December 5, 2005


Wrongly accused? a review of The Myth of Hitler's Pope By Rabbi David G. Dalin (FRANCIS PHILLIPS, Jerusalem Post)

History can be fickle. Until 1963, Pope Pius XII was regarded as a defender, even a champion, of the Jews during the fascist period. Then, in 1963, Rolf Hochhuth, a German playwright, wrote Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) - a play attacking Pius for his alleged "silence" while the Holocaust was taking place. Other writers followed suit, not least John Cornwell, to whose much-publicized book, Hitler's Pope, the title of this volume alludes.

The author of this book, an ordained rabbi, is a professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University, Florida. His book, which is robust, polemical and argumentative, deploys much documentation to show that the portrayal of the pope as a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite is at best grotesque, at worst deliberately false. Given the wealth of evidence he assembles, it seems strange that such a notion should ever have been taken seriously. Rabbi Dalin argues persuasively that it has been used by Western liberals to further their own hidden agenda: an attack on Judaeo-Christian civilization itself, and in particular on the bastion of this civilization, the Catholic Church. [...]

It is perverse how those who perpetuate the myth ignore the overwhelming documentation in Pius XII's favor by the very people he is supposed to have despised.

RABBI DALIN attempts to set the record straight. His best-known source is Three Popes and the Jews by the Jewish diplomat and historian Pinchas Lapide, which was published in 1967. Weighing all the evidence at his disposal, Lapide calculated that "Pius saved at least 700,000 but possibly 860,000 Jews from death" - more than all the other relief agencies put together. This enormous effort was achieved largely through the church's own religious houses in Italy, and through the papal nunciatures in other European countries such as Hungary and Bulgaria.

Both Archbishop Roncalli (later to become Pope John XXIII) and Archbishop Montini (later to become Pope Paul VI) were charged by Pius to do what they could to save Jewish lives. Theologian Henri de Lubac SJ was similarly directed, as were countless other priests and senior members of the church's hierarchy. Convents, monasteries and presbyteries all over Europe opened their doors to Jewish fugitives; more than 1,000 found asylum at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, and hundreds were hidden in the Vatican itself. It is estimated that more than 80 percent of Rome's Jews were saved by the intervention of the pope.

Albert Einstein paid tribute to Pius XII as early as 1940, saying that in Germany, "only the Catholic Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing the truth." When Pius died in 1958 he was deeply mourned by the Jews. Golda Meir, then Israel's foreign minister, wrote to the Vatican: "When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the pope was raised for the victims."

One telling detail is omitted from this well-researched book: after the war the chief rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, converted to Catholicism; in a personal tribute to Pius he took "Eugenio" as his baptismal name.

So how could the slur of Pius's "silence" ever gain the slightest credibility? Although the pope was not silent in his actions, in his directives to church personnel and in his communications with Allied diplomats, he deliberately refrained from making public statements attacking Hitler during the war. Was this silence culpable? His reason, heavily influenced by Jewish and diplomatic advice, was that not only would a public protest not help the Jews, but it would actually increase their persecution.

The former chief rabbi of Denmark, Marcus Melchior, a Holocaust survivor, argued that "it is an error to think Pius XII could have had any influence whatsoever. If the pope had spoken out, Hitler would have massacred more than six million Jews." When Holland's bishops did courageously protest the rounding up of Dutch Jews, the Nazis instantly retaliated with even harsher measures. To have excommunicated Hitler - a former Catholic - would, as historical examples demonstrate, have had a similar effect.

Such an imposed silence must have caused Pius great inner agony.

As with the spate of books celebrating the Founders, it's fun to watch the Left lose control of the historical narrative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 5, 2005 4:31 PM

And speaking out publically would have done what now? Oh yes. It might have gotten the Pope placed in "protective" custody. Yeah, that would have helped - a lot.

Like the accusation allied airforces should have bombed railway lines to the death camps. This would have stopped the Nazis how? Just railehead to the line break, have the prisoners dig a ditch, and drop them into it. Yeah, that would have stumped Himmler.


Posted by: Mikey at December 6, 2005 8:06 AM
« BUSHENOMICS 101: | Main | THE GREATEST BLESSING (via Robert Schwartz): »