Friday, April 4, 2014

ADSS 9.264 Fr Marie-Benoit ofm cap to Pope Pius XII

 The next few posts are relevant to Zuccotti's biography of Padre Benedetto.  In this document Padre Benedetto gives a summary of the situation confronting Jews in France.

ADSS 9.264 Fr Marie-Benoît OFM Cap (1) to Pius XII

Reference: No number, (AES 4700/43)

Location and date: Rome, 15.07.1943

Summary statement: Report on the situation of Jews in France; information on the deportations and KZ in France

Language: French


Humbly prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, I have the honour to present to Your Holiness a note I wrote about the Jews of France, their conversions, the feelings of gratitude they have towards the Catholic Church for its charity towards them, and they would like to present, through me, their petitions to the Holy See.  The note is accompanied by four appendices, designated by the letters A, B, C and D. (2)

The first two appendices A and B contain lists of deportees about whom we are seeking information.

Appendix C contains “Information on Camps in Upper-Silesia.”

Appendix D contains a “Note on the camps and deportations in France.”

Note of Domenico Tardini:

18.07.1943:  After audience with his Eminence (Maglione). We will be able to say a good word for Italy …

Appendix: Note on the subject of the Jews.

I returned from France a few days ago, after spending three years in our convent of Friars Minor Capuchin in Marseille.  In my ministry, I was brought in to teach the Catholic faith, and I baptised many Jews, exactly fifty one, with the authorisation of the Bishop of Marseilles (3), and helped in this apostolate, with the great intelligence and zeal of the religious of Our Lady of Sion (4) in whose chapel most of the baptisms took place.

As a result of the raging persecution against foreign Jews in France, I undertook this spiritual ministry which led me, naturally, to take every measure I could to protect these unfortunate people – converts or not – because all are subjects of Christian charity, in collaboration with other priests, the religious of Our Lady of Zion, the laity of Catholic Action, and also, needless to say, with Jewish organisations, who show the greatest courage and the utmost dedication in the defence of their co-religionists.

I took the opportunity to getting in touch with the Italian authorities, in their zone of occupied France.  Italy has shown itself very humane and protective of the Jews against both the German and French police, which is to the nation’s honour.  I have been dealing with Mr Lo Spinosa (5), the Italian government representative for Jewish affairs in Nice, and I, as both a Catholic and a Frenchman, have commended and thanked him.

Having learned that I was returning to Rome, the Jews asked me to voice their deep appreciation for the love and dedication shown by the Sovereign Pontiff, and, at the same time to submit their humble petitions.

I agreed, simply assuming the consent of my Superior General (6), because, unfortunately, it was not possible to write on such a subject.  He has now explicitly approved my mission.

In order to speak in a more authoritative manner, I had a meeting in Lyon with the chairman of the central consistory of French Jewish organisations for the last two years, Mr Helbronner, the secretary of the consistory, Mr Meiss (7), the Chief Rabbi of France, Mr Schwartz (8), his assistant, Rabbi Kaplan (9), the Chief Rabbi of Lille, Mr Berman (10), the Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg, Mr Hirschler (11), the Chief Rabbi of Marseilles, Mr Salzer (12), the President of the General Union of French Jews (UGIF), Mr Lambert (13), the President of the French Jewish Scouts, Mr Edmond Fleg (14) and many other eminent persons in the Jewish world, such as the Italian, Mr Donati, Mr Jules Isaac (15), Mr Fisher, etc.  All enthusiastically expressed the same desire, so I am really speaking on behalf of French Jewry, and at the same time for all the Jews of different nationalities across Europe who came to France in hope of refuge, but who now are subject to a very severe persecution with no protection and no humane policy.

This note expresses, in a discreet manner, waiting for a time when it can be done publically and solemnly, the deep recognition of all these Jews to the Sovereign Pontiff, and at the same time, with confidence in his goodness, to present some requests, which I offer on their behalf to the Pope today.

1) Deported Jews:  Approximately 50,000 Jews – French and foreign – were deported from France by the German police. A very small number of them have been able up to now to send news, such as those whose names appear in Appendix A, pages four to nine.  Could the Holy See organise an attempt to find out what has happened to all those unfortunate people, to at least get a sign of life for those dear to them?  Appendix A, from pages one to three, contains the names of those deported.  Appendix B contains a few others and also the name of a Catholic (not Jewish).  Other lists will be sent to me later and I can send them to the Holy See, if approaches prove possible.  Appendix C contains information on the camps in Upper-Silesia where direct inquiries may be made.  Appendix D (17), pages two and five describe the process of the deportations.

2) Jewish concentration camps in France:  Appendix D, written by Mr Hirschler, Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg and currently chaplain for Jewish concentration camps in France, presents the sad situation of these camps.  Could the intervention of the Holy See improve this situation obtaining French or international aid organisations access to these camps?

In case of a refusal by the competent authorities, could the Holy See suggest to the Allied nations to put pressure on the Axis threatening retaliation for both Jews in French camps and those newly deported?

3)  Spanish Jews in France:  Spain has promised to repatriate these Jews, but the administrative procedure is very long.  Meanwhile, they are prone to arrest at any time by the German police.  It is urgent that Spain provides effective protection immediately, for example, by providing provisional papers.  Can the Holy See please say a word to that effect to the Spanish government?

4) Foreign Jews in the Italian occupied zone of France:  I mentioned earlier of the caring and compassionate attitude of Italy towards the Jews.  A fear remains, however, of what would happen to those 8,000 to 10,000 Jews, grouped together in a number of monitored residences, if for one reason or another, Germany decided to occupy the area currently occupied by Italy.  Their situation would be immediately catastrophic.  Since these groups are only a few kilometres from the Italian border, would it not be possible to pass them into Italy for use in various jobs?  Is a suggestion along these lines possible?

I promised the Jews of France – French and foreign – that I would make their needs known to the Holy See, and those they will report to me in the future. (18)

Cross references:
(1) Fr Marie-Benoît (Pierre Peteul) born in Bourg d’Iré (Maine-et-Loire) 03.03.1895.  Entered the Capuchin friars in 1913.  Professor of theology, Rome.  From 1940 he was active in helping foreign-born Jewish refugees from German-occupied France in Marseille, Cannes and Nice and afterwards in Rome.  Died 05.02.1990.

(2) Not published in ADSS.

(3) Jean Delay (1879-1966), bishop of Marseilles 1937-1956.

(4) Congregation founded in 1843 in Paris by Jewish converts for the conversion of the Jewish people.

(5) Guido Lo Spinoso.  Inspector General on Racial Matters, sent to Nice to supervise the estimated 30,000 Jews.

(6) Donato Wynant a Welle (1890-1972), Belgian born General of the OFM Caps 1938-1946.

(7) Jacques Helbronner (1873-1943), former counsellor of State, deported from Lyon 1942, murdered in Auschwitz 23.11.1943; Leon Meiss (1896-1966), President of the Consistory of French Jews; from 1944 head of the council of Representatives of French Jews.

(8) Isaiah Schwartz, (1876-1952), Chief Rabbi of France 1939-1952.

(9) Jacques Kaplan, (1895-1994), Chief Rabbi of Paris, 1950-1955 and of France 1955-1981.

(10) Léon Berman (1892-1943 ), Chief Rabbi of Lille 1934-1939; arrested 15.10.1943 and deported to Auschwitz on 28.10.1943 were he was murdered.

(11) René Hirschler, (1905-1944) rabbi of Mulhouse, then Strasbourg, arrested by the Gestapo in Marseille on 23.12.1943. He was deported to Auschwitz in 03.02.1944, evacuated on death march to KL Mauthausen and then to KL Ebensee where he died of exhaustion shortly before Liberation.

(12) Israël Salzer (1904-1990), Chief Rabbi of Marseille since 1929; saved in hiding by Christian neighbours and Bishop Marius Chalve (1881-1970)

(13)  Raymond-Raoul Lambert (1894-1943), arrested with his family on 21.08.1943.  Murdered in Auschwitz with his wife and four children on 10.12.1943.

(14) Edmund Fleg (Flagenheimer) (1874-1963), writer and early promoter of Christian-Jewish dialogue with Jules Isaac.

(15)  Angelo Donati (1885-1960); Jules Isaac (1877-1963), historian; Joseph Ariel (Fisher) (1893-1965) played an important role in Jewish resistance in France and rescued many Jews.

(16)  This list gave information of thirteen concentration camps in Upper-Silesia, the names of four camps in the Gouvernement General (Poland) and the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia.  The authors make no mention to the extermination of the Jews, but they spoke of labour camps and that “morale among the deportees is generally good and they are confident of the future.”

(17) The note on the deportation and the camps in France is divided into two parts” the occupied zone and the southern zone.  It provides information on arrests of Jews, the camps and deportation.  “ … Most of the interned Jews are deported to unknown locations.  From the time they leave the camp, their families receive no news, and this is where the torture begins, all links are broken.  For many this has gone on for two years … The deportations are often the most painful.  Men have their heads shaved.  Anti-Jewish French police rob the poor of what they still have … The deportations began in the unoccupied zone in August 1942.  From August to September, 12,000 foreigners were deported on successive trains via the occupied zone and then to an unknown destination.  A second deportation took place between 25 February and 3 March 1943, totalling approximately 1,600 people.  These operations were carried out entirely by the French authorities, often with a repugnance they did not attempt to hide.  Departures were less tragic than in the occupied zone … It must be said that the deportees often behaved like heroes …”

(18) See ADSS 9.267

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