Un rabbino vuole Pio XII «giusto tra le nazioni»

Combattimento spirituale

PIO
XII


L’ANGELICO
PASTORE


amico e benefattore degli
Ebrei






Pio XII







Rabbino
di New York chiede che Pio XII venga riconosciuto come “Giusto”

«Nel Talmud
è scritto: “chi salva una vita salva il mondo intero” ebbene più
che ogni altro nel Ventesimo secolo Pio XII ha rispettato questa indicazione. Nessun
altro Papa è stato così magnanimo con gli ebrei. Líintera generazione
dei sopravvissuti allíOlocausto, testimonia che Pio XII fu autenticamente e profondamente
un “giusto”». Con queste parole si conclude un lungo articolo scritto
dal Rabbino David Dalin sulla rivista statunitense «The Weekly Standard».
David Dalin è un personalità di spicco del mondo ebraico statunitense,
uno dei suoi libri «Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience»
è stato indicato come uno dei migliori lavori accademici del 1998. Rabbino
a New York Dalin ha tenuto diverse conferenze sui rapporti ebraico cristiani nelle
Università di Hartford Trinity College, George Washington e Queens College
di New York. La rivista «The Weekly Standard» è espressione dellíélite
neoconservatrice americana. Dalin sostiene che molti dei libri pubblicati recentemente
rivelano una scarsa comprensione di come Pio XII fosse un oppositore del nazismo
e di quanto fece per salvare gli ebrei dallíolocausto. A questo proposito il rabbino
di New York cita una grande numero di fatti, documenti, dichiarazioni e libri.

«Pio XII fu uno dei personaggi più critici del nazismo – ha scritto
Dalin- Su 44 discorsi che Pacelli pronunciò in Germania tra il 1917 ed il
1929, quaranta denunciano i pericoli dellíemergente ideologia nazista. Nel marzo
del 1935 scrisse una lettera aperta al Vescovo di Colonia chiamando i nazisti “falsi
profeti con la superbia di Lucifero”. Nello stesso anno denunciò in un
discorso a Lourdes le ideologie “possedute dalla superstizione della razza e
sangue”. La sua prima enciclica “Summi Pontificatus” del 1939 fu così
chiaramente anti razzista che aerei alleati ne lanciarono migliaia di copie sulla
Germania nel tentativo di istigare un sentimento anti nazista». In merito a
coloro che si sono lamentati chiedendo che Pio XII avrebbe dovuto parlare più
forte contro il nazismo, Dalin riporta le parole di Marcus Melchior il rabbino capo
di Danimarca, sopravvissuto alla Shoah, il quale ha detto: «Se il papa avesse
parlato Hitler avrebbe massacrato molti di più dei sei milioni di ebrei e
forse 10 milioni di cattolici» E Kempner, pubblica accusa per gli Stati Uniti
al Processo di Norimberga ha aggiunto: «Ogni azione di propaganda ispirata
dalla Chiesa cattolica contro Hitler sarebbe stata un suicidio e avrebbe portato
allíesecuzione di molti più ebrei e cristiani». Circa líopera di assistenza
agli ebrei il rabbino Dalin ha ricordato che: «Nei mesi in cui Roma fu occupata
dai nazisti Pio XII istruì il clero a salvare gli ebrei con tutti i mezzi.
Il cardinale Boetto di Genova da solo ne salvò almeno 800 Il Vescovo di Assisi
trecento. Quando al cardinale Palazzini fu consegnata la medaglia dei Giusti per
aver salvato gli ebrei nel Seminario Romano, egli affermò: “Il merito
è interamente di Pio XII che ordinò di fare ogni cosa nelle nostre
possibilità per salvare gli ebrei dalla persecuzione”. Líopera di assistenza
di Papa Pacelli era così nota che nel 1955 quando líItalia celebrò
il decimo anniversario della Liberazione, líUnione delle Comunità Israelitiche
proclamò il 17 aprile «Giorno della gratitudine” per líassistenza
fornita dal Papa durante il periodo della guerra. Dalin conclude il suo articolo
affermando che «contrariamente a quanto scritto da John Cornwell secondo cui
Pio XII fu il papa di Hitler, io credo che papa Pacelli fu il più grande sostenitore
degli ebrei».



Sintesi da:
David
G. Dalin, «Pius XII and the Jews»
, The Weekly Standard, 23 (26/2/2001 vol.
6).

http://www.weeklystandard.com/magazine/

Testo
originale completo

Even before Pius XII died
in 1958, the charge that his papacy had been friendly to the Nazis was circulating
in Europe, a piece of standard Communist agitprop against the West. It sank for a
few years under the flood of tributes, from Jews and gentiles alike, that followed
the pope’s death, only to bubble up again with the 1963 debut of The Deputy, a play
by a left-wing German writer (and former member of the Hitler Youth) named Rolf Hochhuth.



The Deputy was fictional and highly polemical, claiming that Pius XII’s concern for
Vatican finances left him indifferent to the destruction of European Jewry. But Hochhuth’s
seven-hour play nonetheless received considerable notice, sparking a controversy
that lasted through the 1960s. And now, more than thirty years later, that controversy
has suddenly broken out again, for reasons not immediately clear.



Indeed, “broken out” doesn’t describe the current torrent. In the last
eighteen months, nine books that treat Pius XII have appeared: John Cornwell’s Hitler’s
Pope, Pierre Blet’s Pius XII and the Second World War, Garry Wills’s Papal Sin, Margherita
Marchione’s Pope Pius XII, Ronald J. Rychlak’s Hitler, the War and the Pope, Michael
Phayer’s The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, Susan Zuccotti’s Under
His Very Windows, Ralph McInerny’s The Defamation of Pius XII, and, most recently,
James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword.



Since four of theseóthe ones by Blet, Marchione, Rychlak, and McInernyóare defenses
of the pope (and two, the books by Wills and Carroll, take up Pius only as part of
a broad attack against Catholicism), the picture may look balanced. In fact, to read
all nine is to conclude that Pius’s defenders have the stronger caseówith Rychlak’s
Hitler, the War and the Pope the best and most careful of the recent works, an elegant
tome of serious, critical scholarship.



Still, it is the books vilifying the pope that have received most of the attention,
particularly Hitler’s Pope, a widely reviewed volume marketed with the announcement
that Pius XII was “the most dangerous churchman in modern history,” without
whom “Hitler might never have … been able to press forward.” The “silence”
of the pope is becoming more and more firmly established as settled opinion in the
American media: “Pius XII’s elevation of Catholic self-interest over Catholic
conscience was the lowest point in modern Catholic history,” the New York Times
remarked, almost in passing, in a review last month of Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword.



Curiously, nearly everyone pressing this line todayófrom the ex-seminarians John
Cornwell and Garry Wills to the ex-priest James Carrollóis a lapsed or angry Catholic.
For Jewish leaders of a previous generation, the campaign against Pius XII would
have been a source of shock. During and after the war, many well-known JewsóAlbert
Einstein, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, Rabbi Isaac Herzog, and innumerable othersópublicly
expressed their gratitude to Pius. In his 1967 book Three Popes and the Jews, the
diplomat Pinchas Lapide (who served as Israeli consul in Milan and interviewed Italian
Holocaust survivors) declared Pius XII “was instrumental in saving at least
700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.”



This is not to say that Eugenio Pacelli ó the powerful churchman who served
as nuncio in Bavaria and Germany from 1917 to 1929, then as Vatican secretary of
state from 1930 to 1939, before becoming Pope Pius XII six months before World War
II began ó was as much a friend to the Jews as John Paul II has been. Nor is
it to say that Pius was ultimately successful as a defender of Jews. Despite his
desperate efforts to maintain peace, the war came, and, despite his protests against
German atrocities, the slaughter of the Holocaust occurred. Even without benefit
of hindsight, a careful study reveals that the Catholic Church missed opportunities
to influence events, failed to credit fully the Nazis’ intentions, and was infected
in some of its members with a casual anti-Semitism that would countenanceóand, in
a few horrifying instances, affirmóthe Nazi ideology.



But to make Pius XII a target of our moral outrage against the Nazis, and to count
Catholicism among the institutions delegitimized by the horror of the Holocaust,
reveals a failure of historical understanding. Almost none of the recent books about
Pius XII and the Holocaust is actually about Pius XII and the Holocaust. Their real
topic proves to be an intra-Catholic argument about the direction of the Church today,
with the Holocaust simply the biggest club available for liberal Catholics to use
against traditionalists. A theological debate about the future of the papacy is obviously
something in which non-Catholics should not involve themselves too deeply. But Jews,
whatever their feelings about the Catholic Church, have a duty to reject any attempt
to usurp the Holocaust and use it for partisan purposes in such a debateóparticularly
when the attempt disparages the testimony of Holocaust survivors and spreads to inappropriate
figures the condemnation that belongs to Hitler and the Nazis.



The technique for recent attacks on Pius XII is simple. It requires only that favorable
evidence be read in the worst light and treated to the strictest test, while unfavorable
evidence is read in the best light and treated to no test. So, for instance, when
Cornwell sets out in Hitler’s Pope to prove Pius an anti-Semite (an accusation even
the pontiff’s bitterest opponents have rarely leveled), he makes much of Pacelli’s
reference in a 1917 letter to the “Jewish cult”óas though for an Italian
Catholic prelate born in 1876 the word “cult” had the same resonances it
has in English today, and as though Cornwell himself does not casually refer to the
Catholic cult of the Assumption and the cult of the Virgin Mary. (The most immediately
helpful part of Hitler, the War and the Pope may be the thirty-page epilogue Rychlak
devotes to demolishing this kind of argument in Hitler’s Pope.)



The same pattern is played out in Susan Zuccotti’s Under His Very Windows. For example:
There exists testimony from a Good Samaritan priest that Bishop Giuseppe Nicolini
of Assisi, holding a letter in his hand, declared that the pope had written to request
help for Jews during the German roundup of Italian Jews in 1943. But because the
priest did not actually read the letter, Zuccotti speculates that the bishop may
have been deceiving himóand thus that this testimony should be rejected. Compare
this skeptical approach to evidence with her treatment, for example, of a 1967 interview
in which the German diplomat Eitel F. Mollhausen said he had sent information to
the Nazis’ ambassador to the Vatican, Ernst von Weizsäcker, and “assumed”
that Weizsäcker passed it on to Church “officials.” Zuccotti takes
this as unquestionable proof that the pope had direct foreknowledge of the German
roundup. (A fair reading suggests Pius had heard rumors and raised them with the
Nazi occupiers. Princess Enza Pignatelli Aragona reported that when she broke in
on the pope with the news of the roundup early on the morning of October 16, 1943,
his first words were: “But the Germans had promised not to touch the Jews!”)



With this dual standard, recent writers have little trouble arriving at two pre-ordained
conclusions. The first is that the Catholic Church must shoulder the blame for the
Holocaust: “Pius XII was the most guilty,” as Zuccotti puts it. And the
second is that Catholicism’s guilt is due to aspects of the Church that John Paul
II now represents. Indeed, in the concluding chapter of Hitler’s Pope and throughout
Papal Sin and Constantine’s Sword, the parallel comes clear: John Paul’s traditionalism
is of a piece with Pius’s alleged anti-Semitism; the Vatican’s current stand on papal
authority is in a direct line with complicity in the Nazis’ extermination of the
Jews. Faced with such monstrous moral equivalence and misuse of the Holocaust, how
can we not object?



It is true that during the controversy over The Deputy and again during the Vatican’s
slow hearing of the case for his canonization (ongoing since 1965), Pius had Jewish
detractors. In 1964, for example, Guenter Lewy produced The Catholic Church and Nazi
Germany, and, in 1966, Saul Friedländer added Pius XII and the Third Reich.
Both volumes claimed that Pius’s anti-communism led him to support Hitler as a bulwark
against the Russians. As accurate information on Soviet atrocities has mounted since
1989, an obsession with Stalinism seems less foolish than it may have in the mid-1960s.
But, in fact, the evidence has mounted as well that Pius accurately ranked the threats.
In 1942, for example, he told a visitor, “The Communist danger does exist, but
at this time the Nazi danger is more serious.” He intervened with the American
bishops to support lend-lease for the Soviets, and he explicitly refused to bless
the Nazi invasion of Russia. (The charge of overheated anti-communism is nonetheless
still alive: In Constantine’s Sword, James Carroll attacks the 1933 concordat Hitler
signed for Germany by asking, “Is it conceivable that Pacelli would have negotiated
any such agreement with the Bolsheviks in Moscow?”óapparently not realizing
that in the mid-1920s, Pacelli tried exactly that.)



In any case, Pius had his Jewish defenders as well. In addition to Lapide’s Three
Popes and the Jews, one might list A Question of Judgment, the 1963 pamphlet from
the Anti-Defamation League’s Joseph Lichten, and the excoriating reviews of Friedländer
by Livia Rotkirchen, the historian of Slovakian Jewry at Yad Vashem. Jeno Levai,
the great Hungarian historian, was so angered by accusations of papal silence that
he wrote Pius XII Was Not Silent (published in English in 1968), with a powerful
introduction by Robert M.W. Kempner, deputy chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg.



In response to the new attacks on Pius, several Jewish scholars have spoken out over
the last year. Sir Martin Gilbert told an interviewer that Pius deserves not blame
but thanks. Michael Tagliacozzo, the leading authority on Roman Jews during the Holocaust,
added, “I have a folder on my table in Israel entitled ëCalumnies Against Pius
XII.’ . . . Without him, many of our own would not be alive.” Richard Breitman
(the only historian authorized to study U.S. espionage files from World War II) noted
that secret documents prove the extent to which “Hitler distrusted the Holy
See because it hid Jews.”



Still, Lapide’s 1967 book remains the most influential work by a Jew on the topic,
and in the thirty-four years since he wrote, much material has become available in
the Vatican’s archives and elsewhere. New oral-history centers have gathered an impressive
body of interviews with Holocaust survivors, military chaplains, and Catholic civilians.



Given the recent attacks, the time has come for a new defense of Piusóbecause, despite
allegations to the contrary, the best historical evidence now confirms both that
Pius XII was not silent and that almost no one at the time thought him so.



In January 1940, for instance, the pope issued instructions for Vatican Radio to
reveal “the dreadful cruelties of uncivilized tyranny” the Nazis were inflicting
on Jewish and Catholic Poles. Reporting the broadcast the following week, the Jewish
Advocate of Boston praised it for what it was: an “outspoken denunciation of
German atrocities in Nazi Poland, declaring they affronted the moral conscience of
mankind.” The New York Times editorialized: “Now the Vatican has spoken,
with authority that cannot be questioned, and has confirmed the worst intimations
of terror which have come out of the Polish darkness.” In England, the Manchester
Guardian hailed Vatican Radio as “tortured Poland’s most powerful advocate.”



Any fair and thorough reading of the evidence demonstrates that Pius XII was a persistent
critic of Nazism. Consider just a few highlights of his opposition before the war:
Of the forty-four speeches Pacelli gave in Germany as papal nuncio between 1917 and
1929, forty denounced some aspect of the emerging Nazi ideology. In March 1935, he
wrote an open letter to the bishop of Cologne calling the Nazis “false prophets
with the pride of Lucifer.” That same year, he assailed ideologies “possessed
by the superstition of race and blood” to an enormous crowd of pilgrims at Lourdes.
At Notre Dame in Paris two years later, he named Germany “that noble and powerful
nation whom bad shepherds would lead astray into an ideology of race.”



The Nazis were “diabolical,” he told friends privately. Hitler “is
completely obsessed,” he said to his long-time secretary, Sister Pascalina.
“All that is not of use to him, he destroys; . . . this man is capable of trampling
on corpses.” Meeting in 1935 with the heroic anti-Nazi Dietrich von Hildebrand,
he declared, “There can be no possible reconciliation” between Christianity
and Nazi racism; they were like “fire and water.”



The year after Pacelli became secretary of state in 1930, Vatican Radio was established,
essentially under his control. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano had an
uneven record, though it would improve as Pacelli gradually took charge (extensively
reporting Kristallnacht in 1938, for example). But the radio station was always goodómaking
such controversial broadcasts as the request that listeners pray for the persecuted
Jews in Germany after the 1935 Nuremberg Legislation.



It was while Pacelli was his predecessor’s chief adviser that Pius XI made the famous
statement to a group of Belgian pilgrims in 1938 that “anti-Semitism is inadmissible;
spiritually we are all Semites.” And it was Pacelli who drafted Pius XI’s encyclical
Mit brennender Sorge, “With Burning Concern,” a condemnation of Germany
among the harshest ever issued by the Holy See. Indeed, throughout the 1930s, Pacelli
was widely lampooned in the Nazi press as Pius XI’s “Jew-loving” cardinal,
because of the more than fifty-five protests he sent the Germans as the Vatican secretary
of state.



To these must be added highlights of Pius XII’s actions during the war: His first
encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, rushed out in 1939 to beg for peace, was in part
a declaration that the proper role of the papacy was to plead to both warring sides
rather than to blame one. But it very pointedly quoted St. Pauló”there is neither
Gentile nor Jew”óusing the word “Jew” specifically in the context
of rejecting racial ideology. The New York Times greeted the encyclical with a front-page
headline on October 28, 1939: “Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism.”
Allied airplanes dropped thousands of copies on Germany in an effort to raise anti-Nazi
sentiment. In 1939 and 1940, Pius acted as a secret intermediary between the German
plotters against Hitler and the British. He would similarly risk warning the Allies
about the impending German invasions of Holland, Belgium, and France.



In March 1940, Pius granted an audience to Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign
minister and the only high-ranking Nazi to bother visiting the Vatican. The Germans’
understanding of Pius’s position, at least, was clear: Ribbentrop chastised the pope
for siding with the Allies. Whereupon Pius began reading from a long list of German
atrocities. “In the burning words he spoke to Herr Ribbentrop,” the New
York Times reported on March 14, Pius “came to the defense of Jews in Germany
and Poland.”



When French bishops issued pastoral letters in 1942 attacking deportations, Pius
sent his nuncio to protest to the Vichy government against “the inhuman arrests
and deportations of Jews from the French-occupied zone to Silesia and parts of Russia.”
Vatican Radio commented on the bishops’ letters six days in a rowóat a time when
listening to Vatican Radio was a crime in Germany and Poland for which some were
put to death. (“Pope Is Said to Plead for Jews Listed for Removal from France,”
the New York Times headline read on August 6, 1942. “Vichy Seizes Jews; Pope
Pius Ignored,” the Times reported three weeks later.) In retaliation, in the
fall of 1942, Goebbels’s office distributed ten million copies of a pamphlet naming
Pius XII as the “pro-Jewish pope” and explicitly citing his interventions
in France.



In the summer of 1944, after the liberation of Rome but before the war’s end, Pius
told a group of Roman Jews who had come to thank him for his protection: “For
centuries, Jews have been unjustly treated and despised. It is time they were treated
with justice and humanity, God wills it and the Church wills it. St. Paul tells us
that the Jews are our brothers. They should also be welcomed as friends.”



As these and hundreds of other examples are disparaged, one by one, in recent books
attacking Pius XII, the reader loses sight of the huge bulk of them, their cumulative
effect that left no one, the Nazis least of all, in doubt about the pope’s position.



A deeper examination reveals the consistent pattern. Writers like Cornwell and Zuccotti
see the pope’s 1941 Christmas address, for example, as notable primarily for its
failure to use the language we would use today. But contemporary observers thought
it quite explicit. In its editorial the following day, the New York Times declared,
“The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping
Europe this Christmas. . . . In calling for a ëreal new order’ based on ëliberty,
justice, and love,’ . . . the pope put himself squarely against Hitlerism.”



So, too, the pope’s Christmas message the following yearóin which he expressed his
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”ówas widely understood to be a public condemnation
of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. Indeed, the Germans themselves saw it as such:
“His 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,” an internal Nazi analysis reads.



This Nazi awareness, moreover, had potentially dire consequences. There were ample
precedents for the pope to fear an invasion: Napoleon had besieged the Vatican in
1809, capturing Pius VII at bayonet point; Pius IX fled Rome for his life after the
assassination of his chancellor; and Leo XIII was driven into temporary exile in
the late nineteenth century. Still, Pius XII was “ready to let himself be deported
to a concentration camp, rather than do anything against his conscience,” Mussolini’s
foreign minister railed. Hitler spoke openly of entering the Vatican to “pack
up that whole whoring rabble,” and Pius knew of the various Nazi plans to kidnap
him. Ernst von Weizsäcker has written that he regularly warned Vatican officials
against provoking Berlin. The Nazi ambassador to Italy, Rudolf Rahn, similarly describes
one of Hitler’s kidnapping plots and the effort by German diplomats to prevent it.
General Carlo Wolff testified to having received orders from Hitler in 1943 to “occupy
as soon as possible the Vatican and Vatican City, secure the archives and the art
treasures, which have a unique value, and transfer the pope, together with the Curia,
for their protection, so that they cannot fall into the hands of the Allies and exert
a political influence.” Early in December 1943, Wolff managed to talk Hitler
out of the plan.



In assessing what actions Pius XII might have taken, many (I among them) wish that
explicit excommunications had been announced. The Catholic-born Nazis had already
incurred automatic excommunication, for everything from failure to attend Mass to
unconfessed murder to public repudiation of Christianity. And, as his writings and
table-talk make clear, Hitler had ceased to consider himself a Catholicóindeed, considered
himself an anti-Catholicólong before he came to power. But a papal declaration of
excommunication might have done some good.



Then again, it might not. Don Luigi Sturzo, founder of the Christian Democratic movement
in wartime Italy, pointed out that the last times “a nominal excommunication
was pronounced against a head of state,” neither Queen Elizabeth I nor Napoleon
had changed policy. And there is reason to believe provocation would, as Margherita
Marchione puts it, “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.”



Holocaust survivors such as Marcus Melchior, the chief rabbi of Denmark, argued 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.” Robert M.W. Kempner called upon his experience at the Nuremberg trials
to say (in a letter to the editor after Commentary published an excerpt from Guenter
Lewy in 1964), “Every propaganda move of the Catholic Church against Hitler’s
Reich would have been not only ëprovoking suicide,’ . . . but would have hastened
the execution of still more Jews and priests.”



This is hardly a speculative concern. A Dutch bishops’ pastoral letter condemning
“the unmerciful and unjust treatment meted out to Jews” was read in Holland’s
Catholic churches in July 1942. The well-intentioned letterówhich declared that it
was inspired by Pius XIIóbackfired. 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 Jewsósome 110,000 or 79 percent
of the totalówere deported from Holland to death camps.”



Bishop Jean Bernard of Luxembourg, an inmate of Dachau from 1941 to 1942, notified
the Vatican that “whenever protests were made, treatment of prisoners worsened
immediately.” Late in 1942, Archbishop Sapieha of Cracow and two other Polish
bishops, having experienced the Nazis’ savage reprisals, begged Pius not to publish
his letters about conditions in Poland. Even Susan Zuccotti admits that in the case
of the Roman Jews the pope “might well have been influenced by a concern for
Jews in hiding and for their Catholic protectors.”



One might ask, of course, what could have been worse than the mass murder of six
million Jews? The answer is the slaughter of hundreds of thousands more. And it was
toward saving those it could that the Vatican worked. The fate of Italian Jews has
become a major topic of Pius’s critics, the failure of Catholicism at its home supposedly
demonstrating the hypocrisy of any modern papal claim to moral authority. (Notice,
for example, Zuccotti’s title: Under His Very Windows.) But the fact remains that
while approximately 80 percent of European Jews perished during World War II, 80
percent of Italian Jews were saved.



In the months Rome was under German occupation, Pius XII instructed Italy’s clergy
to save lives by all means. (A neglected source for Pius’s actions during this time
is the 1965 memoir But for the Grace of God, by Monsignor J. Patrick Carroll-Abbing,
who worked under Pius as a rescuer.) Beginning in October 1943, Pius asked churches
and convents throughout Italy to shelter Jews. As a resultóand despite the fact that
Mussolini and the Fascists yielded to Hitler’s demand for deportationsómany Italian
Catholics defied the German orders.



In Rome, 155 convents and monasteries sheltered some five thousand Jews. At least
three thousand found refuge at the pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Sixty
Jews lived for nine months at the Gregorian University, and many were sheltered in
the cellar of the pontifical biblical institute. Hundreds found sanctuary within
the Vatican itself. Following Pius’s instructions, individual Italian priests, monks,
nuns, cardinals, and bishops were instrumental in preserving thousands of Jewish
lives. Cardinal Boetto of Genoa saved at least eight hundred. The bishop of Assisi
hid three hundred Jews for over two years. The bishop of Campagna and two of his
relatives saved 961 more in Fiume.



Cardinal Pietro Palazzini, then assistant vice rector of the Seminario Romano, hid
Michael Tagliacozzo and other Italian Jews at the seminary (which was Vatican property)
for several months in 1943 and 1944. In 1985, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial,
honored the cardinal as a righteous gentileóand, in accepting the honor, Palazzini
stressed that “the merit is entirely Pius XII’s, who ordered us to do whatever
we could to save the Jews from persecution.” Some of the laity helped as well,
and, in their testimony afterwards, consistently attributed their inspiration to
the pope.



Again, the most eloquent testimony is the Nazis’ own. Fascist documents published
in 1998 (and summarized in Marchione’s Pope Pius XII) speak of a German plan, dubbed
“Rabat-Fohn,” to be executed in January 1944. The plan called for the eighth
division of the SS cavalry, disguised as Italians, to seize St. Peter’s and “massacre
Pius XII with the entire Vatican”óand specifically names “the papal protest
in favor of the Jews” as the cause.



A similar story can be traced across Europe. There is room to argue that more ought
to have been attempted by the Catholic Churchófor the unanswerable facts remain that
Hitler did come to power, World War II did occur, and six million Jews did die. But
the place to begin that argument is with the truth that people of the time, Nazis
and Jews alike, understood the pope to be the world’s most prominent opponent of
the Nazi ideology.



As early as December 1940, in an article in Time magazine, Albert Einstein paid tribute
to Pius: “Only the 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.”



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, Israel’s second prime minister,
met with Pius in the closing days of the war and “told him 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.”



Rabbi Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Israel, sent a message in February 1944 declaring,
“The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious
delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion, which form the very 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, Leon Kubowitzky, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress,
personally thanked the pope for his interventions, 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.”



In 1955, when Italy celebrated the tenth anniversary of its liberation, the Union
of Italian Jewish Communities proclaimed April 17 a “Day of Gratitude”
for the pope’s wartime assistance.



On May 26, 1955, the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra flew to Rome to give in the Vatican
a special performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony óan expression of the
State of Israel’s enduring gratitude to the pope for help given the Jewish people
during the Holocaust.



This last example is particularly significant. As a matter of state policy, the Israeli
Philharmonic has never played the music of Richard Wagner, because of his well-known
reputation as “Hitler’s composer,” the cultural patron saint of the Third
Reich. During the 1950s especially, the Israeli public, hundreds of thousands of
whom were Holocaust survivors, still viewed Wagner as a symbol of the Nazi regime.
It is inconceivable that the Israeli government would have paid for the entire orchestra
to travel to Rome to pay tribute to “Hitler’s pope.” On the contrary, the
Israeli Philharmonic’s unprecedented concert in the Vatican was a unique communal
gesture of collective recognition for a great friend of the Jewish people.



Hundreds of other memorials could be cited. In her conclusion to Under His Very Windows,
Susan Zuccotti dismisses ó as wrong-headed, ill-informed, or even devious ó
the praise Pius XII received from Jewish leaders and scholars, as well as expressions
of gratitude from the Jewish chaplains and Holocaust survivors who bore personal
witness to the assistance of the pope.



That she does so is disturbing. To deny the legitimacy of their gratitude to Pius
XII is tantamount to denying the credibility of their personal testimony and judgment
about the Holocaust itself. “More than all others,” recalled Elio Toaff,
an Italian Jew who lived through the Holocaust and later became chief rabbi of Rome,
“we had the opportunity of experiencing the great compassionate goodness and
magnanimity of the pope during the unhappy years of the persecution and terror, when
it seemed that for us there was no longer an escape.”



But Zuccotti is not alone. There is a disturbing element in nearly all the current
work on Pius. Except for Rychlak’s Hitler, the War and the Pope, none of the recent
books ó from Cornwell’s vicious attack in Hitler’s Pope to McInerny’s uncritical
defense in The Defamation of Pius XII ó is finally about the Holocaust. All
are about using the sufferings of Jews fifty years ago to force changes upon the
Catholic Church today.



It is this abuse of the Holocaust that must be rejected. A true account of Pius XII
would arrive, I believe, at exactly the opposite to Cornwell’s conclusion: Pius XII
was not Hitler’s pope, but the closest Jews had come to having a papal supporter ó
and at the moment when it mattered most.



Writing in Yad Vashem Studies in 1983, John S. Conway ó the leading authority
on the Vatican’s eleven-volume Acts and Documents of the Holy See During the Second
World War ó concluded: “A close study of the many thousands of documents
published in these volumes lends little support to the thesis that ecclesiastical
self-preservation was the main motive behind the attitudes of the Vatican diplomats.
Rather, the picture that emerges is one of a group of intelligent and conscientious
men, seeking to pursue the paths of peace and justice, at a time when these ideals
were ruthlessly being rendered irrelevant in a world of ëtotal war.í” These
neglected volumes (which the English reader can find summarized in Pierre Blet’s
Pius XII and the Second World War) “will reveal ever more clearly and convincingly”óas
John Paul told a group of Jewish leaders in Miami in 1987ó”how deeply Pius XII
felt the tragedy of the Jewish people, and how hard and effectively he worked to
assist them.”



The Talmud teaches that “whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him
by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world.” More than any other twentieth-century
leader, Pius fulfilled this Talmudic dictum, when the fate of European Jewry was
at stake. No other pope had been so widely praised by Jews ó and they were not
mistaken. Their gratitude, as well as that of the entire generation of Holocaust
survivors, testifies that Pius XII was, genuinely and profoundly, a righteous gentile.



By David G. Dalin.



Alcuni
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(P. Pierre Blet s.j., P. Peter Gumpel s.j., Eduardo Rivero,
Antonio Gaspari)


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