Sunday, October 2, 2011

ADSS 8.303 Angelo Rotta to Maglione on the Slovak Jews

Reading through the material in ADSS Volume 8, it is very clear that by early 1942 the Vatican was receiving more and more accounts of worsening persecution of Jews from German-occupied Russia, Poland and Slovakia.  In this document the Nuncio in Hungary, Angelo Rotta sends two letters.  The first is a cover note from Fr Endre Hamvas, vicar general of the archdiocese of Budapest and vice-president of the Association of the Holy Cross, a support network for Jewish converts to Catholicism.  The second is an appeal to the Pope from the Jewish community in Bratislava (Pressburg).  The tone of the second document is blunt:  "We are doomed". 

The chronology of the document and its enclosures is thus:

no date, but no later than early March 1942:  The Jewish Community in Bratislava write a letter of appeal to the Pope and send it to Budapest via the Association of the Holy Cross, an organisation for Jewish converts to Catholicism.

12.03.1942:  Endre Hamvas passes the Bratislavan letter along with his own cover note to the Nuncio, Angelo Rotta.

13.03.1942:  Rotta sends the letters to Rome, adding that the matter is "urgent". (ADSS 8.303)

14.03.1942:  The Secretariat of State calls the Slovakian minister, Karel Sidor, for a meeting to discuss the imminent deportation of the Jews. (ADSS 8.305)  It was noted that there had been a prior meeting to discuss "racial matters" the previous November (ADSS 8.199)

17.03.1942:  Domenico Tardini notes that Nuncio Rotta is to be informed of the meeting with Sidor (ADSS 8.305) as well as charge d'affaires, Giuseppe Burzio in Bratislava.

19.03.1942:  Maglione replied to the Swiss nuncio, Filippo Bernardini, (ADSS 8.300) informing him of Vatican intervention for the Slovakian Jews. (ADSS 8.312)

ADSS 8.303

Reference: Nr 7021/42 (N. Pr 536) (AES 2180/42 orig)
Location and date: Budapest 13.03.1942
Summary statement: Request intervention for Slovakian Jews.
Languages: Italian, Latin and German


(Italian) Allow me to send the attached letter to the Holy Father concerning the unfortunate Jews of Slovakia threatened with a general expulsion to Poland. The petition was presented by Monsignor [Endre] Hamvas (1890-1970), Vicar General of Budapest and Vice-President of the Association of the Holy Cross among the baptised Jews of Budapest.

As well I add the letter of Monsignor Hamvas addressed to me about the matter; it helps to better clarify the question. I could not refuse this act of charity, especially since it is so urgent.


1. Endre Hamvas to Angelo Rotta 12.03.1942.

(Latin) Some Slovaks from Bratislava (Latin: Posonio) earnestly and humbly begged that the Most Blessed Father [Pius XII] be approached so that his holiness, the President of the Republic of Slovakia [Jozef Tiso] and governor of the Jews in the republic, would deign to protect the Jews. The Jews of Slovakia hope for the protection of the Most Blessed Father [used this time for Tiso], the President who is a good priest, so that he would save them from the decree which goes that about 90,000 Jews will be expelled from Slovakia into Poland. Among this number can be presumed Jews who have been baptised.

The above mentioned Jew has given us a letter in an unconventional form, for which he excused himself for writing, on behalf of the Jews of Slovakia, because he could not carry individual letters due to the vigilance of the border guards. I have transcribed and typed the letters and presumed to enclose them.

2. Letter of the Jewish Community of Pressburg (Bratislava) to Pope Pius XII.

(German) Most Holy Father! The Jews in Slovakia, 90,000 souls, turn to Your Holiness for help and rescue.

We are doomed. We know we are to be transported to Poland (Lublin). Everything has already been taken from us (wealth, linen, clothes, businesses, houses, money, gold, bank deposits and all domestic equipment) and now they wish to banish Slovak citizens to Poland. Without any ready money and material goods, means certain ruin and lead to starvation.

Nobody can help us. We put all our hope and confidence in Your Holiness as the safest refuge of the persecuted.

Because the local Nuncio is away and we do not know when he will return, we turn to Your Holiness through the Nuncio in Budapest, who was easy to reach.

Will Your Holiness graciously call on the President of Slovakia to act in the name of humanity and charity and not permit us and our children to go into exile?

Note of Monsignor Tardini: 17.03.1942

1. Nuncio (ie Angelo Rotta) is to say that we have taken the step of seeing [Karel] Sidor (Slovakian minister to Holy See). (ADSS 8.305)

2. To do the same for Monsignor [Giuseppe] Burzio (Holy See Charge d’affaires in Bratislava) (ADSS 8.332)

Note of Secretariat of State to Angelo Rotta 21.03.1942

This office has not failed to raise the matter immediately with the Slovakian minister. The Office will try to prevent the enforcement of this provision (the deportation). [The meeting with the Slovakian minister took place on 14.03.1942]

NB: The Holy Cross Association was established in 1939 for the protection of baptized Jews under the spiritual leadership of Professor József Jánosi SJ and directed by the journalist Dr. József Cavallier.

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