Monday, December 15, 2014

ADSS 10.383 Montini to Georges Barcza - Hungarian jews

10.383 Giovanni Montini to Georges Barcza de Nagylasony, former Hungarian Ambassador to the Holy See

Reference:  ASS 85851, minute.

Location and date: Vatican, 02.11.1944

Summary statement: Holy See is intervening for the Jews of Hungary.

Language: French


The vicissitudes of war and the huge delays in communications which are the consequence, mean that your letter of last June, has only just reached me in the last days of October. (1)

I read with sadness the details you gave me about the treatment inflicted on the Jews by people in your homeland.  You will not be surprised by my saying that we were, alas, long aware of this situation and the Holy See has intervened for these unfortunate people throughout to the extent it was possible.  I assure you also that it is currently, and will continue to do so in the future, everything in its power to do.

Thank you for your kind words to my colleagues and me. We also have very happy memories here of your Excellency.

(1) Georges Barcza de Nagylasony (1888-1961), was a Hungarian diplomat and former Hungarian ambassador to the Holy See (1927-1938).  The letter was sent via Ouchy, Switzerland, “through the American mission here” on 06.06.1944, requesting the intervention of the Holy See.  Barcza also sent a telegram on 24.06.1944 on the same subject; but the arrival time is unknown.  Barcza was working with George Mantello in Switzerland to publicise the Auschwitz protocols and mobilise the Swiss media.  Exiled after the war, Barzca settled in Sydney, Australia where he lived for the rest of his life.

ADSS 10.381 Tardini to Bernardini, Switzerland - Hungarian Jews

Reference: Telegram nr 747 (AES 6994/44)

Location and date: Vatican 02.11.1944

Summary statement: Overview of the steps taken by the Holy See for the Jews of Hungary.

Language: Italian


With reference to the report of your Excellency, 23401 of 28.07.1944, I wish to apprise you of the following. (1)

The Holy See has always endeavoured, using every means in its power to alleviate the dreadful pain of those who suffer because of their nationality or race.

As soon as Hungary began to stir the so-called racial question, the Holy See repeatedly made interventions with the Government for those of Jewish ancestry, directing its response with more than a diplomatic note. (2)

Last June (1944), when the situation became worse and severe measures against the Jews were impending, not excluding deportation, the Holy See actively worked for the adoption of less odious measures, encouraging among others, the Hungarian bishops, to get more actively involved. (3)

His Holiness, then, on 25.06.1944 personally sent an open telegram to Regent Horthy (4) asking him to use all his power to save many people from further death and suffering.

It was precisely such action that suspended the deportation of the Jews and mitigated their conditions until a few weeks ago. (5)

Soon further news reached us of the worsening situation following recent political events in Hungary.  The Holy See was quick to once again take interest in this serious problem. (6)

I can assure your Excellency that despite the increasing difficulties of communication, nothing will be left undone to bring relief to such persons.

In this sense the Apostolic Nunciature is working with the Hungarian episcopate who repeatedly send statements and protests to the authorities. (7)

The Holy Father has offered prayer on the occasion of the day announced by Cardinal Seredi for Sunday 29.10.1944 for refugees, and has deigned to send a personal and open telegram (8) to his Eminence where once again his keen interest is manifest for “persons exposed to persecution and violence because of their religion or race or for political reasons”.

I would add that the August Pontiff has just received a telegram from Mr Saly Braunschweig, President of the Swiss Israelite Community, imploring help for the Jews of Hungary. (9) Your Excellency is asked to assure Mr Braunschweig that his telegram arrived and please give him the information above.

(1) See ADSS 10.279.  It appears Bernardini’s report took an exceptionally long time to reach Rome.  This is not altogether surprising.  By early November Allied troops were nearing Bologna and non-essential communication was becoming increasingly difficult.
(2) See ADSS 10.207, attachments, 10.223, 10.227 and attachment, 10.308.
(3) See ADSS 10.216, 242 n2, 370.
(4) ADSS 10.243.
(5) ADSS 10.265
(6) ADSS 10. 370, 371.
(7) ADSS 10.207, 227, 265, 308.
(8) ADSS 10.376.
(9) Saly Braunschwieg (20.07.1891-10.02.1946), President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Switzerland (1942-1946). Telegram sent 28.10.1944 (AES 6994/44).

ADSS 10.375 Amleto Cicognani, USA to Sec State - Slovak and Hungarian Jews

For ease of reading I have set out note 3 with more space.  It is a time line of action and reaction as the Vatican attempted to find out what had happened to Jews holding American (USA & Latin America) passports and citizenship.  For more details see the USHMM, Holocaust Research Project and Dachau KZ.

Reference: Telegram nr 2434 (AES 7047/44)

Location and date: Washington, 25.10.1944 @ 17.00, received Rome 26.10.1944 @ 13.00.

Summary statement: Request for information from USA War Refugee Board on the Jews of Slovakia and intervention for the Jews of Hungary.

Language: Italian


The Director of the official government agency for refugees (1) requests the Holy See to pass on any relevant information about 400 Jews holding Latin American citizenship or passports (Salvador, Paraguay), arrested in Bratislava interned in Mariathal who were transferred from that city to Germany around the 08.10.1944. (2) The Director would be grateful if the Holy See would make this information available to the representatives of the United States in Berne and Madrid. (3)

We continue to hear news of unceasing massacres of Non-Aryans in Hungary.  The Jewish Committees beg the Holy See to proclaim that churches in Hungary are shelters with the law of asylum and bishops and priests are to receive Jews to save them from death. (4)

(1) John William Pehle (1910-1990). A memorandum from Myron Taylor (1863-1959), personal representative of President Roosevelt to the Holy See, dated 28.10.1944, recounting the news was sent by the War Refugee Board, and passed to the Pope on the same day. (AES 7093/44)

(2) Giuseppe Burzio (1901-1966), Charge D’affaires, Bratislava (1941-1945) telegraphed the nunciature in Berne on 30.10.1944 (telegram nr 740/102; AES 7047/44).  Burzio said the Jews in question had been transferred to an unknown destination in Germany.

(3) This document has not been found. 

Taylor urged the Holy See to intervene. (Memorandum, 15.11.1944, nr 267; AES 7627/44; nr 396).

Domenico Tardini (1888-1961) asked for more information from Burzio (telegram nr 110, 16.11.1944; AES 7300/44).

On the 16.11.1944 Amleto Cicognani (1883-1973), Apostolic Delegate to the USA (1933-1959) asked for the intervention of the Holy See on behalf of the Red Cross to send parcels to 250 Non-Aryans holding South American passports and resident in Bergen Belsen (telegram nr 2466; AES 7694/44).

Tardini asked Cesare Orsenigo (1873-1946), nuncio to Germany (1933-1945), for help on 21.11.1944 (telegram nr 1019; AES 7694/44).

Tardini then informed Cicognani on 29.11.1944 that the Slovak government did not know the destination of the Jews deported to Germany (telegram nr 2013; AES 7700/44).

On 05.12.1944 Burzio telegraphed that a census of the deportees was underway and that only 13 had been recognised as United States citizens; they were possibly resident in Bergen Belsen, Hanover (telegram nr 122; AES 8087/44). 

At the same time Orsenigo replied to the Secretariat of State: “The Government notes that the Jews referred to in telegram 1019, and who hold passports of South American republics, are citizens of those republics and as such come under the care of the protecting power” (telegram nr 367, 05.12.1944; AES 8100/44). 

Burzio sent a list of the deported people in a letter shortly after (letter nr 2434, 16.12.1944, AES 934/45). He pointed out that for the most part American – USA and Latin America – citizenship or passports, had for the most part, not been taken into consideration.  He confirmed that the thirteen US citizens were in Bergen Belson camp, near Celle, Hanover.

(4) See ADSS 10.376.

ADSS 10.370 Rotta to Sec State - Hungarian Jews

Reference: Telegram number 305 (AES 7190/44)

Location and date: Budapest, 23.10.1944 @21.00, received Rome 24.10.1944 @ 19.00.

Summary statement: Steps taken in favour of the Hungarian Jews.

Language: Italian


I received your telegram 326. (1)

In my telegram, number 302 (2) about recent events I also mentioned the resumption of the struggle against the Jews; all exemptions granted by the previous government were withdrawn and it would like to get to the dissolution of mixed marriages with Jews.  There will be no deportations but work is obligatory in Hungary; numerous acts of cruelty were committed by members of the [Arrow Cross] party.

On the 18.10.1944 I conferred with the Foreign Minister (3) and on 21.10.1944 with the Prime Minister, Szalasi (4); I insisted strongly on behalf of the Holy See to improve the conditions of the Jews, especially because it is not possible to proceed to the declaration of the nullity of marriages and because concessions obtained prior to this retain their value; I was given good promises.  The Prime Minister seems willing, but I do not have a lot of confidence because of the great influence of extremists within the party. I questioned the Prime Minister about the new government’s attitude towards the Catholic Church; the Prime Minister made a satisfactory statement, but I would not rely too much on it. (5)

(1) ADSS 10.365
(2) ADSS 10.359
(3) Gabor Kemeny (1910-1946), Foreign Minister 1944-1945.
(4) Ferenc Szalasi, Arrow Cross Leader and Head of State, 15.10.1944-28.03.1945; ADSS 10.359, n1.
(5) The minutes of the meeting of 21.10.1944 run to nineteen pages, and along with other documents of the Szalasi regime, can be found in the National Archives in the United States. T – 973, Roll 1: Frames 1153-1218.

ADSS 10.370 Tardini to Rotta - keep helping the persecuted; the Pope understands the situation

Reference: Telegram nr. 329 (AES 7101/44)

Location and date: Vatican 23.10.1944

Summary statement: Nuncio must continue to all he can for the persecuted.  Pope understands the gravity of the situation. 

Language: Italian


I received your telegram number 302. (1)

The Holy Father has heard the news with great sorrow.  He commends you for your diligence in keeping the Holy See informed and sends you a special Apostolic Blessing.

Pressing appeals imploring the intervention of the Holy See continue to arrive on behalf of many people exposed to persecution and violence and persecution because of their religious denomination, race or political motivations. (2)

He wishes your Excellency to continue your charitable activities with your well-known zeal, taking advantage of the collaboration of the [Hungarian] bishops presenting as much as possible the paternal solicitude of the august Pontiff, and showing that the Catholic Church does everything possible to accomplish its universal mission of charity even in the present difficult conditions. (3)

(1) ADSS 10.359
(2) ADSS 10.362
(3) ADSS 10.371 and 381.