Vatican opens Pius XII archives, revealing troubling documents about Holocaust-era pope

The document “is clearly anti-Semitic and provides background on why Pius XII did not cry out against the Holocaust,” said Prof. Wolf.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Hubert Wolf, a Catholic priest and professor at the University of Munster, told German weekly Die Zeit that his team has uncovered a previously unreleased memo that may shed light on Pope Pius XII’s actions during the Holocaust.

The Vatican granted researchers access on March 2 to the World War II-era archives of Pius XII in accordance with a decision by Pope Francis last year.

A team of German researchers led by Wolf immediately began pouring over the thousands of documents. And then the coronavirus pandemic broke out, shutting down the archives until at least this summer. However, Wolf says that his team has already made some interesting discoveries.

The chain of events began on September 27, 1942. A U.S. diplomat delivered a secret report to the Vatican detailing the slaughter of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, including the massacre of 100,000 in the Warsaw ghetto and 50,000 in Lvov.

The report had been sent from the Jewish Agency for Palestine in Geneva, and the U.S. wished to know if the Vatican could provide any independent confirmation.

The archive reportedly confirms that Pius XII read the report on the day it was received, but he did not provide an immediate response.

The Americans again requested an answer on October 1, 1942. Pius XII replied on October 10 that he “had heard about the harsh treatment of the Jews,” but that it was not possible to verify the accuracy of the reports.

However, the archive contains two letters that were in the possession of the pope at the time, which corroborate the U.S. report.

On September 18, just nine days before receiving the U.S. report, Pius XII received word from an Italian businessman named Malvezzi of the “incredible butchery” of Jews he had witnessed during a recent visit to Warsaw.

In August 1942, Pius XII received a letter from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic archbishop of Lvov, Andrey Sheptytsky, informing him of some 200,000 Jews who were massacred under the “outright diabolical” German occupation.

Wolf says that his team has discovered an internal memo which may shed some light on the situation. The memo was not included in the 11-volume collection of documents that was commissioned by the Vatican in 1965 to defend the reputation of Pius XII.

The memo, written by papal adviser Angelo Dell’Acqua, casts doubt on the accuracy of the reports concerning the Jews “because the Jews also tend to easily exaggerate” and “Orientals” — a reference to Archbishop Sheptytsky — “are really not an example of honesty.”

“We are dealing with a key document, which was previously withheld from us, because it is clearly anti-Semitic and provides background on why Pius XII did not cry out against the Holocaust. That’s why we have to be skeptical about the entire 11-volume edition and will have to check it against the archive page by page,” Wolf told the German Catholic weekly Kirche und Leben.

Michael Hesemann, a Catholic historian and author, doubts the importance of Wolf’s findings.

Hesemann told the National Catholic Register that Wolf’s team “had only five days in the archives, their project was interrupted due to the coronavirus crisis, so to make any claim is premature, but to exaggerate the importance of a personal note of a monsignor and to misuse it for such big claims is just ridiculous.”

Wolf’s team also found three small photographs showing emaciated concentration camp inmates and bodies thrown into a mass grave. A Jewish informer had given them to a Vatican ambassador in Switzerland who then sent them to the Vatican.