September 29, 2023

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Letter showing that Pope Pius XII had detailed information from a German Jesuit about the Nazi Holocaust

Letter showing that Pope Pius XII had detailed information from a German Jesuit about the Nazi Holocaust

ROME – Newly discovered correspondence suggests that World War II-era Pope Pius XII had detailed information from a trusted German Jesuit that as many as 6,000 Jews and Poles were being gassed every day in German-occupied Poland. The documentation undermines the Holy See’s argument that it cannot verify diplomatic reports of Nazi atrocities to condemn them.

Documents from the Vatican archives, published this weekend in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, are likely to inflame debate over the legacy of Pius II and the now-stalled beatification campaign. Historians have long been divided over Pius’ record, with his supporters insisting he used quiet diplomacy to save Jewish lives, while his critics say he remained silent as the Holocaust raged.

The Corriere newspaper publishes a letter dated December 14, 1942 from a German Jesuit priest to Pius’s secretary, which is included in a forthcoming book on the newly opened files of Pius’s papacy by Giovanni Cocco, a researcher and archivist in the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives.

Kokko told the Courier newspaper that the letter is important because it represents detailed correspondence about the Nazi extermination of Jews, including in ovens, from an informed church source in Germany who was part of the anti-Hitler Catholic resistance and who was able to obtain otherwise classified information. Vatican.

The letter from the priest, the Rev. Lothar König, to Pius’s secretary, a fellow German Jesuit named the Rev. Robert Lieber, is dated 14 December 1942. The letter is written in German, and addresses Lieber as “my dear friend.” He goes on to note that the Nazis were killing up to 6,000 Jews and Poles daily from Rava Ruska, a town in pre-war Poland that is today in Ukraine, and transporting them to the Belzec death camp.

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According to the Balzac Memorial, which opened in 2004, a total of 500,000 Jews died in the camp. The memorial’s website indicates that up to 3,500 Jews from Rava Ruska had already been sent to Belzac earlier in 1942, and that from 7 to 11 December, the city’s ghetto was liquidated. “About 3,000 to 5,000 people were shot on the spot, and 2,000 to 5,000 people were taken to Bilecik,” the website says.

The date of König’s letter is important because it indicates that correspondence from a trusted Jesuit colleague reached Pius’s office in the days following the evacuation of the ghetto, and after Pius received numerous diplomatic notes and visits from a variety of envoys of foreign governments from August 1942 onwards with reports that Up to a million Jews have been killed so far in Poland.

While it cannot be confirmed that Pius saw the letter, Lieber was Pius’s chief aide and served the Pope when he was the Vatican’s ambassador to Germany during the 1920s, suggesting a close working relationship especially regarding matters relating to Germany.

according to “The Pope is at war” By David Kertzer, Pulitzer Prize-winning anthropologist The Supreme Secretariat of State, Monsignor Domenico Tardini, told the British envoy to the Vatican in mid-December that the pope could not speak publicly about Nazi atrocities because the Vatican was not able to. To verify information.

“The novelty and importance of this document comes from this fact: that with regard to the Holocaust, there is now certainty that Pius

However, Kokko noted that König also urged the Holy See not to make his revelations public because he feared for his life and the lives of the resistance sources who provided the intelligence. Pius’s supporters have long insisted that he could not speak out forcefully against the Nazis because of fears of retaliation.

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In a phone interview on Saturday, Kertzer said the letter may be important because it may be the first time a reference to Jews being gassed in ovens has been revealed in a letter that he said would certainly have caught Pius’ attention. Kertzer said historians had been eagerly awaiting Cocco’s book because as Vatican archivist, Cocco had access to a large collection of Pius’ personal files that had not yet been cataloged and made available to scholars when the Vatican opened the Pius archives in March 2020.

“When we started working there, it wasn’t a secret — although it took some time to figure out what kinds of documents were missing,” Kurtzer said, noting that documents from the Vatican’s office in Washington during the war years have yet to be found. So far it has been indexed.

The legacy of Pius, and the inspiration of Newly opened Vatican Archives, will be discussed at a major conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome next month, a conference notable for its list of participants from across the spectrum and their sponsorship. The project is supported by the Vatican, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Research Institute, the US Holocaust Memorial, as well as the Israeli and US embassies, among others.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, is scheduled to open the meeting, which will be held from October 9 to 11, and which will include researchers including Kurtzer, Coco, and Johann Ickx, archivist at the Vatican Secretariat of State, who has published his own book on the archives entitled “ Pius XII. “And the Jews,” published in 2021, praised the efforts of Pius and the Vatican in caring for Jews and those fleeing the war.

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König’s letter was actually found in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State Archives and was only delivered to the Vatican’s Main Apostolic Archive in 2019, Cocco said, because the State Secretariat’s papers were disorganized and scattered, with some of Pius’s documents kept in plastic containers in a storage space in the attic where Heat and humidity damage it.