Green Room

The Pope’s Jews: Rethinking Pius XII

posted at 12:04 pm on February 16, 2013 by

For much of the post-WWII period, Pope Pius XII came under considerable fire for supposedly appeasing Hitler and the Nazis during the war.  Thirteen years ago, a book titled Hitler’s Pope claimed that Pius XII turned his back on Jews due to anti-semitism.  However, a Protestant researcher granted access to Vatican materials has reached a very different conclusion in a book titled The Pope’s Jews: The Vatican’s Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis.  The Guardian profiles the book, author Gordon Thomas, and the network the Vatican put in place (via The Anchoress):

Gordon Thomas, a Protestant, was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before.

The Pope’s Jews. . . details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe’s convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects.

Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy.

During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders – such as Jerusalem’s chief rabbi in 1944 – said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates “are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour”. Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him “a Jew lover”.

However, his image turned sour in the 1960s, thanks to Soviet antagonism towards the Vatican and a German play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, which vilified the pope, accusing him of silence and inaction over the Jews. It was a trend that intensified with the publication of Hitler’s Pope, a book by John Cornwell.

However, as the Vatican’s secretary of state before the war, the future pope contributed to the damning 1937 encyclical of Pius XI, With Burning Anxiety, and, as Pius XII he made condemnatory speeches that were widely interpreted at the time – including by Jewish leaders and newspapers – as clear condemnations of Hitler’s racial policies. Due to the Vatican’s traditionally diplomatic language, the accusation that Pius XII did not speak out has festered.

Professor Ronald J Rychlak, the author of Hitler, the War and the Pope, said: “Gordon Thomas has found primary sources … He has tracked down family members, original documentation and established what really was a universal perception prior to the 1960s. He’s shown what the people at the time – victims, rescuers and villains – all knew: that Pius XII was a great supporter of the victims of the Holocaust.”

Asked why the Vatican had not made the new material available until now or, where stories were known, disseminated them more widely,Thomas said: “The church thinks across centuries. If there’s a dispute for 50 years, so what?”

Given all this week’s events, the timing of the new book seems propitious, especially for the author and publisher.  History takes its own time to unfold, and often touches off bouts of revisionism and re-revisionism.  Thomas appears to have done his homework, and without an ideological or denominational dog in the fight.  I’ll add this to the List Of Books I Want If I Ever Get Time To Read Books Again.

Recently in the Green Room:

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3

Right now,I’m fighting a vacuum cleaner.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

It shouldn’t happen to a …

Shy Guy on February 18, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Very sad to see a Christian walking away from the path to salvation. Why is it that so many former Christians become the most aggressively anti-Christian people out there?

njrob on February 19, 2013 at 11:44 AM

njrob on February 19, 2013 at 11:44 AM

I was born JEWISH. I am walking away from something that I never was -and returning to what I ALWAYS was.
Jews don’t believe in the concept of hell, so we Jews will be seein’ y’all someday.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

njrob on February 19, 2013 at 11:44 AM

Do I need to spell it out for you, I’m schtuping a Christian. He doesn’t consider his ‘babe’ to be anti-Christian-he just thinks that she’s wrong.
Are you sure that you’re not really a muzzie? You seem awfully hyper-sensitive.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM

writeblock on February 17, 2013 at 10:37 PM

What I wrote(and rokemronnie wrote) is the Jewish point of view. Karl Magnus was pushing the old ‘Jews killed Jesus’ meme…and I was pointing out to him WHY it wasn’t true. They(Biblical times Jews) weren’t going to waste time ‘killing’ a run-off-the mill political insurgent who claimed to be God. Insurgents like Jesus WERE a dime a dozen-and for the most part-they lived-and died-with little fanfare or notice.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 17, 2013 at 11:11 PM

It’s known as the Common Era and no reputable New Testament scholar today characterizes Yeshua/Jesus as an insurgent. Rather post Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship understands that Yeshua/Jesus was a Jewish eschatological preacher. You don’t know what you are going on and on about.

Powerful 1st Century Judean High Priestly families, allied with Pagan Roman Imperial authority, killed Yeshua/Jesus, a charismatic religious reformer, likely because Yeshua/Jesus threaten a massive illicit Temple banking operation when he drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. See the Copper Scroll, an inventory of the Temple treasury. The Temple treasury was worth around 1000x the value of the Roman Imperial treasury at that time.

Mike OMalley on February 19, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Do I need to spell it out for you, I’m schtuping a Christian. He doesn’t consider his ‘babe’ to be anti-Christian-he just thinks that she’s wrong.
Are you sure that you’re not really a muzzie? You seem awfully hyper-sensitive.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM

I was born JEWISH. I am walking away from something that I never was -and returning to what I ALWAYS was.
Jews don’t believe in the concept of hell, so we Jews will be seein’ y’all someday.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

I wrote that I was saddened to see a member of the flock walk away from Christ and then you felt the need to respond saying you were born into Judaism then felt the need to come back an hour later and respond again calling me hyper-sensitive and muslim? I think thou dost protest too much.

You said you joined the Catholic Church then left when your mother died and “returned” to Judaism. Instead of leaving it at that, you decided to attack your former Church, even if you were only a member for a brief time, and in effect say anyone that follows the faith is worshiping a false prophet. You are obviously looking for support and I hope you find it, but attacking people that would assist you is not the right way to go about it. Look inside yourself for strength and ask Him for forgiveness. Hopefully, you will return to Christ’s loving embrace. I will pray for you.

njrob on February 20, 2013 at 2:59 AM

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM

I was born JEWISH. I am walking away from something that I never was -and returning to what I ALWAYS was.
Jews don’t believe in the concept of hell, so we Jews will be seein’ y’all someday.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

You said you joined the Catholic Church then left when your mother died and “returned” to Judaism. Instead of leaving it at that, you decided to attack your former Church, even if you were only a member for a brief time, and in effect say anyone that follows the faith is worshiping a false prophet. … I will pray for you.

njrob on February 20, 2013 at 2:59 AM

Prayer is a worthy and generous response, njrob. In one of Rabbi Jacob Nuesner’s many wonderful books he explains that at its core normative rabbinical Judaism is a relationship with one’s family and that leaving Judaism is often experienced as a betrayal of one’s family, at it’s core a betrayal of one’s mother. So Ms. Annoying’s departure from and return to Judaism at her mother’s death may be for her poorly understood reactions to her mother, and similarly a poorly understood reaction to Mother Church. It seems however to have turned her into an ugly and perhaps creepy advocate for Judaism. I’m surprised that other Jews visiting this thread have not made a greater effort to soften and/or rebuke Ms. Annoying.

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 6:56 AM

The christian concept of a “messiah” deity have no foundations in the Torah or in Jewish tradition.

The reasons your Jesus wasn’t recognized as such are multiple. Once again, here are some comprehensive explanations.

Shy Guy on February 18, 2013 at 1:19 AM

Actually the Jewish Christian concept of a Messiah is rooted in pre-Rabbinical Judiasm:

Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 7:06 AM

Jews don’t believe in the concept of hell

annoyinglittletwerp on February 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Yes we do but not the christian concept of hell.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Actually the Jewish Christian concept of a Messiah is rooted in pre-Rabbinical Judiasm:

Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 7:06 AM

Other than a book link, I have no idea what you’re referring to. Or is this a Pelosi “you have to read it” moment?

Incidentally, the concept of a “rabbinic Judaism” is a christian one. The Karaite like to use the term, too, both groups for the same reason.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Judaisms and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 7:06 AM

I should have noticed. Neusner. Conservative Jews also need – desparately – to use the concept of “rabbinic Judaism”.

Neusner’s works are of zero interest to Torah observant Jews. They should be of zero interest to others as well. Here are some examples why.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 1:19 PM

I came back here just to look for the book link on Amazon. :)

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 1:31 PM

I should have noticed. Neusner. Conservative Jews also need – desparately – to use the concept of “rabbinic Judaism”.

Neusner’s works are of zero interest to Torah observant Jews. They should be of zero interest to others as well. Here are some examples why.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Don’t mislead Hot Air readers Mr. Shy Guy. Rabbi Nuesner is an acknowledged expert in the field of study of pre-Rabbinic Judaisms. If fact it might be more appropriate to say that Rabbi Nuesner is acknowledged to be the world’s leading expert in the field of study of pre-Rabbinic Judaisms.

.

For Hot Air readers generally:

Neusner is a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and is a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He is the only scholar to have served on both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. He also has received scores of academic awards, honorific and otherwise.

Generally, Neusner’s research centers around rabbinic Judaism of the Mishnaic and Talmudic Eras. He was a pioneer in the application of “form criticism” approach to Rabbinic texts. Much of Neusner’s work has been to de-construct the prevailing approach viewing Rabbinic Judaism as a single religious movement within which the various Rabbinic texts were produced. In contrast, Neusner views each rabbinic document as an individual piece of evidence that can only shed light on the more local Judaisms of such specific document’s place of origin and the specific Judaism of the author…

Neusner has translated into English nearly the entire Rabbinic canon. This work has opened up many Rabbinic documents to scholars of other fields unfamiliar with Hebrew and Aramaic. His translation technique utilizes a “Harvard-outline” format which attempts to make the argument flow of Rabbinic texts easier to understand for those unfamiliar with Talmudic reasoning…

Neusner’s enterprise has been aimed at a humanistic and academic reading of classics of Judaism. Neusner has been drawn from studying text to context. Treating a religion in its social setting, as something a group of people do together, rather than as a set of beliefs and opinions.

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Yes we do but not the christian concept of hell.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Christianity understands hell to be eternal separation from G-d. Hmmm, what is the difference in your view Mr. Shy Guy?

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Don’t mislead Hot Air readers Mr. Shy Guy.

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Wow! Intellectual greatness! Quoting from the beginning of the same article I linked to to disprove a contrarian view.

Let honest HA readers draw their own conclusions. You don’t need to shove it down their throats.

And to repeat, the entire concept of “rabbinic Judaism” is very newfangled and revisionist. It’s wishful thinking for desperate believers of one faith and unbelievers of another.

Christianity understands hell to be eternal separation from G-d. Hmmm, what is the difference in your view Mr. Shy Guy?

I gave a link. I thought it was simple enough.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Wow! Intellectual greatness! Quoting from the beginning of the same article I linked to to disprove a contrarian view.
Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Personal insult and mockery? Why? Because I disagree with you?

Let honest HA readers draw their own conclusions. You don’t need to shove it down their throats.
Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Projection? Seems likely.

And to repeat, the entire concept of “rabbinic Judaism” is very newfangled and revisionist. It’s wishful thinking for desperate believers of one faith and unbelievers of another.
Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM

“Wishful thinking”? More likely more projection. In the big world outside the shtetl the scholarly consensus for decades has more or less maintained that what we know now as normative rabbinic Judaism was forged by theological heirs of of the Pharisees primarily between the 6th and 8th centuries (AD or BCE) . Outside the shtet, scholarly consensus currently maintains that there were numerous Judaisms during the Common Era. Perhaps you would do well to take out a subscription with the Biblical Archaeology Society.

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Christianity understands hell to be eternal separation from G-d. Hmmm, what is the difference in your view Mr. Shy Guy?

I gave a link. I thought it was simple enough.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Having planned to attend to your link later as time permitted I had hoped to learn of your views Mr. Shy Guy.

Instead, now I’d like you to tell me, what do they say inside the shetle about YHWH’s female consort? YHWH’s Asherah?

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 9:26 PM

Christianity understands hell to be eternal separation from G-d. Hmmm, what is the difference in your view Mr. Shy Guy?

I gave a link. I thought it was simple enough.

I viewed your link and I learn that according to Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt’l’s Jewish Hell is pretty much the identical to Catholic Purgatory! Perhaps Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt’l should look up Dante Alighieri ;-)

Back to my open question for you Mr. Shy Guy. What do they say inside the shetle about YHWH’s female consort? YHWH’s Asherah?

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 9:44 PM

Personal insult and mockery? Why? Because I disagree with you?

Mike OMalley on February 20, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Morning time in Jerusalem and this is the hypocrisy I wake up to.

Try rereading your condescending remarks to me regarding my “misleading HA readers.”

What’s good for the goose…

Another commenter who can dish it out but can’t take it. I leave the rest of commenting here to you, to pontificate to HA readers with all your wisdom and grandeur. Enjoy!

Shy Guy on February 21, 2013 at 12:23 AM

Shy Guy on February 21, 2013 at 12:23 AM

So morning in Jerusalem brings more ad hominem in lieu of informed respectful exchange?

This Mr. Shy Guy is what you offered regarding the renowned American scholar and rabbi Jacob Nuesner:

Neusner’s works are of zero interest to Torah observant Jews. They should be of zero interest to others as well. Here are some examples why.

Shy Guy on February 20, 2013 at 1:19 PM

[emphasis mine]
To which I answered:

Don’t mislead Hot Air readers Mr. Shy Guy. Rabbi Nuesner is an acknowledged expert in the field of study of pre-Rabbinic Judaisms. In fact it might be more appropriate to say that Rabbi Nuesner is acknowledged to be the world’s leading expert in the field of study of pre-Rabbinic Judaisms.

The condescension is yours Mr. Shy Guy.

Last I checked around a decade ago the highly respected Rabbi Nuesner had written or collaborated in well over 900 books and articles! One might imagine on occasion someone might just disagree with the good rabbi in such circumstances. You cited Wikipedia in support of your broad brush dismissal of a renowned American rabbi. Critics therein include such worthy scholars as Ed Parish Sanders who “saw Jesus as creating an eschatological Jewish movement” as I alluded to above. Sanders also supported what I wrote above regarding the judicial murder and lynching of Yeshua/Jesus that “the trigger for which was Jesus overthrowing the tables in the temple court of Herod’s Temple, thereby antagonizing the political authorities”

Your citation critiquing American Rabbi Nuesner is weighted however in favor of the British dramatist Hyam Maccoby whose work has been described as “perverse misreading” and “not good history, not even history at all.” and “Acts provides no evidence to substantiate [Maccoby's] theory.” and by one of the best scholars in the feild, James D. G. Dunn, as “a regrettable reversion to older polemics”.

In my own reading of Hyam Maccoby, your British critic of rabbi Nuesner, Maccoby comes across as something of a anti-Christian Nazi doppelganger.

Mike OMalley on February 21, 2013 at 6:48 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3