In a piece of hyperbole that is breath-taking for its "spin" on the anti-Jewish laws, Slovakian minister Karel Sidor, communicated the formal response of the Slovak government's attempt to justify the anti-Jewish laws that the Vatican had objected to. Sidor expressed the Slovakian government's "belief" that there was a "Jewish Question" that needed a "solution". In language that echoed German euphemisms for deportation and worse, Sidor parroted the line that Germany would honour all its agreements to treat the deported Slovak Jews "humanely".
Did Sidor or his masters in Pressburg (Bratislava) honestly believe Maglione and the Pope would believe the official statement? We have seen in previous documents that information was arriving in Rome detailing the appaling conditions faced by Jews in Poland, and Jews deported from other places. Indeed, Sidor makes reference to deportations from France, Holland, Belgium and other places and the creation of a Jewish "district" around Lublin. Even Hungary was prepared to surrender its 800,000 Jews to the Germans.
By the time Sidor sent his note to the Secretary of State, the Vatican knew of the mass murder of Jews in Belarus and Ukraine, had reports of horrific conditions in ghettos across Poland and the Baltic States and had some indication of worse things going on "in the East".
The Slovakian note also used a book written by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, Secretary of State to Pius XI until 1929, where an argument was advanced justifying the State's right to limit the natural right to marry under certain circumstances. Gasparri's book, "Canonical Tracts concerning Marriage" published in 1932, did not discriminate on the grounds of race. His arguments were an exploration of the legitimate role of the State to govern within the boundaries of the natural and civil law.
Catholic marriage theology recognised civil marriage as a legal and valid marriage, but did not have the status of a sacramental marriage conducted before a deacon, priest or bishop. Sacramental marriage was indissoluble either by civil or canonical courts. Catholic theology understood "nullity" to exist when the appropriate disposition, age or willingness to have children was absent. Officially, the Church was not well disposed to the idea of Catholics entering into civil marriage without also contracting a sacramental marriage as well.
According to the Slovak government there were renegade ministers, mostly Protestants, who were busy baptising Jews at an alarming rate. However, since all baptisms after September 1941 were not recognised for the purposes of deportation, this was a minor irritation. Jews baptised before September were exempt from deportation.
At the end of the document was a note written by Domenico Tardini: "returned by His Holiness", indicating Pius had seen and read the note. The Pope's response is not recorded. At the same time the call for a formal protest against the murder of the Jews was mounting among the immured diplomats in the Vatican as well as from many sources outside. This was to cause Pius considerable anxiety as he struggled to maintain the facade of strict neutrality. However, the killing frenzy was now beyond anything remotely comparable in recorded history; it was something new. It demanded a response.
Reference: Number 428/42 (AES 3919/42 original)
Location and date: Rome, 23.05.1942
Summary statement: Attempted justification and explanation of the Slovakian race laws and false information about the treatment of the Jews.
The undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See has the honour to communicate to His Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of State to his Holiness a note from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic in response to the note of the Secretary of State of His Holiness number 8355/41 of 12 November 1941 with his note of 8 May 1942 number 8325/1/42 has notified our Legation of the following direction:
The response to the Note of the Secretary of State of His Holiness of 12 November 1941, number 8355/41 could not be given immediately for the following reasons:
The solution of the Jewish Question is a very serious problem on which the competent authorities of Slovakia have had to apply their full attention. It was planned that the President of the Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs, a few days after receiving the Verbal Note (in December) would go to Rome. Monsignor Burzio, the Charge d’affaires of the Holy See expressed the same opinion during talks with the President of the Council. Instead of exchanging formal notes, it would be better do deal with the problem of the plight of the Jews in Slovakia face to face so as to provide exact and detailed information for any questions in this regard.
For various reasons the Prime Minister’s trip to Rome was first postponed to January 1942 and then to March.
But at this time there was a change in the solution of the Jewish question. Between the Slovak government and the German government negotiations took place on the solution of the Jewish problem in Europe and it was considered that the emigration of the Jews from Slovakia is only a part of a larger program. (2) Currently, half a million Jews in Europe will be sent to Eastern Europe. Slovakia was the first state whose Jewish residents would be accepted by Germany. At the same time the emigration of Jews from German occupied France, Holland, Belgium, the Protectorate, from Reich territory is also underway. Even Hungary has expressed its readiness to send its 800,000 Jews as reported a speech of Dr Kallay, President of the Council on 20 April this year.
The Slovak Jews will be located in different places around Lublin where they will stay permanently. The Aryan population will be transferred from these territories and in its place will be an exclusively Jewish district with its own administration, where Jews can live together, and provide for their existence through work. Families will remain together. There was some alarm expressed that some Jewish girls and men of Jewish origin emigrated and were sent to work before their families, but this was done in order for them to prepare the necessary things for the other Jews, especially women, the old, sick and children. The emigration of the remaining members of Jewish families has already begun so that all Jewish families will be reunited. All Jews will be under the protection of the Reich (Schutzbefohlene – literally “wards”).
We have received the promise of the Reich government that Christians of Jewish origin will be placed in a separate area.
According to our law they are regarded as Christians of Jewish origin who were baptised before 10 September 1941, that is, before the Jewish law came into force. This exception does not apply to Jews who have been recently baptised or baptised for the sake of some expediency. That some have received baptism on the eve of emigration for material interests has determined as demonstrated in the following statistics:
In Žilina Stefano Puskas, a Calvinist pastor, baptised 180 Jews on one day, 110 on the next, and another 40 on the third day; a total of 330 Jews baptised in three days. He received from every Jew he baptised thousands and thousands of Slovak crowns. In Vrútky, 86 Jews were baptised, and in Zvolen, 160. Another Protestant pastor in Nitra baptised 80 Jews. In Bratislava a Protestant pastor baptised 276 Jews in one day. A Protestant pastor in Trenčin baptised 50 Jews in one day, in Ružomberok 28, Prešov 46, Spišská Nováves 87, Trnava 107, Hlohovec 29. The greater number were baptised by Protestant pastors. The German government for its part, has told us that the Jews will be treated humanely.
During his recent visit to Bratislava, the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See, Karel Sidor, reported verbally that the Holy See had received information according to which the Slovak government had given orders to capture all young people of Jewish origin and send them to the military front to be placed at the free disposal of the German soldiers. Such a thing has never been done and can not be done because according to the Nuremberg laws such behaviour is punished heavily. Officially we were told that some German soldiers who had affairs with Jewish women were sentenced by military tribunals and shot.
In Slovakia, after the current emigration of Jews, there will be only a small minority so that the concerns mentioned in the Note cited above may not even be present even in a single marriage case.
With regard to Article 9 of the Government ordinance which prohibits marriages between Jews and non-Jews, permit us to draw attention to the book by Cardinal Gasparri: Canonical Tracts concerning Marriage – published in 1932, Part 1, page 143 where it says:
(Latin) “The civil authority can, in some circumstances, for reasons of the public good, may prohibit, for a time, the right to marry and determine the conditions of marriage for those able to fulfil it”. Then: “But since the law of nature does not bind a case under pain of nullity, so the marriage entered into was, perhaps, against civil law and is valid, (sometimes it is even lawful), and therefore the civil authority can negate the effects of civil marriage separately from inseparable ones”. (Note: This is based on the Catholic theology of marriage which recognises civil marriages which can be nullified, as opposed to sacramental marriages which cannot.)
The Slovak law thus sets: “the improper impediment has been stated” (quote is in Latin) that prohibits marriages of this type and punishes those husbands and wives who dare to contract marriage against this law. The Ministry of the Interior also permits exemptions in exceptional circumstances and for grace reasons.
According to Article 38 of the government ordinance, young people of the Jewish race are not excluded from those schools where they can receive necessary instruction for their religious life. It is also not forbidden to Catholics of Jewish origin for them to take part in religious events, such as Mass, pilgrimages, processions, Marian groups etc.
Note of Tardini:
Returned from His Holiness 03.06.1942.
(1) ADSS 8.153 and Part Two.
(2) Compare this with the declarations of Minister Mach. See ADSS 8.368, note 4.