Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pius XII Conference at the Sorbonne?

In his presentation on Intelligence Squared, Professor Ronald Rychlak said that he had attended a conference on Pius XII at the Sorbonne in Paris.  I think I am reasonably adept at finding information on the internet, but so far have been unable to discover anything on this conference.  I have looked at the Sorbonne website to no avail; done several "google" searches and drawn a zero result.

If a reader knows someting about the conference I would be grateful for any shared information.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Intelligence Squared - the debate

Last Sunday night I sat down and watched the Intelligence Squared debate from London.  To be frank, the topic did not inspire much in the way of confidence for a solid historical debate.  I was not greatly disappointed.

I mentioned in the previous post that the two apologists, Professor Ron Rychlak and William Doino would be up against two seasoned and professional masters of debate in the public forum, Lord Norwich and Geoffrey Robinson.  Norwich and Robinson provided great entertainment but not all that much history.  Rychlak and Doino provided a lot of historical data but not much by way of context.

How did the debate pan out?

John Julius Norwich opened with a general overview that relied too greatly on some poor history – forcefully rebutted by Doino – and which detracted from what I think his thesis was, namely that despite numerous opportunities that presented themselves, Pius XII did not speak out at all.  His comments on the Christmas 1942 address demonstrated a very poor grasp of the situation Pius found himself in and showed that Norwich had not done sufficient reading of the available material.  The strongest point I think Norwich made was related to the Holocaust in Hungary, but even here he showed a lack of historical context.  Citing nuncio Angelo Rotta’s comments to the Hungarian government “not to continue its war against the Jews beyond the limits prescribed by the laws of nature and God’s commandments” without the necessary and relevant context makes for poor argument.  Viscount Norwich should know better.

Historically, Norwich made a weak show that would prove relatively easy to demolish.

William Doino began speaking at the twelfth minute.  I found it irritating that he spent quite a bit of time correcting Norwich and allowed himself to delve in tangential issues such as the story of Roi Ottley, an Afro-American journalist who had an audience with Pius XII in 1944.

From here Doino reverted to his customary style which is to bury your opponent in facts.  And there was no shortage.  However, as has been my criticism of Doino for some time, he is able to produce facts by the cart load but does not place them into context.  Facts without context are dangerous to the point of being misleading.  The questions raised by Norwich were not addressed except in saying that Pius did speak out and had done for many years.  The grey zones of nuance and varying historical circumstance did not get much of a mention here.

One would expect a magisterial performance from a silk such as Geoffrey Robinson, and I was not disappointed.  As speakers went Robinson was the superior orator on the night, but his history was weak and polemical.

Opening with the stirring statement that he was about the “dissecting the soul of a man who could not bring himself to speak out publically against the Holocaust” Robinson then cited Elie Wiesel: “Take sides, neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victims.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  And this is a truth that applies to the silence of Pope Pius XII in face of the most heinous crime against humanity ever committed even when it was taking place under his very windows.”   There was little variation from then on.  How Robinson could jump from his perception that Pius did not speak to papal silence being the “license to the Catholic SS to kill…” rather escaped me.  There was eloquence, there was masterful rhetoric and there was entertainment, but there was little history.  I got the distinct feeling that Robinson was there to enjoy himself at the expense of his opponents. Robinson’s final argument that Germany needed papal neutrality and silence in order to preserve hope in German victory was astounding for its brazen audacity.  “Mr Pacelli, the bad Samaritan” ended the Queen’s Counsel’s time at the podium.

I was ready to hear Professor Rychlak.

If Robinson was the most entertaining speaker, Rychlak was certainly the best historian of the evening, and I believe, the most convincing of the speakers for the motion.  He kept his presentation simple, spoke calmly and did not rise to take the bait proffered by Norwich and Robinson.  However, I found Rychlak’s arguments to be unsatisfying because they were highly selective and avoided the thornier problems surrounding events such as the 1943 Rome Juednaktion, the post-war statements of Angelo Roncalli and Giovanni Battista Montini and the German plans to kidnap the pope.

At the end of the presentations the vote taken at the beginning of the night was announced.  146 had voted in favour of the motion, that Pius XII had been silent, 41 against the motion, and 171 undecided.

Questions followed.  Most of these were populist questions that could have led the speakers to delve deeper into the issues, or at least allude that there were depths that could not be plumbed in the context of the debate.  It was disappointing that this was not done.  I will leave it to the reader to make up their own minds about Question Time.

During the questions I thought that Norwich and Robinson were enjoying themselves particularly at Doino’s expense.  They made outrageous statements and Doino “bit” responding far too seriously and with no intimation that he was over-reacting.  Norwich’s dismissal of American phobias about communism was one example.  I must admit I did laugh a little at it – it was so silly.  And Robinson kept the joke alive with ongoing digs at Doino.

Once again, it was Rychlak who responded best I believe.  He is clearly quite at home with debates and can carry himself with the thrust and parry that goes on.  “How do we assess Pius XII?  He did the best he could.  Did he do too little?  He didn’t stop the Holocaust; he tried, he wanted to  … he wanted to end the war.”  These are fair statements.  They need further expansion, but they are a start.

The final vote of the night was interesting:  227 voted in favour of the motion that the pope did too little, and 103 against the motion.  It marked a shift in thinking of a large number of people.

Did the evening change anything?  I suspect not.







Tuesday, November 6, 2012

ADSS 9.38 Borgongini Duca to Maglione: the Italian report

One of the regular questions that arises in the study of Pius XII relates to what the pope knew and when.  I have dealt with aspects of that question throughout the blog and in my book.  The one area where the pope's knowledge was probably unrivalled was Italy.  The nuncio, Archbishop Francesco Borgongini Duca (1884-1954) made his regular tri-annual report to Cardinal Maglione.  The document reveals considerable detail in its brevity and customary florid language.  The summary statement lists the principal concerns, but reading the report reveals a number of very interesting details, such as the reference to interned "Chinese pagans" in the camp at Tossicia in the Abruzzi.  However it is the plight of the refugees, including Jews, that dominates the report.

This report, sent to Maglione at the end of January 1943 gave Pius a summary of information that he already possessed from a variety of sources.

ADSS 9.38 Italian Nuncio, Francesco Borgongini Duca to Cardinal Maglione.

Reference:  Report number 10944, AES 1171/43
Location and date:  Rome, 31.01.1943

Summary statement: Recapitulates last three years and the racial question in Italy; refugees; help provided to POWs and Internees; exchange of news of POWs; steps for victims of war; many Jews have fled the Germans into Italian occupied zones.

Language: Italian


I have the honour to present this tri-annual report on the activities of the Nunciature characterised as they are by the enormity of the war, which still rages. (1)

The conflict has given the activities of the Nunciature new forms, due mainly to the apostolic charity of the Holy Father.

As soon as the conflict broke out, this Nunciature had to assume the protection of the diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See, and whose countries were at war with the Axis.  The British Legation, and the embassies of France, Belgium and Poland were sealed and the nunciature was charged with the protection of the interests of ecclesiastical and religious personnel of all these countries … (2)

The realities of war have led to a tightening of the racial question.  Many Jews have fled from the territories occupied by the Germans, preferring to come to Italy, even at the risk of being interned.  They have also sought help from this Apostolic Nunciature to go abroad, especially to America.  Many are also in transit, and the Holy Father, in his inexhaustible charity, has provided for many the means for travel.

In a very few cases, the Nunciature was successful in obtaining Italian entry visas for Jews in danger of deportation from Count Ciano. (3)

With the worsening of the conflict, many refugees arrived in Italy in the most pitiable condition, especially from Poland.  His Holiness deigned to place at my disposal considerable sums to help them, and so with the help of the Ursuline sisters, (4) the Nunciature was able to place Polish girls and women, who were more or less abandoned, and provide for men out of work. 

We also entered into communication with other Polish refugees scattered throughout Italy, without neglecting those confined, who are, in some ways, in better conditions because they have bread and a roof over their heads.  Your Eminence knows that the Holy Father is pleased to welcome the humble proposal of this Nunciature, to open a welcoming refuge for women (5), and this was given over to the Ursulines of the Agonising Heart of Jesus (6) with excellent results and with everything functioning normally.(7)

From all other fronts refugees have poured into Italy, not only from Poland, but from Greece, the Levant, Maltese, Italians evacuated from Tripoli and Cyrenaica, Italians expelled from France, Slovenes, Croats and Serbs.  The Holy Father has, with apostolic gesture, opened up the limited resources of the church of Rome, so that this Nunciature was responsible for the distribution of the goods to all who presented themselves to the Nunciature, as well as for those scattered throughout Italy or in the various concentration camps.

The distribution of money is made, normally, after the local parish priests have received certificates of the good conduct and poverty of the applicants.  The question of religion has never been entered into, because the charity of the Pope embraces all; but for all I have endeavoured to take authoritative assurances of good conduct. 

At the date of this report, the Apostolic Nunciature distributed from the beginning [of the war] Lire 625,816.56 for the Poles, and for the other refugees Lire 307,705.80.

Because of the war the Royal Government set up many concentration camps for foreign civilians more or less regarded with suspicion, and also created prison camps for soldiers captured in combat.  The first camps are generally under the authority of Public Security and the second under military authority.

The Holy Father expressed his august desire that the apostolic nuncio go personally to visit the internees and bring them the comfort of his blessing and august charity.

At the time of writing this triennial report, the visits made by the undersigned numbered 106.  The camps are located throughout Italy, from Bolzano and Udine all the way Puglia and to Calabria, and the island of Sardinia.  The secretary of the apostolic nunciature made five solo visits.

I have found that generally the prisoners and civilians are treated with humanity.  The nunciature has had special attention for religious assistance.  At our suggestion, the government appointed a permanent chaplain in the border colony of Pisticci. (8)  Another (who speaks several languages) was appointed to the camp of Ferramonti Tarsia (9) where the charity of the Holy Father has equipped a church and provided a harmonium. A Chinese-language chaplain (10) was appointed to the Chinese camp in Tossicia in Teramo province, and on the island of Gran Sasso.  With much zeal the good father chaplain has instructed the poor Chinese pagans, printing a catechism in Chinese.  After one year of instruction and testing, fifty catechumens were admitted to baptism, and another fifty the following year.  I went twice myself to the shrine of St Gabriel on Gran Sasso, for the ceremony that was attended by the Chief of Teramo, the Inspector of the Ministry of the Interior and local authorities.

Other conversions occurred in other places especially among the female element, even among the Jews.  The Ursuline sisters teach and instruct these women, and more than one baptism was celebrated.  I have also regularised quite a few marriages in Rome and beyond.

The occupation of Dalmatia (11) resulted in the confinement in Italy of about 50,000 Slovenes and Croats.  They are interned in Tuscany, in the Veneto and the island of Arbe.

I visited the camp of Gonars in Friuli; as well the Apostolic Nunciature is interested in the improvement of conditions for all the deportees, who were all affected by the tumultuous evacuation that occurred in the civil war.  Some improvement is being obtained by the government and by order of Your Eminence and I will soon visit those confined to the island of Arbe.  Meanwhile, His Holiness has welcomed the humble suggestion of this nunciature to take at its own cost 200 young Slovenians to the Pontifical College in Loreto (12) and are in negotiations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which is under enormous strain through the heavy bureaucracy of war) in order to carry out the wish of the Pope.

In addition the Apostolic Nunciature has become a liaison between the Office of the Secretary of State and the Italian Red Cross for the transmission of messages to prisoners in Italian hands and their families abroad, as well as sending prayer books and catechisms, published by the Vatican and books from the Secretary of State to the same prisoners.

For Italian prisoners overseas, this nunciature has a special section to collect the messages of families, which are sent by the [Vatican Information] Office, as well as on behalf of the Secretary of State has collected 16,000 volumes for delivery to the Red Cross for Italian prisoners. (13)

The war has also led to a multitude of questions of all kinds from the suffering, directed to the Holy Father (exemptions from military service, approaches from soldiers, pensions for families, freedom for those confined with convictions even for small infringements and requests for pardon, permissions to marry for those prevented by the race or military laws, advancement of employees, transfers and the like); all these come to the Nunciature, sent by the Secretary of State or directly sent to us by the interested parties, are considered as best we can with an answer provided for each where possible.

Special mention needs to be made about the correspondence with the internees, because all, or almost all of these unfortunate people, without exception, calling for the involvement of the Nunciature with the police, who welcome with great deference our intervention.  In our archives each internee has their own file… (14)

Cross references: 
(1) Covering the years 1940-1942
(2) Information on the protection of extra-territorial buildings omitted.  See ADSS 5.248 were there is a summary of the legal position of diplomatic representations near the Holy See.
(3) Galeazzo Ciano (1903-1944), Minister of Foreign Affairs, (1936-1943).
(4) See ADSS 6, page 348, note 3.
(5) The word used is “focolare” and literally translates as “hearth” or “family fireside”. 
(6) This was a Polish religious congregation of women commonly referred to as the “Grey Ursulines”.
(7) Their convent was located at 2 Via di Villa Ricotti (near Via Nomentana).  The convent later hid many Jews.
(8) Pisticci, province of Matera (Basilicata)
(9) Fr Callistus Lopinot, OFM Cap (1876-1966).  See ADSS 8.329, note 1.
(10) Not identified.  There were at least 116 Chinese travelling salesmen interned in the camp after 1940.  See Donald Kenrick (1999), In the Shadow of the Swatika: Volume 2: The Gypsies during the Second World War, p26.
(11) After the armistice with Yugoslavia signed on 17.04.1941, Bastianini was appointed governor of Dalmatia on 20.05.1941.
(12) The relevant information about the college of Loreto has not been found.
(13) See ADSS 8.427, note 2.
(14) The rest of the report is omitted.  It covered the religious situation in Italy.  A reply to the nuncio’s report was sent on 28.02.1943: “ … In particular I have seen with satisfaction the assistance for prisoners of war and the interned civilians with which you, with great zeal, have constantly accorded the intentions of the august pontiff …” (AES 1171/43) 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pius XII and intelligencesquared - London, 14 November

On Wednesday 14 November at the Royal Institution in London there will be an "Oxford-style" debate.  The question proposed for discussion is "Pius XII did too little to save the Jews from the Holocaust".  Tickets are £25 and can be purchased online.

The speakers are not historians of the genre or era, in fact three of the speakers are not historians.

John Julius Norwich is author of The Popes: a history (2011) an attempt to write a global portrait of the institution.  According to Edward Pentin writing in the Catholic Herald, Norwich bases much of his understanding of Pius XII on Cornwall's "Hitler's Pope" (1999).  This does not bode well for good and reliable history.  Reviews of the book in the New York Times, The Guardian and Telegraph were generally positive, but point out that this is a general history not a detailed study of the whole papacy. Therefore, comments are likely to be more on the general side and indicative of the personal interests of the author.

 John Julius Norwich

Geoffrey Robinson

Geoffrey Robinson, the well known human rights advocate who attempted to have Benedict XVI indicted for trial before the International Criminal Court in the Hague will also speak in favour of the motion.  His book "The Case of the Pope" (2010) was given to me as a Christmas present by one of my students as a tongue-in-cheek end-of-school bit of fun.  I read the book and while I admire Robinson's brilliance of mind and written word, I was not convinced of his arguments, spoiled as they are by a serious lack partiality and of understanding of Catholicism, the institution of the Church, the Vatican and Papacy.  Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet, wrote a balanced review of the work for The Telegraph. The review in The Guardian proves Pepinster's case, that a one-sided look will lead inevitably to a one-sided conclusion.

William Doino and Ronald Rychlak are two of the best known apologists for Pius XII.  I have commented on their work several times on this blog.  There is no need to re-visit their material here.

William Doino

Ronald Rychlak

I doubt very much that this evening's debate will add anything of substance to the work historians are engaged in.  In fact, I suspect that the only result will be a night of entertainment as two highly accomplished writers, Norwich and Robinson, neither of whom have much time for the Catholic Church, and less for Pius XII, will face two passionate and dogmatic apologists, Doino and Rychlak, who have shown in their writing little interest in the craft of history and great interest in propaganda and over-simplification of fact and contexts to further the agenda of various neo-conservative groups.

There may well be a few good laughs, but I doubt there will be much good history.  Of course, I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pius XII - two new biographies

Readers may be interested in two new biographies of Pius XII.  

The Pope's Jews: the Vatican's secret plan to save the Jews from the Nazis by Thomas Gordon (Thomas Dunne Books) has been available since the beginning of this month.  The review in Publisher's Weekly seems rather tame and non-committal which cannot be said of the review on Kirkus Review.  

Soldier of Christ the Life of Pope Pius XII by Robert Ventresca (Harvard UP)  will be published in January 2013.  The information provided on HUP's website indicates that Ventresca's work places a far greater emphasis on the post-war years arguing that the Cold War and the confrontation with communism gives the definition of Pacelli's papacy.

Of the two books, Ventresca's seems to me to be the more balanced and reliable.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

1942 Christmas Message of Pius XII

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1942 Allied diplomats immured within the Vatican had been exerting pressure on Pius XII to issue a public protest against German atrocities against civilian populations and, in particular, the persecution of the Jews.  In earlier posts I have presented the documentation given in ADSS as well as FRUS.  There was a faint hope that Pius would break away from his customary reserve and speak plainly, but that seemed to fade as the months went by and no indication was given that a change was likely.  

When the pope did speak his address was long - 45 minutes - and delivered in his usual manner of general comments on the current situation within the broad context of Catholic teaching.  It is important to note that what the pope did say as opposed to what he did not say was still of value.  In his role as Chief Pastor of the Church, the pope did outline Catholic teaching and offer a way forward based on principles of natural law and Thomistic theology.

The oft-quoted section has to be seen within its context.  It comes at the end of the speech and is part of a cry for the voiceless - victims of aerial bombardment, widows, orphans, the countless dead and those condemned to death on the grounds of nationality or race.

Pius did not name names, but the Nazi regime listened to the broadcast and heard it as an indictment of National Socialism.  The British and Americans heard it and declared it a condemnation of German atrocities, although privately they expressed reservations that it was likely to be the best they would get.  The Jews of Europe most likely did not hear it or any of the other victim groups for that matter.  Nonetheless, the pope did say something - it may not have been explicit enough for many, but it was a statement nonetheless.

Arguments over the text have gone on for decades.  The principal complaint is that the pope's moral duty was to speak out clearly and unambiguously, naming the murder of European Jewry as a crime beyond any other committed in the war so far.  The counter-argument says that Pius was painfully aware of the situation and feared making things worse by naming the extermination process in clear terms.  

My understanding of the events leading up to the 1942 Christmas address is that Pius was caught in a very difficult situation.  The outcome of the war was by no means decided in December 1942 although hope for an Allied victory was becoming something more than a dream.  What causes me to lean towards a more negative assessment of the Christmas address lies in the Allied Declaration made a week earlier that named the slaughter of the Jews as a crime for which Germany would be held accountable.  In that respect the Allies had named the crime explicitly - it was secret no more.  

Pius believed that if he condemned the crimes of one side he would be obliged by papal neutrality to condemn the crimes of the other side as well.  It is competently arguable that Pius had a clear idea of crimes committed by the Soviets in Eastern Europe, especially in the Baltic States and eastern Poland and that he worried about what would happen to the Church "in the East" if he named or suggested one of the Allied powers to be as guilty as the Germans of atrocities.

In any case the Christmas message of 1942 was as far as Pius XII believed a clear statement against atrocities in general and the extermination of the Jews in particular.

The text is posted in the "pages" section of the blog.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ADSS 7.53 Maglione notes on meeting with Osborne & Tittmann

As the year wore on and the diplomats inside the Vatican kept trying to elicit a positive response from Cardinal Maglione on the subject of a papal protest, both Osborne and Tittmann remained adamant that the pope should not be distracted by fears of Allied bombing of Italian cities.  Maglione tried equally as hard to elicit a promise of some sort for the protection of Rome and other Italian cities.  At the end, the Cardinal writes as though lamenting, that despite the expressions of Jewish gratitude for all the pope has done, Osborne still insisted the pope speak publicly against the extermination of the Jews.

ADSS 7.53 
Cardinal Maglione, notes

Reference: A.E.S. 6409/42
Location and date: Vatican, 14.12.1942

Summary statement:  Maglione communicates to Osborne that the Italian embassy announced the departure from Rome of the Italian military Supreme Command; he awaits an answer concerning the Germans. Osborne observes that the Pope is too preoccupied about the bombing of Italian cities. The Pope should protest against the massacre of the Jews.

Language: Italian


This morning I spoke with the English Minister (1) and, after, the Charge d’affaires of the USA (2) and I said to them: “Yesterday the Italian Ambassador communicated to me orally, but officially, that the Supreme Commander, Mussolini, and Military HQ have left Rome.(3)

 “I then asked Ambassador Guariglia if there are any German military leaders in Rome: if this is the case, I think they should also leave Rome. “Guariglia responded saying he would carry my question and suggestion to the Italian Government”.

I added; “In waiting for a response on this point I also ask you to bring the foregoing to the attention of your Governments”. (4)

The English Minister made the observation that his communications with the government were slow: it would be therefore good to entrust the Apostolic Delegate of London to inform the English Government. (I answered that I proposed to do this).

The English Minister then added that, although the Supreme Commander Mussolini and the General Staff are leaving Rome, the ministries will remain.

I answered that it would be dealt with, in the event, of civil offices, not military.

To Rome, I added, there are no, as far as I know war factories… ”.

“But there are the barracks, the troops…”

“In a city of one and a half million inhabitants it will be necessary to have troops in order to maintain public order!”

“The police are not enough?”

“I do not believe so.”

At this point the Minister delivered the attached letter to me, where it repeats the news that the policy of the English government expressed 19.01.1942 has not changed. (5)

I answered: If its Government had the evil intention to bomb Rome, I would try and find many excuses. But I believe in the good will of the Government of London and hope that it will take into consideration our valid reasons.

The Minister has pointed to the impression that the Holy See worries in a particular manner about Italian cities, when it speaks about bombing, because they are Italian.

I observed: firstly there are the most special reasons for Rome.  I reminded him of these (and I have not failed to repeat that if Rome was bombed, Holy See will protest); secondly, The Holy See has intervened against the bombing of civilian populations of Italian cities, because such bombings have happened.  The Minister must not forget that the Holy Father spoke against the bombing of unarmed populations on other occasions: when the English cities were bombed and all understood that the bombing of the English cities did not indeed escape the severe words of the Holy Father. (6)

The minister recognised the justice of my observation [about the Pope speaking against bombing cities] and then exclaimed:  But why does the Holy See not intervene against the terrible massacres of the Jews?  

I recalled that the Holy Father had already spoken in his messages that the right to life, to a peaceful existence and sharing of the goods of the earth belong to all people of every race and confession.  

And one cannot ignore how much the Holy Father has done to help the poor Jews.  They know this and frequently thank the Holy See. 

The minister insisted on this point:  he would have the Holy See intervene to stop the massacre of the Jews.

Cross References:

(1) Sir Francis D’Arcy Osborne
(2) Harold Tittmann
(3) ADSS 7.52
(4) Tittmann referred the cardinal to the note of the United States government passed by him via the Minister in Bern.  See FRUS 1942.3 p796.
(5) ADSS 5.208 – concerning bombing of Rome
(6) Cf Homily 24.11.1940, ADSS 4.177, 191; Christmas Address 24.12.1941, ADSS 5.172

ADSS 5.468 Tittmann to Maglione: possible papal protest

The last major request for a papal protest against German war crimes came from the United States.  As we have seen there was a general belief among American diplomats that Pius would not do more than what he already done, namely make general statements condemning atrocities but with no particular reference to German crimes.  However there was also a sense that any diplomatic initiative to apply pressure on the pope to "go public" was worth pursuing.   As with all other notes, except the British, there is no mention of Jews as the primary victims of Nazi persecution.    

ADSS 5.468 

Harold Tittmann, USA charge d’affaires to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  Memorandum with no number; AES 6660/42 (FRUS 1942.3 page 774)
Location and date: Vatican 14.09.1942

Summary statement: Crimes committed by Nazi troops in occupied territories.  Request for a papal condemnation.
Language: English


In accordance with instruction received from his Government, the Charge d’affaires of the United States to the Holy See has the honour to call the attention of His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State to the cruel and inhuman treatment by the Hitler forces of the civil populations in areas occupied by the Germans.  He desires to point out that these incredible horrors have been universally condemned and that this universal condemnation has been reflected in the expressions of all free peoples.

The Charge d’affaires has also been authorised by his Government to point out the helpful effect that a similar condemnation of these atrocities by the Holy Father would have in bringing about some check on the unbridled and uncalled-for-actions of the forces of the Nazi regime.(1)

Cross references: 
(1) A copy of this note was sent to the Department of State in Washington DC by Tittmann in his dispatch number 114 on 15.09.1942.  It was received by the Department on 14.10.1942.

American diplomacy and a papal protest 1942

ADSS is the most important source of information about the Holy See and Pope Pius XII during  World War II.  However, there are other archival sources that help us gain a more global perspective on the pressures applied to the Vatican in order to "encourage" the pope to make a public protest against German war crimes in the territories under its occupation.  

The material found in The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) helps the historian gain a better understanding of the American attitude towards the papal protest proposal put forward by the Brazilian ambassador, Idelbrando Accioly at the beginning of August 1942.

FRUS 1942 Volume 3 contains the relevant documents.  

1942.3 p772:  3 August 1942.

Leland Harrison (1883-1951), the ambassador to Switzerland (1937-1947) cabled the State Department relaying a dispatch from Harold Tittmann, the US charge d'affaires at the Holy See.  The substance of the report was:

1.  Tittmann had made repeated requests that the pope make a public protest against Nazi atrocities and that failure to do so was damaging the "moral prestige and is undermining faith both in the church and in the Holy Father himself".  The response given is that the pope has "already condemned offenses against morality in wartime and that to be specific now would only make matters worse".

2.  On 2 August the Brazilian ambassador informed Tittmann of the plan for diplomats to send the pope formal requests from their governments to make a public statement condemning German war crimes.

3.  Tittmann expressed his reservation that such a step would probably not change the pope's mind it would still be worthy of support.

1942.3 p773: 4 August 1942.

Cordell Hull (1871-1955), Secretary of State (1933-1944) replied to Harrison's telegram with authorisation to make "an independent but simultaneous approach to the Vatican Foreign Office" along the lines outlined in the previous telegram.

1942.3 p773 18 August 1942.

Benjamin Sumner Welles (1892-1962), Under-Secretary of State (1937-1943) met with Ronald Campbell (1890-1983) from the British Embassy.  Campbell formally informed the United States the the United Kingdom had agreed to deliver a formal request for a papal protest against German atrocities.  Welles told Campbell that Tittmann had already been authorised to do the same thing.

1942.3 p774 14 September 1942.

Tittmann delivered the formal note from the United States government asking the pope to make a public protest against German atrocities.  (The text will follow in the next post.)

1942.3 p774 18 September 1942

Harrison in Bern passed on a dispatch from Tittmann informing the State Department that the formal note from the Untied States government had been delivered.

1942.3.p775 26 September 1942

Myron Taylor, the Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to Pius XII sent a copy of a document received from the Jewish Agency for Palestine that set out in graphic terms the physical destruction of the Jews of Warsaw in particular and the Jews of Europe in general.  This document appears in ADSS 8.493.

1942.3 p776 6 October 1942

Tittmann wrote to Hull with an update on the progress of the diplomatic notes urging the pope to  protest German atrocities noting that the protest proposal appeared to enjoy the support of the Jesuits.  However, while it was believed the pope was giving the notes serious consideration, opinion in the Vatican was divided as to the wisdom of such a move.

Friday, October 12, 2012

ADSS 5.467 Osborne to Maglione: UK request for the Pope to speak

Two days after the Polish and Belgian ambassadors delivered their governments' request for a public papal condemnation of German war crimes and on the same day as the delivery of the Brazilian note, D'Arcy Osborne, the British Minister to the Holy See delivered the formal request of the government of the United Kingdom for the same.  It is one of the few English documents in ADSS.  

ADSS 5.467 
D’Arcy Osborne, UK Minister to the Holy See to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: 59/5/42; AES 6880/42
Location and date: Vatican, 14.09.1942

Summary statement: The British government asks the Pope to make a public condemnation of Nazi war crimes.
Language: English


I have been instructed by my Government to urge that His Holiness the Pope should carefully consider the expediency of a public and specific denunciation of Nazi treatment of the populations of the countries in German occupation.  Among the crimes committed under this regime of ever more flagrant terrorism it will suffice to mention the wholesale murder of innocent hostages under a nefarious doctrine of collective responsibility, the menace or actual application of measures of extermination of whole peoples, the deliberate liquidation of political and cultural leadership, the repression of religious freedom, the wholesale uprooting and deportation of racial units, the conscription for military service or forced labour of large sections of the populations, and the merciless persecution of the Jews throughout Europe. These inhuman practices, reminiscent of pagan barbarism, violate alike the natural and moral laws, the conscience and principles of civilisation, and the doctrine of the Catholic Church in respect of the dignity and rights of the human individual, the family and the nation.

2.  If it should be suggested that reports of these outrages may be exaggerated, if not actually false, confirmation may be sought in the announcements of the German and German-controlled radio services in regard to reprisals, executions of hostages, transfers of populations, military and industrial conscription and the Jewish persecution. Moreover corroborative evidence may be found in the many public statements of the Catholic hierarchy in Germany and the Occupied Countries.

3. It may perhaps be objected that His Holiness has already publicly denounced moral crimes arising out of the war. But such occasional declarations in general terms do not have the lasting force and validity that, in the timeless atmosphere of the Vatican, they might perhaps be expected to retain. Moreover their relevance and significance have been impaired and transcended by the mounting record of Nazi crimes.

4.  It is affirmed that the mission of the Church is a spiritual one, that its primary purpose is the safeguarding of the faith throughout the world and that this imposes upon the Papacy political neutrality and supranational impartiality at all times, and more particularly in time of war between the nations. The Supreme Pontiff is, it is often asserted, the universal father whose charity and affection are impartially distributed among all peoples. But universal paternity and impartial charity need not exclude reprobation of offences against humanity and civilisation by one nation at the expense of others. A policy of silence in regard to such offences against the conscience of the world must necessarily involve a renunciation of moral leadership and a consequent atrophy of the influence and authority of the Vatican; and it is upon the maintenance and assertion of such authority that must depend any prospect of a Papal contribution to the re-establishment of world peace.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ADSS 3.2.406 Andrej Szeptyckyj to Pius XII

At the same time diplomats immured within the Vatican were starting to exert significant pressure on the Pope to make a clear statement condemning German atrocities, information from "the East" continued to arrive in Rome.  One of the most explicit letters was from the Uniate / Greek Catholic Archbishop of Lvov, Andrzej Szeptyckj (1865-1944).  No stranger to controversy, Szeptycki was very blunt in his description of the German occupation.  This letter was hand written and sent with a realistic acceptance that it could be intercepted by "those who should not read it".  Szeptycki was an old man in 1942 and, as he made clear to the pope, was ready to die for the sake of his people, his church and his country.  The letter reached Rome, but there is no indication at this stage if a reply was considered or sent.  

Perhaps Pius believed it was too dangerous? This could have well been the case with an interesting observation about two other letters that effectively bracketed ADSS 3.2.406.  In ADSS 3.2.397 Pius XII wrote to Szeptyckj on 25.07.1942 with congratulations for his Golden Jubilee of ordination, and then ADSS 3.2.409 which is Szeptyckj's letter of thanks to the pope on 14.09.1942.

ADSS 3.2 Document 406 
The Metropolitan of Lvov (Uniate) Andrzej Szeptyckj to Pope Pius XII

Reference: AES 6881/42
Location and date: Lvov (LĂ©opol) Ukraine,  29-31.08.1942

Summary:  The Metropolitan informs the Pope of the situation in his diocese, under German domination, after the retreat of the Russians.
Language: French


Most Holy Father,

I have not written to Your Holiness since the German occupation as I have not been confident that my letter would not fall into the hands of those who should not read it.  Hoping, however, that I will have a good opportunity in the very near future, I write this brief essay in the hope that it will succeed in reaching Your Holiness.

Released from the Bolshevik yoke by the German army we felt some relief, but it only lasted a month or two.  Gradually, the Government has established a system of terror and corruption that becomes every day heavier and more unbearable.

Today the whole country agrees that the German regime is evil, almost diabolical, and perhaps even more so than the Bolshevik regime. For at least a year no day has passed without the more horrible crimes being committed, assassinations, stealing, rapes, confiscations, and extortions. The Jews are the first victims, more than two hundred thousand of them having been killed in our small country.

As the [German] army advanced eastwards, the number of victims grew.  In Kiev, within a few days, they executed up to one hundred and thirty thousand men, women and children.  Over the last year all the small cities of Ukraine witnessed similar massacres.  In the beginning the authorities, ashamed at these inhuman acts of injustice, endeavored to ensure they had documents to prove that locals or militia [partisans?] were responsible for the murders.  Over time, they began to kill Jews in the streets, shamelessly, in front of the entire population.  Unsurprisingly, crowds of Christians, not only baptized Jews, but “Aryans” as they say, were also victims of unjustified murder.  There are hundreds of thousands of arrests, mostly unjust; crowds of young men are shot without any plausible reason.  A regime of serfdom has been applied to the rural population, which is now trapped.

Moreover, almost all the young people are forced to go to Germany as factory or farm workers.  They take almost everything the peasants produce by first demanding double the set amount.  The death penalty is proclaimed for anyone caught buying or selling anything directly from the producers.  Restitution of private property has been proclaimed but nothing is done to do it.  On the contrary, the [German] authorities will use without reservation, all property confiscated by the Bolsheviks and say that the entire earth belongs to the State.  It is often said in whispers that personal property is considered “spoils of war”.  They continue and expand the Bolshevik system.  Certainly, there are some honest people among the leaders.  Sometimes one even meets some good Catholics, but the vast majority of the staff sent here are lawless people, who enable quite incredible abuse.  Villagers are treated like blacks in the colonies.  They are flogged and slapped for no reason; for example, the food they bring to their children in the city is confiscated, and it is done with so little human feeling that you do not believe it could be possible.

And yet, they are real.  From the personal testimony of some people, I know that the head of a district, for example, has a passion for personally confiscating the baskets of villagers who go to the city and throw the peasants in the river.  He does this in a time of real famine which had raged before the harvest in many villages.  And nobody dares to complain because he would seek revenge on the complainer.  Nothing can be done because he enjoys protection from someone higher up.

An eye witness told me personally, that he saw a young SS officer run from a distance so as not to lose the opportunity to give a blow to a dying man, unknown to the rest of the people, who had been killed by the police because he had done something to displease them. 

I am unable to expand on similar cases – they are innumerable.

It is just as if a band of angry or enraged wolves had fallen against the poor people.  And it is not only peasants and the simple people who are exposed to bellows and blows.  For example, a German clerk enjoys treatment two or three times higher than a non-German can beat up the highest non-German prosecutor.

People struggling with the police are beaten with rubber truncheons in the public train stations or in the street.  Sometimes they set loose police dogs on the people.  Sometimes the dogs are muzzled, but there are cases where they are not.

Despite our repeated requests to order small parishes among the farms that were confiscated de facto under the Bolsheviks but not “nationalized” as they said, we have achieved nothing and the allocation of the clergy is greatly reduced to a very poor result.

I must mention with great appreciation the help we receive from German Catholics through the association to help Germans on the borders of the Reich.  The Ukrainian clergy gets, it is true, what the Government calls the “voluntary support” of RM50 a month which is rather a “political demonstration” rather than real relief.

Yet we are expected to pay a 25% tax assessment.  The anti-Catholic laws of the Reich do not yet apply.  Priests are allowed to teach catechism to children in schools.  We do not mix sermons and the administration of parishes.  One also wants to regulate marriages, but not in an anti-canonical sense.

The Germans demand of the clergy, as for all citizens, requirements for passports, permissions and all the restrictive regulations of civil liberties which can only be imagined.  But it has permitted the opening, for example, of seminaries.  Our seminary, theological academy operates almost normally.  However, a real persecution threatens us continually like a sword of Damocles over our heads.  The Germans allow me to print a monthly newspaper for the diocese for Pastoral Letters and Instructions.  But, they confiscate things for the most trivial reasons in the world.  Nonetheless I was able all the same, do make six pretty solid issues of about 32 pages each.  I was able to convene a diocesan synod, which has lasted throughout most of the year and given me the opportunity to be in continuous communication with the clergy of the diocese.  Monasteries are gradually being reorganized.   But this is far from being a sufficient counterweight to the nameless demoralization faced by the simple and weak.  They learn in effect to steal, commit murder; they lose their sense of justice and humanity.  I protested the homicides in Pastoral Letters, which were, naturally, confiscated, but not before they were read four or five times by the gathered clergy.

I declared that homicide was a case of excommunication reserved to the bishop.  I protested again in a letter I wrote to Himmler and I endeavored to prevent young people from putting their names forward for the militia as this is a cause of scandal.

But all this is nothing compared to the growing flood of moral filth engulfing the country.

We fully expect that as the regime of terror grows, it will turn its proceedings more and more to Ukrainian and Polish Christians.  The executioners are accustomed to seeing bloodshed and bloodlust, and are in fact used to massacring Jews, thousands of innocent people.

Because everything is now already permitted by the Germans, it is unlikely that their rage will be stopped when there is no force to impose any discipline.  We therefore expect that the whole country will be immersed in a sea of innocent blood unless some extraordinary event stops the course of things.

The only consolation we have in these terrible times is that nothing happens to us against the will of oass="MsoNormal">

We can not ordinarily serve prisoners of war in hospitals or concentration camps where over a few months hundreds die daily the vast majority of them prisoners.  I have statistics and lists which are daunting and frightening.  Our priests are not allowed to serve our people, many of whom are in the greater Ukraine.  We are afraid of the cause of the Union of Churches.  We are afraid of any type of harmony, because the regime is fully and skillfully adept at the maxim “divide …” and indeed we are the victims.  I did not add any criticism of the system that Your Holiness better understands than all of us.  This system of lies, deceit, injustice and looting is a caricature of all ideas of civilization and order.

This system of selfishness is exaggerated to absurdity, a national chauvinism that is quite mad, a hatred of all that is honest and beautiful, a system that is something so phenomenal that one feels as though stupefied at the first sight of a monster.  To what end will this system lead the unfortunate German nation?  It will lead to a degeneration of the race unknown in human history.  God will ensure that the Catholic Church will not fail, even though it cannot fail to feel the shock against the influence of hell.  If the persecution takes the form of massacres because of religion it could well be the salvation of those countries.  There is a huge need for blood volunteered to atone for the blood shed in these crimes. 

Your Holiness denied me the grace of an Apostolic Blessing three years ago, through which I pledged to offer my life for the apostolic mission given to me for the salvation of my diocese.  I do not insist on this, persuaded that Your Holiness understood things better than I did, but I think I lost the best and perhaps only occasion under the Bolsheviks.  But these three years have taught me that I am not worthy of such a death.  And I realized that the sacrifice of my life would have less value before God than a prayer of a child.  Today I ask a special blessing for my prayers and sacrifices.  The greater sacrifices are for the entire Catholic Church, a small proportion remain for my diocese and my people but these sacrifices will not be as fruitful as the Blessing Your Holiness and thostly unjust; crowds of young mhrough your Blessing.  That is why, prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, I beg you to kindly bestow Your Apostolic Blessing for my poor people, the poor clergy of my diocese and my more nothingness.