Sunday, August 19, 2012

Memories, and "Framing" - Pius XII

1. Clerical Whispers reported on 96 year old Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini's memories of Pius XII during the war years.  It is a very short article.  Does it add to the historical record?  No.  It is a "human interest" story focused on the cardinal's memory of Pius' presence in a Roman suburb after an air raid.  It could by San Lorenzo, but there are no details given.  Fr Z's blog contains a little more information on the same story but nothing that adds to the record.  Both Clerical Whispers and Fr Z sourced their story from the Catholic News Agency that ran the story on 2 August 2012.

2.  The big news on Pius XII is the resurfacing of the story that the pope was the subject of a KGB inspired "framing".  I have commented on this before in March and November last year.  The National Catholic Register's article re-tells the story of Ion Mihai Pacepa a former Romanian secret policeman who alleges that the Soviet secret police orchestrated a smear campaign against Pius XII that has become known as the "Black Legend".  The former general wants to present his work to Professor Dan Michman at Yad Vashem in order to present his case.  Part one is linked above and part two can be found here.

In the last article on the Pacepa claims long-time apologist for Pius XII, Ronald Rychlak has written how he moved from scepticism to believing the "framing" campaign. I will leave it to the reader to make up their own mind. 

It is curious to note that no major news service has taken up the story.  It is also worth remembering that Pacepa's story was seriously debunked several years ago by Professor Thomas Brechenmacher of Potsdam University, a Holocaust and Pius XII expert with a significant published record in the field.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

ADSS 9.324 Roncalli to Maglione

  9.324 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate, Turkey to Cardinal Maglione.

Reference:  Report number 4344 (AES 6077/43)
Location and date:  Istanbul, 04.09.1943

Summary statement: Steps taken for Italian Jews; Delegate’s doubt as to the feasibility of Jewish emigration to Palestine.

Language: Italian


Following my report 4332 of 20 August 1943 I am sending other questions which have been submitted to me on behalf of the Jews.

The second of these means to obtain the intervention of the Holy See because it is able to facilitate the release of many Jews in Italian territory: and the other changes already mentioned in my earlier notes, numbers 1, 3, 4, 5. (2)

I confess that this directing by the Holy See of the Jews to Palestine, almost suggesting the reconstruction of the Jewish kingdom, starting by bringing them out of Italy, gives rise to some uncertainty within me.

Doing this is what their compatriots and political friends are involved in.  But I do not think it in very good taste that the exercise of the simple and noble charity of the Holy See, may offer the occasion of the appearance that could be recognised as cooperation, minimally and indirectly, to the realisation of the messianic dream.

All this is perhaps nothing but a personal scruple that I have not yet confessed.  Even so, it is quite certain that the reconstruction of the kingdom of Judah and Israel is a utopian dream.

Cross references: 
(1)  See ADSS 9.301.
(2)  Not published in ADSS.

Friday, August 17, 2012

ADSS 9.191 Maglione to Cicognani: Holy See and Palestine

ADSS 9.191 Cardinal Maglione to Amleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate, USA

Reference:  (AES 2968/43)
Location and date:  Vatican, 18.05.1943

Summary statement: Efforts of HS to help the persecuted Jews; considerations about the Holy Places in Palestine.

Language: Italian


Your Excellency knows well the constant wide-ranging action undertaken by the Holy See – through considerable difficulty – in favour of those considered “non-Aryan”.

The Holy See has given particular attention to young people and children trying to alleviate their suffering and even in recent days it intervened with the Slovak government to suspend any transfer of “Jewish” residents in the Republic. (1)

Recently, his Excellency the Apostolic Delegate in London, communicated to the Holy See news that the British government has allowed the immigration of children of Jewish descent residing in European countries to Palestine, and has sought the intervention of the Holy See to help transfer these children without encountering too much difficulty. (2) 

In ensuring that the Apostolic Delegate mentioned that the Holy See would not fail to take care of the children mentioned, (3) I consider it appropriate to draw to your attention to the general question of the “Jewish Home” in Palestine.  In this respect, your Excellency, will certainly remember that ever since the Balfour Declaration of November 1918 (4), the Holy See has hastened to repeatedly express its point of view on the establishment of a “Jewish Home” in Palestine in solemn documents.

His Holiness, Benedict XV of venerable memory, in a Consistorial Allocution on 10 March 1919, expressed himself thus:

There is one matter on which we are most specially anxious, and that is the fate of the Holy Places, on account of the special dignity and importance for which they are so venerated by every Christian. Who can ever tell the full story of all the efforts of Our predecessors to free them from the dominion of infidels, the heroic deeds and the blood shed by the Christians of the West through the centuries? And now that, amid the rejoicing of all good men, they have finally returned into the hands of the Christians, Our anxiety is most keen as to the decisions which the Peace Conference at Paris is soon to take concerning them. For surely it would be a terrible grief for Us and for all the Christian faithful if infidels were placed in a privileged and prominent position; much more if those most holy sanctuaries of the Christian religion were given into the charge of non-Christians. (5)

The same pope reaffirmed the attitude of the Holy See in an allocution on 13 June 1921, in which, among other things he said: “ we certainly do not want any diminishment of the rights of the Jews but it should be at the expense of the suppression of the sacred rights of Christians”. (6)

Later on 6 March 1922, the Secretary of State sent a Note to the British government on this important and delicate issue; and on 4 June he sent an Aide-Memoire to the Council of the League of Nations, in which the principles enunciated by the Holy Father were solemnly reaffirmed. (See attachments) (7)

As you will see, there are two related issues in the documents.  The first concerns the “Holy Places” (such as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, Bethlehem, etc …) around which Catholics have had special rights over the centuries, and which in justice, must be respected.  On this point there were, even after the last world war, repeated and formal assurances.

The second issue is Palestine.  There is no doubt that Catholics throughout the world are looking with deep piety and devotion towards the land of Palestine, which was consecrated by the presence of the Divine Saviour and its place as the cradle of Christianity. Therefore their religious feelings would be hurt should Palestine be given and entrusted, in greater part, to the Jews.  That pattern would give rise to other Catholics, who would be understandably concerned about the peaceful enjoyment of those historical rights, already mentioned, and accorded to the Holy Places.

It is true that at one time Palestine was inhabited by the Jews, but how can the principle of brining back people to this land where they were until 19 centuries ago be historically accepted?

In conclusion, it does not seem difficult, if one wishes to create a “Jewish Home” to find other areas the best lend themselves to the purpose, while Palestine under a Jewish majority, would give rise to new and serious international problems, would displease Catholics all over the world, would provoke the justifiable protest of the Holy See, and would badly correspond to the charitable concerns that the Holy See has had and continues to have for the non-Aryans.

So I think it appropriate for your Excellency to attend with tact and prudence so to distinguish between the complex and serious questions and draw them to the benevolent attention of his Excellency, Mr Taylor (8), and, if needs be, to their Excellencies the bishops.

If, then, there is a divergence in public opinion contrary to Catholic interests, your Excellency will come to a conveniently enlightened  agreement with their Excellencies the bishops.(9)

Cross references: 
(1) See ADSS 9.176
(2) See ADSS 9.94
(3) See ADSS 9.171
(4) 02.11.1917.  The Declaration was signed by the Allies in 1918. Lord Balfour was Foreign Secretary of the UK, 10.12.1916 to 24.10.1919.
(5) AAS 11 (1919), p 100.  Cited in Eugene Bovis (1974) The Jerusalem Question, pp 6-7.
(6) Ibid, 13 (1921), p 283.
(7) Not published in ADSS.
(8) Myron Taylor, Personal Representative of FDR to Pius XII

(9) The original minute was much shorter.  Domenico Tardini made the annotation:
“07.05.1943. With the Apostolic Delegate I would be much more explicit:
a) I would refer to the intervention of the Holy See for the Jews and what it has done and will do for the children …
b) I would get fully into the question of a Jewish home in Palestine – α recalling at some length the background information; β pointing out the attitude of the Holy See; γ asserting the rights about the holy places; δ making clear the arguments that do not make it … permissible for Catholics to have a Palestine in Jewish hands. 
In conclusion the Apostolic Delegate:
a) should begin to discuss the matter with Taylor, with the bishops etc.
b) in case you should have to enlighten public opinion …
c) a Palestine in Jewish hands would not only open new and serious questions … and would not be the best way to correspond with what the Holy See has done for the Jews.  It should come out in a clear and complete dispatch”. See the encyclical In multiplicibus curis of 24.10.1948 where Pius XII insisted on the internationalisation of the Holy Land. (AAS 40, 1948, pp 435 ff.

ADSS 9.171 Maglione to Godfrey: Efforts of Holy See; position on Palestine

ADSS 9.171 Cardinal Maglione to William Godfrey, Apostolic Delegate, UK.

Reference:  Telegram 358 (AES 2701/43)
Location and date:  Vatican, 04.05.1943

Summary statement: Efforts of the Holy See to help the Jews; position of Holy See on the Holy Land

Language: Italian


I refer to your telegram number 271. (1)

You know well how the Holy See has done everything possible to come to the aid of the non-Ayrans, despite serious difficulties.

The Holy See has always been interested in and shown special care for young people and children.  Concerning your report about the children, the Holy See has not failed to strive in this regard:  however, I need to know, from time to time, their number and also to which governments and in what sense the Holy See can intervene.

As for the serious question of the Jewish Home in Palestine (2) your Excellency doubtless remembers the attitude taken by the Holy See at the time of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. (3)

It is a known fact that Catholics, in addition to enjoying special rights with regard to the Holy Places, are watching from all around the world, with deep piety and devotion to the land of Palestine, sanctified by the presence and the memories of the Divine Redeemer.

Therefore, Catholic religious feeling would be seen to be wounded, and would fear for their rights if Palestine were to belong exclusively to the Jews.

Cross references: 
(1)  See ADSS 9.94
(2)  Balfour Declaration, 02.11.1917.
(3)  See ADSS 9.191.

ADSS 9.94 Godfrey to Maglione on Jewish children

This is the first of four documents highlighting Vatican resistance to Jewish emigration to Palestine. The texts need  no further comment.

ADSS 9.94  William Godfrey, Apostolic Delegate, UK to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Telegram 271 (AES 2701/43)  
Location and date:  London, 13.03.1943 @ 1520 hrs, arrived Rome @ 1800.

Summary statement: The British government will permit the transport of Jewish children to Palestine.

Language: Italian


The Aliyah Association for Jewish immigration informed (?) the Holy Father (?) that the British government will permit Jewish children from all the states of Europe to travel to Palestine; they implore the help of the Holy See to help with the obtaining of visas. (2)

Notes of Domenico Tardini
The Holy See has never given approval for the project to make Palestine a Jewish home.  But, unfortunately, England did not spring … [sic]
And the question of the Holy Places?
Palestine is now holier for Catholics …[than] for Jews (3)

After audience with Maglione:  Of interest for Slovakia. (4)

Cross references: 
(1)  Aliyah – Hebrew “ascent”.  Term used to describe immigration to Israel.
(2)  See ADSS 9.171.
(3) See ADSS 9.191 where those reasons are more fully explained.  At almost the same time Chaim Weizmann said during a meeting with officials of the US State Department: “ … I affirm again before you that Palestine will never be an Arab country”. (FRUS 1943, IV, p762).  But in the following September, President Roosevelt put forward his preferred solution “toward a wider use of the idea of trusteeship for Palestine – of making Palestine a real Holy Land for all three religions …” (Ibid , p816).
(4)  See ADSS 9.87, 89.

Pius XII and Palestine - May 1943

One of the tangential issues that emerged from the diplomatic efforts undertaken by the Holy See for the Jews in Occupied Europe, was the question of where rescued Jews would, should or could go.  Nearly all attempts to secure visas, however temporary, in neutral countries in Europe and states outside Europe had come to nought.  The Jews themselves made it clear that once out of Europe they wanted to go to Palestine.  For most of the period 1941-1944 the question was largely theoretical - Jews in Europe were for the most part trapped with no way out.

The Vatican worried that an influx of Jewish refugees into Palestine would create a situation that would be detrimental to the concerns of the Church.  Palestine was home to the holy places such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee.  A Jewish majority in what was the British-governed Mandate was not desirable.  It would cause grave offence to Catholic piety and even worse, outshine Vatican efforts to help the Jews get out of Europe in the first place.  Pius XII understood the arguments and agreed with them.  He would not support a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Between March and May 1943 there are several documents in ADSS 9 that show without any doubt the resistance to the idea of Palestine becoming a Jewish home.  There is agreement that the Jews should have a national home; as long as it was not in Palestine.  

On 12 May 1917 the Secretary of State, Cardinal Gasparri and the young Monsignor Pacelli met Nahum Sokolow, president of the World Zionist Organisation and listened to his ideas for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.  Sokolow recorded the meeting as being positive and friendly.  Things changed less than six months later with the British announcement of the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917. Polite and cordial meetings in the Vatican between two sides that had no power to change the political realities of Palestine were one thing, the announcement of the British government to support a Jewish Homeland in Palestine and the political and military power that underpinned the statement, were quite another.  Pope Benedict XV was opposed to the idea of Jewish home for the reasons cited above.  Fear of Jewish domination and, worse, the fear of Jews having political power over Christians, led the pope to declare his, and the Church's official opposition to any attempt to create a Jewish state in Palestine.  The attitude was not change until well after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Let us look at the documents in ADSS 9.

ADSS 9.94:  13.03.1943 The Apostolic Delegate in London, William Godfrey, sent news to Rome that the British government was willing to permit Jewish children passage to Palestine.  Notes made by Domenico Tardini included references to the Holy See's long known opposition to the creation of Jewish home and the bald statement that the Holy Land was more holy to Catholics than Jews!

ADSS 9.171  04.05.1943 Cardinal Maglione wrote to Godfrey to say that the Holy See has done and is doing everything to help the Jews.  However, as the Apostolic Delegate would well remember, the British government's pledge in the Balfour Declaration was not in the interest of Catholics who would be offended if Palestine was to be exclusively Jewish.

ADSS 9.191  18.05.1943 Maglione wrote to Amleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate in Washington with instructions to protest any and all attempts to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine.  The forceful language borders on the undiplomatic.  The idea of bringing a people back to a land after nineteen centuries makes no sense.  Catholics will be outraged.  The Holy See is doing everything it can to help the Jews. 

ADSS 9.324  04.09.1943 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate in Turkey to Cardinal Maglione expressed his reservations over Jewish migration to Palestine as if they were going to reconstruct a biblical-like kingdom.  These were dreams and not realities.  Roncalli did confess that perhaps his reservations were personal scruples that he had not been able to disperse. 

There is an awful inference in these documents.  The Holy See was doing everything it could to help and rescue the Jews of Europe so the Jews should not seek to emigrate to Palestine and upset Catholic sensibilities.  And it was the pope who maintained the official stance opposing Jewish migration that had been adopted by his predecessor Benedict XV in late 1917.

Between January and March 1943 approximately 105,000 Jews were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Between 1939 and 1945  73,764 Jews managed to reach Palestine.  The Vatican's fears of Jewish domination in the Mandate were at best nonsensical and at worst a manifestation of old fashioned supercessionism and Judeophobia.

Genocide Perspectives IV published

Genocide Perspectives is the journal published by the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.  The AIHGS is a small group of historians and writers who share a passion for keeping alive the memories of those who have died in the genocides that have left deep scars on world history and which still leave a trail of murder and devastation today.  AIHGS grew out of a group of post-graduate students at Macquarie University, Sydney who wanted to maintain their research and interest in different fields of genocide study and awareness.  I was privileged to have been one of those students.

Students are moulded and shaped in no small part by their teachers.  I, along with my colleagues and friends in AIHGS are proud to say that we sat at the feet of one of the greats in Holocaust and Genocide education, a man who has inspired several generations of Australian students to get serious and earnest about doing something to stop the "crime of crimes", a man who I am humbled to call friend.  Colin Tatz is a mensch.  I owe him an enormous debt for helping me better learn the craft of history and research, to question and continue to wonder without growing cynical or bitter at the depravities this line of history will open up.  And with Colin there is always Sandra, his wife and companion who brings her gifts of insight, wisdom and old fashioned common sense to every AIHGS meeting and gathering.

The Master in action!

Nearly twenty years on, AIHGS has evolved from the Centre for Contemporary Genocide, a recognised research body at Macquarie University in the 1990s.  Various circumstances saw the Institute move firstly to Shalom College at the University of New South Wales and then into the digital age as an online global network of scholars.

AIHGS has published monographs, newsletters and occasional pieces, operated courses in genocide history at several universities in Sydney, conducted inservice days for educators in conjunction with the Sydney Jewish Museum, provided historical research assistance for the Armenian, Assyrian and Pontian Greek communities and published a series entitled "Genocide Perspectives". (Vol 1 - 1997 [out of print]; Vol 2 - 2002; Vol 3 - 2006; Vol 4 - 2012).

I have had several essays published in GP Volumes 2,3 and 4.   The first essay was on KL Majdanek and drew from my research into the war history of an Australian soldier, Max Sawyer who was captured by the Germans in Greece in April 1941 and who spent the rest of the war in a number of stalags and finally disappeared into a straflager (punishment camp - illegal under the Geneva Convention) sometime in 1943.  Sawyer's family were convinced that he had been in the notorious concentration camp near Lublin - Majdanek.  I was not able to prove or disprove the claim.  What I did find was the story of an Australian, non-Jew, as far removed from the cultural parameters of European Jew-hatred as could be imagined, carrying memories and behaviour patterns associated with survivors of the camps.

My essay in GP 3 was a survey of the state of research on Pope Pius XII based on my PhD dissertation.  GP 4 contains my essay "The Vatican, the Holocaust and the Archives" an examination of some of the issues surrounding the availability of documents and the underuse of material that has been in the public domain for many years, namely ADSS.

GP 4 is available online via the University of Technology, Sydney (see link above).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Levinas, Hitlerism and New Atheism

Much of my study of Pius XII has focused on the historical actions, archival material and the interpretation of the received record in order to reach empirically verifiable conclusions.  However, any study of the pope must also include the theological and philosophical worlds in which Pius and the Catholic world lived and operated.  Jeffrey Boldt's article Levinas, Hitlerism and New Atheism is an interesting contribution to the study of the intersection between religion and ethics in coming to a deeper understanding of the causes of the Holocaust.  Boldt's stimulating article, published in the June edition of Tikkun, draws on the writings of the French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995).

Levinas argued against the historical perception of Nazism and other forms of totalitarianism - fascism, Stalinism, communism etc - as political religions, and counter-argued that they were fundamentally anti-religious, because they had no connection between the individual and the individual's ethical responsibility towards other individuals.  Nazism in particular, Levinas wrote, drew forth from its materialism and crude biological determinism, "an urging of the blood".  As one who experienced Nazi terror personally, Levinas' arguments carry considerable force.

It is not religion that lies at the root of Nazism and exterminatory antisemitism according to Levinas, but the anti-social nature of National Socialism that sought to re-order human society on the false basis of pseudo-science and the rejection of the human solidarity.  In other words, the premise of Nazism lay in its core inhumanity, its "anti-ethical" system.  Authentic religion is a positive force in the world because of its ethical component that demands, as Levinas argued, that the "I" engages with the "Other", for the simple reason that the human reality is grounded in this reality; I become human through engagement with the other.  

It comes as no surprise that Emmanuel Levinas' philosophy was richly informed by his Jewish faith and practice.  And yet he argued that his philosophical positions drew from the logical demand caused by the reality of ethical responsibility.  Religious faith is dependent on ethics, not the other way around.  For reasons such as this Levinas held Pius XI in high regard, naming him a "moment of human conscience" for his refutation of the "anti-ethical" systems of fascism, Nazism and communism.

The application of this insight into the study of Pius XII does not contradict any of the questions posed about his papacy during the war years.  Did Pius act with "ethical responsibility" in allowing the "I" to engage with the "Other"?

I recommend the article as a stimulating addition to our collective study of the Holocaust and beyond.

Emmanuel Levinas

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ADSS 9.147 Burzio to Maglione on meeting with Tuka

In a rare display of emotion and language bordering on the intemperate, the Vatican's charge d'affaires, Giuseppe Burzio did not hold back in this report from Bratislava.  The early months of 1943 saw an intensification of fears among the remaining Slovakian Jews that deportations were about to recommence.  

On April 10, 1943, Burzio wrote to Cardinal Maglione summarising about three weeks of activities among the Slovakian bishops (See ADSS 9.85) as well as the news of possible deportations.  It is important to note that a close reading of the documents that have been posted on Slovakia there is a pattern emerging.  Vatican protests were having an effect.  Tiso's government did listen, and it seems that once the bishops gauged the seriousness of Rome's determination to try and stop the trains, they too began to become more vocal in their demands for baptised Jews and respect to be shown for the natural law, which I presume would cover all Jews.  I have no doubt that the Slovak bishops took Rome's interventions as stemming directly from the pope which of course they did. Maglione ensured Pius saw the reports from Bratislava and most certainly passed on papal comments and instructions to Burzio, or at the very least interpreted them according to his understanding of the pope's view of the deportations.  The notes made on several of the reports sent from Slovakia indicate that Pius XII was fully informed and endorsed the Cardinal Secretary of State's instructions to Monsignor Burzio.

Most of the report describes in considerable detail Burzio's uncomfortable meeting with the rabidly antisemitic Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adalbert Tuka.

Burzio described his meeting with Tuka as humiliating, being forced to be in the same room with a man the diplomat described as a "sphinx",  "a maniac" and a "cynical Pharisee".  Burzio's discomfort is evident throughout the report. 

Quoting Tuka at length, Burzio virtually recapitulated the entire catalogue of myths and hatreds ascribed to Jews.  Jews are "pests", "gangsters", "Bolsheviks", "criminals", "asocial", "pernicious","pimps", "destitute", wielders of international influence as well as having influence in Slovakia (despite the deportations), masters of propaganda to make themselves appear to be the victim, and equally masters at duping even the Vatican.  Tuka went on to say that he saw future Slovak historians looking back at him as the one patriot who was prepared to do the deed that needed doing - getting rid of the Jews, all of them.

In a moment of excessive self-promotion Tuka described himself as a believing and practicing Catholic, who received Holy Communion regularly and considered himself a friend of the Church.  And because the rumours of the mistreatment of the Jews, which according to Tuka's logic must originate with them, he promised Burzio to send a commission to see if there was any truth in the rumours.  Nonetheless, the Jews had to go, and the minister promised to see that he fulfilled his duty.

At the end of the report Burzio noted that the priest-president, Jozef Tiso had heard of the interview with Tuka and contacted the charge d'affaires to apologise.  The council of ministers also heard of the papal intervention to halt any resumption of deportations and responded favourably according to Burzio.

This lengthy report has been placed on the pages section of the blog.

Adalbert Tuka (1880-1946)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ADSS 9.22 Proposals of Chaim Barlas to the Holy See

 In the last few posts I have added the continued exchange of documents over attempts to rescue the remnant of Slovakian Jewry.  Early in 1943 Angelo Roncalli, the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey, met Chaim Barlas who worked with Jewish groups in Turkey to try and save Jews trapped in Europe.  Reaching out to Roncalli Barlas made a series of suggestions asking the Holy See to intervene with the Germans, the neutral states and America to help get Jews out of Europe.  Barlas' final request was for a public statement on the radio telling Catholics that helping Jews was a good thing to do.

Was Barlas naive?  Possibly; but the desperate situation evidently compelled people such as Barlas to make dramatic demands.  The appeal of Catholic religious sister Margit Slachta in March 1943 is a similar example from a non-Jewish source.

What surprises most is the footnote mentioning a note sent from the British Ambassador to Washington, Lord Halifax echoing the rumour that Germany might let the Jews go.  Halifax's concern seems to lie more with the risk that Germany might flood other countries with "aliens".  This theme was to occupy more time later during the year in the Vatican.

The Pope was kept informed of developments throughout the Slovakian intervention and rescue proposals.  His responses were not made public outside of notes that Pius had seen notes and reports and expressed a continued sympathy for the Jews.  I believe the closest we come to a papal opinion is found in the responses made by Cardinal Maglione and Monsignori Tardini and Montini who repeated "the Vatican has done and is doing all it can".

 ADSS 9.22 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate to Turkey to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  Report number 4129 (AES 1036/43)
Location and date: Istanbul, 22.01.1943

Summary statement: Requests HS intervention in favour of Jews to be permitted to leave Germany and the occupied countries.  Attaches proposition of Chaim Barlas, Jewish Agency for Palestine given to Arthur Hughes, charge d’affairs, Ap Del Egypt who handed it to Roncalli in mid-January.

Languages: Italian and English


The other day I was introduced to Mr Bader (1) of the “Jewish Agency for Palestine”.  I thought it best to put him in touch with Father Hughes (2) who governs the Apostolic Delegation of Palestine and more so as this man only speaks English.  He understood and appreciated this and the result of that conversation is in the accompanying memorandum. (3)  I sent the manuscript to Father Hughes, upon whose recommendation I send it to your Eminence.  The report only contains Mr Bader’s comments and questions and no other.(4)

Questions to the Holy See, through Father Hughes, from Mr Bader of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. (5)

1)  We understand that the governments of neutral nations are willing to grant temporary asylum to Jews found in Nazi-occupied countries, if the United States would provide for their maintenance of the Jews and would guarantee that they would not remain in the host countries after the war;

2) We understand the German government is willing to grant permission to Jews to leave occupied countries (approximately 5,000 people and also 700 women and children currently in Poland could move to Palestine where they have husbands and fathers).

3) the a declaration made over the radio that the Church considered any help given to persecuted Jews is a good deed.


No number (ASS 1036/43)

Istanbul 20.01.1943

(English – as printed in ADSS)

It is with great pleasure that I heard of the expressing of your sympathy towards the Jewish victims of terror in Europe and that you are prepared to raise the question in High Quarters of the Holy Seat.  The facts are summarised in the joined declaration of the Allied Nations, which declaration ws announced by Mr Eden in Parlament on the 18.12.1942 (7) (the text published in “Informations de Palestine” of the 24.12.1942 is attached herewith). (8)

In this connection I beg to submit to your Eminence the following proposal:

1) In view of the terror and slaughter of Jews that goes on unintermittenly in the occupied territories, it would be of great importance to undertake an action to save the Jews before it is too late, with a veiw to enabling them to leave the countries of persecutions, where they are threatened to be wholly exterminated.  It would be, therefore, appreciated if an effort could be made to secure a temporary asylum for Jews from the mentioned countries in some of the neutral countries: Portugal, Sweden etc.  The suggestion has been made that the Vatican should be approached with a view to sounding the Governments of neutral countries, as to whether they would be prepared to admit a certain number of Jews from Nazi occupied territories, if the United States guaranty to provide for their feeding and gives an assurance that after the war they would not become a charge on these countries.  The conditions under which the refugees might stay in the neutral countries would, of course, depend on the decision of their respective Governments.  They might be put in refugee camps, such as Switzerland has set up for this purpose since the war, unless the Governments agree to more liberal terms.  This would mean that the neutral countries would not have to provide for the refugees anything beyond the air which the refugees breath and the soil on which their camps would be set up.  The financial side, the provision of food etc, would, of course, have to be borne by the Jewish Communities of the free countries, especially the United States.  It is anticipated that social and philanthropic bodies such as the International Red Cross etc, might be induced to give assistance on the technical side.

2) The actual position with regard to the possibilities of emigration is that the Jews in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland are not allowed to leave the country.  On the other hand there is no objection to Jews leaving Holland, Belgium and the Balkan countries.  The position in France is still undefinite.  That at least is the latest information in our possession. (9)

The Jewish Agency for Palestine have at their disposal a number of immigration certificates granted by the Government of Palestine, which would enable the entry of about 5,000 immigrants (including children) into Palestine.  Besides there are about 700 Jewish women and children, mostly in Poland, whose husbands and fathers respectively, are residing in Palestine.  For these families the Government of Palestine approved entry into Palestine to join their relatives.  We would appreciate it very much, if the High Authorities of the Holy Seat would agree to approach the German Government with a view to grant the exit permission for those Jewish immigrants, who have the opportunity of immigrating into the Holy Land.

3) The highly humanitarian attitude of His Saintety [sic] expressing His indignation against racial persecutions, was a source of moral comfort for our brethren.  May we venture to suggest that an opportunity should be found by radio, or as it may be deemed useful, to declare that rendering help to persecuted Jews is considered by the Church as a good deed.  This would, undoubtedly, strengthen the feelings of those Catholics, who, as we know and appreciate, render help to Jews doomed to starvation in the occupied territories in Europe.

In submitting these suggestions we do not underestimate the difficulties which are evident enough.  We feel, however, the position is so terrible, that anything that may offer an avenue of escape to even a fraction of the Jewish Communities in Europe will be considered as a great humanitarian action towards the Nation of Israel. (10)

Chaim Barlas

(1) Should read Chaim Barlas.

(2) Arthur Hughes (1902-1949), charge d’affaires of the Apostolic Delegation in Egypt was in Istanbul from 12.01 – 21.01.1943 on request from Cardinal Maglione in order to collect Vatican mail.  See ADSS 7.72, 90, 182.

(3) See the attachment.

(4) See ADSS 9.241

(5) See Peter Hebblethwaite, John XIII Pope of the Century,(Continuum, 2000), pp 91-92.

(6) See ADSS 9.270 & 352.

(7) See ADSS 8.578.

(8) Not published in ADSS.

(9) At the same time Viscount Halifax (1881-1959) British Ambassador in Washington DC (1940-1946) wrote to the State Department that there was a possibility at that time there may be a possibility of freeing the Jews.  “There is a possibility that the Germans or their satellites may change over the policy of extermination to one of extrusion and aim as they did before the war at embarrassing other countries by flooding them with alien immigrants”. (FRUS 1943, I, p134).

(10) See ADSS 9.60.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

ADSS 9.96 Roncalli to Maglione: Jewish confidence in the Holy See

ADSS 9.96 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate to Turkey to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  report number 4180 (AES 2794/43)

Location and date: Istanbul, 13.03.1943

Summary statement: Jews have confidence in the intervention of the Holy See.

Language: Italian


I follow the dispatch [from earlier today] (1) with the Promemoria I made with Messrs Kaplan and Barlas of the “Jewish Agency for Palestine” as a summary of the conversation that took place in the Delegation here. (2)  Once again, the description of the sufferings their countrymen are subjected to is touching and tragic.  Needless to say their confidence in the beneficial intervention of the Holy Father is profound, and the abandonment of their spirit to this providence appears sincere.

They wanted me to add a copy of the letter they addressed to Fr Hughes and which may at this time, either in its text or contents, have reached your Eminence. (3)  I think it good perhaps to combine this argument that contains information useful in a compassionate study to relieve the sorrows of the unfortunate chosen people. (4)

(1) Error in text.  It should read “telegram”.

(2) The principle points made in the memorandum were: “… According to the information we have received, the rest of the Jewish population of Slovakia, about 20,000 souls, are in immediate danger of being deported before the end of this month to Poland.  The situation in Poland, where about two thirds of the Jewish population was wiped out in a cruel manner, requires no comment.

So we beg your Excellency, to present our petition to the Holy See to kindly intervene with the Slovak government to prevent these cruel measures which would mean the death of the remains of the Jewish community.

We reiterate as well our second petition, that the Vatican would take action with the Slovak government for approximately 2,000 children in Slovakia, for whom we have the possibility of granting immigration certificates to Palestine as part of the British government quota provided to us, which would allow the children to lodge in Slovakia until they are fit to continue their journey …

On this occasion we would give you the enclosed copy of a memorandum of 20.01.1943 addressed to the Reverend Arthur Hughes, Apostolic Delegate in Egypt and Palestine, Istanbul, where we set out the problem in general and by which we humbly pray the Holy See grant them a sympathetic attitude.

Unfortunately the situation in the occupied countries has worsened since then, so the content of this memorandum is still current.

We would appreciate it if you would kindly draw the attention of the Holy See on the untenable situation of the Jewish communities in Europe and ask it to intervene as it deems best.

(3) See ADSS 9.22, attachment.

(4) See ADSS 9.172.

ADSS 9.95 Roncalli to Maglione

ADSS 9.95 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate to Turkey to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Telegram 99 (AES 1584/43)

Location and date: Istanbul, 13.03.1943 @ 1439 hours, arrived Rome @ 1850.

Summary statement: Requests intervention for Slovakian Jewish children to get to Palestine.

Language: Italian


The Jewish Agency for Palestine representative, Mr Kapl (sic) asked me to communicate the following: some 20,000 Slovak Jews run the risk of deportation to Poland by the end of March (2).  They appeal to the Holy Father to intervene with the government to prevent this measure … to get 1,000 (?) Jewish children for emigration to Palestine in accordance with the authorisation of the English (3) … and allow them transit through Turkey.  They ask the indulgence of the Slovak government and Hungary as well to grant essential temporary stays for the children.  The Jewish Agency will provide everything; urgent intervention.(4)  Report to follow. 

Micossi’s trip to Beirut continues on Monday.(5)

Cross references: 
(1) It should read “Kaplan”.  Eliezer Kaplan (1891-1952) was head of finance for the Jewish Agency for Palestine.
(2) See ADSS 9.85 & 87.
(3) See ADSS 9.94.
(4) See ADSS 9.172.
(5) Giuseppe Micossi (1909-2009), secretary of the Apostolic Delegation in Beirut.

ADSS 9.89 Burzio to Maglione: deportations not imminent

ADSS 9.89 

Reference: Telegram 34 (AES 1596/43)

Location and date: Bratislava (Pressburg) 11.03.1943, 1110 hours, arrived Rome 2015 hours.

Summary statement:  Information on the situation of the Jews in Slovakia.

Language: Italian


I received your telegram number 34. (1)

A report on the subject has already been sent. (2)  Deportation of the last 20,000 Jews remaining in (Slovakia?) is very likely, but it does not seem imminent, nor is it possible to obtain reliable information from government authorities who are very reserved and respond evasively. (3)

Cross references: 
(1) See ADSS 9.87
(2) See ADSS 9.85
(3) See ADSS 9.147

ADSS 9.87 Maglione to Burzio: take all possible steps

ADSS 9.87 Cardinal Maglione to Giuseppe Burzio, charge d’affaires, Bratislava.

Reference: Telegram 34 (AES 1494/43)

Location and date: Vatican 09.03.1943

Summary statement: Steps Giuseppe Burzio must undertake for the Slovakian Jews.

Language: Italian


Following your report 1376/43 of 06.03.1943 (1) containing news of the imminent deportation of 20,000 Jews from Slovakia (2) we ask that if the rumours are true, that you take all possible steps you deem appropriate with the government in order to prevent these measures.  I await your immediate response. (3)
(1) See ADSS 9.81.
(2) See ADSS 9.86
(3) See ADSS 9.89

ADSS 9.86, 87, 89, 95, 96: the remnant 20,000 Slovak Jews

The belief that the remainder of the Slovak Jews, about 20,000, were in imminent danger of deportation, prompted a number of telegrams and reports sent to and from Bratislava, Istanbul and Budapest to Rome.  What is of particular interest is the level of knowledge the Vatican possessed at this point - March 1943.  Reading the documents one notices that it is accepted or presumed knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Jews, especially Polish Jews, are dead at the hands of the Germans.  It is also presumed knowledge that "deportation" would mean eventual and certain death.

The situation in Slovakia had raised hopes among Jewish organisations as well as some active Catholics that the Vatican could influence Tiso's government through direct appeal.  The Holy See knew from Giuseppe Burzio's earlier report (ADSS 9.85) of 07.03.1943 that a significant number of clergy were opposed to the government's anti-Jewish laws and actions and one bishop at least had called for Tiso to be removed from the priesthood.  Over the next week pressure continued to build.

ADSS 9.86  Margit Slachta, the Hungarian foundress of the Sisters of Social Service came to Rome to plead for the Slovakian Jews in the first week of March before going to Switzerland to appeal to the Red Cross.  Her visit on 08.03.1943 was met with the standard response that the Vatican was doing all it could, even though in the notes taken the writer observed that Sister Margit did not appear satisfied.  Slachta worked tirelessly for the rest of the war working to save Jews.

ADSS 9.87  Cardinal Maglione wrote to the charge d'affaires in Bratislava on 09.03.1943, Giuseppe Burzio urging him to take all necessary steps to prevent the deportations should the rumours prove true.

ADSS 9.89 Burzio wrote to Maglione on 11.03.1943 that the deportations would most likely still go ahead but not at the moment.  More information was not possible because government officials were "evasive" in their answers to Burzio's questions.

ADSS 9.95-96  On 13.03.1943 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate in Turkey wrote on behalf of Eliezer Kaplan, from the Jewish Agency for Palestine appealing for the help of the pope to get two thousand Jewish children out of Slovakia and on their way to Palestine via Hungary and Turkey.  Roncalli had been assured that the Agency possessed British approved certificates for Palestine.  Confirmation of British permission for Jewish children to go to Palestine had been telegraphed to Rome less than an hour before Roncalli's first message arrived. (See ADSS 9.94)

The outcome of the appeals from the Vatican were mixed.  Deportations were suspended indefinitely, but appeals for Jewish children came to nought.  Cardinal Maglione cabled Roncalli on 04.05.1943 to say that the Holy See had intervened several times, especially for Jewish children.

However, there was another problem emerging.  Making appeals to governments to stop the deportation and murder of Jews was one thing; supporting the emigration of Jews to Palestine even if that would clearly save lives, was another.  Even in the middle of the Holocaust, concerns that supporting Jewish emigration to Palestine would eventually create new problems with regard to access to the Christian holy places were not far from the surface.  I shall return to this later.(See ADSS 9.136)

I will post the documents in the next several posts.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

ADSS 9.85 Burzio to Maglione: renewed threats of deportations from Slovakia

Although deportations from Slovakia were halted in the autumn of 1942, rumours persisted that a resumption would occur.  Deportations were not resumed until September 1944 after the failed partisan-led revolt.  Nonetheless, Giuseppe Burzio's report to Cardinal Maglione reflects the deep-seated anxiety of the remaining Jews.  The Slovak bishops had sent another protest to Tiso's government on behalf of the baptised Jews using strong and forceful language.  The footnotes of the document are very revealing.  Burzio attached several documents to his report and the notes give a lot of information on the contents of the attachments. 

Note 1 contains the Slovak bishops' protest for baptised Jews.

Note 2 is a Latin appeal made to Burzio asking for the intervention of the Holy See on behalf of all Jews, baptised or not, and comments making it clear that the Catholic clergy "hate" the Jewish Code.  Further, Bishop Paul Pierre Gojdic, argues that the response of the Holy See has been muted because it does not fully understand the gravity of the situation.

Note 3 is an unsigned letter from a parish priest in Bratislava who tells in plain language that Jews are being murdered by gas and guns in Poland.  He also writes of the oft-cited rumour that Jewish corpses were being manufactured into soap.  

ADSS 9.85 Charge d’affaires Bratislava, Giuseppe Burzio to Cardinal Maglione
Reference: Report number 1517 (AES 2754/43)
Location and date: Presburg (Bratislava), 07.03.1943

Summary statement:  Information on the situation of the Jews in Slovakia; intervention of Burzio and the bishops in their favour.

Language: Italian

There are insistent rumours that measures are in preparation for the complete deportation of the Jews still left in Slovakia.  These voices were raised because of a speech by the Minister of the Interior (See attachment 1) (1).  The inhumane deportations of the past year have raised fears that the Minister’s statements are not empty threats.  However, it is not possible to know if there is such a project and the competent authorities show absolute reserve in this respect. 

The President of the Republic (2) to whom I mentioned the great anxiety caused by the speech of the Minister of the Interior told me that we should not take those statements too literally, but I thought he spoke without conviction.  The attitude of the President of the Republic towards the Jewish question is unclear.  It is hoped that by virtue of his powers he would free the baptised Jews from the unjust provisions of the Jewish code, however the granting of exemptions are relatively few. (3)  We talked a lot about corruption in the granting of exemptions from the entourage of the President of the Republic, and of course the Jews are willing to pay any amount to avoid deportation, which means death.

The episcopate has already appealed to the Government (See attachment 2) (4).  In these last days one gets the impression that deportations are not imminent.  I ask your Eminence for instructions for steps to take with the government. 

Attachment 3 is a letter from the Ruthenian Bishop of Presov (5) and Attachment 4 is from a parish priest in Bratislava. (6)


(1)  Alexander Mach, address not published.  Deportations were suspended in the autumn of 1942 and did not resume until September 1944 after the failed partisan-led uprising.

(2)  Jozef Tiso.  See ADSS 8, page 40.

(3)  See ADSS 8.153

(4)Burzio sent an Italian translation of the letter dated 17.02.1943 (No: 403/I/1943, AES 2754/43):

“The Catholic Bishops of Slovakia have repeatedly appealed to the supreme government, that the anti-Jewish measures not be applied to baptised Jews.  In the last communication, Number 628/42, made last August, I requested the government, on behalf of the bishops, that baptised Jews were not to be deported from Slovakia regardless of the date of their baptism.  According to newspaper reports, (e.g. Gardista, 11.09.1943), the Jews “whether baptised or not, whether they hold cards or not, will all follow the same direction.  Whether it will be March or April, transports will be resumed”.
The bishops of Slovakia consider it their duty to intervene for the baptised Jews and reiterate their repeated appeal because baptised Jews may not be deported. At the same time they also restate their motives, which are as follows: 

1.  Baptised Jews are members of the Catholic Church since the Church accepted them in her bosom, according them the same rights and duties as all other members.  The Church does not distinguish among its members just because they are of different nationalities and races.  This is confirmed by the Apostle, St Paul who wrote: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him”. (Romans 10.12)

2.  The Catholic people of Slovakia, who truly feel in a Catholic way, can not tolerate a Christian government that casts out of a Christian Slovakia, Christian-Catholics.  The Catholic people of Slovakia, seeing these things, have turned to us with these words: “We give to the Missions, which spreads the work of Christ to distant lands, and in a Christian country we will deport Christian-Catholics.  It is difficult to understand and painful to put up with”.

3.  The Catholic Church does not administer baptism to an adult without complete preparation.  In the same way the Slovak bishops only admitted to Holy Baptism those people who were serious about becoming Catholic, who recognised the Catholic truth and severed all ties with Judaism.  There are cases were some people had to wait one or two years for baptism.

4.  During this time the missionary work was successfully spread throughout the world.  It would create an unfavourable impression on our situation, if in this era of great missionary development Catholics were forced to abandon a Christian state.  Future Slovak generations will try with great pain, when studying world history at home and abroad to try and understand that Christians, duly received into the Church, were expelled from our country”.

(5) Paul Pierre Gojdic, (1888-1960), bishop of Prešov (1940-1960), wrote in Latin to Burzio on 16.05.1942: (The translation is "rough" - if a reader can provide a more accurate translation I would be very happy to replace this one!)

“The great sorrow and horror inflicted in the east of Slovakia in the transportation of the Jews by the so-called ‘Hlinka Guard’ who carried out the decree to transport the unhappy Jewish people has taken place.
The barbarism in this miserable place has eclipsed in the memories of us all the brutal history of Bolshevik-Communist Russia, Spain and Mexico

All of this is more deplorable when in neighbouring states, where there is also National Socialist influence, such barbarism is not committed.  And in Hungary and Germany, where the instruments of public power, moved by the atrocities mentioned above, abstained from the evacuation of the Jews.

Not withstanding the sad state of these recorded conditions, when one sees the horrors intended in Slovakia, which are common to all the demonstrated expectations, that these are not as bad as the horrors in Hungary where the government is held by Protestants, and less so in Germany which is ruled only by men in public life who belong to the National Socialists, but only in Slovakia where the government is ruled by a Catholic priest, and where the power is in the hands of the clerical party named for the deceased Monsignor Hlinka.  When on the one hand the greater part of the people are moved with sorrow for these souls but on the other they infer that it is a grave thing to injure the Catholic church, since there are here, not a few, who think that the Apostolic See is not sufficiently informed and therefore does not raise its voice against the barbaric cruelties inflicted on the unfortunate.

Therefore I approached the Nuncio with discretion, relating that most of the Catholic clergy who are loyal to the Holy See, with the utmost sincerity and hard work find this subject hateful,  and humbly beseeching that the Apostolic See kindly intercede to move his Excellency the President of our Republic, a Catholic priest, that the above mentioned cruelties to the Jews be lifted  and injuries sustained in so far as it is possible be made good.  And the baptized Jews, who are fully members of the Church, still reside in the Republic of Slovakia, be granted full immunity and restitution of their human rights, and those who have remained Jews who were deported in a spirit contrary to Christianity, be spared.

If it is impossible, and if it please the Holy See, then his Excellency the President should be urged to renounce his office and hand it over to civil authorities, and to discontinue the hated ordinances of the “Jewish Code” which is enacted with great hatred by the Catholic clergy and through the whole Catholic Church.  But if the circumstances and wishes of the Church warrant it, then his Excellency, Dr Tiso, who for the good of the Church and avoiding even greater evils, could be permitted, in lieu of retaining the Presidency, to be reduced to the lay state, so that in this way is would be seen that the Church in no way consents or approves the governments above mentioned actions towards the Jews”.

(6) The letter carried no date or signature.

“Some Jews managed to escape from Poland and are hiding in here in the town.  German officers and SS men unanimously claim that these Jews (I have heard this from several independent sources) deported to Poland are massacred and their bodies sent to a soap factory.  There are stories:   a German officer confirmed this coldly and cynically in the presence of a person I know.  Jews are killed with poison gas or guns or other means.  The girls and women, after suffering every kind of humiliation and violence are stripped and coldly murdered.  Soap is made from the corpses.  A Jew has described his trip to Poland, his experiences there and his escape.  His report was sent to the President of the Republic.

Among the Jews, and of course even among the baptized, there reigns great anxiety, because Minister Mach threatens more deportations.  I have appealed to the bishop of Tirnavia to take to heart the cause of this poor people.  The bishop sent me a copy of the memorandum of the bishops to the government in defense of the baptized.  But even the unbaptised are also men and they too wish to live.

Please, I beg your Excellency to do everything possible for these poor people.

In Slovakia there are about 20,000 people of Jewish nationality.  Of these approximately 12,000 are more or less protected by law.  The remaining have no protection”.

See ADSS 9.147