NEW YORK, 25 May 2010 (ZENIT)
The Pave the Way Foundation has initiated a document retrieval
project to reveal as much information and as many testimonies as
possible regarding the papacy of Pope Pius XII, the World War II
Pontiff, in order to break the academic "log jam" caused by the
lack of publicly available information.
New findings have
revealed documents and testimony, which clearly show that on
Oct. 16, 1943, it was the intentional lack of a public
denunciation by Pope Pius XII against the arrest of the Roman
Jews, which saved their lives and enabled their rescue.
We have a signed 1972
deposition of General Karl Wolff, SS commander for Italy and
deputy to Heinrich Himmler, which states that in September 1943
Adolf Hitler ordered him to develop a plan to invade the
Vatican, kidnap the Pope, seize the Vatican assets, and kill the
Roman Curia. This plan was to be carried out immediately.
General Wolff knew that if this invasion were executed, massive
riots throughout Europe would ensue, resulting in a military
disaster to the German war effort. General Wolff stated that he
was successful in convincing Hitler to delay the invasion. This
view of a potential military disaster was shared by the military
governor of Rome, Major General Rainer Stahel, and German
ambassador to the Holy See, Ernst von Weizsäcker.
Pius XII learned of the invasion plan, and likewise believed
that the result would be massive riots potentially killing
thousands of innocent people and that the Vatican’s neutrality
would be breached, thereby enabling German forces to enter all
Vatican properties. Handwritten minutes exist, which state that
on Sept. 6, 1943, Pius XII secretly called the cardinals
together to tell them the Vatican would be invaded and he would
be taken to the north and probably killed. The cardinals were to
be prepared to leave for a neutral country immediately, upon the
invasion of Vatican territory.
He also signed a letter of resignation, and placed it in his
desk. He instructed the cardinals to form a government in exile
and to elect a new Pope once they were safe. We have a
handwritten letter from the secretary of state ordering the
Swiss Guard not to resist invading German forces with firepower,
and numerous documents detailing how they were to protect the
Vatican Library and museum contents.
Throughout this period, von Weizsäcker sent deceptive positive
messages about the Pope to Berlin to calm Hitler, not to justify
an order to invade. Some critics of Pius XII have erroneously
based their theories of papal complicity and collaboration on
these intentionally misleading cables
what von Weizsäcker’s lieutenant, Albrecht von Kessel, later
called "tactical lies."
We have additional testimony from Lieutenant Nikolaus Kunkel, a
German officer from the headquarters of the military governor of
Rome, which corroborates documented evidence and testimony of
exactly how Pius XII directly saved the Roman Jewish community
and that they were expecting the invasion order from Berlin any
When the early morning arrests began Oct. 16, 1943, Pius XII was
alerted to this by Princess Enza Pignatelli Aragona Cortes. He
immediately took multiple steps to force the Germans to stop the
arrests. He summoned the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal
Maglione, and instructed him to launch a vehement protest
against the arrests. Cardinal Maglione warned von Weizsacker
that same morning, that the Pope could not remain silent as they
arrested the Jews under his very windows, in his own diocese.
Pius XII then sent his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, to meet with a
German sympathizer, Bishop Alois Hudal, to instruct him to write
a letter to his German contacts to immediately stop the arrests.
This too proved ineffective. Pius XII's last effort, the most
successful, was to send his close confidant, Salvatorian
Superior General Father Pankratius Pfeiffer, to meet directly
with the military governor of Rome, General Stahel. Father
Pfeiffer warned Stahel that the Pope was going to launch a loud
and public protest against these arrests if they were not
stopped. Fear that this public protest would result in Hitler's
ordering the invasion of the Vatican prompted Stahel to act.
General Stahel immediately telephoned Heinrich Himmler, and
fabricated military grounds to stop the arrests. Trusting
Stahel's assessment, Himmler advised Hitler to stop the arrests.
The order to stop the arrests was issued at noon on Oct. 16,
resulting in its implementation by 2 p.m. on the day they began.
This sequence of events was independently confirmed by General
Dietrich Beelitz, the liaison officer with Field Marshal Albert
Kesselring’s office and Hitler’s command. Beelitz personally
heard the Stahel-Himmler conversation. When Stahel’s deception
later became known, Himmler punished General Stahel by sending
him to the Eastern front.
It was known that the Vatican was infiltrated with spies. The
Pope could only send trusted priests and confidants throughout
Rome and Italy with verbal and written papal orders to lift
cloister, allowing men and women to enter Catholic convents and
monasteries, and ordered all ecclesiastical institutions to hide
the Jews wherever they could.
According to famed British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, the
Vatican hid thousands of Jews in literally one day (See
here). Once hidden, the Vatican continued to feed and
support their Jewish “guests” until Rome’s liberation on June 4,
Documents from Berlin and the Eichmann Trial in Israel also
show that the 8,000 Roman Jews that were to be arrested were not
supposed to go to Auschwitz, but were to be sent to the work
camp at Mauthausen and held as hostages. This order was later
countermanded by persons unknown and 1,007 Jews were sent to
Auschwitz to their death. Sadly only 17 survived. While there
are those who repeatedly criticize Pius XII for not saving the
1,007, they remain completely silent on his direct actions,
which saved this 3,000 year old Jewish community of Rome.
It was recently discovered, in the American archives, that the
allies had broken the German codes and knew almost a week in
advance of the intended arrests of the Roman Jews. The allies
decided not to warn the Romans since this might alert the
Germans to this intelligence breach. This “military decision”
left Pope Pius XII alone, without advance notice, to try to end
When speaking of Pope Pius XII, the foremost Jewish scholars
of the Holocaust in Hungary, Jeno Levai, stated that it was a
"particularly regrettable irony that the one person in all of
occupied Europe who did more than anyone else to halt the
dreadful crime and alleviate its consequences is today made the
scapegoat for the failures of others."
* * *
Gary Krupp is the founder of Pave the Way Foundation (PTWF),
a non-sectarian organization whose mission is to identify and
try to eliminate obstacles between religions and to initiate
positive gestures in order to improve interreligious relations.
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On the Net:
For more information:
Expression of gratitude by the Italian Jewish communities
http://www.ptwf.org/Downloads/Italian Jewish Community
Jewish praise for Pius XII:
Testimony of Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel (Video 9):