End this misguided criticism of 'Hitler's Pope'

Jewish interference in papal moves to canonise Pius XII are entirely misplaced


By David Conway, January 7, 2010
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Few familiar with John Cornwall’s book, Hitler’s Pope will ever forget the photograph on its cover. It shows the controversial, wartime Pope leaving a building in full clerical regalia. Majestically, he sweeps past saluting, steel-helmeted German soldiers to an awaiting car whose door is held open by a uniformed, saluting footman.

Those who know or care little about that Pope, Pius XII, beyond what they might think they have learned from the cover of Cornwall’s book — or from reading it for that matter — will be likely to agree with those Jewish leaders who have protested at the recent Vatican decision to initiate Pius’s canonisation by recognising him as having exhibited the “heroic virtues” of faith, hope and charity.

Without much further thought, they are likely to accept the claim of Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi that “This is a man… who may not have done enough during the Holocaust to save Jews”. Likewise, they will probably concur with the rabbi of Rome’s synagogue that: “We must remember… the death trains that carried 1,061 Jews on the 16th October 1943 to Auschwitz, while Pius XII remained silent”.

In reality, the photograph adorning the cover of Cornwall’s book was taken in 1927, years before Pius became Pope or the Nazis gained power. It shows him, while still papal nuncio to Germany, leaving a reception for its elected President, Paul von Hindenburg.

Pius had long returned to Rome when the Nazis assumed power in 1933, and he deliberately absented himself when Hitler visited the eternal city in 1938. The only senior Nazi whom Pius ever met was German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, and then only to give him a dressing-down for Nazi atrocities, described at the time by the New York Times thus: “In… burning words… [Pius] came to the defence of Jews in Germany and Poland.”

Pius’s reprimand of Ribbentrop was far from his only words and deeds opposing the Nazis and their treatment of Jews. Books published since Cornwall’s, such as Rabbi David Dalin’s The Myth of Hitler’s Pope (2005), plus published research by the likes of Gary Krupp, founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, cite innumerable ways Pius spoke out and acted against the Nazis.

Pius risked his life plotting against Hitler. He also saved thousands of Jewish lives by securing forged papers to facilitate Jews’ emigration to Palestine, as well as by ordering Jews to be hidden and cared for in buildings belonging to the Church.

Apart from getting wrong the date of the first mass shipment of Rome’s Jews — it occurred two days after their rounding-up, Rome’s rabbi is also wrong to claim Pius said nothing about it. When he first learned of the round-up on the morning of the 16th, he immediately summoned the German ambassador, who then dispatched a warning to Berlin that, if further round-ups occurred, Pius would speak out publicly, regardless of personal consequences. Pius also got the German commander in Rome to send a similar communiqué. As a result, there were no further mass round-ups and few of Rome’s Jews were transported to the death camps by comparison with other places under Nazi occupation.

Several Catholic clerics accorded righteous gentile status by Yad Vashem have testified they were acting on the orders of Pius. He too, should be made a righteous gentile, not reviled as a Jew-hater.

David Conway is senior research fellow at Civitas

    Last updated: 3:57pm, March 25 2010

    COMMENTS

    Kevin Beach

    Mon, 01/30/2012 - 13:30

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    I am a Catholic and I came upon this article when I was googling for references to Rabbi David Dalin's book. I joined the site so that I could comment - even if nearly two years late.

    I'm glad that this issue is being given publicity among Jews. Hochhuth's play and Cornwell's book are libels that need to be refuted in the world. They are as false and malicious as the allegations in "The Elders of Sion". Hochhuth on the one hand was a tool of the Soviet Communists and on the other is a supporter of the anti-semite David Irving. Cornwell just wants to be controversial.

    The Holocaust was at least as evil as anything that happened to Jews in antiquity; whether the enslavement in Egypt, the captivity in Babylon or the Roman occupation. We are still swimming in its horrendous wake and maybe future generations will be able to come to a better understanding of it than we have collectively in our own generations.

    But whatever we say and do, no good will come of it unless we seek the truth rigorously and prayerfully on both sides. Christianity must acknowledge its contribution to the foundations of the Shoah over nearly 2,000 years. I hope that Jews can acknowledge that many, many Christians, both during the atrocities and since, have deplored what happened and tried to resist its consequences.


    happygoldfish

    Mon, 01/30/2012 - 17:55

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    Kevin Beach: The Holocaust …

    i am more concerned about pius xii's treatment of jews before the holocaust, particularly his sacrifice of jewish property and freedoms in order to preserve catholic property and freedoms

    in the 1933 concordat between the vatican and the nazis (see eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichskonkordat), the nazis promised to continue the kirchensteuer, giving the vatican 10% of all german taxes collected from german catholics

    (this was in the supplementary protocol to the concordat … see http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/docs/pxi_concordat.htm … it continued a similar weimar provision which the nazis could have ignored)

    the concordat of course also guaranteed various freedoms to the catholic church and to catholics individually

    to obtain the concordat, the vatican agreed not to oppose the nazi's confiscation of jewish property (and other anti-jewish measures)

    by signing the concordat, pius xi sacrificed jewish property and freedoms in order to obtain very substantial money and freedoms for catholics

    and (from his accession on 2nd march 1939) pius xii continued this sacrifice

    for more details, see http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=paul_24_1

    FOLLOW THE MONEY
    Even more than their racist and anti-enlightened attitudes, Christian authorities had the basest of reasons to cooperate with fascists—money. Stripped of her last papal states in 1925, the Mother Church lay bankrupt until Benito Mussolini came to the rescue. In exchange for the pope’s support, Il Duce made an up-front payment equivalent to about $100 million and instituted state salaries for the Italian clergy. Best of all, Mussolini restored Vatican City’s nationhood. Today’s Vatican has its roots in fascist largesse.8
    But the pope coveted richer booty. How might he tap the far grander wealth of Germany? No German Protestant dictator or Protestant-dominated democracy would pay tribute to Rome; no out-and-out papist could rule Deutschland. Then came the miracle: Hitler, the nonpapist Catholic who inexplicably rose from obscurity to the brink of power and—eyeing the fascist-Catholic concordat in Italy—eagerly sought similar ties with the church. Surely this was God’s amazing work.
    The result was one of history’s richest kickback schemes. The pope gave Hitler legitimacy, his office, and the enforced loyalty of German prelates. In return, one-tenth of the income tax paid by German Catholics would flow from Hitler’s treasury to the church accounts.9 This averaged the equivalent of $100 million per year, approximately $1 billion over the life of the Third Reich—many times that in today’s dollars.10 Because the grateful pontiffs held the same absolute control over the church’s funds that the Führer exercised over the German treasury, it can be fairly said that Pius XI (reigned 1922–1939) and Pius XII (reigned 1939–1958) were on Hitler’s payroll.
    Nor did Hitler forget his evangelical friends. Ten percent of Protestants’ tax payments was diverted to their churches too. Hitler needed no loyalty oaths from Germany’s ministers, who realized the equivalent of about $2 billion over the life of the Reich.
    Flush with wealth, the churches invested heavily in fascist enterprises, many of which would manufacture weapons, employ slave labor, or both.11 Ironically, as church leaders began to act as financiers and brokers, their prejudice against usury, ancient keystone of anti-Semitism, melted away.
    It cannot be said too bluntly: a principal reason that traditional Christian clergymen, from the humblest country parson to the popes, so often cooperated with Hitler was that they were being bribed.

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