ROME (JTA) — The United States and British governments suppressed information about the extent of the Holocaust, the Vatican’s official newspaper charged.
The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, also slammed Allied governments in World War II for deliberately failing to act to stop the systematic killing of Europe’s Jews despite having detailed information about the Nazi plans to exterminate European Jewry, according to a lengthy article published Aug. 13.
The article quoted a 1948 essay published in the Italian Jewish journal Rassegna Mensile d’Israel that was based on the diary of Henry Morgenthau Jr., the U.S. treasury secretary during the war.
Morgenthau wrote, according to the article, that "the incapacity, indolence and bureaucratic delays of America impeded saving thousands of Hitler’s victims." He also wrote that the British foreign minister "was more concerned about politics than of human charity."
Morgenthau was quoted as writing that "we in Washington" knew that the Nazis "had planned to exterminate all the Jews of Europe" since August 1942, but added, "for about 18 months from receiving the first reports of this horrible Nazi plan, the State Department did practically nothing." Instead, Morgenthau wrote, its officials "dodged their grim responsibility, procrastinated when concrete rescue schemes were placed before them, and even suppressed information about atrocities."
The article appears to be part of a Vatican campaign trying to bolster the reputation of the wartime Pope Pius XII, countering criticism that he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust. Instead, the article said, the pope worked behind the scenes and hid Jews in a number of church-run institutions, "the only plausible and practical form of defense of the Jews and other persecuted people."
The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants called the article a "distortion of history" and said it was part of a "shameless campaign" to justify sainthood for Pius.
"The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has engaged in intellectual dishonesty. Its reporting on the failures of the Allies during the Holocaust is neither new nor does it mitigate the disgraceful silence of Pope Pius XII in the face of Nazi barbarism during the Holocaust," said the group’s president, Sam Bloch. "Allied governments have long acknowledged their historic failures during this tragic period while – as this article demonstrates – the efforts to whitewash Pius’ record continues."