Denver Newsroom, May 1, 2020 / 11:15 am
Scholars say charges that Pope Pius XII covered-up the Vatican’s knowledge of the Holocaust are based on exaggerated claims and do not represent the truth.
Fr. Hubert Wolf, a professor of history at the University of Munster, claimed last month that in the Vatican’s recently opened archives on Pope Pius XII, he had found an anti-Semitic memo which suggested that Pope Pius XII knew about the Holocaust in Europe before the U.S. government did, but made efforts to conceal his knowledge.
But Ronald Rychlak, a professor at the University of Mississippi’s law school and the author of “Hitler, the War, and the Pope” told CNA that Wolf’s argument doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny.
What Pope Pius XII knew and did during World War II has been a source of controversy for years. That controversy was reignited in early March, when the Vatican opened to researchers its archives on Pius XII. Wolf was among the researchers. But a week after the archives were opened, the coronavirus lockdown in Italy forced researchers to pause their work.
Undeterred, Wolf told German and American media this month that he had found a key document which, he said, could prove that Pius XII lied to the U.S. government by claiming in 1942 that he could not verify intelligence reports, which came from the Jewish Agency for Palestine in Geneva, about death camps for the mass murder of Jews in Poland and Ukraine.
When the U.S. entered World War II in 1942, it did not yet have knowledge of the scale of atrocities committed against Jewish people across Europe, especially the mass murder of Jews in Eastern Europe. It had received reports of those atrocities, however, and was making efforts to verify them.
In 1942, the Vatican, too, had received reports, mostly from Church leaders, about the mass murder of Jews by Nazi forces.
Nevertheless, in September 1942, when a U.S. official asked the Vatican to verify a report from the Jewish Agency for Palestine, Vatican officials said they could not independently confirm the information it contained regarding the existence of death camps, but that the Vatican did know, and had received reports, about atrocities committed by Nazi forces, adding that “the Holy See is taking advantage of every opportunity offered in order to mitigate the suffering.”