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.”

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