Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Pius XII and the Nazis

Here is something interesting from Walter Kasper. This extract (below) provides information I was unaware of and casts a different light on the usual readings of the Pius XII's relationship to the Nazis.

"Pius XII was Pope (1938–58) during one of the most difficult times of the papacy during the Second World War while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by Germany. The contemporary assessment of his Pontificate during the Second World War was rather positive. In his Christmas radio message of 1942 the Pope was very clear and the Nazis understood very well what he wanted to say. The New York Times, which is not known as a church–oriented newspaper, had already in 1941 published an editorial where it spoke of the Pope as the only voice in the silence and in the dark with the courage to raise his voice. After the deportation of more than 1000 Jews from Rome (only 15 survived) in October 1943 he ordered a general Church asylum in all convents and ecclesiastical houses, including the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. According to authoritative estimates, about 4500 Jews were hidden.

After the death of the Pope the then minister for foreign affairs and then Prime Minister of the State of Israel Golda Meir thanked the Pope with warm words for what he had done in dark times for the Jewish people. In a similar way, the then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Herzog also praised the Pope for what he did. These are only some witnesses of high–ranking and well–informed persons who were well aware of what had happened, and who can be called witnesses of the time.

With Hochhut’s fictional play The Deputy (1963) the perception changed radically. Since then the reproach of silence about the extermination of the Jews has become widely spread. Hochhut was not an historian and today there is evidence that he was dependent on communist sources.2 One of the first to defend Pius XII was Joseph Lichten, a Polish Jewish diplomat who later, as director of the International Affairs Department of the Anti–Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, played a distinguished role in interfaith–dialogue. The serious recent historical research is differentiated. There are still today Jews who defend Pius XII, and on the other side there are Catholic authors who are critical about his attitude. So there is no clear frontline between Jews and Catholics,5 though the majority of Jews, especially in Israel, are still critical. Whether this is partly due to a lack of information about more recent historical research work, I would like to leave open."

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