Monday, July 28, 2014

ADSS 10.279 Filippo Bernardini (Switzerland) to Luigi Maglione - Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz.

This is one of the first times the name "Auschwitz" appears in ADSS.  The attachment that was not published in ADSS appears to have been a copy of the so-called "Auschwitz Protocols" written by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, Slovakian Jews who escaped Birkenau in April 1944.  The transports from Hungary had stopped by this point.  Because of conditions in central and northern Italy, seriously disrupted by the war, the document did not reach Rome until October 1944.  I have found no evidence to suggest any other reason for the lack of reference to the Protocols in ADSS.

ADSS 10.279 Filippo Bernardini to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Report number 23401 (AES 6993/44)

Location and date: Berne, 28.07.1944

Summary statement: News of the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz and their extermination.

Language: Italian


I have the honour to send to your most eminent reverence by way of documentation, the attached report (1) relating to the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in Upper Silesia and the treatment reserved for them.  I have no way of checking the truth of the information contained in the same, however, I know the person who has reported it well, and have no reason to doubt their sincerity.

I take this opportunity to inform your eminence that in recent days the Swiss press has, on several occasions, emphasised the protests of the Protestant Church over the persecution of the Jews in Hungary and their interest in favour of them.  I am sending a clipping from yesterday’s Lausanne Gazette which returns to this issue. (2)  Evidently various Protestant bodies, in consultation with various Jewish committees want to give it much publicity.  A Hungarian friend pointed out to me that since nothing is published about it in the Catholic press, Swiss public opinion could be induced to believe that the Catholic Church does nothing to help and rescue the Jews. (3)

Cross references: 

(1) The report was based on the disposition made by two Slovak Jews – Rudolf Vrba (originally Walter Rosenburg 1924-2006) and Alfred Wetzler 1918-1988) – deported to Auschwitz and who escaped in April 1944.  The document (four pages in length and not published) arrived after a long journey, and appears to be an abstract in French, of the German original. See ADSS 10.204.  Statistically, the French version omits mention of 50,000 Jews of Lithuania; making the death toll 1,715,000 instead of 1,765,000.
(2) Not published.
(3) See ADSS 10.381.

ADSS 10.274 Secretariat of State to the British Legation - Hungarian Jews

10.274 Secretariat of State to the British Legation

Reference: (AES 4423/44)

Location and date: Vatican, 22.07.1944

Summary statement: Steps taken by Holy See for the Hungarian Jews.

Language: Italian


With reference to Note 38/7/44 of 10.07.1944, the Secretary of State of His Holiness wishes to assure the Legation of His Britannic Majesty that it did not fail to bring to the attention of the August Pontiff, the content of the aforementioned Note.

In this regard, the Secretary of State, believes that it is good to mention – as is known – that the Holy See is working, without neglecting any possibilities within its power to alleviate the pain of those who suffer on grounds or nationality or race. It adds that in the past few months, the action of the Holy See has, in a special way, come to the rescue of the Jews living in Hungary.  In their defense the Holy Father recently addressed an open telegram to His Highness, the Regent Horthy (2), requesting that he do all in his power to help those many unfortunate people who suffer because of their nationality or their race.  His Highness the Regent responded assuring that he will do everything possible to enforce the demands of humanitarian and Christian principles. (3)

I believe that the August appeal encouraged His Highness the Regent Horthy to take a more firm stance on the “racial” question and stimulate others in the Episcopate to explain with greater intensity activity in favour of those affected by the “racial” measures; the Hungarian Government – according to recent information received by the Secretary of State – has promised his Eminence Cardinal Justinian George Seredi, Archbishop of Ezstergom, that they would stop the deportations and grant special exemptions [for baptised Jews]. (4)

More news confirms that the situation for the Jews in Hungary shows an improvement and the Holy See will not fail to work so that this improvement may continue and grow. (5)

(1) By order of the British government, the Legation sent a message on behalf of the World Jewish Congress. See ADSS 10.249, n1.
(2) See ADSS 10.243.
(3) See ADSS 10.250.
(4) See ADSS 10.265.
(5) On the same day a similar response was sent to Casimir Papée, the Polish Ambassador.

ADSS 10.273 World Jewish Congress to Luigi Maglione - Hungarian Jews

10.273 World Jewish Congress to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Telegram without number (AES 4955/44)

Location and date: London, 21.07.1944 (received Rome 24.07.1944)

Summary statement: Thanks to the Holy See for intervention in Hungary.  A final appeal to Regent Horthy is requested.

Language: English


World Jewish Congress gratefully conscious his Holiness aid behalf sorely afflicted and menaced Jews Hungary which has been followed by offer of Regent of Hungary secure release certain categories of Jews particularly children.  His Holiness efforts bring us new hope at eleventh hour of saving from death surviving remnants of decimated European Jewry and gives solace our persecuted brethren at moment of their present extinction.  In expressing gratitude for Holy Father’s noble humanitarian work we would respectfully and earnestly request his continued aid in urging Regent of Hungary speedily and practically carry out his offer by arranging quickest release greatest number of Jewish children and adults for whom sanctuary will be prepared and found. (1)

(1) See ADSS 10.281.

ADSS 10.270 Luigi Maglione to Amleto Cicognani - Hungarian Jews

10.270 Cardinal Maglione to Amleto Cicognani, Ap Del USA

Reference: Telegram 1743 (AES 4581/44)

Location and date: Vatican, 18.07.1944

Summary statement: News of the results of steps taken for the Hungarian Jews.

Language: Italian


Following my telegram number 1707 (1) I share with your Excellency, that according to the communication of 15.07.1944, the Apostolic Nunciature in Budapest (2), I determine that the august appeal of the Holy Father has caused regent Horthy to take a more firm attitude on the issues of race and prompted others among the Episcopate to engage in more intense activity for the victims of racial measures with the result that the Government promised his Eminence Seredi that they would cease deportations and make exemptions for baptised Jews.

The Nunciature adds that the situation has improved. (3)

(1) See ADSS 10.254
(2) Telegram number 224, 14.07.1944, received Rome 15.07.194.  Published in ADSS 10.265.
(3) The American Jewish Committee wrote to Cicognani on 01.08.1944 with a letter of thanks, saying in part: “ … the intervention of His Holiness the Pope, of the Apostolic Nunciature and of Catholic prelates throughout the world has doubtless been in great measure responsible.  This benign activity, repeating in these days of modern barbarism the noble tradition of humanitarianism so often followed by the church in the Middle Ages, has inspired in the Jewish people a profound and lasting sense of gratitude”. (Archives of the Apostolic Delegate, Washington).

Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Seredi 29 June 1944

The origins of the June Pastoral Letter, referred to in ADSS 10.265,  lie in the increasing awareness among the Hungarian bishops as to the true nature of the deportation of the Hungarian Jews from May 1944.  More and more accounts of bestial and inhumane treatment of Jews from outside Hungary were now replicated from within Hungary.  The Catholic bishops could no longer avoid the reality of anti-Jewish persecution.  Many of them had acquiesced or tacitly supported the raft of anti-Jewish legislation passed in Hungary since 1938 even though some had raised some protest over the treatment of converted Jews. 

Sometime in June 1944 the document known as “The Auschwitz Protocol” arrived in Budapest via Switzerland and a copy was passed on to the Regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy.  The Regent passed on the information to Seredi.  The Primate had been under pressure from a number of bishops, especially Vilmos Apor and Endre Hamvas.  In addition the Cardinal was also under growing pressure from the Vatican, via Angelo Rotta, the nuncio, to act in a decisive and uncompromising statement condemning the persecution and deportation of the Jews.

The letter, “Successor to the Apostles” was distributed to the dioceses of Hungary, but government agents seized the 700 copies intended for the Archdiocese of Esztergom. The Minister of Justice, Istvan Antal, approached Seredi pleading with him to cancel the letter.  Seredi agreed to do so on condition that the Prime Minister, Dome Sztojay, write to him assuring him that the government would suspend deportations and make the “Jewish Question” a purely internal Hungarian issue.  Upon receipt of Sztojay’s letter on 8 July, Seredi ordered the pastoral letter be followed by a further pronouncement on 10 July (follows this text).

It would highly unlikely that the nuncio, Angelo Rotta, would not have passed on a copy of the letters to the Vatican.

Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Primate Justinian Seredi
on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Hungary,
29 June 1944.

"The successors of the Apostles, that is, the visible head of the Church and all other bishops are the promoters and guardians of God's unwritten, natural, laws and of his written, revealed, laws, especially the Ten Commandments. In this country, all through the thousand years of its history, the Church leaders have always protested whenever someone tried to violate those divine laws, and defended the poor, the defenceless and the victims of persecutions. In these fateful times we, the members of the Episcopate, fulfil our duty when in the name of God we protest against the immoral way in which this war is being conducted. In a war which claims to be just, the killing of defenceless civilians, the bombardment of women and children from low-flying aircraft, the maiming of children through explosive toys dropped from the air, are all means of destruction which cannot be condoned, because they are against Christian moral laws.

"Alas, we also have to point out that whilst in this terrible world conflict we are most in need of God's help and, therefore, should avoid every word and deed which could draw God's wrath upon our nation. We have to admit with deep regret that in Christian Hungary successive measures are being taken which violate God's laws. We do not have to go into details of these measures, because you are very much aware of them yourselves... You know that many of your fellow-citizens — among those who share our faith — are being deprived of all human rights only because of their racial origin. Innocent individuals, none of whose guilt has been established by legal procedure, are subjected to humiliation and persecution. You would understand this thoroughly only if you yourselves were subjected to it.

"We, your bishops, always did and always will, keep aloof from party politics and the pursuit of personal gain. We cannot deny that some members of the Jewish community have had a subversive and destructive influence on the Hungarian economic, social and moral life, and fellow Jews made no protest against it. We do not doubt that the Jewish question has to be solved legally and justly. Therefore, we do not object to, but approve of, any necessary and justifiable reforms of the economic structures, which need to be undertaken for the abuses to be remedied. But it would be culpably defaulting on our moral and pastoral obligations if we failed to defend justice and to protect our citizens and our faithful from being abused solely on the ground of their racial origin. Therefore, during the past months we have incessantly tried by the spoken word and in writing to seek justice and to obtain the abolition of the offensive measures being taken against our fellow ­citizens.

"We are grateful for having been successful now and then in obtaining small concessions, but we have to state with sorrow and deep anguish that we did not get what we most insistently asked for: the suspension of the illegal deprivations and deportations. Confident in the Christian, Hungarian and humanitarian sentiments of the members of the Government, we waited patiently, and did not want to give up hope and refused until now to launch an official protest.

"Alas we see that all our efforts and discussions are ineffective on the most important issues. We, therefore, jointly raise our protesting voice and request the authorities to be conscious of their responsibilities before God and our nation, to respect divine law and remedy injustices immediately. The illegal measures they are making not only cause instability and divide the nation at the time of great tension, national calamity and struggle for survival, but turn public opinion of the Christian world against us and — what is most important — bring God's wrath upon us.

"As always we place our confidence in God and ask you, dear faithful people, to pray and act with us to obtain the triumph of Justice and of Christian love. Beware of taking on yourselves the fearful responsibility before God and mankind by approving of, or helping, the execution of the objectionable measures undertaken by the Government. Do not forget that you cannot serve your country's cause by condoning injustice. Pray and work for all our fellow­ citizens and especially for our Catholic brethren, for our Church and for our beloved country."

In the name of the Hungarian Episcopate
+ Justinian Serédi
Cardinal, Prince Primate, Archbishop of Esztergom

Budapest, 29 June 1944.

It is worth noting that while the tone of the letter demands action to stop the deportations, there is an underlying acceptance of the anti-Jewish laws as morally and legally valid.