Saturday, July 12, 2014

ADSS 10.233 Angelo Rotta to Luigi Maglione - Hungarian Jews

By the time Nuncio Angelo Rotta sent this telegram to Cardinal Maglione in Rome, the number of deported Hungarian Jews had risen to 340,000.  

Jews in Budapest were ordered into designated houses in preparation for deportation.  

The increasing urgency in Rotta's communications with the Vatican appear to me to indicate that he had come to believe that the deported Jews were being murdered.  Unfortunately, with few exceptions, Angelo Rotta was almost the only senior Catholic prelate actively working to save the Jews of Hungary.  In his correspondence with government ministers Rotta referred to the "baptised Jews" as his first priority - in appropriate diplomatic language, but in this document the nuncio's language is rapidly becoming more inclusive.  His description of the transports bears the hallmarks of either someone who had seen it first hand, or a description given to him from a trusted source.    

In this document Rotta was convinced that the tensions that were dividing the Hungarian cabinet over the deportations would reach a breaking point in favour of halting.  He believed a direct intervention from the Holy See, and by this he could only mean the pope, would push the hesitant and more moderate elements into action against the "fanatical elements" who went far and above the demands set out by the Germans.

Reference: Telegram 206 (AES 3889/44)

Location and date: Budapest, 18.06.1944 @ 20.00 (received Rome 19.06.1944 @ 20.00)

Summary statement: News on the deportation of the Hungarian Jews.

Language: Italian


I received your telegram number 244. (1)

Unfortunately (news?) reports are true.  It is calculated that more than 300,000 people have been deported (2); it is said that of those confined one third (able-bodied men) are used for work; the other two thirds one can only make assumptions; some serious people speak of “extermination camps”: it is certain that their treatment in places of concentration and especially during the transport there, is truly horrendous.  In each goods wagon up 70, 80 or more people are packed without distinction of age, gender, religion.  The wagons are sealed and people receive little or nothing … many die of asphyxiation, of thirst or discomfort during travel.  Already … in my protest Note (3) presented to the government, I hinted at the true nature of deportation.  Thirteen days ago, in reply to the Government response, I sent a second energetic Note (4) with a copy, via diplomatic courier, to your Eminence.  The Cardinal Primate (5), in the name of the episcopate, presented a Memorandum to the Government in April, but there has been no public collective action in response to the invitation I made: there has been almost nil result.

As I mentioned last time the Government is weak, with some very fanatical elements that even go beyond the German demands.  I sent a copy … with the Minster of Foreign Affairs to the Regent as is usual. (6)

There is talk of a Government (7) crisis and a hesitant attitude in the face of demands from the Apostolic Nunciature for favourable treatment for the baptised and human treatment for all.

Direct intervention from the Holy See would be very useful, if not necessary, as the wagons are already ready to deport … Budapest who are now moving into houses intended for their exclusive dwelling in (?) difference districts of the city. (8)

(1) See ADSS 10.225, Attachment.
(2) The figure was closer to 340,000.
(3) See ADSS 10.207, Attachment.
(4) See ADSS 10.227, Attachment.
(5) Justinian Seredi (1884-1945)
(6) Miklos Horthy (1868-1957)
(7) See ADSS 10.265. Döme Sztojay (1883-1946) was replaced by General Géza Lakatos (1890-1967) on 29.08.1944.
(8) See ADSS 10.243. Jews in Budapest had been given until 24.06.1944 to move into designated and clearly marked “Jewish houses”.

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