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 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.

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