27 July 2011

More on Pius XII's efforts during WWII

Vatican Insider has a good piece today on the Servant of God Pope Pius XII's efforts to save thousands of Jews during World War II.  The article follows (emphases original):
The Vatican secretly forged baptism certificates to allow many Jews to emigrate as Catholics. Historian Michael Hesemann has found a number of texts in the archives of St. Mary of the Soul, the German national church in Rome, which document the direct action taken by Pius XII. This constitutes a step forward in the cause of beatification and canonization. In an original telegram sent by the German commandos in Berlin to the headquarters of the SS in Rome who ordered the arrest and imprisonment, in the Mauthausen concentration camp, of 8,000 Roman Jews. Thanks to the Pope’s intervention, just over 1,000 out of the original 8,000 were arrested.

The personal and direct action of Pius XII to stop the arrests of Jews in Rome October 16, 1943 is documented. When the arrests ended, Pius XII sent a representative to the place where they were being held to demand the release of the 1,000 Jews, but he was refused entry. The Pope ordered that the Roman Jews taken in, in the Church’s various properties and Catholic houses, suspending cloister rules so that men could be allowed into convents and women into monasteries across Europe.

He literally hid as many as 7,000 Jews in one day. “Pius XII probably saved more Jews of all political and religious leaders of the world together.” Gary Krupp, President of the “Pave the Way Foundation,” comments that “it is time to recognize Pope Pius XII for what he actually did and not for what he did not say.” He added: “From what I have seen, the Pope is, without doubt, the greatest hero of World War II. Pius XII was not Hitler's Pope, he was a man Hitler wanted dead.”

Furthermore, the future Pius XII used his influence so the then representative of the World Zionist Organization, Nahum Sokolov, could be personally received by Pope Benedict XV to speak about his Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1926, Monsignor Pacelli urged German Catholics to support the Pro Palestine Committee, which supported Jewish settlements in the Holy Land.

The documents, which can be downloaded from the Foundation’s website, include a manuscript written by a nun, dated 1943, detailing the instructions she received from the Pope, as well as a list of protected Jews. Another document is a report by the U.S. Foreign Service of the American Consul in Cologne, informing about the election of a “new Pope” in 1939. The diplomat expressed his surprise at the '"extreme dislike" of Pacelli for Hitler and the Nazi regime, and at his support of German bishops in their opposition to Nazism, even at the cost of the suppression of German Catholic Youth. In a document dated 1938, the then Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli opposed a Polish bill to outlaw the kosher sacrifice, as this law “would presuppose severe persecution of the Jewish people.”

During the war, Pius XII wrote a telegram to the then regent of Hungary, Admiral Miklos Horthy, asking him to avoid deporting Jews. The Admiral agreed, saving an estimated 80,000 lives. He asked the Brazilian to accept 3,000 “non-Aryans”. In a testimony, General Karl Wolff speaks in detail of Hitler's plan to attack the Vatican and kidnap the Pope.

There were spies in the Vatican, and German snipers at 200 meters from the papal windows. The drop in public statements made by the Pope, which aroused much criticism against him, is explained by the increased punishments in the concentration camps, witnessed by former prisoners, each time Church leaders spoke out against the Nazi regime.

There are many documented examples of direct action and the pastoral ministry of Eugenio Pacelli to save Jews from Nazi tyranny. There is no evidence of “direct intercession by Pacelli to protect the Jews of Palestine from the Ottoman Turks in 1917 and his encouragement to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1925. Furthermore, Pope Pius XII played an active role in opposing Hitler.

Pacelli was an active enemy of Adolph Hitler, to the point that he conspired in an attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944. Among the testimonies of what Pius XII did for the Jews during the Holocaust there is written proof that the Pope gave orders to accommodate Jews in convents. In a memorial of the Augustinian Nuns of the Convent of the Four Crowned Saints in Rome in 1943there is an inscription which reads: “Having reached this month of November we must be ready to render services of charity in a totally unsuspected manner. The Holy Father Pope Pius XII, from his paternal heart feels all the sufferings of the moment. Unfortunately, since the Germans entered Rome in September, a merciless war has begun against the Jews whom they want to exterminate through the atrocities suggested by the darkest barbarism.”

In these painful circumstances - the Memorial text goes on to say - the Holy Father wants to save all his children, including Jews, and order that Monasteries must accommodate those being persecuted, and that even the cloistered must adhere to the desire of the Supreme Pontiff, so as of Nov. 4 we will be accommodating the people listed here up until June 6th ...” The Memorial also says that “during Lent, even Jews had to listen to sermons, and Mr. Alfredo Sermoneta would help in church.”

And again: “the war is over, we talked about the goodness of the Holy Father who had helped and saved many, including Jews, young people and entire families.” This confirms the personal and institutional commitment of Pius XII to protect and save persecuted Jews. The written copy of the Pius XII’s order is missing because under war conditions, with the city occupied by the Nazis, he had to act prudently and thus did not issue any written orders. Instead, he sent trusted messengers to communicate the will of the Holy Father.

It would be
imprudent and dangerous to write an order that could fall into the wrong hands and endanger the lives of many. Furthermore a group of priests got together and under the orders of the Secretary of State, went from one religious house to another, as well as universities, seminaries, schools, parishes to ask them to open convents and organize a support network. At the end of the war there were about 150 religious houses, monasteries and parishes, that saved thousands of Jews from certain death. Pius XII and the Catholic Church saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout Europe.


  1. Anonymous10:43 AM

    I would like to issue a clarification on the otherwise excellent article. He is no longer a "Servant of God" He is Pope Venerable Pius XII, because as you may not remember, he was declared Venerable along with John Paul II in December of 2009. The only modern popes called Servant Of God is Pope Paul VI and I am not sure John Paul I, although I say JPI being called Venerable on Papal Artifacts.com

  2. Thanks very much for the clarification!