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Rabbi Refutes Charge Pope Pius Was Nazi Collaborator
Peter Finney, Jr.
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Friday, November 13, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS (CNS)–The "historically false and malicious view" in a recent best-selling book of Pope Pius XII as a collaborator with Adolf Hitler in the extermination of millions of Jews during the Holocaust is refuted by the facts, said a rabbi who is a professor at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla.

Speaking in New Orleans Nov. 5, Rabbi David Dalin, author of The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis, said British author John Cornwell's characterization of Pope Pius "as the most dangerous churchman in modern history, without whom Hitler might never have been able to press forward with the Holocaust," belies the facts.

"In fact, nothing could be further from the truth," Rabbi Dalin said in a lecture at Tulane University. "An historically accurate assessment of the role of Pope Pius during the Holocaust leads to exactly the opposite of John Cornwell's false and malicious conclusions in his book 'Hitler's Pope.'"

"Pius XII was not Hitler's pope, but rather a protector and a friend of the Jewish people at a time when it mattered most," the rabbi added.

While acknowledging that "nobody did enough during the Holocaust," he said Pope Pius used his training as papal nuncio to Germany in the 1920s and as Vatican secretary of state in the 1930s to save Jewish lives during the war.

While about 80 percent of Jews living in Nazi-occupied Europe were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, Rabbi Dalin said in Italy "close to 85 percent of the Jews survived," including 75 percent of the Jewish community in Rome.

The professor said Jews were secretly sheltered in 155 monasteries, convents and churches in Italy throughout the Holocaust years, including 3,000 at Castel Gandolfo, the pope's summer residence outside of Rome.

"In no other location of Nazi-occupied Europe were as many Jews sheltered for as long a time as at Castel Gandolfo," Rabbi Dalin said. "This could not have been done without the personal approval and active involvement of Pius XII.

"In fact, kosher food was provided for some of the more religious Jews who were being sheltered at Castel Gandolfo during the Nazi occupation of Rome," he said.

The assumption anyone might make seeing the cover of Cornwell's "Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII'' is that Hitler and Pope Pius were "very close," Rabbi Dalin said. The cover shows the pope being saluted by a soldier as he leaves a building.

"The fact is they never met," he said.

Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, was a Vatican diplomat in Germany in the 1920s but left Germany in 1929, "never to return," Rabbi Dalin said.

In 1938, when Hitler made his first state visit to Rome, he said, then-Cardinal Pacelli, the Vatican secretary of state, and his predecessor, Pope Pius XI, "publicly snubbed Hitler."

Rabbi Dalin acknowledged that Pope Pius XII could have done more, perhaps by excommunicating Hitler, who had been baptized a Catholic, along with other members of the Nazi regime.

Pope Pius also was criticized for not being more outspoken about Hitler and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Dalin found 55 instances, beginning in the 1920s when he was papal nuncio to Germany, in which Pope Pius XII "made statements attacking Hitler and the Nazis."

When Pope Pius did have a papal statement read in every pulpit on one Sunday in Belgium during World War II, Rabbi Dalin said that "the Nazi reprisals were vicious. In no other country of Nazi-occupied Europe was as high a percentage of Jews—and, for that matter, Catholics—killed as in Belgium."

"The fact is Pius XII was by training a diplomat," Rabbi Dalin said. "A lot of (his work) was behind the scenes. He was reticent to make sound-bite public statements that might be counterproductive."

An episode often overlooked occurred when Cardinal Pacelli was secretary of state and traveled to the U.S. in 1936. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was trying to push through his New Deal, was growing irritated by the radio attacks of Father Charles Coughlin, who had a nationwide audience of 1 million.

Father Coughlin also sprinkled his commentaries against Roosevelt with embarrassing anti-Semitic diatribes. Three weeks after the cardinal met with the president, Father Coughlin was taken off the air. In exchange, the future Pope Pius asked Roosevelt to name a special envoy to the Vatican with ambassadorial status, a diplomatic post that had been abandoned in the 19th century.

The Vatican and the U.S. had cordial relations but it wasn't until 1984, under President Ronald Reagan, that the United States finally established full diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

Hitler did have a favorite cleric, however, Rabbi Dalin said: Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammed Amin al-Husseini, a vicious "anti-Semite and equally vicious anti-Christian" who "chastised the Nazi officials for not doing enough to exterminate the Jews."

The rabbi said negative characterizations of the pope started with a play, "The Deputy," written in 1963 by Rolf Hochhuth, a German. It portrayed the pope as anti-Semitic.

"This was a fictional play, and this became the basis for the vicious attacks," he said. "In his own lifetime and for years after his death, (Pius XII) was considered a friend of the Jewish people. More than 60 years after the Holocaust, it's good to remember the real role that Pius XII had."

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