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Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust: A Reply to Daniel Goldhagen

Dimitri Cavalli

THELAST SEVEN YEARS have witnessed renewed interest in the controversy over Pope Pius XlIs actions during World War 11. His critics condemn him for his silence during the Holocaust and for his collaboration with the Nazis. By contrast, the Popes defenders assert that he forcefully resisted the Nazis, spoke out many times, and saved many f Jewish lives. One o the more vile takes on Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State who became Pius XI1 on March 2,1939, comes from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in a long essay published in the New Republic (January 21, 2002).l Goldhagen condemns Pope Pius XI1 as an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer who sat by as six million Jews went to their deaths. Goldhagen, who accuses the Catholic Church of covering up its antiSemitic past and the failures of Pius XII, concludes by asking what should be the future of this Church that has not fully faced its antisemitic history, that still has antisemitic elements embedded in its doctrine and theology, and that still claims to be the exclusive path to salvation? Goldhagen first came on the public scene in 1996 with the publication of his

DIMITRI CAVALLI a writer of biographies for is H. W. Wilson Company, a reference publisher in the Bronx, New York.
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book, Hitlers Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, an adf aptation o his doctoral thesis at Harvard. Goldhagen argued that most, if not all, Germans were driven by a fanatical e 1i m i-n a t i o n is t ant i-Se m i t i s m and wanted to rid Germany o the Jews. The f book was an international best seller and thrust the author into the public spotlight. Although HitlerS Willing Executioners earned substantial praise in the mainstream press, many scholars faulted Goldhagens methodology and research. Several books appeared that refuted Goldhagens thesis and exposed f his misuse o primary and secondary sources, including Hyping the Holocaust: Scholars Answer Goldhagen (1997), a collection of essays edited by Franklin H. Littell; Anti-Semitism, Fascism, and the Holocaust: A Critical Review of Daniel Goldhagens Hitlers Willing Executioners (1997) by David North; and A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (1998) by Norman G. Finkelstein and Ruth Bettina Birn. f In his review o Hitlers Willing Executioners published in Hyping the Holocaust, Rabbi Jacob Neusner observed that this hysterical book, full of pseudoscholarship and bad arguments, calls into question the scholarly integrity of Harvards doctorate [program]. Angered by the hostile reception to this

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book, Goldhagen went on the offensive, aggressively answering his critics, whom he accused of failing to address the merits of his thesis and making personal attacks against him. Goldhagen even tried to intimidate Birn, a Canadian war crimes investigator whose review in the Cambridge Historical Journal (1997) did the most to discredit his book, into publishing a retraction by threatening to sue her for libel. Birn called Goldhagens bluff and stood by her arguments. During a speaking tour in Germany, however, Goldhagen finally admitted that Hitlers Willing Executioners was flawed. After discovering that Stephen Glass, f one o its frequent contributors, published many fabricated pieces in the magazine from 1995-1998, t h e New Republics editors pledged on June 1, 1998,that they have devised fact-checking procedures to insure the accuracy of our copy. It s e e m s t h a t t h e New Republics fact checkers were too busy even to glance at Goldhagens article. It f would take a book the size o War and Peace to adequately address Goldf hagens endless number o straw-man arguments, distortions, embarrassing f errors o fact, omissions, and falsehoods. Instead, let us focus on the main points of Goldhagens attack against Pope Pius XII. Citing John Cornwell, the British author of Hitlers Pope: The Secret History of Pius XI.(1999), Goldhagen asserts that evidence of the Popes anti-Semitism is unimpeachable. The proof is a letter written by Pacelli, when he was still the papal nuncio in Germany, to Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Cardinal Gasparri in 1919. Pacelli observed that a pair of Bolshevik revolutionaries, who mistreated one of his subordinates, were Jews. In the London Sunday Times (September 12, 1999), Cornwell asserted that this letter, which had lain in the Vatican archive like a ticking timebomb until now, showed that Pacelli was anti-

Semitic because he associated Jews with Communism. It seems that Goldhagen f accepts Cornwells interpretation o the letter at face value and has never seen the original. In fact, the complete text of this ticking time bomb was already published in the Italian historian Emma Fattorinis book, Germania e Santa Sede: La Nunziature di Pacelli tra la Grande Guerre e la Reppublica di Weirnar (Germany and the Holy See: Pacellis Nunciature during the Great War and the Weimar Republic, 1992). The text shows that Cornwell deceptively translated the letter to make it more controversial than it actually was and gave it an anti-Semitic spin. Contrary to Goldhagens claims, there is plenty of evidence that shows that Pius XI1 had very pro-Jewish attitudes. As a young student in Rome, Eugenio Pacelli went to school with Jews, notably Guido Mendes. In 1939 the Vatican provided Mendes and his family with exit visas to escape to Palestine. Mendes settled in the Tel Aviv suburb Ramat Can, eventually becoming a prominent physician in Israel. In 1917, Pacelli, who was still serving as an aide to Cardinal Gasparri, helped organize a meeting between Pope Benedict XV and the Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow. In February 2003 the Vatican began the process of opening its archives from 1933-1945 to scholars. One of the first documents that was found was a letter dated April 4, 1933, from Cardinal Pacelli, who was named the Vatican Secretary of State in December 1929, to Monsignor Cesare Orsenigo, the papal nuncio in Germany. Important Jewish personalities have appealed to the Holy Father [Pope Pius XI] to ask for his intervention against the danger o anti-Semitic excesses in Gerf many, Pacelli wrote. Given that it is part of the traditions of the Holy See to carry out its mission of universal peace and charity toward all men, regardless of the social or religious condition to
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which they belong, by offering, if necessary, its charitable offices, the Holy Father asks Your Excellency to see if and how it is possible to be involved in the desired way. InMarch 1940,FopeFiusXiiappoinied Jewish scholars, wholost their jobs when Italys anti-Semitic laws went into effect, to posts in the Vatican Library. On March 2,1940, the front page of New York Times announced the appointment of Roberto Almagia, one of the Jewish scholars. An editorial in t h e Kansas City Jewish Chronicle (March 29,1940) observed that the appointments revealed the Popes disapproval of t h e dastardly antiSemitic decrees. During the Nazi occupation o Rome f from 1943-1944, the Pope secured kosher food for Jews who were hiding in Vatican territory. An editorial dated July 14,1944,in the Congress Weekly, the official journal of the American Jewish Congress, noted that by providing the refugees with kosher food, the Catholic Church laid emphasis on the fact that it is saving the lives not merely of human beings or compatriots but of Jews. Goldhagens article provides little discussion as to what Pope Pius XI1 actually said during World War 11, and, more importantly, how his statements were interpreted by both the Allied and the Axis powers. In his memoirs, Huit Ans au Vatican (Eight Years at the Vatican, 1947), Francois Charles-Roux, t h e French Republics Ambassador to the Vatican, described Pius XIIs first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, issued on October 20, 1939, as a condemnation of exacerbated nationalism, the idolatry o the f state, totalitarianism, racism, the cult of brutal force, contempt for international agreements ...all the characteristics of

Hitlers political system.. .. In his 1939 Christmas message, the Pope warned the belligerent nations that [altrocities and the illegal use of violence even against noncombatants and refugees ...cries out for the vengeance oi God. In the same speech, he also articulated his conditions for a just and honorable peace, which included the protection of all racial minorities, a fact ignored by Goldhagen. An editorial in the London Jewish Chronicle (March 10, 1940) described these conditions as a welcome feature and hailed the Pope for standing up for the rights of the common man. Goldhagen dismisses Pius XIIs 1942 Christmas message, in which he condemned the treatment of hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their own, sometimes only by reason o their nationality or f race, are marked down for death or a progressive extinction, a s vague and meaningless. However, the Nazis themselves had a different opinion of the speech. In a manner never known before the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order, the Reich Central Security Office complained o n January 22, 1943. Here he is virtually accusing the German people of injustice towards the Jews f and makes himself the mouthpiece o the Jewish war criminals. Not surprisingly, like other Vatican critics such as Cornwell, James Carroll, Susan Zuccotti, and Michael Phayer, Goldhagen never mentions this report, which demolishes the perception that Pope Pius XI1 was silent during the Holocaust. Goldhagen alleges that the Pope supported Nazi Germanys war of extermination against the Soviet Union, because he considered Bolshevism t o be the Churchs mortal enemy. Here, GoldSummer 2003

hagen has his facts reversed. Pius XI1 actually assisted the Soviet Union during World War 11. In response to diplomatic appeals made by President Franklin Roosevelt in the fall of 1941,the Pope agreed that American Catholics could support the extension of military aid, through the Lend-Lease program, to the Soviet Union after it was invaded by the Nazis. Although the Vatican always condemned Communism (and Nazism), the Pope believed that it was important to help the Russian people, who were f the innocent victims o Nazi aggression. In their book, The Undeclared War, 19401941 (1953), William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason discuss the Popes surprising concession to Roosevelt by citing documents in the American archives. This episode is always ignored by Vatican critics because it blows a big hole in their theory that Pius XI1 turned a blind eye to Nazi atrocities; their argument being that Pius didnt want t o undermine Germany during its war against the Soviet Union. In Italy the Fascists pressured Pius XI1 to bless publicly the German invasion o f the Soviet Union and were bitterly disappointed when he refused. On September 5, 1941, Monsignor Domenico f Tardini, the secretary o the Vaticans f Congregation o Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, explained the Vaticans refusal to Dr. Bernard0 Attolico, Italys ambassador to the Vatican. I would be very happy to see Communism put out of action, Tardini said. It is the worst enemy of the Church. But it is not the only enemy. Nazism has conducted a veritable persecution against the Church and continues to do so. Additionally, during audiences granted to Attolico in 1941, Spains Foreign Minister Ramon Serrano-Suner in 1942, and the Hungarian Premier Nicholas Kallay in 1943,Pius XI1 was quoted by each of them as saying that the Nazis were far worse than the Soviets and that a Nazi victory would
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mean the end of Christianity in Europe. Vatican critics such as Goldhagen, Zuccotti, Carroll, Cornwell, and Phayer surrender their credibility when they peddle the absurd notion that the Pope would actually embrace a group of barbarians, who made no secret of their contempt for Christianity and who were brutally persecuting his own flock in Germany, Poland, and the rest of occupied Europe. Another document that was recently found in the Vatican archives shows that Pius XI1 had always recognized the anti-Christian nature of Nazism. On November 14,1923, Pacelli sent a report to Cardinal Gasparri on Hitlers failed attempt t o seize power, which took place several days earlier in Munich. I believe it is opportune to communicate to Your Eminencesome further details, that is, regarding the demonstrations of an anti-Catholic character which accompanied the uprising itself, but which have not surprised those who have followed f f the publications o the papers o the right-wing radicals, like the Volkischer Beobachter and Heirnutland, Pacelli wrote. This character was revealed above all in the systematic attacks on the Catholic clergy with which the followers of Hitler and [General Erich von] Ludendorff, especially in street speeches, stirred up the population, thus exposing the ecclesiastics to insults and abuse. Although Goldhagen, like other papal critics, sweeps the Lend-Lease issue under the rug, he reluctantly admits that Pius XI1 acted as an intermediary between a group of high-ranking German military officers who wanted to overthrow Adolf Hitler in early 1940 and the British government. This fact alone should be enough to exonerate the Pope of charges that he collaborated with the Nazis. Yet Goldhagen insists that the Pope was pro-Nazi. In fact, the Vaticans ties to theGerman Resistance went much

deeper than originally thought. In 1944 the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) interviewed T h e Reverend Robert Leiber, S.J., the Popes longtime personal secretary. The O.S.S. was looking for information mthe Ju!y 20, I944 bomb plot against Adolf Hitler. Leiber had no information about this plot, but informed the O.S.S. about three other conspiracies against Hitler, including one where the Pope played a key role. This report shows that t h e German Resistance trusted Leiber and the Pope to such an extent that they were kept informed about what was going on. The complete text of this O.S.S. report was published in American Intelligence and the German Resistance to Hitler: A Documentary History (1996), a book co-edited by Jurgen Heideking and Christof Mauch. Many critics frequently downplay or ignore the Vaticans role in publicizing Nazi atrocities during the early months of World War 11. In December 1939 August Cardinal Hlond of Gniezno and Poznan, the exiled Roman Catholic Primate of Poland, submitted several reports to the Vatican describing Nazi atrocities against the Catholic Church in Poland and Catholic and Jewish civilians. After reading them, the Pope ordered Vatican Radio t o broadcast Hlonds reports, which received substantial attention in the Allied and neutral countries. On January 21, 1940, the Vatican Radio described conditions in Nazi-occupied Poland: A system of interior deportation and zoning is being organized, in the depth o one of Europes f severest winters, on principles and by methods that can be described only as brutal; and stark hunger stares 70 percent of Polands population in the face, as its reserves of foodstuffs and tools are shipped to Germany to replenish the f granaries o the metropole [sic]. Jews and Poles are being herded into separate ghettos, hermetically sealed and pitifully inadequate for the economic

f subsistence o the millions destined to live there. As a neutral state, thevatican provided the first independent and credible confirmation of media reports about Nazi atrocities, which Germany had previous!y dismissed as A!!ied propaganda. With the Popes blessing, Hlonds reports and the Vatican Radio broadcasts were published in The Persecution o f the Catholic Church in German-Occupied Poland (1941), which brought further attention t o Nazi war crimes. What exactly did the Vatican do for the Jews?The 11 volumes of thevaticans wartime documents,Actes et documents du Saint Siege relatifsh la Seconde Cuerre Mondiale, reveal that until his death in August 1944, Vatican Secretary of State Luigi Cardinal Maglione, the first person to see the Pope every morning, frequently instructed t h e Vaticans diplomatic representatives in many Nazi-occupied and Axis nations, including Jaf pan, t o intervene o behalf of endangered Jews. After Magliones death, Monsignor Tardini continued to send out instructions until the end of the war. To cite a few of many examples, in Slovakia, which was headed by an antiSemitic Catholic priest, the Vatican vigorously protested the anti-Semitic laws and the deportations of Jews. On September 4, 1941, a short time after Monsignor Joseph Marcone took his post as the Vaticans unofficial diplomatic representative in Croatia, Maglione instructed him to intervene on behalf of Serbs and Jews, who were being brutally persecuted by the Nazi-installed puppet regime. On October 31, 1941, Maglione encouraged the papal nuncio in France f and Pierre Cardinal Gerlier o Lyon to intervene with the Vichy regime in orf der to soften the practical application o the anti-Semitic laws. The nuncios subsequent protest against the deportations of Jews in August 1942 received international attention. In February 1943, the Vatican sent money to Romania to help
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the Jews who were languishing in concentration camps there. In Italy the Vatican protected foreign Jews who were being detained at the Ferramonti concentration camp in the southern part of the country. When the f roundups o Roman Jews began in October 1943, Pius XI1 took prompt action. He ordered Cardinal Maglione to make a strong protest with the German ambassador and had an Austrian bishop living in Rome protest the arrests with the German military governor of Rome. Additionally, thousands of Jews were given shelter in convents, monasteries, and the Vatican itself. On June 25, 1944, Pius XI1 sent an open telegram to Nicholas Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, urging f him to stop the deportations o Jews. The Popes intervention, alongwith those f of President Roosevelt, King Gustav o Sweden, and the Red Cross, brought a temporary halt to the deportations. Goldhagen is wrong when he asserts that the Pope never privately instructed all European cardinals, bishops, priests, and nuns to do whatever they could to save Jews. Scores of witnesses have testified that they received instructions from the Pope and his top aides to help and to protect Jews. The witnesses include Pietro Cardinal Palazzini and Tibor Baranski, who were both honored as Righteous Gentiles by the State of Israel; Paolo Cardinal Dezza, S. J.; the aforementioned Cardinal Gerlier, who was quoted in the Australian Jewish News (April 16,1943) that he was obeying Pius XI1 by opposing the Vichy regimes antiSemitic policies; and Monsignor J. Patrick Carroll-Abbing,who died recently. In his books, Nascosti in Conventi (Hidden in Convents, 1999) and Gli Ebrei Salvati da Pi0 XI. (The Jews Saved by Pius XII, 2001), the Italian journalist Antonio Gaspari interviewed priests and nuns and many others who said they were encouraged by the Vatican to shelter Jews in Rome. Recently, two Vatican
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letters were discovered in the archives of the diocese of Campagna in Italy. In October and November 1940, Cardinal Maglione and Monsignor Giovanni Montini, the Substitute Secretary of State and future Pope Paul VI, sent sums of money to Bishop Giuseppe Palatucci of Campagna, informing him that the Pope wanted it spent on behalf of Jews detained in Italian concentration camps and other persons who were being perf secuted because o their race. During the war, many Jewish groups and leaders around the world thanked Pope Pius XI1 for his efforts many times. For example, in his August 4, 1942, letter t o t h e Pope, Chief Rabbi Miroslav Freiberger of Zagreb, Croatia, appreciated the limitless goodness that the f representatives o the Holy See and the leaders of the Church showed to our poor brothers. In his letter dated February 28, 1944, to the papal nuncio in Romania, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Jerusalem wrote, The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates.. .are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters in f this most tragic hour o history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world. On April 7, 1944, Chief Rabbi Alexander Shafran of Bucharest, Romania, sent a letter to the same nuncio, writing, It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the Supreme Pontiff, who offered a large sum to relive the sufferf ings o deported Jews .... The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance. Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee, and the AntiDefamation League, which frequently condemn Pius XI1 today, also praised him during the war and gracefully eulogized him when he died in 1958. The Vaticans many efforts on behalf

of Jews were hardly secret. During the war, Jewish newspapers around the world closely monitored the Vaticans actions. Indeed, consider these headlines arid articles: Vatican Radio Denounces Nazi Acts in Poianci-Jewish Aduocate (Boston), January 26, 1940; Lava1 Spurns Pope-25,000 Jews in France Arrested for Deportation-Canadian Jewish Chronicle, September 4, 1942; Jewish Hostages in Rome: Vatican Protests-Jewish Chronicle (London), October 29, 1943. In a July 27, 1944, editorial, True Brotherhood, the Arnerican Israelite in Cincinnati declared, With Rome liberated, it has been determined, indeed, that 7,000 of Italys 40,000 Jews owe their lives to the Vatican .... Placing these golden deeds alongside the intercession of Pope Pius XI1 with the regent of Hungary on behalf of Hungarian Jews, we feel an immeasurable degree of gratitude towards our Catholic brethren. The Vatican has begun the cause for Pope Pius XIIs canonization. The fact that the Vatican has failed to persuade anti-Catholicbigots such as Daniel Jonah

Goldhagen and the editors o the New f Republic and Catholic dissidents such as James Carroll, John Cornwell, and Garry Wills should hardly come as a surprise. For them, no amount of evidence, including illai-etiaiiiiat has been in the pubiic record for decades and documents that are gradually emerging from the newlyopened Vatican archives, will ever be persuasive. Clearly those who object to the Catholic Churchs teachings on abortion, homosexuality, and other matters will always repeat the false allegations against Pope Pius XI1 in an effort to mobilize public opinion against the Church, which continues to oppose their secular agenda. What remains to be answered is what f exactly motivated the editors o the New Republic, which also gave Pius XI1 favorable coverage during World War I1 and has been trying to rescue its reputation since the Stephen Glass debacle, to recruit a lazy and disingenuous pseudoscholar to write a malicious and libelous essay that practically declares war on Roman Catholics and their faith?

1. Goldhagens New Republic essay was based on his book entitled A Moral Reckoning: The Role ofthe Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled

Duty of Repair (New York, N.Y.: Knopf, 2002), 384 pages.


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