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 PreŇ°ov (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

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are welcome to post a comment. Please be respectful and address the issues, not the person. Comments are subject to moderation.