In the News: Archives Show Pope Pius Knew about the Holocaust

Wartime Vatican archive shows how much Pius knew about the Holocaust, says researcher, Tom Heneghan, Religion News Service, 2020-04-27.

PARIS (RNS) — The long-awaited opening of Pope Pius XII’s wartime records only lasted a week before the coronavirus shut the Vatican archives down again, but that was long enough for documents to emerge that reflect badly on the pontiff accused of silence during the Holocaust, according to published reports.

In that week alone, German researchers found that the pope, who never directly criticized the Nazi slaughter of Jews, knew from his own sources about Berlin’s death campaign early on. But he kept this from the U.S. government after an aide argued that Jews and Ukrainians — his main sources — could not be trusted because they lied and exaggerated, according to the researchers.

The researchers also discovered the Vatican hid these and other sensitive documents presumably to protect Pius’ image, a finding that will embarrass the Roman Catholic Church still struggling with its covering up of the clerical sexual abuse crisis.


Pius XII, who headed the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958, was the most controversial pontiff of the 20th century. His failure to denounce the Holocaust publicly earned him the title of “Hitler’s pope,” and critics — especially among Jewish historians, but not only them — have for decades asked for his wartime archives to be opened for scrutiny.


Now the archive has been opened, and the Münster team of researchers has begun to publish its first findings; they do not look good for Pius or the Catholic Church. The details are a bit complicated, but Wolf’s conclusions are quite clear.


It has long been known that the Catholic Church — possibly with covert U.S. assistance — helped ex-Nazis, like the Holocaust bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann, concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele or Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, flee to South America. These men were anti-communists, and both Rome and Washington considered communism their enemy.

We are not surprised. The Roman Catholic Church has been a major driver of antisemitism since its foundation.

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