Declaration on Nazi Refugees After World War II

This afternoon (15-2.1992) at 2 p.m. the director of the Holy See Press Office made the following declaration on the position of the Holy See and the situation of Nazi refugees following World War II:

"Several newspaper items in recent days seem to want to promote the idea that the Holy See after World War II aided Nazi criminals who had persecuted the Jews to flee by facilitating expatriates' passports. This notion is historically false.

It is, on the other hand, certain that during the war and immediately following it, the personal interest of Pius XII and the solicitude of the Holy See effectively contributed to saving the lives of many Jews. In those years many Jewish organizations on numerous occasions turned to the Holy See in search of assistance and the results showed them that the Holy See was both anxious and capable of offering assistance.

Among these organizations - not to mention the single Jewish communities on the different continents - were the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the Agudat Israel World Organization, the World Jewish Congress (London and New York), the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, the Emergency Committee to save the Jewish of Europe, and others.

The reasons behind these requests varied with the circumstances appeals against anti-Jewish legislation, requests for transit rights, for example across Spain, Italy and the Balkans, petitions for help and for news of relatives, etc. The documents published in the 12-volume Actes et documents "du Saint-Siege relatifs a Ia Seconde Guerre Mondiale", are a confirmation of the faith that the understanding and activity of the Holy See created in the Jewish community inside and outside war zones.

With the end of the war in 1945, millions of persons found themselves outside their homeland. The tradition of the Holy See to help people in extreme need continued.

Pius XII created the Pontifical Commission for Assistance with the goal, in the first place, of helping the Italian population and then later the refugees who, with the aid of the Allied military authorities, sought asylum outside Europe.

Its is obvious that the humanitarian work developed during those years by the Pontifical Commission for Assistance was done for thousands and thousands of refugees, while in the meantime the Allies were trying to track the Nazi leaders and other war criminals. The Pontifical Committee for Assistance, created by Pope Pius XII, remained always under the vigilance of Allied authorities and of the Italian police.

It must have probably been easy for wanted persons, and for other unidentified ones, such as war criminals, to disappear among the refugees in their intent to emigrate. Their objective was probably facilitated by the fact that it was simple to falsify identity documents. Some would simply declare that they lacked any documents. For this reason, the Geneva based International Committee or the Red Cross, created its own "identity card" imitating the famous Nansen passport prior to the war. This piece of paper did not have any legal value in itself but served to place a visa on it if the consulates of a foreign state would decide to do so.

The intention of trying to characterize the Pontifical Commission for Assistance as intending to favor war criminals is historically false.

In the face of the objection as to the PCA's or the Holy See's interest in helping out ex-Nazis, who in their own country had denied their own faith and had persecuted the Church, the response given accuses the Vatican of having wanted to use these ex-Nazis as a valid shield for a future struggle against Communism. This, besides being false, does violence to history and tries to ignore both Pope Pius XlI's and the Holy See's merited recognition as great benefactors of thousands and thousands of persons wandering over Europe because of the tragic events of the Second World War"

Vatican Information Service February 14, 1992