The Importance of Accurate Facts in evaluating the “silence” of Pius XII

Yesterday, Paul O’Shea’s excellent piece of work “A Cross Too Heavy: Eugenio Pacelli” arrived on my desk. It is an excellent piece of historical work. Paul’s own historical accounts are, from what I have read thus far, very sound. Yet as an author on this subject, he does feel bound to give a personal moral judgement on Pius at the very end of the book. It is a conclusion I respect, even if I do not share it whole heartedly:

How do I judge Pope Pius XII and his role during the Holocaust? I believe the historical record shows that he was a saintly man who honestly believed he did what he could to save the Jews of Europe. But Eugenio Pacelli was not perfect; he had flaws and he made a number of tragic errors. Perhaps his greatest flaw was his inability to see beyond the theological and social reality in which he had lived all his life, to a vision of the Church that was embraced by his successor. His blindness was not that of wilful ignorance or of not wanting to know; it was the fervently held belief that the mission of the Universal Pastor of Chrsit’s Chuch, entrusted to him by Almighty God Himself, made him accountable to God for the preservation and salvation of the Catholic Church so that its mission in the world could continue. Nothing, not even the deaths of millions, could be allowed to stand between the Pope and this God-given task.

The historical record demonstrates that Pius sincerly hoped that the bishops of the local churches across Europe would act according to their consciences and rescue Jews and others threatened with danger and death. It must have pained him greatly that so little was doe. He was utterly convinced (as far as I can ascertain from the limited documentary evidence available) that his role precluded him from any direct form of condemnation of the extermination of European Jewry in the same way that he believed his role precluded him from condemnation of Soviet atrocities. I admit to seeing logic in his thinking – neutrality in action and a strict public adherance to impartiality – but I cannot accept the moral argument underpinning it. (page 328)

He acknowledges that “in the official church responses to the murder of Europe’s Jews, the Pope did not once write or speak a specific word” (page 322) and says that we have to face the fact that “Pius XII did not speak out clearly because he did not want to” (page 332). Perhaps, in light of his moral judgement on page 328 quoted above, this was not the best way to put it. Paul himself writes that “he never once counter-ordered rescue work or halted any act of resuce of Jews”(p. 322) and that “it was very unlikely that Pius XII would ever have made such a statement. I suspect he would have considered it too dangerous — not for himself, but for others” (page 323). That may not excuse Pius XII’s decision, but it does at least help us understand that his silence wasn’t because of a cold heart toward the Jewish people.

All this merely gives the background to the main point of this post, which is that sometimes the judgement of Pius XII’s failure to speak out on behalf of Jews is exacerbated by erroneous evidence. One such piece of erroneous evidence came to light today.

There was a report that circulated in many papers a few days ago about a telegram from American diplomat Harold Tittmann about a meeting he had with Pius XII. The telegram is dated “October 19, 943” – that is, three days after the October 16 “razzia” or roundup of Roman Jews. (Nb. It is estimated that 7000 of the 8000 Jews living in Rome were hidden from this raid by Catholic churches, convents and homes). The point is that Tittmann does not mention anything in his report which would indicate that Pius had any concern for the Jews who were victims of this very recent atrocity. You can read the entire telegram here – and in fact I suggest you do before you go any further with reading this post, because it will put things in perspective.

Here is the conclusion that Times Online drew concerning this “evidence” of Pius XII’s “silence”:

In another telegram a year earlier, dated October 19, 1943, Harold Tittmann, the US Ambassador to the Holy See, reported to Washington that Pius XII had appeared indifferent to the fate of more than a thousand Jews rounded up in the Rome ghetto and sent by train to Auschwitz. Instead of showing “indignation” over the deportations, Pius XII had shown more concern over reports of “communist gangs roaming in the environs of Rome”, Mr Tittmann said, an apparent reference to anti-Fascist partisans.

In fact, Tittmann did NOT report that the Pope appeared “indifferent” to the fate of Romes Jews – he himself doesn’t even mention it either! Astounding, given the fact that this event happened on October 16 and the telegram dated “October 19” says that his meeting was “today”.

Today, an article in Zenit provides the answer:

Incorrect Date on Pius XII Document Explains Silence
Pope Couldn’t Be Indifferent to Raid as It Hadn’t Happened Yet

By Jesús Colina

ROME, FEB. 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Pope Pius XII was again in the news this week, as researchers presented two documents that were interpreted as putting the Pope in a negative light regarding his response to the Holocaust.

As ZENIT reported Monday, a brief document was presented as a new find dated Oct. 19, 1943. The document is a telegram from American diplomat Harold Tittmann on his meeting with the Pope.

The document does not mention the Oct. 16 raid on the Jews of Rome, wherein more than 1,000 of the city’s Jews were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz.

Given that Tittmann’s report does not mention the raid (though theoretically it had happened just three days before), and instead reports Pius XII’s concern about Communists in Rome and his desire to keep the Eternal City in peace, headlines reported the Pope’s “indifference” to the Holocaust.

However, there is a basic problem.

In a statement sent to ZENIT, Professor Ronald Rychlak of the University of Mississippi explains that Pius XII could not have expressed concern about the roundup of Roman Jews because it hadn’t happened yet. Rychlak is the author of “Hitler, the War, and the Pope.”

He explained: “The transcribed message to Washington from Harold Tittmann is dated Oct. 19, but this is a mistake. Vatican records show that the meeting between Pius and Tittmann took place on Oct. 14.

“In fact, L’Osservatore Romano of Oct. 15, 1943, reported on page one — top of the first column — that Tittmann was received by the Pope in a private audience on Oct. 14, 1943.

“Apparently a handwritten ’14’ was misread as a ’19’ when the documents were typed. The Pope did not mention the roundup of Jews because it had not yet happened!”

Rychlak noted that what the Pope did express to Tittmann was his concern “that a group of Communists would commit a violent act and this would lead to serious repercussions. Of course, he proved to be exactly correct the following spring.”

That Pius was more concerned about the Communist threat than the Nazi threat is, I think, well proven. Paul O’Shea’s book gives ample evidence on this. Nor can we deny the tragic truth that if you go looking for a public, unambiguous denouncement of the murder of the Jews by the Nazis from Pope Pius XII, you will not find it. There was not such clear public statement. I was speaking the other day to an elderly Jewish gentleman who was in the Polish resistance during the war, and he said they listened daily for such an dennouncment and it never came. We cannot deny this fact. Nor can we deny that the reason for this lack of a clear public statement is, as Paul O’Shea concludes, because Pius “did not want to” make such a statement. The reason he “did not want to” is up for debate – I am personally convinced that he did not want to because he believed the negative consequences would outweigh the benefit of silence. This, I think, was a mistake. But he did not “not want to” out of any lack of care for the fate of the Jews. And – as this example of the mis-dated telegram shows – we must be very careful about any historical “evidence” we might use as proof of any such “lack of concern” for the fate of the Jewish people on the part of Pius XII.

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24 responses to “The Importance of Accurate Facts in evaluating the “silence” of Pius XII

  1. Son of Trypho

    Pius XII is probably the most controversial topic for Catholic/Jewish dialogue nowadays and all evidence needs to be examined extremely closely to avoid problems like the one noted in this post.

    From my perspective (as a Catholic from a Jewish background):
    Pius XII was:
    1. primarily concerned with his responsibility to the Church to ensure its survival and that this was entirely appropriate – and it should be noted that many Jewish Hassidic dynasties deliberately saved their leadership at the expense of their followers for similar reasons – and have not suffered similar criticism within the Jewish world;
    2. deliberately chose not to speak out because he considered that it would be worse for both Jews and Catholics and was correct in doing so as evidenced by numerous Nazi atrocities in reaction to any sort of resistance throughout the war eg. St Teresia Benedicta comes to mind;
    3. was constrained politically as a sovereign head of state maintaining neutrality with regards to his statements and actions;
    4. did what he could under particularly difficult conditions i.e. Rome was occupied by the Germans and the RSI;
    5. was aware of the general extent of the persecution and expected local bishops to do what they could under similarly difficult conditions – local bishops generally failed miserably – however it should be noted that the majority of victims were in Eastern Europe especially Poland and Poland’s clergy was virtually destroyed and non-functioning during the Soviet and German occupations. In the case of the USSR territories the Church maintained a limited presence and did not have networks constructed to provide any meaningful assistance;
    6. had condemned Nazi ideology with Mit brennender Sorge as Secretary of State before the war however he and Pius XI had failed in their roles in negotiations which led to Hitler’s consolidation of power;
    7. was primarily concerned with Soviet Communism – particularly Pius XI who had been Papal nuncio in Warsaw during the Soviet invasion following WW1 and had seen what the Bolsheviks and Stalin were capable of – and was correct in his fears.

    All in all, Pius XII is judged unfairly by a lot of critics – judgements which are not equally applied to other major figures in the war. Similarly, some of the critics are irrational – I have discussed this with several Jewish critics who consider nothing less than Pius XII being killed by the Nazis himself as acceptable.

    • Filius (thus I tag you – I can’t call you SOT), I didn’t know you were of Jewish background. I know a couple of Catholic folk with a foot in both camps (dual-belonging again – becoming Catholic doesn’t stop you being a Jew any more than becoming an atheist does!), and it is always good to get their perspective. Catholic Jews have an advantage in this debate, that no-one can say thei opinion is “anti-Jewish” (mind you, I have heard some Jews describe other Jews as anti-semites – go figure…). I agree with Paul O’Shea’s historical judgement – on this I think he is pretty good; I don’t necessarily agree with him on his moral judgement. Let he who is without sin, etc.

    • My point about O’Shea’s criticisisms is that they don’t belong in the “irrantional” camp.

  2. Tony

    … I am personally convinced that he did not want to because he believed the negative consequences would outweigh the benefit of silence …

    What, in your view David, would have been the ‘outweighing’ negative consequences.

    I ask this in the context of determining if this was a man of heroic virtue.

    It seems to me that a man of heroic virtue puts a very high price on the truth and, assuming he knew the truth, he should have spoken out at every opportunity.

    (My, albeit limited, experience on this issue is that it is very divisive, so I find your calm tone quite refreshing!)

    • Well, there are two possible ways to read the situation:

      1) He did not want to speak out clearly and unambiguously on behalf of the Jews, because to do so would not have stopped a single Jew going to the death camps and would have in fact endangered the Church’s rescue operations

      2) He did not want to speak out clearly and unambiguously on behalf of the Jews, because to do so would not have stopped a single Jew going to the death camps and would have in fact endangered the Church’s operations full stop.

      The uncharitable view is that Pius cared less for the Jews than for the Church. They were “the lesser victim”. Paul tends in this direction, but with the caveat that we need to understand that the Pope saw himself as bound to be a Shepherd of the Sheep, not a Shepherd of the Jews. There appears to be the hint that, if he were a free individual, he would have acted spontaneously to help the suffering Jews, but that he felt constrained due to his office as protector and preserver of the Church.

      I take a slightly different view, although without denying that elements of this may have been true. Paul’s book makes it clear that the Church was not short on action, but on words. Whatever we say about “actions speaking louder than words” today we don’t believe this. We praise someone for their great rhetoric in favour of this or that cause, but don’t bother to callobrate their words to their actions (the current President of the USA is a good case in point). Pius acted, and did not speak. Therefore we condemn him. I sometimes get the impression that there are people today who would have been happier if he had spoken, and not acted. Or who take naive opinion that a good Christian would have spoken out no matter what the risk to anyone. The real sacrifice of Pius XII was that, knowing he should speak out, he kept quite because he truly believed it was his duty to do so. He believed this because he believed that as Pope he had a primary duty to protect and preserve the Church throughout the world – a Church which was under a real threat of anihilation. Admittedly, the Jews were not just under a threat, they were actually being anihilated. So we may judge that Pius made the wrong call. But I think we can understand why he made the choice he did, and that he “did not want to speak out” in the sense that he did not want to fail to do his duty, rather than in the sense that he did not want to help the Jews.

      • Tony

        David,

        The context here is about the Jews but, of course, the Nazis systematically exterminated other groups such as the Romani, homosexuals and people with intellectual disabilities. There was so much at stake in terms of telling this truth.

        And again, my concern is about determining if someone is of ‘heroic virtue’, not if they made understandable decisions with conflicting moral consequences in very difficult times.

        To me, a person of herioc virtue stands out — without compromise — to tell and live by the truth. Often that may mean a threat to their own life and to the lives of others.

        Jesus told the truth knowing that he put his life in danger and knowing that others would face the same fate.

        Many individuals of heroic virtue during times of war and oppression, know that they risk their own lives and the lives of those associated with them.

        It seems to me that this is one of those cases. Pius would have known, as well as anyone, about the systematic murders. That truth is surely more important than protecting the ‘church’s operations’ or speculating about the irrational and deadly reactions of those you are condemning.

        The church’s operations, in fact the very heart of it’s mission, is not set back by witholding the truth or compromising the truth. To use Jesus’ own words in relation to the church, ‘I was born for this, I came into the world for this’.

        • Tony, see Exy’s list below of approbations that Pius received after the war.

          I believe he was recognised as heroic in his own lifetime, on the basis of his actions. It is since his death that the conversation has turned to “Why did he remain silent?”, ie. to focus on words. I guess in the age of J.F. Kennedy, when this accusation was first sounded, rousing speeches had a sort of priority over action. I don’t think that was the case during the war itself.

        • Son of Trypho

          Tony

          You seem to ignore the fact that Pius wouldn’t have been speculating or assuming about the retaliation he would have suffered from the Nazis – they had a well established and proven track record of flagrant disregard for justice and practice of collective punishments dating from prior to the war.

          It would have been extremely unusual for them to have done nothing or little or changed their policies as a result of Pius speaking out – far more likely was the usual practice of having collectively punished the Church like they did for political opposition.

          As to speaking out – you can look at Bishop Von Galen’s speaking out about euthanasia (AktionT4) as an example – the Nazis certainly stopped doing it publicly – but continued the program secretly – and we are talking about German citizens here who had significant rights rather than Jews etc who had none. The outspokeness achieved nothing other than to have Von Galen listed for future punishment at the end of the war for his opposition. The only reason he was saved was because he was a high profile figure and the Nazi leadership considered it imprudent to execute him as it would affect public morale, especially with the troops who were struggling in the USSR at the time.

          As to Jesus speaking out – I disagree with this analogy because He didn’t put anyone in danger precisely because they chose themselves to participate in His movement. The followers always had a choice – one of them even refused to acknowledge Him when they were in danger and got away because the movement was so small that people couldn’t easily identify them. Pius did not have that option because Catholic identity was well established and the Church would have suffered as a result. Look to Poland – huge numbers of clergy and Church infrastructure were destroyed by the Nazis openly. Pius knew this was on the cards and could not risk the Church for what was most likely going to be a noble, but doomed call to save others.

          Your views remind me of the cases of the early Christians who would publicly denounce themselves (and others) during anti-Christian persecutions because they had a warped idea of the moral requirement to do so as an act of public faith. The early Church considered that this reasoning was incorrect.

          • Tony

            SoT,

            I’m not ignoring anything.

            One of the reasons I welcome this conversation is because (so far) it’s not an ‘us and them’ slanging match.

            It seems clear that Pius took actions where, in his judgement, the benefits outweighed the risks. For this I am certainly of David’s view that we should not judge him harshly or that we should judge him charitably. I apply the same view to the ‘early Christians’ you mentioned (there but for the Grace of God …).

            But this is not what I’m concerned about. I’m asking (not telling), is this a man of heroic virtue?

            Can we honestly look David’s Polish gentleman in the eye and convince him?

            It may even come down to us, out of a sense of respect, waiting until all the ‘Polish gentlemen’ have died because they will always find it so much harder to understand the big picture stuff and will, understandably (if not illogically), be slighted by an elevation of Pius to (near) sainthood.

            Let’s keep the conversation going. Let it be open and rigorous.

            Finally, the church has for centuries allowed time to be a significant ‘filter’ for the cause of saints. Surely this needs to apply here? I’m sure Pius can wait!

            • Son of Trypho

              Tony

              I’m not sure how your position that Pius should have spoken out irrespective of consequences because he was speaking truth compares with your suggestion that the Church should delay speaking out on behalf of Pius’ beatification process, despite it being truth, because a possible consequence may be offence?

              As you noted earlier, Jesus Himself spoke truth despite consequences and offended many people with it – would you have the Church do otherwise?

              As to time elapsed between sanctification etc – yes, you are right that historically speaking the Church has conducted its matters in that way.

              However we are in the 21st Century now and the world is a much smaller place – the Church has greater access to information and ability to investigate and examine these claims.

              It is unsurprising that things are done quicker than earlier times with limited transportation, communications, information etc.

              Another thing which springs to mind is that this is only one particular circumstance in a lifetime of an individual. Who judges whether this particular circumstance is enough to disqualify one’s sanctity? Surely there are examples of other Christians who have committed sin and yet their sanctity is recognised? (St Augustine of Hippo comes to mind).

              • Tony

                SoT,

                I’m not sure how your position that Pius should have spoken out irrespective of consequences because he was speaking truth …

                That’s not ‘my position’. I’m asking the question (as are others), does the way he spoke out make him a person of ‘heroic virtue’? Is it reasonable to ask if he could have done more? I don’t assume the answer.

                … compares with your suggestion that the Church should delay speaking out on behalf of Pius’ beatification process, despite it being truth, because a possible consequence may be offence?

                The first question to ask is ‘is it truth?’. I think the jury is still out on that. The second point is that there was an urgency to speak out (if that was to be done) by Pius that was, by orders of magnitude, much more than now in terms of his beatification.

                This is no ordinary man up for a sainthood gong. This a man of great power (in the sense of church leadership and, arguably, in a broader sense in terms of his influence) and considerable controversy. Time is often a great ally in sorting out the opinions that endure and those that fall away.

                There are still people alive now, like David’s Polish gentleman, who need to be respected and heard (and shown to be respected and heard). That will take time and forbearance.

                Who judges whether this particular circumstance is enough to disqualify one’s sanctity?

                In a specific sense, the relevant Vatican group. In a general sense we all have an ‘investment’ in the process. We all have a stake in promoting or, if necessary, defending our saints. We all need to feel confident about the process.

                Surely there are examples of other Christians who have committed sin and yet their sanctity is recognised? (St Augustine of Hippo comes to mind).

                Again, I’m not accusing Pius of ‘committing sin’ and, even if I were, Pius would be a very different model from one who lives a sinful life, repents and lives on in a saintly way.

                • Son of Trypho

                  Tony – sorry perhaps you can clarify this statement of yours earlier:

                  “It seems to me that a man of heroic virtue puts a very high price on the truth and, assuming he knew the truth, he should have spoken out at every opportunity.”

                  This would indicate that you consider Pius not to have been of heroic virtue because he did not speak out – which led me to think that you hold the position that he should have spoken out?

                  (Noting that later you remove any doubt of what he knew with “Pius would have known, as well as anyone, about the systematic murders. “)

                  And this is interesting too:

                  “The first question to ask is ‘is it truth?’. I think the jury is still out on that.”

                  Well not actually – because he has been declared Venerable which indicates that his process of beatification is underway – he has been recognised as having lived a life of heroic virtue which really makes your question moot in the first place.

                  Which leads me to ask – why raise this in this context after it has occured?

                  • Tony

                    SoT,

                    I don’t mean to come across as having made up my mind — I’m used to a much more polarised debate — but I did start with ‘It seems to me …’

                    I’m not sure what point your making ‘why raise it’.

                    I’m trying to understand what ‘herioc virtue’ is, specifically as it relates to Pius.

    • Son of Trypho

      Certainly – it is heroically virtuous if you make yourself only vulnerable to retaliation for your stance i.e. become a martyr for the truth.

      In Pius’ case his stance would have made other martyrs i.e. innocent people punished for his political and moral actions which would be arguably unjust and/or selfish on his part.

      It is unlikely that the Nazis would have retaliated directly against Pius himself (although the Vatican did have a plan set up for that situation) but it is certain that they would have acted against the Church and its members.

      Similarly, Pius was fully aware of their collective punishment policies and complete disregard for morality and/or justice when dealing with any opposition – the stance would not have saved any Jewish lives as well.

      Pius was also constrained by his duty to the Church and Europe generally – the Church was required to assist in the reconstruction effort of Europe after the war and had a longer term goal and obligation to oppose the USSR and its satellite dictatorships.

      • Tony

        In Pius’ case his stance would have made other martyrs i.e. innocent people punished for his political and moral actions which would be arguably unjust and/or selfish on his part.

        But that’s second-guessing what the other person (or regime) will do. Pius was not responsible for that, he could not be sure that speaking out would make it any worse and there is a chance that the church speaking out all over the world with great force could have made it better.

        If you are constrained in telling the truth by speculating what others will do, you’d do nothing. Pius didn’t do nothing, he took actions that could have (and may have) provoked the enemy, but he did them anyhow.

        To me that’s a principled way to act in the face of evil. That’s heroic virtue; that’s what the church is about.

        In my opinion, with admittedly limited knowlege, Pius didn’t do enough to earn that approbation. He stopped short for understandable reasons, but not herioc ones.

        • “Pius didn’t do enough to earn that approbation”

          I wonder what you mean by “enough”, Tony? I only ever did one brave thing in my life, but given how cowardly I am and how much I like my security, I like (personally) to think that what I did was “heroic” (I am entitled to my own sense of self esteem here, folks! :-).)

          Given that everything in his life and background had trained him to be cautious and to deliberate on every decision, I wonder if the very actions he did do do not say that he was, in his own particular idiom, heroic.

  3. R J Stove

    An Internet search – brief, admittedly – hasn’t enabled me to find out anything in particular about this Paul O’Shea (as opposed to plenty of other people who share this rather frequent name). But purely on the strength of what he writes about Pius XII, I find myself wondering: are we dealing with yet another careerist Hibernian ex-Catholic jumping on the let’s-kick-Pacelli bandwagon? Anyone know?

    • Ah, no, we aren’t, RJ. (BTW a little bird tells me that Paul actually reads this blog every now and again, so speak of him as if he were in the room!).

      Its a bit the opposite really. If anything, he is critical of exactly the sort of “careerist Hbernian ex-Catholics” you speak of. He started closer to that camp, but actually came to a more positive view of Pacelli during his studies. The bits I have quoted may sound harsh, but in fact, it is important to read what comes at the very beginning of the passage I quoted: “I believe the historical record shows that he was a saintly man…” What follows is a qualification of that statement, not a retraction of it. And I think that if God shows us that Pius XII is a saint (and it is up to God from here on in, not to us) then we need to realise that “saint does not equal perfect human being”, and that declaring Pius XII’s sainthood does not require us to whitewash history.

    • jules

      Dr Paul O’Shea is a Sydney educator and historian with many years of experience in inter-faith dialogue. He is the Senior Religious Education Coordinator at St Patrick’s College Strathfield where he teaches, among other topics, Christianity and Judaism. He has taught in Jewish adult education for over ten years, having the chutzpah to teach Shoah, Jewish history and antisemitism to and with Jews.

      Paul’s particular area of research has been Pope Pius XII and Catholic responses to the Holocaust. 2008 is the 50th anniversary of the death of this most enigmatic of Popes; a man who remains more controversial in death than he ever was in life. O’Shea is a member of the Council of Christians and Jews and a founding director of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Paul’s book A Cross Too Heavy is his first published work.

  4. Exy

    Condemnation with faint praise.

    For some facts I suggest one goes to the website of Pave the Way Foundation
    http://www.pavethewayfoundation.org/index.htm

    and read the evidence produced.

    1. The Chief Rabbi of Rome

    2. The official plaque and statement of the Italian Israelelite Communities in Italy.
    The Jews to His Holiness Pius XII

    “The Congress of Delegates of the Italian Israelite communities, held in Rome

    for the first time after the Liberation, is obliged to pay tribute to Your Holiness,

    and to express the deepest sense of gratitude from all Jews, for the show of

    human brotherhood by the Church during the years of persecution and when

    their lives were put in danger by the Nazi-Fascist atrocities. Many times,

    sacerdotes endured prison and concentration camps and even sacrificed their

    lives to aid the Jews. Such proof that the sense of goodness and charity still

    drives the just has served to lessen the shame of the indignities endured, the

    torment of the losses millions of human beings suffered. Israel has not finished

    suffering: the Jews will always remember what the Church, under orders from

    the Popes, did for them in that dreadful time”

    3. The statement of the head of the WJC

    “With special gratitude we remember all he has
    done for the persecuted Jews during one of the
    darkest periods of their entire history.”
    –Nahum Goldman,
    President of the World Jewish Congress

    4. “The people of Israel will never forget what his
    Holiness and his illustrious delegates… are
    doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in
    the most tragic hour of our history….”
    –Chief Rabbi Herzog of Palestine
    Father to the future President of Israel

    Also I refer to the excellent video interview with Fr Peter Gumpel SJ the postulator for the cause of Pius XII. He gives us facts and not theories.

    http://www.barhama.com/PAVETHEWAY/INTERVISTA_A_GUMPEL/GUMPLE.html

    Happy reading

    • Hi, Exy. Glad to have you back. Haven’t heard from you for a while.

      Just wanted to let you know that I am on Pope Pius’ side, and know all the stuff you have sent. I had a concerned Jewish gentleman ring the other day who was rather upset by the fact that some of his fellow Jews were so vocally opposed to Pius.

      Nevertheless, we have to be very honest and balanced here. I do believe that Pius did all he could – certainly all that he believed he could (and intentions are everything here). Even reading O’Shea’s book, I find that he says that Pius DID all he could. O’Shea’s point is to ask whether he SAID all he could. Making the distinction between speaking and doing, O’Shea believes that Pius XII was indeed a good Samaritan, and not like the priest or the levite who crossed on the other side. He acted, but he acted in silence. Why? we don’t know. We DO have to grapple with the fact that there was no public, unambiguous, specific condemnation of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis. We can’t whitewash that. He WAS vocal in defending ALL the victims of Nazism, but never was specific about the Jews.

      So? Condemnation with faint praise? I would like to think of it as an unwillingness to cast the first stone. Or, more generously, to interpret his actions in the best possible light, as the Eighth Commandment instructs us.

  5. Paul O'Shea

    Dear David, I’ve been following your blog from a gentle distance for some time and always found it well worth the time spent reading.

    Firstly, allow me to thank you for your comments about the book – it is a refreshing change to have someone critique the text rather than the author, which has been the substance of more than a few cyber-space “discussions”. It’s also refreshing to know that a discussion can be initiated and maintained on the topic rather than the presumptions of what the author may or may not believe – again, cyber-space seems to be full of “soul readers”.

    Secondly, permit to make clear a couple of points based on what I have written in the book and in a number of articles published since.

    1. I have never condemned Pope Pius XII and I have publically disagreed with the conclusions of several historians, among whom I count a number of friends, who claim that Pius was silent in word as well as deed.

    2. I have maintained that the Pope did act, and act in a consistent and pastoral manner towards all victims of the war, but given the unique case of European Jewry he was caught in a terrible situation of being “damned if he did and damned if he did not”.

    3. I believe, based on documentary evidence from the published records of the Vatican Secret Archives (Actes et Documents – which I have read in the original languages … ma il mio italiano parlato non può essere troppo buono, neppure una punta rotta, ma posso leggere il roba …) along with the material made available in 2003, of which I have read a fair amount and other sources, including material made available to me through the generousity of Gary Krupp of Pave The Way, that the arguments for and against Pius have been skewed by various agendas, and not necessarily a pursuit for the truth.

    4. The truth is found in the via media – between the extremes. Two examples of the middle way. Abraham Foxman, President of the Anti-Defamation League, asked me in 2008 what my “gut take” on Pius was. I said that I believe he was a fundamentally good man who made some big mistakes. “So” Foxman asked me, “you’re telling me he was human?” He said he could live with that (His comments were not in any way patronising, but I think quite empathetic.)

    Sr Margherita Marchione, arguably Pius’ most vocal defender, with whom I had an email exchange for quite some time in the early 00s, agreed with me that the Pope would not have written any order to open monasteries etc for fear of endangering those engaged in rescue. Moreover, she also agreed with me that he would have operated on a principle of “don’t tell me what I don’t need to know”.

    Now, do I agree with everything Abe Foxman says? No. Do I agree with everything Marchione says? No. Do I attempt to understand their position? Yes. As an historian I am bound to do this. And as an historian I question and analyse. And the same applies for the historical record wherever it is found.

    5. I closed the book at the end of the Action against the Rome Jews in October 1943, and I am critical of Pius and a good number of senior curial officials. I believe they failed the Jews of Rome. Yes, over 5000 Jews were hidden in and around Vatican properties and religious houses across the city, but the 1000+ who were eventually transported to Auschwitz were left without a word. All the behind the scenes frenetic diplomacy conducted in a manner to avoid any hint of breaching Vatican neutrality leaves me wondering what on earth was going through their minds? By this stage, October 1943, Pius knew of the existence of extermination facilities “in the East”. He would have had little doubt as to the lethal danger towards which the Rome Jews were heading.

    6. Finally, all the post-war praise from Jewish leaders should cause no surprise. To whom were the survivors going to turn? And they had reason to thank Pius – “everyone” knew that the Pope was the head of the Church. Many of the survivors had no way of going back to say thanks to their rescuers, indeed many had no idea if their saviours were even still alive (especially in Poland) so going to Rome and thanking the Pope was a perfectly natural thing to do.

    One last word … Pinchas Lapide wrote a book in 1967 entitled “The Last Three Popes and the Jews”. Lapide makes some interesting statements. His most interesting statement is to claim that Pius was directly responsible for saving 860,000 Jews. Lapide does not give any evidence for this claim, but it has become something of a talisman or mantra for many. At the Yad Vashem symposium in Jerusalem last March I challenged Andrea Tornielli to produce Lapide’s sources and said that Lapide was, and is, an unreliable source. Tornielli did not give me an answer.

    In my work in Jewish Adult Education and in Christian-Jewish interfaith discussions I have come across many Jews and a good number of Christians who have a whole galaxy of opinions on Pius – most of them negative – but who are, in the main, not eager to crucify the Pope, but eager to understand the “whys” of the history. I often find myself in the position of acting as Pacelli’s defender!

    The discussion over Pius XII is no way near being over. The war-time archives will not be available for scrutiny until, according to the lastest statement of Bishop Pagano, 2015. This is a source of ongoing frustration, and fuel for those who indulge in conspiracy myths.

    In the mean time I will continue reading, translating and writing and avoiding what I call “scrap book history”.

  6. Son of Trypho

    Paul – thanks for posting your thoughts on this topic so that other readers can see what your position is and (hopefully) engage with you.

    I’d like to take up your question:
    “All the behind the scenes frenetic diplomacy conducted in a manner to avoid any hint of breaching Vatican neutrality leaves me wondering what on earth was going through their minds?”

    I suspect that the Vatican was still uncertain as to what the consequences would be of active political opposition to the German occupation forces at the time – they were aware of how unstable Hitler was and were probably concerned that Rome itself might be destroyed as punishment (hence the Open City negotiations etc). What are your thoughts?

    • Paul O'Shea

      Dear Son of Tyrpho,

      I am inclined to agree with you on most of what you suggest. During the early part of 1943 Italy lurched from one crisis to another and by the late spring it was an open secret that all the anti-government groups, and that included the Vatican, were busy looking for any option that would get Italy out the war and the Germans out of Italy. During the debacle that was the Italian armistice, the Pope became by default the only leader left in Rome – the King etc fled after the announcement of the armistice.

      Pius was anxious about the security of the city. Indeed he had been seeking assurances from Churchill and, later, FDR, that Rome be spared bombing. (Throughout ADSS there are numerous references as well as responses from the Allies.) He was also concerned about the dangers of partisan/communist activity. This led him to make a specific request for German police help. It begs the question that given Pius’ awareness of what the Germans were capable of, and their attitude towards partisans, did he believe they would act any differently in Rome?

      I don’t think there was ever any question of political opposition to the Germans on the part of the Vatican – Pius wanted Rome preserved both physically and politically.

      Pius knew that it was not beyond Hitler to consider an attempt to kidnap him – ADSS records documents along this line from 1941. We know the scheming came to naught and was never anything more than fantasy on Hitler’s part. But, we have the benefit of hindsight, Pius did not, so contingency plans were made. The Pope knew he was playing a dangerous game with an unpredictable foe, but the evidence points to the Pope’s near obsession with saving Rome from aerial bombardment. Of course the Vatican supported the negotiations for Open City status but played the delicate game of maintaining the facade of neutrality.

      So, I think Pius and his inner-cirlce were keen to see the Germans leave Rome as soon as possible, but were wary of the potential power vacuums tht would be left in the wake of the fascist collapse and so played a dangerous game of brinkmanship during the weeks up to the Armistice in September 1943 and then later in May-June 1944.