Pope Pius XII, Accused of Silence During the Holocaust, Knew Jews Were Being Killed, Researcher Says

From The Washington Post

Photo above: Pope Pius XII blesses a crowd in Rome on Dec. 18, 1939. (AP)

By Tom Heneghan

April 29, 2020 at 7:30 AM EDT

(Religion News Service) —The long-awaited opening of Pope Pius XII’s wartime records lasted only a week before the coronavirus outbreak shut down the Vatican archives. But that was long enough for documents to emerge that reflect badly on the pontiff accused of silence during the Holocaust, according to published reports.

In that week alone, German researchers found that the pope, who never directly criticized the Nazi slaughter of Jews, knew from his own sources about Berlin’s death campaign early on. But he kept this from the U.S. government after an aide argued that Jews and Ukrainians — his main sources — could not be trusted because they lied and exaggerated, the researchers said.

Pope Pius XII blesses worshipers in 1949. (Intercontinentale/AFP/Getty Images)

They also discovered that the Vatican hid these and other sensitive documents presumably to protect Pius’s image, a finding that will embarrass the Roman Catholic Church, which is still struggling with its coverup of clerical sexual abuse.

Pope Pius XII was silent during the Holocaust. Now Vatican records may reveal whether he collaborated with the Nazis.

These reports emerged out of Germany, home to seven researchers from the University of Münster who went to Rome despite the coronavirus crisis there for the historic opening of Pius’s wartime papers on March 2. Other researchers from the United States and Israel had been expected to attend the opening but apparently stayed home because of the pandemic.

Leading the German team was Hubert Wolf, 60, a historian of the Catholic Church who has researched in the Vatican’s Secret Archive — now called the Apostolic Archive — since his student days. A Catholic priest and prolific author, he enjoys a reputation as an objective researcher and outspoken analyst.

“We have to first check these newly available sources,” he told Kirche + Leben, the Catholic weekly in Münster, last week. “If Pius XII comes out of this study of the sources looking better, that’s wonderful. If he comes out looking worse, we have to accept that, too.”

The stakes are high.

Pius XII, who headed the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958 and is now a candidate for canonization, was the most controversial pontiff of the 20th century. His failure to denounce the Holocaust publicly earned him the title of “Hitler’s pope,” and critics have for decades asked for his wartime archives to be opened for scrutiny.

The pope’s defenders have long argued he could not speak out more clearly for fear of a Nazi backlash, and they cite his decision to hide Jews at the Vatican and in churches and monasteries as proof of his good deeds. They note the Vatican had already published an 11-volume series of documents selected from his archives to prove his innocence.

A Catholic-Jewish commission that was launched in 1999 to seek to resolve this case broke up two years later because the Vatican would not open its archive, which was supposed to stay sealed until 2028.

Now the archive has been opened, and the Münster team of researchers has begun to publish its first findings; they do not look good for Pius or the Catholic Church. The details are a bit complicated, but Wolf’s conclusions are quite clear.

The chain of events goes back to Sept. 27, 1942, when a U.S. diplomat gave the Vatican a secret report on the mass murder of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. It said about 100,000 had been massacred in and around Warsaw and added that an additional 50,000 were killed in Lviv in German-occupied Ukraine.

The report was based on information from the Geneva office of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Washington wanted to know whether the Vatican, which received information from Catholics around the world, could confirm this from its own sources. If it could, would the Vatican have any ideas about how to rally public opinion against these crimes?

The archive included a note confirming that Pius read the American report. It also had two letters to the Vatican independently corroborating the reports of massacres in Warsaw and Lviv, according to the researchers.

A month before the American request, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic archbishop of Lviv, Andrey Sheptytsky, had sent Pius a letter that spoke of 200,000 Jews massacred in Ukraine under the “outright diabolical” German occupation.

In mid-September, an Italian businessman named Malvezzi told Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI, of the “incredible butchery” of Jews he had seen during a recent visit to Warsaw. Montini reported this to his superior, the Vatican’s secretary of state (akin to a prime minister), Cardinal Luigi Maglione.

But the Vatican told Washington it could not confirm the Jewish Agency report.

The basis for this, Wolf told the Hamburg weekly Die Zeit, was a memo by another staffer at the Secretariat of State, Angelo Dell’Acqua, who later became a cardinal. In that memo, he warned against believing the Jewish report because Jews “easily exaggerate” and “Orientals” — the reference is to Archbishop Sheptytsky — “are really not an example of honesty.”

That memo is in the archive but was not included in the 11-volume series of wartime documents the Vatican published to defend Pius’s reputation. “This is a key document that has been kept hidden from us because it is clearly anti-Semitic and shows why Pius XII did not speak out against the Holocaust,” Wolf told Kirche + Leben.

Wolf said the 11-volume series, known to historians as the Actes et Documents after its French title, took some documents out of their chronological order and thereby made it hard if not impossible to understand them in context.

“That’s why we have to be skeptical about the whole 11-volume series and check it against the archive document by document,” he said. “These 11 volumes break up the context in which the documents are found in the archive. The result is that one can no longer understand how they relate to each other.”

The research team also found three small photographs showing emaciated concentration camp inmates and corpses thrown into a mass grave. A Jewish informer had given them to the Vatican ambassador, or nuncio, in neutral Switzerland to send to the Vatican, and the Holy See confirmed reception of them in a letter two weeks later.

Wolf told the German Catholic news agency KNA that another potentially embarrassing issue was the “Rat Line,” an informal network that helped former top Nazis escape from central Europe to Italy and from there to South America.

It has long been known that the Catholic Church — possibly with covert U.S. assistance — helped ex-Nazis, like the Holocaust bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann, concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele or Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, flee to South America. These men were anti-communists, and Rome and Washington considered communism their enemy.

Reports from the papal nuncio in Buenos Aires could indicate a Vatican role in the Rat Line, Wolf told KNA. “What did he know about this activity?” he asked. “The Vatican might have been able to get them passports. … Was the nuncio the middle man? Did the Argentine embassy in Rome do all the work?

“We’re just asking open questions, and have to be ready for any kind of answer,” he said.

Other questions Wolf wants to research are Pius’s relations with U.S. political and intelligence networks during and after the war, his role in promoting European unity, and his thoughts about allying with Muslims in a campaign against communism.

Answers to these and other questions could also influence a drive by conservative Catholics to have Pius declared a saint. Wolf serves as a historian for this cause and says it will take years to assess his career.

The archive will remain closed at least until this summer, which Wolf considers a catastrophe for his research project. “We could figure on seven researchers before. Can this continue in the autumn?” he asked.

“There are enough questions to keep the whole team busy for 10 years!”

The Jasenovac Research Institute Mourns the Passing of Historian and JRI Colleague Jovan Mirković


Jovan Mirković
November 1, 1943 – April 25, 2020

Passing of a great man and historian, Jovan Mirkovic

It is with great sadness that we must report the death of our friend and colleague Jovan Mirković. Jovan Mirković was one of the most important historians and authorities on the history of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, particularly focusing on and dedicating his life to research on the Independent State of Croatia’s genocide during the Second World War against the Serbian, Jewish and Roma people and clergy. His work will have a lasting impact on the future of the scholarship on this subject. He had a long collaboration with Jasenovac Research Institute that began when he and Barry Lituchy met in Banja Luka in the year 2000. Jovan was the JRI’s keynote speaker at the JRI’s 14th Annual Conference and Dinner in New York on April 26, 2015.

Jovan Mirković was born in 1943 in Subocki Grad (Brezovac Subocki) in Slavonia. He received a BA in History from the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo, where he continued his postgraduate studies. He was the director of the Jasenovac Memorial Area on two occasions.  He served as Director for the first time from 1978 to 1980. At that time, he tried to make the Jasenovac Memorial Area a central research institution for crimes of genocide. But this was blocked by the authorities of that time.

His second term as Director (1990-1991) started with clashes with the Croatian government over the financing of programmatic tasks, and ended with his arrest by members of the National Guard Corps. The so-called “Zenge” (Croat militia that wore yellow boots, hence the name) intended to kill him. But he was saved by an artillery strike against the police station where he was detained. He fled and reached Sarajevo, where the war made him a refugee once again. From 1999 to 2013 he worked as a curator-researcher at the Museum of Genocide Victims in Belgrade. The first major result of his extensive work was his book-length study Published Sources and Literature on the Jasenovac Camps (2000), which also appeared as an electronic edition in 2005. This amazing bibliography contains an analysis of over 2500 titles of special editions and articles published on the Jasenovac camps.

In his last interview, Jovan Mirković said:

“With the book Published Sources and Literature on Jasenovac Camps, I tried to prove, and I think I did, that the Jasenovac theme was not what many, I will not say historians but historical publicists, call a ‘Taboo Topic’. The sheer number of titles published (some 2,500 titles up to 2000) was not a taboo topic of historiography but, as I stated in the book, it was more of a ‘taboo of consciousness,’ especially for people in the historian’s profession. To deal with this matter expertly and scientifically, I started working on collecting material for a new edition of my bibliography on Jasenovac. I collected almost as many new titles for the period from 2000 up to 2020. However, my illness prevented me from continuing work on it.”

On January 30, 2020, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church awarded Jovan Mirković with the high decoration, the Order of Saint Despot Stefan Lazarevic for his work on documenting the suffering of the Serbian people. 

His three most important books are Objavljeni Izvori i Literatura o Jasenovachkim Logorima (Published Sources and Literature on the Jasenovac Camps) 2000, Stradanje Srpske Pravoslavne Srkve u Nezavisnoj Drzava Hrvatskoi (Suffering of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Independent State of Croatia), 2016, and Zlochini nad Srbima u Nezavisnoj Drzava Hrvatskoi (Crimes Against Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia (2014).  These three books remain essential reading for anyone interested in the subject. We also thank those who saved Jovan’s life in the 1990s, for by saving Jovan they saved his great legacy as well.

Written by Nada Ljubić and Barry Lituchy
Jasenovac Research Institute
29 April 2020

75th Anniversary of the Break-out from Jasenovac

The End of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia

22 April 2020

Dear JRI Directors, Colleagues, and Friends,

As today we mark the 75th anniversary of the Break-out by the prisoners of Jasenovac, and the end of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, it is time to stop and to reflect for a moment on how important it is for us to continue our work, and to keep the memory of the victims of the Holocaust alive and in the minds of our fellow Jews, Serbs, Romas, Americans, and peoples around the world.

I am grateful to all of you for doing your part to remind everyone never to forget the genocides carried out against Serbs, Jews and Romas in the former Yugoslavia by Croatian Ustashe, aided by the German, Italian, Hungarian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Muslim fascist forces. And, also, not to forget the courageous struggle of the anti-fascist freedom fighters of all nationalities, many of whom sacrificed their lives to stop the fascist murderers.

As we cannot meet under present circumstances, we will lay a wreath today at the Jasenovac monument at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Brooklyn, NY. We are considering organizing a short commemoration online on Sunday. We will inform you of that later. We have postponed this year’s Jasenovac Day Dinner and Conference for later in this year.

We cannot meet today, but I want to tell you that I very much appreciate your support and solidarity to keep the Jasenovac Research Institute functioning, and to keep our mission alive. The danger of the old fascism is still with us. Anti-Serbian, Anti-Jewish, Anti-Roma racial hatred and propaganda is still a daily and toxic threat. Above all, we must fight for the truth against a political, media and educational establishment that promotes ignorance and denial of the history of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia. This, as much as the political continuity of Ustashe and other forms of fascism, is what gave rise to the Jasenovac Research Institute and our mission in the first place some 23 years ago.

I also want to give special thanks to our colleague Olja Meyer for her generous donation to JRI for today’s wreath in memory of her mother’s family membersdenis that were slaughtered at Jasenovac.

I will leave you with this thought today as we remember the victims and the struggle of 75 years ago: on that cold and rainy morning of April 22, 1945 many hundreds of the last prisoners in Jasenovac ran through machine gun fire and bullets to escape, many with the sole thought that if just one of them lived, they could tell the world what happened at Jasenovac. Most of them did not survive, of course, but we will go on to remind the world and teach these lessons.

Thank you for supporting Jasenovac Research Institute!

With my best regards from
Barry Lituchy
Executive Director, Jasenovac Research Institute

Jacob Sedlar’s New Movie ‘Embrace Destiny’ shown in New York Sparking Controversy from World Jewish Congress

Once again, Croats and Albanians are going way ahead of Serbs in public relations. The movie by Croats director Jakov Sedlar called “The hug of destiny” is a new provocation. This film was included in the “New York Sephardic Festivalini NYC’ that was held from 2/23/-3/2/2020 in New York City.

The main idea of the film was that Albanians from Kosovo and Albania were saving Jews. In the same movie, Sedlar accused Serbs of collaborating with the Nazs, blaming them for the tragic destiny of Jews in Germany Occupied Serbia in WW2. Luckily, World Jewish Congress reacted with a statement about falsity of Sedlars movie.

Continue reading “Jacob Sedlar’s New Movie ‘Embrace Destiny’ shown in New York Sparking Controversy from World Jewish Congress”

JRI Co-Hosting Efraim Zuroff in Brooklyn on March 8th at 11:30 AM

The Holocaust Memorial Committe & the Jasenovac Research Institute Cordially Invite you to a lecture by

Dr. Efraim Zuroff

Chief Nazi Hunter of the Simon Weisenthal Center, Director of the Weisenthal Center’s Israle Office & Eastern European Affairs

My Life as a Nazi Hunter: Catching the Perpetrators, Combating Holocaust Denial and Distortion with a Focus on Croatia Today

Sunday, March 8th, 2020
11:30 AM
Manhattan Beach Jewish Center
60 West End Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Sisterhood Room, 3rd floor
Entrance Fee: $20

Early Bird Price: $18 before February 29th
HMC accepts Paypal: www.paypal.me/thmcorg

Or make checks payable to:
Holocuast Memorial Committee
60 West End Avenue
Brroklyn, NY 11235

For Information: 646-801-0739

Special tour of the Holocaust Memorial Park will follow

1999 CNN Report “No Harm Done?” on the Trial of Jasenovac Death Camp Commander Dinko Sakić

Jasenovac, Auschwitz of the Balkans

Despite the fact that the trial of Dinko Sakic took place 20 years ago, and the man was found guilty, subsequent Croatian governments have continued to deny and distort the history of WWII and to pursue policies (like Tudjman) that seek to normalize the fascist Ustaše and their policies – policies that resulted in crimes of genocide against Serbs, Jews, and Romas.  A similar normalization of pro-Nazi political movements from the past have been emulated recently in other countries, particularly in the Ukraine. As in Croatia, World War II (and pre-war) fascists have been glorified into “nationalist heroes” and monuments to anti-fascists have been defaced or destroyed.

Mr. Sakic was found guilty in October 1999 of killing more than 2,000 Serbs, Jews and Romas at the camp named Jasenovac. [Please note that hundreds of thousands died there. Not just 2,000.] Among other crimes, the verdict said, he ordered executions; did not treat the sick; worked inmates to death; starved and tortured some with a blowtorch; and hanged others . . . He personally shot at least four prisoners dead, two of them for smiling.

1999 CNN Report

These trends are alarming to all those who wish to never again live through fascist terror. It’s also important to note that the numbers of people murdered at Jasenovac and other death sites were in the hundreds of thousands, numbers that are typically minimized by countries such as Croatia and the Ukraine. Recently, a US Congressman from New York, Max Rose, has commented on the global dangers that this perpetuation of fascism poses. See his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times of 13 february 2020.

The US has been sadly supportive of neo-Nazi elements in the Ukraine. Image from https://newspunch.com/the-ukraine-conflicts-nazi-heritage/

The Passing of A Great Warrior for Truth, Smilja Avramav

JRI deeply mourns the loss of Dr. Smilja Avramov, who was for many years a Member of the Honorary Advisory Board of the Jasenovac Research Institute and a long-time supporter of our organization.

We also remember her great contributions to the scholarship on and public awareness of the Holocaust in the NDH and former Yugoslavia and to the study of the extermination camp of Jasenovac.

Continue reading “The Passing of A Great Warrior for Truth, Smilja Avramav”

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