A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
NEW STUDIES DOCUMENT PIUS XII’S OPPOSITION TO NAZISM
Revelations of Russian Historian Evghenija Tokareva
ROME, 14 MAR 2000 (ZENIT.)
Following the Pope’s Universal Prayer for Forgiveness (March 12), the media has given space to the opinion of persons who criticize the Church’s role during the Holocaust of the Jews, carried out during the Second World War. Specifically, critics point to Pius XII, and his alleged silence on the tragedy. However, every day new proofs appear of the impressive action organized by this Pope to rescue the greatest number of Jews persecuted by the Third Reich.
In this regard, one of the latest historical testimonies is that of Russian historian Evghenija Tokareva. In a book entitled "Fascism, the Church, and the Catholic Movement in Italy: 1922-1943," published by the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy for Sciences, the author states that Pius XII’s attitude toward Nazism "was dictated by prudence" and assures that "the Vatican was not subject to an anti-Jewish policy."
This is the first Russian monograph dedicated to the topic. The author is a young historian who is already famous for other studies, outstanding among which is a recent essay on Christian Churches and Totalitarianism, which appeared in a volume including several collaborators and entitled, "Totalitarianism in 20th Century Europe," also published by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Tokareva, who is very familiar with the tragic experience of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was subjected to another type of totalitarianism, analyzes the actions of the Catholic Church in Italy during the fascist era with a critical spirit and extensive documentation. He pays special attention to the "Catholic subculture" and the role it played in the fall of that dictatorship.
In his conclusion, Tokareva writes: "It must be acknowledged that fascism did not succeed in subjecting the Church, nor was it able to integrate it in its political system." This is due to the establishment, independence and strength of the Church and its organizations and to the limitations "at the juridical and ideological levels that the totalitarianism of the fascist State was experiencing."
Tokareva thoroughly analyzes the Church’s opposition to anti-Semitism, and reveals that fascism attempted to sow confusion by stating that its origins were in Christianity itself. In regard to Pius XII’s attitude, who chose to stimulate effective aid to the Jews rather than make verbal pronouncements, Tokareva believes that it was a prudent decision, because by so doing he avoided vengeance that could have affected Catholics and the Jews themselves, which is exactly what happened in the Netherlands. When the Dutch Bishops criticized the Nazis, the persecution extended to include Jewish converts. Edith Stein was martyred as a direct result of that decision.
The Russian historian refers to the Pope’s prudence not only as characterizing his relations with Nazism, but also with the Soviet Union, another regime responsible for horrific massacres. When Goebbels silenced Vatican Radio transmissions in 1941, he said they were "more dangerous for us than those of the communists themselves," Tokareva added, to emphasize her thesis. ZE00031406 Back to Pius XII index
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