Pius XII at War

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The
dishonest story of Pope Pius XII being "Hitler's pope"
for not doing enough to protect Jews in the last war has surfaced
again. It does not reflect well on the people who spread it.

Cardinal
Pacelli served as Pius XII from 1939 to 1958. He recognized Hitler
as a threat to German culture and as early as 1921 was criticizing
the Nazis. Professor Ronald Rychlak documents that between 1917
and 1929, 40 public speeches made on German soil by Pacelli before
he was Pope contained attacks on National Socialism. As Pope he
pressed hard for peace, declaring that "Nothing is lost by
peace but everything may be lost by war." He devoted his first
six years in office to bringing relief to the suffering plus bringing
as many Jews as possible to freedom. Thousands of Jews were housed
in Church buildings in Rome – even after the Nazis occupied the
city in 1943.

These
were only a few of the hundreds of thousands that the Church saved
from Nazi killers. In 1967 Israeli diplomat Pinchas Lapide estimated
that Pope Pius XII was "instrumental in saving at least 700,00
possibly as many as 860,000 Jews from death at Nazi hands."
To put these numbers in perspective consider that the Nazis had
8,300,000 Jews under their control; 6,000,000 were killed leaving
2,300,000 survivors. If we take Lapide's lowest figure, the Pope
was instrumental in saving 30% of the Jews who survived the Holocaust.

Catholics
too, were targets of the Nazi killing machine. At Auschwitz, 3,000,000
Polish Catholics were murdered, including thousands of priests,
20% of Poland's clerical class (“priest swine,” as the Nazis called
them). It needs to be added that papal diplomacy and underground
assistance were more effective in saving Jewish lives from the Nazis
than they were at saving Catholic lives from the Communists in Soviet
Russia.

After
the war Soviet Communists began the disinformation campaign against
the Church. Pope Pius was the leading anti-communist leader in the
world. Hating him and the Church was as much a part of Soviet Communism
as hating Jews was part of Nazism. But as Rabbi David G. Dalin notes
in his authoritative article in the Weekly Standard, "Pope
Pius XII and the Jews," this communist big lie was appropriated
by "lapsed or angry" Catholic writers as "simply
the biggest club available for modernists to use against traditionalist
Catholics." He continues:

But Jews,
whatever their feeling about the Catholic Church, have a duty
to reject any attempt to usurp the Holocaust and use it for partisan
purposes in such a debate – particularly when the attempt
disparages the testimony of Holocaust survivors and spreads to
inappropriate figures the condemnation that belongs to Hitler
and the Nazis…. “The Talmud teaches that whosoever preserves
one life, it is accounted to him by scripture as if he had preserved
the whole world." More than any other twentieth century leader,
Pius fulfilled the Talmudic dictum when the fate of European Jewry
was at stake. No other pope has been so widely praised by Jews
– and they were not mistaken. Their gratitude, as well as
that of the entire generation of the Holocaust survivors, testifies
that Pius XII was genuinely and profoundly a righteous gentile.

Further
testament to Pius' moral stature is the fact that the Chief Rabbi
of Rome chose to convert to Catholicism after the war. Obviously
conversion involves more than the example of one man. Nevertheless
the example of a good man can have an impact, and the example was
there.

February
9, 2005

George
Crispin [send him mail]
is a retired businessman who heads a Catholic homeschooling cooperative
in Auburn, Alabama.

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