Pope Pius Xii Refused to Intervene for Jews Under Nazis, U.S. Reveals
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Pope Pius Xii Refused to Intervene for Jews Under Nazis, U.S. Reveals

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The State Department made public today a number of secret diplomatic documents revealing the efforts by the United States Government to influence the late Pope Pius XII to denounce the Nazi atrocities against Jews in 1942, at the height of the “liquidation” of the Warsaw ghetto and the “disinclination” of the Pope to do it. Some of the efforts were made through the U.S. Minister in Switzerland and others through Myron Taylor, President Roosevelt’s personal Ambassador to the Vatican.

Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the documents reveal, had been urging American diplomatic representatives abroad, during the month of August 1942, to gain Vatican aid for Jews in Poland and for active intercession by Pope Pius XII with the Nazi Government. On Aug. 3, the U.S. Minister in Switzerland, Mr. Harrison, reported to Secretary Hull:

“The opinion prevails that the failure of the Holy See to protest publicly against Nazi atrocities is endangering its moral prestige and is undermining faith both in the Church and in the Holy Father himself. I have on a number of occasions informally reminded the Vatican of this danger and so have certain of my colleagues, but without result. The answer is in variably that the Pope has already condemned offenses against morality in wartime and that to be specific now would only make matters worse.”

The U.S. Minister in Berne said in his cable: “While I doubt very much that the Pope can be moved to take the desired action, I cannot see that the demarche could do any harm and I believe it would serve to reinforce the individual reminders that have heretofore been made.”

Within 24 hours Mr. Hull cabled the U.S. Minister full authorization in view of the “incredible horrors” being perpetrated by the Nazis. Mr. Hull said: “You may also point out the helpful effect of a condemnation on the part of the Pope in bringing about some check on the unbridled and uncalled for actions of the Nazi forces.”

On Oct. 16, 1942, Mr. Hull was officially informed through State Department channels that the Vatican had rejected American diplomatic efforts to achieve intercession by Pope Pius XII to help Polish Jewry. The Holy See informed Ambassador Myron Taylor, President Roosevelt’s personal representative to the Vatican, of the Pope’s position. The Vatican’s view was that while the Pope had heard reports of anti-Jewish measures “up to the present time it has not been possible to verify the accuracy thereof.”

The Vatican’s response came after a detailed communication from Ambassador Taylor to the Cardinal Secretary of State (Maglione) which included documentation from the Jewish Agency for Palestine Geneva office and accounts of non-Jewish eye-witnesses of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto and other mass murders. The communication sent to the Vatican said “It is a tragedy that the Polish population is being incited by the Germans against the Jews and the relationship between the Poles and the Jews has been aggravated to the last degree. In Lemberg this is particularly true.”

The United States Government thought the Vatican could try to reach “public opinion” to ameliorate Jewish suffering But U.S. diplomatic reportage to Secretary Hull was forced to state-in the words of U.S. Minister Harrison in Berne-that “I regret that the Holy See could not have been more helpful but it was evident from the attitude of the Cardinal (Vatican Secretary of State Maglione) that it has no practical suggestions to make. “

Meanwhile, another U.S. diplomat, reported to Secretary Hull that “the Holy See is still apparently convinced that a forthright denunciation by the Pope of Nazi atrocities, at least insofar as Poland is concerned, would only result in the violent deaths of many more people.” The diplomat was Harold H, Tittmann, Assistant to President Roosevelt’s personal envoy to the Vatican.

The State Department communications contained disappointment that the Vatican evaded the Jewish issue and failed to offer “any suggestions as to any practical manner in which the forces of civilized public opinion could be utilized in order to prevent a continuation of these (anti-Semitic) barbarities.”

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