Pope Pius XII and the Jews

Michael O'Carroll, C.S.S.P.

Things have changed dramaticafly in the literatare about Pius XII. People, who have read accounts of his pontificate which made little of his work for the Jews did not know that he had saved the lives of 860,000 Jewish lives. They did not know that it was expert Jewish historians who, had notably set forth, the singular achievement of the Pope. In preparing my book on Pius XII, I used Jewish historians as I worked on official state papers. I was fortunate to interview three: Jeno Levai, first and very great historian of the Holocaust, Livia Rotchirchen and Pinchas Lapride; All lauded the Pope. So have important Jewish historians since then, right down to the present time. What makes interest acute now is that along with excellent scholarly works by Catholics in the United States two remarkable contributions to the literature must be noted. A New York Rabbi, David Dilan, a respected historian, published in
The Weekly Examiner (February 26 2001) an article leading to the conclusion that Pius XII, because of his service to the Jews was "righteous among gentiles". In a public lecture recently he repeated this flattering judgement. Now there has appeared in Italy a book entitled Pius XII, Pope of the Jews, with acclaim to the author, Andrea Tornelli from a former minister in the Italian government.

The era initiated, by Rolf Hochhuth, the Geman playwright critical of the Pope, is ending.We shall now be able to face the real problem of guilt in regard to the Holocaust: what did the Allied Powers do to save the Jews? - who by their failure to halt the Nazi drive east and west, placed Europe's Jews at Hitler's mercy; they refused even to bomb the railway line to Auschwitz, though their planes were flying over it; they hushed up the first genocide of Jews lest the Germans would know their codes were being broken.

I am prompted to narrate my personal experience. At Easter, 1957 I had. a long interview with Dr. Isaac Halevi Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel, former Chief Rabbi of England. When I mentioned that I would be meeting Pius XII in Rome he became truly enthusiastic. "My blessing to him" he said. When I said to the Pope "I bear you the blessing of the Chief Rabbi of Israel" he beamed with joy. I added. "I think that the Jews are grateful for what you did. for them", the Pope replied "I wish I could have done more". (We spoke in French "J'aurais voulu faire davantage.") I may add that I was introduced to Chief Rabbi Herzog by a distinguished member of our Jewish Christian (pre-Vatican II) Society, The Pillar of fire, Dr.Bethel Solomons. He told me that when, as president of the Irish College of Physicians, he was received in audience by Pius XII, he thanked the Pope for what be had done for his fellow Jews.

12th September 2001

Copyright © 2001 Michael O'Carroll and Mark Alder

This version: 15th September 2001