations of Jews in 1944 “should be contrasted and compared with Allied requests to the absolute contrary in the fall of 1942, when the deportations were first under way.

“Through the services of the Church’s diplomatic corps, Pius could have done much to forewarn the Jews of the true aim of the deportations throughout occupied Europe, not least in France. It is difficult to understand — still less, defend — his failure in this,” he told OSV.

Rychlak said he agrees that the 1944 document by itself “does not prove a whole lot,” but argued that it is wrong to suggest that anyone has to wait until the whole Vatican archives are available before reaching some conclusions on Pope Pius.

“The evidence from the documentation that is already available, the sworn testimonies given by witnesses around the world, show that Pius XII did more than anyone else in setting the example for rescuers, comforting victims, standing strong against Nazi perpetrators,” Rychlak said.

Brian Fraga writes from Massachusetts.