The Vatican, and that includes without any doubt, the Pope, understood very clearly what was happening in Slovakia. Making the point twice, Maglione wrote that Sidor passed on the justification for the deportation without conviction. At the end the Cardinal simply said that the explanation offered by the Slovak government that the young Jewish women had been sent to work "elsewhere" was not supported by what the Holy See had been told from other reports. What exactly the Vatican knew about the fate of the women is not clear from this document, but it is safe to assume that the knowledge was not positive. And then he asked Sidor to let the Slovak government know of the conversation. In other words, Sidor was to tell his masters that the Vatican knew what was really happening.
Can one deduce knowledge of a coherent program of mass murder? Not at this stage from what I can see in the material available. However, the knowledge that Jews were being murdered in huge numbers in Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and that large numbers were suffering horrific deprivation in ghettos and camps would have made hope for the deported Slovak Jews difficult. Within a few months the scale of the killings would make it impossible to imagine that an organised program to murder every Jew in Europe was not, in fact, underway.
Certainly, by the time this protest was made, the first transports of Jewish women from Slovakia had been gassed and cremated in Auschwitz.
Reference: AES 2615/42 autograph
Location and date: Vatican 11.04.1942
Summary statement: Protest against the measures taken against the Slovak Jews.
The Slovak Minister (1) told me that he had been in Bratislava to discuss the measures adopted towards the Jews with the President of the Republic [Jozef Tiso] and the President of the Council [Vojtech Tuka]. (2) The President of the Republic has assured me that he has intervened to soften the measures mentioned above and has granted to several baptised Jews the exemption or dispensation, which is in his power to grant.
The Prime Minister informed Minister Sidor that he has not yet responded to the grievances of the Holy See, because he, himself intended to give to the Holy Father and me the appropriate explanations.
Minister Sidor tried (with no conviction) to give me a justification for the mass deportation of the Jews.
I took the opportunity to reiterate again, with even greater force, expressing the thinking of the Holy See against the recent treatment meted out against hundreds of young girls torn from their families to be sent to … their destruction. I told him that such acts are a disgrace, especially for a Catholic country.
The Minister has always tried to say – always without conviction – that those poor girls are only sent to honest work somewhere else.
I replied that, if this was the case, it would always be deplorable, and always inhuman to separate young girls from their families and send young women, against their will and inclination to work where, deprived of any assistance, they are exposed to serious dangers. On the other hand, from what has been reported, there is no question of this: the destination of these poor women is very different!
I asked the Minister let his government know of our conversation. (3)
(1) Karel Sidor
(2) See ADSS 8.298, 303, 305, 334
(3) See ADSS 8.354