Pope Pius XII and the Nazis

A recent email exchange with a non-Catholic accused Pope Pius XII of silence during the Nazi era. I explained that his claims against the Catholic Church seem to be based on urban legends, and I provided these links to articles he might want to read to get the Catholic perspective:

A Righteous Gentile: Pope Pius XII and the Jews
By Rabbi David Dalin

Pius the Good: The brief for a much-maligned pope
By William Doino Jr.

Pope Pius XII saved well over half-a-million Jews from Nazi extermination and was considered to be a “righteous gentile” by Jewish leaders of his day. As the Jewish Rabbi David Dalin wrote in the article above:

For Jewish leaders of a previous generation, [the modern] harsh portrayal of Pope Pius XII, and the campaign of vilification against him, would have been a source of profound shock and sadness. From the end of World War II until at least five years after his death, Pope Pius enjoyed an enviable reputation amongst Christians and Jews alike. At the end of the war, Pius XII was hailed as “the inspired moral prophet of victory,” and “enjoyed near-universal acclaim for aiding European Jews.” Numerous Jewish leaders, including Albert Einstein, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, and Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, expressed their public gratitude to Pius XII, praising him as a “righteous gentile,” who had saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. In his meticulously researched and comprehensive 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews, the Israeli historian and diplomat Pinchas Lapide, who had served as the Israeli Counsel General in Milan, and had spoken with many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors who owed their life to Pius, provided the empirical basis for their gratitude, concluding that Pius XII “was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.” To this day, the Lapide volume remains the definitive work, by a Jewish scholar, on the subject.

The campaign of vilification against Pope Pius can be traced to the debut in Berlin in February 1963 of a play, by a young, Protestant, left-wing West German writer and playwright, Rolf Hochhuth. The Deputy, in which Hochhuth depicts Pacelli as a Nazi collaborator, guilty of moral cowardice and “silence” in the face of the Nazi onslaught, is a scathing indictment of Pope Pius XII’s alleged indifferences to the plight of European Jewry during the Holocaust.

Hochhuth’s play ignited a public controversy about Pius XII that continues this day. Despite the fact that The Deputy was a purely fictional and highly polemical play, which offered little or no historical evidence for its allegations against Pope Pius XII, it was widely discussed and acclaimed. Indeed, it inspired a new generation of revisionist journalists and scholars, who were intent on discrediting the well-documented efforts of Pope Pius XII to save Jews during the Holocaust. Their denunciation of Pius received widespread publicity with the commercial success of Hitler’s Pope, in which John Cornwell denounced him as “the most dangerous churchman in modern history,” without whom “Hitler might never haveā€¦been able to press forward with the Holocaust.” Although an unusually harsh and bitter judgment, it was one with which Pius XII’s other recent detractors, such as Wills and Zucotti, implicitly concur. Moreover, in their persistent efforts to vilify Pius, and defame his memory, his detractors have largely dismissed or completely ignored Pinchas Lapide’s seminal and comprehensive study that so conclusively documents the instrumental role played by Pope Pius XII in rescuing and sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.

The man I was corresponding with didn’t like my comment that his beliefs were based on “urban legends.” But I consider any revisionist history based on a fictional play an “urban legend.” Don’t you?

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