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.

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