Did Pope Pius XII do nothing to help the Jewish people in World War II?
Did the most powerful man in the world sit back idly while watching millions of Jews die needlessly?
Did Pius XII make deals with Hitler just to save his own skin?
Did the Catholic Church really side with Hitler and stab the Jewish people in the back?
Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust
Injustice! There is an injustice being spread around America and different parts of the world today. It’s in the form of a great lie! The myth states that Pope Pius XII, the man who did more for the Jewish people than anyone else, in fact did nothing at all. Rather, he stood by idly and watched them die when he was in a position of power to help them. It is stated that he even made pacts with Hitler to keep himself off the hit list. But this is so far from true, it’s amazing anyone ever believed it.
On the contrary, we will see that the Jewish people of the day praised the pope, celebrated all he did, and credited him with saving over 800,000 Jewish lives! So then, where did this revisionist emerge from? Where did these lies about a good and noble man develop?
It all began in 1963 with a theater production. That’s right, a theater play! In 1963, a show opened called “The Deputy,” which was written by a Protestant who accused the pope of complying with the Nazis through silence and doing nothing to help the Jewish people in their plight. Though just a play, after this on-stage accusation, severe criticism of the pope and the Vatican ensued. It eventually grew into a firestorm resulting in anti-Catholic and anti-pope sentiments along with the revisionist history we know today. This is the modern understanding of the pope we have, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
So, let’s set the record straight. What is the real story regarding Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust?
As stated, Pope Pius XII did more to help the Jewish people during World War II than any other person including organizations and political governments. Even when he was Cardinal named Eugene Pacelli, he spoke out loudly against the Nazi’s. Then, when Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, he continued to speak boldly which created a stir. It is no secret that the Nazis hated the pope and wanted to do away with him. There are many letters which verify this fact and reveal their disdain for him.
Eventually, the Nazis warned the pope and all Catholics to cease from speaking out or face the impending consequences. And Hitler was always true to his word. One famous example was in Holland. The Catholic church there refused to stop speaking out against the Nazis. As a result, not only did the Jews die (including Ann Frank), but thousands of Catholics died along side them (including Edith Stein, a convert to Catholicism). The Nazis made true to their promises for anyone speaking out against their regime.
Seeing many innocent Catholics dying, Pope Pius XII stopped speaking out publicly and developed a new, much more effective strategy instead. In fact, it saved almost a million Jewish lives. Even the Jewish people of the day liked this strategy and believed that speaking out would endanger them and the Catholics and only make things worse. So, what was the pope’s new approach? How did he save so many lives and become a hero in his day?
The Pius Truth:
- Pope Pius XII secretly opened the monasteries and convents around Europe (France, Spain, Germany, Italy, etc). Even people’s private homes were opened, not to mention cloisters of nuns were opened (even though they had taken vows to not let the world in). In all of these places, the Catholic Church safely hid thousands upon thousands of Jews. The pope himself opened up the Vatican to the Jews and thousands more took refuge there.
- Working around the clock, the pope was also actively involved in secretive negotiations to help save Jews from being killed or deported. For example, through these negotiation deals, the pope helped save 20,000 Jews from some Italian prison camps, 8,000 Jews from Holland, and many thousands more of Jews in other countries.
- The Catholic Church employed many avenues to save the lives of countless Jewish people, and the efforts absolutely did not go unnoticed.
- As the book, Pope Fiction relays: The head Rabbi of Rome, Abraham Zolli, was so inspired by the example and work of the Pope that he ended up researching Catholicism and converting to the Catholic Church after the war ended.
- Likewise, the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Isaac Herzog, praised the efforts of the pope and didn’t hesitate to proclaim him and all the good he did.
- After the death of Pius XII, there were many prominent Jewish leaders and laymen who praised his efforts and successes, and he was highly honored. Even Golda Meir, Israel’s delegate to the UN and future Prime Minister of Israel, gave Pius XII strong praise for his outstanding work in helping the Jews and for his efforts in speaking out.
- Most people don’t realize that shortly after the war, the World Jewish Congress gave Pius XII two million Lira as a gift of thanksgiving for all he did to help the Jewish people.
- Even the Jewish scientist, Albert Einstein, published an article in Time Magazine praising the efforts of the Church in helping Jewish people everywhere. He said, “I looked to newspapers and editorials, but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for surprising truth. I had never any special interest in the [Catholic] Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom…” (Pope Fiction, pg. 304).
- Perhaps one of the clearest signs is that after World War II ended, the government of Israel estimated that Pope Pius XII saved about 800,000 Jewish lives during the Holocaust, more than all other religious organizations combined. In the pope’s honor, the Israeli government planted 800,000 trees to represent all the lives he saved through his untiring effort and hard work.
The myth that the pope turned a blind eye to the suffering and death of the Jewish people is the furthest thing from the truth. To the contrary, the pope himself was in the trenches, on the front lines, and doing the undercover work needed to save as many Jews as possible. Thus, Pope Pius XII should not honored as a hero. We should honor him in the highest for his efforts just as the Jewish people themselves did in his day. Let us follow their example!