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Was the Pope a Nazi?

Mark Riebling

Pius XII, pope from 1939 to 1958, has been accused of complicity in the Holocaust because he failed to denounce explicitly the extermination of the European Jews. This allegation has strained relations between Catholics and Jews, and has led many prominent liberal Catholics to repudiate the "centralized model of papal power" which Pius exemplified. Yet whatever this pope's attitudes toward Jews, it is important not to conflate those attitudes with his policies toward the Nazis. In fact, Pius was a committed opponent of Hitler -- and even tried to help kill him.

On March 21, 2000, a helicopter landed on Mount Scopus, Israel, overlooking Old Jerusalem. Pope John Paul II shuffled out onto the helipad, leaning on a cane. He had come to Israel to realize a lifelong dream: To retrace the footsteps of Jesus, from birth to death to resurrection. The Holy Father was grimly aware, however, that his pilgrimage would be haunted by history. Two days earlier, Jewish protesters had spray-painted the landing site with red swastikas and the question: "Where were you Catholics during the Holocaust?"1

During the Holocaust John Paul, then known as Karol Wojtila, had belonged to a political branch of the Polish military resistance. To avoid arrest by German forces he had hid in the Krakow archbishop's palace from August 1944 until January 1945. He had witnessed the persecution and murder of Jewish friends from his hometown, Wadowice; he had seen, too, the indifference of many Polish Catholics to the fate of the Jews. Time had not erased the terrible memories. As pope he sought redemption by stressing the two faiths' common biblical roots, and by forging Vatican diplomatic ties with Israel. In Jerusalem he pushed these efforts a step farther. He went to the Western Wall, and prayed, and pushed a piece of votive paper into its fissures.2 Then, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, he offered an unprecedented expression of grief.

"As bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter," he said in the candlelit Hall of Remembrance, "I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church... is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution, and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians, at any time, and in any place." After kneeling in silent prayer, the pope crossed the hall, its floor engraved with the names of death camps, to greet six Polish Holocaust survivors. When one of the survivors began crying, John Paul gently patted her arm.3

Jewish leaders were disappointed with the pope's declaration at Yad Vashem. "I waited for statements that would speak about people from the Church who had committed crimes against the Jewish people," lamented Meir Lau, Israel's Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi. Specifically, Lau had hoped that John Paul would censure the wartime pope, Pius XII, for silence and inaction during the Holocaust. "It is impossible to correct a crime of the past, without any mention, for example, of Pius XII, who stood on the blood of the victims and did not say a word."4

Ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial
Ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

Over that one point, over that one pope, Catholic-Jewish detente would deadlock.5 Even as Catholicism's ambiguous relation to Nazism became the defining issue of his pilgrimage, the pope refused to fault his wartime predecessor.6 To the contrary, John Paul repeatedly hailed him as a "great pope."7 Proceedings were even underway to beatify Pius -- the last step before making him a saint.8 Israel had asked the Vatican to delay beatification for 50 years, so that historians could study the "Pius Problem." But John Paul would not bend to outside pressure, and his aides were unwilling to wait for scholarly consensus. "Why wait fifty years?" asked Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, who was overseeing Pius' beatification. "Five-hundred years would not be enough for historians to agree."9

It was Pius XII's unlucky lot to head the world's largest religion, and smallest sovereign-state, during the bloodiest years of the bloodiest century in history. The princes of the Church had once thought him the ideal wartime pope: Before he was elected Pius XII, when he was still Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli,10 his realism and discretion had made him the dean of papal diplomats. As Pope, his courtly bearing befitted the Vatican's Renaissance-like world of "rustling silk, hushed conversations, and insults measured in the depths of bishops' bows."11 Yet the pressures on Pius, moral and political pressures more intense than those endured by any previous pope, took an undeniable toll. He had a nervous stomach, and by war's end, although he stood six feet, he weighed only 125 pounds. In public, he was seldom photographed smiling; in private, he was probably unhappy.12 To nuns in the papal household he was a pale, severe figure, "with black penetrating eyes lost in the glint of rimless spectacles,"13 who liked to keep important threads in his own hands, and who was happiest at his desk, surrounded by dictionaries.14 His deputies called him "Segregatus," Latin for "one who keeps himself apart."15 His only constant companion was a pet goldfinch, which he had found injured in the Vatican gardens and nursed to health. He slept little, knelt in prayer for hours. He seemed to have divorced his body, to develop his soul; to some, he seemed more a disembodied spirit than a man. At the time such descriptions were considered flattering, as prescriptions for a holy life. Many called Pius a living saint; Vatican bureaucrats took telephone calls from him on their knees.16 No one questioned British novelist Graham Greene's 1951 encomium on "a pope who so many of us believe will rank among the greatest."17 Yet in the second half of the twentieth century, Pius XII's reputation would be transvalued by one the strangest and most total makeovers in the annals of biography.

During his own time he had been thought an opponent of Hitler. Though as Cardinal Secretary of State he had negotiated a concordat (1933) with the Third Reich, the future Pius XII was only carrying out the appeasement policies of then-Pope Pius XI, who had earlier signed a concordat with Mussolini, and who vowed "to negotiate with the Devil himself" to preserve Church freedoms.18 Pacelli was pessimistic about the Nazis by 1934, and to the punch of public criticism he was beaten only by Churchill.19 "The Church will never come to terms with the Nazis," Pacelli told 250,000 pilgrims at Lourdes, in April 1935, "as long as they persist in their racial philosophy." In the same speech he condemned "superstitions of race and blood" as "contrary to the Christian faith."20 Reich propagandists did not fail to perceive or to publicize his hostility. A few weeks before he was elected Pius XII (March 2, 1939), the Nazi press included him in a rogue's gallery of "Agitators in the Vatican against Fascism and National Socialism."21 The morning after his election, The New York Times noted that the new pope was greeted with "applause around the world, except in Germany," where the Berlin Morgenpost granted that he was "not regarded with favor... because he was always opposed to Nazism."22 In 1942 the Reich Propaganda Ministry printed ten million copies of a pamphlet attacking "the present pro-Jewish pope."23 By July 1943 Hitler was plotting to kidnap Pius XII, to silence and neutralize him.24 S.S. chief Heinrich Himmler advocated his public execution.25

A 1937 S.S. cartoon mocking the future Pius XII as a supporter of Jews and anti-Nazis. The caption reads: "She's not too pretty. But she cooks well!"

Jews were as nearly laudatory as the Nazis were hostile. Zionist newspapers celebrated his election,26 and praised his posture throughout the war. His first encyclical,27 Summi Pontificatus, was especially revered.28 "The spirit, the teaching and the work of the Church," Pius wrote in October 1939, ''can never be other than that which the Apostle of the Gentiles preached: 'there is neither Gentile nor Jew.'"29

Jewish groups hailed Pius' use of Vatican radio to denounce German atrocities,30 and extolled his sheltering of Italian-Jewish scholars in the Vatican's libraries.31 In 1945 the World Jewish Congress gave Pius more than $1 million (at present value) for charity works, in "gratitude to the august Pontiff for his work in support of persecuted Jews."32 Albert Einstein was among the many prominent Jews who publicly expressed admiration.33

Nations warring with Germany considered Pius an ally. British and U.S. propagandists reprinted his 1942 Christmas address, which denounced the persecution "of 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."34 Practically every public statement the pope made during the war was praised for its outspokenness by The New York Times. "The voice of Pius XII," that paper averred in December 1941, "is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness.... he is about the only ruler left on the Continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all."35 Nor was Allied praise merely wartime "PR," masking a less charitable view: Pius was identified as an anti-Nazi in secret intelligence-reports to President Roosevelt.36 Even the weekly of the Communist International -- no friend of the Church -- termed Pius "the leader of the Catholic [anti-Nazi] resistance movement."37

The consensus frayed only after the war, as Stalin caged Eastern Europe.38 Aiming to discredit the ancient regimes, communist propagandists systematically accused Catholics and other "reactionary" groups of collaborating with Hitler. Bishops were hauled into show trials, and on January 14, 1946, in the Czech-communist magazine Prace, Pius himself was branded a Nazi stooge.39 He had been "soft" on Nazism, it was claimed, because of his "obsessive panic" over atheistic communism.40 The Soviet line was toed by some Western leftists; in 1950, for instance, Leon Poliakov suggested in Commentary that Pius's anti-communism had caused him to keep "silent" on the Holocaust.41 World opinion was largely unaffected, however, and even Poliakov doubted whether stronger-worded protests would have deterred a madman like Hitler. The allegation of "silence" had so little impact that when Pius died (Oct. 9, 1958), Golda Meir was among the many Jewish leaders who openly mourned him. "When fearful martyrdom came to our people," she said, "the voice of the pope was raised for its victims."42

The real Pius-controversy began in February 1963, when Rolf Hochhuth's play Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) premiered on a Berlin stage. Hochhuth, an anti-clerical43 Protestant and former member of the Hitler Youth,44 filtered the Stalinist critique through a psychological prism.45 Pius was to Hochhuth a ruthless executive, "an over-ambitious careerist," a moral coward who cared more about Vatican stock-holdings than about Hitler's victims.46 The play was especially critical of Pius for failing to save the Jews of Rome: For nearly nine months, Hochhuth charged, the pope had "looked on in silence while the victims were being loaded on trucks in front of the very door of the Vatican."47 As one of the Deputy's leads, a young Jesuit, laments: "A Vicar of Christ who sees these things before his eyes and still remains silent because of state policies, who delays even one day... such a pope... is a criminal."48

Hochhuth's play started an intellectual firestorm. His portrait of Pius was protested by a former Deputy-Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials,49 by both the British and German wartime ambassadors to the Holy See,50 and by the Director of International Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.51 American Jewish organizations pressured one Broadway producer into to dropping the play, and tried to dissuade another from backing it.52 In Paris some ticket-holders rushed the stage and tried to keep the actors from going on.53 But the outcry only publicized what might have otherwise died on the media vine.54 The Deputy was quickly translated into 20 languages, and the controversy captured the popular imagination. After two decades of shamed silence, a clamorous inquiry into the Holocaust had begun.55 The capture of genocide-planner Adolf Eichmann (1960), the publication of Raul Hilberg's seminal Destruction of the European Jews (1961), and the discovery of Anne Frank's diary (1962) created a craving for explanations. Lodging blame with Pius XII helped explain the inexplicable.56

In later years it would sometimes be forgotten that Pius' reputation was ruined by a work of fiction. In the play's afterward, Hochhuth admitted that "...the action does not follow the historical course of events.... I allowed my imagination free play."57 But fiction had often done more to mold mass consciousness than dry chronicle of fact. Frank Norris' The Octopus had led to regulation of big business; Harriet Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin had changed white minds about slavery; Eugene Sue's The Wandering Jew had bred anti-Jesuit hysteria in Europe. Hochhuth's play influenced popular opinion in a similar way.58 Though a Mike Wallace television documentary on Pius, produced just before The Deputy, did not mention the dispute, no later biography could fail to consider it.59

Over time the critical voices became a chorus. Scholars reevaluated Pius XII's public statements, and found them wanting.60 Words which had once seemed bold turned out to be mere generalities, church-centered and oblique.61 Most damningly, it was alleged that the pope had never mentioned the Jews at all in his wartime remarks. Though Pius had used the word in his first encyclical, his supposed papal failure to say "Jew" became the great dogma of the academic sub-discipline which could be termed "Pius Studies." Thus Michael R. Marrus, Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto:

The Vatican relentlessly refrained even from pronouncing the word 'Jews' throughout the entire war.62

-- and David I. Kertzer, Professor of Social Science at Brown University:

As millions of Jews were being murdered, Pius could never bring himself to publicly utter the word 'Jew.'63

-- and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Associate Professor of European Studies at Harvard:

In public statements by Pius XII... any mention of the Jews is conspicuously absent. ... Pius XII chose again and again not to mention the Jews publicly.64

In a work which won the National Jewish Book Award, Susan Zuccotti actually quoted surrounding passages of Summi Pontificatus, then pronounced:

The encyclical never mentioned Jews.65

Even the Vatican's relator in the Pius beatification proceedings, Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, seemed unaware of the Pope's words.

It is true that in his public protests Pius XII never used the word 'Jew.'66

A consensus thus emerged that Pius had been "silent" -- just as Hochhuth had charged. From this alleged silence, papal complicity in the Holocaust was inferred. The editors of The New York Times, who during the war asserted that Pius "put himself squarely against Hitlerism,"67 now faulted him for his "failure to stand squarely against the evil that swept across Europe."68 The Holocaust Museum in Washington put up an exhibit about Pius' alleged silence; the Bronx Museum of Art purchased a painting, "Nazi Butchers," featuring Pius in full papal regalia. He became the anti-hero of a black legend, replete with wild, unsupported accusations.69 Jewish activists alleged on Larry King Live that Pius had used a "ratline" of convents and monasteries to smuggle 30,000 Nazi war-criminals to South America, where Vatican gold purportedly financed lavish Fourth-Reich hideouts.70 People were willing to believe the worst; the Pius debate had created a serious image-problem for the whole Church.

The image problem was aggravated by one highly problematic image. An April 1997 article in The New Yorker, by the liberal Catholic James Carroll,71 featured a vintage photo of what appeared to be Pope Pius XII, saluted by German soldiers. The prominence in the foreground of a combat helmet, of the style made famous by German soldiers in World War Two, lent the clear impression that Pope Pius XII was being given a Nazi honor-guard.72 The Vatican in fact received angry letters from people who saw the photograph and thought the pope was serving as some kind of adviser to Hitler.73

What readers did not know, and The New Yorker did not impart, was that the photograph was taken in 1927, six years before Hitler took power, and twelve years before Pacelli became pope. The papal nuncio was simply receiving the dignified treatment accorded all diplomats by a democratic government, under which Jews had full rights. Nevertheless, the photograph became a favorite of those who sought to portray Pius XII as complicit in the Holocaust. In March 1998 it was spread over two pages in the New York Times Magazine, illustrating an article packed with criticism of Pius by a host Jewish leaders.74 In October 1999 the photo appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, accompanying yet another article by Carroll.75 A month later it graced the cover of a bestselling book by British journalist John Cornwell, where it seemed instantly to prove that Pius was, as claimed in the provocative title, "Hitler's Pope."

Pacelli leaves a 1927 reception for von Hindenburg
Pacelli leaves a 1927 reception for German President von Hindenburg.

Cornwell's publishers heightened the effect of the image by quite underhanded means. The caption from the rear cover of the dust jacket on British editions stated falsely that the photograph was taken in March 1939, the month Pacelli was made pope. Given that caption, and the fact that Pacelli was dressed in diplomatic robes resembling the finest in papal wear, a fair-minded person could have concluded from the photo -- as did at least one reviewer of the book76 -- that Pius visited Hitler just after being elected pope.77

The same image, used to associate Pius XII with Hitler
The same image, cropped and blurred.

Even more subtle and ingenious was the device used by Cornwell's American publisher, the Viking Press. They also used the photo, but altered it. Everything in the frame except the faux-Pius was digitally defocused, and the result seemed even more dramatically to validate Cornwell's thesis. The soldier to Pacelli's left was so badly blurred that it was impossible even for a well-trained observer to recognize that he wore a Weimar rather than a Nazi uniform. Further, the photo had been cropped, so that the car door -- characteristic of automobiles from the 1920s -- had disappeared. The cropping and the blurring removed any clues that the photo did not date from the Nazi period.78 The apparently incriminating image, so effectively associated the scandalous title, sealed the reputation of Pius XII as a partner in the massacre of millions.79

By March 2000, as John Paul II knelt and prayed in the dark hall at Yad Vashem, the Pius Problem could be summed up in one question: Why hadn't the pope done more to resist Hitler? Critics posited cowardice, insensitivity, political calculation, anti-Semitism, and apathy; some just said Pius was a Nazi, and left it at that.80 Catholic apologists countered that the pope was silenced and paralyzed by a desire to save lives, since "a strong condemnation would have increased the persecution."81 Both sides in the debate generally agreed, however, that Pius did little or nothing to oppose the Nazis.82

Both sides were wrong. The entire Nazi era was marked by dramatic, if secret, Church resistance, in which the pope played a pivotal role. The signature element in this resistance was Pius XII's participation in the conspiracies to kill Adolf Hitler.

[TO BE CONTINUED: This article is a selection from the preface of Vatican Assassins? The Pope, the Jesuits, and the Plot to Kill Hitler, forthcoming from HarperCollins.]


Allesandra Stanley, "Pope Begins His Holy Land Pilgrimage in Jordan," The New York Times, March 21, 2000, p. A-10; "Pope Looks Toward the Promised Land," The New York Times, March 21, 2000, p. 1; The New York Times, March 22, 2000, p. A-8; Associated Press (NY), March 19, 2000, 1334 EST.

Andrew Sullivan, "Christianity's Original Sin," The New York Times, January 14, 2001, Section 7, p. 5.

Jocelyn Novecek, "Pope Speaks at Holocaust Memorial," Associated Press, March 23, 2000; Alessandra Stanley, "At Yad Vashem, Pope Tries to Salve History's Scars," The New York Times, March 24, 2000, p. A-1; Hubert B. Herring, "Pope Speaks of Holocaust During Visit to Israel," The New York Times, March 26, 2000, Section 4, p. 2; David I. Kertzer, The Popes Against the Jews (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), p. 6.

The New York Times, March 24, 2000; Associated Press (NY), March 7, 2000, 1121 EST.

Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Interfaith Understanding, acknowledged that attacks on Pius were causing "a Catholic backlash"; Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel warned that the attacks would lead to "a rise of anti-Semitic feeling." In June 1999 the Rev. David Jaeger, Vatican delegate on a committee to improve interfaith relations, termed the Pius accusations a "blood libel," then pointedly condemned portrayals of Jesus in Jewish religious texts. Jaeger claimed, for instance, that the Hebrew word for Jesus, "Yeshu," was an acronym for "May his name and memory be erased." Catholics had also long resented that the Talmud referred to Yeshu as the bastard son of Miriam (Mary) and a Roman solider named Pantera; the story had been circulated as 150 A.D., when the Christian writer Origen heard it from the pagan philosopher Celsus. Alessandra Stanley, "Book Revives Issue of Pius XII and Holocaust," The New York Times, November 3, 1999, p. A-3; Margherita Marchione, Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1999), p. 29; "Background For Pope's Visit To Holy Land," Fides (Rome) March 16, 2000; "Vatican Official Miffed at Israel," Associated Press, July 20, 1999; Ian Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1984), pp. 62-64.

John Jay Hughes, "Hitler, the War, and the Pope," Association of Contemporary Church Historians Newsletter, Vol. VI, no. 11, November 2000.

"Jews Would Welcome Archive Opening," AP, March 26, 1998. When journalists questioned John Paul about Pius' wartime record, the normally mild pontiff reacted sharply, and advised them to read the work of a Jesuit Historian, Father Blet (Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican [Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press], 1999).John Jay Hughes, "Hitler, the War, and the Pope," Association of Contemporary Church Historians Newsletter, Vol. VI, no. 11, November 2000.

The beatification proceedings were begun by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

Marchione, loc. cit.

Throughout this work, I refer to him as "Pacelli" for the time before he was pontiff (1876-1939), and as "Pius XII" for the term of his pontificate (1939-58).

John Cooney, The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman (Times Books, 1984), p. 33.

All these traits are frequently noted by biographers. For portraits by two Vatican officials who worked closely with this pope, see Robert Leiber, "Pius XII," Stimmen der Zeit, November 1958, and Domenico Tardini, Memories of Pius XII, Rosemary Goldie, Tr. (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1961). For early portraits in English see Camile Cianfarra, The Vatican and the War (E.P. Dutton, 1945), pp. 79ff; Kies van Hoek, Pope Pius XII: Priest and Statesman (Philosophical Library, 1945); Charles Hugo Doyle, The Life of Pope Pius XII (Sydney: Invincible Press, 1947); Piero Bargellini, Pius XII: The Angelic Shepherd (New York: The Good Shepherd Publishing Corporation, 1950); Alden Hatch and Seamus Walshe, Crown of Glory: The Life of Pope Pius XII (Hawthorn Books, 1956); Nazareno Padellaro, Portrait of Pius XII, Michael Derrick, Tr. (Dutton, 1957); Katherine Burton, Witness of the Light: The Life of Pope Pius XII (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1958); Barrett McGurn, A Reporter Looks at the Vatican (Coward-McGann, 1962), pp. 47-108. Interesting details and anecdotes are also given in François Charles Roux, Huit ans au Vatican, 1932-1940 (Paris: Flammarion, 1947), pp. 258ff.; Branko Bokun, Spy in the Vatican: 1941-45 (Praeger, 1973); Owen Chadwick, Britain and the Vatican in the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 51-52. Contemporary renderings include Michael Rust, "Pro-Nazi Pope?" Insight, Nov 15, 1999, p. 18; Peter Gumpel, "Cornwell's Pope: A Nasty Caricature of a Noble And Saintly Man," Zenit (Rome), Sept. 16, 1999; Hunter Seitz, "In Defense of Pius XII," America, Oct 12, 1996, p. 28; Judith Shulevitz, "The Case of Pius XII," The New York Times Book Review, April 8, 2001, p. 31; Kevin Madigan, "Judging Pius XII," The Christian Century, March 14, 2001, p. 6.

James Carroll, American Requiem, p. 49.

McGurn, p. 68.

Tardini, ``Pius XII.''

The wartime British Ambassador to the Vatican, D'Arcy Osborne, was among many non-Catholics who were struck by Pius XII's "saintliness." Sanchez, op. cit.

Graham Greene, "The Pope Who Remains a Priest," in Francis Sweeney, Vatican Impressions (Sheed and Ward, 1962), p. 258.

Pius XI, Address at Madragone College, May 14, 1929.

Though Churchill's public condemnations of Hitler's anti-Semitism (which began in Parliament March 23, 1933) preceded Pacelli's by two years, this was in part posture. "I can quite understand being angry with Jews," Churchill told Hitler's press officer, Putzi Hanfstaengel, in summer 1932, "and I understand resisting them if they try to monopolise power in any walk of life...." (Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Vol. 1: The Gathering Storm (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948), p.p. 83-4.

See "Nazis Warned in Lourdes," The New York Times, April 29, 1935.

Volkischer Beobachter (Berlin), January 22, 1939.

Berliner Morgenpost, March 3, 1939; The New York Times, dat. cit.

Sanchez, op. cit.

Although Jesuit Father Robert Graham argued in 1998 that "the evidence of an alleged plan to kidnap the Pope is, at best, mixed," the documentation now argues strongly for the actuality of both Hitler's intent, and of S.S. plans which reached an advanced stage. The new evidence includes a 1944 memo from Paolo Porta, the Fascist leader in Como, to Vincenzo Costa, the Fascist leader in Milan. According to Porta, the Eighth Division of the S.S. Cavalry had prepared to "massacre Pius XII with the entire Vatican," due to "the papal protest in favor of the Jews." The operation was to have been carried out in January 1944, but was canceled for reasons unknown to Porta. The memo was discovered in 1998 by Professor Anna Lisa Carolotti in the archives of the Archdiocese of Milan. For skeptical dissent before Professor Carolotti's discovery, see Robert A. Graham and David Alvarez, Nothing Sacred: Nazi Espionage against the Vatican, 1939-1945. (London: Frank Cass, 1998), pp. 87.

Achim Begsen, Der stille Befehl (Munich: Nymphenberger Verlagshandlung, 1960), p. 77, and Felix Kersten, The Memoirs of Doctor Felix Kersten (Herma Briffault, ed., Ernst Morowitz, tr. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1947), p. 109. One eminent historian of the Nazi period finds that "Kersten's various memoirs are not at all reliable about details," yet credits Kersten's "picture of Himmler" where it is "supported by other sources." See Richard Breitman, The Architect of Genocide: Hitler and the Final Solution (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), p. 251, n. 4. While Kersten is certainly unreliable about his alleged creation of an "anti-Nazi underground," his own picture of Himmler's papaphobia accords with the known facts. In fact, Kersten was among the very first to draw attention to Himmler's now-established anti-clericism.

Palestine Post (editorial), March 6, 1939, citing the Lourdes speech as proof of his "opposition to pernicious race theories." Pius' election was lauded also by the Jewish Chronicle in London (March 10), the Synagogue Council of America, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and the Polish Rabbinical Council. For a meticulous survey see Dimitri Cavalli, "The Good Samaritan: Jewish Praise for Pius XII," Inside the Vatican, October 2000, pp. 72-77.

An encyclical is a letter sent by the pope to all the Bishops of the Church. It is typically concerned with matters that seriously affect the welfare of the faithful, and often explains the line of conduct to be taken on urgent practical questions.

Pius XII, Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of Human Society), October 20, 1939. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on October 27 that "the unqualified condemnation which Pope Pius XII heaped on totalitarian, racist and materialistic theories of government in his encyclical Summi Pontificatus caused a profound stir... Although it had been expected that the Pope would attack ideologies hostile to the Catholic Church, few observers had expected so outspoken a document." The Allies reportedly airdropped copies of the Encyclical over Germany (Gumpel, op. cit.).

The full passage, which disproves the contention of previous scholarship that Pius XII never publicly used the word "Jew" during the war, reads as follows. After declaring that his intention in the encyclical was to witness to "the sublime precept of the Divine Master, the most sacred testament of His Heart, 'That they [mankind] all may be one' (John xvii. 21)," the pope writes: "And in order to give external expression to these, Our intentions, We have chosen the forthcoming Feast of Christ the King to raise to the Episcopal dignity at the Tomb of the Apostles twelve representatives of widely different peoples and races. In the midst of the disruptive contrasts which divide the human family, may this solemn act proclaim to all Our sons, scattered over the world, that the spirit, the teaching and the work of the Church can never be other than that which the Apostle of the Gentiles preached: 'there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all and in all' (Colossians iii. 11).

On January 26, 1940, the Jewish Advocate hailed Vatican Radio's "outspoken denunciation of German atrocities in Nazi [occupied] Poland." A June 1943 broadcast to France said: "He who distinguishes between Jews and other men is unfaithful to God and is in conflict with God's command." Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels ordered the arrest of anyone listening to Vatican broadcasts, which he termed "more dangerous for us than those of the communists" ("New Studies Document Pius XII's Opposition to Nazism," Zenit (Rome), March 14, 2000).

When Mussolini imposed anti-Semitic laws in March 1940, Pius XII named several displaced Jewish scholars, including geographer Prof. Roberto Almagia, to posts in the Vatican Library. The March 29 Kansas City Jewish Chronicle said that these acts proved the Pope's "disapproval of the dastardly anti-Semitic decrees." See Cavalli, op cit.

The gift totaled 2 million lire, which Zucotti (p. 300) measures "about $20,000" at the 1945 conversion rate. Pius promised that the money would go exclusively to needy persons of Jewish descent. The New York Times, October 11, 1945; "Jewish Recognition of Pope Pius XII's Support," Zenit (Rome), July 30, 1999, citing a letter from the Vatican, dated October 27, 1945, signed by Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Pope Paul VI). The 1945 document was discovered by Lorenzo Cremonesi, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera's Jerusalem correspondent, who was researching a book on the history of Israel's relations with the Holy See.

Einstein said: "Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I had never any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great admiration because the Church 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" (Time, December 23, 1940, p. 38). Some critics insist, however, that Einstein and other prominent Jews were displeased with Pius XII's lack of more forceful statements and actions, and lauded the Church only in the hope of gaining Vatican recognition for Israel. Apologists counter that accolades such as Einstein's predated prospects of Israeli statehood; regarding later praise, "it strains belief that those Jews who had lived and survived the horror of the Holocaust would so coldly and callously sacrifice the memory of the 6 million dead for what would surely be minimal political advantage" (Robert P. Lockwood, "Pius XII and the Nazis," The Christian Century, April 18, 2001, p. 35). Indeed, the imputation of such motives would seem to play to the very worst stereotypes of Jews as cunning, cynical manipulators of gentiles. For more on this aspect of the controversy, see "Judging Pius XII," The Christian Century, March 14, 2001, p. 6, and Father John Pawlikoski in Commonweal, July 17, 1998.

Pius XII, Christmas Address, printed in The New York Times, December 25, 1942, p. 10. Professor Michael Phayer (The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965, Bloomington, University of Indiana Press, 2000, p. 49) asserts that "in reality, very few people understood him [Pius XII], and no one, certainly not the Germans, took it [the Christmas 1942 address] as a protest against their slaughter of the Jews." In fact, the Nazis regarded the address as a brazen protest against the Holocaust. "His speech is one long attack on everything we stand for," concluded a January 22, 1943 report by the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). "God, he says, regards all peoples and races as worthy of the same consideration. Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews, and makes himself the mouthpiece of the Jewish war criminals." (Anthony Rhodes, The Vatican in the Age of Dictators, 1973, pp. 272-273). The New York Times, for its part, reasserted that "This Christmas more than ever he [Pius XII] is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent..." (editorial, December 25, 1942, Late Day edition, p. 16).

Late Day edition, p. 24. Wartime headlines in The New York Times included: "Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism" (Oct. 28, 1939); "Vatican Denounces Atrocities in Poland; Germans Called Even Worse Than Russians" (January 23, 1940); "Pope is Emphatic About Just Peace: Jews' Rights Defended" (March 11, 1940); "Pope is Said to Plead for Jews Listed for Removal from France" (August 6, 1942); and "Vatican Scores Germans: Denounces Decision to Intern and Strip All Jews in Italy" (December 4, 1943).

The secret Allied assessment was based partly on decrypted German and Vatican cable traffic. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Director William Donovan informed FDR that "...the anti-Nazi church elements, organized in cells... of both the clergy and the laity, have saved thousands of Jews.... by clandestine action undertaken at great personal risk" ("A Report from Switzerland on the German Churches," Oct. 31, 1944, NA, RG 226, Entry 162, Roll 24, Frames 662-63). OSS analyst Dewitt C. Poole had earlier reported to Zurich station chief Allen Dulles on "the clergy's splendid behavior in defense of Jews," lamenting that these acts could not be publicized without endangering priests in Nazi-dominated territory. Poole nevertheless recommended "that as much material as possible about this particular point should be ready for the moment where it can serve to refute accusations of this point" (OSS 226/16/1131, Oct. 10, 1944, Annex B)? Poole's recommendation seems not to have been heeded.

La Correspondence Internationale, March 28, 1939.

U.S. intelligence received early warning of this propaganda offensive in December 1945, when leftist groups in Italy began accusing Church-friendly politicians of neo-Fascism (SECRET Rome Area Allied Command Security Summary No. 19, 31 Dec 1945, NA 226/174/104/799). In Switzerland the former Superior General of the German Jesuits, Father Agostinius Rosch, had apparently read communist allegations against Pius XII by the turn of the year, when he wrote to Pius XII's confidential secretary, Jesuit Father Robert Leiber, that he had read "horrifying opuses -- from East Germany -- in which the greatest blame is attributed to your boss [i.e., Pius XII]." (Rosch to Leiber/Rome, Lenzerheide, 2 January 1946, AMSJ, Akt Rosch, Handwritten).

Prace alleged that Pius XII had consented to "a solution of all Eastern European problems in favor of Germany," and that he had given his assent for Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels to succeed Hitler. The charges were recapitulated (and contested) in L'Osservatore Romano (Rome), Feb. 12, 1946. Two weeks later a variant of the allegation had already sprouted in Yugoslavia, where dictator Josef Tito said: "They [the Catholics] marched jointly with [Nazi-puppet Croatian] Ustachis and were spiritual inspirators [sic] of massacres which were never condemned by them." OSS Report, Jan. 29, 1946 (NA 226/174/116/883). For earlier intimations that the Vatican was pro-Fascist, see Izvestia, February 1, 1944, and the communist pamphlet by D. Petroff, "War and the Working Class," October 9, 1944 (Pius wanted "a soft peace to let Germany escape her just deserts"). Soviet historians later alleged Hitler and Pius agreed that "The Vatican would send into the Soviet territory, with the German army, agents for implanting Catholicism, so that the occupants could subject the Soviet peoples and organize espionage and sabotage." G. Deborine, La Deuxieme Geurre Mondiale (1955); Robert A. Graham, The Vatican and Communism During the Second World War: What Really Happened? (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996), pp. 117-18.

Stalin's propaganda-theme has been followed by virtually all of Pius' non-communist critics. John Cornwell thus asserts that Pius' fears of Nazism "were overshadowed by the known aggression and goals of Communism" (Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, Viking Press, 1999, p. 112). Professor James Walston, of the American University of Rome, perceives a "pattern of church co-operation [with the Nazis], motivated partly by a strong anti-Communist ideology" (The Tablet, London, on-line edition, 8 July 2000). Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, maintains: "From the Vatican's point of view, the No. 1 enemy of civilization as seen by the Catholic church was communism" (AP-NY, June 2, 1998). Israel Gutman infers that Pius sided with Germany out of "fear of the growth of communism were the Nazis to be defeated (Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, New York, Macmillan, 1990, p. 1139). Kertzer alleges that "fascist regimes were embraced [by the Vatican] as a God-sent bulwark against the great socialist evil" (op. cit., p. 15). Three points must be kept in mind here. (1) The allegation of Pius' "obsession" with communism is "pejorative and meant to be so. It implies a papal monomania, an exaggerated, unreasoning, panicky, narrow-minded reaction to the Bolshevik danger" (Graham (op . cit., pp. 12-13). (2) Critics who chastise Pius for his "obsession" with communism often overlook the very real threat that Stalin's regime posed to the survival of the Church in the USSR. (3) Pius wanted détente with the Soviet Union and an accommodation with communism. As early as 1919, when the reactionary Bavarian government of von Epp asked his cooperation in hunting down communists, Pacelli declined (Hatch and Walshe, p. 85). Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, while Nuncio to Germany and as Vatican Secretary of State Pacelli unsuccessfully sought a concordat with Moscow. His fruitless but untiring efforts are painstakingly documented by Hansjakob Stehle in The Eastern Politics of the Vatican, 1917-1979 (Athens, Ohio: University of Ohio Press, 1981). In 1933, at a party which he gave in Rome after his return from Germany, the future Pope overheard an old conservative friend, the Marchese Patrici, remark that it was a good thing Germany had a strong man now who would deal with the Communists. "For goodness' sake, Joseph," he said, "don't talk such nonsense. The Nazis are infinitely worse" (Graham Greene, "The Pope Who Remains a Priest," in Francis Sweeney, Vatican Impressions, Sheed and Ward, 1962, p. 258). On Christmas Day 1941, Mussolini's foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, recorded in his diary that "at the Vatican the Russians are preferred to the Nazis" (The Ciano Diaries, Doubleday, 1946, p. 424). Martin Quigley, an OSS spy in the Vatican, recalls that at late as spring 1945, "the Vatican was very willing to open diplomatic relations with Russia" (Quigley, Secret Action at the Vatican in the Spring of 1945, Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books, 1991, p. 59). Quigley's recollection is supported by the report of another OSS informant, dated March 16, 1945: "From an authoritative ecclesiastical source, we have learned that... the Vatican.. understands that an agreement with Russia is necessary from the development of the Church's Universal Mission in post-war problems" (NA 226/16/1397, Confidential P.P. Report No. 111). Pius' attitude hardened only in autumn 1945, when communist intentions in Central and Eastern Europe became clear.

"It is sad to have to say that during the entire war, while the laboratories of death worked to capacity, the Pope kept his silence" ("The Vatican and the Jewish Question: The Record of the Hitler Period -- and After," Commentary, Nov. 1950, pp. 439-449). In 1949 anti-Catholic authors Avro Manhattan (The Vatican in World Politics) and Paul Blanshard (American Freedom and Catholic Power) had criticized Pius' wartime conduct, but these tracts had little impact.

L'Osservatore Romano, October 9, 1958; quoted in We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, Commission for Religious Relations (Vatican City), March 16, 1998. Pius XII was also gracefully eulogized by representatives of the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Congress, the Synagogue Council of America, the New York Board of Rabbis, the Anti-Defamation League, the Rabbinical Council of America, National Council of Jewish Women, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the American Jewish Committee. The tributes of major rabbis in New York alone were so numerous that it took three issues of The New York Times to report them all. See Cavalli, op. cit., and John Jay Hughes, "Hitler, the War, and the Pope," Association of Contemporary Church Historians Newsletter, November 2000, Vol. VI, no. 11.

Hochhuth pinned the label on himself: "In certain historical periods, one must be anti-clerical" (Judy Stone, "Interview with Rolf Hochhuth," in Bentley, ed., op. cit., p. 42.). He compared Catholicism to Nazism and Bolshevism in its "demand for... unheard-of sacrifices and victims. ... They [Church leaders] do not think of the happiness of the living but of generations to come.... it is always terribly inhuman to think in this way" (Patricia Marx, "Interview with Rolf Hochhuth," Partisan Review, Vol. XXXI, No. 3, Summer 1964).

Hochhuth attempted to dismiss this experience as playing cowboys and Indians and fighting without parental supervision. See Dolores Barrancano Schmit, "Rolf Hochhuth: The Man and His Work," in The Deputy Reader: Studies in Moral Responsibility (Chicago: Scott Foresman, 1965), pp. 62-7.

Motivation, in Western ethical thought since Kant, was an essential factor in any discussion of a man's probity -- and Hochhuth's Pope was no altruist. Thus the allegation that "any intervention by Pius XII was based on practical advantage rather than moral inclination" -- a purely Kantian formulation of the ethical problem (Shira Schoenberg, "Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust," monograph in possession of the author). William Perl argues along the same intentionalist lines: Pius XII began to advise the German and Hungarian bishops that it would be to their ultimate political advantage to go on record as speaking out against the massacre of the Jews (The Holocaust Conspiracy, p. 201).

Hochhuth's postscript also described Pius as "a fence-sitter, who... wasted his time on inconsequential trifles while the tormented world... waited in vain for a word of spiritual leadership...." Rolf Hochhuth, "Sidelights on History," in The Deputy, Richard and Clara Winston, Tr. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. 352.

Ibid., p. 324.

Hochhuth, The Deputy.

The Nuremburg prosecutor was Robert Kempner. His remarks are considered in Margherita Marchione, "Italian Voice," Ethnic NewsWatch, January 1, 1998.

Albrecht von Kessel, "The Pope and the Jews," in Bentley, ed., op. cit., pp. 71ff.; originally published in Die Welt (Hamburg), April 6, 1963. Baron Ernst Freiherr von Weizsacker, who had been Hitler's ambassador to the Vatican, and Sir D'Arcy Francis Osborne, who had been Churchill's, were both Protestants. Osborne said: "Pius XII was the most warmly humane, kindly, generous, sympathetic (and, incidentally, saintly) character that it has been my privilege to know in the course of a long life." The Times (London), May 20, 1963.

Joseph Lichten, A Question of Judgment: Pius XII and the Jews (National Catholic Welfare Conference, 1963).

Alfred Kazin, "The Vicar of Christ," The New York Review of Books, March 19, 1964.


Hitler himself had mused in 1942 that Catholic attempts to stifle criticism were bound to backfire. He noted that "publishers had, in fact, great difficulty in disposing of the first edition" of Alfred Rosenberg's anti-Catholic book, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, until it "was mentioned in a Pastoral Letter....[W]hen the Church had finally published all its commentaries in refutation of Rosenberg's ideas, The Myth of the Twentieth Century sold its two hundred thousandth copy." See Hitler's Table Talk: 1941-1944 (Norman, Cameron and R. H. Stevens, tr., Enigma Books, New York, 2000), p. 422 (remarks made April 11, 1942, "at dinner"). The Vatican seems never to have learned the lesson. In 1999 the first edition of Gone With the Wind in the Vatican, an expose of curial sex-and-politics by retired Monsignor Luigi Marinelli, sold only 7,000 copies before the Vatican banned it; a rushed reprint sold 100,000. See Paul House, "Cardinal Sin And Hi-Jinks In Vatican," Sunday Mail (London), August 8, 1999, p. 26.

Until the early 1960s, American Jews and their organizations had shown strangely little interest in the Holocaust. On the postwar lapse of interest in Holocaust matters, see Morris Dickstein, "Sounds of Silence," The New York Times, January 28, 2001, Section 7, p. 10, and John Lukacs, The Hitler of History (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1997), p. 4.

A point made by John Jay Hughes, op. cit.

Hochhuth, "Sidelights on History," pp. 287, 348. Hochhuth was a disciple of Erwin Piscator, founder of a quasi-Marxist school of drama known as "political theater," which put prominent persons on stage for pillorying or praise, according to criteria not of historical but of political correctness. In a later play, Die Soldaten (The Soldiers), Hochhuth accused Winston Churchill of having ordered the murder of the Polish General Sikorski and his pilot, whose plane crashed close to Gibraltar, causing the death of the general. The pilot, in fact, survived and brought libel charges against Hochhuth; the suit was unsuccessful, but Hochhuth's reputation was damaged (Gumpel, op. cit.). Though generally praising Hochhuth as a playwright of conscience, editorialists in the United States questioned his objectivity: "historically... [The Deputy] is open to challenge on many points" (Echoes of the Deputy," The New York Post, editorial, March 6, 1964); "the facts [are] in dispute; the history imperfect; the indictment too severe" ("Silence," The New York Times, editorial, Jan. 28, 1964).

The play's influence was not clearly foreseen at the time: "The Deputy will not succeed in blasting the reputation of Pope Pius XII, if that is what is intended" (Tom F. Driver, "The Meaning of Silence," The Reporter, June 1964). In fact, as Kevin Madigan rightly notes, "the Pius that most people... know today -- is traceable to The Deputy and its influence" ("What the Vatican Knew About the Holocaust, and When," Commentary, October 2001, pp. 52).

"Perspectives: Pius XII," rebroadcast on The History Channel, December 26, 1997.

See especially Guenther Lewy, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany (McGraw-Hill, 1964), Saul Friedlander, Pius XII and the Third Reich (Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), and Carlo Falconi, The Silence of Pius XII (Little, Brown, 1970).

Eamon Duffy, "Pius XII Was Not Hitler's Pope," Newsday, October 28, 1999, p. A-51.

"J'Accuse," Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 4, 2001, p. 7.

The Popes Against the Jews, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001, p. 16.

"What Would Jesus Have Done?" The New Republic, January 21, 2002, p. 23.

Susan Zuccotti, Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy, Yale University Press, 2000, p. 63

Gumpel, "Cornwell's Pope: A Nasty Caricature of a Noble And Saintly Man," Zenit, Sept. 16, 1999.

The New York Times, December 26, 1942.

Ibid., March 18, 1998.

Shira Schoenberg (op. cit.) blames Pius XII for issuing "no such condemnation of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass)," even though that tragedy occurred in November 1938, five months before he was elected pontiff. John Weiss recklessly asserts that Pius "supported the Nazis... even if it meant the murder of priests" (Ideology of Death, 1995). Arthur Noble, of the anti-Catholic European Institute of Protestant Studies, cites Pius XII's alleged racism as proof that "Romanism was the motivating force behind the recent war against Yugoslavia and the vicious campaign of denigration of Serbia in the 1990s" ("Vicar of Christ or Instrument of the Devil?" [1999], monograph in possession of author).

The Ratlines myth was first propagated in Ladislas Farago's Aftermath: Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich, which claimed to follow the trails of escaping Nazi leaders. Farago indicated the number of the hotel rooms occupied by fleeing Nazis and even described the green Volkswagen transporting them; he saw his work as "an investigation in the French style, a serious study, but with no claims to mere erudition" [emphasis added]. See Father Pierre Blet, S.J. "Response To Accusations Against Pius XII: Myth Vs. Historical Fact," L'Osservatore Romano, April 29, 1998. Farago's theme was taken up by Christopher Simpson in Blowback (Collier Books, 1989, pp. 176-198) and embellished by John Loftus and Mark Aarons in Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the Nazis, and Soviet Intelligence (St. Martin's Press, 1991). Aarons and Loftus claimed that Bormann and other fugitives were furnished with Vatican passports, were fitted with clerical robes, and were openly "driving around [Rome] in cars with Vatican plates." The authors told Larry King that "The Pope knew... Pope Pius had Nazis living in his library" ("Did the Vatican Collaborate With the Nazis?" CNN, Larry King Live, January 24, 1992, Transcript #482). Robert Graham demonstrates that U.S. intelligence reports cited as evidence by Aarons and Loftus came from a notorious fabricator, Virgilio Scattolini ("Foreign Intelligence and the Vatican," Catholic World Report, March 1992, p. 50; Marco Tosatti, "Vigilant for Historical Falsehoods," La Stampa, January 30, 1992). James Jesus Angleton, postwar chief of U.S. counterintelligence in Rome, branded Scattolini a disinformation agent under Soviet control (George Raymond Rocca interview, January 14, 1992).

"James Carroll, "The Silence," The New Yorker, April 7, 1997.

Rychlak, pp. 284-85.

Rychlak, p. 430, n. 33.

Paul Ellie, "John Paul's Jewish Dilemma," The New York Times Magazine, April 26, 1988, pp. 34-39.

James Carroll: "The Silence," The New Yorker, April 7, 1997, and "The Holocaust and the Catholic Church," The Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 1999, p. 107.

Linda Massarella, "Book Paints WWII as Hitler Ally... Vatican Files Show Pius Hated Jews," The New York Post, Sept. 7, 1999, p. 12.

The error was corrected in later versions of the dust jacket... after repeated protests from the Vatican. See Peter Gumpel, "A Journalist Reporting to Be a Scholar," Die Furch, Jan. 6, 2000, p. 1.

See the astute and painstaking analysis at Rychlak, pp. 284-85.

Cornwell's book, like Hochhuth's play, spurred a contentious bibliogony. The three years after Hitler's Pope brimmed with reconsiderations, e.g., by Pierre Blet, Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican, Lawrence J. Johnson, tr. (Paulist Press, 1999); James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews (Houghton Mifflin, 2001); Georges Passelcq and Bernard Suchecky, The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XII, Steven Rendall, tr. (Harcourt Brace, 2001); Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930-1965 (Bloomington, University of Indiana Press, 2000); Carol Ann Rittner, Stephen D. Smith, and Irena Steinfeldt, eds., The Holocaust and the Christian World: Reflections on the Past, Challenges for the Future (Continuum, 2001); Ronald J. Rychlak, Hitler, the War, and the Pope (Genesis Press, 2001); Garry Wills, Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (Doubleday, 2000); Zuccotti, op. cit.; Kertzer, op. cit.; and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic Church and the Holocaust (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002).

A thematic assessment of these criticisms from the Catholic perspective may be found in Robert A. Graham, S.J., "How to Manufacture a Legend: The Controversy over the Alleged Silence of Pope Pius XII in World War II," in Pius XII and the Holocaust: A Reader (Milwaukee: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 1988).

This was the line of defense advanced by the Vatican Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Piero Sambi, on the eve of John Paul II's visit. The quotation is excerpted from Sambi's statement on Israeli public television, as reported by the Associated Press (NY), March 19, 1334 EST. Albrecht von Kessel, a member of the German Legation in the Vatican City (and a member of the conspiracy to kill Hitler) insists: "We [the German resistance] were convinced that a fiery protest by Pius XII against the persecution of the Jews would have in all probability put the Pope himself and the Curia in extreme danger, but would certainly not have saved a single Jew" (Die Welt, April 6, 1963). Peter Gumpel writes: "He [Pius XII] had excellent reasons not to [use the word Jew in his public statements]. He knew that Hitler was a pathologically obsessed anti-Semite. Whenever the word 'Jew' was mentioned in his presence, he flew into a rage and intensified the criminal persecution of the latter" (Gumpel, op. cit.). The defense is developed by innumerable Catholic apologists. Defenders of Pius frequently cite a 1942 incident in which, after Dutch bishops spoke out against the deportations of Jews, the Nazis sent Catholic converts of Jewish families to Auschwitz.

A point made by Catholic historian Jose Sanchez (op. cit.). While neither critics nor defenders posit that Pius actively opposed the Nazis, most agree that he at least defied them by intervening to save many thousands of Jews. Even Leon Poliakov, the first author to criticize the Pope for his silence, grants that "Pius XII and other church dignitaries did much to personally help Jews." ("Le Vatican et la question juive," Monde juif, December, 1950). Pinchas Lapide concludes that a Church underground railroad rescued 800,000 European Jews, mainly by issuing them false baptismal certificates, disguising some in cassocks and hiding others in monasteries and convents (Three Popes and the Jews, 1967). Father Blet allows that Lapide's numbers "haven't been proven," but believes that "nobody has showed the reverse" (Stanley, op cit.). Although James Carroll insists that "no records directly tying such heroism have ever been uncovered" (Constantine's Sword, Houghton Miflin, 2001, p. 525), Poliakov (op. cit.) asserts "that secret instructions were sent out by the Vatican, urging the national churches to intervene in behalf of the Jews." In 1940, for instance, Pius XII sent a secret instruction to the Catholic bishops of Europe, Opere et caritate (By Work and Love), ordering that all victims of racial persecution be helped. These instructions, Poliakov argues, rendered other instructions unnecessary.



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved