Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ADSS 8.317 Rotta to Maglione: new request for Slovak Jews

Angelo Rotta 1872-1965
As the deportation date for the Slovakian Jews drew nearer, the level of diplomatic activity increased.  The Hungarian nuncio, Angelo Rotta, who was a major rescuer of Jews later in the war, continued to pass information he received to the Vatican.  In this case a Jewish community leader, whom the nuncio calls the "Chief Rabbi of Budapest" appeals to Rotta to ask the Pope to intervene.  Rotta promises to pass on the request but adds that he will not offer false hopes to the rabbi given the nature of the Slovak government, not the good will of the Pope.

Rabbi Yonasan Steif 1877-1958

Curiously, the rabbi is not named.  I researched the title "chief rabbi" in relation to Budapest and eventually found that the position had been vacant since 1929. The Nuncio’s reference to the Chief Rabbi is incorrect.  The last person to hold the title was Rabbi Koppel Reich (1838-1929).  It is possible that Rotta met with Rabbi Yonasan Steif (1877 – 1958) who was the head of the Budapest Beth Din and well-known posek and halachic authority.  He was sometimes mistakenly referred to as “chief rabbi”. 

ADSS 8.317

Reference: Rap nr 7056/42 (N Pr 543) (AES 2328/42, orig)
Location and date: Budapest, 20.03.1942
Summary statement: New request for intervention for the Slovak Jews.
Language: Italian

In my report of 13.03.1942 (no. 7021/42) to Your Eminence in sent a report of the Vicar General of Budapest [Endre Hamvas] in which he pointed out the sad fate of the Jews of Slovakia threatened with deportation to Galicia. (1)

At the same time, the Chief Rabbi of Budapest who also spoke to me of the plight of these same Jews, brought me a memorandum which I attach to this report. (2) He recommended that I strongly implore the Holy Father that he kindly intervene on the behalf of the Jews to the Slovak government, at least to alleviate if at all possible, the sad fate of those unfortunates, including many women and children, destined for the most part to a certain death.

I told the Chief rabbi that the Holy See had already been informed about the case and that I would pass on the memorandum. However, I did not hold out any false hopes, not for lack of goodwill on the part of the Holy Father, but because of local [ie Slovakian] conditions that are well known to all.


(1) ADSS 8.303

(2) Not published.

(3) Nuncio added to his report on 24.03.1942: “Referring to my report number 7056, the Chief Rabbi came to the Nunciature today. He assured me that assured several thousand Jewish girls from Slovakia will be sent to the front to be abused [prostituted] by the German military. He implored me to appeal to the Holy Father to intervene with the Slovakian government”. (Telegram number 88, AES 2434/42)


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