Newly discovered World War II documents further vindicate Pius XII

Newly discovered World War II documents further vindicate Pius XII

New findings have revealed documents and testimony which clearly show that on 16 October 1943 it was the intentional lack of a public denunciation by Pius XII against the arrest of the Roman Jews which saved their lives and enabled their rescue.

A signed 1972 deposition of General Karl Wolff, SS commander for Italy and deputy to Heinrich Himmler, states that in September 1943 Adolf Hitler ordered him to develop a plan to invade the Vatican, kidnap the Pope, seize the Vatican assets, and kill the Roman Curia. This plan was to be carried out at once.

General Wolff knew that if this invasion were executed, massive riots throughout Europe would ensue, seriously hindering the German war effort. He said that he was successful in convincing Hitler to delay the invasion. This view of a potential military disaster was shared by the military governor of Rome, Major General Rainer Stahel, and the German ambassador to the Holy See, Ernst von Weizsäcker.

Vatican neutrality

Pius XII learned of the invasion plan, and likewise believed that the result would be massive riots potentially killing thousands of innocent people and that the Vatican's neutrality would be breached, thereby enabling German forces to enter all Vatican properties. Handwritten minutes exist, which state that on 6 September 1943, Pius XII secretly called the cardinals together to tell them the Vatican would be invaded and he would be taken to the north and probably killed. The cardinals were to be prepared to leave for a neutral country immediately upon the invasion of Vatican territory.

He also signed a letter of resignation and placed it in his desk. He instructed the cardinals to form a government in exile and to elect a new Pope once they were safe.

Throughout this period, the ambassador von Weizsäcker sent deceptive positive messages about the Pope to Berlin to calm Hitler, not to justify an order to invade. Some critics of Pius XII have erroneously based their theories of papal complicity and collaboration on these intentionally misleading cables — what von Weizsäcker's lieutenant, Albrecht von Kessel, later called "tactical lies."

We have additional testimony from Lieutenant Nikolaus Kunkel, a German officer from the headquarters of the military governor of Rome, which corroborates documented evidence and testimony of exactly how Pius XII directly saved the Roman Jewish community and that they were expecting the invasion order from Berlin any day.

When the early morning arrests began on 16 October 1943, Pius XII was alerted to this by Princess Enza Pignatelli Aragona Cortes. He immediately took multiple steps to force the Germans to stop the arrests. He summoned the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Maglione, and instructed him to launch a vehement protest against the arrests. Cardinal Maglione warned von Weizsäcker that same morning, that the Pope could not remain silent as they arrested the Jews under his very windows, in his own diocese.

Pius XII then sent his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, to meet with a German sympathiser, Bishop Alois Hudal, to instruct him to write a letter to his German contacts to immediately stop the arrests.

This too proved ineffective. Pius XII's last effort, the most successful, was to send his close confidant, Salvatorian Superior General Father Pankratius Pfeiffer, to meet directly with the military governor of Rome, General Stahel. Father Pfeiffer warned Stahel that the Pope was going to launch a loud and public protest against these arrests if they were not stopped. Fear that this public protest would result in Hitler's ordering the invasion of the Vatican prompted Stahel to act.

General Stahel immediately telephoned Heinrich Himmler, and fabricated military grounds to stop the arrests. Trusting Stahel's assessment, Himmler advised Hitler to stop the arrests. The order to stop the arrests was issued at noon on 16 October, resulting in its implementation by 2 pm on the day they began.

This sequence of events was independently confirmed by General Dietrich Beelitz, the liaison officer with Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's office and Hitler's command. Beelitz personally heard the Stahel-Himmler conversation. When Stahel's deception later became known, Himmler punished General Stahel by sending him to the Eastern front.

Papal orders

It was known that the Vatican was infiltrated with spies. The Pope could only send trusted priests and confidants throughout Rome and Italy with verbal and written papal orders to lift cloister, allowing men and women to enter Catholic convents and monasteries, and ordered all ecclesiastical institutions to hide the Jews wherever they could.

According to famed British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, the Vatican hid thousands of Jews in literally one day. Once hidden, the Vatican continued to feed and support their Jewish "guests" until Rome's liberation on 4 June 1944.

It was recently discovered in the American archives that the Allies had broken the German codes and knew almost a week in advance of the intended arrests of the Roman Jews. The Allies decided not to warn the Romans since this might alert the Germans to this intelligence breach. This decision left Pope Pius XII alone, without advance notice, to try to end the arrests.

When speaking of Pope Pius XII, the foremost Jewish scholar of the Holocaust in Hungary, Jeno Levai, stated that it was a "particularly regrettable irony that the one person in all of occupied Europe who did more than anyone else to halt the dreadful crime and alleviate its consequences is today made the scapegoat for the failures of others."

With acknowledgement to Zenit News Service and Pave the Way Foundation which retrieved the World War II documents.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.