Skip to comments.At a Jewish time of reflection, thoughts on a pope and Catholicism
Posted on 05/05/2011 12:12:38 PM PDT by presidio9
Passover is over and Shavuot is weeks away. It's a season when Jews traditionally take time for contemplation and reflection.
This year, I've been reflecting on Catholicism. Rather on the complicated interfaith nexuses between Catholics and Jews.
In large part, of course, this is because of the beatification May 1 of Pope John Paul II.
Critics have questioned the decision by Pope Benedict XVI to waive the usual five-year waiting period and fast-track John Paul's road to sainthood.
And JP2 had his faults -- his handling of the priest sex abuse scandals has come under particular recent scrutiny.
But the Polish-born pontiff was the best pope the Jewish world ever had.
"There have been few times in the 2,000 years of Christian Jewish relations when Jews have shed genuine tears at the death of a Pope," the eminent Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum wrote in a recent column. "When Pope John Paul II died, I -- and many other Jews -- cried."
I don't recall actually shedding tears when John Paul died on April 2, 2005 at the age of 84. In fact, I was in the midst of celebrating my nephew's bar mitzvah.
But I did feel deeply touched by his passing -- I had reported on John Paul during most of his nearly 27-year papacy.
In a deliberate and demonstrative way, he had made bettering Catholic-Jewish relations and confronting the Holocaust and its legacy a hallmark of his reign, and I had chronicled milestone after milestone in this process.
There had been frictions and setbacks, to be sure. Key among them was the pope's support for the canonization of his controversial World War II predecessor, Pius XII, and his refusal to open secret Vatican archives to clarify Pius' role during the Holocaust.
He also hurt Jews by welcoming Austrian President Kurt Waldheim to the Vatican after Waldheim's World War II links to the Nazis had come to light. And he upset Jews with his meetings at the Vatican with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
These episodes, however, were far outweighed by positive steps. Some of them were truly groundbreaking measures that jettisoned -- or at least shook up -- centuries of ingrained Catholic teaching and changed Catholic dogma to reflect respect for Jews and the Jewish religion and apologize for the persecution of Jews by Catholics.
They ranged from his visit to Rome's main synagogue in 1986, to his frequent meetings with rabbis, Holocaust survivors and Jewish lay leaders, to his repeated condemnation of anti-Semitism, to the establishment of relations between the Vatican and Israel, to John Paul's own pilgrimage to the Jewish state in 2000, when he prayed at the Western Wall.
It was evident throughout that he was deeply influenced by his own personal history of having grown up with Jewish friends in pre-World War II Poland and then witnessing the destruction during the Shoah.
As Berenbaum put it, John Paul II was "directly touched by the Holocaust" and "assumed responsibility for its memory."
The program director of a Catholic-run interfaith and dialogue center near the Auschwitz death camp agreed.
"Auschwitz was not an abstract tragedy but it formed part of his life," the Rev. Manfred Deselaers told the Catholic news agency Zenit.org. "Auschwitz was the school of holiness of John Paul II."
Given this background, it seemed fitting that the Vatican chose to beatify John Paul on May 1 -- the eve of this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah.
The coincidence, though, was not intentional.
In the Catholic calendar, May 1 this year marked the Sunday after Easter, a feast called Divine Mercy Sunday. And John Paul II had died on the very eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
Still, the timing sent out a powerful message. And it made me reflect on how very, very radically relations between Catholics and Jews have changed, even in just the past few decades.
Relations between Catholics and Jews are not perfect, of course, and they never will be. There are still anti-Semitic elements in the Church, and John Paul II's teachings have not trickled down to all the world's more than 1 billion Catholics. But we do live in a different world.
For centuries, the popes and the Vatican "worked hard to keep Jews in their subservient place -- barring them from owning property, from practicing professions, from attending university, from traveling freely," Brown University historian David Kertzer wrote in his 2001 book "The Popes Against the Jews." "And they did all this according to canon law and the centuries-old belief that in doing so they were upholding the most basic tenets of Christianity."
Here in Rome, the papal rulers kept Jews confined to a crowded ghetto until 1870. In many places Jews would stay indoors at Easter for fear of being caught up in a blood libel accusation or be accused of desecrating the Host.
Less dramatically, I still remember from childhood how Catholic kids in my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood were forbidden to enter synagogue to attend their friends' bar mitzvah services.
Formal dialogue began only in 1965, with the Vatican's Nostra Aetate declaration that repudiated the charge that Jews were collectively responsible for killing Jesus, stressed the religious bond between Jews and Catholics, and called for interfaith contacts.
Two decades later, in 1986, when John Paul became the first pope to visit a synagogue, he embraced Rome's chief rabbi, Elio Toaff, and declared that Jews were Christianity's "dearly beloved" and "elder brothers."
Toaff met frequently with John Paul, and the two established a warm rapport. In fact, Toaff and the pope's longtime secretary were the only two individuals named in John Paul's will. The rabbi called that inclusion "a significant and profound gesture for Jews" as well as "an indication to the Catholic world."
Long retired now, Toaff celebrated his 96th birthday on April 30 -- the day before John Paul's beatification.
The memory of John Paul "remains indelibly impressed in the collective memory of the Jewish people," Toaff said in a statement published after the beatification in the Vatican's official newspaper. "In the afflicted history of relations between the popes of Rome and the Jewish people, in the shadow of the ghetto in which they were closed for over three centuries in humiliating and depressing conditions, the figure of John Paul II emerges luminous in all of its exceptionality."
To be fair, when the Jews in the Roman neighborhood near the Vatican were rounded up by the Nazis, the Pope did not speak up - and this happened under his nose.
To be fair, the Vatican was surrounded by those same Nazis, who had little tolerance for organized religion, and less for Catholicism. Pius and the Vatican were responsible for saving tens of thousands of Jews. Maybe hundreds. But don't take my word for it. Ask Golda Mier or Albert Einstein.
To be fair, your sources are full of crap.
In 1999, The Boston Globe had a practice of publishing on the back page the front pages of 60 years earlier. The real front page was some nonsense about how the pope never spoke up against Nazism. On the back page, from 60 years earlier, was a full-page, giant-letter, screaming headline: “Pope Condemns Twin Terrors of Communism, Nazism.”
But you see, that didn’t count to the American Left because he didn’t side with the Communists.
The reality is that the pope personally helped smuggle Jews out of the Roman ghetto. There was a great movie about it called “the Red and the Black.” (It was very unnerving to see Cpt. Von Trapp in a Nazi uniform!) The world didn’t hear much from him, because he was under practical house arrest by the Nazis... yet he still helped the smuggling.
To be accurate, this is simply false.
Hundreds of Roman Jews spent the war living in the Vatican to escape the Nazis, and the rabbi of the Roman Jewish community, Israele Zolli, converted to Catholicism after the war.
According to British soldier and founding father of the Israeli foreign service Pinchas Lapide, the Pope personally saved thousands of Italian Jews from the Nazis.
This despite the fact that he was surrounded by a hostile Fascist government and had only a handful of armed men to defend the Vatican.
And, while he was saving all those lives, he also hosted secret meetings between foreign ambassadors and representatives of the officers who conspired to kill Hitler.
the Pope did not speak up
He certainly did speak up, but his actions spoke even louder than his words.
The dispute over whether Pius "spoke up" centers around the cultural differences between how Catholics and Protestants address sin. If there's one thing that Reformed Protestants are known for, it's their belief in creeds and confessions. And in general, Protestants believe that each person has a responsibility to "make a good confession" and speak their faith publicly, no matter how difficult the circumstances or bad the anticipated response (e.g. Luther's "Here I stand, I can do no other", etc.). I suspect that many see the choices as martyrdom versus cowardice, the measuring stick used being words spoken, and very little middle ground is granted to the silent.
Now consider that Pope Pius XII made few, if any public statements, condemnations, or anathemas against National Socialism, the Nazi Party, or Hitler specifically by name (to be sure, public statements, pronouncements and sermons were made, but no names were given). It's this failure to take a public, verbal stand that is IMO at the heart of many accusations against Pope Pius XII. Some people (Protestants as well as Jews) don't think Pius XII spoke out loudly and pointedly enough against Hitler. They believe that, if the Catholic Church really were as powerful and influential as it's adherents claim, that such actions by the Vicar of Christ would have changed the course of the war.
Critics have read all manner of cowardice, antisemitism and other evils into the (in)actions of Pius XII, based upon his perceived silence as the Vicar of Christ towards Hitler. Did Pius XII save a lot of Jewish lives? I believe so. But IMO the better question is, what could the Catholic Church have accomplished, had the Vicar of Christ openly denounced Hitler?
With regard to attend the Bar Mitzvahs, no particular offense should be taken as we Catholic kids were not allowed to attend ANY non-Catholic religious service. I once lingered momentarily outside a protestant church when the windows were open and felt a little guilty.
Not only did Pius XII hide hundreds and hundreds of Roman Jews in the Vatican, issue them false papers, and smuggle them out of town, listen to this:
Joseph Lichten records that on September 27, 1943, one of the Nazi commanders demanded of the Jewish community in Rome payment of one hundred pounds of gold within thirty-six hours or three hundred Jews would be taken prisoner. When the Jewish Community Council was only able to gather only seventy pounds of gold, they turned to the Vatican.
In his memoirs, the then Chief Rabbi Zolli of Rome writes that he was sent to the Vatican, where arrangements had already been made to receive him as an engineer called to survey a construction problem so that the Gestapo on watch at the Vatican would not bar his entry. He was met by the Vatican treasurer and secretary of state, who told him that the Holy Father himself had given orders for the deficit to be filled with gold vessels taken from the Treasury.
- Joseph Lichten, "A Question of Moral Judgement: Pius XII and the Jews," in Robert Graham, S.J., ed., Pius XII and the Holocaust (New Rochelle, New York: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 1988), 107.
The same thing that the Dutch bishops accomplished by openly denouncing Hitler . . . an immediate roundup and execution of the local Jewish population.
But Time magazine, Golda Meier, and Albert Einstein seem to think that he spoke out . . . even if in somewhat veiled words. And Mit brennender Sorge (authored by Cardinal Pacelli as he then was, but issued by Pius XI) is not veiled at all. It names names. And it made the Nazis extremely angry at Pacelli . . . they didn't think he was silent. He was condemned roundly and nasty cartoons were published about him in der Sturmer.
And the Nazis further responded (once they had control of Italy) by attempting to round up Roman Jews, and by attempting to kidnap and assassinate Pius XII. The local German Army commander talked Hitler out of it, but it was a very real risk.
For your answer to that you need to look no further than the People's Republic of China's "official" Catholic Church today. In case you hadn't heard, the Nazis were all about propaganda, and good things seldom happened when their feelings got hurt. The major religions in Germany today are Lutheran and Anglican, I believe. The correct question may be that if Protestant's "can do no other" than to speak out, why didn't millions of them end up in the camps? Because this lame argument, like all the others, has always been first and foremost a politically correct way for the left (and people who just hate Catholicism) to attack the Catholic Church.
Two decades later, in 1986, when John Paul became the first pope to visit a synagogue, he embraced Rome's chief rabbi, Elio Toaff, and declared that Jews were Christianity's "dearly beloved" and "elder brothers."
Germany today is roughly one-third Catholic, one-third Lutheran, one-third atheist.
BS. You know the very first thing the Pope said when he heard about the roundup early on the first morning?
Lets go make a few phone calls
Pius's quiet actions out of the spotlight saved thousands of Jewish lives from being destroyed at death camps. Or he could have done what you recommend, ensuring his historical reputation at the cost of the victims who'd have been murdered in retaliation, as happened in Holland. I appreciate your concern for the Pope's place in history, but he had more important things on his mind.
I actually meant in the 1930's and 40's. My bad. According to the CIA Factbook, Catholicism is now the largest single denomination in Germany at 34%. Protestant denominations are not broken out, but account for 34% in total. Wikipedia has it at 30% Catholic, and 33% protestant along with 5% Muslim, but 55% say they are "non-religious," especially in the east.
Certainly, words alone are often not enough. And many were cowards in both word and deed. But some were not.
The Ten Boom family were devoted Christians who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an "open house" for anyone in need. Through the decades the Ten Booms were very active in social work in Haarlem, and their faith inspired them to serve the religious community and society at large.Have you ever read the book/watched the film version of The Hiding Place? Corrie Ten Boom and her family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Father Ten Boom's determination to wear the Star of David (identifying himself as a Jew, even though he wasn't one) was an symbolic, inspiring, and sobering testimonial to his faith and solidarity with the Jews in the face of the Nazi occupation of Holland. The Ten Boom household was betrayed, and sent to the Nazi concentration camps for their actions. Corrie's father and sister died in those camps.
During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Booms' way of living out their Christian faith. This faith led them to hide Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement.
During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 6-7 people illegally living in this home: 4 Jews and 2 or 3 members of the Dutch underground. Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another "safe house" could be located for them. Corrie became a ringleader within the network of the Haarlem underground. Corrie and "the Beje group" would search for courageous Dutch families who would take in refugees, and much of Corrie's time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the Ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers.
-- Excerpted from the Corrie Ten Boom Museum website.
Corrie Ten Boom was awarded the honorific "Righteous Among the Nations", by the State of Israel, for her actions on behalf of the Jews during WWII. Many Catholic priests and officials (incl. several Cardinals, Bishops, and the Superior General of the Jesuits) have also awarded with this honor; Pope Pius XII was nominated in 2009, but AFAIK has not received it to date.
No wonder God has sent the Muslim to live amongst (and the 'neutral' Swedes to boot.
One of the Popes, I can't remember which one, called Muslims "God's Whip" (for bad behavior.)
The Pope did condemn Nazi racism, and back in 1942, when the Nazis were the sdtrongest power in Europe, the NYT gave him create for doing this, in contrast to the silence from the Western Powers. And it is ironical that you should mention Luther who is famous for his anti-Jewish diatribes. But as for the effect, you see how the American Church “obeys” the pope’s teaching om birth control and abortion. There were many, many “good” German Catholics who were willing to follow “Der Fuehrer” wherever he led and felt that the Jews were gerting what was coming to them. Pope Pacellit knew the Germans. The famous Concordant concluded with Hitler was the best they he could, as secretary of state, get with the Nazis after the German bishops announced—against Pius’ XI’s wishes — that it was OK for Catholics to join the Nazi Party. That nation unity thing, you know. That Catholic thing was just a private matter, you know./sarc.
Prussia became East Germany after the War, and atheism prevailed.
Not a bad summary of the whole political situation, IMO, but I think your post dishonors the nearly 20 million "Western Powers" combatants - incl. more than a quarter million Americans - who gave their lives fighting the Axis Powers.
But among these were Victor Kulger and Miep Gies, Catholics who hid Anne Frank and her family. Kulger was sentenced to death for the crime, but survived to the end of the war in Amersfoort concentration camp.
When I was a kid back in the 50s, I belonged to a Boy Scout troop sponsored by a Presbyterian Church. Once a year they had 'Scout Sunday' and invited all the troop members to attend. I asked my parish priest if it was ok if I went. He said to the effect that I'd better go because that church did a lot for the kids and I owed them that respect, and BTW, say hello to Rev. Anderson while I was there. They were good friends.
I think that not attending another service was a myth that a lot of people believed, and not actually a church rule.
“Let’s make a few phone calls?” To whom? Document, please.
Zolli converted when he was not named Chief Rabbi of Israel. It was a sour grapes move.
“Zolli converted when he was not named Chief Rabbi of Israel. It was a sour grapes move.”
So nice of you to offer your opinion on the matter.
I guess you were there when he converted and could read his mind and heart.
I would ask you to offer an opinon as to what I am thinking.
But on second thought, I will tell you point blank- STFU.
Go back and read the comments to you from the others (except mine). They were all trying to educate you and all you can do is throw another stone. Good training, I guess.
Well, there weren’t 20 million combatants, and in any case by Western Powers I mean the leadership. Everyone knew something aweful was going on, but witness the Red Cross’s complicity in the Theresienstadt charade. But could anyone guess that the Nazis were so obscessed with the Jewish Question that they were willing to starve units on the Eastern Front in order to ship Jews to their deaths? It was insane, but they were doing it. Only the Conspirators did something. But it seems that the Allies were unwilling to trust them. The stupidity of the “unconditional surrender thing.” They say that even Stalin with nonplused. He is said to have commented, but if they surrender to you, you can make it as unconditional as you want. Which is what McArthur did in Japan. And if Hitler had disappeared in July, 1944, the terms proposed to the new Goverman Government would have made Versailles seem like a slap on the wrist.
“I think that not attending another service was a myth that a lot of people believed, and not actually a church rule.”
My Methodist Mom and Catholic Dad were not allowed to get married in his church back in 1945; they had to have the wedding in the rectory. When my Mom’s cousin got married at her church in 1957, we were allowed to attend the wedding service, but were told it would be a sin to participate; even singing the hymns would have been wrong.
I call bull. Rabbis are encouraged to marry and have a large family. Celibacy is unnatural, causing natural human desires to be bottled up, which then sometimes spill out in unnatural ways.
Your completely unsubstantiated accusation is as petty as it is false.
Zolli did not put himself forward as Chief Rabbi for Israel.
When Zolli converted in 1945, the Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi of Israel was Yitzhak Herzog, who was only 57 years old and in good health, and Herzog had already held the office for almost a decade when Zolli converted.
There was no vacancy and there was no question of Zolli replacing the well-respected and established incumbent.
You should quit making stuff up.
There was indeed a Chief Rabbinate of Israel in 1945 - in fact two, as there still are today: one for the Ashkenazim and one for the Sephardim.
This Rabbinate preceded the formation of the state of Israel.
Zolli, by the way, was Ashkenaz and not Sephardic - his name was Anton Zoller before the Fascists forced him to Italianize it.
However, juliej completely invented the whole "sour grapes" thing - her claim is laughably ahistorical and betrays zero knowledge of the history and the politics involved.
Perhaps the rabbinates were using the name “Palestine” after the mandate before 1948, and then were changed with the coming of independence. I do know that the Jewish brigade recruited by the British during WWII used an armpatch that said "Palestine" on it, so the term did not have the same connotations that it does now.
Meanwhile, the Pope saved 860,000 -- Lapide's number, not mine -- but his actions are continually criticized by those who claim he "didn't do enough" or "was silent".
As the old saw goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
He did a lot more than "speak up". The convents and monasteries around Rome were full of Jews. The Pope's own summer house at Castel Gandolfo was the place of refuge of a number of Jews; some Jewish babies were even born there. When the Nazis demanded a ransom of 50 kilograms of gold for some Jewish prisoners, the Pope provided 15 kilograms from the Vatican reserves. There are many other examples.
When John XXIII, who was then the Papal nuncio in Istanbul, was credited with saving thousands of Jews by giving them false baptismal papers, he replied, "You should thank the Pope. Everything that I did, I did on his instructions."
What about Alexander VI? Sure he threw orgies in the Vatican. But he also gave expelled Spanish Jews sanctuary in Rome and protected them -- a move that was both right and deeply unpopular.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel pre-dates the State of Israel by centuries. Its origin lies in an Ottoman-appointed position, the “Rishon L’tzion,” (”First in Zion”) which was created in the mid-17th century.
That number is a ludicrous exaggeration. All of Italy had only 50,000 Jews at the time.
Who says that it only consisted of Jews in Italy? There were over nine million Jews in Europe before World War II started.
A piece of history not very well known....
I have the greatest respect for my Jewish brethren, but there's a trend going on that I've seen among my friends here as well as on FR. Much of what the Jewish community "knows" about Catholics in general and Pope Pius XII in particular is not very well founded. When I talk to my friends, it's "I heard . . ." or "Somebody said . . . " that the pope did this or did that (or didn't do this or that).
The release of the East German and Russian espionage files revealed that STASI and the KGB waged a campaign to discredit Pius XII, because they saw him as an enemy of Communism as well as Fascism (which he was). This included funding the scurrilous play The Deputy (Der Stellvertreter), which (although completely fictional) is one of the main sources of the libels against the pope.
You have to carefully investigate what you hear rather than taking it at face value. It may well originate with people who have ulterior motives and are deliberately taking advantage of a certain cynicism in the Jewish community.
The German Ambassador to the Holy See in 1943 was Ernst von Weizsäcker, a discreet anti-Nazi who did what he could to moderate the worst excesses of Nazi cruelty. In the late summer of 1943, the Germans had taken control of Rome. On Sept. 11 Weizsäcker summoned his chief attaché Albrecht von Kessel. They discussed how they could help the Jews of Rome, concluding they must get them out of Rome and into the countryside (whether this was practical is open to question; on their own it seems they concluded this best strategy.) Not trusting Italians to transmit message, or possibly wanting to preserve plausible deniability, they worked through Swiss Secretary of the Institute of International Private Law, one Alfred Fahrener, who knew many prominent Jews.
Kessel transmitted the warning to Fahrener, asking him to communicate it to the Jewish community. Shortly afterward, on Sept 26, representatives of the Jewish community were summoned to the Nazi police HQ, where SS Major Herbert Kappler demanded 50 kilos of gold in 36 hours. Most sources agree that the Jewish community was unable to raise the full amount necessary, and the Vatican guaranteed a loan on easy terms for the 15 kilo deficit (eventually raised either from the Jewish community or private Christians) Though disputed, the most detailed account is that of Israel Zolli.
On Oct 6, Major Kappler was ordered to prepare to seize the 8,000 Jews in Rome and deport them northward. He objected, as did General Rainer Stahel (German military commander in Rome) and Fieldmarshal Kesselring. On Oct. 9 Berlin sent a supplemental order to the Wehrmacht and German diplomats in Rome not to interfere with the Jewish persecutions by the SS. Kapplers objections may have marked him as unreliable for the job, because a special detachment of 365 SS men was sent to effect the roundup. It began early on October 16.
The Princess Enza Pignatelli learned of the Jewish roundup very early on the morning of October 16, 1943. She was well known at the Vatican, and decided to bring the news to the Pope directly. Lacking transport of her own, this intrepid and resourceful woman therefore rang the German embassy. Karl Gustav Wollenweber, an attaché of Ambassador Weizsäcker, agreed to fetch her to the Vatican in a German embassy car.
Flying the Nazi flag, the car first detoured so that the princess should see the roundup with her own eyes. They then headed for the Vatican, entering by the diplomatic entrance. The princess demanded to see the pope at once. Though she was not unknown at the Vatican, one does not just drop in on the Pope, especially before the sun is fairly up. But her manner was not to be denied, so the Maestro di Camera installed her in the papal library. As soon as he finished his morning Mass, the pope entered, and the princess delivered her report. But the Germans promised not to touch the Jews! proving he knew all about the gold deal and the Vatican guarantee.
Lets go make a few phone calls was the immediate response of Pope Pius, as reported by Princess Pignatelli.
I cant tell you exactly whom the pope telephoned that morning, but we can guess that The Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione called in Ambassador Weizsäcker immediately to lodge the official protest.. Having in his pocket a Vatican assurance that they would keep mum we know that Weizsäcker set to work. Meanwhile, news of the roundup was spreading through the Roman ecclesiastical and diplomatic community. Archbishop Alois Hudal, a German prelate with responsibility for the German church in Rome, had excellent relations with the German authorities. Perhaps on his own, perhaps in collaboration with Weizsäcker s attaché von Kessel and another German diplomat Gerhard Gumpert, assigned to Gen. Stahel, Hudal produced a letter urging the Germans to back down. This letter was delivered at once by hand of another priest popular in German circles, Fr. Pancratius Pfeiffer. For the sake of protocol, Gen. Stahel observed for the record that this was a police matter outside his jurisdiction, but he agreed to send the letter on the Berlin. Gumpert took a copy of the letter (which he himself had secretly helped draft) and sent it to the Foreign Ministry, with a prediction of the political disturbances sure to result. Almost simultaneously, Weizsäcker who by all appearances already knew what his aide was up toasked for a copy of the Hudal letter and Gumperts telegram , to make his own report. Pretending to know nothing of the letters origins, Weizsäckers goal was to persuade Berlin to re-think the wisdom of the arrests.
The following day Gen. Stahel informed Archbishop Hudal that having referred the matter to the Gestapo in Berlin, Himmler had decided that the arrests should stop, in consideration of the special character of Rome (this being a response to frenzied appeals from the Germans only, as Weizsäcker had done his utmost to convince the Vatican that an appeal from their corner would only make matters worse and possibly precipitate disaster on the Vatican itself.)
With the Jewish community in turmoil, the Vatican threw open the doors of all religious institutions. About 4,000 Jews, as well as other Italian dissidents, politicians, and soldiers fled to their sanctuary, posted as off-limits to Germans. To encourage those in need to seek this assistance, and to encourage those in a position to do so to render aid, on Oct 26 LOsservatore Romano published an editorial called The Charitable Work of the Pope. This was not part of Weizsäckers plan. Fearing that its message would be incriminating, on Oct. 28 Weizsäcker composed a new wire to Berlin in which he downplayed the popes commitment to help the Jews.
It was easier to shelter Jews amongst the general public because of their greater assimilation than in Eastern Europe. But it was still a dangerous business for both the Jews and those protecting them. There were a few cases of police raids of religious establishments, but in almost all cases their extraterritorial nature, backed by official German off-limits notices and safe conduct passes issued liberally by Weizsäcker, ensured that most were left unmolested. This is especially noteworthy in light of the obvious fact that everyone knew the Jews were there. Jews and their protectors were still vulnerable to an out-and-out denunciation that the police were unable to officially ignore. These were desperate, hungry times and some sought to survive by preying on their fellow man. There were several cases of both Jews and gentiles acting as spies and informers. On more than one occasion, Weizsäcker was contacted by Italians offering information about hidden Jews. He had them thrown out. The Jews and other hidden refugees remained in hiding till June 4, 1944, when the City was liberated by American forces.
Support of these refugees required discretion and ingenuity. With so many Allied POWs on the loose in Italy after their release by the post-Mussolini government, British Ambassador Sir Darcy Osborne cooperated with Irish Msgr Hugh OFlaherty to provide them with food, money and disguises. OFlaherty acquired a certain romantic reputation for his daring and resourcefulness, sometimes spoken of as the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican. Osborne, like many Allied diplomats, was a prisoner of the Vatican along with the pope. To protect its extraterritorial status he had to keep Allied POWs from seeking sanctuary there, while naturally aiding them as well as he could. Fr. Pfeiffer meanwhile, made it his business to take the pulse of the German authorities, and to serve as an unofficial go-between.
The final act to this drama came Oct 30, when LOsservatore Romano finally published the long-awaited payoff editorial, acknowledging its appreciation of the proper conduct of Wehrmacht troops in the City. This message came too late to help or hurt Gen. Stahel, who was relieved of his command the same day, probably having been judged unreliable and not a team player over his reluctance to cooperate in the persecution of the Jews.
Before the arrests could be stopped, an estimated 1,259 Jews were taken in. These were imprisoned at the Collegio Militare, where a priest from the Vatican Secretariat managed to get in. Perhaps owing to this man, or Weizsäcker, or both, about 250 Jews were released for various technicalities from those being held. The rest met with a very sorry fatean agonizing, circuitous trip to Auschwitz, where all but 15 vanished. Fourteen men and one woman returned after the war. But thousands the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community in Rome escaped, thanks largely to the generosity and courage of Pope Pius and other Catholic figures in and around Rome.
Elevation shows the Catholic/Protestant mix (higher = more Catholics) and colour shows Nazi vote share (more red = higher Nazi share of the vote).
Luv your tag line ;^)
Sad but true bump
Wrong - he was sour grapes. He wanted to be the Chief Rabbi of Israel and it did not work out for hiim - he knew he would never be named. I know more about this than you do.
YOU ARE WRONG. Zolli wanted to be named Chief Rabbi and he knew he would not get his wish - he converted out - sour grapes on his part. I know more about Jewish history than you - any day of the week I could win a contest against you. And the Pope was silent about the Roman Cave massacre.
Thank you for correcting Cherubasko or whatever his name is. He thinks he is an expert on the history of the Jews. He is not.
There was a full fledged assault on the Jewish community near the Vatican. Read the book Growing up Jewish in Fascist Italy. The writer is not fond of Pius XII.
There is no evidence that the Vatican organized a coordinated, continent wide campaign to save Jews. None. Did individual Catholics and local Catholic parishes save many Jews, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands? Of course. But it's just factually wrong to attribute their actions to Pius himself. And the real story is, if anything, more heart-warming. They saved Jews out of the goodness of their hearts, on their own initiative.
Again, I'm not disputing that Pius saved Jews, and tried to save Jews. I'm disputing the ludicrous figure of 860,000. There's no reason to use wildly inflated numbers to make a case for Pius.
Look at it another way -- 3 million Jews escaped or survived the war. Of those 3 million, most survived because Nazi's either never directly controlled their area (Bulgaria, southern France), or didn't control their area long enough to finish the exterminations (Russia, Ukraine, Hungary etc.) Hundreds of thousands of others fled before the war.
I don't 860,000 Jews, in total, were saved by "anyone" -- much less the actions of Pius personally, or Catholics collectively.
"The Pope depended on the local clergy to thwart Hitlers extermination policy. The book dramatizes one point above all others, Feron states, that the Popes efforts were dependent on the strength and heroism of his churches in each country. Lapide traces the efforts of Roman Catholics to save the Jews and quotes a variety of sources to indicate that Papal Nuncios had received messages from the Vatican to contest the deportation of Jews. Lapide tells how Pope Pius XII sent his Papal Nuncio in Berlin to visit Hitler in Berchtesgaden to plead for the Jews. That interview ended when Hitler smashed a glass at the Nuncios feet. From Hitlers reaction the Pope was convinced that public pronouncements would have sealed the fate of many more Jews. After this incident, in retaliation, Hitler connived to kidnap Pope Pius XII."
- Margherita Marchione, "Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews?"
If you don't like Lapide, and consider him prejudiced because he was an Israeli diplomat and angling for recognition of Israel by the Vatican (that's the attack I've heard), there's still Rabbi David Dalin to deal with. He took apart Cornwell's book in The Myth of Hitler's Pope. Cornwell, of course, has recanted much of what he said in that book.
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