Diario Judío México - Concluding Observations

Our preliminary investigation of the eleven volumes has generated many significant questions. Those listed in this document are only a selection of those that could be asked. Raising such questions is not intended to detract from the work of those who edited these volumes several decades ago. No edited collection can put such an important historical issue definitively to rest. Just as every historian works by choosing to emphasize some facts and not others, to introduce some personalities and not others, and to tell some incidents and not others, so the work of the editors was also based upon their choices, exercised individually or as part of a team. Indeed, one of the four original editors, Father Robert Graham related the great difficulties the team experienced in selecting “what they judged to pertain to Pius XII and his Secretariat of State during World War II.”59

In assessing the adequacy of the eleven volumes for an understanding of the role of the Vatican during the Holocaust, let us bear in mind that no history of the role of any government in a matter so broad as the Holocaust could be effectively undertaken on the basis of diplomatic exchanges alone – even when supplemented, as the ADSS occasionally are, with notes prepared as aides mémoires or other records. Furthermore, historians need to know what material is not in those volumes. Even without an inventory of the archives of the Holy See, it is plain from the ADSS that important pieces of the historical puzzle are missing from that collection. Some of these are the records of day to day administration of the Church and the Holy See. In addition, there are the numerous internal communications that every administration leaves behind – diaries, memoranda, appointment books, minutes of meetings, draft documents, and so forth that detail the process of how the Vatican arrived at the decisions it made.

Apropos the usefulness of having documents outside the official archives, it would be helpful to have access to the papers (spogli) of such prominent protagonists as Luigi Maglione, Amleto and Gaitano Cicognani, Giovanni Montini, Domenico Tardini, Alfredo Ottaviani, Valerio Valeri, Giuseppe Burzio, Angelo Rotta, Eugene Tisserant, Filippo Bernardini and other Vatican officials of the period. Similarly, it would be useful to have access to the various archives of the Society of Jesus, particularly for the papers of Wlodimir Ledochowski, Robert Leiber, Pietro Tacchi-Venturi, Gustav Gundlach, and Robert Graham.

More than thirty years have passed since the appearance of the first volumes of the wartime Vatican documents. Since that time many if not all of the then-living individuals referred to in those pages have died, removing some of the constraints upon publication that might have existed when the documents were first released. Restrictions which may have been appropriate then, need no longer apply.

We appreciate that even if full access to the archives were granted, this would not necessarily lay to rest all of the questions surrounding the role of the Holy See and the Holocaust. Nevertheless, we believe that this would be a very significant step forward in advancing knowledge of the period and enhancing relations between the Jewish and Catholic communities. Finally, we would like to recall what we said at our first meeting in December 1999: “It seems to us that the search for truth, wherever it may lead, can be best promoted in an environment in which there is full access to archival documentation and other historical evidence. Ultimately, openness is the best policy for a mature and balanced historical assessment.”


End Notes

1 Pierre Blet, Pius XII and the Second World War, trans. Lawrence J. Johnson (New York: Paulist Press, 1999).

2 Our statement from that first meeting in New York on December 7, 1999 set forth our common goal: As Jewish and Catholic scholars we are mindful of our joint responsibility and the gravity of the task we have undertaken. Our efforts, we hope, will assist the pursuit of truth, historical understanding, and better relations between the Jewish and Catholic communities. We recognize that the Vatican’s role during the Holocaust has been a difficult and painful subject, the discussion of which has not always proceeded in a climate of historical understanding and dispassionate debate. It seems to us that the search for truth, wherever it may lead, can be best promoted in an environment in which there is full access to archival documentation and other historical evidence. Ultimately, openness is the best policy for a mature and balanced historical assessment. While maintaining full access and openness as our overriding objective, we are undertaking a critical examination of the eleven volumes of Vatican archival material, published between 1965 and 1981, which relate to the Holy See’s role during the Holocaust. We expect to raise questions both with respect to the general issues noted above and to material not contained in these volumes.

3 The Vatican had an unofficial policy of keeping its archives closed for 100 years after an event. Paul VI changed this policy by opening the archives for the entire pontificate of Pius IX (1846-1878). Following that precedent, John Paul II subsequently opened the archives first for the pontificate of Leo XIII (1878-1903) and then for those of Pius X (1903-1915) and Benedict XV (1915-1922).

4 Pierre Blet, Osservatore Romano, no. 17, April 29, 1998, pp.16-17.

5 Blet, Pius XII and the Second World War.

6 “Les victimes de la Guerre” is the expression used in the title of several of the volumes of the ADSS.

7 For example, see ADSS, 8, pp. 767-781; ADSS, 9, pp.641-651; ADSS, 10, pp.637-652, which list the documents that are cited but not published.

8 ADSS, 1, pp.11-13.

9 ADSS, 1, p.VII.

10 ADSS, 2, p.60.

11 See ADSS, 2, Appendix I-IX, pp.385-436.

12 ADSS, 6, appendix 4, pp.536-7.

13 ADSS, 2, note 12, p.407.

14 Burkhart Schneider, “Un’enciclica mancata,” Osservatore Romano (5 April 1973).

15 ADSS, 6, nr. 60, p.137; nr. 125-6, p.211-14; nr. 131, p.219; nr. 137, pp.224-5; nr. 341, pp.437-9 provide several examples of the discussion of these funds. Even within these documents, other reports are referred to but not published, and these letters could be of importance to historians.

16 In the ADSS, 1 there are claims advanced that the Pope viewed events in Poland with the greatest sorrow; that he agonized over how to respond; that everything possible that could be done was being done; and that to be more forceful was certain to prompt retaliation.

17 ADSS, 6, nr. 378, pp.477-480.

18 ADSS, 6, nr. 378, note 3, p. 479.

19 ADSS, 6, nr. 378, notes 4-5, p.479.

20 ADSS, 8, nr. 165, pp. 295-7; nr. 189, pp. 333-4.

21 ADSS, 8, nr. 581, pp. 762-3.

22 ADSS, 8, nr. 421, pp. 586-7.

23 Many of these documents appear in ADSS, 8.

24 ADSS, 3.2, nr. 406, p.625-29.

25 ADSS, 3.2, nr. 357, p. 539-41.

26 See Gerhart Riegner, “Observations on the Published Vatican Archival Material,” unpublished paper, December 5, 1999, p. 6. ADSS, 4, nr. 398, pp

27 ADSS, 9, nr. 82, p.170. A letter from von Preysing to the Pope, dated 17 January 1941. The original letter read: “Eure Heiligkeit sind wohl über die Lage der Juden in Deutschland und en angrenzenden Ländern orientiert. Lediglich referierend möchte anführen, dass von katholischer wie von protestantischer Seite an mich die Frage getellt worden ist, ob nicht der Heilige Stuhl in dieser Sache etwas tun könnte, einen Appell zugunsten der Unglücklichen erlassen?” Von Preysing presents this request as coming from third parties, rather than in his own name, as if he were only the messenger – though in reality it clearly was a matter of some importance to him. It is interesting that the request has a more general Christian character (not self-evident at the time, given the strength of the Catholic-Protestant divide). Most significant of all, it tends to suggest that the German bishops (or at least some of them) were keeping the Pope well-informed about the condition of the Jews or they were aware that he knew about the Jewish plight in the German Reich.

28 ADSS,9, nr.82, p.170. See also note 9, ADSS, 2, nr. 105, p.323.

29 ADSS, 2, nr 105, p.318-327.

30 ADSS, 3, nr. 510, p.801; 7, nr. 225, p.396-400. It is also mentioned in ADSS, 9, nr. 213, p.327.

31 ADSS, 2, nr. 123, p.376.

32 ADSS, 8, nr. 496, pp. 669-70. In particular, see note 4.

33 Sergio Minerbi, “Pius XII: A Reappraisal,” paper presented at the symposium, “Memories, Intertwined and Divergent: Pius XII and the Holocaust, Kings College, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, April 9-11, 2000.

34 ADSS, 8, nr. 374, p. 534.

35 ADSS, 8, nr. 454, pp.625-7; nr. 463, pp.635-6; nr. 468, pp.638-40; nr. 484, p.658.

36 New York Times, September 10, 1942, p. 7,8,9.

37 ADSS, 3.2, nr. 497, p. 781.

38 In addition, Papée is on record as saying that not all of his memos appear in the ADSS volumes. What do his other letters contain? It would be important to know the contents of these communiqués in order to better understand the Polish question.

39 For example, see ADSS, 10, nr. 165, p.239-42; nr. 463, p.554.

40 ADSS, 10, nr. 40, p.115.

41 For example, see ADSS, 10, nr. 127, p.198; nr. 249, p.335; nr. 253, p. 341, nr. 254, p.342, n.1; nr. 260, p. 347; nr. 270, p. 357, n.3; nr. 273, p. 359; nr. 295, p.378.

42 ADSS, 10, nr. 53, p.129

43 ADSS, 10, nr. 153, p.224-29; nr.172, p.247-49.

44 See Rotta’s activities as described in ADSS, 10.

45 ADSS, 10, nr. 408, p.497.

46 Stein herself describes her letter, stating: “I know that my letter was sealed when it was delivered to the Holy Father some time later, I even received his blessing for myself and my loved ones. But nothing else came of it. Is it not possible that he recalled this letter on various occasions later on? My fears concerning the future of German Catholics have been gradually realized in the course of the years that followed.” “Je sais que ma lettre était cachetée quand elle a été remise au Saint-Père ; quelque temps plus tard, j’ai même reçu sa bénédiction pour moi-même et mes proches. Mais il n’en est rien sorti de plus. Est-il impossible que cette lettre lui soit plusieurs fois revenue à l’esprit par la suite? Mes appréhensions en ce qui concerne l’avenir des catholiques allemands se sont progressivement vérifiés au cours des années suivantes.” Notes d’Edith Stein citées par Teresia Renata de Spiritu Sancto, Edith Stein, Nuremberg, Glock und Lutz, 1952.

47 See ADSS, 8.

48 ADSS, 8, nr. 314, p. 466. The memorandum is reprinted in John Morley, Vatican Diplomacy and the Jews during the Holocaust 1939-1943 (New York: KTAV, 1980), Appendix B, 212. As Riegner notes, this important document was not included in the ADSS, only the letter of transmission by Bernardini. See Gerhart Riegner, “Observations on the Published Vatican Archival Material,” unpublished paper, December 5, 1999, pp.9-10. “I consider the omission in the Vatican documentation of [this document of March 18] and the accompanying letter of appeal to the Vatican a serious mistake,” writes Riegner. “It would have shown that important Jewish organizations had called the attention of the Vatican already in a very early stage of the application of the final solution (six weeks after the so-called Wansee Conference) to the tragic situation of European Jewry.” Ibid, 10.

49 “La Santa Sede non ha mai approvato il progetto di far della Palestine una home ebraica…La è ormai più sacra per i cattolici che … per gli ebrei.” “The Holy See has never approved the project of making Palestine a Jewish homeland…Palestine is by now more sacred for Catholics than…for Jews.” ADSS, 9, nr.94, p.184.

50 ADSS, 9, nr. 324, p.469.

51 ADSS, 9, nr. 91, p.182.

52 ADSS, 6, nr. 29, pp.92-4.

53 ADSS, 6, nr.134, p.222.

54 ADSS, 5, nr. 189, pp.361-2.

55 See Richard Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust: the Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944 (Lexington 1986) p.16.

56 One of many examples appears in ADSS, 8, nr. 441, p.611, in which the chief Rabbi of Zagreb appeals to the Pope for help. See also Maglione’s response in a footnote to this letter, in which he says that the Holy See “has not neglected to involve itself…in favor of the recommended persons” (611-612).

57 For example, in a letter to the Bishop of Wurtzbourg, Matthias Ehrenfried, on 20 Febrary 1941, Pius writes, “There where the Pope would like to shout, he is forced to wait and keep silence; where he would act and help, he must wait patiently…” (ADSS, 2, nr.66, p.201); and in a letter to the Archbishop of Cologne, Joseph Frings, on 3 March 1944, Pius writes “It is painfully difficult to decide whether reserve and prudent silence, or frank speaking and forceful action are called for.” (ADSS, 2, nr.119, p.365).

58 In a passage of Roncalli’s diary concerning an audience with Pius XII of October, 10 1941. Roncalli writes that the Pope “Si diffuse a dirmi della sua larghezza di tratto coi Germani che vengono a visitarlo. Mi chiese se il suo silenzio circa il contegno del nazismo non è giudicato male.” “Continued to tell me of his generosity towards the Germans who visit him. He asked me if his silence regarding nazism was not judged badly.” See Alberto Melloni, Fra Istanbul, Atene e la guerra. La missione di A.G. Roncalli (1935-1944), p.240.

59 Blet, Pius XII and the Second World War, p.xiii

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