Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A journey's end! ADSS - complete

Last night, Sydney time, around 18.00 hrs, I closed the last volume of ADSS.  I have finished a project that I started over three years ago to read through the entire eleven volumes of Actes et documents du Saint-Seige relatifs a la seconde guerre mondiale. And what an adventure it has been.  One online correspondent described ADSS as a resource that was "always referred to but hardly ever read" in the study of the Catholic Church and the 1939-1945 war.


I had "cherry picked" from ADSS over the years but came to the conclusion that the only way to come to understand the patterns within the documents and the relationships between authors, recipients and subjects and, above all, to try and capture something of the people who gave instructions and orders, was to read the entire collection.


Making my way through the volumes has been one of the most satisfying exercises in my academic life.  Reading through the thousands of documents, checking footnotes and following up tangential references and hunches, cross-referencing with material made available since the last volume was published in 1981, has been exhilarating and exciting.  I stand in awe at the skill of the original editors - Pierre Blet, Robert Graham, Angelo Martini and Burkhart Schneider - Jesuits, priests and historians, now all deceased, and I salute them for their expertise in fulfilling the task given them by Paul VI.  I have stood on the shoulders of giants and I have seen wondrous things.


ADSS does not give us "all the answers"; in fact it creates more questions.  But what ADSS does give us is a window into the operation of the Secretariat of State of Pope Pius XII and the daily workings of the Secretariat and its associated departments, especially the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs that dealt with the relations between the Holy See and foreign powers and governments.  I have absolutely no doubt that Pius XII acted from noble intentions and sincerely believed he was doing all he could to help the victims of the war, especially the hunted Jews of Europe.  His principal aides, Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Secretary of State, Monsignors Giovanni Battista Montini and Domenico Tardini in the Congregation of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs as well as the nuncios, apostolic delegates, apostolic visitors and seconded representatives, also acted with noble intent.  The question raised by this and which cannot be answered from documents alone, is "did they do all they could with the information they had?"  And for that I have some ideas and sketches of responses but nothing conclusive, except that there are more than a few areas, in particular Rome in September-October 1943, where the answer leans heavily towards the negative.


Has my position on Pius XII changed?  In the "big picture" - no; in the details that emerge from ADSS - yes.  Based on the evidence supplied in ADSS, did Pius do all he could to save the Jews of Europe?  Again, in the "big picture" - it is a qualified "no"; in the details that emerge from ADSS - it is a qualified "yes".  When the archives for Pius are opened, possibly in 2014, we may have more detail to help answer the question.  However, my reading of ADSS suggests there was no plot to leave out unpleasant details or anything that would suggest Pius XII acted inappropriately.


As I start to collate the data I have accumulated - at this stage I have eleven documents of at least 50 pages each that compromise the document summaries, a 40 page summary document of the principal figures mentioned in ADSS (excluding the German bishops for whom I have another document) and the individual texts I have translated (some of which are published on the blog) - I will post observations and critiques.


The next stage is to correlate the material with a chronology of the 1939-1945 war and the Holocaust, as well as establish links to other archival resources.


I extend my sincere thanks to colleagues and friends who have sent messages of congratulations.  That of itself is a wonderful reminder that historians do not work in a vacuum, we are a community of learners and teachers.


And now, on to the next part of the project!

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