Sunday, September 11, 2011

ADSS 8.184 Burzio to Maglione - news from Russia

One of the common question asked by students is "when did the Pope know about the murder of the Jews in the East?"  The simple answer is "about roughly the same time Churchill did", which is in the mid-summer of 1941 when Bletchley Park decoded hundreds of radio transmissions from the Einsatzgruppen as they sent their daily tallies to Berlin.  In October, from Bratislava, Giuseppe Burzio had heard reports of significant killings occurring in Russia.  He had been asked by Cardinal Maglione if concentration camps were to be opened in Slovakia and he had replied that plans had been made but then abandoned.  What he did know was that according to military chaplains travelling with Slovakian soldiers in Russia, Jews were being "systematically eliminated".

In a margin note on Burzio's report, Domenico Tardini, responsible for the Vatican's equivalent of the Foreign Office, queried if the murders were committed by Catholic Slovaks or Germans?  Jews were being killed, but by whom?  Within four months Burzio began to send reports of the impending deportation of the Slovakian Jews.

Running concurrently with the reports from Burzio to Maglione were Maglione's diplomatic exchanges with the Slovakian minister to the Holy See, Karel Sidor.  I will post more on this later.

ADSS 8.185.
Reference: Rap nr 624 (AES 9257/41, orig)

Location and date: Pressburg (Bratislava) 27.10.1941
Summary statement: Information concerning the inhuman treatment of non-Aryan POWs in Russia.
Language: Italian


Only a few days ago I was honoured to receive the dispatch Nr 40079 of 18 August 1941 and I hasten to inform Your Eminence that the territory of this republic does not currently have concentration camps for prisoners of war or refugees.

At the beginning of hostilities against Russia, the Military Vicar, Bishop [Michael] Buzalka (1885-1962) advised me that there was a project organised to build a prison camp near the eastern border of Slovakia, but that has not been carried out. The same bishop, having received new information from the military, assures me that for now, that will be no prisoners of war concentrated in Slovakia. From information received from his chaplains, Ukrainian and White Russian prisoners are routinely returned to their homes. The Jews are certainly shot (it is stated the Jewish civilians are systematically eliminated, regardless of sex and age) and only the Russian and Asian prisoners have been sent to concentration camps.

If, in the future, prisoners or refugees are brought to this territory, I will certainly inform Your Eminence and comply with your instructions.

Notes of Domenico Tardini:

Is it Catholic Slovaks who commit these crimes or are they Germans? And why has Mons Burzio not explained this in a specific way?

Office Note:
Account received with n 9610/41 asking for clarification about the inhumane treatment of military prisoners and Jewish civilian prisoners.

Cross references:

See ADSS 8.301. Burzio to Maglione, 11.03.1942.

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