Pope Pius XII Had Detailed Knowledge of the Holocaust, Contrary to Vatican’s Official Position
Declassified letter from Vatican archives reveals Pope Pius XII’s knowledge of Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews
A recently discovered letter in the Vatican archives has shed light on Pope Pius XII’s knowledge about the Holocaust, contradicting the Holy See’s official stance at the time. The letter, written by Father Lother Koenig, a German Jesuit and anti-Nazi resistance member, was addressed to the pope’s personal secretary, Father Robert Leiber, and dated December 14, 1942. The document indicates that the Vatican had precise and detailed information about the mass killings of Jews in Nazi labor camps, including Belzec, Auschwitz, and Dachau.
The Vatican Archive’s Significant Find
- Declassified letter affirms Vatican’s knowledge of death factories in Nazi labor camps
- Written by Father Lother Koenig, a German Jesuit and anti-Nazi resistance member
- Dated December 14, 1942, the letter was addressed to Pope Pius XII’s personal secretary
Describing the letter’s significance, Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco stated, “The newness and importance of this document derives from a fact: now we have the certainty that the Catholic Church in Germany sent Pius XII exact and detailed news about the crimes that were being perpetrated against the Jews.” This finding challenges the previous notion that the Vatican only had vague and unverified information about the Holocaust.
Supporters and Detractors of Pope Pius XII
- Supporters argue Pius worked discreetly to aid Jews without worsening their situation
- Detractors criticize Pius for failing to speak out despite having information about the Holocaust
Advocates for Pope Pius XII claim that he chose to work behind the scenes to help Jews, fearing that speaking out would exacerbate the plight of Catholics in Nazi-occupied Europe. However, critics argue that he lacked the courage to publicly denounce the atrocities despite pleas from Allied powers fighting against Germany.
Pope Francis’ Commitment to Historical Transparency
- Archival release aligns with Pope Francis’ statement that “the Church is not afraid of history”
- David Kertzer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, praises the Vatican archivist for seeking the truth
The decision to open the wartime archives by Pope Francis in 2019 reflects the Vatican’s dedication to historical transparency. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, the director of International Academic Programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, commended the release, stating that there is a desire for a careful assessment of the documents from a scientific perspective. In an email to Reuters, David Kertzer, author of “The Pope at War,” acclaimed the Vatican archivist, Giovanni Coco, as a serious scholar unearthing important historical truths.
Upcoming Conference on Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust
- Major conference at the Pontifical Gregorian next month
- Sponsored by Catholic and Jewish organizations, the U.S. State Department, and Holocaust research groups
To further explore the role of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust, a conference is scheduled next month at the Pontifical Gregorian. The conference, supported by Catholic and Jewish organizations, the U.S. State Department, and various Holocaust research groups, aims to delve deeper into the historical context and controversies surrounding this period.