Did Pope Pius XII Save the Jews of Rome?
Using Tactical Lies
A recent article on Zenit, written by Gary Krupp from Pave the Way Foundation, describes how Pope Pius XII’s supposed strategy of “silence” saved thousands of Roman Jews who would have otherwise perished at Auschwitz. There are a number of problems with this article.
First of all, the article states that the Pope intentionally avoided a public denunciation of the deportation, and it was precisely this lack of public action that saved the Jews. Well, this is problematic because, as the author correctly states later in the article, the Pope threatened the German authorities with making a public denunciation if they didn’t stop the ongoing arrests. This means the Pope could not have had a strategy to keep quiet. Second, irrespective of what the Pope’s plans were, it is misleading to claim that these plans were what “saved their lives and enabled their rescue”. It is misleading because on the one hand, the Jews of Rome were alerted of the imminent deportations ahead of time, which enabled the greatest majority of them to find shelter in the homes of their friends and neighbors, as well as in Church properties. Most of them were given refuge out of Christian charity, and not under orders from the Pope. On the other hand, over a thousand Jews were indeed deported and murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, so at least those Jews were not among those the Pope supposedly “saved their lives and enabled their rescue” as the article suggests.
“I also criticize [the Pope] for not saving the over one thousand that were deported and then murdered at Auschwitz. At the very least, the Pope could have stood in front of the train deporting these Jews as, even if the Germans had forcibly removed him from the tracks, the very gesture would have electrified the faithful, restored the respect the Pope had lost among the Allies, and cemented the Church’s moral standing.”
Then Mr. Krupp tells us that General Wolff correctly deduced that a German invasion of the Vatican and any attempt to kidnap or kill the Pope would have led to a massive worldwide revolt. This is true, and Hitler knew it. If he had even touched the Pope, the Germans would have found themselves with hundreds of millions of Catholics worldwide, and possibly many millions of Protestants, against them. This would have included the millions of Catholic German soldiers fighting Hitler’s war. No amount of SS and/or Gestapo intimidation would have been able to stop that tidal wave. Hitler was very evil but not stupid. He knew this without needing convincing by General Wolff or anyone else. Given this, the claim that Major General Stahel and Ambassador Weiszäcker both lied to their superiors in an attempt to make them suspend the plan to invade the Vatican makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. These men were very smart, and there was no need to feed their superiors with any sort of lies, tactical or otherwise. Besides, there was no possible military justification not to invade: the Germans had the means and know-how to do that. No, the Germans only feared a public condemnation from the Pope, a condemnation that never came.
The article also makes the grandiose claim that the Pope “ordered all ecclesiastical institutions to hide the Jews wherever they could” using his network of trusted priests and confidants. All? He ordered all of them to do that? Why didn’t all do it, then? But the Pope had access to a system of encryption that would have allowed him to safely send written instructions to all priests, nuns, monks and members of the clergy to do that, but the record does not show these orders. It is possible however that this documentation is hidden in the Vatican Secret Archives, but the public record so far does not show the Pope instructing even most ecclesiastical institutions to give shelter to Jews, let alone all. I am definitely among those who don’t believe the Pope orchestrated the rescue of 7,000 of Rome’s Jews, but I do acknowledge that it was done with his knowledge and approval, and I also acknowledge that in the future I may be proven wrong when and if documents not yet uncovered show this to have been the case. But I also criticize him for not saving the over one thousand that were deported and then murdered at Auschwitz. At the very least, the Pope could have stood in front of the train deporting these Jews as, even if the Germans had forcibly removed him from the tracks, the very gesture would have electrified the faithful, restored the respect the Pope had lost among the Allies, and cemented the Church’s moral standing.
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