Since 1963, when Rolf Hochhuth's play THE DEPUTY accused Pius XII of, in effect, complicity in the Nazi genocide, it has been a commonplace of editorial writers that the Vatican was a silent, and therefore a guilty, bystander to the murder of six million Jews. Here are some interesting facts documented by numerous historians that critics of this Pope should know:
1) Before he became Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Pacelli drafted the papal encyclical, MIT BRENNEDNDER SORGE, in which Pius XI denounced Nazi paganism and racism; the document was smuggled into Germany in March, 1937 and read from all Catholic pulpits, which infuriated the Nazis.
2) It is well documented by Jewish scholars like Joseph Lichten of B'nai B’rith that Pius used the assets of the Vatican to ransom Jews from the Nazis and that the Vatican under Pius ran an extensive network of hide-outs. Even the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gondolfo, was used to hide fugitive Jews. The Pope, moreover, took personal responsibility for the children of deported Jews;
3) Largely as a result of the Church's efforts, the Jews in Italy had a far higher survival rate under Nazi occupation than was the case in other countries [67% were killed in other other countries only 15% in Italy]; estimates of the number of Jews saved by the Vatican's efforts range up to several hundred thousand; this was one reason why the chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, converted to Catholicism at the end of the war and took the baptismal name of "Eugencio," the Pope's first name.
4) In appreciation of what Pius did for the Jews, the World Jewish Congress made a large cash gift to the Vatican in 1945; in the same year, Rabbi Herzog of Jerusalem sent a "special blessing" to the Pope "for his lifesaving efforts on behalf of the Jews during the Nazi occupation of Italy"; and when Pius died in 1958, Israel's Foreign Minister Golda Meir gave a him moving eulogy at the United Nations for the same reason.
5) What was to be gained by Pius's speaking out publically and condemning the Nazis actions? Both the International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches came to the same conclusion as the Vatican: relief efforts for the Jews would be more effective if the agencies remained relatively quiet; yet, you never hear anybody attacking the Red Cross for its "silence" about the Holocaust [or any other church]. It is well to note that the holocaust included persecutions of Catholics (i.e., an estimated 3 million were executed) as well. Despite his intervention, 3000 Catholic priests were murdered by the Nazis in Germany, Austria, Poland, France, and other countries; Catholic schools were shut down, Catholic publications were forced out of print or strictly censored, and Catholic churches closed. Polish cardinal, Prince Sapieha, begged the Pope not to make public protests, which would only increase the persecution of his people.
6) In 1942, the Catholic hierarchy of Amsterdam spoke out vigorously against the Nazi treatment of the Jews; the Nazi response was a redoubling of round-ups and deportations; by the end of the war, 90 percent of the Jews in Amsterdam were liquidated. Jewish relief officials were in complete agreement that a public attack by the Vatican against the Nazis would have had little effect on Hitler and would jeopardize the lives of Jews who were being hidden in convents, monasteries, churches, etc.
7) Pope Pius's 1942 Christmas message lamented that hundreds of thousands were being persecuted "solely because of their race or ancestory." The German ambassador to the Vatican complained that Pius was "clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews." A NEW YORK TIMES editorial on Christmas day, 1942 praised Pius as "a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent."
8) A recent report shows that Pave the Way Foundation representative for Germany, historian and investigative researcher Michael Hesemann, discovered a number of very important original documents in his research of the open archives of Santa Maria dell Anima Church, which is the National Church of Germany in Rome. These documents indicate that although the Germans shipped 1007 Roman Jews to their death at Auschwitz, that the Pope was working behind the scenes to protect Jews and actually saved 11,400 Jews. How? The documents note:
"The Pope then sent his nephew, Prince Carlo Pacelli, to meet with Austrian Bishop Alois Hudal. Bishop Hudal, head of the National Church of Germany in Rome, was by some accounts, sympathetic to the Nazi's and had good relations with them. Prince Carlo Pacelli told Hudal that he was sent by the Pope, and that Hudal must write a letter to the German Governor of Rome, General Rainier Stahel, to demand that the arrests stop."
Bishop Hudal's letter to General Stahel stated: "Just now, a high Vatican source [...] reported to me that this morning, the arrest of the Jews of Italian nationality has started. In the interest of a peaceful dialogue between the Vatican and the German military command, I ask you with urgency to give the order to immediately stop these arrests in Rome and the surrounding area. The German reputation in foreign countries requires such a measure and also the danger that the Pope would openly protest against it."
The letter was then hand-delivered to General Stahel by a close confidant to Pope Pius XII, German Father Pancratius Pfeiffer, superior general of the Society of the Divine Savior, who personally knew General Stahel. The following morning, General Stahel responded by telephone: "I forwarded the affair immediately to the local Gestapo and to Himmler personally, Himmler ordered that, concerning the special status of Rome, these arrests are to be stopped immediately."
These events are further confirmed by the testimony obtained during the investigation of relator (high Judge) to the cause of Pius XII, Jesuit Priest Father Peter Gumpel. Fr Gumpel stated that he personally spoke to General Dietrich Beelitz, who was then liaison officer between Kesselring's office and Hitler's command. General Beelitz listened in to the Stahel-Himmler telephone conversation and confirmed that General Stahel used a threat of military failure to Himmler if the arrests were to continue. To see actual documents which show what the Pope actually did click here and register for free access to the web archive.
9) New York Rabbi David Dalin, a historian of the Holocaust, says "The Jewish people had no greater firend in the 20th century" and claims Pius XII saved more Jews than the celebrated Schindler. He argues that Pius XII was not "Hitler's Pope" as a new book of that title by John Cornwell claims, but "the greatest defender that we Jews ever had, and precisely at the time we needed it. For more information go to: