Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Martin Gilbert on Pius XII

This is a re-publication of an article written by Sir Martin Gilbert in 2008 on the website of the St James Vicariate for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel.  Often employed as a supporter of one or other sides in the debate on Pope Pius XII, Gilbert's own position is more nuanced and moderate.  The article is an example of this moderation.  

Distinguished English Jewish historian, Sir Martin Gilbert, has published an editorial in HaAretz (5.12.2008) urging all to wait patiently until the Vatican archives are opened so that the truth about Pope Pius XII's wartime activity can indeed be revealed. Gilbert, who is also an authority on Christians who saved Jews during the Shoah, reveals himself again as a voice of moderation.

The archive holds the answersBy Martin Gilbert
Four years ago, Pope John Paul II invited me to the Vatican to discuss the proposed canonization of Pope Pius XII from a historical perspective. After careful consideration, I decided I could not go. As a Jew, I did not feel able to comment on whether or not a pope should become a saint. That is an internal Roman Catholic theological issue, entirely within the competence of the Church. 

This does not mean that as a Jewish historian I do not have an opinion on what the Pope did or did not do; indeed, I have written about it in my book "The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust" (2002), in which I discuss, for example, positive aspects of his activities in Rome in October 1943. 

Pope Benedict XVI asks that the public debate about the canonization of Pius XII wait until he makes an official statement. As, however, the Vatican has cited me as a supporter of Pius XII's candidacy on this issue, I feel I should explain my view. It is this: 

If the Vatican feels today, as Pope John Paul II felt, that the Pope's behavior during the Holocaust merits particular recognition, it should send - as I have several times urged - to the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem the notarized material - the evidence in the Vatican archives - on which to base an application for him to be made a Righteous Gentile. 

To date more than 21,000 Righteous Gentiles, almost all of them Christians, many of them Roman Catholics, have been recognized by Yad Vashem, which - as I know from my own work in its archive - makes extraordinary efforts to give honor where honor is due. 

Yad Vashem's response to such a request with regard to Pius XII would depend on the material the Vatican provided from its wartime archive. At the moment only archival material up to 1939 is accessible to scholars; for later material, they will have to wait until 2013. 

Like many historians, Jewish and non-Jewish, including a distinguished international panel initially welcomed by the Vatican, I have long urged the Vatican to open its wartime archive. The British government long ago opened its files with regard to Britain's response to the Holocaust, and has accepted whatever the documentation reveals. 

There are many historical episodes in which the evidence of the Pope's positive involvement will be confirmed or negated by the documents in the Vatican archives. One is the refuge given to 477 Jews in Vatican City and its enclaves on the eve of the German roundup of Jews in Rome in 1943. A further 4,238 Jews were saved when they were given sanctuary in monasteries and convents throughout the city. Among those in Rome at that time already recognized by Yad Vashem was Father Pietro Palazzini, later a cardinal. Only the Vatican archives can reveal what part the Pope himself played in these two acts of rescue, which saved four-fifths of the Jews of Rome. 

On December 17, 1942, the British, American and Soviet governments issued a declaration denouncing the "bestial" Nazi crimes against the Jews. When asked to support the declaration, the Pope declined. A week later, in his annual Christmas message, he denounced racial crimes, but did not mention the Jews by name. This has been held against him ever since. But in Berlin, we now know, from the German records, Nazi leaders felt that this papal message aligned the Pope with the Jews, as their supporter and advocate. What is the truth? The Vatican archives will show what the Pope intended: perhaps various drafts of the message, and the Pope's comments on them, and his hopes for the message. 

When senior Roman Catholic Church leaders in Vichy France denounced the deportation of Jews and urged their flocks to hide and save them, did Pius initiate that, or support it? Only the Vatican archive holds the answer. 

When the papal nuncio in Budapest worked tirelessly in 1944 to help save Jews from Arrow Cross massacre, did Pius XII initiate this act of rescue, or support it? Only the Vatican archive holds the answer. 

When - encouraged by Chaim Barlas of the Jewish Agency - the papal nuncio in Istanbul, the future Pope John XXIII (we take the liberty to correct a print error in the HaAretz text that wrongly identifies the nuncio in Istanbul), successfully pressed the Bulgarian king not to deport Jews to Germany, did Pius XII initiate this act of rescue, or support it? Only the Vatican archive holds the answer - for it contains the complete two-way correspondence between the Vatican and its emissaries overseas. 

Once we can see Pius XII's personal involvement, those who wish to see him honored will be able to make a case, if indeed there is a case to be made. At the moment, the evidence for the many historical episodes in which he must have been involved, consulted or given advice to his cardinals and senior clergy - each episode of crucial importance in the Jewish story - is still locked away. As a historian whose instinct is to credit people like Pius with a desire to help, even I cannot predict what the archives will hold. 

The Vatican should have confidence in the outcome, allow the world to see the evidence, and let truth prevail. Surely the time to do so is now. 

Sir Martin Gilbert's book "The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust," which includes material on Pius XII, is published in paperback by Holt (U.S.) and Doubleday (U.K.).

To go the article on the HaAretz site: View and read

Sir Martin Gilbert

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mike Phayer on Gerald Steinacher

When I posted my article protesting against the vicious attacks by certain people against Kevin Madigan and David Kertzer I received quite a few private emails from colleagues and friends saying, in effect, "it's about time someone said what needed to be said".  Things have quietened down somewhat - always a sinister moment I believe, much like when students are working very, very quietly in the classroom and I start wondering what they are really up to! - but Emeritus Professor Mike Phayer sent this email to a number of us on some points in Gerald Steinacher's excellent work Nazis on the Run.  I publish them here since there have been some questions sent to me asking for clarification on aspects of Steinacher's thesis.  I hope Mike's comments help.

From Professor Mike Phayer:

A few days ago the editor of Contemporary Austrian Studies, Guenther Bischof, wrote me saying that Steinacher significantly improved his manuscript (now published by OUP) after Bischof sent him my review (with my permission) of "Nazis auf der Flucht." (The review appeared in CAS, vol. 18 (2010).  In Steinacher's fine "Nazis auf der Flucht" he does not say that Montini knew about Hudal and Draganovic's ratlines, but says that it is "very unlikely" that he did not know (136). Nor does he say that Pius XII was aware that top Nazi fugitives were hiding in Rome, but says that it is "hardly imaginable" (148) that he was unaware. That he, indeed, was aware we know from Uki Goni's book, "The Real Odessa." Goni found the document in the archives of the British Foreign Office in which the Vatican secretariat pleaded with the Brits on behalf of the Ustasa (fugitives of course) who had sought the help of Pius--an explicit reference to the pope.

In less sensitive and potentially damaging situations the Vatican was more open about Pius's hand in directing affairs. This is evident if one traces the origin of the Vatican's ratlines (in both Italy and Spain). In 1941 Pius, believing that Germany would win the war, or at least that the war would end in a stalemate with the Nazis in control of western Europe,  urged countries to open their borders to emigrants--not Jews, Catholics. Secretary Maglione wrote to the Argentine ambassador that "the pontiff would be interested in knowing the willingness of the government of the Argentine Republic to apply its immigration laws generously, in order to encourage at the opportune moment European Catholic immigrants to seek the necessary land and capital " in your country.  (Ambassador Llobet to Ruiz Guifiazu, October 6,1942, Guerra Europea, File 1, vol. 4, Cable 1272, Archives of the Foreign Minister of Argentina, cited in http://www.world-news-research.com/nvatican.html) Note that here there is no attempt to hide the pope's involvement. Clearly, Pope Pius was thinking in terms of Nazi persecution of Catholics postwar. By 1944 Pius saw that he was mistaken about the Nazis war fortunes. It was then that the second stage, so to speak, of the Vatican emigration program came about giving rise to the ratlines for fugitive Nazis and Ustasa, along with tens of thousands of innocent east European Catholics fleeing Communism.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Cross too Heavy: what David Schutz said (wrote)

This is the media release written by David Schutz, from the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission.  David blogs on Sentire cum ecclesia.  While David and I would probably agree to disagree on somethings, he is one of those people in the "blogosphere" who really does make the cyber-world a better place.  Listening to him speak at the seminar in Melbourne on the Catholic understanding of beatification and canonisation to a largely Jewish audience who had just sat through a presentation on Pius XII in his gentle, polite and firm manner was very impressive.  As David writes in the opening paragraph of the article the true test of inter-faith discussion lies in the ability to speak honestly and frankly on matters of great sensitivity and disagreement.

Pius XII discussed in Synagogue Symposium

In interfaith dialogue, everyone enjoys meeting one another and sharing good times. But the quality of interfaith dialogue and the relationship between dialogue partners is often best gauged by the way and the extent to which they are able to discuss issues of sensitivity and disagreement.

The Symposium held at the Temple Beth Israel synagogue in St Kilda on 29 April 2012 - "A Cross Too Heavy: Pius XII and the Jews of Europe" – therefore testified to the health and maturity of the Christian Jewish dialogue in Melbourne. Hosted by the B'nai B'rith Melbourne Mitzvah Lodge and the Council of Christians and Jews - Victoria,  it addressed an issue that has been of great concern to both Jews and Catholics for some time now.

Approximately 300 people, the majority from the Jewish community, attended the event to hear Sydney-based historian Dr Paul O'Shea speak. The author of the book "A Cross Too Heavy: Eugenio Pacelli: Politics and the Jews of Europe, 1917-1943", Dr O'Shea is the Dean of Mission at Rosebank Catholic College and has also taught for Jewish centres of education. Following his presentation, Rabbi Fred Morgan of Temple Beth Israel and Mr David Schütz, the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, both spoke briefly on issues pertaining to the topic.

The symposium was harmonius. Despite the headline of a newspaper report of this symposium, there were no “raised voices”. The speakers were palpably amicable. The addresses were scholarly, frank, honest and thought-provoking. The subjects addressed are confronting but there was no antagonism.

Dr Paul O’Shea presented an epitome of his four years of research in the Vatican archives and other historical records into the relationship of Pope Pius XII with the Jews. He described the vastness of those archives and their limitations. He referred to the theological and political constraints within which the pope worked. He spoke of efforts to help the Jews and raised questions as to whether more could and should have been done. He concluded that the more one delves into the archives, the white does not get whiter, the black does not get blacker, the grey just gets murkier. Dr O'Shea did not offer an opinion on the cause for the canonisation of Pope Pius XII, but limited his remarks to the results of his historical research.

Rabbi Fred Morgan spoke about the effect of the Holocaust on post Holocaust Jewish thinking. He said, first, Jews recognised the need for their own country as a safe haven for Jews as there were almost no open doors for Jewish refugees in the late 1930s; secondly universal ethics had been challenged as people were killed because the Nazis declared Jews were not people; and thirdly genocide should never occur again to Jews or any other ethnic group.

David Schütz explained the criteria for, and process of beatification and canonisation. This has been an area of some misunderstanding. It is sometimes incorrectly thought that to declare someone 'a saint' is a mark of approval for all that that person did (or did not do) in their life. Mr Schütz explained that 'sainthood' has to do with holiness, and that the Catholic Church believes it is God who makes saints, not the Church.

Following the speakers, there was an opportunity for questions from the floor, sometimes raising confronting issues and concerns. Clearly at this time there remain many questions which cannot now be answered (and may in fact never be). But all three speakers agreed that the historical study must proceed unimpeded, that the cause for beatification or canonisation of Pope Pius was a matter for the Catholic Church to determine on its merits, and that this is a topic on which both Jews and Christians must continue to dialogue to overcome misunderstandings or any possible offence in the years to come.

Many thanks are owed to the vision and efforts of the organising committee: Philip Bliss, Penny Jakobovits, Thilo Troschke, and Walter Rapoport of the Council of Christians and Jews, and Janice Huppert, Bernard Korbman, Sue Newman and Faye Dubrowin of B'nai B'rith.

(By David Schütz  with contributions from Michael Cohen. A transcript of the three presentations will be posted on the websites of the Council of Christians and Jews and B'nai B'rith.)

David Schutz

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Cross Too Heavy: this is what I said.

The previous post described one of the ongoing problems of speaking and writing in fields that can not be covered in a simple short article.  It takes skill to write a piece of copy for the newspaper that captures what the speakers said accurately and appropriately.  Unfortunately that is not what happened with the article from the Australian Jewish News (Melbourne).  

On a separate page I have placed what I said - it is somewhat different to what Peter Kohn suggests I said.

The page can be found on the right side of the homepage above the "followers".

A Cross too Heavy: What the media said I said

On Sunday 29 April about 300 people gathered at Temple Beth Israel in East St Kilda for an afternoon of presentations on aspects of Pius XII.  It was a gathering organised by the Victorian Council of Christians and Jews and the B'nai B'rith Mitzvah Melbourne with support from the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.  It was a very successful engagement.  

A reporter from the Australian Jewish News (Melbourne) was present at the seminar and wrote an account for the press.  

One of the main reasons I began this blog was because of the frustration at being misquoted in certain parts of the media.  Nothing seems to have happened to warrant a serious review of that position.

This post presents what journalist Peter Kohn said happened that afternoon.  In the following posts I will present what I said, what the hosts of the event wrote in response to the media article and, finally, the account of the afternoon made by David Schutz from the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission.  I am doing this because it is so important to ensure accuracy.  Inaccurate reporting, done for whatever reason, is bad reporting.  Presenting the series of posts in chronological order helps establish what in fact was said and by whom.

This is a copy of the article by Peter Kohn in the Australian Jewish News published on 4 May 2012.

If Peter Kohn did speak with me, he did so without identifying himself.  Mr Kohn has included things I did not say and suggested that I stand opposed to the canonisation. This is curious, since I did not mention the beatification or canonisation process at all.  That was left to David Schutz and Rabbi Fred Morgan to discuss.  The next post will be what I did say, as opposed to what Mr Kohn imagined I said. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

ADSS 8.496 Montini's notes on Myron Taylor's meeting with Maglione

Throughout 1942 Giuseppe Burzio in Bratislava, Giuseppe Marcone in Zagreb, Andrea Cassulo in Bucharest and even Cesare Orsenigo in Berlin reported increasing persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.  What makes this document interesting is the date - October 1942.  President Roosevelt's personal representative to the Holy See, Myron Taylor, had delivered a detailed memorandum (See ADSS 8.493) on the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.  And while much of the details were inaccurate, the broad sweep of the document was consistent with most of the reports available to the Vatican.

Maglione's instruction to Montini is significant.  While Rome had received accurate accounts of the persecution from its own diplomats, and had instructed them to do whatever they could to help the Jews, it is curious that the response to the American appeal was strikingly conservative and muted.  Wariness of atrocity propaganda may have also been a reason for such a cautious response.

ADSS 8.496

Reference: AES 7274/42 original
Location and date: Vatican, 01.10.1942

Summary statement: Information on the massacre of the Jews
Language: Italian


Mr Tittmann came to the Secretary of State asking for any response to the Memorial left by Myron Taylor on the subject of the killing of the Jews. (1)

The contents of the memorial had been telegraphed to him by his government and he was ordered to discuss it with the Holy Father; but it arrived two hours after the third audience [26.09.1942] so there was no chance for him to report on it orally to His Holiness.

Office note:

After audience with His Eminence (Maglione) 06.10.1942

Prepare a short note (3) which says, in essence, that the Holy See has had reports of the harsh treatment of the Jews. It has not yet been able to verify the accuracy of all information received. (4) The Holy See, on the other hand, has not failed to intervene on behalf of the Jews whenever it was able to.

Cross references: 
(1) See ADSS8.493, note 1.
(2) See ADSS 5.488ff
(3) ADSS 8.507
(4) Pirro Scavizzi (see ADSS 8.206n1) wrote on 07.10.1942 a report on the situation in Poland.  “The Jews: the elimination of the Jews through mass murder is almost total without regard even to children, even infants.  Besides this, they are all marked with a white arm band and civilian life is impossible.  The can not go into a market, walk into a store, or get into trams or wheelchairs, see a show, go to a non-Jewish home.  Before being deported or killed, they are condemned to forced labour, even if they are the educated class.  The few remaining Jews are serene, almost proud.  It is said that more than two million Jews were killed … It allows the Poles to seek refuge in the houses of the ghetto, which are depopulated on a daily basis with the systematic massacres of the Jews”.

ADSS 8.493 Notes of Montini, memo from Myron Taylor

As more news about the persecution of the Jews arrived in Rome from papal diplomatic sources, there was also an increase in the number of reports sent from other diplomatic sources.  Here Giovanni Montini refers to a memo sent from President Roosevelt's personal representative, Myron Taylor, which reported in graphic detail massacres of Jews from Lithuania, Poland and German-occupied Russia and Ukraine.  Some of the details were inaccurate, but the general tenor of the report was consistent with others of a similar nature.  

Cardinal Maglione's note is very interesting.  Atrocity propaganda was common during the 1914-1918 war and, I suspect, Maglione was wary of according approval to a memorandum that came from a source outside of the usual Vatican diplomatic channels, until it could be verified.  Montini noted that while the pope had "read and understood" the letter, Maglione was not so convinced. 

ADSS 8.493

Reference: AES 7247/42
Location and date: Vatican, 27.09.1942
Summary statement: News on massacres of Jews
Language: Italian


This letter of Mr Myron Taylor (1) to His Eminence Cardinal Maglione was taken this morning by the gentleman [Harold Tittman] in the absence of My Taylor, to His Eminence.

The Holy Father has read and understood the letter.

His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State is not so sure / convinced.

Note of Cardinal Maglione:

I do not believe we have the information which can confirm – in particular – this terrible news.  Is this not so?

Office note:

30.09.1942:  There are those of Malvezzi.

Cross references: 
(1) FRUS 1942 III, pp 775-776 (follows)
(2) Montini noted this on 18.09.1942 after a meeting with Count Pierro Malvezzi (1916-1987) of the Institute of Reconstruction of Industry.  It seems to point to another set of similar reports from Malvezzi during a visit to Poland in 1940-1941.

FRUS 1942 III, pp 775-776.

The President’s Personal Representative to Pope Pius XII (Myron Taylor) to the Cardinal Secretary of State (Luigi Maglione).

Vatican City, September 26,1942.

My dear Cardinal Maglione, I have the honour to bring to the attention of Your Eminence the following memorandum which has been received from my government:
“The following was received from the Geneva Office of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in a letter dated August 30th, 1942.  That office received the report from two reliable eye-witnesses (Aryans), one of whom came on August 14th from Poland.

“(1)  Liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto is taking place.  Without any distinction all Jews, irrespective of age or sex, are being removed from the Ghetto in groups and shot.  Their corpses are utilised for making fats and their bones for the manufacture of fertiliser.  Corpses are even being exhumed for these purposes.

“(2)  These mass executions take place, not in Warsaw, but in especially prepared camps for the purpose, one of which is stated to be Belzek (sic).  About 50,000 Jews have been executed in Lemberg itself on the spot during the past month.  According to another report 100,000 have been massacred in Warsaw.  There is not one Jew left in the entire east of Poland, including occupied Russia.  It is also reported, in this connection that the entire non-Jewish population of Sevastopol was murdered.  So as not to attract the attention of foreign countries, the butchering of the Jewish population in Poland was not done at one single time.

“(3)  Jews deported from Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and Slovakia are sent to be butchered, while Aryans deported to the East from Holland and France are genuinely used for work.

“(4)  Inasmuch as butcherings of this kind would attract great attention in the west, they must first of all deport them to the East, where less opportunity is afforded to outsiders of knowing what is going on.  During the last few weeks a large part of the Jewish population deported to Lithuania and Lublin has already been executed.  That is probably the reason why the deportees were not permitted to have correspondence with any one.  A great number of the German refugees were taken Theresienstadt.  This place, however, is only an interim station and the people there await the same fate.

“(5)  Arrangements are made for new deportations as soon as space is made by executions.  Caravans of such deportees being transported in cattle cars are often seen.  There are about forty people in each cattle car.  It is especially significant to note that Lithuanian non-Jews are entrusted with fetching the candidates from the death Ghetto in Warsaw.

“(6)  It is a tragedy that the Polish population is being incited by the Germans against the Jews and the relationship between the Poles and the Jews has been aggravated to the last degree.  In Lemberg this is particularly true.”

I should much appreciate it if Your Eminence could inform me whether the Vatican has any information that would tend to confirm the reports contained in this memorandum.  If so, I should like to know whether the Holy Father has any suggestions as to any practical manner in which the forces of civilised public opinion could be utilised in order to prevent a continuation of these barbarities.