Jewish and Catholic Leaders in Rome Discuss ‘the Deputy Play
Menu JTA Search

Jewish and Catholic Leaders in Rome Discuss ‘the Deputy Play

Download PDF for this date

The role of the late Pope Pius XII in regard to the Nazi genocide of European Jewry–with particular reference to Roll Hochhut’s play, “The Deputy.” which opens in New York on February 28–was the subject of a round table conference at tended by Jewish community and Catholic lay organization leaders here.

The panelists were Msgr. Alberto Giovanctti of the Vatican State Secretariat; Professor Mario Toscana, research and documentation director of the Italian Foreign Ministry; and Raphael Cantoni of the World Jewish Congress, a former president of the Union of Italian Jewish communities. “The Deputy, ” the theme of which is that the late Pontill failed to speak out against the Nazi genocide, has provoked controversy in all critics where it has been shown.

Msgr. Giovanctti, author of a recent study, “The Vatican and World War II, “said that no one denied the right to criticize a historic personality, such as Hope Pius. However, he asserted. “The Deputy” was a “libel” because it did not describe any political motivation of the Pope’s attitude. He cited the opposition of the Vatican to Nazism and referred to Pope Pius’ encyclical letter, “Mit Brehnender Sorge,” which, Msgr. Giovanetti said, the Nazi Foreign Office charged was meant to rouse the world against Nazi Germany.

Msgr. Giovanetti also asserted that the Allied Broadcasting services throughout the world radioed extensively comments to the Vatican Radio during the war. something, he added, which was never done by Nazi Germany. He also cited previously mentioned indications of the anti-Nazi attitude of the late Pontiff, including a letter to the London Tablet by Cardinal Montini, now Pope Paul VI.


Professor Toscana, suggested that the Vatican State Secretariat should complete the documentation of its archives. This, he said, was important because he wanted to show with such documents that Italy’s pro Jewish stand during the war was partly due to the influence of the Vatican, He cited documents showing that the Vatican in November 1940 asked the Italian Government to intervene with Nazi Germany on behalf of priests who had been sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp, an effort which did not succeed.

Professor Toscana also quoted Hitler’s instructions to Weizsaecker, Ceimany’s representative at the Vatican, to the effect that “in view of the known anti-National socialist attitude of Cardinall Pacelli, give him my congratulations, since this cannot be avoided but this should not be too warm.” The occasion was the Cardinal’s ascension to the Papacy.

Mr. Cantoni cited efforts by Catholic clergy to save Jews during the Nazi occupation of Italy. He said this was done on instructions of Pope Pius to “Help, Hide, Save.” He said the nature of the assistance given by the Church showed clearly that the activities were not sporadic humanitarian actions. He concluded with an appeal to work in unity for progress without regard to religious differences. He was warmly applauded by the audience.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund