Pius XII and Anti-Semitism

Part II

Dear CINEASTers, here is part II of which I continue to take alot of heat for posting

Daniel Joseph Barton

Part II - Continued:

The Jewish chronicler Joseph Lichten records that on 27 Sep 43, one of the Nazi commanders demanded of the Jewish community in Rome payment of one hundred pounds of gold within 36 hours, or 300 hundred Jews would be taken prisoner. When the Jewish community council was able to gather only 70 pounds, it turned to the Vatican. "In his memoirs, the then Chief Rabbi Zolli of Rome writes that he was sent to the Vatican where arrangements had already been made to receive himn as an `engineer' called to survey a construction problem so that the Gestapo on watch at the Vatican would not bar his entry. He was met by the Vatican treasurer and secretary of state, who told him that the Holy Father himself had given orders for the deficit to bve filled with gold vessels taken from the Treasury."

Pius XII also took a public stance concerning the Jews of Italy: "The Pope spoke out strongly in their defense with the first mass arrests of Jews in 1943, and L'Osservatore Romano carried an article protesting the internment of Jews and the confiscation of their property. The Fascist press came to call the Vatican paper `a mouthpiece of the Jews'. "

Prior to the Nazi invasion of Italy, the Pope had been working hard to get Jews out of Italy by emigration..he now was forced to turn his attention to finding them hiding places.

The Pope sent out the order that religious buildings were to give refuge to Jews, even at the price of great personal sacrifice on the part of the occupants; he released monasteries and convents from the cloister rule forbidding entry into these religious houses to al but a few specified outsiders, so that they could be used as hiding places. Thousands of Jews - figures run from 4,000 to 7,000 - were hidden, fed, clothed, and bedded in the 180 known places of refuge in Vatican City, churches, basilicas, CHurch admin buildings, and parish houses. Unknown numbers of Jews were sheltered in Castel Gondolfo, the site of the POpe's summer residence, private homes, hospitals, and nursing institutions. Rabbi Lapide records that "in Rome, we saw a list of 155 convents and monasteries - Italian, French, Spanish, English, American, and also German - mostly extraterritorial property of the Vatican..which sheltered throughout the German occupation some 5,000 Jews in Rome. No less that 3,000 Jews found refuge at one time at the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gondolfo, sixty lived for nine months at the Jesuit Gregorian University, and a half-dozen slept in the cellar of the Pontifical Bible Institute."

The Pope's success in protecting Italian Jews against the Nazis was remarkable. Lichten records that after the War was over, it was determined that only 8,000 Jews were taken by the Nazis from Italy - far less than in other European countries. In June 1944, Pius XII sent a telegram to Admiral Miklos Horthy, the ruler of Hungary, and was able to halt the planned deportation of 800,000 Jews from that country.

The Pope's efforts did not go unrecognized by Jewish authorities, even during the War. The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, sent a personal message of thanks on 28 Feb 44, in which he said, "The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundations of true civilization, are doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world."

Other Jewish leaders agreed. Rabbi Safran of Bucharest sent a not of thanks to the papal nuncio on 7 Apr 44: "It is not easy for us to find the right words to express the warmth and consolation we experienced because of the concern of the supreme pontiff, who offered a large sum to relieve the sufferings of deported Jews...The Jews of Romania will never forget these facts of historic importance."

The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, also made this statement: "What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts..Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism." After the war, Zolli became a Catholic, and to honor the Pope for what he had done for the Jews and the role that he had played in Zolli's conversion, he took the name "Eugenio" - the Pope's given name - as his own baptismal name. Zolli stressed that his conversion was for theological reasons, but the fact that the Pope had worked so hard on behalf of the Jews no doubt played a role in inspiring Zolli to look at the truths of Christianity.

In *Three Popes and the Jews*, Lapide estimated the total number of Jews that had been spared as a result of Pius XII's throwing of the Church's weight into the clandestine struggle. After totalling the numbers of Jews saved in different areas and deducting the numbers saved by other causes, such as the praiseworthy efforts of some European Protestants, "The final number of Jewish lives in whose rescue the Catholic Church had been the instrument is thus at least 700,000 souls, but in all probability it is closer to...860,000." This is a total larger than all other Jewish relief organizations combined.

This fact continued to be recognized after Pius XII's death in 1958. Lapide's book records the eulogies of a number of Jewish leaders concerning the Pope, and far from agreeing with Jack Chick that this Pope deserved death because of his "war crimes", Jewish leaders praised him highly:

"We share the grief of the world over the death of His Holiness Pius XII..During the ten years of the 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." (Golda Meir, Israeli rep to the UN, future prime minister of Israel).

"With special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during one of the darkest periods in their entire history." (Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress).

"More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness, filled with compassion and magnanimity, that the Pope displayed during the terrible years of persecution and terror." (Elio Toaff, Chief Rabbi of Rome, following Rabbi Zolli's conversion).

"Only the Catholic Church protested against the Hitlerian onslaught on liberty. Up till 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 liberty." (Albert Einstein).

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Friends, I suggest either order a back-copy of this Feb 97 issue of This Rock (call 1-888-291-8000) or obtain the book from Robert Graham *Pius XII and the Holocaust* from Catholic League at (212-) 371-3394, if you desire to read it yourself.

Sincerely, Daniel Joseph Barton


******* Do not listen gleefully to gossip at your neighbor's expense or chatter to a person who likes finding fault. Otherwise you will fall away from divine love and find yourself cut off from eternal life. -St. Maximos the Confessor *******

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