Pius XII And The Holocaust
Sir, - Mr Regan (March 24th) follows Rolf Hochhuth, author of a propaganda play about Pius XII, Der Stellvertreter. He accepts the dramatist's interpretation of an important telegram sent by the German ambassador at the Vatican, Von Weizsaecker, to Berlin which said that the Pope had not protested even when Jews were being carried off under his windows.
Why did this man, known as being opposed to the Holocaust, a man defended by important people at his trial after the war, use this language? Mr Regan will get the answer in the Vatican War Documents, which tell of the ambassador's summons to the Vatican on the news of the first roundup of Jews in Rome, his sense of shame ("Do you wonder that I stay where I am?"), his promise to do his best. His telegram to Berlin was meant to ward off any immediate action. It gave the remaining Jews in Rome time to go into hiding in Catholic religious houses, the known wish of the Pope; seven-eights were thus safeguarded.
Those like Mr Regan interested in "Pius XII and the Jews" can no longer complain of lack of primary documents: this is where history is found, not in plays or television programmes. Not only in the 12 volumes of Vatican War Documents, but in the German and British state papers and especially in the transcript of the Nuremberg trials the name of Pius XII shines out as the sole benefactor of the imperilled Jews. Every factual assertion about the Pope is nailed down with reference to these primary sources in my book on Pius XII, who has been the subject of the most disgraceful falsification in modern historiography.
Let me remind your readers of Jewish gratitude. After the war, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, became a Catholic, taking Pius XII's name Eugenio. His successor, Rabbi Elio Toaf, spoke words of praise on the Pontiff, after his death, as did Golda Meier. The Israeli Symphony Orchestra gave the first concert of its European tour in the Vatican, in honour of Pius XII. The world Jewish Congress voted two million lire to the Vatican as a gesture of thanks. There were many other similar gestures. Dr Bethel Solomons, a fellow member with me of the wartime Jewish Christian Society, the Pillar of Fire, told me that, as president of the Irish College of Physicians, he thanked the Pope for his action on behalf of the Jews.
What about writers? I recommend to those interested the works of Jeno Levai, the first and greatest authority on the Holocaust. I spoke with him briefly in Budapest in 1968. He was adamant still on his repudiation of Hochhuth, first expressed at the trial of the surviving Auschwitz personnel in 1964; his second book was, in German, entitled The Pope was not silent; he was the only foreign Jew invited to testify at the Eichmann trial.
If Mr Regan reads German he can turn to David Herstig's Die Rettung (Stuttgart, 1966); he maintained that at the time there were 360,000 Romanian Jews who owed their lives to the Pope's rescue network. Mr Regan can certainly read Pinehas Lapide's book; he contended that the Jews saved by the Pope numbered 860,000. I spent a good while with him in Jerusalem; he told me that he heard a German general say in court that retaliation was the official answer to public protest. This deals with Hochhuth's naive idea, repeated by Mr Regan, that Hitler withdrew after such protests.
Without the remotest anti-British animosity, I find it galling that British papers should pillory Pius XII in the face of the mountainous evidence of British indifference to the Holocaust. It was known that they refused to bomb the railway line to Auschwitz, which could have saved many lives - Martin Gilbert has exposed the failure. Now we learn more: they knew of the Jewish genocide already in 1941, but covered it up, lest their code-breakers should be known!
A final point of interest, as I write. I learn from a French publication that the postulator for the beatification of Pius XII has received letters of support from many European rabbis. That is utterly unique. - Yours, etc.,
Michael O'Carroll, C.S.Sp.
Blackrock College, Blackrock, Co. Dublin.