Saturday, October 29, 2011

ADSS 8.364 Rotta to Maglione: The Pozdech letter

As the Slovak Jews were deported "to Poland" attempts were made by some non-Jews to stop the trains.  We have seen the efforts undertaken by the Vatican's charge d'affaires in Bratislava, Giuseppe Burzio, Cardinal Maglione acting on the instructions of Pius XII and the reports sent by the Hungarian and Swiss nuncios. 

In late April 1942, Angelo Rotta, nuncio to Hungary, received a copy of a letter sent by a Bratislavan parish priest, Augustine Pozdech.  The letter was addressed to the Jewish communal leadership in Budapest and was a wrenching plea from a Catholic priest unable to remain silent in the face of the terrors inflicted on the Jews of Slovakia.  Pozdech wrote to the Budapest community asking them to wake the conscience of the world and so save some of their coreligionists.  Rotta sent the letter to Rome on 1 May 1942.

From the parish website of the Assumption in Bratislava I found these biographical details.  Augustine Pozdech was born in 1895 and ordained priest in 1923.  From 1934 to 1948 he was parish priest of the Assumption parish in Old Bratislava.  In 1931 he was appointed the Vicar General of the diocese.  He was connected with the Slovakian underground during the war.  In early 1945 he was arrested by the Gestapo but was saved by the swift approach of the Red Army.  Having fought against the fascists Pozdech soon found himself the target of the anti-Catholic persecution of the new Czechoslovak communists.  He was arrested in 1949 and sentenced to twelve years in prison.  Pozdech was released in 1957 and died in 1961.

There is no indication in ADSS if a response was made to Fr Pozdech's letter.

ADSS 8.364

Reference: Rap n 7298 / 42 (N. Pr. 573) AES 3619 / 42

Location and date: Budapest 01.05.1942

Summary statement: Nuncio sends a letter from Augustine Pozdech, PP in Bratislava, appealing for the Jews of Slovakia.

Language: Italian and French


Angelo Rotta to Maglione.

Further to my report, number 7220/42, 17 April 1942 (Doc 352) about the plight of Slovakian Jews deported from their homeland, I have the honour to forward to Your Eminence this one page letter, translated into French, received at the nunciature.

It is a latter from a Slovakian Catholic priest sent to the Jewish community of Budapest which asks them to intervene for the Jews of Slovakia. The person who brought it to me asked me to send it to the Secretariat of State. It will have to serve as is, for there is no other documentation.

Letter of Fr Augustin Pozdech to the President of the Jewish Community of Budapest.

Presbourg (Bratislava) 20.04.1942

You may find it strange that a Catholic priest addressed you about this subject. I decided upon this action because it is impossible for me to remain a silent witness of the horrible sufferings that afflicts my Jewish neighbours. I am appalled to the bottom of my heart as human beings, who have no fault other than being born Jews, have their property stolen from them, forced onto trains with the remnant of their personal freedom, and sent to a foreign country as slaves.

I wish to awaken the conscience of the world against this persecution. But alas, I am not able to make my words heard beyond this narrow circle. It is you, to whom I urge, to wake up and shake the conscience of the world, so that the atrocious suffering of the Jews in Slovakia be relieved. However, it is impossible that the world witnesses this and remains inactive, while little children, the mortally ill elderly, young girls torn from their families and young people are deported like cattle: transports of livestock wagons going to an unknown place, to an uncertain future.

Act, before it is too late, act quickly, and it may still be possible to save some of Slovakian Jewry.

I hope my words will be heard, I hope you will do everything possible for the sake of your poor, unfortunate coreligionists.

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