Pope Pius XII Likely Knew of Holocaust, Newly Discovered Letter Suggests

Pope Pius XII Doubtless Knew of Holocaust, Newly Found Letter Suggests

A letter discovered among the many personal papers of Pope Pius XII means that the Holy See was advised in 1942 that as much as 6,000 individuals, “above all Poles and Jews,” have been being killed in furnaces day-after-day at Belzec, a Nazi loss of life camp in Poland.

Although information of the atrocities being perpetrated by Hitler was already reaching Pope Pius XII’s ears, this info was particularly essential as a result of it got here from a trusted church supply based mostly in Germany, stated Giovanni Coco, a Vatican archivist who found the letter. The supply was “within the coronary heart of the enemy territory,” Mr. Coco stated on Saturday.

The doc, which was made public this weekend by the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, provides to the proof that some students say exhibits Pius knew concerning the Holocaust because it occurred. Some students say Pius didn’t wish to confront or offend Hitler as a result of he feared Communism, believed that the Axis powers would win the conflict and needed to keep away from alienating hundreds of thousands of German and Nazi-sympathizing Catholics.

Different historians insist that Pius XII remained silent publicly as a result of he was surreptitiously arranging for — or a minimum of permitting — native Catholics to assist and save Jews from the Nazis, and he additionally feared that the Nazis would possibly come after Catholics.

It is likely one of the most revealing paperwork to have emerged since Pope Francis ordered the archives of Pius opened in 2019, saying that “the church isn’t afraid of historical past.”

Mr. Coco stated he couldn’t be 100% positive that Pius noticed the letter, however he was “99 p.c positive” as a result of it was given to the pope’s private secretary, his “right-hand man.” The secretary would have referred the knowledge to the pope, “if he didn’t present him the paperwork immediately,” Mr. Coco stated.

Since 2020, students have been mining the paperwork protecting Pius’s papacy, which lasted from 1939 to 1958, in search of to higher perceive the Vatican’s response to Nazism and the Holocaust, in addition to the controversial legacy of Pius XII, who was publicly silent as hundreds of thousands of Jews have been killed.

Addressed to Pius’s secretary, the Rev. Robert Leiber, the letter was written by a German Jesuit priest, the Rev. Lothar Koenig, who was a member of a German resistance motion. Within the letter, which was dated Dec. 14, 1942, Father Koenig sought to inform the Vatican about “the state of the persecution of the church in Germany, above all,” stated Mr. Coco, who has been cataloging Pius’s private papers on the Vatican.

The letter included an appendix with the variety of monks imprisoned on the Dachau focus camp close to Munich; talked about the Auschwitz loss of life camp in Poland in a reference to a different, as but undiscovered report; and advised of the hundreds of Poles and Jews being murdered by the Nazis at Belzec.

Michele Sarfatti, of the Modern Jewish Documentation Middle in Milan, who has additionally been finding out the Pius archives, stated the letter was essential as a result of it had been present in Pius’s private papers, which meant the pontiff had saved it “and presumably learn it.” From a historiographical standpoint, it was a sign “that the pope was conscious of what was occurring” and of the enormity of what was taking place in numerous camps, Mr. Sarfatti stated.

The Vatican didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Mr. Coco stated he believed that Pius was afraid to talk out in opposition to Hitler as a result of the Nazis would goal Catholics in retaliation.

“There was concern about what may occur to Catholics in Poland, in Japanese Europe, within the Third Reich, all these territories beneath Nazi management the place it was troublesome for the church to intervene,” he stated.

The letter entreats the Vatican to be cautious in making the knowledge it gives recognized “as a result of if it emerged that it got here from the German church, the persecution would change into fiercer in Germany than it already was,” Mr. Coco stated.

Mr. Sarfatti, whose most up-to-date analysis focuses on documentation from 1942, recognized by some students as “the bloodiest yr of the Holocaust,” stated the Holy See obtained experiences that yr concerning the atrocities from innumerable sources: monks returning to the Vatican from journeys, native clergy, papal nuncios, politicians from occupied international locations, residents, Jewish teams and rabbis.

“Many individuals have been writing to the Holy See describing what was taking place,” Mr. Sarfatti stated.

At the start of 1942, few individuals, together with Jews, understood that Hitler needed to exterminate the Jews. However because the yr progressed, “there was a rising affiliation between the phrases ‘Jew’ and ‘loss of life’ in these experiences — that in itself ought to have given a way of what was occurring,” he stated.

Mr. Sarfatti, who within the Vatican Apostolic Archive discovered two paperwork referring to fuel chambers, stated the letter was proof “that we will add to others.”

David Kertzer, a Brown College professor who has been working within the archives, stated the doc was “extra element” about “experiences that the pope is getting in the summertime of 1942 concerning the mass homicide of the Jews” from numerous sources, that are mentioned in his e book on Pius XII, “The Pope at Battle.”

Mr. Coco stated he believed that the letter he discovered was a part of a “for much longer correspondence” that preceded and continued after December 1942. Pius felt “significantly near” German Jesuits, Mr. Kertzer stated, Pius’s secretary, Father Leiber, being a significant instance.

“There could be no extra plausible supply for the pope about what was occurring there than from a German Jesuit,” Mr. Kertzer stated.

The letter might be printed subsequent week in a e book by Mr. Coco about his analysis on Pius’s private papers. He stated the papers have been in disarray when he first began finding out them in 2019, and he discovered the letter a few yr in the past. It took time to trace down the creator: The letter is signed, “Your Lothar,” and it’s addressed, “Expensive Good friend,” Mr. Coco stated.

“Organizing the papers,” to higher perceive them, “has been very sophisticated,” he stated.

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