Friday, April 4, 2014

ADSS 9.267 Notes of Marie-Benôit OFM Cap: plans for Jewish rescue

One of Padre Benedetto's plans was to try and arrange for ships to take Jews from the Italian zone in France to North Africa where the Allies had expelled Axis troops and were making their way through Sicily.  This plan came to naught.

ADSS 9.267, notes of Fr Marie-Benôit OFM Cap

Reference: No number (AES Italy, 1054)

Location and date: Rome, 16.07.1943

Summary statement: Project for non-French Jews in the Italian zone of France

Language: French


On 16.07.1943 I had the honour to be presented to the Sovereign Pontiff by my Superior General and I gave to His Holiness a note about the Jews. (1)  The note contained four requests addressed to the goodness of the Sovereign Pontiff, and the fourth concerned foreign Jews in France located in the area occupied by Italian troops.  I frankly admitted: “…a fear remains as to what would happen to these eight to ten thousand Jews, in monitored residences, if Germany, for one reason or another, occupied the area currently reserved for Italy?  Their situation would become immediately catastrophic …” (2) This fear is being realised as Italian troops gradually leave France and the Germans are already in the neighbourhood of Nice.

Mr Angelo Donati (3), a Jewish Italian resident in Nice, with whom I worked while I was still in France, has been a long established protector of his coreligionists with the Italian authorities.  He is a man of great heart and courage, who was moved by the present danger and has acted with the Italian government to help move the Jews in France into Italy.  The agreement has been made and steps are being taken and implemented.  There are approximately 30,000 Jews who will come and take refuge in Italy.

For several reasons which are not difficult to imagine and understand, it was decided that this solution was inadequate and unacceptable, and consideration was given to sending these Jews and those who are already in Italy to various concentration camps in North Africa.  An agreement in principle has already been given by the English government, which has also discussed the issue with the government in Washington. (4)  Italy’s goodwill in the current circumstances brings it great honour.  Negotiations continue, and, without minimising difficulties, give cause for hope of success.  This is an important case, since we envisage a total figure of about 50,000 Jews; it is of the highest humanity, since the aim is to ensure the lives of these poor people who have been persecuted for many years.  Could the Holy See instruct its representatives in London and Washington to support and help this enterprise? (5)

I propose to introduce Mr Angelo Donati to the Secretariat of State to explain and present the matter more directly and concretely. (6) 

Cross references: 
(1) See ADSS 9.264.
(2) See ADSS 9.264 appendix.
(3) See ADSS 9.264, note 15.
(4) Documentation about such an agreement has not been found (as of 1975).  Documents found covered the months of August and September 1943, see ADSS 9.321.
(5) Nothing was found in this regard.
(6) Nothing was found in this regard. See Morley, pp65-66.

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