The reputation of Pope Pius XII has suffered from an endless series of accusations of collaboration with the Nazi regime before and during World War II. In books such as John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope and others, the Pope and the Roman Catholic church face accusations of moral cowardice in the face of the most twisted regime in modern human history. However, new documentation shows that the Nazis themselves considered Pius and his Church their enemy — because Pius assisted in the flight of Jews from the Nazi genocidists:
Pius XII, the wartime pontiff often condemned as “Hitler’s Pope”, was actually considered an enemy by the Third Reich, according to newly discovered documents.
Several letters and memos unearthed at a depot used by the Stasi, the East-German secret police, show that Nazi spies within the Vatican were concerned at Pius’s efforts to help displaced Poles and Jews.
In one, the head of Berlin’s police force tells Joachim von Ribbentropp, the Third Reich’s foreign minister, that the Catholic Church was providing assistance to Jews “both in terms of people and financially”.
A report from a spy at work in the Vatican states: “Our source was told to his face by Father Robert Leibner [one of Pius’s secretaries] that the greatest hope of the Church is that the Nazi system would be obliterated by the war.”
After the war, the Pope himself acknowledged that he did not speak out consistently against the Nazis, but claimed he held back in order to save more people from their clutches. In light of this new evidence, he may have done his best under the worst of circumstances. Certainly the Nazis understood him as a threat to their plans to wipe Jews off the face of the Earth, and recorded their concerns.
How did Pius get such a bad rap? Part of it comes from the circumstance of having been Pope during the war. The Vatican, after all, sits within Rome — and the Italians who aligned themselves with Hitler had them surrounded. The Swiss survived under similar circumstances by essentially doing the same thing — remaining quiet while doing what they could under the radar.
Now, though, it looks like there may be more to the story than just circumstance. The discovery of these records within the files of the Stasi — the East German secret police during the Communist era — indicates that the smear may have had political motivations. The Telegraph reports that some believe the story got circulated at the direction of Moscow to discredit the Catholics, which they saw as a potential rival in Eastern Europe. If they could paint the Vatican as Nazi sympathizers, then the Poles and other Catholics in the Soviet sphere of influence would discount them as an anti-Communist force.
In the end, of course, the Soviets failed in their strategy. Their smear lived on, unfortunately.
20 thoughts on “Nazis Considered Pope Pius An Enemy”
More Proof Pius Maligned By Commies — Nazis Hated Him For Helping Jews
I’ve been pointing this out for years — Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church saved hundreds of thousands of Jews during WWII. That is more than any other group or organization, prior to the much delayed liberation of the…
Cap’n, the Nazi files that the Stasi kept can never stop the stories that Pius XII was indifferent to the fate of the Jews during the holocaust. Someone can always say “he could have done more” or “he didn’t do enough” to save the 6 million Jews or the 4 million Poles, Gypsies, and political prisoners who died in the concentration camps. He could have excommunicated SS members, he could have ordered all Church institutions to shelter as many Jews as possible, he could have . . ., and so on. And what would have been “enough” or–worse–“too much” in opposing Nazi evil?
The same questions of whether the Allies could have done more–e.g., by bombing the rail lines to Auschwitz–don’t resonate as much because we were fighting a total war against Nazi Germany and trying to win as fast as we could. The only way that people wouldn’t say that Pius fell short in the face of ultimate evil is if he had been arrested by the Germans or had to flee for his life, which never happened.
In the end, only God knows what Pius thought and whether his actions were worthy. All Nazi files can prove is that Pius wasn’t a Nazi himself–which isn’t really the controversy.
To those who need an explanation of the efforts of Pope Pius XII no explanation is sufficient. To those who accept the efforts of Pope Pius XII no explanation is needed.
It seems I already knew this from reading all the history of WWII. The fact that the Vatican and Switzerland did what they could to remain unoccupied by the Nazis and supported efforts to save people when they could without incurring the wrath of Hitler or Mussolini who could have devoured them whole is not surprising in the least.
Millions of Iraqis are leading just such lives right now, trying to avoid being blown up by not standing up to terror. I guess they are all holier than Pope Pius though because they are involved in a war which “America the Evil” started. /sarcasm
Anyway, the Pope did what good Men who stand alone against tyranny have done throughout history. They do what they can. Many Catholic priests went through the concentration camps. I guess when you are Rauol Wallenboerg or Mr. Schindler (of Schindlers List fame), lefties will always sing your praises for doing only about what the Pope did. If you’re the Pope, though, they find a way to demonize you because our faith disapproves of their excesses as lefties.
So brave and upstanding of them. Not.
The Nazis through into jails thousands of Catholic Priests. Hitler despised the Catholic Church. Jews in Italy fared far better than Jews in any other country, due to Pope Pius’ intervention.
This is an article by Rabbi Dalin: A Righteous Gentile: Pope Pius XII and the Jews
“Dalin makes three major criticisms of Pius’s detractors. He maintains that many of those who assail Pius are not really interested in the history of the Jews, or the tragedy of the Holocaust, but merely want to exploit them for their own ideological agendas. As Dalin notes, the Hitler’s pope myth has proven quite useful to dissident Catholics who disagree with Catholic teaching. If they can prove that the Vatican was complicit in the Holocaust, then they can weaken papal influence on every issue today, and advance their own gendas.”
The secular left hates the Catholic Church, due to the Church’s opposition to abortion and contraception. The secular left has joined with more “moderate” anti-Catholics like Protestant John Edwards who hired lunatic lefty Amanda Marcotte, despite her making a career out of hating the Catholic Church.
Today’s left idealogical saint is Josef Stalin, look at their methods and their madness. St. Stalin was a patsy and a dupe for Hitler. Pope Pius XII was not.
“In the end, of course, the Soviets failed in their strategy. Their
smear lived on, unfortunately.”
This sentence can be applied to practically everything that the modern
anti-American left believes.
The truth, as in so many arenas, is a mixture of things.
Jews in Italy fared moderately better than most other countries (Note, NoDonkey – Jews in Denmark and Norway fared best of all, benefitting from active resistance movements that systematically ferried them to safety). On the other hand, Jews in Poland fared horribly (90% died), largely because Catholicism in Poland was so dreadfully anti-semitic (most Polish Jews were ghettoized for centuries before the war). It was said that the typical Polish peasant hated Jews more than Nazis. It’s grimly significant that there were two Warsaw Revolts; one in 1942 in the Jewish Ghetto (which the communist and nationalist (heavily Catholic) undergrounds did little to assist) and the larger 1944 revolt by the Armja Krajowa.
Catholics in Italy and Poland shared a church and a liturgy, but vastly different cultural traditions, of course.
Could Pius have done more? Perhaps; like the Swiss, he was in a nearly-impossible situation. May any of us never have to face such a horror and then answer to posterity for our own reactions.
Never commented before until now, but you all may find an article by Ion Mihai Pacepa in the National Review very interesting.
There’s not much more Pius could have done, unless he wanted to risk the Nazis taking the Pope and his Cardinals hostage.
The Nazis occupied Rome from ’43 to ’44. Wouldn’t have been much the Vatican could do if the German Army came knocking.
“Written statements by the German ambassador to Italy, Rudolf Rahn, describe a plot to take over the Vatican, kidnap Pope Pius and his cardinals, and hold them hostage. ‘The fact of [the plan’s] existence and its target is solidly anchored in my memory.’ reported Rahn. Albrecht von Kessel, an aide to the German ambassador to the Vatican, and Karl Otto Wolff, a German general who was the SS chief in Italy toward the end of the war, both confirmed that there was such a plan.”
And if the Nazis chose to take the Vatican, the Pope was hiding many people inside, who would have been immediately removed to concentration camps.
Speaking out too forcefully, would have condemned the hundreds of thousands of people the Pope was able to save, to death.
Those who hate the church obviously feel that they can’t stir up the action they want, with their far left political agenda, so they have to fabricate lies from whole cloth, in order to persuade others to join them in their bias.
How did Pius get such a bad rap?
Because there are those in the world (and beyond) who hate the Church, and who are in a constant state of war against her.
It is interesting, however, that those who routinely attack the popes and the Church for not “doing more” withhold any criticism of FDR and the rest of the United States, who did next to absolutely nothing for several years — and the United States had a whole ocean between us and Nazi Germany. Maybe if the United States (and Britain, France, et al.) had done something in 1937 or 1938, rather than the United States waiting until practically 1942 to act against Hitler, the Holocaust might never have occurred.
But then again, it is only when leaders and countries actually do “do something,” that these same folks who routinely attack the popes and the Church turn their fire on those leaders and countries. These folks today are clamoring to “do something” in Darfur, but if the United States was to actually intervene there, they would start protesting and marching and shouting “U.S. out of Darfur!”
You all have to understand. It is not about standing up for victims. It is not about showing compassion for the oppressed, that leads them to criticize popes, churches, and national leaders. The truth is that it is all about tearing down and destroying the existing order. And for that, any available lie with do.
My Lenten reading has been Albert Speer’s “Inside the Third Reich”. Your recent post on the book confirmed my suspicions about Speer’s knowledge of the final solution. (How could he not have known?) That said, I think a great deal of the book gets at the truth. One thing made clear by the book is that Hitler had no respect for Catholicism. There was no room in his heart or strategic plans for the Pope.
I don’t think this is a left/right question. What Wallenberg and Schindler did was extraordinary. I think many look back at Nazi Germany and wonder what could have been done to stop it. People use hindsight, and hindsight always sounds the same no matter who is using it. It always sounds a bit shallow and a bit unfair.
When people criticize Pope Pius, I don’t think they mean this man and only this man. I think they also refer to the history of Catholicism in Europe, specifically as it relates to Jews. And if the Lutherans had a figure with even a fraction of the authority and history as the Pope, that person would suffer the same legacy. Mark Twain chronicled the anti-semitism of Europe. It’s a long history, and it was a part of the established order–it went a little farther than merely offending Jews.
For that matter, FDR does indeed have this same stain on his name, and from where I sit and with those to whom I speak, his legacy in this regard is far worse.
I do think there is a critical point in the development of fascism when the fascism can be easily stopped. After that point, there’s not much you can do. By 1938, European history was well past that point.
It is a left/right question, if only because it’s the left that continues to make the slander.
It was the Soviet Union then and it’s what passes for left wing “intellectual” thought, now.
It was the leftist New Republic that published Daniel Goldhagen’s piece “What Would Jesus Have Done?” which was later expanded into a book, “A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair”, which lied about Pope Pius’ role during the Holocaust.
The left believes and repeats these lies constantly. These charges are not coming from the right. And what’s even more hypocritical about the left’s charges is that the left openly embraces Nazi offshoots like Fatah and Hamas.
Let me say it differently. It is a question of fighting the development and spread of fascism. One part of this task is examining history, in a sense, doing an autopsy on the 1930s and 1940s so people can keep it from spreading again. And so, towards that end, the role of the church in the history of Europe is important. For that matter, looking at the role of bureaucracy and science leading to the growth of the Third Reich is also important.
I think it is the primary task of culture to keep this monster from ever emerging from the depths of the human spirit.
What the left has managed to do is piggyback onto an important question and use it for their own ends, and with their embrace of modern fascists they show the chameleonlike character of the monster.
The real fight, though, is much deeper than ideology.
But a form of fascism is spreading in the Middle East, in the form of Islamism.
And we’re seeing a repeat of the 30’s and 40’s. Adolph HItler said exactly what he planned to do, in Mein Kamph. Ahmadinejad has said many times that he wants to see Israel “wiped off of the map”. Just like the Nazis developed the Freikorps while the diplomats dithered, Iran is openly developing nuclear weapons.
I’m not sure Syria and Iran quite meet the definition of fascist regimes, but they are most definitely extremely authoritarian and imperialistic in their goals of establishing a global caliphate.
Have we, as in the world, passed the point of no return? One milepost in Germany was when the Nazi power of intimidation was able to easily silence all opposition. Is that happening now? The Wahabists are certainly inching towards that point in time.
That simple moment when this could have been easily stopped was 1979, if the US could have acted forcefully against the Iranian revolution. Now, any kind of meaningful local intervention could trigger several other types of global crisis.
We like to say that World War II ended in 1945, but I tend to think it changed clothes and took the show on the road, produced and directed by Sayyid Qutb.
Ultimately, I think that the truest defense is that the Vatican chose a strategy, and then carried it out. The strategy that they chose was to work mostly in secret.
This had concrete advantages:
1) For Vatican bureaucrats, obsessive secrecy is as natural as breathing. Don’t underestimate the power of playing to your strengths.
2) The rescuing of Jews happened one at a time. By not provoking the nazis, individual jews were rescued by individual convents and monasteries, thousands of baptismal certificates were forged, etc. If they had give the nazis more reason to distrust them, then the nuns and monks could easily have ended up on the trains the Auschwitz, and in no position to rescue anybody.
On the other hand,
1) The Church supposedly had substantial authority. Had they chosen to abandon individual rescue to others and gone for the big splash, then maybe they could have used their authority to get Catholics and other Christians to resist the nazis. Or maybe not — it seems pretty clear that Pius believed that this authority had been stripped from the Church in 1872.
2) Staying silent in the face of evil is always evil.
3) There were isolated cases where people stood up to the nazis and succeeded. For example, gentiles married to Jewish men in Berlin marched in protest and got their husbands’ deportations reversed. When the nazis demanded that the retarded by sent to the camps, pastors preached that people should write to their relatives serving at the front telling them of the government’s shameful behavior. The government backed down.
There is lots of “what if” here anyway. We are only guessing when we say that if only the church had done X then Y would have been the outcome.
“Staying silent in the face of evil is always evil.”
Pope Pius by no means stood silent.
The Nazis were in Rome. Any moment, they could have marched up to his door and took the Vatican. By ’44, the Nazis were getting desperate. He risked the Nazis sacking the Vatican and sending everyone inside of to Concentration Camps. Still he perservered.
Albert Einstein stated in Time magazine (December 23, 1940): “Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. …The Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom.”
In 1958, at the death of Pope Pius XII, Golda Meir sent an eloquent message: “We share in the grief of humanity. …When fearful martyrdom came to our people, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”
In contrast, Hitler referred to the Pope as “the Jews’ mouthpiece”. It’s only recently that lies about Pope Pius began, his contemporaries judged the Pope exactly right.
Staying silent in the face of evil is always evil.
If only the Pope had spoken out more, then those atheistic Nazis would have listened and backed down.
Right. Just like the popes have spoken out until they are blue in the face about any number of moral issues and, yet, they get ignored by those same folks who insist that if Pius had only spoken out more the Nazis would have listened.
The fact is that Pius did speak out, and he did act, just as many bishops, priests, seminarians, nuns, and other Catholic faithful acted in resistance to Nazi aggression and oppression, just as many of them went on to fight Soviet aggression and oppression, and many gave their lives in the process.
There is an interesting article on this — Catholic Heroes of the Holocaust by Elizabeth Altham.
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