Pope Pius XII knew of Nazi Holocaust atrocities, letter suggests

A newly revealed letter from the Vatican archives suggests that World War II-era Pope Pius XII was conscious hundreds of Jews had been being killed in gasoline chambers in occupied Poland, undercutting earlier Vatican arguments justifying the pope’s wartime silence on the Holocaust.

Following a long time of strain from Jewish organizations and historians, the Vatican in 2020 opened its secret archives on the wartime pope, who headed the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958. Pius XII has since develop into one of probably the most controversial pontiffs for not publicly condemning the Nazis throughout the struggle, with critics dubbing him “Hitler’s Pope.” Others, together with the Vatican, have argued his diplomacy saved lives partially by stopping a Nazi backlash.

A newly unveiled doc has added gas to the controversy. It’s a German letter despatched by a German Jesuit member of the anti-Nazi resistance, Father Lother Koenig, and addressed to the pope’s trusted non-public secretary Rev. Robert Leiber. In the letter dated Dec. 14, 1942, Koenig wrote that as much as 6,000 folks, “above all Poles and Jews,” had been dying day by day in “SS-furnaces” on the Nazi-run Bełzec focus camp in what was then occupied Poland. Reported this week by Italian every day Corriere Della Sera, the letter was found by Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco, who described it as additional proof of a circulate of express and detailed information on Nazi crimes to the Holy See.

From March to December 1942, about 450,000 Jews, principally from Poland, had been killed on the Belzec focus camp, according to the web site of the museum and memorial in Belzec.

The pope who thought he could negotiate with Hitler

In the years since Pius XII’s papacy ended, critics have scrutinized his motion, or supposed inaction, throughout the struggle. Holocaust survivors have lobbied to freeze his sainthood course of.

When the tens of millions of pages within the Pius archives had been opened in 2020, Pope Francis said the Church was “not afraid of history” and that Pius’s papacy had “moments of grave difficulties, tormented decisions of human and Christian prudence, that to some could appear as reticence,” based on PBS.

In his 2022 ebook “The Pope at War,” historian and anthropologist David Kertzer argued that Pius put the Catholic Church forward of ethical management, fearful that hostility towards Hitler would possibly trigger the nations to interrupt with the church. Pius XII had additionally initially thought he may negotiate with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and mood Nazi hatred with diplomacy, the writer wrote. While the pope acted rigorously amid preliminary considerations that Axis powers could ultimately management Europe, Pius XII by no means modified his strategy at the same time as proof, and pleas for the Vatican to take a stand, mounted.

“As a moral leader, Pius XII must be judged a failure,” the historian wrote.

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