Defending the Faith of our Fathers!

Pius XII and the Holocaust

By Thomas Craughwell

Thomas Craughwell consults for Book of the Month Club and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Wisdom of the Popes.

All that Pope Pius XII did for the Jews during World War II, and the gratitude and praise that the Jews expressed towards him, was lost following the February 1963 debut in Berlin of Rolf Hochhuth's play, The Deputy (Der Stellvertreter). In his drama, Hochhuth accused Pius XII of remaining silent throughout the war, and thereby worsening the plight of the Jews.

It was a vicious accusation, but since 1963 the Pope's detractors have built on his alleged "silence," suggesting that Pius was cold, detached and unwilling to take any action to save the Jews because he was himself anti-Semitic. It has since become the conventional wisdom.

Yet fifty years ago, this charge would have been incomprehensible—even comical—to the Nazis, the Italian Fascists and their collaborators throughout Europe. They knew that Pius XII was one of their most determined opponents. Reinhard Heydrich told his subordinates in late spring 1943: "We should not forget that in the long run the Pope in Rome is a greater enemy of National Socialism than Churchill or Roosevelt." "The Church's obstruction of the practical solution of the Jewish problem constitutes a crime against the New Europe," wrote Roberto Farinacci, editor of Italy's official fascist newspaper, Regime Fascista, in October 1942. "It is incomprehensible to the government," said Slovakian Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka in 1943, "that ecclesiastical circles and especially the Catholic clergy should today adduce so many protests against the elimination of the Jews."

And the accusation of criminal indifference to the plight of the victims of genocide would have stunned the tens of thousands—one source says hundreds of thousands—of Jews whose lives were saved by the direct, personal intervention of the Pope (see sidebar).

"Why didn't the Pope say something?" is the cry of the uninformed. In fact, Pius XII said quite a lot—in public addresses, in private conversations, in official correspondence—to condemn the murderous policies of the Nazis against the Jews and the other victims of fascism. The record of the Pope's words and actions during the war—The Acts and Documents of the Holy See Relative to World War II—fills ten volumes. But even before the war began, when he was still Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, Secretary of State to Pope Pius XI, he spoke his. mind about the Nazis. Appearing before 250,000 pilgrims at Lourdes in April 1935, he said:

[The Nazis] are in reality only miserable plagiarists who dress up old errors with new tinsel. It does not make any difference whether they flock to the banners of the social revolution, whether they are guided by a false conception of the world and of life, or whether they are possessed by the superstition of a race and blood cult.

But Cardinal Pacelli's most thorough attack on National Socialism was the 1937 encyclical Mit brennender sorge (With Burning Sorrow), addressed to the Catholic bishops of Germany. Although the encyclical bore Pius XI's signature, Pacelli advised the Pope throughout the project and wrote large portions of it himself. The main point of Mit brennender sorge was to urge the Catholics of Germany to resist all appeals to abandon their Catholic faith for the quasi-paganism of Hitler's German National Church. Yet Pacelli and Pius XI did not neglect to attack the racism that was a fundamental part of National Socialism: "Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, a particular form of State, or the repositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the worldly community... whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God. "

The Nazis never forgave Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli for their condemnation of National Socialism. When Plus XI was dead, the Nazi organ, Das Reich, smeared the Pope and the cardinal with the term they considered most vile: "Plus XI was a half-Jew, for his mother was a Dutch Jewess; but Cardinal Pacelli is a full Jew."

Once elected Pope, Pius XII spoke directly about the issue of anti-Semitism. "It is impossible," he said, "for a Catholic to be an anti-Semite; spiritually all of us are Semites" (Pinchas E. Lapide, The Last Three Popes and the Jews, p. 118).

The Nazis saw in Pius XII an implacable enemy, but the Opposition in Germany saw an ally. In 1939, German dissidents approached their contacts in the Vatican to ask if the Pope would act as the intermediary between them and the British government.

Although Germany's swift and total victory in Poland may have been momentarily exhilarating, the Opposition in Germany—which included many high-ranking men in the military—nonetheless believed that Hitler would bring about the ruination of their country. The only solution was to remove Hitler and make peace with the Allies.

Three men—Hans Oster, Colonel General Ludwig Beck and Hans von Dohnanyi—identified Plus XII as their most promising intermediary to the British. All three were Protestant. Oster was the son of a clergyman, and Dohnanyi was married to Christine Bonhoeffer, sister of the Lutheran pastor and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They had selected the new pope because no pontiff in recent history had known Germany and the Germans so well. Eugenio Pacelli had been nuncio to Germany from 1917 to 1929. As Secretary of State under Pius XI he demonstrated his understanding of Germany's problems and the threat Nazism posed to the German people as a whole, as well as to the Catholic Church in Germany. His command of the situation was such that immediately upon his elevation to the papacy, Pius XII reserved to himself the settlement of all questions relating to Germany.

With all this in mind, the German Opposition felt reasonably confident about approaching the Pope.

They chose as their courier to the Vatican a 41-year-old Bavarian lawyer, Dr. Josef Muller, a devout Catholic and a leading figure in the Catholic resistance to the Nazis' harassment of the Church. Muller was the right man for the job. He had friends and contacts in the Vatican, including Pius XII himself. When Cardinal Pacelli was Secretary of State, he had asked Muller to visit the Catholic bishops of Austria and to advise them on what complications and perils they might expect as they administered their dioceses under the Third Reich. (Mullers activities did not go unnoticed. In spring 1943 he was arrested by the SS. He endured 200 interrogations in Nazi prisons and concentration camps without ever betraying his comrades.)

In Rome, Muller approached his friend, Fr. Robert Leiber, SJ, a personal aide and confidant of Pius XII. Father Leiber agreed at once to go to the Holy Father with the German Opposition's request.

After hearing Fr. Leiber out, Pius XII, usually a cautious man, answered immediately, "The German Opposition must be heard in Britain." He agreed to be their voice.

Plus arranged matters carefully so that Muller and Sir Francis D'Arcy Osborne, Britain's ambassador to the Holy See, never met and would be able to say truthfully that they had not seen each other after the outbreak of the war. Muller submitted his questions to the Pope, in writing, about the basis for negotiations between Britain and the German Opposition. The Pope passed these questions on to Osborne. After consulting with London, Osborne made his replies orally or in writing to the Pope. Pius then conveyed these answers orally to Fr. Leiber.

Around February 1, 1940, Muller carried to Berlin a paper bearing the details of the peace Britain would conclude with Germany once Hitler was overthrown. The document was written in Fr. Leiber's hand, taken down as Pope Pius XII dictated it.

Nothing came of the coup d'etat against Hitler. But an unexpected result emerged from Pius XII's contact with the German Opposition. Through Muller the Vatican began to receive regular, detailed reports of Nazi atrocities in Poland. The information had been gathered by agents of the Abwehr by order of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, another member of the Opposition. Canaris passed them on to Muller who got them safely to Rome. With these facts before him, Pius XII sat down to write an extraordinary secret letter to the Catholic bishops of Europe. He called it Opere et caritate (By Work and by Charity) and in it he called on the bishops to do everything they could to save the Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution.

Yet even before the war broke out on September 1, 1939, Pius XII was helping Jews escape from Europe. When anti-Semitic legislation was passed in Italy, Professor Guido Mendes, a renowned lung specialist who was also a Jew, lost his position. In April 1939, he received an invitation to meet with the Pope in a private audience.

"Pope Pius XII ... offered to help me leave Italy and gain admittance to any country I chose," he told the Jerusalem Post in 1965. "When I mentioned Palestine, the Pope promised to intervene with the British authorities and secure a certificate of immigration. Montini (later Paul VI) dealt with the matter, and as a result my entire family arrived in Palestine in 1939."

The Pope also continued an emigration program established by his predecessor, Pius XI, which helped Jews gain admittance to Brazil. Between 1939 and 1941, 3,000 Jews reached safety in South America through the direct action of Pius XII.

But the Brazil project was only the beginning. Between 1939 and 1944, Pius XII supplied passports, money, tickets and letters of recommendation to foreign governments so Jewish refugees could receive visas. Through Pius' efforts, another 4,000-6,000 Jews reached safety.

Word of the Holy See's work to rescue European Jews found its way to the United States. On January 2, 1940, the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees and Overseas Needs in Chicago sent the Pope a contribution of $125,000 toward the Vatican's efforts to save "all those persecuted because of religion or race."

Two stories of papal intervention are especially dramatic. On June 15, 1940, about 500 Jews embarked at Bratislava for Palestine. They were refused entry there and at every other port they tried. After four heartbreaking months, the ship was captured by an Italian patrol boat and escorted to the Italian-occupied island of Rhodes. Here the Jewish passengers were imprisoned until they could be turned over to the Germans.

Herman Herskovich, the son of one of the refugees, made his way to Rome where he requested and was granted audience with Pope Pius.

When Pius heard Herskovich's story, he contacted the Italian authorities, won the release of the refugees and oversaw their transfer to a hastily erected settlement camp in southern Calabria. Pinchas Lapide of the 178th Transport Company of the 8th British Army and later Israel's consul in Milan recalled: "That is where we found most of them, sound and thankful, on December 23, 1943, the day after our Palestinian unit landed at Taranto."

A few days later, Lapide and the 178th were greeted at Ferramonti-Tarsia near Cosenza by 3,200 Jews—the entire population of another settlement camp operated by the Vatican. The residents were refugees from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, who had been saved by Pius XII's intervention. Their camp was under the protection of two papal emissaries who had set up a kosher kitchen for the residents and established a school for the children.

On October 29, 1944, Jan Hermann and Dr. Max Pereles, the camp elders of Ferramonti-Tarsia, went to the Vatican to present the Pope with a letter of thanks, which read in part:

While our brothers were hunted, imprisoned and threatened with death in almost every country in Europe, because they belonged to the Jewish people, Your Holiness has not only sent us large and generous gifts ... but also has shown Your lively fatherly interest in our physical, spiritual and moral well-being. In doing so Your Holiness has as the first and highest authority upon earth fearlessly raised his universally respected voice, in the face of our powerful enemies, in order to defend openly our rights to the dignity of man .... When we were threatened with deportation to Poland, in 1942, Your Holiness extended his fatherly hand to protect us, and stopped the transfer of the Jews interned in Italy, thereby saving us from almost certain death.

In fact, many individuals and organizations involved in rescue efforts learned early on that public condemnations of the Nazis had terrible consequences. Inspired by Opere et caritate, the Catholic bishops of Holland published a letter on April 19, 1942, which was read in every Catholic church in the country. The bishops denounced "the unmerciful and unjust treatment meted out to Jews by those in power in our country." In response, the Nazis made a special effort to round up every monk, nun and priest who had even a drop of Jewish blood. Some 300 victims were deported to Auschwitz and immediately sent to the gas chambers. Among them was Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun, philosopher and mystic, who has been beatified—and is scheduled to be canonized—by the Holy See.

The courage of Holland's Catholic bishops and clergy is undeniable. But their heroism came at a terrible price: 79 percent of Holland's Jews—110,000 men women and children were murdered, the highest percentage of any Nazi-occupied nation of Western Europe.

Pius learned an agonizing lesson from the experience of the Dutch bishops. He referred to the situation in Holland in a letter to Konrad von Preysing, Bishop of Berlin:

"We leave it to the [local] bishops to weigh the circumstances in deciding whether or not to exercise restraint, ad maiora mala vitanda [to avoid greater evil]. This would be advisable if the danger of retaliatory and coercive measures would be imminent in cases of public statements of the bishop. Here lies one of the reasons We Ourselves restrict Our public statements. The experience We had in 1942 with documents which We released for distribution to the faithful gives justification, as far as We can see, for Our attitude."

And the Pope was not the only one who learned the lesson of restraint. The International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches in Geneva avoided making any statement that would obstruct their work or cause an increase in the sufferings of the victims—Jews, Slavs, Christian clergy, gypsies, homosexuals, Communists in retaliation for any public protest.

Yet it is also clear that in light of all the atrocities the Nazis were inflicting on the people of Europe, Pius found it difficult, even heartbreaking, to exercise restraint. In a conversation with Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI), he said, "We would like to utter words of fire against such actions; and the only thing restraining Us from speaking is the fear of making the plight of the victims worse" (Anthony Rhodes, The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators (1922-1945), p. 244).

In his Christmas address of 1942, Pius XII appealed to the world to take a long, hard look at "the ruins of a social order which has given such tragic proof of its ineptitude" and to vow never to let such a calamity as National Socialism afflict mankind again.

"Mankind owes that vow to the numberless exiles whom the hurricane of war has torn from their native land and scattered in the land of the stranger; who can make their own the lament of the Prophet: 'Our inheritance is turned to aliens; our house to strangers.' Mankind owes that vow to the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or slow extermination."

Although Plus XII's style may strike contemporary readers as subtle, indirect, understated, even roundabout, it was understood perfectly by both the Allies and the Axis. On Christmas Day, 1942, the New York Times published an editorial praising the Pope's message:

When a leader bound impartially to nations on both sides condemns as heresy the new form of national state which subordinates everything to itself; when he declares that whoever wants peace must protect against "arbitrary attacks" the "juridical safety of individuals"; when he assails violent occupation of territory, the exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race or political opinion; when he says that people must fight for a just and decent peace, a "total peace"—the "impartial judgment" is like a verdict in a high court of justice.

The Nazis were even more interested in the Pope's Christmas address. Reinhard Heydrich had his Reich Central Security Office analyze the Christmas message of 1942 so that no nuance of papal condemnation of the policies and actions of the Third Reich would be missed. The finished report was filed on January 22, 1943:

In a manner never known before the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order. His radio allocution was a masterpiece of clerical falsification of the National Socialist Weltan schauung. It is true, the Pope does not refer to the National Socialists in Germany by name, but his speech is one long attack on everything we stand for.... God, he says, regards all peoples and races as worthy of the same consideration. Here he is clearly speaking on behalf-of the Jews.... That this speech is directed exclusively against the New Order in Europe as seen in National Socialism is clear in the papal statement that mankind owes a debt to "all who during the war have lost their Fatherland and who, although personally blame less have, simply on account of their nationality and origin, been killed or reduced to utter destitution." Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals.

Based on this report, Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop believed it possible that the Holy See was "likely to renounce its traditional neutral attitude and take up a political position against Germany." On January 24, 1943, he instructed Germany's ambassador to the Holy See,

Diego von Bergen, to advise the Pope that if he came out against the Third Reich, "Germany does not lack physical means of retaliation."

Two days later von Bergen had his audience with Pius XII and repeated Libbentrop's warning. It did not have the desired effect. "Pacelli," von Bergen reported back to Ribbentrop, "is no more sensible to threats than we are."

Although the Pope believed that the situation in Europe compelled him to be circumspect in his public addresses, he gave himself the liberty of being much more forthright in his correspondence. When the government of Slovakia passed a series of laws against the Jews, Pius XII sent a protest (dated November 21, 1941) to Karl Sidor, Slovakia's representative to the Holy See:

With profound pain the Holy See has learned that in Slovakia, a country whose virtually total population honors the best Catholic traditions, a "Government Ordinance" has been published ... which sets down a special "racial legislation" containing various provisions which are in open contrast to Catholic principles.

Five months later, March 1942, Pius learned that 52,000 Slovak Jews were marked for deportation to "labor camps" in Poland. This time he directed his protest to the Slovak government:

His Holiness' Secretariat of State trusts that such painful and unjust measures against persons belonging to the Hebrew race cannot be approved by a government that is proud of its Catholic heritage.... The Holy See would ... neglect its divine mandate if it would not deplore these enactments and measures, which gravely hurt the natural rights of persons, merely because of their race.... It is not correct to suppose that deported Jews are sent for labor service; the truth is that they are being annihilated.

Three weeks later, on April 7, 1942, the papal nuncio, Msgr. Burzio, had a heated exchange with Slovakian Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka. Tuka, a rabid anti-Semite, began: "I don't understand why you want to stop me from ridding Slovakia of the Jews, this pack of criminals and gangsters." Burzio replied: "It is not just to treat like criminals thousands of women and children like those included in the recent deportations ... Your Excellency is no doubt aware of the atrocious fate awaiting these deported Jews.... All the world knows of it. Admitting even that a state can abolish the norms of natural rights and the commandments of Christianity, it cannot, in its own interests, ignore international opinion or the verdict of history."

Neither the Pope nor his nuncio was so naive as to think formal protests would dissuade the Nazis and their collaborators from their work. Of the 90,000 Jews in Slovakia at the beginning of the war, 65,000 were deported to Nazi death camps. But urged on by Pius XII, Msgr. Burzio launched an ambitious effort that hid some 25,000 Jews in churches, monasteries, convents and private homes.

For most of the war, the Jews of Hungary—a community of 750,000 souls—had been virtually untouched by the Nazi terror. But on March 23, 1944, the Nazis overran the country. Admiral Nicholas Horthy, Regent of Hungary, was conceded control over Budapest and the suburbs until October, but the rest of the nation was to be governed by Premier Sztojay, a puppet of the Nazis. Adolf Eichmann himself came to supervise the "final solution" of Europe's largest surviving Jewish population.

As the first deportation trains rolled out of Budapest, Pius telegrammed Admiral Horthy, begging him to spare the Jews of the city: "We address Your Highness personally, appealing to your noble sentiments in full confidence that you will do everything in your power that so many unfortunate people may be spared other afflictions and other sorrows."

To keep up the pressure, the Vatican contacted other nations; the Regent found himself bombarded by telegrams from the president of the International Red Cross, the King of Sweden, the governments of Switzerland, Spain and Turkey, and a host of other nations, organizations and influential individuals.

Within twenty-four hours, Horthy convened the Crown Council and ordered that the deportations from Budapest cease immediately. But the deportations in the rest of Hungary continued, following Eichmann's schedule. And when trains were in short supply, Eichmann organized the infamous "Death March." On October 20, 22,000, Hungarian Jews were rounded up and sent on foot towards Austria.

The papal nuncio in Budapest, Msgr. Angelo Rotta, immediately organized a relief convoy of food and medicine and ordered it to go after the exhausted, under-nourished Jews. He also produced in short order some 2,000 Vatican safe-conducts, which were distributed among the marchers. Then he gave Sandor Gyorgy of the International Red Cross a letter which said that Gyorgy was "charged by the Apostolic Nunciature to locate on the roads and in camps persons of Jewish origin who enjoy its diplomatic protection and to collect these." Thanks to Rotta and Gyorgy's efforts, some 2,000 Jews were saved from the Death March.

In the winter of 1944-45, the final months of the Nazi occupation of Budapest, Msgr. Rotta found himself in a half-bombed-out residence, his life in constant danger, and with communications with the Vatican extremely difficult. He cabled Pope Pius to ask what he should do. "If it is still possible to do some charity," the Pope answered, "remain!"

At the Pope's command, Rotta worked with the heads of religious houses and organizations throughout Budapest to hide Jews. The following is a partial list of Jews hidden by priests, monks and nuns in Budapest:

Sisters of Mercy
150 children, 50 adults

Sophianum Institute
80 women, 40 children

Notre Dame de Sion Convent
110 persons

Franciscan Sisters
120 children and 30 adults. In addition, the nuns, under their tireless Mother Superior Maria-Etela, produced thousands of pontifical passports and letters of protection for the Nuncio to distribute among the Jews. In the last days of the war, Mother Maria-Etela was killed by an exploding hand grenade.

Society of the Sisters of Sacre-Coeur
obtained false papers for 2,000 Jews, supplied meals to 200 Jews daily, and hid 20 Jews in their chapel

Carmelite Nuns
330 persons

Collegium. Marianum.
100 girls

The residences of the Papal Nuncio
200 persons

While there were limits to what Plus XII might accomplish in far-off places, he enjoyed more control in Italy, and in Rome particularly. In anticipation of the Nazis, he sent out by hand a letter to the bishops of Italy urging them "to save human lives by all means." He lifted the rule of enclosure so cloistered convents and monasteries could hide Jews within sacred precincts where even the families of the monks and nuns could not set foot.

Inspired by the Pope, the Church in Italy—both religious and laity responded with overwhelming courage. The Cardinal of Genoa hid at least 800 Jews. The Bishop of Assisi hid 300 Jews for over two years, and even set up a synagogue in the monastery of St. Francis where the refugees worshipped. The Bishop of Campagna, Giuseppe Maria Palatuccli, worked with two members of his family, Fr. Alfonso Palatucci, Provincial of the Franciscans in Puglie, and Dr. Giovanni Palatucci, to save 961 Jews in Fiume. Tragically, Dr. Palatucci's efforts were discovered and he was deported to Dachau, where he was killed.

On September 26, 1943, shortly after the Nazis occupied Rome, General Kappler, Gestapo chief in Rome, demanded that 50 kilograms of gold from the Jews of the city be handed over in 36 hours or 300 hostages would be taken. When all but fifteen kilograms had been raised, Rome's Chief Rabbi, Israel Zolli, sent to Nogara, the Vatican treasurer, asking for help. At the Pope's insistence, the fifteen kilograms of gold were supplied.

On October 16, 1943, the Nazi round-up of Rome's Jews began in earnest. There were an estimated 9,500 Jews in the city at the time, of whom about 1,500 were refugees from other nations of Europe. Three Nazi police squads fanned out through Rome to arrest Jews, yet only 1,259 people were taken. The overwhelming majority of Jews were already hiding in the Vatican itself and in 155 Roman monasteries, convents and churches.

The rescue effort was extraordinary. Consider, for example, the Pope's Palatine Guard. In 1942 it numbered 300 men. By December 1943 there were 4,000 names on the rolls, all of them carrying the invaluable papal passport. At least 400 of these "guards" were Jews, of whom approximately 240 were sheltered inside Vatican City. An estimated 3,000 Jews lived outside the city at the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. Of course, there was no guarantee that the Nazis would continue to respect the neutrality of the Vatican. Hitler boasted in 1943: "I'll go into the Vatican when I like. Do you think the Vatican worries me? We'll grab it. "es, the whole diplomatic bunch is in there. I couldn't care less. That bunch in there, we'll drag them out, the whole swinish pack of them. What does *it matter? We can apologize afterwards; that's nothing to worry about."

The better to intervene, the Pope appointed Fr. Pancrace Pfeiffer, a German and Superior General of the Salvatorians, as his personal representative to Kappler. Time and again Fr. Pfeiffer interceded on behalf of prisoners, hostages and condemned men. He is credited with personally winning the release of 400 Jews, including eight men who were released while on their way to a firing squad.

In all, some 40,000 Jews throughout Italy were saved from the Nazis.

Fourteen years after the liberation of Rome by the Allies, an officer of the Jewish Brigade was quoted in Davar, the Hebrew daily of Israel's Federation of Labor: "When we entered Rome, the Jewish survivors told us with a voice filled with deep gratitude and respect: If we have been rescued; if Jews are still alive in Rome come with us and thank the Pope in the Vatican. For in the Vatican proper, in churches, monasteries and private homes, Jews were kept hidden at his personal orders.... Even on the synagogue near the Tiber he had his papal seal imprinted, and that was respected even by the Nazis."

The heroism of Pope Pius XII and of Catholics throughout Italy during the war is nothing less than extraordinary. But there is another remarkable episode that is frequently overlooked. On February 13, 1945, in Rome's Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Israel Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome, and his wife Emma Majonica, were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. At the font, Zolli took the name "Eugenio"—the Christian name of Pius XII.

The charge that Pius XII was indifferent to the fate of the Jews is pure fantasy. The historical record proves that the Pope was not simply active but even heroic in his effort to save Jewish lives. Still, detractors will always insist that he should have damned Hitler and excommunicated the Nazis. But it is absurd to believe that a bull of excommunication would have stopped, even for a moment, men who were busily committing genocide.

We might consider how two other famous and internationally acclaimed rescuers of Jews handled the dilemma of keeping silent in the face of unspeakable evil.

Miep Gies helped to hide Anne Frank, her family and their companions in an Amsterdam attic. Oskar Schindler, the hero of a Stephen Spielberg film, saved the lives of over 1,000 Jews who worked in his factory. Gies knew that Dutch Jews were being deported to death camps by the tens of thousands, yet she did not climb up on a soapbox on a busy street comer and denounce the murderous activities of the Nazis. Schindler witnessed Nazi genocide first-hand, yet he never renounced his membership in the Nazi Party. Indeed, Schindler befriended men who were killers. He ate and drank with them. He showered them with expensive gifts. He treated them to lavish parties. He did not spit in their faces, or call them murderers. Gies and Schindler and the thousands of others who rescued Jews during the Second World War understood that to be effective they would have to suppress their anguish over the plight of the victims, and control their revulsion for the Nazis they encountered every day. The rescuers were not silent; they guarded their tongues.

Pius XII was not silent; he weighed his words. When the moment was opportune, he spoke his mind. But, more to the point, he acted. +

 

Sources and further reading:

The Last Three Popes and the Jews, by Pinchas E. Lapide Souvenir Press (London), 1967.

The Conspiracy Against Hitler in the Twilight War, by Harold C. Deutsch, The Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1968.

The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators (1922-1945), by Anthony Rhodes, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.

Pius XII: Greatness Dishonored, by Michael O'Carroll. (Available for $18 postpaid from Roman Catholic Books, Box 2286, Ft. Collins, CO 80522.)

 

"Allow us to ask the great honor of being able to thank personally His Holiness for the generosity he has shown us when we were persecuted during the terrible period of Nazi Fascism." —petition of 20, 000 Jewish refugees from Central Europe to Pius XII, Summer 1945

"in the most difficult hours which we Jews of Romania have passed through, the generous assistance of the Holy See...was decisive and A, salutary. It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the: warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the Supreme Pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews, sufferings which had been pointed out to him by you. after, your visit to Transnistria. The Jews of Romania will never forget facts of historic importance." -Chief Rabbi Alexander Saffran of Bucharest, Romania, to Msgr. Andrea Cassulo, papal nuncio to Romania, April 7, 1944

"The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which. form the very foundations of true civilization, are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world."

-Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Palestine, February 28, 1945

"When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths." —Golda Meir in a cable to the Vatican expressing condolences. at the death of Pius XII, 1958

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