Friday, July 11, 2014

ADSS 10.207 Angelo Rotta to Luigi Maglione - persecution of Jews of Hungary and Note to Hungarian Prime Minister

On 23 May five trains carrying over 15,000 Hungarian Jews left for Auschwitz.

ADSS 10.207 Angelo Rotta to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Report number 1095/44, N.Pr. 954 (AES 5591/44)

Location and date: Budapest, 23.05.1944.

Summary statement: The persecution of Hungarian Jews; steps taken by the Nuncio to help.

Language: Italian

Text:

On the thorny and painful issue of the anti-Jewish campaign in Hungary I thought it best to not limit myself only to verbal protest with the Hungarian Government, but also to send a [diplomatic] Note. (1)  I did not hope to get much, but the matter is now a documented stance on the part of the Nunciature and indirectly, the Holy See.

I sent the Note to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, together with an accompanying letter, of which I enclose a copy for you as well. (2)

Unfortunately, as I have already said in other Reports, there are certain elements in the Ministry of the Interior and especially in the two Undersecretaries of the Department of State, Endre and Baky, who have a veritable obsession against the Jews: it is mainly these two gentlemen who basically do as they please (3); while other people, even high-ranking politicians, do not approve of the cruelty with which the campaign is conducted, but out of fear or self-interest, do not dare protest.

About ten days ago, I also wrote to former Prime Minster Imredy (4) begging him, in confidence, to use his influence as a moderating force.  This morning he came to see me.  He was very polite and grateful for the trust shown in him.  He told me that he was not enthusiastic about the measures taken or their implementation; but he added that is was necessary to take into account the difficult conditions in Hungary – the current military situation with the Russians at the border, and the danger of internal revolutionary movements – in order to understand the vigorous measures against the Jews, the greater part of whom are sympathetic to the Bolsheviks. While he told me that he could not promise much, he did not fail to say a good word in the desired direction.

In the course of the conversation I did catch a glimpse of the possibility of a further participation [of Imredy]. Above all else he wishes to be in the Government.  This afternoon his appointment as Minister without Portfolio was announced with special responsibility for coordinating the activities of the Economics Ministry.

PS. 27.05.1944. I received at this time the response of the Ministry to the above Note:  I am sending to your eminence the original text.

Notes:
(1) A “diplomatic note” is the highest form of protest one government can make to another before severing diplomatic ties. Rotta’s note - Number 1058/44 of 15.05.1944; See Appendix 1.
(2)  See Appendix 2.
(3) See ADSS 10.172 n3.  Rotta uses the colloquial phrase “fanno il bello e il cattivo tempo” to describe Endre and Baky.
(4) Bela Imredy (1891-1946), Prime Minister of Hungary 1938-39.
(5) Dated 27.05.1944, number 234, Res. Pol/1944. Not published in ADSS.

APPENDIX 1

Angelo Rotta, Nuncio to Hungary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

[Original text is written in French]

Nr.1058/44

Budapest 15.05.1944

The Apostolic Nunciature has the honour to address the Royal Hungarian Government on this following matter:

The Apostolic Nunciature has not failed to repeatedly draw to the attention of the Royal Government the injustices in the public decrees published quite recently, to resolve the Jewish question and particularly the lack of discrimination for the Baptised and the inhuman manner in which these decrees are applied.


Until now any requests have remained without effect; on the contrary – as is apparent in this Nunciature – we have come to witness the deportation (even if the thing is disguised) of hundreds of thousands of people.  Everyone knows what the deportation means in practice.

The Apostolic Nunciature was informed about the abused committed yesterday by police in the premises of the Society of the Holy Cross, established by the Hungarian bishops as a religious institution for converted Jews. Police arbitrarily interrupted a religious instruction and threatened participants. (6)

For all that the Apostolic Nunciature feels obliged to protest; motivated, not by a false compassion, but a true sense of justice and Christian charity and for the defense of the sacred concerns of many thousands of Catholics, and so appeals once again to the Royal Hungarian Government that the campaign against the Jews does not exceed the limits of natural and divine positive law against which the Holy See could only protest energetically and with it, the conscience of the Christian world.

The Apostolic Nunciature takes the liberty of requesting:

1. A fundamental distinction between Jews and non-baptised Jews is made, so that Christians are free of the Antisemitic laws. (Even Slovakia has this distinction) (7);

2. That in all cases, in the measures the Royal Government might wish to adopt to safeguard the supreme interests of the state, the human rights of the person are always respected;

3. That the Royal Government will take suitable measures to precent the repetition of abuse or violations against persons or ecclesiastical institutions, such as the arbitrary intrusion by the police on the Society of the Holy Cross.

The Apostolic Nunciature hopes that the Royal Hungarian Government in its wisdom wishes to give a sympathetic response to this appeal in which is echoed the grief of the Holy Father, and not to contradict on this occasion the truly Christian and chivalrous spirit of the noble Hungarian Nation. (8)

Notes:
(6) Vilmos Apor (1892-1945), Bishop of Gyor wrote to the Prime Minister.  See ADSS 10.38.  Apor was the most pro-active of all the Hungarian bishops in defence of the Jews.  



In 1944 he travelled to Berlin to personally appeal for the release of the Jews of Gyor.  Soviet soldiers shot him as he tried to defend local women from being raped.  John Paul II beatified him a martyr in 1997. Yad Vashem named him as one of The Righteous of the Nations.
(7) See ADSS 10.153.  For the Slovakian legislation see ADSS 8.
(8) See ADSS 10.227.

Appendix 2

Angelo Rotta, Nuncio to Hungary to the Prime Minister

[Original text is written in French]

Nr.1059/44

Budapest 15.05.1944

The friendly welcome Your Excellency was kind enough to reserve for me on the first day of your appointment as Prime Minister and the assuring words addressed to me that have been repeated more than once, gave me full confidence that the new Royal Government would not do anything that could create difficulties for the Church.  I am still convinced of Your Excellency’s good will.
Nevertheless, such provisions were enacted while even more serious ones were being prepared, so that I am compelled to present this Note of protest and once again ask for the rights of the Church and her sons.

The mere fact of persecuting men for the sole reason of their race is a violation of natural law.  If God gave them life, nobody in the world has the right to remove them or to deny them the means by which he can keep it: at least they have not committed any crimes.  However the Antisemitic measures, quite aside form the consideration that many Jews by reception of baptism became Christians, are a serious offence against the Church and contradict the Christian nature of the state that Hungary, even today, is proud to profess.

If Slovakia, although a smaller country, and with her particular circumstances, has almost completely exempted Christians from provisions that affect Jews, why is it not possible for the Kingdom of St Stephen, a much larger country whose political and social structures reset on more solid foundations, to do the same?

Completed in full view of the world, I kept the Holy See informed of what is happening in Hungary, and I will also inform on the measures that are being prepared for the deportation of these unfortunate people which already being executed.  The Holy Father, who with much interest and fatherly love, follows the life of this nation – always remembering the grand manifestations of faith and attachment to the Church and the Holy See that was made during his 1938 visit to Budapest – is greatly pained, and I hope that in his capacity as Supreme Pastor of the Church, guardian of the rights of all her sons and defender of truth and justice, he may not be obliged to raise his voice in protest.

As a noble nation, which has justly earned the esteem of the world and as a vanguard of Christian civilisation, you do not want to deny this glorious past and sully your reputation by acts, which will remain as a stain for centuries to come.  We do not want give the enemies of Hungary arguments to accuse it of using methods she repudiates in the Bolshevik enemy of God and civilization!

For all that is noble in Hungary, I come again to Your Excellency that through your kindness, that while the Hungarian government does all it deems necessary for the defence of the country, these measures not be in contradiction to the law, natural and divine, and that the measures already adopted are modified according to the three points made in the attached note. (9)

Your Excellency will forgive me if I speak frankly.  It is because of the esteem in which I hold Your Excellency, for the uprightness of your principles and the good will that has been shown to me, and at the same time my love and attachment to Hungary, and after fifteen years living in Budapest, which I have learned to love and consider to be my homeland. (10)

I always pray for her [Hungary], so that she will remain always great, more prosperous and respected.  But many fear for her future and this torments me now: because the injustice that is being committed and – God does not will it! – innocent blood poured without any consideration, can not attract God’s blessing on the country, which is a blessing more necessary at this moment, a time so full of unknown dangers that even the most powerful feel unable to master.

Notes:
(9) Appendix 1.

(10) Angelo Rotta was nuncio to Hungary from 1930 to 1945.

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