There was concern the Holy See would be accused of doing nothing in the face of the Nazi persecution, as records would not show the receipt of the diplomatic note. This was the reason for Maglione’s comment, in the meeting of the group Ickx calls “the Bureau,” and which was the foreign affairs section of the Secretariat of State, then led by Cardinal Domenico Tardini.
Ickx, who has headed the archive of the second section of the Vatican Secretariat of State for 10 years, writes: “From what I know, always very limited, the Vatican Secretariat of State was the only foreign ministry in the world with a special office and a complete international network dedicated to helping people persecuted during the Second World War.”
“The Jewish series is proof of this,” Ickx stated, referring to the documents in the Pius XII archive which include all of the requests for action on the part of Jewish people in that period. The series contains around 2,800 requests for aid, made between 1938 and 1944, and gives a glimpse into the fate of over 4,000 Jews and Christians of Jewish origin.
The stories told by Ickx, a Belgian who has lived in Rome for 30 years, are all based on documentation found in the Vatican archives, including that of the letter of protest.
When the Germans did not accept the note, Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the pope’s ambassador in Berlin, accepted its return. At the subsequent meeting, it was decided that it might not be appropriate to publish the note in the Actae Apostolicae Sedis, a book which records the official acts of the Holy See. But Pope Pius XII ordered the nuncio Orsenigo to put in writing to the German government that their gesture was “not friendly toward the Holy See,” and to add that “the Holy See considers the note as presented.”
Ickx explained that refusing to receive the note was a gesture almost equivalent to a declaration of war, adding that the fact the note was delivered shows the pope had expressed his unchanged disapproval of the religious persecution of the German government.