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Skip to comments.CATHOLIC HEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST
Posted on 06/01/2006 11:29:00 AM PDT by Dqban22
CATHOLIC HEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST
by Elizabeth Altham
Elizabeth Altham is a former corporate speech writer and a convert. Much of the research for this article was prepared by Jeffrey Rubin, former editor of Sursum Corda and a Jewish convert to the Catholic Church.
Przemysl, Poland, 1944: Two SS men knock at the door of Stefania Podgorska, a Catholic seamstress. Her cottage is wanted for personnel of the field hospital across the street; she and her younger sister, Helena, have two hours to move out, on pain of death. The challenge of finding a new place to live is a bit stiffer than the SS men can imagine: Stefania, seventeen, is sheltering thirteen Jews in her little house.
She spends nearly two hours running from house to ruined house. After occupation by the Germans, the Soviets and the Germans again, there is nothing left that she could even make shift in. She returns home. Her guests beg her to escape with Helena, who is only seven.
Eva Fogelman, a psychotherapist whose father was rescued by Lithuanian Catholics, has written a splendid book about people who saved Jews, Conscience and Courage. In it she reports Stefania's own account of what happened next. Stefania asked her guests to pray with her. She knelt before a picture of Jesus and Mary.
And I asked God not to let us be killed. Help, somehow. I cannot leave this apartment. I cannot leave thirteen people for a certain death. I will be alive if I go, but thirteen lives will be finishedchildren too, and young people. I asked God, 'Help, somehow.'
"And I heard a voice, a woman's voice. It was so beautiful, so nice, so quiet. She said to me, 'Don't worry. Everything will be all right. You will not leave your apartment. You will stay here, and they will take only one room. Everything will be all right. I am with you.' And she told me, 'Be quiet. I'll tell you what to do.' She said, 'Send your people to the bunker a hidden space in the attic. Open the door. Open the windows. Clean your apartment and sing.'"1
Stefania obeyed the voice. Her neighbors came and remonstrated with her: the SS would surely kill her. She continued to clean her house, and to sing. Ten minutes later, an SS man arrivedsmiling. It was a good thing, he said, that she had not moved, because they needed only one room; she could keep the rest.
There were more close calls before the Soviets finally liberated Przemysl (and there had been many before this one), but Stefania and Helena Podgorska and the thirteen Jews all survived the war.
Eva Fogelman interviewed more than three hundred rescuers, and checked their stories with the Jews they saved and with official records. She wanted to understand what motivated people to risk their lives to help others. She concluded that in many cases the critical motive was religious faith: the conviction that Christ would want them to do this.
But what of the official Church? In the past year there has been a fresh irruption of stories about the alleged inaction of the hierarchy, and especially the "silence" of Pope Pius XII, stories worse in some ways even than Rolf Hochhuth's scurrilous 1963 play, "The Deputy." Even The New Yorker, in its April 7, 1997 edition, printed an article that asserted Pius and the hierarchy turned their backs on the Jews; and journals such as The Catholic Times and The National Catholic Register (owned by the Legionaries of Christ) in reporting the progress of a document on the Holocaust being prepared by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, treat the question as open.
Probably the most systematic and comprehensive study of the Pope's and the hierarchy's handling of the Holocaust is Pinchas Lapide's 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews. Lapide, an Israeli diplomat, was a member of the Palestinian Brigade that found many interned Jews in Italy at the end of World War II. After exhaustive research, Lapide concluded that at least 700,000 Jews, and more likely 860,000, owed their lives directly to the Church; he also concluded that Pius simply could not have done more than he did. The suggestion that Pius ought to have spoken more forcefully he treats with near derision; he quotes many Jewish leaders, many of them rescued by Catholics, to the effect that more forceful speeches would certainly not have caused the Nazis to moderate the persecutions, and would most probably have induced them to intensify them.
Not that the Pope was silent. As early as April 1935, as Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli addressed 250,000 pilgrims at Lourdes: "These [Nazi] ideologues are in fact only miserable plagiarizers who dress up ancient error in new tinsel. It matters little whether they rally round the flag of the social revolution...or are possessed by the superstition of race and blood." He was responsible for the final wording of Pius XI's March 1937 encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge ("With burning sorrow"), and made it more strongly antiracist. The encyclical, the first ever written in German, was read in all German churches on Palm Sunday; the Nazi Foreign Office characterized it as "a call to battle as it calls upon Catholic citizens to rebel against the authority of the Reich."2
In 1938 Italy passed its first anti-Jewish laws. Pius XI condemned them. He took action, as well. In January 1939 he asked the ambassadors to the Vatican to procure entry visas to their countries for German and Italian Jews. He also called a German bishop to Rome to plan a resettlement project in Sao Paulo. Presumably his Secretary of State was involved in these initiatives (General Ludendorf wrote: "Pacelli was the live spirit which stood behind all the anti-German activities of Rome's policy"3); but he would not be Secretary of State much longer. Pius XI died in February.
Cardinal Pacelli was elected as Pius XII in March. As one of the standard first steps in the persecution, Jews were now banned from the learned professions. The new Pope invited many to the Vatican and offered to help them to emigrate; many accepted, and Pius intervened with the diplomats of other countries to obtain entry visas for them.
Italy declared war on France on June 10, 1940. The Pope was determined to keep the Vatican neutral, and to make it a refuge. He brought the diplomats of nations at war with the Axis into the Papal Hospice of Santa Marta, close to the Holy Office and the German College. He assigned the Holy Office to develop its contacts throughout Europe into a chain of agents who would deal with intelligence, prisoners of war and refugees. One of the most fascinating rescuers of the war, Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty, Primo Notario of the Holy Office, thus became involved early on in the Vatican's information-gathering and humanitarian activitiesinformally, also, as he lived in the German College, next door to the diplomats' new quarters.
Also during June, some 500 Jews left Bratislava on a small boat bound for Palestine. Four months later the boat tried to enter the harbor at Istanbul and was denied permission. An Italian patrol boat picked up the passengers and took them to a prison camp on Rhodes. Warned that they were to be handed over to the Germans, these Jews sent one of their number to Rome, where he obtained an audience with the Pope. Pius intervened with the Italian government and all 500 were interned in southern Calabria, where they survived the war.
Pinchas Lapide reports arriving at Ferramonti-Tarsia to find 3,200 Jews, mostly refugees from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. "They had been not only saved by papal intervention but also fed, clad and looked after at Vatican expense by two papal emissaries who set up a kosher kitchen, organized a school for the children ."4
But do the Pope's efforts qualify him as a rescuer, as someone who risked his life to save Jews? In 1940 Martin Bormann prepared "Operation Pontiff" on Hitler's instructions. Pius was to be imprisoned in a monastery on the Wartburg. Lapide thinks it probable that Pius knew of the plan. If so, it did not deter him. As the Nazi persecution of the Jews intensified, and as it spread to the countries occupied by German forces, so did Vatican efforts at rescue and shelter. And Pius instructed the European hierarchy to follow his lead. "There is no doubt," says Leon Poliakov, a Jewish historian of the Holocaust, "that secret instructions went out from the Vatican urging the national churches to intervene in favor of the Jews by every possible means."5
In the Heart of the Reich
Even in Germany, Catholic bishops protested the treatment of the Jews. Priests spoke out against Nazism and paid for it with their lives; laymen sheltered Jews.
Hitler came to power in 1933. In December of that year, Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, the "Lion of Munich," delivered a sermon in defense of biblical Judaism. When the persecution escalated, he spoke more directly to the point:
History teaches us that God always punished the tormenters of the Jews. No Roman Catholic approves of the persecutions of Jews in Germany."6
In October 1938, the chief rabbi of Munich told Cardinal Faulhaber that he feared his synagogue would be burned. The Cardinal provided a truck to transport the Torah scrolls and other important things from the synagogue for safekeeping in his palace. Nazi mobs gathered outside the palace, screaming, "Away with Faulhaber, the Jew- friend!"7
But Faulhaber and other bishops, including Conrad Cardinal Count von Preysing of Berlin and Bishop Clemens August Count von Galen of Muenster, continued to speak out in defense of the Jews in sermons and pastoral letters. (It was von Galen who went to Rome to plan the resettlement in Sao Paulo with Pope Pius XI.)
Faulhaber's books were banned, and in 1934 and 1938 attempts were made to assassinate him. He continued to preach against the Nazis until the end of the war.
In Stuttgart, the Resistance developed a well-organized underground to help the Jews to escape. In Hamburg, Raphaels Verein, a Catholic lay association, helped Jews to emigrate until they were shut down by the Gestapo in 1941.
Also in 1941, Fr. Bernard Lichtenberg, a priest at the St. Hedwig Cathedral Church in Berlin, declared in a sermon that he would include the Jews in his daily prayers "because synagogues have been set afire and Jewish businesses have been destroyed."8 He was arrested for subversive activities and sent first to prison and then to a concentration camp. He asked to be sent to the Jewish ghetto at Lodz, but died on his way to Dachau.
Caritas Catholica, another lay organization, was originally founded to help non- Aryan Christians, but extended its mission to assisting Jews. In the spring of 1943 the Gestapo arrested its leadership, including Dr. Gertrude Luckner. "[T]he Gestapo demanded to know who was behind her operation. 'My Christian conscience,' she told them."9 She was sent to Ravensbrueck concentration camp, where she survived until the Allied liberators arrived.
Almost incredibly, after ten years of Nazi rule there was still an organized Resistance in Germany. In 1943 Count Helmuth von Moltke, its leader, wrote to a friend in England: "We now have nineteen guillotines working at full speed."10
A close friend of von Moltke, Fr. Alfred Delp, SJ, had been asked by his provincial the previous year to join the Kresau Circle, "a discussion group including Lutherans and Catholics, aristocrats and labor leaders, that met to plan how German society could be reconstructed according to Christian principles after the war."11 Von Molke was the founder of the Kresau group.
Father Delp had written and edited for the Jesuit journal Stimmen der Zeit ("Voices of the Time") until the Gestapo closed it in 1941. Now he helped Jews to escape, often guiding them to the Swiss border; and he urged others, especially priests, to help also. His writings and his sermons emphasize Christ as "the judge of history, the only ruler in whose service men can find the free and truly human life they long for; any other course means delusion and ultimate tragedy."12
When the German generals' plot to assassinate Hitler failed in July 1944, the members of the Kresau Circle were arrested. On Christmas Day 1945, after nearly eighteen months of interrogation and torture, Fr. Delp was led from his prison cell to be hanged. To his friend the prison chaplain he said, "In half an hour, I'll know more than you do!"13
Of the 240,000 Jews who remained in Germany and Austria when the killing began, 7,000 survived.
The rescue and shelter of Polish Jews was probably the most difficult and dangerous task of the war. Jews formed the largest percentage of the population in Poland of all the occupied countriesten percent, three million people; and they were nearly all unassimilated, with distinctive dress, speech and manners. Only twelve percent spoke Polish. And although in other countries people were often killed for helping Jews, only in Poland was there an official death penalty for doing so.
There was some indigenous anti-Semitism in Poland. There are cases, however, of the war changing the minds of hostile or indifferent Poles. Emanuel Ringelblum, a Jewish historian whose Warsaw diary is one of the most important primary sources in Holocaust studies, wrote during the riots of October 1939: "Today I witnessed schoolboys from the Konarski High School beating up Jews in the streets. Several Gentiles intervened . Such things happen frequently of late: Poles protesting against assaults by Gentiles, a thing unheard of in prewar Poland."14
Ringelblum and others report many specific instances of even prominent anti- Semites undergoing changes of heart as the occupation proceeded. One Witold Rudnicki, a member of the anti-Semitic National-Democratic Party, became the commander of an Underground unit. He turned his Warsaw apartment into a shelter for Jews; he was killed during the autumn 1944 revolt. Another National Democrat, Alexsander Witaszewicz, sheltered and fed nine Jews on his estate for two years. Franciszek Kowalski, a lawyer from Zakopane who hid a Jewish girl in his home, explained afterwards: "I was an anti- Semite before the war. Hitler's bestiality towards the Jews changed me."15
Ringelblum, his family and twenty other Jews would later escape together from the burning Warsaw ghetto and be hidden by a gardener, Pan Wolski. Wolski dug an underground bunker for them and erected a greenhouse on top of it. An informer told the Gestapo; the Jews and Wolski were all killed.
Hitler regarded Poles as only slightly superior to Jews; he was resolved to exterminate Polish culture and identity. His first step was the elimination of the intelligentsiaincluding the clergy. By the end of 1940 in several regions only ten or twenty percent of the priests remained; the rest were dead or in concentration camps. Bishop Kozal of Vladislava was in Dachau; many other bishops were in exile or in prison. By the end of the war several more Polish bishops would be sent to the camps, 3,000 Polish clergy would have died in them and 800 would be liberated from them by the Allies.
It isn't possible to know exactly how many had already been killed or imprisoned by November 1940, but Archbishop Andreas Szeptycki of Lwow must have had some idea. Nevertheless he publicly threatened "with Divine punishment" any who "shed innocent blood," and ordered those who cooperated with the Nazis excluded from the sacraments. Szeptycki also led by example: he hid 21 Jews in his own cathedral, and 183 more in convents and monasteries. "Approximately 500 monks and nuns had knowledge of these facts, but in spite of the death penalty for sheltering Jews and financial rewards for all informers, none of the Metropolitan's wards fell into Nazi hands."16
As Archbishop Szeptycki followed the Pope's lead, his priests followed his. Emanuel Ringelblum noted in his diary entry of December 31, 1940 that the priests of all of Warsaw's churches warned their people against anti-Semitism.
By the end of 1943, some 650 Jewish children were hidden in Warsaw churches and convents. According to Lapide, in Poland as a whole, hundreds of Catholic clergy and religious saved at least 15,000perhaps as many as 50,000.
The ghettos and camps seem to have focused Poles' attention on the sufferings of the Jews. There are records of priests exhorting their parishioners to help the nearby Jewish prisoners, and of the people responding by throwing packages of food and clothing over the walls and fences, or smuggling them innot only into the ghettos and labor camps, but even in some instances into the concentration camps.
Janina Bucholc-Bukolska worked in a small translating firm in Warsaw; she also managed a forging operation. Until the burning of the Warsaw ghetto, she produced birth certificates, marriage records, school diplomas, food ration cards and letters of recommendation from employers for Jews. Her desk was on the ground floor, within sight of the window. In the evenings she visited her neighbors and persuaded them to shelter Jews.
A Girl and a Half
Stefania Podgorska, the end of whose rescue story began this one, grew up on the country estate of her wealthy Polish grandfather. In 1938, she went with her mother to visit her older sisters in Przemysl, a city in southeastern Poland with a Jewish population of about 20,000.
Stefania liked the city. She remained there when her mother returned to the country; she found a job in a small grocery store, and became friendly with the owner, Lea Adler Diamant. Mrs. Diamant was an elderly Jewish woman with four sons, a hospitalized daughter and an ailing husband.
The Nazis occupied Przemysl in 1941, and began to enforce the usual laws. "Stefania's reaction," Fogelman reports, "at age sixteen, was pure perplexity. What was behind this? Was there something wrong with the Jewish people that she, in her inexperience, had never known? Or were the Germans just being unfair? With a mixture of sadness, fear and confusion, Stefania helped the Diamant family to pack their belongings and move into the ghetto."17
The Diamants asked her to live in the apartment over their store, so she could keep an eye on it. Her six-year-old sister, Helena, came to join her. Stefania took a job in a local factory; she bought food and smuggled it to the Diamants regularly.
Then the deportations began. Mrs. Diamant was sent to Auschwitz. One of her sons, Isaac, was moved to the Lvov concentration camp; he was killed while trying to escape. Two other sons, Joseph and Henek, were deported from the ghetto. They jumped from the moving train. Joseph had a loaf of bread that Stefania had smuggled to him hidden in his shirt. When he jumped, he was impaled on a spike sticking out of a telegraph pole. The bread saved him: only his clavicle was broken. Two days later he appeared at his old homeat Stefania's door. After she nursed him back to health, he returned to the ghetto and brought back a young woman named Danutta, who was engaged to marry Henek.
Joseph and Danutta took over the smuggling of food to the ghetto. Henek had returned there; and there were many other friends still inside. Stefania continued to work at the factory; she also found a place--a thirteen-mile walk each way--where she could sell her clothes for milk and butter.
But there was little point in keeping their friends in the ghetto alive until the Nazis got around to sending them to Auschwitz. Stefania went to look for a house for them in the deserted Jewish quarter. Fogelman records her memory of that day:
I didn't know where to go. Everything was empty, and I was scared. It was so ghostly. And thenyou will laugh when I say this, reallythen I heard a voice. I heard a voice. While I stood there thinking, asking, 'Dear God, where am I supposed to go now for an apartment? Where?' I looked around and I was frightened, because nobody was there. And then I heard the voice. Some voice told me, 'Don't be afraid. Go a little farther. After this corner, two women are standing, women who clean the street. They are supporting themselves on their brooms. Ask them for an apartment. They will tell you.'
And I felt like a little push, and the voice said, 'Go and ask for a janitor there.'"
Stefania walked past the corner and found the two women with their brooms. She asked them about an apartment. They told her of a cottage; they told her to ask for the janitor, who would show it to her.
Stefania rented the cottage. She, Joseph and Danutta brought Henek, a neighbor and two children there from the ghetto. Two Jewish businessmen, the fathers of the two children, were to follow. They planned to bribe the Polish mailman to bring them in his cart.
Ten minutes after these men were due to arrive, two German soldiers and two Polish policemen appeared in front of Stefania's house. They remained there for three hours, and the mail cart did not come. Over the protests of her guests, Stefania went out to talk to the policemen. They told her that the Germans had been warned that two wealthy Jews would be leaving the ghetto and coming to her street.
The Germans ordered us to catch the Jews, but they don't trust us. We don't believe any Jews are coming. So they're watching us watching them."
Stefania managed to smile; then she walked to a nearby church and begged God to send the soldiers and the policemen away.
When she returned to the cottage, the soldiers and the policemen were gone, and the two men had arrived. The rest of Stephania's thirteen guests would escape the ghetto during its final liquidation, and find their way to the cottage. Stephania would feed and clothe them all, and keep them hidden from the German nurses who occupied that one room the Nazis had taken.
Helena helped. Now seven, she was quick and nimble; she became expert at smuggling messages to and from the ghetto. Once she was chased by a gang of boys. As she ran, she tore the note she carried into small pieces and swallowed them. The boys caught her and beat her.
A few weeks before the end of the war, the hospital across the street was closed and the nurses moved west. When Przemysl was liberated, two Soviet soldiers came to the cottage, hoping to barter chocolate for vodka. When Stefania's guests heard that the Germans had retreated, they came out of hiding. The soldiers were astonished. "Two girls," they said to each other. "Not even twoa girl and a half."18
There were 250,000 Jews in Lithuania at the beginning of the war; 50,000 survived. Lithuania's particular horror was bands like the Klimatis unit, a group of thugs organized around an undistinguished journalist of that name to stage a pogrom in Kaunas. This first pogrom was so successful, similar units were organized in Vilna and Shavli. Some were exported to Latvia and Estonia; there and in Lithuania they killed nearly 150,000 Jews.
Church and Underground leaders protested. Priests, peasants and nuns hid many Jews. Some Jews found refuge in the forests, where people brought them food and clean clothes. Anna Simaite, a noted literary critic, was in charge of the cataloguing department at Vilna University.
When the Germans forced the Jews of Vilna into a ghetto," she recalls, "I could no longer go on with my work. I could not remain in my study. I could not eat.... I had to do something. I realized the danger involved, but it could not be helped. A force much stronger than myself was at work."19
Non-Jews were not allowed in the ghetto. Anna Simaite went to the German authorities and got permission to go in to retrieve books that Jewish students had borrowed. She found people outside the ghetto who would shelter Jewish children, and spirited them out. Helped by a small group of friends, she procured forged identity papers for Jews who climbed over the ghetto wall, and smuggled in food, small arms and ammunition. Besides the library books that were her ostensible mission, she carried out letters from ghetto leaders and diaries of ghetto life. The latter invaluable records she hid in the university vaults.
Jadzia Duniec, another Catholic young woman, also brought weapons to the Szeinbaum fighting unit in Vilna, and served as courier and liaison between the ghetto and the outer world. She was captured and executed by the Nazis.
Joseph Stokauskas was in charge of the archives of Vilna; he hid twelve Jews in his office. Dr. Marc Dworzecki, who kept a chronicle of the Vilna ghetto, mentions fifteen other Lithuanian scholars and professors who helped Jews.20
At a Benedictine convent near Vilna there were seven nuns. The Mother Superior was only 35. The nuns established an underground railroad from the Vilna ghetto to their convent; they hid escaping Jews there and in other places. They smuggled knives, guns and even hand grenades into the ghetto; the Mother Superior acted as liaison between the ghetto leaders and the Underground outside.21
Hiding to Survive22 is a moving and informative collection of stories of Jewish children sheltered during the Holocaust. The story of Debora Biron offers a rare glimpse of the workings of a rescue network.
In 1941 Debora Biron was six years old. She had been living with her parents in a ghetto near Kovno for a year and a half. One night her mother told her that when the forced-labor detail returned through the ghetto gate, she and another little girl would pass among them and leave. They were to look for a woman in a black coat with a white flower.
The two girls did as they were told. The woman, a Lithuanian Catholic who became known to them only as Nastasha, tossed them into a hay wagon. A German officer standing nearby told her, "I know what you are up to. You have exactly one minute to get out of here with the children, or I will shoot."23
Natasha drove the wagon for three hours to a farm. She left Debora there, and took the other child to another farm.
At first Natasha often came to visit Debora. She told her that there were several other farms in the area that were sheltering other children. After a month, Natasha took Debora to another farm, which belonged to people called Karashka. Eventually Debora's mother joined her there; another Jewish woman and her daughter came, as well, and that child's godparents, and a man named Herman whom Debora remembered from the ghetto.
When the Nazi persecution intensified, the Karashkas and their guests built a bunker next to the cellar. They worked at night, loading dirt into sacks which Mr. Karashka dumped in his fields, and slept during the day.
When the Soviet air raids began, the Karashkas started sleeping in the regular cellar. Debora Biron vividly recalls one night when German soldiers came to the farm. Herman closed the trap door of the bunker just in time.
'Who's down there?' a soldier shouted.
'It's only my child and me,' Mrs. Karashka called from the cellar under the kitchen.
'Where's your husband?' he yelled.
'He's at the front,' she said.
The soldier went downstairs and took a look for himself. None of us dared to breathe. When the soldier was satisfied with what he saw, he and the others left .
Now I could better understand how the Karashkas were protecting us. All along Natasha and my mother had told me what wonderful people they were, and although I liked them a lot, I didn't realize until that night how they were risking their lives for us."24
An elderly Lithuanian peasant couple, known only as Thaddaeus and Barbara, had many Jewish guests in their cottage in the forest. They "spent many hours foraging for food to maintain those whom they sheltered.... 'I only want to prove that not all Lithuanians are like Klimatis,' " Thaddeus told them.25
The Low Countries
Many Holocaust historians record Hitler's apoplectic vituperations about Pope Pius XII. Holland's special horror was to serve as the stage for Hitler's definition of the terms of what he very evidently regarded as a personal contest of wills between himself and the Pope.
In May 1940 the Nazis occupied Holland and began to register Jews. The Catholic and Protestant clergy issued a joint protest. They would continue to protest until July 1942, when Hitler made a definitive close to the conversation.
In February 1941 the Nazis provoked a first anti-Jewish riot in Amsterdam. "They counted," says Lapide, "on the usual stage-managed pogrom carried out by local rowdies, directed by a few expert SS men. They did not expect the boys of the adjacent Jordaan quarter in Amsterdam to march in serried ranks to the center of the Jewish quarter and to fightand to beatthe goons who attempted to engineer the anti-Jewish riot."26
Ten days later the Nazis deported the first 425 Jews. A general strike was called in Amsterdam and six other cities to protest the deportations; more than 18,000 workers walked out. Martial law was declared; the strike was broken. The persecution escalated.
In June 1942, the badgethe yellow star of Davidwas instituted. Dutch Christians wore yellow flowers on their clothes; in Rotterdam signs appeared, reminding residents to show respect for Jews wearing stars.
In July 1942, converted Jews and Jews married to Gentiles were exempted from deportation on the condition that the protests cease. The Protestants complied. The Archbishop of Utrecht issued another protest; the Germans deported all Catholics of Jewish blood, including Edith Stein. To make the message very clear, the Nazis continued to exempt the 9,000 Protestant Jews. Many Holocaust historians cite this as the definitive moment in which the Church understood that bold talk would only exacerbate the plight of the Jews.
In February 1943 massive deportations began throughout the country. With nothing left to lose, a pastoral letter was read in all Catholic churches, deploring the injustice and asserting the Church's obligation to testify to immutable laws. The pastoral cited the Pope's defense of the Jews, and concluded: "Should the refusal of collaboration require sacrifices from you, then be strong and steadfast in the awareness that you are doing your duty before God and your fellow men."27
To judge by the numbers, many Catholics heeded this admonition. By the end of the war, 110,000 Dutch Jews were deported; 10,000 were helped to escape; 40,000 were hidden. Of the latter, 15,000 survived. Forty-nine Catholic priests were killed for assisting Jews.
The Belgians did a far better job of rescuing Jews. On the eve of the occupation, there were 90,000 Jews in Belgium, including about 30,000 refugees from Germany and Austria. Approximately 65,000 survived.
The Nazis were no less determined to exterminate Jews in Belgium than in Holland. According to Lapide and Poliakov, there were two reasons for their relative failure in Belgium: Queen Elisabeth and Cardinal Joseph-Ernest van Roey appealed to Commander-in-Chief von Falkenhausen; and the bishops strongly supported rescue efforts.28 "It is forbidden to Catholics," van Roey said, "to collaborate in the formation of an oppressive government. It is obligatory for all Catholics to work against such a regime."29
It also seems to have made a significant difference that many municipal and police officials engaged in both active and passive resistance. They lost files and orders, "forgot" to cooperate with the Nazis and forged identity papers. Postal workers intercepted denunciations. Sometimes they warned the Jews concerned so they could flee; other times they simply destroyed the mail.
On April 19, 1943, Catholic railroad workers helped the Jewish Underground to derail a deportation train. Hundreds of Jews escaped and found refuge with farmers.
Bishop Kerkhofs of Liege ordered all his priests to assist the Jews; he hid the Rabbi of Liege in his own residence until the end of the war. "When the Germans came on a search," Lapide reports, "he disguised him in a soutaine and introduced him to the Gestapo as his private secretary."30 In his diocese some 650 Jews were successfully hidden by priests, monks and laymen.
Abbe Joseph Andre of Namurs rescued hundreds of Jewish children and sheltered them in convents and homesand in his own rectory. He was helped by the bishop, the Jesuits and the Sisters of Charity. City officials gave him forged papers and food for the children. One of the children he sheltered, Jacques Weinberg, recalls:
He [Fr. Andre] used to sit up all night, napping in his chair. He would not think of undressing and going to bed. There was the constant fear of a raid. If someone knocked on the door, Fr. Andre was on his feet. In a minute he had the children fleeing through a camouflaged exit to the neighboring house, where a doctor lived. All the neighbors cooperated. Without their help Fr. Andre could not have accomplished so much. The butchers of Namur, as well as the grocers and other merchants, provided him with food and necessities for the children."31
Father Edouard Froidure organized and ran a camp for children; he rescued 300 Jewish children before he was arrested and sent to Dachau, where he managed to survive until the camp's liberation.
Jeanne Damman, a young Catholic teacher before the War, served as principal of an underground school for Jewish children in Brussels. When the school closed because it had become too dangerous for the children to attend, she joined the Jewish Defense Committee. She rescued many children. The Jewish Defense Committee overall is credited with saving more than 2,000, and with procuring false identity papers for many more.
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Zion hid 200 Jewish children in several convents. Abbe Antoine de Breucker rescued 250 Jewish children and hid them with friendly families; he also helped 86 adults to escape and himself sheltered forty more. Fr. Bruno Reynders, a Benedictine from the Louvain area, saved 307 Jews.
There were 350,000 Jews in France at the beginning of the war. Of these, 150,000 were deported, of whom only 3,000 survived. The Vichy government cooperated with the Nazis from the top, but compliance was spotty at the local level.
In June 1942the same time the badge was ordered in Hollandthe Germans directed all Jews in France to wear the star of David. The French reaction was similar to the Dutch, if not stronger. Bishops pinned yellow stars to their robes. Priests uncovered their heads to Jews in the streets. Lay people stopped Jews walking on the sidewalks to kiss them, and offered their seats in trains and buses to them. Many Frenchmen wore yellow handkerchiefs in their breast pockets and carried bouquets of yellow flowers. Some of these were arrested as "saboteurs," and sent to concentration camps, where they wore white armbands inscribed, "ami des Juifs."
Nazi officials stationed in Paris, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Limoges, Clermont- Ferrand, Lyons, Nice and Toulouse reported lack of cooperation or even outright interference with the persecution of Jews on the part of local French police and officials. They complained that these officials would warn Jews who were about to be arrested, so that they could disappear.32
By mid-July 1942, the Nazis were impatient at their lack of progress. They scheduled a round-up of the Jews remaining in Paris for July 16. The French police and city officials warned the Jews. Still, the Germans rounded up 22,000, including 4,000 children. The French were horrified; ad hoc resistance and organized Resistance were strengthened.
Archbishop Saliege of Toulouse, Bishop Theas of Montauban and Cardinal Gerlier of Lyons, the Primate of France, protested vehemently. Bishop Theas was imprisoned. Saliege's pastoral letter was banned by the Prefect of Toulouse, but still read in some 400 churches. It became known as the "Bombe Saliege." The Vichy government warned the Nuncio's deputy that if Jews were hidden in churches or monasteries they would be dragged out.
One night in September 1942, six stateless Jewish families were arrested in Lyons. The French agents gave them the choice of bringing their children along or leaving them behind; they had an hour to decide. They woke up Cardinal Gerlier, who accepted the nine children. Four days later the Prefect of Lyons was ordered to Gerlier's residence by Eichmann to pick up the children. They were gone. When the Prefect demanded their address, Gerlier replied: "Monsieur le Prefet, I would not consider myself worthy to be the Archbishop of Lyons if I complied with your request. Good day."33
Cardinal Gerlier's aide, Fr. Elder Chaillet, SJ, was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with hiding eighty Jewish children. "Actually," Lapide writes, "he had hidden over two hundred, in various public institutions and religious homes, with the active assistance of his Cardinal, who spirited them away as Chaillet went to jail."34 Chaillet's friends and the Cardinal's took over his work. Chaillet was later released; by the end of the war he had hidden 1,800 Jews in monasteries and farms.
Also in September 1942, the military commander of Lyons, General de St. Vincent, refused to obey an order for mass arrests of Jews; he was dismissed.
Many French bishops protested the persecution; some were deported. Archbishop Gerlier issued pastoral letters to all Catholics of France, urging them to give the Jews every assistance, and to refuse to surrender the hidden children of deportees.35
The Catholics of France obeyed their shepherds. A pro-Nazi French newspaper of Lyons printed the following: "Every Catholic family shelters a Jew. The French authorities provide Jews with false identification papers and passports. Priests help them across the Swiss frontier. In Toulouse, Jewish children have been concealed in Catholic schools; the civilian Catholic officials receive intelligence of a scheduled deportation and advise a great number of the refugee Jews about it, and the result is that about 50 percent of the undesirables escape."36
In 1943 the Vichy government ordered the arrest of all Catholic priests who sheltered Jews. Within two months 120 were arrested and deported. Four hundred police officers were also arrested, and twenty shot, for refusing to round up Jews. More priests took over for the ones who were deported. According to Leon Poliakov, "Priests, members of the religious orders and laymen were rivals in giving asylum, thereby saving, as Mauriac wrote, the honor of French Catholics."37
In Nice, which was occupied by the Italian Army during most of the war, Police Prefect Andre Chaigneau invited representatives of the Jewish community to his office to tell them, "I will not allow any arbitrary acts against the Jews; nor will I leave the privilege of defending Jews to the Italians."38
In some countries Jews formed largely separate Resistance units; in France they were almost entirely integrated into the regular Resistance. Poliakov recalls that a French duke came to London to join the Free French volunteers. Advised to change his name to protect his family, he chose the name Levy "as a gesture of solidarity."39
In 1942 the Peres de Notre Dame de Sion, headed by Father Superior Charles Devaux, organized a temporary shelter from which they would transfer Jews to the homes of workmen and peasants, and to convents and monasteries. Eventually the Gestapo brought Fr. Devaux in; an officer slapped him and warned him to stop helping Jews. He continued his work until the end of the War, saving a total of 443 Jewish children and 500 adults.40
Father Marie-Benoit, a Capuchin, had served in World War I and been wounded at Verdun. After the war he earned a doctorate in theology at Rome; he also became a recognized authority on Judaism.
At the outbreak of the war, Fr. Marie-Benoit was stationed in Marseilles. In the cellar of the Capuchin monastery there, he organized a forging operation which produced hundreds of identity cards, baptismal certificates and other forms of identification. He and other Capuchins arranged the smuggling of Jews from Marseilles to Spain and Switzerlandthe routes were so well organized, groups left regularly twice each week and they organized several other rescue centers in the city.
In November 1942 the Nazis occupied the Free Zone of France, which included Marseilles. The routes to Spain and Switzerland were closed. Father Marie-Benoit turned his attention to the Riviera and Haute-Savoie, then occupied by the Italians. He went to Nice, and persuaded some Italian officials to permit Jews to cross into the Italian Zone.
The German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, protested to Mussolini, who sent General Guido Lospinoso to Nice as Commissioner of Jewish Affairs. But Fr. Marie-Benoit paid a call on General Lospinoso, and the Jews continued to cross into the Italian Zone; only a relative handful were caught by the French. A record of Fr. Marie- Benoit's conversation with General Lospinoso would constitute the Grail of Holocaust rescue studies, but none has ever been found.
This time the German government protested Fr. Marie-Benoit's activities directly to Rome; in June 1943 he was summoned to the Vatican. He was granted an audience with Pius XII, although it is not clear in how much detail he explained his ideas to the Holy Father. In any case, the relevant Vatican authorities agreed to allow Fr. Marie- Benoit to negotiate with the Spanish government for the repatriation of all French Jews of Spanish ancestry, and with the Italian, British and U.S. governments for the transfer of 50,000 Jews remaining in the South of France to Morocco, Algiers and Tunisia.
But the negotiations took time. Mussolini was deposed on July 26; the successor Badoglio government agreed to Fr. Marie-Benoit's proposals, but surrendered to the Allies in September, three days before "E-Day" (for evacuation). The Germans entered the Italian Zone of France. Some Jews were able to cross into Switzerland and Italy; thousands were lost.
Father Marie-Benoit did succeed with the Spanish part of his plan. He returned to the South of France, with authority from the Spanish government to decide which French Jews qualified as being of Spanish descent. He saved 2,600; there is no record of how many of them actually had any Spanish blood.
Hardly anyone could outwit the Gestapo forever, though. Eventually Fr. Marie- Benoit's friends persuaded him that he would not be much use to anyone dead; he disappeared from France and resurfaced in northern Italy as Fr. Benedetti. The director of the Committee to Assist Jewish Emigrants (Delegazione Assistanza Emigrati Ebrei, DELASEM) had been arrested by the Germans. Father "Benedetti" set up a new headquarters for DELASEM at the International College of the Capuchins, and inaugurated a forging operation there. He established liaison with Italian, Swiss, Hungarian, French and Roumanian officials, who helped with false identity papers for hundreds of Jews, and produced the equally necessary ration cards on his own. His office was raided several times by the Gestapo. Early in 1945, with the arrest, torture and execution of most of the rest of the DELASEM leadership, Fr. "Benedetti" was persuaded to go into hiding; thus against everyone's expectation he actually survived the war.41
As of the 1938 census, there were 57,000 Jews in Italy. Mussolini maintained for a while that Italian Fascism would have nothing to do with anti-Semitism, but eventually agreed to Hitler's demands. As in Vichy France, however, the Nazis often found local Italian officials unreliable. Police and town authorities who were supposed to round up Jews for deportation often just didn't get around to it. Some, like Mario di Nardis and Giovanni Palatucci, the police chiefs of Aquila and Fiume, actively resisted. Palatucci died in Dachau.
The Italian Army tended to view the roundup of Jews as infra dig. In Italian- occupied Yugoslavia, the Italian Army even protected Jews from the indigenous anti- Semites, the Ushtasis. One Italian armored unit rescued a group of Jews from them by hiding them in Italian tanks.
In Italian-occupied Greece there simply wasn't any persecution. The Germans demanded that at least the star of David badge be instituted; General Carlo Geloso, Commander of the Italian Eleventh Army, declined to enforce it. The Nazis later demanded deportations; the Italians refused.
As in France, the Nazis and Fascists were quite certain that Italian non- cooperation with the persecution was Church inspired. Robert Farinacci, editor of Regime Fascista, wrote: "The Church's obstruction of the practical solution of the Jewish problem constitutes a crime against the New Europe."42
Pope Pius XII continued to object to the persecution of the Jews. Following the ghastly aftermath of the Archbishop of Utrecht's protest in July 1942, however, he spoke far more obliquely. In his famous Christmas message of 1942, he spoke with sorrow and compassion of "those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked for death or progressive extinction."
Himmler's deputy, Reynhard Heydrich, interpreted this message as "one long attack on everything we stand for . He is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals."43
Pius also continued one of the programs begun by his predecessor: some 6,000 Jews obtained passports and visas on papal orders. Many were signed by the diplomats interned at Hospice Santa Marta. The Nazis' occupation of Rome in September 1943, however, called for more active measures. Pius ordered monasteries and convents all over Italy to open their enclosures to fleeing Jews. And the redoubtable Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty, Primo Notario of the Holy Office, put his organization, originally developed to assist escaping POWs, into high gear.
The Pimpernel of the Vatican
Hugh O'Flaherty had only a standard, modest Irish antipathy towards the British until he was in seminary; then some of his boyhood friends were killed by the Black and Tans.
O'Flaherty earned his bachelor's degree in theology in one year at the Urban College of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and was ordained in 1925. He served as vice rector of the college for the next two years, while earning doctorates in divinity, canon law and philosophy. After four years in the Vatican diplomatic service, he was appointed a notary of the Holy Office.
Although many people found him rough-edged, Msgr. O'Flaherty had a stunning success in Roman social high life; this would prove important during the Nazi occupation. He raised some eyebrows by becoming amateur golf champion of Italy diocesan priests of Rome were not allowed to play golf. Cardinal Ottaviani, however, liked and defended him.
Monsignor O'Flaherty got his start in smuggling and hiding refugees in the fall of 1942, when the Germans and Italians cracked down on prominent Jews and aristocratic anti-Fascists. Monsignor O'Flaherty had socialized with these people before the war; now he hid them in monasteries and convents, and in his own residencethe German College.
In the spring of 1943, his operation broadened to include escaped British POWs; and he acquired a most improbable partner, Sir Francis D'Arcy Godolphin Osborne, British Minister to the Vatican. The POWs would be safe in the Vatican, but as internees they would be unable to rejoin their fighting units. Sir D'Arcy's status prevented him from leaving the Vatican, so Msgr. O'Flaherty developed a network of apartments in Rome in which they could hide.
In September the Germans occupied Rome. The Italian game of "forgetting" to round up Jews was over.
According to Msgr. O'Flaherty's biographer, J.P. Gallagher, Vatican officials who had inclined to prudence and ordinary Italians who had been indifferent to the plight of the Jews were radicalized by the Gestapo. "Even the most conservative men in the Vatican were prepared now to give the trouble-shooting Monsignor quite a bit more rope."44
Monsignor O'Flaherty hid Jews in monasteries and convents, at Castel Gandolfo, in his old college of the Propaganda Fide, in the German College and in his network of apartments. Every evening, he stood in the porch of St. Peter's, in plain view both of the German soldiers across the piazza and of the windows of the Pope's apartments. Escaped POWs and Jews would come to him there. He would smuggle them across the piazza and through the German Cemetary to the college. Sometimes he would disguise them in the robes of a monsignor or the uniform of a Swiss Guard.
One Jew," Gallagher reports, "made his way to St. Peter's and, coming up to O'Flaherty at his usual post on the steps and drawing him deeper into the shadows, proceeded to unwind a solid gold chain that went twice around his waist. 'My wife and I expect to be arrested at any moment,' said the Jew. 'We have no way of escaping. When we are taken to Germany we shall die. But we have a small son; he is only seven and is too young to die in a Nazi gas chamber. Please take this chain and take the boy for us too. Each link of the chain will keep him alive for a month. Will you save him?'"45
Monsignor O'Flaherty improved upon this plan: he accepted the chain, hid the boy and procured false papers for the parents. At the end of the war, he returned the boy and the chain.
Colonel Herbert Kappler, Rome's Gestapo chief, set several traps for Msgr. O'Flaherty. Once he escaped by a rolling-block charge through Gestapo men and in at the doors of St. Mary Majorextraterritorial property of the Church. Another time, he was at the palace of Prince Filippo Doria Pamphili, who provided funds for his operations. The SS surrounded the palace; Msgr. O'Flaherty escaped to the basement, then up a coal chute and away in the coal truck that had been making a delivery.
Finally Colonel Kappler complained to Berlin. Monsignor O'Flaherty received an invitation to a reception at the Hungarian Embassy, with an implicit safe-conduct. There Baron von Weiszacker, the German Ambassador, told him: "Nobody in Rome honors you more than I do for what you are doing. But it has gone too far for us all. Kappler is waiting in the hall, feeling rather frustrated . I have told him that you will of course have safe-conduct back to the Vatican tonight. But if you ever step outside Vatican territory again, on whatever pretext, you will be arrested at once . Now will you please think about what I have said?"
O'Flaherty smiled down at von Weiszacker and replied: "Your Excellency is too considerate. I will certainly think about what you have said sometimes!"46
Of 9,700 Roman Jews, 1,007 were shipped to Auschwitz. The rest were hidden, 5,000 of them by the official Church3,000 in Castel Gandolfo, 200 or 400 (estimates vary) as "members" of the Palatine Guard and some 1,500 in monasteries, convents and colleges. The remaining 3,700 were hidden in private homes, including Msgr. O'Flaherty's network of apartments.
After the war, Colonel Kappler was sentenced to life in the Gaeta prison, between Rome and Naples. His only visitor was an Irish monsignor who came once a month. In 1959 Msgr. O'Flaherty baptized Herbert Kappler into the Catholic Church.
Elsewhere in Italy," Pinchas Lapide says, "thanks in part to the lifting of the enclosure at least 40,000 Italian Jews and others who had managed to flee to Italy were hidden and saved by humble priests, monks, farmers and laborers, dozens of whom lost their lives for sheltering them."47
Pinchas Lapide devotes ninety pages of Three Popes and the Jews to the Church's treatment of the Jews before the election of Pope Pius XI. He gives much credit to the many popes who forbade persecution, but convicts the papacy in general of failing both to eradicate overt anti-Semitism and to clarify points of Catholic teaching which were taken as excusing or even supporting it. After his careful, country-by-country account and analysis of the Holocaust itself, "What Pius XII did for Jews," he opens a section called, "What Pius XII did not do." Lapide believes that Pius ought to have used all his influence in favor of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine after the war: that is his entire criticism. As to the war years themselves, he quotes Leon Poliakov in conclusion: "[T]he Church's tireless humanitarian efforts in the face of the Hitler terror, with the approval and under the stimulus of the Vatican, can never be forgotten. We do not know what were the exact instructions sent by the Holy See to the churches in the different countries, but the coincidence of effort at the time of the deportations is proof that such steps were taken."48
Certainly many Catholics turned their backs on the Jews; but 860,000 Jews survived because many others did not. And those who did help were following the teaching and the example of their Pope. There is an established consensus to this effect among Jewish scholars. Speaking to 206 U.S. Jewish leaders in Miami in 1987, Pope John Paul II said, "I am convinced that history will reveal ever more clearly and convincingly how deeply Pius XII felt the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to assist them during the Second World War."49
But the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews has accepted papers from Hans Herman Henryx, a German theologian who has said that the Church sowed the seeds of anti-Semitism and ignored the plight of the Jews during World War II. And The New Yorker prints an article claiming that Pope John Paul II is ashamed of Pope Pius XII; and some Catholic journals treat the piece seriously.
The author of the New Yorker article, James Carroll, a former priest, had at least the honesty to indicate a likely motive: he wants the Church to change its mind about "all the questions arising from sexualityabortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, celibacy, women priests ." Pius XII is a splendid symbol of the old Church, the unreformed Church. He cannot be allowed to have engaged in humanitarian heroics, or to have ordered the hierarchy and the laity to do the same; obedience to him cannot be allowed as a motive for the Catholic heroes of the Holocaust.
Lapide does blame the Church for not eradicating anti-Semitism before the Holocaust. But he concludes that the precipitating element was not Christianity, but rather the weakening of Christian belief and practice. Hitler, he says, knew that the Church was his enemy. He used the epithet, "Christ killers," to arouse hatred against the Jews, "but he ultimately killed them to rid the world of Christ and the 'Christ- givers.'"50
Israel has enacted strict legislation as to the qualifications of "Righteous Gentiles," those who voluntarily underwent personal risk to save Jews. For each person who meets these standards, a tree is planted along the Avenue of the Righteous which leads to Heroes and Martyrs' Memorial. More than 10,000 such trees had been planted, each bearing the name of a rescuer and a quotation from the Talmud: "Whoever saves a single soul, it is as if he had saved the whole world."
When Pius XII died, open letters appeared in the Israeli press, suggesting that 860,000 trees be planted in a Pope Pius XII Forest in the hills of Judaea.
1. Eva Fogelman, Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p.101.
2. Pinchas Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1967), p.110.
3. ibid., p.120.
4. ibid., p.129.
5. ibid., p.138.
6. Philip Friedman, Their Brothers' Keepers (New York: Holocaust Library, 1978), p.93.
8. ibid., p.94.
9. Fogelman, p.197.
10. Sr. Margherita Marchione, Yours Is a Precious Witness (New York), Paulist Press, 1997, p.179.
11. Lucia S. Shen, "A Sermon on Power," Christian Order, March 1986, p.147.
13. ibid., p.146.
14. Friedman, p.112.
15. ibid., p.115.
16. Lapide, p.186.
17. Fogelman, p.89-90.
19. Friedman, p.22.
20. ibid., p.138.
21. ibid., p.26-27.
22. Maxine B. Rosenberg, Hiding to Survive (New York: Clarion Books), 1994.
23. ibid., p.130.
24. ibid., p.135.
25. Friedman, p.139
26. Lapide, p.198.
27. ibid., p.201.
28. Leon PoliakovHarvest of Hate (London: Elek Books), 1965, p.164; cited in Lapide, p.204.
29. Friedman, p.71.
30. Lapide, p.208.
31. Friedman, p.70.
32. ibid., p.46.
33. Lapide, p.192.
35. Friedman, p.50-51.
36. ibid., p.36.
37. Leon Poliakov, "Pope Pius XII and the Nazis," Jewish Frontier, April 1964; cited in Lapide, p.193.
38. Friedman, p.47.
39. ibid., p.48-49.
40. ibid., p.53-54.
41. Lapide, p.195-196.
42. Michael Schwartz, The Persistent Prejudice: Anti-Catholicism in America (TK: Our Sunday Visitor Press), 1984, p.246.
43. Lapide, p.137.
44. J.P. Gallagher, Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican New York: Coward-McCann), 1968, p.63.
45. ibid., p.61-62.
46. ibid., p.117-118.
47. Lapide, p.134.
48. Poliakov, Harvest of Hate, p.293.
49. New York Times, September 12, 1987, p.1.
50. Lapide, p.351.b
In 1938, Pope Pius XI condemned Italy's first anti-Jewish laws. A year earlier, the Nazi Foreign Office had itself condemned the Pope's encyclical, Mit brennender Sorge ("With burning sorrow"), calling it "a call to battle as it calls upon Catholic citizens to rebel against the authority of the Reich."
2 and 3) Debora Biron, ten years old, in 1946. During World War II she was rescued from the Nazis by a Lithuanian Catholic. (below, or wherever): Debora, now a travel agent, in 1993
4) Pope Pius XII at prayer. When Pius died in 1958, Israeli foreign minister (and future prime minister) Golda Meir had this to say: "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."
5) Msgr. Hugh O'Flaherty"the pimpernel of the Vatican"hid Jews in monasteries and conventsand in his own residence
6) London film producer Colin Lesslie, dressed in Msgr. O'Flaherty's robes in which he was smuggled into the Vatican
7) An aerial view of St. Peter's Square, where so much activity to rescue Jews took place
The Augustine Club at Columbia University, 1998
My Polish grandfather was a civil engineer. One day there was a knock on the door. The Nazis wanted him to help rebuild a bridge that was blown up by the Polish resistance. He refused and was taken away and shot.
Is it ever!
Haven't had time to read your entire post, will bump for later!
Check out the following:
"The Jewish Community publicly acknowledged the wisdom of Pope Pius XIIs diplomacy. In September 1945, Dr. Joseph Nathanwho represented the Hebrew Commissionstated "Above all, we acknowledge the Supreme Pontiff and the religious men and women who, executing the directives of the Holy Father, recognized the persecuted as their brothers and, with great abnegation, hastened to help them, disregarding the terrible dangers to which they were exposed." In 1958, at the death of Pope Pius XII, Golda Meir sent an eloquent message: "We share in the grief of humanity. When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace."
I am so sorry for your Grandfather and your family. Your Grandfather was a very brave man.
My father was US Army Aircorp, stationed in England. Flew missions over Normandy. I've heard estimates that 75% of these Airmen were killed.
That generation is amazing. I don't think most of the baby boom generation could be as hardy or as heroic. Their soul is weakened.
THANK YOU, THAT IS A VERY GOOD SITE. ANOTHER GOOD SITE IS
Pope Pius XII secretly rescued many Jews from the Nazis, while safeguarding the lives of many Catholics and other Christians at the same time by not being "in Hitler's face". The Vatican was in a tight spot, especially after the Germans invaded fascist Italy, and since Rome was occupied by the Axis powers. Any open dissent would have led to the swift persecution of Catholics (already going on to a lesser degree) and the possible looting and destruction of the Vatican itself.
Since the Church has no standing army, it did what it could for the Jews, when it could, and to think otherwise is simply wrong. A Jewish Rabbi recently debunked a lot of the fallacious myths about the Catholic Church and Pope Pius XII during WWII in his book.
That "buck-toothed bubbas" comment was out of line. And that is an excellent book.
Who are the "buck-toothed bubbas"? Pleaes explain.
They're still wrong, but they're quite glib about it.
"That generation is amazing. I don't think most of the baby boom generation could be as hardy or as heroic. Their soul is weakened."
You may be right, but then again, the baby boom generation wasn't shaped in quite the same ways (depression, WWII and also culturally a stronger sense of faith). Sometimes adversity brings out character and strength.
My comment can mean anything you want it to mean, and whatever you think it means, you are probably right. My apologies to the good ones, this does not apply to you, only to the usual suspects. I will say no more.
Thanks for the clarification.
I am glad to hear it. I understand why you may feel the need for a preemptive strike, but when it comes to debate, always let your enemies show their hand first. BTW, you have mail.
NEW STUDIES DOCUMENT PIUS XII'S OPPOSITION TO NAZISM
Culture/Society News Keywords: HOLOCAUST, ANTI-CATHOLICISM
Published: 15 March 2000 Author: Zenit News Agency
Posted on 03/18/2000 07:29:39 PST by big'ol_freeper
15-Mar-2000 -- ZENIT News Agency
NEW STUDIES DOCUMENT PIUS XII'S OPPOSITION TO NAZISM
Revelations of Russian Historian Evghenija Tokareva
ROME, (ZENIT.org).- Following the Pope's Universal Prayer for Forgiveness (March 12), the media has given space to the opinion of persons who criticize the Church's role during the Holocaust of the Jews, carried out during the Second World War. Specifically, critics point to Pius XII, and his alleged silence on the tragedy. However, every day new proofs appear of the impressive action organized by this Pope to rescue the greatest number of Jews persecuted by the Third Reich.
In this regard, one of the latest historical testimonies is that of Russian historian Evghenija Tokareva. In a book entitled "Fascism, the Church, and the Catholic Movement in Italy: 1922-1943," published by the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy for Sciences, the author states that Pius XII's attitude toward Nazism "was dictated by prudence" and assures that "the Vatican was not subject to an anti-Jewish policy."
This is the first Russian monograph dedicated to the topic. The author is a young historian who is already famous for other studies, outstanding among which is a recent essay on Christian Churches and Totalitarianism, which appeared in a volume including several collaborators and entitled, "Totalitarianism in 20th Century Europe," also published by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Tokareva, who is very familiar with the tragic experience of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was subjected to another type of totalitarianism, analyzes the actions of the Catholic Church in Italy during the fascist era with a critical spirit and extensive documentation. He pays special attention to the "Catholic subculture" and the role it played in the fall of that dictatorship.
In his conclusion, Tokareva writes: "It must be acknowledged that fascism did not succeed in subjecting the Church, nor was it able to integrate it in its political system." This is due to the establishment, independence and strength of the Church and its organizations and to the limitations "at the juridical and ideological levels that the totalitarianism of the fascist State was experiencing."
Tokareva thoroughly analyzes the Church's opposition to anti-Semitism, and reveals that fascism attempted to sow confusion by stating that its origins were in Christianity itself. In regard to Pius XII's attitude, who chose to stimulate effective aid to the Jews rather than make verbal pronouncements, Tokareva believes that it was a prudent decision, because by so doing he avoided vengeance that could have affected Catholics and the Jews themselves, which is exactly what happened in the Netherlands. When the Dutch Bishops criticized the Nazis, the persecution extended to include Jewish converts. Edith Stein was martyred as a direct result of that decision.
The Russian historian refers to the Pope's prudence not only as characterizing his relations with Nazism, but also with the Soviet Union, another regime responsible for horrific massacres. When Goebbels silenced Vatican Radio transmissions in 1941, he said they were "more dangerous for us than those of the communists themselves," Tokareva added, to emphasize her thesis.
A Righteous Gentile: Pope Pius XII and the Jews
By Rabbi David Dalin, Ph.D.
About The Author
Rabbi David G. Dalin, a widely-published scholar of American Judaism and the history of Christian-Jewish Relations, is the author or co-author of five books, including Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience, published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 1997 and, most recently, The President of the United States and the Jews. His article, "Pius XII and the Jews," was published in the February 26, 2001 issue of the Weekly Standard, and was reprinted in the August-September issue of Inside the Vatican, published in Rome. Rabbi Dalin is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the journal First Things, and a member of the Board of Governors of Sacred Heart University's Center for Christian Jewish understanding. He is now writing a new book, tentatively entitled: Two Popes and the Jews: Pius XII and John Paul II.
In recent years, Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII in 1939, has been the subject of considerable public criticism, and even vilification, for his alleged failure to speak out against Hitler during the Holocaust. Pope Pius' alleged "silence," in the face of the worst Nazi atrocities, has led some of his harshest critics to accuse him of being a Nazi sympathizer or an anti-Semite. In 1999, the British journalist John Cornwell created an international sensation with the publication of his best-selling attack on Pius XII, vilifying Eugenio Pacelli as "Hitler's Pope."
The past couple of years have seen the publication of eight more new books dealing with Pius XII and the Holocaust. To be sure, Pius has had both his defenders and detractors. Four of these books, by the Catholic scholars Ronald J. Rychlak, Pierre Blet, Margherita Marchione and Ralph McInerny, have been written in defense of Pius, his life and legacy. They have succeeded, in varying degrees, in effectively responding to the allegations of Pius' critics.
Those vilifying Pius, and defaming his memory, however, have received the most media attention: Cornwell's Hitler's Pope, Garry Wills' Papal Sin and James Carroll's Constantine's Sword have become huge best sellers, generating much public discussion and debate. Susan Zucotti's unremitting attack on Pius, Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, published by Yale University Press, received heightened media attention as well.
For Jewish leaders of a previous generation, this harsh portrayal of Pope Pius XII, and the campaign of vilification against him, would have been a source of profound shock and sadness. From the end of World War II until at least five years after his death, Pope Pius enjoyed an enviable reputation amongst Christians and Jews alike. At the end of the war, Pius XII was hailed as "the inspired moral prophet of victory," and "enjoyed near-universal acclaim for aiding European Jews."
Numerous Jewish leaders, including Albert Einstein, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, and Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, expressed their public gratitude to Pius XII, praising him as a "righteous gentile," who had saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. In his meticulously researched and comprehensive 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews, the Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, who had served as the Israeli Counsel General in Milan, and had spoken with many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors who owed their life to Pius, provided the empirical basis for their gratitude, concluding that Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands." To this day, the Lapide volume remains the definitive work, by a Jewish scholar, on the subject.
The campaign of vilification against Pope Pius can be traced to the debut in Berlin in February 1963 of a play, by a young, Protestant, left-wing West German writer and playwright, Rolf Hochhuth. The Deputy, in which Hochhuth depicts Pacelli as a Nazi collaborator, guilty of moral cowardice and "silence" in the face of the Nazi onslaught, is a scathing indictment of Pope Pius XII's alleged indifferences to the plight of European Jewry during the Holocaust.
Hochhuth's play ignited a public controversy about Pius XII that continues this day. Despite the fact that The Deputy was a purely fictional and highly polemical play, which offered little or no historical evidence for its allegations against Pope Pius XII, it was widely discussed and acclaimed. Indeed, it inspired a new generation of revisionist journalists and scholars, who were intent on discrediting the well-documented efforts of Pope Pius XII to save Jews during the Holocaust. Their denunciation of Pius received widespread publicity with the commercial success of Hitler's Pope, in which John Cornwell denounced him as "the most dangerous churchman in modern history," without whom "Hitler might never have been able to press forward with the Holocaust."
Although an unusually harsh and bitter judgment, it was one with which Pius XII's other recent detractors, such as Wills and Zucotti, implicitly concur. Moreover, in their persistent efforts to vilify Pius, and defame his memory, his detractors have largely dismissed or completely ignored Pinchas Lapide's seminal and comprehensive study that so conclusively documents the instrumental role played by Pope Pius XII in rescuing and sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.
The Historical Record: What Pius XII Did for the Jews
Despite allegations and misrepresentations to the contrary, it can now be documented conclusively that Pope Pius XII was responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Although the villainous "silence" of the Pope has been repeatedly alleged since the early 1960's, there is much historical evidence to confirm that he was not silent, that before and after he became Pope he spoke out against Hitler and that he was almost universally recognized, especially by the Nazis themselves, as an unrelenting opponent of the Nazi regime.
Pius XII publicly and privately warned of the dangers of Nazism. Throughout World War II, he spoke out on behalf of Europe's Jews. When Pius learned of the Nazi atrocities in Poland, he urged the bishops of Europe to do all they could to save the Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution.
On January 19, 1940, at the Pope's instruction, Vatican radio and L'Osservatore Romano revealed to the world "the dreadful cruelties of uncivilized tyranny" that the Nazis were inflicting on Jewish and Catholic Poles. The following week, the Jewish Advocate of Boston reported the Vatican radio broadcast, praising its "outspoken denunciation of German atrocities in Nazi [occupied] Poland, declaring they affronted the moral conscience of mankind."
In his 1940 Easter homily, Pius XII condemned the Nazi bombardment of defenseless citizens, aged and sick people, and innocent children. On May 11, 1940, he publicly condemned the Nazi invasions of Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg and lamented "a world poisoned by lies and disloyalty and wounded by excesses of violence." In June 1942, Pius spoke out against the mass deportation of Jews from Nazi-occupied France, further instructing his Papal Nuncio in Paris to protest to Marshal Henri Petain, Vichy France's Chief of State, against "the inhuman arrests and deportations of Jews from the French occupied zone to Silesia and parts of Russia."
The London Times of October 1, 1942, explicitly praises him for his condemnation of Nazism and his public support for the Jewish victims of Nazi terror. "A study of the words which Pope Pius XII has addressed since his accession," noted the Times, "leaves no room for doubt. He condemns the worship of force and its concrete manifestations in the suppression of national liberties and in the persecution of the Jewish race."
Pius XII's Christmas addresses of 1941 and 1942, broadcast over Vatican radio to millions throughout the world, also help to refute the fallacious claim that Pope Pius was "silent." Indeed, as The New York Times described Pius' 1941 Christmas address in its editorial the following day, it specifically applauded the Pope, as a "lonely" voice of public protest against Hitler: "The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas In calling for a 'real new order' based on 'liberty, justice, and love' the Pope put himself squarely against Hitlerism. Recognizing that there is no road open to agreement between belligerents 'whose reciprocal war aims and programs seem to be irreconcilable,' Pius XII left no doubt that the Nazi aims are also irreconcilable with his own conception of a Christian peace."
The Pope's Christmas message of 1941, as reported by The New York Times and other newspapers, was understood at the time to be a clear condemnation of Nazi attacks on Europe's Jews.
So, too, was the Pope's Christmas message of the following year. Pope Pius XII's widely-discussed Christmas message of December 24, 1942, in which he expressed his passionate concern "for those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or progressive extinction," was widely understood to be a very public denunciation of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. Indeed, the Nazis themselves interpreted the Pope's famous speech of Christmas 1942 as a clear condemnation of Nazism, and as a plea on behalf of Europe's Jews: "His [the Pope's] speech is one long attack on everything we stand for he is clearly speaking on behalf of the Jews he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice toward the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals."
In his recent history of the modern papacy, Professor Eamon Duffy of Magdalen College, Oxford University, substantiates the fact, ignored by Pius' critics, that the Nazi leadership viewed the Pope's 1942 Christmas message as an attack on Nazi Germany and as a defense of the Jews. "Both Mussolini and Ambassador Ribbentrop were angered by this [the Pope's December 24, 1942] speech," notes Duffy, "and Germany considered that the Pope had abandoned any pretence of neutrality. They felt that Pius had unequivocally condemned Nazi action against the Jews."
Critics of Pius minimize the significance of the Pope's 1942 Christmas message and fail to note (or analyze) the German reaction to the Pope's address. To do so, as Pius' defenders have aptly noted, would destroy their image of Pius as a "silent" Pope, and would demonstrate that the Nazis were very much aware of, and angered by, the Pope's condemnation of the Final Solution.
This awareness and danger on the part of the Nazis, moreover, had potentially dire consequences for the safety and security of Pope Pius XII during the remaining years of the war. The Pope's condemnation of Nazi actions against the Jews, led to considerable speculation at the time that Hitler would seek revenge on the papacy, and attack the Vatican.
There was, to be sure, ample historical precedent for Pius XII to have feared for his safety and security, if not his very life, should the Nazis be provoked to besiege the Vatican. As Rychlak has recently pointed out, the possibility of German invasion of Vatican City was very real: Napoleon had besieged the Vatican in 1809, capturing Pius VII at bayonet point and forcibly removing him from Rome. Pope Pius IX fled Rome for his life following the assassination of his chancellor, and Leo XIII was also driven into temporary exile during the late nineteenth century.
In fact, Hitler spoke publicly of wanting to enter the Vatican and "pack up that whole whoring rabble." It has long been known that at one point Hitler planned to kidnap the Pope and imprison him. And, as several scholars have noted, Pius XII knew that the Nazis had a plan to kidnap him. In addition to minutes from a meeting on July 26, 1943, in which Hitler openly discussed invading the Vatican, Ernst von Weizsacker, the German Ambassador to the Vatican, has written that he heard of Hitler's plan to kidnap Pius XII, and that he regularly warned the Pope and Vatican officials against provoking Berlin. So, too, the Nazi Ambassador to Italy, Rudolf Rahn, has described the kidnapping plot and attempts by Rahn and other Nazi diplomats to prevent it.
In critically assessing what actions Pius XII might have taken, but did not take, on behalf of the Jews of Europe, his defenders and critics alike point to his "failure" to excommunicate Hitler and other Nazi party leaders. Indeed, many of the Pope's "defenders," including this writer, wish (and believe) that papal excommunication should have at least been attempted. Such sentiments notwithstanding, there is abundant evidence to suggest that the excommunication of Hitler would have been a purely symbolic gesture, and would not have accomplished what its proponents hoped for. Hitler, Himmler and other Nazi leaders were, to be sure, baptized Catholics who were never excommunicated. Had Pius XII excommunicated them, his critics claim, such an act might have prevented the Holocaust, or significantly diminished it. On the contrary. There is much evidence to suggest that a formal order of excommunication might very well just have achieved the opposite.
When Don Luigi Sturzo, the founder of the Christian Democratic movement in wartime Italy, was asked by Leon Kubovny, an official of the World Jewish Congress during the Holocaust era, why the Vatican did not excommunicate Hitler, he recalled the cases of Napoleon and Queen Elizabeth I of England, "the last time a nominal excommunication was pronounced against a head of state." Pointing out that neither of them had "changed their policy after excommunication," he feared, Sturzo wrote Kubovny, "that in response to a threat of excommunication," Hitler would have even killed more Jews than he had. Writers and scholars familiar with Hitler's psychology share Sturzo's fear, believing that any provocation by the Pope, such as an order for excommunication, "would have resulted in violent retaliation, the loss of many more Jewish lives, especially those then under the protection of the Church, and an intensification of the persecution of Catholics."
This is, I believe, a compelling argument that cannot be ignored. It is one, moreover, that is supported by the testimony of Jewish Holocaust survivors, such as Marcus Melchior, the former Chief Rabbi of Denmark, who attests that "if the Pope had spoken out, Hitler would probably have massacred more than six million Jews and perhaps ten times ten million Catholics, if he had the power to do so."
His "failure" to excommunicate Hitler, Pius XII's critics assert, is only one instance of his larger failure to make sufficiently forceful denunciations of the Nazis. The critics who have accused Pius XII of "silence" have claimed that in other ways, also, he failed to forcefully condemn the Nazi regime. Had he done so, they argue, it might have reduced, or even halted the anti-Jewish atrocities. Had he spoken out more forcefully and publicly, they maintain, more Jewish lives would have been spared. Their contention, however, "fails to consider the brutal realities in the wake of Nazism, as well as the retaliatory consequences sure to follow any condemnatory action." More stringent protests, or denunciations, on the part of the Vatican might quite possibly have backfired.
An example frequently cited by defenders of the Vatican is the public protest of Dutch bishops in July 1942 against the deportation of Dutch Jews from the Netherlands. When Pius XII first learned of the Nazi atrocities in Poland, he urged the Catholic bishops of Europe to do all they could to save the Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution. The bishops of Holland distributed a pastoral letter that was read in every Catholic Church in the country, denouncing "the unmerciful and unjust treatment meted out to Jews by those in power in our country." In no other Nazi-occupied country did local Catholic bishops more furiously resist Nazism than in Holland. But, their well-intentioned pastoral letterwhich explicitly declared that they were inspired by Pope Pius XII backfired.
As Pinchas Lapide notes: "The saddest and most thought-provoking conclusion is that whilst the Catholic clergy in Holland protested more loudly, expressly and frequently against Jewish persecutions than the religious hierarchy of any other Nazi-occupied country, more Jewssome 110,000 or 79 percent of the totalwere deported from Holland to death camps." The protest of the Dutch bishops thus provoked the most savage of Nazi reprisals: The vast majority of Holland's Jewsand the highest percentages of Jews of any Nazi-occupied nation in Western Europewere deported and killed.
With the advantage of hindsight, Pius XII's revisionist critics have been judging the Pope's "silence" without considering the likely consequences of his having "spoken out" more loudly and explicitly. These critics do not know (or have chosen to ignore the fact) that the Pope had been strongly advised by Jewish leaders and by Catholic bishops in Nazi-occupied countries not to protest publicly against the Nazi atrocities.
When the bishop of Munster wanted to speak out against the persecution of the Jews in Germany, the Jewish leaders of his diocese begged him not to because it would result in even greater persecution for them.
Pinchas Lapide quotes an Italian Jew who, with the Vatican's help, managed to escape the Nazi deportation of Rome's Jews in October 1943, as stating unequivocally twenty years later: "none of us wanted the Pope to speak out openly. We were all fugitives and we did not want to be pointed out as such. The Gestapo would have only increased and intensified its inquisition it was much better the Pope kept silent. We all felt the same, and today we still believe that." Bishop Jean Bernard of Luxembourg, an inmate of Dachau from February 1941 to August 1942, notified the Vatican that "whenever protests were made, treatment of prisoners worsened immediately."
There is much evidence to suggest that had Pius XII more vigorously opposed or denounced Hitler's policies, there would have been serious and devastating retaliation. Undoubtedly, a stronger public condemnation of the Final Solution by the Pope would have provoked Nazi reprisals against Catholic clergy in Nazi-occupied countries and in Germany itself.
Undoubtedly, also, such a public condemnation by the Pope would have severely jeopardized the lives of the thousands of Jews hidden in the Vatican, in Rome's many churches, convents and monasteries, and in numerous Catholic churches and other religious institutions throughout Italy, along with the lives of their Catholic protectors who were trying to save them.
Many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors have agreed with Michael Tagliacozzo, a Roman Jew hidden for several months at the Seminario Romano, the pontifical seminary, who approved of the papal policy that enabled him and many others to survive.
A clearer public denunciation of the Nazis, they believe, would also have jeopardized the lives of the priests and Catholic laity who were sheltering and protecting them. Indeed, as even Susan Zucotti in her recent critique of Pius XII admits, "the pope's inclination to silence might well have been influenced by a concern for Jews in hiding and for their Catholic protectors."
To the very end, Pope Pius XII believed that a public denunciation of the Holocaust would have made matters worse by further enraging the Nazis and provoking even more violent reprisals against Europe's Jews, and against tens of thousands of Catholics as well.
In retrospect, historians have come to appreciate this tactical caution on the part of Pius XII and the Holy See. His "silence," they recognize, was an effective strategic approach to protecting more Jews from deportation to the Nazi death camps. A more explicit and forceful papal denunciation of Nazism might have invited even more Nazi reprisals and made things even worse for the Jews of Nazi occupied Europe. One might ask, of course, what might have been worse than the mass murder of six million Jews? The answer is abundantly and horrifically clear: The slaughter of hundreds of thousands more.
Pinchas Lapide documents conclusively the extraordinary relief and rescue efforts conducted by Pius XII and his diplomats during the Holocaust. Through his country-by-country analysis of Papal efforts to rescue European Jews throughout Nazi Europe, Lapide demonstrates, beyond any reasonable doubt, that "the Catholic Church saved more Jewish lives during the war than all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations put together."
While approximately 80 percent of European Jews perished during World War II, 80 percent of Italy's 40,000 Jews were saved. The Nazi deportations of Italy's Jews began in October 1943, after the German army occupied Rome and entrusted internal security matters to the S.S. On October 16, more than a thousand of the city's Jews were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered a week later. From October 1943 until the Allied capture of the city in June 1944, the deportations continued, with 2,091 Roman Jews eventually being exterminated in Nazi death camps.
During the months that Rome was under German occupation, Pius XII, who secretly instructed Italy's Catholic clergy "to save human lives by all means," played an especially significant role in saving thousands of Italian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.
Beginning in October 1943, Pope Pius asked the churches and convents throughout Italy to shelter Jews. As a result, although Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and the Fascists who remained loyal to him yielded to Hitler's demand that Italy's Jews be deported, in churches, monasteries and private homes throughout the country Italian Catholics defied Mussolini's orders and protected thousands of Jews until the Allied armies arrived.
Although their lives were endangered by helping to save Jews, Italian Catholic Church leaders, from Cardinals to parish priests, hid Jews from the Nazis. In Rome, 155 convents and monasteries sheltered some 5,000 Jews throughout the German occupation. No less than 3,000 Jews found refuge at one time at the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, and thus, through Pius' personal intervention, escaped deportation to German death camps. Sixty Jews lived for nine months at the Jesuit Gregorian University, and many were sheltered in the cellar of the Pontifical Bible Institute.
Pope Pius himself granted sanctuary within the walls of the Vatican in Rome to hundreds of homeless Jews. Following Pope Pius' direct instructions, individual Italian priests and monks, cardinals and bishops, were instrumental in saving hundreds of Jewish lives.
In Tribute to Pius XII: Praise From the Jewish Community
During his lifetime, and for several years after his death in 1958, Pope Pius XII was widely praised as having been a true friend of the Jewish people, who saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust. As early as December of 1940, in an article published in Time magazine, the renowned Nobel Prize winning physicist Albert Einstein, himself a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, paid tribute to the moral "courage" of Pope Pius and the Catholic Church in opposing "the Hitlerian onslaught" on liberty:
Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom: but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Catholic Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, tributes to Pope Pius came from several other Jewish leaders who praised him for his role in saving Jews during the war. In 1943, Chaim Weizmann, who would become Israel's first president, wrote that "the Holy See is lending its powerful help wherever it can, to mitigate the fate of my persecuted co-religionists." Moshe Sharett, who would become Israel's first Foreign Minister and second Prime Minister, reinforced these feelings of gratitude when he met with Pius in the closing days of World War II: "I told him [the Pope] that my first duty was to thank him, and through him the Catholic Church, on behalf of the Jewish public for all they had done in the various countries to rescue Jews We are deeply grateful to the Catholic Church."
In 1945, Rabbi Isaac Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, sent a message to Msgr. Angelo Roncalli (the future Pope John XXIII), expressing his gratitude for the actions taken by Pope Pius XII on behalf of the Jewish people. "The people of Israel," wrote Rabbi Herzog, "will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion, which form the foundation 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."
In September 1945, Dr. Leon Kubowitzky, the Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, personally thanked the Pope in Rome for his interventions on behalf of Jews, and the World Jewish Congress donated $20,000 to Vatican charities "in recognition of the work of the Holy See in rescuing Jews from Fascist and Nazi persecutions." Dr. Raffael Cantoni, head of the Italian Jewish community's wartime Jewish Assistance Committee, who would subsequently become the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, similarly expressed his gratitude to the Vatican, stating that "six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis, but there could have been many more victims had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII." On April 5, 1946, his Union of Italian Jewish Communities, meeting for the first time after the War, sent an official message of thanks to Pope Pius XII:
The delegates of the Congress of the Italian Jewish Communities, held in Rome for the first time after the Liberation, feel that it is imperative to extend reverent homage to Your Holiness, and to express the most profound gratitude that animates all Jews for your fraternal humanity toward them during the years of persecution when their lives were endangered by Nazi-Fascist barbarism. Many times priests suffered imprisonment and were sent to concentration camps, and offered their lives to assist Jews in every way. This demonstration of goodness and charity that still animates the just, has served to lessen the shame and torture and sadness that afflicted millions of human beings.
Many other Jewish tributes to Pius came in the years just proceeding, and in the immediate aftermath, of the Pontiff's death. In 1955, when Italy celebrated the tenth anniversary of its liberation, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities proclaimed April 17 as a "Day of Gratitude" for the Pope's wartime assistance in defying the Nazis. Dozens of Italian Catholics, including several priests and nuns, were awarded gold medals "for their outstanding rescue work during the Nazi terror."
A few weeks later, on May 26, 1955, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra flew to Rome to give a special performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, at the Vatican's Consistory Hall, to express the State of Israel's enduring gratitude for the help that the Pope and the Catholic Church had given to the Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
That the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra so joined the rest of the Jewish world in warmly honoring the achievements and legacy of Pope Pius XII is of more than passing significance.
As a matter of state policy, the Israeli Philharmonic has never played the music of the nineteenth century composer Richard Wagner because of Wagner's well-known reputation as an anti-Semite and as Hitler's "favorite composer," and as one of the cultural patron saints of the Third Reich, whose music was played at Nazi party functions and ceremonies. Despite requests from music lovers and specialists, the official state ban on the Israeli Philharmonic's playing Wagner's music has never been lifted. During the 1950's and 1960's, especially, a significant sector of the Israeli public, hundreds of thousands of whom were survivors of the Nazi concentration and death camps, still viewed his music, and even his name, as a symbol of the Hitler regime.
That being the case, it is inconceivable that the Israeli government would have paid the travel expenses for the entire Philharmonic to travel to Rome for a special concert to pay tribute to a church leader who was considered to have been "Hitler's Pope."
On the contrary: The Israeli Philharmonic's historic and unprecedented visit to Rome to perform for Pius XII at the Vatican was a unique Jewish communal gesture of collective recognition and gratitude to a great world leader and friend of the Jewish people for his instrumental role in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
On the day of Pius XII's death in 1958, Golda Meir, Israel's Foreign Minister, cabled the following message of condolence to the Vatican: "We share in the grief of humanity 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 above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace."
Before beginning a concert of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Leonard Bernstein called for a minute of silence "for the passing of a very great man, Pope Pius XII."
Similar sentiments were expressed in the many tributes and eulogies for Pius by numerous rabbis and Jewish communal leaders, as well as by most of the Israeli press, several of whose readers suggested in open letters that a "Pope Pius XII Forest" be planted in the hills of Judea "in order to perpetuate fittingly the humane services rendered by the late pontiff to European Jewry."
During and for close to two decades after World War II, Jewish praise and gratitude for Pius XII's efforts on behalf of European Jewry were virtually unanimous. Indeed, as Pinchas Lapide has so aptly stated: "No Pope in history has been thanked more heartily by Jews." Because of Pius XII's exemplary humanity toward European Jewry, no other Pope has earned such gratitude from the Jewish people.
Pius XII: A Righteous Gentile, Not Hitler's Pope
I believe that a new, Jewish historical account of Pope Pius XII and the Holocausta comprehensive, yet critical scholarly "defense" of what Pius did for the Jewsneeds to be written. Such a true account of what Pius XII really did for the Jews would arrive, I believe, at exactly the opposite of Cornwell's conclusion: Pius XII was not Hitler's pope, but the closest Jews had come to having a papal supporterand at the moment when it mattered most.
Such a new Jewish historical evaluation and "defense" of Pius, needs to be based on how Pius's Jewish contemporaries viewed his effortshis accomplishments and failures alikeduring his lifetime, and how Jewish Holocaust survivors have evaluated (and reevaluated) his life and legacy in the decades since. Such a book must incorporate the first hand testimony of Jewish leaders in Israel, Europe and America, and of Holocaust survivors and former chaplains who served in Nazi occupied Europe, which bear eloquent witness to the heroic and often forgotten role played by Pius XII as a "righteous gentile," who was responsible for sheltering and rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jews.
In recent decades, new oral history centers have been established, to record and preserve the oral histories and personal testimonies of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their Catholic rescuers. As a result, an impressive body of new oral history interviews, with Jewish Holocaust survivors and military chaplains, Catholic clergy and laity, in Italy and other countries of Nazi occupied Europe, have been conducted and transcribed. These provide a new basis for understanding Pius XII's role in the Holocaust, and his relationship to Italy's Jews. An invaluable archival resource, these provide the basis for the new Jewish understanding of Pius XII and the Holocaust that cries out to be written.
The new and existing oral history testimony of Jewish leaders in Israel, Europe, and America, as well as that of Jewish chaplains and of numerous Jewish Holocaust survivors, bear elegant witness to the heroic and often forgotten role played by Pope Pius XII in sheltering and rescuing hundreds of thousands of Jews. It is hard to imagine that so many of the world's greatest Jewish leaders, on several continents, were all misguided or mistaken in praising the Pope's wartime conduct. Their enduring gratitude, as well as that of a generation of Holocaust survivors, to Pius XII was genuine and profound, and bespoke their sincere belief that he was one of the world's truly "righteous gentiles."
The Talmud, the great sixth century compendium of Jewish religious law and ethics, teaches Jews that "whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world." More so than most other twentieth century leaders, Pius XII effectively fulfilled this Talmudic dictum when the fate of European Jewry was at stake. Pope Pius XII's legacy as a "righteous gentile," who rescued so many Jews from Hitler's death camps cannot and should not be forgotten. Nor should the fact that the Jewish community, and so many of its leaders, praised the Pope's efforts during and after the Holocaust, and promised never to forget.
These points are especially significant in evaluating Pope Pius XII's enduring legacy for twentieth, and twenty-first, century Jews. It needs to be remembered, as noted earlier, that no other Pope in history has been so universally praised by Jews. So, too, the compelling reason for this unprecedented Jewish praise for, and gratitude to, a Pope needs to be better remembered than it has been in recent years: Today, more than fifty years after the Holocaust, it needs to be more widely recognized and appreciated that Pius XII was indeed a very "righteous gentile," a true friend of the Jewish people, who saved more Jewish lives than any other person, including Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler. A new authentically Jewish history of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, emphasizing his historic role and accomplishments as a "righteous gentile," may help to bring some long-overdue recognition to his too little known and appreciated legacy as one of the century's great friends of the Jewish people.
Why is this same theme posted every week?
Here's an idea. Try posting just one article:
Jewish Heroes of the Holocaust. I believe
there were around 6,000,000 of those.
Agree on that book.
It isn't "posted every week," and I think you know that.
There's an organized effort to lie about what Jews did, and what was done to them, during that era. You've heard of it. It's called "Holocaust denial," and there are entire websites devoted to debunking it.
I think that debunking Holocaust denial is a good thing, and I'm sure you do, too.
There's also an organized effort to lie about what Catholics did, and what was done to them, during that era. Much of it is run by dissident Catholics who hate their own church.
I think it's good when the truth is told about that, too.
You evidently don't.
It's odd, isn't it, that Rabbi Dalin considers it important enough to write an entire book on the topic, but you can't stand to see an occasional post on the Internet concerning it. Does it really pain you that much to read that some Christians have done good things?
About as much as it apparently pains you to see an article
just once about the Jewish heroes of the holocaust.
Its the same people everytime one of these articles are posted slappin each other on the back. You should be convinced by now at how honorable ya'll were.
ping for later read
Wideawake is a very well-informed and faithful Christian and he ought not think himself burdened to explain why he posted a defense of a much-maligned and lied about Pope.
This is a quote from the article:
Lapide did blame the Church for not eradicating anti-Semitism before the Holocaust. But he concludes that the precipitating element was not Christianity, but rather the weakening of Christian belief and practice.
As of 1999, the Church also blames itself for exascerbating anti-Semitism, which was my point, and the reason I showed you those pictures of how biblical rhetoric was employed in anti-jewish nazi propaganda. Lapide understates the case, as do many of the churches' apologists; the Church's essential gaping sin in all this, is not adequately characterized as "not eradicating anti-semitism". The church invented and nurtured anti-semitism, which was why it was such a rich source for nazi propaganda.
Hitler, he says, knew that the Church was his enemy. He used the epithet, "Christ killers," to arouse hatred against the Jews, "but he ultimately killed them to rid the world of Christ and the 'Christ- givers
By census, before and after WWII, Germany was overwhelmingly christian. While it is certainly true that many catholics helped 860,000 jews to escape the Holocaust, it's also true that that the 6,000,000 jews put to death, were put to death largely by christians.
As for the general contention that the church could not have done anything more, rescued jewish testimony to the contrary notwithstanding, it clearly could have. Some obvious examples?: It refused to turn over its records to the nazi jew-hunters, when the records were relevant to jews who had converted, but not if they were mere jews; the church could have ex-communicated the Slovokian church officials who were personally shoving jews into boxcars; the church could have spoken up for the jews in the same manner that it spoke up for, and halted the obliteration of, old, crippled and weak aryan christians.
Pointing out that many christians recognized their inherent brotherhood with their jewish neighbors, should not allow us to forget that the church bears a major share of the responsibility for creating the wedge between christians and jews with 1400 years of denigrating rhetoric, laws, and calls to crusade. There is an obvious connection, in the expression of philosophical contempt for jews, between the Auschwitz Gate and the building on the Vatican grounds dedicated to kidnapping jewish children to be brought up Catholic.
Cheerleading, even well footnoted cheerleading, for the christians who chose to rise above the anti-jewish church rhetoric to which they had been exposed, does not really address the question of where that 1400 year old christ-killer rhetoric came from.
Probably because the same lies by anti-Catholic bigots are posted every minute. Just a guess.
Here's an idea. Try posting just one article: Jewish Heroes of the Holocaust.
I see almost no posters falsely blaming the the Jews for the Holocaust, but I see plenty of stupid bigots blaming Catholics for the Holocaust.
Lapide is correct. The Church manifestly did not do enough to combat anti-Semitism. That, of course, is different from the false claim made by many that the Church created or actively fostered anti-Semitism.
The church invented and nurtured anti-semitism, which was why it was such a rich source for nazi propaganda.
Again, you enjoy lying for the sake of lying. After all, there is no way you are not aware that anti-Semitism existed a thousand years before the Church did. The Hebrew Scriptures testify to this.
While it is certainly true that many catholics helped 860,000 jews to escape the Holocaust, it's also true that that the 6,000,000 jews put to death, were put to death largely by christians.
The murders of 6 million Jews were largely carried out the SS, a volunteer unit whose members renounced Christianity by oath as a condition of membership.
The Christian failure in WWII was the failure to sacrifice themselves to save Jews, not any policy by observant Christians to kill Jews.
the building on the Vatican grounds dedicated to kidnapping jewish children to be brought up Catholic
You clearly enjoy just making stuff up. I probably shouldn't treat you as a serious interlocutor.
While I wholeheartedly agree that armchair quarterbacks can look back at WWII and find things that the Church could have done differently with the benefit of your leisurely hindsight safe in your 2006 American living room, characterizing the Catholic Church of WWII as doing nothing or even actively collaborating is just slander. Pure and simple.
WW2 catholic interest ping
Assuming your house is not surrounded by Nazi Tanks (as was the Vatican during the time you castigate the church for inaction) please tell us what YOU have done to stop the slaughter of innocents during this holocaust of abortion.
I hope that you would defend your mother whenever somebody falsely defamed her.
Let us NEVER forget that the industrialized murder of 5.5 million Gentiles, the vast majority of them Christians (and the majority of those Catholics) was carried out by the selfsame anti-Christian, anti-Jewish "SS".
To me, your demands that because thus and such should have been done and wasn't that that proves the Catholic Church is AntiSemitic is irrational
The Papal apologies did not say the Church herself was guilty of " exascerbating anti-Semitism" It did, however, mention things you have ignored
International Theological Commission
MEMORY AND RECONCILIATION: THE CHURCH AND THE FAULTS OF THE PAST
The relationship between Christians and Jews is one of the areas requiring a special examination of conscience.(81) The Churchs relationship to the Jewish people is unlike the one she shares with any other religion.(82) Nevertheless, the history of the relations between Jews and Christians is a tormented one... In effect, the balance of these relations over two thousand years has been quite negative.(83) The hostility or diffidence of numerous Christians toward Jews in the course of time is a sad historical fact and is the cause of profound remorse for Christians aware of the fact that Jesus was a descendent of David; that the Virgin Mary and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish people; that the Church draws sustenance from the root of that good olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11:17-24); that the Jews are our dearly beloved brothers, indeed in a certain sense they are our elder brothers.(84)
=`The Shoah was certainly the result of the pagan ideology that was Nazism, animated by a merciless anti-Semitism that not only despised the faith of the Jewish people, but also denied their very human dignity. Nevertheless, it may be asked whether the Nazi persecution of the Jews was not made easier by the anti-Jewish prejudices imbedded in some Christian minds and hearts... Did Christians give every possible assistance to those being persecuted, and in particular to the persecuted Jews?(85) There is no doubt that there were many Christians who risked their lives to save and to help their Jewish neighbors. It seems, however, also true that alongside such courageous men and women, the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christs followers.(86) This fact constitutes a call to the consciences of all Christians today, so as to require an act of repentance (teshuva),(87) and to be a stimulus to increase efforts to be transformed by renewal of your mind (Rom 12:2), as well as to keep a moral and religious memory of the injury inflicted on the Jews. In this area, much has already been done, but this should be confirmed and deepened.
*The Church does NOT teach what you claim it does. However, that Document does teach about Christian responsibilities for the evils of today, such as abortion, and the plight of the poor. But, it is much easier to blame others for their actions/inactions rather than to face our own sins.
Over 100 million Christians have been killed by Commies. Do they count?
However, there was a part of Europe where RC church was not under duress of Nazi regime. It was Independent State of Croatia, Hitler's ally.
The role of RC Church and Pius XII in WWII events can be seen best from this angle because the actions there were of free will.
The striking differences between RC in Croatia and the rest of Europe:
In Europe, RC clergy was incarcerated in concentration camps.
According to the The Canon of RC Church, clergy is not allowed to work for other employer without tacit approval of their superior. That means that RC nuns could not run extermination camp for children without tacit approval of the RC Church. In one such camp, Jastrebarsko, thousands of children were starved to death.
In Europe, many of RC clergy opposed Hitler and assisted underground resistance.
In Croatia, all of RC clergy supported Nazi regime and took an active role of supporting Nazi war effort. Many with weapons in their hand, murdering inmates in concentration camps.
More than half a milion Serbs (one million according to Croatian bragging to Germans during the war) and 60,000 Jews were murdered in Nazi Croatia.
60,000 Jewish victims of Holocaust in Croatia are forgoten today because of the political interest. 6 million can be be forgotten tomorrow for the same reason.
When the war was over and Hitler dead, Vatican activelly helped Croatian war criminals by:
-organizing Ratlines to spirit war criminals to South America
-Vatican bank helped Croatian Nazis to hide the loot taken from the genocide victims.
-Croatian fuehrer Pavelic was spirited to South America under guise of RC priest.
Last but not least, Pius XII elevated head of church in Croatia ArchBishop Stepinac to the level of Cardinal. Again, this was done out of free will, there was no Hiter around to appease.
Jonh Paul II beatified Stepinac. Stepinac will probably become The Patron Saint of genocidal murderers.
Today, Vatican is silent about the role of RC Church in the Holocaust in Croatia.
This article is good example of this. Glossing over as if it never happened will not erase the traces of moral responsibility.
It is not news when Pope Benedict XVI visit Auschwitz because RC Church has nothing with Nazi crimes commited there. It will be news when Pope Benedict XVI visits Jasenovac where hundreds of thousands were murdered in the most bestial way in the name of RC faith.
Many with weapons in their hand, murdering inmates in concentration camps.
Name one, liar.
And people who were thrown out of the seminary years before the war even started on grounds of moral turpitude do not count.
I'm talking about a bona fide member of the clergy.
That logic is laughable.
What that actually means is, any such nuns violated Canon law.
They were not put to death in the name of Christ, they certainly were not put to death in accordance with the teachings of Christ.
This is debatable whether German Nazis were Christians at all (Hilter was building his own religion cult with the center in Nuremburg. )
However, it is undisputed fact that Hitler grabbed dictatorial power owing to The Catholic Center party.
However, Croatian Nazis who exterminated all Jews in Croatia (around 60,000) were Roman Catholic Christians without any doubt.
There are a few, not as many as ya'll imagine. But carry on with the self-pity party. Ya'll don't seem real concerned about the holocaust outside of how it affect the church's reputation.
Observing Canon law is MANDATORY, not an option for RC clergy. Violation of the Canon law bears consequences. That's what Reformation was all about. You can not be RC and disobey the authority.
According to you, clergy and nuns are free to violate the Canon Law without any consequence. Superior responsible for their actions gets elevated for commited crimes and beatified.
Vatican did nothing to prevent the genocide while it was taking place, helped perpetrators to escape justice after the war, and kept the proceeds of the crime on their behalf.
We can only debate wheter the role of RC in genocide in Croatia was a role of accomplice or accessory to the crime.
Methinks that the only laughable is your attempt to defend the undefensible. People who deny Nazi crimes are called Holocaust deniers and Nazi Revisionists.
People who bear false witness are called liars and slanderers.
Duh! That's the very nature of law. Do you imagine a class of voluntary laws?
You can not be RC and disobey the authority.
You're laughably naive on that one. Disobeying authority happens on a daily basis. with the USCCB, it's practically policy.
According to you, clergy and nuns are free to violate the Canon Law without any consequence.
Such an exquisite strawman! But as with all stawmen, it is false and not supported by what I have written.
Vatican did nothing to prevent the genocide while it was taking place, helped perpetrators to escape justice after the war, and kept the proceeds of the crime on their behalf.
How about you prove that. Better yet, make that argument to any of the 860,000 jews (or their descendants) saved by the Church.
Methinks that the only laughable is your attempt to defend the undefensible. People who deny Nazi crimes are called Holocaust deniers and Nazi Revisionists.
If you are referring to me as a Holocaust deniar or a Nazi Revisionist, I invite you to go to hell, liar.