I distrust and despise the zestful trendies, articulate and polemical who make a name for themselves and lots of money by writing faction – calumnies on historical figures such as Pius XII who are safely dead. Such is the nature of our society that there are plenty of people who will eagerly lap up such rubbish. They would rather believe a lie because it fits with their outlook and makes them feel smug than the boring truth.
People say that Pope Pius XII did not speak out enough against the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This criticism sits well with today’s exhibitionist-moralists, whose idea of protest is to wear a band on their wrists to protest against slavery to show how nice they are, or to march in democratic countries dressed up as a polar bears. Their other comfort gesture is to apologise for something for which they had no responsibility and which happened a long time ago. They are stuffed with cant and hypocrisy.
So what did they expect would have happened if the Pope spoke out against Nazi atrocities? An appearance on a
The Pope had to be very careful about when to speak out. He saw that every time there was a protest, the Nazis adopted even harsher measures. So what would protest achieve? Far better to work below the radar and provide practical help.
On occasion, he did speak out. In response to the Pope’s Christmas message of December 1942, the Reich Security Main Office sent a telegram to all representatives in countries where there were Catholic populations.
‘In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order. Here in this declaration he has virtually accused the German People of injustice to the Jews and has made himself a mouthpiece for Jewish War Criminals.
When Pius died in 1958, many world famous Jews made their tributes:
Golda Meir, later to become Prime Minister of Israel: “We share the grief of the world on the death of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people passed through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims”.
Naham Goldman, President of World Jewish congress ‘with special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during the darkest period of their history’.
Chief Rabbi of
Earlier Albert Einstein (died 1953) had said that ‘only the Catholic Church protested against the Hitlerian onslaught on liberty. Up until then I had not been interested in the Church, but today I feel a great admiration for the Church, which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral truth. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly’
Proper historians like Sir Martin Gilbert, who himself is Jewish and has has praised Pius XII’s efforts to save Jews and says that Pius personally saved more Jews in Rome (percentagewise) than was saved in any other capital city under the Nazis, except Budapest, which was also a Papal initiative.
For example, when the Germans had occupied
The Pope’s summer residence at
The Pope had placed his housekeeper, Sr. Pasqualina Lehnert, in charge of the Vatican storerooms during the war, and personally directed her to drive trucks with food and other supplies out to religious houses around
Sir Martin Gilbert says that Nations continually rewrite history to fit in with their current fears and perspectives, but there is such a thing as true history. The interview with Sir Martin Gilbert can be accessed here. It's a long interview but worth listening to carefully. It is very rewarding to hear the measured tones of an expert in his field, without polemic.
He also mentions the role of the Polish nation and the number of Catholics who were executed by the Nazis for trying to help their Jewish compatriots.
“It’s our obligation to recognize somebody who saved more Jews than all the other world leaders and religious leaders combined,” Krupp said in an interview with NCR. “This man should be raised up as righteous among the nations, not demonized."
American Rabbi David Dalin has proposed that Yad Vashem recognize Pius as “righteous among the nations.
People say that the Holy Father should have waited until the archives had been opened to satisfy the critics. Would they have ever been satisfied? Probably not. Once a head of steam has been generated in a protest, it’s almost impossible to relieve the pressure. There is too much amour propre invested in it for the supporters ever to admit they were wrong.