(Rome) Newly discovered World War II correspondence suggests that Pope Pius XII had detailed information from a trusted German Jesuit that up to 6,000 Jews and Poles were being gassed every day in Soviet-occupied Poland. Germany.
These revelations thus undermine the Holy See’s argument that it could not verify diplomatic reports on Nazi atrocities to denounce them.
Documentation from the Vatican archives, published this weekend in the Italian daily Corriere della Serais likely to further fuel the debate on the legacy of Pius XII and his beatification campaign, now at a standstill.
Historians have long been divided over Pius XII’s record, with his supporters insisting he used quiet diplomacy to save Jewish lives, while critics say he remained silent during the Holocaust. was raging.
Giovanni Coco, researcher and archivist at the Vatican Apostolic Archives, told the Corriere that the letter was important because it represented detailed correspondence about the Nazi extermination of the Jews from a well-informed Church source in Germany who was part of the anti-Hitler Catholic resistance.
The letter from the priest, the Rev. Lothar Koenig, to Pius’s secretary, a fellow German Jesuit named the Rev. Robert Leiber, is dated December 14, 1942. Written in German, the letter addresses Leiber as “Dear Friend” and continues reporting that the Nazis killed up to 6,000 Jews and Poles daily from Rava Ruska, a town in pre-war Poland now in Ukraine, and transported them to the Belzec extermination camp.
According to the Belzec memorial opened in 2004, a total of 500,000 Jews perished in the camp. The memorial’s website reports that as many as 3,500 Jews from Rava Ruska had already been sent to Belzec in early 1942 and that from December 7 to 11, the town’s Jewish ghetto was liquidated.
Although it is unclear whether Pius XII saw the letter, Leiber was Pius XII’s chief aide and had served the pope when he was Vatican ambassador to Germany in the 1920s, suggesting a working relationship narrow, particularly on questions linked to Germany.
In The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitlerthe anthropologist and historian David Kertzer, quotes a senior official in the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Domenico Tardini, who allegedly told the British envoy to the Vatican in mid-December that the pope could not speak openly about Nazi atrocities because the Vatican had not been able to verify the information.
“The novelty and importance of this document comes from this fact: that on the Holocaust, there is now the certainty that Pius XII received from the German Catholic Church exact and detailed information on the crimes perpetrated against the Jews” , declared Mr. Coco at Corriere.
However, Mr. Coco noted that Mr. Kœnig also urged the Holy See not to make public what it revealed, because he feared for his own life and that of the resistance sources who had provided the intelligence.
The legacy of Pius XII and revelations from the recently opened Vatican archives are to be discussed at a major conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University next month.