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Historian Says Pope Pius Xii Was Aware of Plight of Jews Under Nazism but Was Afraid to Speak out

March 20, 1974
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A noted historian contended here that Pope Pius XII was “well aware of the plight of the Jews” under Nazism but declined to denounce the persecution publicly because he knew “he was not going to be listened to” and feared that he “would lose his influence and power.” This view was expressed by Dr. John S. Conway, of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in an address yesterday at the National Conference of Christians and Jews 1974 Conference of the Church Struggle and the Holocaust.

In his address, Dr. Conway also said that the Pope had to remain silent about the plight of the Jews because a public protest might have exacerbated the situation and would have resulted in “far worse consequences,” He noted that “no one will claim that enough was done to save the Jews” but at the same time it cannot be claimed that “nothing had been done.” Dr. Conway cited cases of individuals and Christian organizations that made efforts to save Jews despite the difficulties and the risks they had to face.

Dr. Armin Boyens of West Germany, whose comprehensive report on the churches and Hitler’s policy has just been published under the title, “The Church Struggle and the Ecumenical Movement,” conceded in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Pope Pius XII had helped “but not enough” to save the Jews.


In his address to the conference. Dr. Boyens detailed the efforts of the World Council of Churches (WCC), established in 1939, to help “non-Aryan refugees.” He noted that the members of the WCC, which includes all the churches except the Roman Catholic Church, “raised their voices in protest against the persecution of the Jewish people” but added that “we ought to have done much more.”

Dr. Boyens disclosed that American churches were asked by WCC in 1939 to raise $100,000 to save the lives of 200 Jews but raised only $13,000 and only 71 of the 200 were saved. He also pointed out that in order to rescue Jews. Christians had to act illegally at great risk to themselves. From the theological point of view, he observed, the persecution of the Jews “stimulated a new and deeper understanding…of the role of the people of Israel.” In 1948, he added, the WCC ruled that “anti-Semitism is a sin against God and man.” (Yitzhak Rabi)

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