Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hitler's Pope


In Vanity Fair, 1999, John Cornwall wrote about Hitler's Pope, PIUS XII.

"Long-buried Vatican files reveal a new and shocking indictment of World War II's Pope Pius XII: that in pursuit of absolute power he helped Adolf Hitler destroy German Catholic political opposition, betrayed the Jews of Europe, and sealed a deeply cynical pact with a 20th-century devil."

In 1963 a play by German author named Rolf Hochhuth, Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) described Pacelli as a ruthless cynic, interested more in the Vatican's stockholdings than in the fate of the Jews.

Vatican officials gave Cornwall access to secret material.

The evidence revealed that Pacelli had 'helped Hitler to power' and at the same time undermined Catholic resistance in Germany. It showed that he had 'implicitly denied and trivialized the Holocaust, despite having reliable knowledge of its true extent'.

"More than any other Vatican official of the century, he had promoted the modern ideology of autocratic papal control, the highly centralized, dictatorial authority he himself assumed on March 2, 1939, and maintained until his death in October 1958".

Hitler, who had his first big electoral success in September 1930, wanted a treaty with the Vatican similar to that obtained by Mussolini, which would lead to the disbanding of the German Center Party.

The Catholic Church in Germany was against Hitler. However the Vatican view, being promoted by Vatican official Eugenio Pacelli, seemed to be different.

Former German chancellor Brüning describes in his memoirs how Pacelli told him he should reach an understanding with the Nazis to 'form a right-wing administration' in order to help achieve a Reich Concordat favorable to the Vatican.

After Hitler came to power in January 1933, he made the concordat negotiations with Pacelli a priority.

"Hitler insisted that his signature on the concordat would depend on the Center Party's voting for the Enabling Act, the legislation that was to give him dictatorial powers. It was Kaas, chairman of the party but completely in thrall to Pacelli, who bullied the delegates into acceptance. Next, Hitler insisted on the 'voluntary' disbanding of the Center Party, the last truly parliamentary force in Germany. Again, Pacelli was the prime mover in this tragic Catholic surrender.

"The fact that the party voluntarily disbanded itself, rather than go down fighting, had a profound psychological effect, depriving Germany of the last democratic focus of potential noncompliance and resistance: In the political vacuum created by its surrender, Catholics in the millions joined the Nazi Party, believing that it had the support of the Pope. The German bishops capitulated to Pacelli's policy of centralization, and German Catholic democrats found themselves politically leaderless.

"On July 14, 1933, after the initialing of the treaty, the Cabinet minutes record Hitler as saying that the concordat had created an atmosphere of confidence that would be "especially significant in the struggle against international Jewry." He was claiming that the Catholic Church had publicly given its blessing, at home and abroad, to the policies of National Socialism, including its anti-Semitic stand. At the same time, under the terms of the concordat, Catholic criticism of acts deemed political by the Nazis, could now be regarded as "foreign interference."

"The concordat immediately drew the German church into complicity with the Nazis. Even as Pacelli was granted special advantages in the concordat for German Catholic education, Hitler was trampling on the educational rights of Jews throughout the country. At the same time, Catholic priests were being drawn into Nazi collaboration with the attestation bureaucracy, which established Jewish ancestry.

"As Nazi anti-Semitism mounted in Germany during the 1930's, Pacelli failed to complain, even on behalf of Jews who had become Catholics, acknowledging that the matter was a matter of German internal policy.

"In 1937, Pius XI issued an encyclical, written under Pacelli's direction, called Mit Brennender Sorge (With Deep Anxiety), and it was a forthright statement of the plight of the church in Germany. But there was no explicit condemnation of anti-Semitism, even in relation to Jews who had converted to Catholicism.

"On February 10, 1939, Pius XI died, at the age of 81. Pacelli, then 63, was elected Pope by the College of Cardinals in just three ballots, on March 2. He was crowned on March 12, on the eve of Hitler's march into Prague. Between his election and his coronation he held a crucial meeting with the German cardinals. Keen to affirm Hitler publicly, he showed them a letter of good wishes which began, 'To the Illustrious Herr Adolf Hitler.'

"He was going to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Hitler. The following month, at Pacelli's express wish, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the Berlin nuncio, hosted a gala reception in honor of Hitler's 50th birthday. A birthday greeting to the Führer from the bishops of Germany would become an annual tradition until the war's end.

"Pacelli continued to seek to appease Hitler by attempting to persuade the Poles to make concessions over Germany's territorial claims. After Hitler's invasion of Poland, on September 1, 1939, he declined to condemn Germany, to the bafflement of the Allies."

In November 1939, Pacelli became involved in a plot to depose Hitler.
The plot centered on a group of anti-Nazi generals.

Pius XII agreed to act as go-between for the plotters and the Allies. As it happened, leaders in London dragged their feet, and the plotters eventually fell silent.

"Pacelli's first wartime act of reticence in failing to speak out against Fascist brutality occurred in the summer of 1941, following Hitler's invasion of Yugoslavia and the formation of the Catholic and Fascist state of Croatia.

"In a wave of appalling ethnic cleansing, the Croat Fascist separatists, known as the Ustashe, under the leadership of Ante Pavelic, the Croat Führer, embarked on a campaign of enforced conversions, deportations, and mass extermination targeting a population of 2.2 million Serb Orthodox Christians and a smaller number of Jews and Gypsies.

"According to the Italian writer Carlo Falconi, as early as April, in a typical act of atrocity, a band of Ustashe had rounded up 331 Serbs. The victims were forced to dig their own graves before being hacked to death with axes. The local priest was forced to recite the prayers for the dying while his son was chopped to pieces before his eyes. Then the priest was tortured. His hair and beard were torn off, his eves were gouged out. Finally he was skinned alive.

"The very next month Pacelli greeted Pavelic at the Vatican.

"Throughout the war, the Croat atrocities continued By the most recent scholarly reckoning. 487,000 Orthodox Serbs and 27,000 Gypsies were massacred; in addition, approximately 30,000 out of a population of 45,000 Jews were killed.

"Despite a close relationship between the Ustashe regime and the Catholic bishops, and a constant flow of information about the massacres, Pacelli said and did nothing.

"In fact, he continued to extend warm wishes to the Ustashe leadership.

"According to emperors-clothes.com: the Catholic Church, controlled the Independent State of Croatia. At one point it was in fact directly run by Archbishop Stepinac who answered to Pius XII. Stepinac has, in turn, been beatified."

Pacelli came to learn of the Nazi plans to exterminate the Jews of Europe shortly after they were laid in January 1942. The deportations to the death camps had begun in December 1941 and would continue through 1944.

Apart from an intervention in the case of Slovakia, where the president was Monsignor Josef Tiso, a Catholic priest, no papal initiatives resulted.

In mid 1942, the London Daily Telegraph announced that more than a million Jews had been killed in Europe and that it was the aim of the Nazis "to wipe the race from the European continent." The British, American, and Brazilian representatives to the Vatican tried to persuade Pacelli to speak out against the Nazi atrocities. But still he said nothing.

"On December 24, 1942, having made draft after draft, Pacelli at last said something : 'Humanity owes this vow to those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality and race, are marked for death or gradual extinction.'

"That was the strongest public denunciation of the Final Solution that Pacelli would make in the whole course of the war. He might have been referring to many categories of victims at the hands of various belligerents in the conflict."

The evidence Cornwall gathered 'shows that Pacelli saw the Jews as alien and undeserving of his respect and compassion'.

The documents allegedly show that:
1. Pacelli had nourished a striking antipathy toward the Jews as early as 1917 in Germany.
2. From the end of the First World War to the lost encyclical of 1938, Pacelli betrayed a fear and contempt of Judaism based on his belief that the Jews were behind the Bolshevik plot to destroy Christendom.
3. Pacelli acknowledged to representatives of the Third Reich that the regime's anti-Semitic policies were a matter of Germany's internal politics.
4. Pacelli failed to sanction protest by German Catholic bishops against anti-Semitism, and he did not attempt to intervene in the process by which Catholic clergy collaborated in racial certification to identify Jews.
5. After Pius XI's Mit Brennender Sorge, denouncing the Nazi regime (although not by name), Pacelli attempted to mitigate the effect of the encyclical by giving private diplomatic reassurances to Berlin despite his awareness of widespread Nazi persecution of Jews.
6. Pacelli was convinced that the Jews had brought misfortune on their own heads: intervention on their behalf could only draw the church into alliances with forces inimical to Catholicism.

"On October 16, 1943, SS troops entered the Roman ghetto area and rounded up more than 1,000 Jews, imprisoning them in the very shadow of the Vatican.

"On the morning of the roundup, which had been prompted by AdoIf Eichmann, who was in charge of the organization of the Final Solution from his headquarters in Berlin, the German ambassador in Rome pleaded with the Vatican to issue a public protest. By this stage of the war, Mussolini had been deposed and rescued by AdoIf Hitler to run the puppet regime in the North of Italy. The German authorities in Rome, both diplomats and military commanders, fearing a backlash of the Italian populace, hoped that an immediate and vigorous papal denunciation might stop the SS in their tracks and prevent further arrests. Pacelli refused. In the end, the German diplomats drafted a letter of protest on the Pope's behalf and prevailed on a resident German bishop to sign it for Berlin's benefit. Meanwhile, the deportation of the imprisoned Jews went ahead on October 18."

Pacelli was concerned that a protest by him would benefit only the Communists.

"What of the deported Jews? Five days after the train had set off from the Tiburtina station in Rome, an estimated 1,060 had been gassed at Auschwitz and Birkenau - 149 men and 47 women were detained for slave labor, but only 15 survived the war, and only one of those was a woman, Settimia Spizzichino, who had served as a human guinea pig of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi medical doctor who performed atrocious experiments on human victims. After the liberation, she was found alive in a heap of corpses."

Pacelli appeared unwilling to help the Jews of Rome rounded up on October 16.

To Cornwall's knowledge, there is no record of a single public papal prayer, lit votive candle, psalm, lamentation, or Mass celebrated in solidarity with the Jews of Rome either during their terrible ordeal or after their deaths.

"On learning of the death of AdoIf Hitler, Archbishop Adolf Bertram of Berlin ordered all the priests of his archdiocese "to hold a solemn Requiem in memory of the Führer."

"There were Jews who gave Pacelli the benefit of the doubt. On Thursday, November 29, 1945, Pacelli met 80 representatives of Jewish refugees who expressed their thanks "for his generosity toward those persecuted during the Nazi-Fascist period." Pacelli did issue a directive that enclosed religious houses in Rome should take in Jews hiding from the SS.

Settimia Spizzichino, the sole Roman Jewish woman survivor from the death camps, in a BBC interview in 1995, said: "I came back from Auschwitz on my own. . I lost my mother, two sisters and one brother. Pius XII could have warned us about what was going to happen. We might have escaped from Rome and joined the partisans. He played right into the Germans' hands. It all happened right under his nose. But he was an anti-Semitic pope, a pro-German pope. He didn't take a single risk. And when they say the Pope is like Jesus Christ, it is not true. He did not save a single child."

Pacelli died at the age of 82 on October 9,1958.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What truly shocks and frightens me is that in today's world there are still too many Roman Catholics that refuse to accept the truth. Instead they have only silence to offer in defense of people like Pacelli!
They refuse to discuss it.
Since history has a habit of repeating itself I find it a little unnerving to say the least.

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