Saturday, July 20, 2013

ADSS 6.362 Rotta to Maglione

As noted in the last post, anti-Jewish legislation in Hungary had caused serious concern for the Vatican.  Catholics of Jewish descent were now considered "racial Jews" according to the law, placing several hundred thousand people in severe economic and social situations.  As German victories mounted during 1939-1940 so too did the electoral and popular success of Hungarian fascist and far-right political parties, especially the Arrow Cross, who now clamoured for greater restrictions on Hungarian Jewry.  There is evidence to suggest that the Jewish Laws of 1939 and 1941 were attempts to appease the far-right and exert some limits to antisemitism in Hungary.  

In late 1940 the pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione, had heard rumours of a third anti-Jewish law in preparation and instructed Angelo Rotta, the nuncio in Budapest, on 23 October, to investigate and do whatever possible to ensure these laws were not passed.  The details of the proposed law were unclear, but it would be reasonable to assume that Hungary was preparing to finalise its version of the Nuremberg laws.  Rotta replied to Maglione on 2 November with news that he had been assured that any changes to the laws were for the purposes of clarification and simplification.  This was a plausible response given that the Hungarian legal definition of who was and who was not a Jew rested on a mixture of racial classification and religious background.

In the end, a third anti-Jewish law was promulgated on 8 August 1941.  A summary of the law can be found on this site         

"Act XV of 1941 (the third Anti-Jewish Law) on “The amendment and modification of       marriage law XXXI of 1894, and the related necessary racial provisions” went into effect on August 8, 1941. Using Nazi terminology in its preamble, the law applied Germany’s Nuremberg laws: everyone with at least two grandparents born into the Israelite faith was defined as a Jew. The law also forbade marriage, and legally sanctioned extramarital sexual intercourse between Jews and non-Jews, provided the male was defined a Jew and the female was not".

The bishops in the Upper House who had voted for the previous laws, voted against the legislation because it interfered in the legal status of marriages entered into by converted Jews and thus creating conflict with the authority of the Church.

Rotta transmits a sense of growing urgency in this document.  Antisemitic actions are becoming more frequent.  He mentioned a coal strike that was not reported in the papers, that was fuelled not by left-wing revolutionary zeal, but by anger at the Jewish owners of some of the mines.

ADSS 6.362 Angelo Rotta, Hungary to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  Report nr: 4248/40 (N Pr 238), AES 9754/40

Location and date: Budapest, 02.11.1940

Summary statement: Information on the new antisemitic laws under preparation.

Language: Italian


In Your Eminence’s dispatch number 9086/40 of 23 October 1940 (1) you asked me to do whatever I could to prevent the passage of a proposed law against the Jews, whereby a deterioration of their condition would ensue, at least in regards to the converts. 

There is something in preparation with the intention of simplifying and clarifying the recent law passed against the Jews, which will, without doubt, create a grave burden for them.

For the last few days I have appealed to the Bishop of Vesprimia (2), who has a good rapport with the Prime Minister, Count Teleki, to express in my name, at the first opportunity, the painful impression this legislation would have on the Holy See.  There are draconian measures proposed against the Jews, including baptised Jews, regarding an introduction of an impediment to marriage between non-Aryans, including those baptised, and Aryans.   In a conversation I had this evening with the Foreign Minister (3), and to which I refer elsewhere, I also directly “hit this nail on the head”.  He told me that there is no well-defined project, but only the desire to simplify and clarify a cumbersome law, which would not contain new penalties that would conflict with the Holy See; in fact he told me that the Council of Ministers apposed the idea of introducing the aforementioned impediment to marriage.

But the pressure for a greater severity in the matter, which is purely racial, without much discrimination, is very strong from both outside [Hungary] and inside.  The Italian example will be fatal here.  In that regard I pointed out that first of all, with respect to the point above, the Holy See did not fail to protest, and then in Italy there is the legal obligation whereby the civil marriage takes priority over the religious – a stupid law that also exists in Hungary – at least the two unfortunates are able to obtain a religious marriage with regard to conscience; something that is not possible in Hungary, without exposing the priest who bless such weddings to serious penalties.

He told me he was perfectly convinced by what I asserted.  Even from inside Hungary, as I confirmed, pressure is growing, because the wave of Antisemitism is becoming more threatening in the country. Not only does Parliament often return to this point in its struggle against the Jews, the extremist parties make fruitful propaganda.  Even the new party program of Imredy, “Hungarian Renewal” (4) has as one of its points a very radical solution of the Jewish question.

A big coal mine strike (which has not been published in the newspapers here), which has dragged on for weeks here in Hungary, is only now being resolved through energetic intervention of the military, had as one of its issues, not revolution, but the fight against the Jews, because of their economic interests in the mines.  Of course, the extremist Arrow Cross party was involved.

In any case, I have recommended to the minister that he do everything possible to comply with the wishes of the Holy See.

(1) See ADSS 6.350
(2) Gyula Czapik (1887-1956), bishop of Veszprém 1939-1943, archbishop of Eger (1943-1956)
(3) István Csáky (1894-1941), minister of foreign affairs 1938-1941.
(4) Bela Imredy (1891-1946), Prime Minister of Hungary 1938-1939. Founded the party of Hungarian Renewal in October 1940.  He was shot as a German collaborator in February 1946.

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