Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pius XII - two new biographies

Readers may be interested in two new biographies of Pius XII.  

The Pope's Jews: the Vatican's secret plan to save the Jews from the Nazis by Thomas Gordon (Thomas Dunne Books) has been available since the beginning of this month.  The review in Publisher's Weekly seems rather tame and non-committal which cannot be said of the review on Kirkus Review.  

Soldier of Christ the Life of Pope Pius XII by Robert Ventresca (Harvard UP)  will be published in January 2013.  The information provided on HUP's website indicates that Ventresca's work places a far greater emphasis on the post-war years arguing that the Cold War and the confrontation with communism gives the definition of Pacelli's papacy.

Of the two books, Ventresca's seems to me to be the more balanced and reliable.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

1942 Christmas Message of Pius XII

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1942 Allied diplomats immured within the Vatican had been exerting pressure on Pius XII to issue a public protest against German atrocities against civilian populations and, in particular, the persecution of the Jews.  In earlier posts I have presented the documentation given in ADSS as well as FRUS.  There was a faint hope that Pius would break away from his customary reserve and speak plainly, but that seemed to fade as the months went by and no indication was given that a change was likely.  

When the pope did speak his address was long - 45 minutes - and delivered in his usual manner of general comments on the current situation within the broad context of Catholic teaching.  It is important to note that what the pope did say as opposed to what he did not say was still of value.  In his role as Chief Pastor of the Church, the pope did outline Catholic teaching and offer a way forward based on principles of natural law and Thomistic theology.

The oft-quoted section has to be seen within its context.  It comes at the end of the speech and is part of a cry for the voiceless - victims of aerial bombardment, widows, orphans, the countless dead and those condemned to death on the grounds of nationality or race.

Pius did not name names, but the Nazi regime listened to the broadcast and heard it as an indictment of National Socialism.  The British and Americans heard it and declared it a condemnation of German atrocities, although privately they expressed reservations that it was likely to be the best they would get.  The Jews of Europe most likely did not hear it or any of the other victim groups for that matter.  Nonetheless, the pope did say something - it may not have been explicit enough for many, but it was a statement nonetheless.

Arguments over the text have gone on for decades.  The principal complaint is that the pope's moral duty was to speak out clearly and unambiguously, naming the murder of European Jewry as a crime beyond any other committed in the war so far.  The counter-argument says that Pius was painfully aware of the situation and feared making things worse by naming the extermination process in clear terms.  

My understanding of the events leading up to the 1942 Christmas address is that Pius was caught in a very difficult situation.  The outcome of the war was by no means decided in December 1942 although hope for an Allied victory was becoming something more than a dream.  What causes me to lean towards a more negative assessment of the Christmas address lies in the Allied Declaration made a week earlier that named the slaughter of the Jews as a crime for which Germany would be held accountable.  In that respect the Allies had named the crime explicitly - it was secret no more.  

Pius believed that if he condemned the crimes of one side he would be obliged by papal neutrality to condemn the crimes of the other side as well.  It is competently arguable that Pius had a clear idea of crimes committed by the Soviets in Eastern Europe, especially in the Baltic States and eastern Poland and that he worried about what would happen to the Church "in the East" if he named or suggested one of the Allied powers to be as guilty as the Germans of atrocities.

In any case the Christmas message of 1942 was as far as Pius XII believed a clear statement against atrocities in general and the extermination of the Jews in particular.

The text is posted in the "pages" section of the blog.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ADSS 7.53 Maglione notes on meeting with Osborne & Tittmann

As the year wore on and the diplomats inside the Vatican kept trying to elicit a positive response from Cardinal Maglione on the subject of a papal protest, both Osborne and Tittmann remained adamant that the pope should not be distracted by fears of Allied bombing of Italian cities.  Maglione tried equally as hard to elicit a promise of some sort for the protection of Rome and other Italian cities.  At the end, the Cardinal writes as though lamenting, that despite the expressions of Jewish gratitude for all the pope has done, Osborne still insisted the pope speak publicly against the extermination of the Jews.

ADSS 7.53 
Cardinal Maglione, notes

Reference: A.E.S. 6409/42
Location and date: Vatican, 14.12.1942

Summary statement:  Maglione communicates to Osborne that the Italian embassy announced the departure from Rome of the Italian military Supreme Command; he awaits an answer concerning the Germans. Osborne observes that the Pope is too preoccupied about the bombing of Italian cities. The Pope should protest against the massacre of the Jews.

Language: Italian


This morning I spoke with the English Minister (1) and, after, the Charge d’affaires of the USA (2) and I said to them: “Yesterday the Italian Ambassador communicated to me orally, but officially, that the Supreme Commander, Mussolini, and Military HQ have left Rome.(3)

 “I then asked Ambassador Guariglia if there are any German military leaders in Rome: if this is the case, I think they should also leave Rome. “Guariglia responded saying he would carry my question and suggestion to the Italian Government”.

I added; “In waiting for a response on this point I also ask you to bring the foregoing to the attention of your Governments”. (4)

The English Minister made the observation that his communications with the government were slow: it would be therefore good to entrust the Apostolic Delegate of London to inform the English Government. (I answered that I proposed to do this).

The English Minister then added that, although the Supreme Commander Mussolini and the General Staff are leaving Rome, the ministries will remain.

I answered that it would be dealt with, in the event, of civil offices, not military.

To Rome, I added, there are no, as far as I know war factories… ”.

“But there are the barracks, the troops…”

“In a city of one and a half million inhabitants it will be necessary to have troops in order to maintain public order!”

“The police are not enough?”

“I do not believe so.”

At this point the Minister delivered the attached letter to me, where it repeats the news that the policy of the English government expressed 19.01.1942 has not changed. (5)

I answered: If its Government had the evil intention to bomb Rome, I would try and find many excuses. But I believe in the good will of the Government of London and hope that it will take into consideration our valid reasons.

The Minister has pointed to the impression that the Holy See worries in a particular manner about Italian cities, when it speaks about bombing, because they are Italian.

I observed: firstly there are the most special reasons for Rome.  I reminded him of these (and I have not failed to repeat that if Rome was bombed, Holy See will protest); secondly, The Holy See has intervened against the bombing of civilian populations of Italian cities, because such bombings have happened.  The Minister must not forget that the Holy Father spoke against the bombing of unarmed populations on other occasions: when the English cities were bombed and all understood that the bombing of the English cities did not indeed escape the severe words of the Holy Father. (6)

The minister recognised the justice of my observation [about the Pope speaking against bombing cities] and then exclaimed:  But why does the Holy See not intervene against the terrible massacres of the Jews?  

I recalled that the Holy Father had already spoken in his messages that the right to life, to a peaceful existence and sharing of the goods of the earth belong to all people of every race and confession.  

And one cannot ignore how much the Holy Father has done to help the poor Jews.  They know this and frequently thank the Holy See. 

The minister insisted on this point:  he would have the Holy See intervene to stop the massacre of the Jews.

Cross References:

(1) Sir Francis D’Arcy Osborne
(2) Harold Tittmann
(3) ADSS 7.52
(4) Tittmann referred the cardinal to the note of the United States government passed by him via the Minister in Bern.  See FRUS 1942.3 p796.
(5) ADSS 5.208 – concerning bombing of Rome
(6) Cf Homily 24.11.1940, ADSS 4.177, 191; Christmas Address 24.12.1941, ADSS 5.172

ADSS 5.468 Tittmann to Maglione: possible papal protest

The last major request for a papal protest against German war crimes came from the United States.  As we have seen there was a general belief among American diplomats that Pius would not do more than what he already done, namely make general statements condemning atrocities but with no particular reference to German crimes.  However there was also a sense that any diplomatic initiative to apply pressure on the pope to "go public" was worth pursuing.   As with all other notes, except the British, there is no mention of Jews as the primary victims of Nazi persecution.    

ADSS 5.468 

Harold Tittmann, USA charge d’affaires to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  Memorandum with no number; AES 6660/42 (FRUS 1942.3 page 774)
Location and date: Vatican 14.09.1942

Summary statement: Crimes committed by Nazi troops in occupied territories.  Request for a papal condemnation.
Language: English


In accordance with instruction received from his Government, the Charge d’affaires of the United States to the Holy See has the honour to call the attention of His Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State to the cruel and inhuman treatment by the Hitler forces of the civil populations in areas occupied by the Germans.  He desires to point out that these incredible horrors have been universally condemned and that this universal condemnation has been reflected in the expressions of all free peoples.

The Charge d’affaires has also been authorised by his Government to point out the helpful effect that a similar condemnation of these atrocities by the Holy Father would have in bringing about some check on the unbridled and uncalled-for-actions of the forces of the Nazi regime.(1)

Cross references: 
(1) A copy of this note was sent to the Department of State in Washington DC by Tittmann in his dispatch number 114 on 15.09.1942.  It was received by the Department on 14.10.1942.

American diplomacy and a papal protest 1942

ADSS is the most important source of information about the Holy See and Pope Pius XII during  World War II.  However, there are other archival sources that help us gain a more global perspective on the pressures applied to the Vatican in order to "encourage" the pope to make a public protest against German war crimes in the territories under its occupation.  

The material found in The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) helps the historian gain a better understanding of the American attitude towards the papal protest proposal put forward by the Brazilian ambassador, Idelbrando Accioly at the beginning of August 1942.

FRUS 1942 Volume 3 contains the relevant documents.  

1942.3 p772:  3 August 1942.

Leland Harrison (1883-1951), the ambassador to Switzerland (1937-1947) cabled the State Department relaying a dispatch from Harold Tittmann, the US charge d'affaires at the Holy See.  The substance of the report was:

1.  Tittmann had made repeated requests that the pope make a public protest against Nazi atrocities and that failure to do so was damaging the "moral prestige and is undermining faith both in the church and in the Holy Father himself".  The response given is that the pope has "already condemned offenses against morality in wartime and that to be specific now would only make matters worse".

2.  On 2 August the Brazilian ambassador informed Tittmann of the plan for diplomats to send the pope formal requests from their governments to make a public statement condemning German war crimes.

3.  Tittmann expressed his reservation that such a step would probably not change the pope's mind it would still be worthy of support.

1942.3 p773: 4 August 1942.

Cordell Hull (1871-1955), Secretary of State (1933-1944) replied to Harrison's telegram with authorisation to make "an independent but simultaneous approach to the Vatican Foreign Office" along the lines outlined in the previous telegram.

1942.3 p773 18 August 1942.

Benjamin Sumner Welles (1892-1962), Under-Secretary of State (1937-1943) met with Ronald Campbell (1890-1983) from the British Embassy.  Campbell formally informed the United States the the United Kingdom had agreed to deliver a formal request for a papal protest against German atrocities.  Welles told Campbell that Tittmann had already been authorised to do the same thing.

1942.3 p774 14 September 1942.

Tittmann delivered the formal note from the United States government asking the pope to make a public protest against German atrocities.  (The text will follow in the next post.)

1942.3 p774 18 September 1942

Harrison in Bern passed on a dispatch from Tittmann informing the State Department that the formal note from the Untied States government had been delivered.

1942.3.p775 26 September 1942

Myron Taylor, the Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to Pius XII sent a copy of a document received from the Jewish Agency for Palestine that set out in graphic terms the physical destruction of the Jews of Warsaw in particular and the Jews of Europe in general.  This document appears in ADSS 8.493.

1942.3 p776 6 October 1942

Tittmann wrote to Hull with an update on the progress of the diplomatic notes urging the pope to  protest German atrocities noting that the protest proposal appeared to enjoy the support of the Jesuits.  However, while it was believed the pope was giving the notes serious consideration, opinion in the Vatican was divided as to the wisdom of such a move.

Friday, October 12, 2012

ADSS 5.467 Osborne to Maglione: UK request for the Pope to speak

Two days after the Polish and Belgian ambassadors delivered their governments' request for a public papal condemnation of German war crimes and on the same day as the delivery of the Brazilian note, D'Arcy Osborne, the British Minister to the Holy See delivered the formal request of the government of the United Kingdom for the same.  It is one of the few English documents in ADSS.  

ADSS 5.467 
D’Arcy Osborne, UK Minister to the Holy See to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: 59/5/42; AES 6880/42
Location and date: Vatican, 14.09.1942

Summary statement: The British government asks the Pope to make a public condemnation of Nazi war crimes.
Language: English


I have been instructed by my Government to urge that His Holiness the Pope should carefully consider the expediency of a public and specific denunciation of Nazi treatment of the populations of the countries in German occupation.  Among the crimes committed under this regime of ever more flagrant terrorism it will suffice to mention the wholesale murder of innocent hostages under a nefarious doctrine of collective responsibility, the menace or actual application of measures of extermination of whole peoples, the deliberate liquidation of political and cultural leadership, the repression of religious freedom, the wholesale uprooting and deportation of racial units, the conscription for military service or forced labour of large sections of the populations, and the merciless persecution of the Jews throughout Europe. These inhuman practices, reminiscent of pagan barbarism, violate alike the natural and moral laws, the conscience and principles of civilisation, and the doctrine of the Catholic Church in respect of the dignity and rights of the human individual, the family and the nation.

2.  If it should be suggested that reports of these outrages may be exaggerated, if not actually false, confirmation may be sought in the announcements of the German and German-controlled radio services in regard to reprisals, executions of hostages, transfers of populations, military and industrial conscription and the Jewish persecution. Moreover corroborative evidence may be found in the many public statements of the Catholic hierarchy in Germany and the Occupied Countries.

3. It may perhaps be objected that His Holiness has already publicly denounced moral crimes arising out of the war. But such occasional declarations in general terms do not have the lasting force and validity that, in the timeless atmosphere of the Vatican, they might perhaps be expected to retain. Moreover their relevance and significance have been impaired and transcended by the mounting record of Nazi crimes.

4.  It is affirmed that the mission of the Church is a spiritual one, that its primary purpose is the safeguarding of the faith throughout the world and that this imposes upon the Papacy political neutrality and supranational impartiality at all times, and more particularly in time of war between the nations. The Supreme Pontiff is, it is often asserted, the universal father whose charity and affection are impartially distributed among all peoples. But universal paternity and impartial charity need not exclude reprobation of offences against humanity and civilisation by one nation at the expense of others. A policy of silence in regard to such offences against the conscience of the world must necessarily involve a renunciation of moral leadership and a consequent atrophy of the influence and authority of the Vatican; and it is upon the maintenance and assertion of such authority that must depend any prospect of a Papal contribution to the re-establishment of world peace.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ADSS 3.2.406 Andrej Szeptyckyj to Pius XII

At the same time diplomats immured within the Vatican were starting to exert significant pressure on the Pope to make a clear statement condemning German atrocities, information from "the East" continued to arrive in Rome.  One of the most explicit letters was from the Uniate / Greek Catholic Archbishop of Lvov, Andrzej Szeptyckj (1865-1944).  No stranger to controversy, Szeptycki was very blunt in his description of the German occupation.  This letter was hand written and sent with a realistic acceptance that it could be intercepted by "those who should not read it".  Szeptycki was an old man in 1942 and, as he made clear to the pope, was ready to die for the sake of his people, his church and his country.  The letter reached Rome, but there is no indication at this stage if a reply was considered or sent.  

Perhaps Pius believed it was too dangerous? This could have well been the case with an interesting observation about two other letters that effectively bracketed ADSS 3.2.406.  In ADSS 3.2.397 Pius XII wrote to Szeptyckj on 25.07.1942 with congratulations for his Golden Jubilee of ordination, and then ADSS 3.2.409 which is Szeptyckj's letter of thanks to the pope on 14.09.1942.

ADSS 3.2 Document 406 
The Metropolitan of Lvov (Uniate) Andrzej Szeptyckj to Pope Pius XII

Reference: AES 6881/42
Location and date: Lvov (Léopol) Ukraine,  29-31.08.1942

Summary:  The Metropolitan informs the Pope of the situation in his diocese, under German domination, after the retreat of the Russians.
Language: French


Most Holy Father,

I have not written to Your Holiness since the German occupation as I have not been confident that my letter would not fall into the hands of those who should not read it.  Hoping, however, that I will have a good opportunity in the very near future, I write this brief essay in the hope that it will succeed in reaching Your Holiness.

Released from the Bolshevik yoke by the German army we felt some relief, but it only lasted a month or two.  Gradually, the Government has established a system of terror and corruption that becomes every day heavier and more unbearable.

Today the whole country agrees that the German regime is evil, almost diabolical, and perhaps even more so than the Bolshevik regime. For at least a year no day has passed without the more horrible crimes being committed, assassinations, stealing, rapes, confiscations, and extortions. The Jews are the first victims, more than two hundred thousand of them having been killed in our small country.

As the [German] army advanced eastwards, the number of victims grew.  In Kiev, within a few days, they executed up to one hundred and thirty thousand men, women and children.  Over the last year all the small cities of Ukraine witnessed similar massacres.  In the beginning the authorities, ashamed at these inhuman acts of injustice, endeavored to ensure they had documents to prove that locals or militia [partisans?] were responsible for the murders.  Over time, they began to kill Jews in the streets, shamelessly, in front of the entire population.  Unsurprisingly, crowds of Christians, not only baptized Jews, but “Aryans” as they say, were also victims of unjustified murder.  There are hundreds of thousands of arrests, mostly unjust; crowds of young men are shot without any plausible reason.  A regime of serfdom has been applied to the rural population, which is now trapped.

Moreover, almost all the young people are forced to go to Germany as factory or farm workers.  They take almost everything the peasants produce by first demanding double the set amount.  The death penalty is proclaimed for anyone caught buying or selling anything directly from the producers.  Restitution of private property has been proclaimed but nothing is done to do it.  On the contrary, the [German] authorities will use without reservation, all property confiscated by the Bolsheviks and say that the entire earth belongs to the State.  It is often said in whispers that personal property is considered “spoils of war”.  They continue and expand the Bolshevik system.  Certainly, there are some honest people among the leaders.  Sometimes one even meets some good Catholics, but the vast majority of the staff sent here are lawless people, who enable quite incredible abuse.  Villagers are treated like blacks in the colonies.  They are flogged and slapped for no reason; for example, the food they bring to their children in the city is confiscated, and it is done with so little human feeling that you do not believe it could be possible.

And yet, they are real.  From the personal testimony of some people, I know that the head of a district, for example, has a passion for personally confiscating the baskets of villagers who go to the city and throw the peasants in the river.  He does this in a time of real famine which had raged before the harvest in many villages.  And nobody dares to complain because he would seek revenge on the complainer.  Nothing can be done because he enjoys protection from someone higher up.

An eye witness told me personally, that he saw a young SS officer run from a distance so as not to lose the opportunity to give a blow to a dying man, unknown to the rest of the people, who had been killed by the police because he had done something to displease them. 

I am unable to expand on similar cases – they are innumerable.

It is just as if a band of angry or enraged wolves had fallen against the poor people.  And it is not only peasants and the simple people who are exposed to bellows and blows.  For example, a German clerk enjoys treatment two or three times higher than a non-German can beat up the highest non-German prosecutor.

People struggling with the police are beaten with rubber truncheons in the public train stations or in the street.  Sometimes they set loose police dogs on the people.  Sometimes the dogs are muzzled, but there are cases where they are not.

Despite our repeated requests to order small parishes among the farms that were confiscated de facto under the Bolsheviks but not “nationalized” as they said, we have achieved nothing and the allocation of the clergy is greatly reduced to a very poor result.

I must mention with great appreciation the help we receive from German Catholics through the association to help Germans on the borders of the Reich.  The Ukrainian clergy gets, it is true, what the Government calls the “voluntary support” of RM50 a month which is rather a “political demonstration” rather than real relief.

Yet we are expected to pay a 25% tax assessment.  The anti-Catholic laws of the Reich do not yet apply.  Priests are allowed to teach catechism to children in schools.  We do not mix sermons and the administration of parishes.  One also wants to regulate marriages, but not in an anti-canonical sense.

The Germans demand of the clergy, as for all citizens, requirements for passports, permissions and all the restrictive regulations of civil liberties which can only be imagined.  But it has permitted the opening, for example, of seminaries.  Our seminary, theological academy operates almost normally.  However, a real persecution threatens us continually like a sword of Damocles over our heads.  The Germans allow me to print a monthly newspaper for the diocese for Pastoral Letters and Instructions.  But, they confiscate things for the most trivial reasons in the world.  Nonetheless I was able all the same, do make six pretty solid issues of about 32 pages each.  I was able to convene a diocesan synod, which has lasted throughout most of the year and given me the opportunity to be in continuous communication with the clergy of the diocese.  Monasteries are gradually being reorganized.   But this is far from being a sufficient counterweight to the nameless demoralization faced by the simple and weak.  They learn in effect to steal, commit murder; they lose their sense of justice and humanity.  I protested the homicides in Pastoral Letters, which were, naturally, confiscated, but not before they were read four or five times by the gathered clergy.

I declared that homicide was a case of excommunication reserved to the bishop.  I protested again in a letter I wrote to Himmler and I endeavored to prevent young people from putting their names forward for the militia as this is a cause of scandal.

But all this is nothing compared to the growing flood of moral filth engulfing the country.

We fully expect that as the regime of terror grows, it will turn its proceedings more and more to Ukrainian and Polish Christians.  The executioners are accustomed to seeing bloodshed and bloodlust, and are in fact used to massacring Jews, thousands of innocent people.

Because everything is now already permitted by the Germans, it is unlikely that their rage will be stopped when there is no force to impose any discipline.  We therefore expect that the whole country will be immersed in a sea of innocent blood unless some extraordinary event stops the course of things.

The only consolation we have in these terrible times is that nothing happens to us against the will of oass="MsoNormal">

We can not ordinarily serve prisoners of war in hospitals or concentration camps where over a few months hundreds die daily the vast majority of them prisoners.  I have statistics and lists which are daunting and frightening.  Our priests are not allowed to serve our people, many of whom are in the greater Ukraine.  We are afraid of the cause of the Union of Churches.  We are afraid of any type of harmony, because the regime is fully and skillfully adept at the maxim “divide …” and indeed we are the victims.  I did not add any criticism of the system that Your Holiness better understands than all of us.  This system of lies, deceit, injustice and looting is a caricature of all ideas of civilization and order.

This system of selfishness is exaggerated to absurdity, a national chauvinism that is quite mad, a hatred of all that is honest and beautiful, a system that is something so phenomenal that one feels as though stupefied at the first sight of a monster.  To what end will this system lead the unfortunate German nation?  It will lead to a degeneration of the race unknown in human history.  God will ensure that the Catholic Church will not fail, even though it cannot fail to feel the shock against the influence of hell.  If the persecution takes the form of massacres because of religion it could well be the salvation of those countries.  There is a huge need for blood volunteered to atone for the blood shed in these crimes. 

Your Holiness denied me the grace of an Apostolic Blessing three years ago, through which I pledged to offer my life for the apostolic mission given to me for the salvation of my diocese.  I do not insist on this, persuaded that Your Holiness understood things better than I did, but I think I lost the best and perhaps only occasion under the Bolsheviks.  But these three years have taught me that I am not worthy of such a death.  And I realized that the sacrifice of my life would have less value before God than a prayer of a child.  Today I ask a special blessing for my prayers and sacrifices.  The greater sacrifices are for the entire Catholic Church, a small proportion remain for my diocese and my people but these sacrifices will not be as fruitful as the Blessing Your Holiness and thostly unjust; crowds of young mhrough your Blessing.  That is why, prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, I beg you to kindly bestow Your Apostolic Blessing for my poor people, the poor clergy of my diocese and my more nothingness.

ADSS 5.466 Brazilian appeal for a Papal protest

Two days after the Belgian and Polish ambassadors presented their request for a papal condemnation of German atrocities, Idelbrando Accioly, the Brazilian ambassador delivered a similar request from his government.  The document gives a very clear presentation of German crimes in Occupied Europe.  Jews are not named outside of a general reference in paragraph 6 that relays a vague "we have heard rumours" style of comment that whole nations were being exterminated.  

The Brazilian request is unambiguous and reasoned.  It cites an article from a March 1941 edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano where the pope was described as impartial but not neutral, as a figure who has no choice but to speak the truth.  Accioly used that reference to urge Pius to speak out against not only German crimes but any others as well.  Given the Vatican's awareness and knowledge of Soviet crimes received from diplomats and bishops in the Baltic States, eastern Poland and Ukraine before June 1941, Accioly's request may well have seemed naive.  Nonetheless, the Brazilian request was powerful in its wording.

ADSS 5.466 

Idelbrando Accioly, Brazilian Ambassador to the Holy See to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Note 26; AES 6659/42
Location and date: Vatican, 14.09.1942

Summary statement: The Brazilian government asks the Pope to publicly condemn Nazi crimes.
Language: French


1. The Ambassador of Brazil to the Holy See, acting on instructions received from his Government, has the honour to address his Eminence the Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness the following:

2. The attention of the Brazilian Government has been drawn for some time on certain facts of extreme gravity from countries occupied by German troops and whose veracity has been established by credible evidence as well as through admissions of culpability.  There are frequent atrocities against the civilian population of the said countries and, in general, appear to follow methodical plans of the occupation authorities.

3.  In addition to these atrocities, which undoubtedly deserve the most formal condemnation of all Christians, we may also report other no less reprehensible acts against absolutely innocent victims, nationals of neutral countries.  Without notice merchant and passenger ships are torpedoed in Brazilian waters.  Recently there were several Brazilian ships attacked which arrived, some of whom had travelled from one Brazilian port to another, bringing travellers to the National Eucharistic Congress in Sao Paulo.(1)

4.  All these acts are certainly contrary to public international law, but they are especially crimes against the laws of humanity and against the moral principles that the Catholic Church has always supported. 

5.  Among the atrocities perpetrated in the occupied countries there are several that are used as means of terrorising the population at local and national levels.  These are, for example, the massacre of innocent hostages and the destruction of the land of small towns or villages.  These terrible collective punishments are justified under the pretext of punishment for individual acts. (2)

6.  Some say that the atrocities seem aimed at the extermination of entire nations.  Others suggest they are aimed at the destruction of religion.  Other atrocities have the appearance of cruel vengeance against civilian populations.  All these atrocities demonstrate, on the part of those who commit them, a dangerous absence of any sense of humanity and even moral sense.

7.  There is an abundance of information related to this topic and, unfortunately, it is very true.  These are not propaganda inventions, against the country in question, but the German authorities themselves have announced these actions.

8. The Brazilian government believes that to avoid the continuation of similar atrocities that far exceed all that has been seen in previous wars, the respected authoritative voice of the Vicar of Christ should sound against them.  It is to this high authority, rightly regarded as the greatest moral and spiritual power in the world that all free people turn, anxious to see the perpetrators responsible for these crimes denounced.

9.  There is no suggestion, by this request, that the Holy See take sides in this World War, but only condemns the violence and intolerable atrocities committed with a blatant disregard for the principles of Christian and natural morality. 

10.  We do not ask that the Holy See break its neutrality between the warring nations.  What is requested is that the Supreme Pontiff, “the supreme guardian of morality and justice” makes a formal condemnation of crimes and injustices regardless of where he sees them.  Such a statement does not involve a breach of neutrality, not only because the Holy See, which is above human passions, is able to clearly distinguish between aggressors and their victims, but also because, as a Brazilian lawyer and statesman well said, there can be no neutrality between right and wrong.  The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano has in fact made this point in the edition for 12 March 1941 saying it would be inadmissible “that the Pope, in the face of truth and falsehood, of justice and injustice, of love and hate, of good and bad, in the face of sleeplessness over the fate of humanity, had to choose, would not choose, does not want to choose”. (3)

11.  Therefore, the Government of Brazil, the government of a deeply Catholic people, presents by this means, with the greatest respect, an appeal to His Holiness so that he deigns to carefully consider the suitability of an unequivocal public condemnation of German atrocities committed in the occupied countries or directed against innocent neutrals.


Cross references: 
(1) The National Eucharistic Congress was held in Sao Paulo in September 1942.
(2)  A possible reference to the murder of the villagers and destruction of Lidice on 10.06.1942.
(3)  L’Osservatore Romano 12.03.1941 (59).  An unsigned article possibly written by Giuseppe Dalle Torre that declared that although neutral, the Pope was not impartial.  The rest of the sentence was omitted: “The Pope is not neutral”.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ADSS 5.465 Joint request for a Papal Condemnation of Nazi crimes

By late summer 1942 the diplomats living inside the Vatican decided to approach their governments and ask for permission to lodge individual statements requesting a papal condemnation of German atrocities.  The governments agreed and on 12 September the Belgian and Polish ambassadors presented a petition on behalf of eight European governments.  Similar requests were to come from the United States and Brazil.  The statements would be a part of diplomatic life in the Vatican for the rest of the year.

ADSS 5.465 
Adrien Nieuwenhuys, Belgian Ambassador, Casimir Papee, Polish Ambassador to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: AES 6658/42

Location and date: Vatican, 12.09.1942

Summary statement: Belgian and Polish governments request a public papal declaration condemning Nazi excesses.

Language: French


The undersigned Ambassadors of Belgium and Poland (2) accredited to the Holy See, by order of the respective governments and authorised by the other signatories of the Allied Declaration of 13 January 1942 (3) have the honour to inform your reverend Eminence the following:

“The Belgian Government, the French National Committee, the Governments of Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia having jointly examined the situation, that is, the increasing violations of international law, including acts of oppression and terror in the territories occupied by their enemies.  These acts have recently taken effect and form an expansion among those who feat that the occupation regime is coating the still more inhuman character which may now range to the extermination of some populations.

Anxious to avoid as far as possible making life for the people of the invaded territories more terrible than those who have already been so hard hit, and to escape the relentless pressure exercised against them, the aforementioned governments have decided to appeal to His Holiness, whose voice can not fail to have a profound echo in our consciences.  For this purpose they are able to bring to the attention of His Holiness some details concerning recent facts which would render his making this compelling call.(4)

The aforementioned Governments dare to hope that His Holiness sensitive to so many present horrors and future threats would raise his voice to help save countless innocent victims. (5)

Cross references: 
(1) Adrien Nieuwenhuys
(2) Casimir Papée.  See ADSS 5.449 for the first step of the Polish government.
(3) Reference to the inter-allied declaration against war crimes signed in London at St James’ Palace on 13.01.1942.  See FRUS 1942.1, p 45.
(4) A booklet entitled “Situation in the Occupied Countries”.  The booklet gave summaries of information provided by the Governments of Belgium, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.  On the first page was the stamp showing the authority of the “Allied Commission for the Punishment of War Crimes” and the date – July 1942.  Tardini noted that it had been “VSP” – “seen by the Holy Father”.
(5) the document was presented to Domenico Tardini by the two ambassadors, who, after reading it, asked him to bring it to the attention of the Pope and Cardinal Maglione.  (Note of Tardini AES 6658/42)

ADSS 5.449 Casimir Papee to Maglione Polish request for a papal protest

Within a few weeks the pressure on the Vatican to make a vocal protest against German atrocities was making itself felt.  This document of Polish Ambassador, Casimir Papee was one of the most explicit documents presented to the Holy See.  Papee did not mince his words.  Poland he said was faced with "biological extermination" and the country did not understand why the Pope appeared to say nothing.

ADSS 5.449 

Casimir Papée, Polish Ambassador to Cardinal Maglione.

Reference: Nr 122/SA/192 (AES 6657/42)
Location and date: Vatican, 27.08.1942
Summary statement: The Polish government requests a declaration from the Pope condemning the Nazi crimes perpetrated against Poland
Language: French


By order of my Government I have the honor to present to Your Eminence a memorandum included and requests Your Eminence to agree to present it, according to the intentions of my Government, to the paternal attention of the Sovereign Pontiff.  My Government is obliged to enumerate the particular crimes committed by the Germans in Poland and known by the Holy See by the many preceding communications.(1) These characteristics and acts are well known and notorious and of which we cannot be ignorant. The voice of the Holy Father, raised in favour of Poland, could not worsen the situation of the Poles, but, on the contrary, it could slow down the fury of the Germans, or at least of certain Germans.


After the recent information, detailed and absolutely certain, obtained from Poland by the Polish Government, terrorism, exerted against the Polish population by the occupation forces, is enormously increased within the last months and it continues to grow. Mass arrests, tortures, imprisonment in forced labour and concentration camps, farms set on fire with the families of the farmers, who were prevented to leave the burning houses, the murder of those who run away, shooting the innocent population by tens and hundreds without sparing women or children, capital punishment applied for trivial reasons – these are the means by which the Germans occupy themselves, with ever-increasing measures, with the express aim to possibly exterminate the greatest number of Poles.

In this situation the Polish Government addresses the Holy Father to obtain His assistance and protection for Poland and so raise his voice in defense of the most sacred principles and fundamentals of Christian morals, constantly here in Poland. Such an intervention is essential.  In addition to the terrorism, there is a parallel of false propaganda growing in Poland: the Germans spread it with the perfidy and insistence.  The purpose of this propaganda is to convince the Poles that the Holy Father’s guarded silence indicates he is indifferent to their fate and the fate of the Polish Nation. Poles, under these tragic conditions and in spite of their great attachment to their faith, are not uninfluenced, in certain measure, by this enemy propaganda, especially when the voice of the Holy Father is not heard. The enemy with impunity has crushed all natural laws and morals; they destroyed, in very great part, the hierarchy of Church; they prevent that which remains in their attempts to perform their pastoral duties; they commit sacrileges. All that must produce, especially in the less-educated masses, an impression which facilitates an acceptance of this iniquitous propaganda; people could think that the enemy, who with material force, has perhaps, also a moral fibre, to which nothing can, or does not want, to oppose an explicit judgment to him. This lack of judgment clarifies, after the German thesis, and would be equivalent to approval. While educated and enthusiastic Catholics have more the same force to oppose German propaganda, because they do not know how to explain why the voice of the Supreme Moral authority in the world does not raise the voice of the Vatican in defense of the Polish Nation at the time, where the extermination of the Poles arrives at paroxysm. The Polish clergy does not find any more, in these circumstances, the means to react and dismiss with suitable arguments.

Biological extermination, which threatens a larger part that never of the Polish Nation, as well as the propaganda, which aims to remove with the Poles any hope of help and questions them truths feelings of the Head of the Church towards Poland, can cause if a judgment licenses is not to them opposite one spiritual crisis of the Nation which, now, always resisted with so much of courage to the enemies of the Church. If Poland conforms with its historical mission, of which it is proud, must remain the nation most faithful to the Church and to continue to be an outpost, it is not necessary that its population is materially exterminated, and it is necessary that its spirit is constant with respect to contrary temptations with the faith. The Polish Government, conscious of the responsibility which fall on him, and with full knowledge of the gravity of the historic moment for the Nation which needs the powerful moral means for to be saved from these dangers, asks the Holy Father by requesting he address, and raise, in his immense kindness, his voice for Poland. This voice will be heard by everyone; it would carry help to the tortured spirit of the Poles; it would destroy the impious propaganda useful to the Germans to sow doubt in the Polish People and, finally, it would be a brake to the enemies of Poland and the Church in the continuation of the senseless murders which destroy the Polish Nation.(2)

(1) Cf ADSS 5.414
(2) This sentiment echoes much of the letter of Karol Radonski (1881-1951) (Włocławek) to Cardinal Maglione in ADSS 3.2.410.

ADSS 5.416 Osborne to Tardini UK opinion on Vatican

This document was referred to in the previous document when Tardini made his notes about the visit of D'Arcy Osborne.  The position of the UK Foreign Office reflected a more widespread attitude among significant sections of the Allied governments that Pope Pius XII was either bullied into silence by the Italian government or there was something more sinister afoot.  Tardini's note at the end indicates that Pius was aware of these sentiments.

ADSS 5.416 

D’Arcy Osborne to Monsignor Domenico Tardini

Reference: AES 5682/42
Location and Date: Vatican, 21.07.1942

Summary Statement: Opinion in the Foreign Office, London, concerning the position of the Vatican in the war.
Language: English


I would not like you to think that we are not aware that the Pope is being Criticised by the Axis Powers, but you have summed up our chief criticism in the last words of your dispatch, namely, “the endeavour of the Vatican to maintain a precarious equilibrium outside of and above the war”.  In order to do this we feel that ever since the entry of Italy into the war the Pope has more and more assimilated himself to the status of a sovereign of a small neutral State in the geographical neighbourhood of Axis Powers, and, for worldly rather than spiritual reasons, has allowed himself, like others, to be bullied.  In short, we feel that His Holiness is not putting up a very god fight to retain his moral and spiritual leadership, when he should realize that in Hitler’s new world there will be no room for the Catholic religion and that if the Papacy remains silent, the free nations may find that they have little power to arrest the anticlericalism which may follow the war.

21.07.42: Note by Tardini:

This note was delivered to me today by the English Minister; which declares that it is a draft of a private letter of a friend [of Osborne’s], but which reflects the mentality of the Foreign Office.

22.07.42. Seen by the Holy Father.

ADSS 5.414 Tardini notes - calls for a papal protest

On 14 January 1942 the Allies issued a statement promising to prosecute those responsible for German war atrocities.  Many of the governments of countries occupied by Germany hoped that the Holy See would support initiatives to condemn German crimes.  From the July 1942 growing pressure was applied on the pope through ambassadors in the Vatican.  Domenico Tardini received the representatives of Poland, the United Kingdom and Brazil along with their requests for a papal condemnation.  Tardini's notes indicate a sense of frustration that the position of the Holy See was not understood, namely that the quiet "behind the scenes" efforts undertaken by the Vatican could be put at risk if the pope spoke out more stridently or specifically.   The sense of frustration grew worse as will be seen in the next few documents.

ADSS 5.414 

Tardini notes.

Reference: AES 5493/42
Location and date: Vatican 20.07.1942

Summary statement: Papal statements made in favour of Poland.
Language: Italian


The Polish ambassador (1) came to see me and asked, for the umpteenth time, that the Holy See say a public word in favour of the Poles and against the terrible persecution to which they are subjected.  For the umpteenth time I reminded him of what His Holiness has done and said for the Poles in Poland and of his support for them in the midst of very serious difficulties they struggle with.  To this end the Holy See undertakes discreet and hidden activities, but still effective.  To speak openly too often (what has been said has been more than enough) could severely compromise the valuable activity of the Holy See.


The English minister (2) came to see me to speak about – more or less – the same thing.  I repeated to him more or less the same things. It is however, distressing to see this coalition of diplomats who have enjoyed the hospitality of the Holy See, who are treated so well, who can see the day to day superiority of the Holy See, all in agreement and all stubborn in a conviction and false attitude which is offensive to those who have treated them so well and kindly.


The Brazilian ambassador (3) came to see me.  He had received (said) a pro-memoria from the Ambassador of Poland.  He also contents that the Holy See should speak.  I repeated the same explanations.  All this shows that the Pole is setting up the machinery.

Cross references: 
(1) Casimir Papée (1879-1979), Polish Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-1944
(2) D’Arcy Osborne (1884-1964), UK Minister to the Holy See 1935-1947
(3) Ildebrando Pompeii Pinto Accioly (1888-1962), Brazilian Ambassador to the Holy See 1939-1944.