The first crucifixion of the Jews took place during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, when the Romans crucified so many Jews that they ran out of wood for the crosses. Josephus wrote, “So the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”1
The second crucifixion of the Jews was foretold on October 13, 1884, after celebrating Mass in the Vatican Chapel, Pope Leo XIII stopped at the foot of the altar and stood absolutely still for several minutes. He then told cardinals that he had heard Satan declare, “I can destroy your Church,” and Rabbi Yeshua’s calm reply, “You can? Then do so.” Satan said, “I need more time and more power.” Rabbi Yeshua replied, “How much time? How much power?” Satan said, “Seventy-five to one hundred years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves to my service.” Rabbi Yeshua said, “You have the time, you have the power. Do with them what you will.”2
Always the Jews! Why does Satan so want to kill Jews? Satan’s strategy for the century of his greater power over those who would give themselves to his service included an effort to abort the Second Coming The Catechism § 674 tells us: “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by ‘all Israel.’”
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Salvation is from the Jews” Jn 4:22. The story of salvation history is the story of the Jews. Under God’s authority Jews wrote the Old Testament from the days of Creation. Rabbi Yeshua, “the Alpha and the Omega” Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13, the most Jewish Jew of all, brought into being the new Israel. The Jewish authorities must recognize Rabbi Yeshua and come into the Church before the Second Coming can occur. “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16. In heaven there is one flock, one Shepherd.
But the Jewish nation, though crucified, survives. God had promised his people Israel that they would never cease to exist Gen 17:7.
Israel’s sages had long understood that, in a world where so many evil people appear to be enjoying life while so many innocent and righteous suffer, belief in God’s justice required olam haba, a world to come, described as gan eden, the Garden of Eden. The sages also recognized a place of everlasting torment called gehinom. The name comes from a valley just south of Jerusalem, ge ben-hinom, “Valley of the son of Hinnom,” used in the Old Testament days for child sacrifice. In Rabbi Yeshua‘s day the valley of gehinom was a huge garbage dump. People from all over Jerusalem would bring their garbage there. Great fires constantly blazed in gehinom to burn up the garbage.
Rabbi Yeshua used gehinom as a symbol of hell. He spoke of “eternal fire,” and in the same context of the “hell of fire.” Rabbi Matityahu original Greek for “hell of fire” was ge-ena. Gehinom does not transfer directly into Greek; ge-ena was as close as the difference in languages allowed. The Church understands Gehenna as hell, “Where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” Mk 9:48 In hell, the body has experienced death. But also, because God is not even spiritually present there, the soul also experiences death. This death of both body and soul was God’s no-remembrance, the greatest pain of Sheol. “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living” Ps 69:28. Rabbi Yokhanan wrote, “This is the second death, the lake of fire. If any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” Rev 20:14–15.
There are only two spiritual forces, God’s legions and Satan’s legions. The Church is Rabbi Yeshua‘s institution for the invocation of his forces. Magic is the invocation of spiritual forces outside the Church, which are Satan’s principalities and powers. The pagan tribes of the Old Testament worshiped demons Deut 32:17. Hitler actively sought to revive this pagan worship of demons. The original Nazi blutfahne, “Blood flag,” a red flag with a black swastika in a white circle was used in the Nazi “Beer Hall Putsch” of 1923 and stained with the blood of Nazi storm troopers slain in that failed revolt. The Nazis believed that it had magic power that could be transmitted to new Nazi flags only when Hitler himself touched a new flag to the original blutfahne.
The blutfahne mocked the Catholic faith by its inverted references to the Blood of Christ in the black swastika, twisted cross; in the red and white colors aping the blood and water that flowed from Rabbi Yeshua’s side; and in the blood of the “sacrificed” storm troopers. Hitler’s flag-touching ceremony even aped Catholic third-class relics, objects touched to a first or second class relic of a saint.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, wrote, “There are reliable reports by eyewitnesses that suggest [Hitler] had some kind of demonic encounters.… He would say, trembling: ‘He was there again,’ and other such things. We cannot get to the bottom of it. I believe one can see that he was taken into the demonic realm in some profound way, by the way in which he was able to wield power and by the terror, the harm, that his power inflicted.”3
In an interview with journalist Peter Seewald, Cardinal Ratzinger added, “Hitler was a demonic figure. One only need read the history of the German generals, who time and again made up their minds, just for once, to tell him to his face what they really thought, and who were then yet again so overcome by his power of fascination that they did not dare to.”4
Father Gabriele Amorth, the world’s most experienced exorcist during the twentieth century, said, “The devil can possess not only individuals but also entire groups and populations. For example, I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil.” He added, “If one thinks of what was committed by people like Stalin or Hitler, certainly they were possessed by the devil. This is seen in their actions, in their behavior and in the horrors they committed.”5
Father Amorth’s observation can be verified in the annals of the 1962 Eichmann trial in Israel. Eichmann is recorded as having said, “I will jump into my grave laughing, because the fact that I have the death of five million Jews on my conscience gives me extraordinary satisfaction.” Only a possessed man could utter such ice-cold words.
At Eichmann’s execution his last words were, “I greet my wife, my family and my friends. I am ready. We’ll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men. I die believing in God.” Probably all the people around him, his wife, family, and friends, were also possessed.
Eichmann said that he died believing in God. All the demons believe in God. In the Dawn of Creation they were created in heaven and saw God face-to-face. Eichmann did not say they would meet again in heaven. Probably they would all meet in hell. The Catholic Church has never actually declared that any particular person is in hell for all eternity, but in Eichmann’s case it is hard to imagine an alternative.
Hard, but not impossible. During the Holocaust, Herbert Kappler, the Gestapo colonel in Rome, was most often described as “an extremely dangerous man.” For instance, at one point Kappler promised Rabbi Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, freedom from persecution for 1,000,000 lire and 100 pounds of pure gold to be delivered within 36 hours! Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty and his Vatican network by immense exertion collected gold jewelry from everyone they knew. The Vatican also managed to get the money. Msgr. O’Flaherty and Rabbi Zolli managed to get the full payment to Col. Kappler exactly on time. Col. Kappler gave them his guarantee, but soon after that his men rounded up Jews to be sent to Auschwitz!
After the war Col. Kappler was sentenced to life in the Gaeta military prison in Italy. At that point, most Italian Jews would have been certain beyond dispute that he was on his way to hell. But Msgr. O’Flaherty, Kappler’s greatest adversary during the Holocaust years, continued to visit him in the prison every month, Kappler’s only visitor. In 1959 the Irish priest baptized Kappler into the Catholic faith. Baptism is the industrial strength soul cleanser. At the instant Msgr. O’Flaherty spoke the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and sprinkled holy water on Kappler’s head, his soul was as clean as pure as any on earth.
Rabbi Yeshua told us that Satan is all about murder and lies. He told the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” Jn 8:44.
Satan always tries to cover his tracks. After Rabbi Yeshua‘s own crucifixion, the Nazi Holocaust may well have been the most evil act in all of salvation history. Hannah Arendt tried to cover up the enormity of Eichmann’s five million murders by describing them as banal, the work of a functionary who was simply following orders. But Satan‘s war is against God‘s image and likeness Gen 1:26–27, so he always turns against even his own most devoted followers. Eichmann actually continued deporting Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz against the orders of his higher-up, Heinrich Himmler, who had directed that the Hungarian deportations be stopped.
Approaching the Holocaust
Antiochus IV sent all his military forces to destroy the Jewish nation. He killed a great number of Jews, but in the end a young man, Yehuda ben Matthias, who became known as Yehuda HaMaccabi, Judah the Hammer, with a much smaller force, defeated Antiochus and celebrated the Hanukkah to restore the Temple.
After Titus destroyed the Temple in AD 70, he built a grand victory monument which still stands today, Rome’s Arch of Titus. It was originally inscribed, Judea Capita. Judaism is kaput, decapitated, finished. It reminds us more than anything of Ozymandias.
Today, after Antiochus’ murderous forays, Titus’ ferocious assault, the Holocaust, and all the rest, their ongoing survival is crystal-clear evidence that God still has a place for the Jews in salvation history.
The Holocaust is an event of Biblical proportions. If this world is still here ten thousand years from now, the Jewish nation will remember.
Anti-Jewish or Part of the Spiritual War
Most observant Jews regard the Holocaust as directed against Jews alone and speak of six million victims of Hitler’s attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish nation. They acknowledge that three million Polish Catholics and two million others from the surrounding countries were also killed but say their deaths were different because Hitler was not trying to annihilate them as a people. In one way it was directed particularly against the Jewish people. In the crucible of the Holocaust the Jewish nation, only the Jewish nation, became a warning voice for all humanity. At the same time, Simon Wiesenthal, during his lifetime the world’s foremost Nazi hunter, always saw the Holocaust as an attack against all mankind and for that reason spoke of eleven million victims.
We are all the Father’s children because God created us all in his image and likeness. Rabbi Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” 1 Cor 12:26. John Donne famously put it: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”6
Holocaust or Shoah
Elie Wiesel said, “Take the word ‘Holocaust.’ I am among the first, if not the first to use it in that context.… In the Bible, there is a Hebrew word ‘ola’, which means burnt offering. I thought the word ‘holocaust’ was good: fire and so on.… The word had so many implications that I felt it was good.”7
The Navarre Bible says of ola: “This was the most solemn form of sacrifice and involved the total destruction of the victim in honor of God”8 Abraham had told Isaac, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” Gen 22:8. Abraham’s original Hebrew word for a burnt offering sacrifice to God was ola. In the Septuagint, holokauston. The Hebrew words ola and korban describe ritual sacrifices. We find ola especially in the Law on sacrifices Lev 1:1–17; 6:8–13; Num 15:3–9. Wiesel’s use of ola suggests that it was the solemn sacrifice of the Jewish nation.
As a result, holocaust has become the most common English word to describe Hitler’s execution of two-thirds of Europe’s Jews. Israel’s Yad Vashem (Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority), Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, Washington, DC’s United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, and most of the other memorials have chosen to use “holocaust” in their English-language materials.
But in Hebrew it is always shoah. In their Hebrew-language materials, all the memorials in Israel use shoah, from, “But evil shall come upon you, for which you cannot atone; disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to expiate; and ruin [shoah] shall come on you suddenly, of which you know nothing” Is 47:11.
Shoah as disaster has the sense of a rushing and destructive storm. Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Gay Science, announced, “’Where has God gone?’ he cried. ‘I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers.’” Some decades later, when Hitler put Nietzsche’s ubermensch, or master race, philosophy into practice, the greatest shoah since Noah’s flood came with it. Israelis today use shoah as a generic term for a mass killing of innocents, with the Holocaust as “the” shoah.
Shoah is related to lashav, “in vain.” Calling it shoah instead of ola removes the sense of what St. John Paul II called, the “Golgotha of our century,” making it all in vain, reminding us instead of the Book of Ecclesiastes with its message, hakol hevel, all is in vain Eccles 1:2. Hevel is vapor, nothing.
Across the Centuries
For a thousand years, since AD 754, the Catholic Church had exercised temporal authority over lands called the Papal States. During the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church was at the peak of its social and political power, the stroke of a papal pen could have wiped out Europe’s Jews. During all those centuries, all those popes, it never happened.
During the nineteenth century secular forces broke the military power of the Papal States. The Mortara case arose in 1858, during that time. The Risorgimento (Italian: “rising again”), a Masonic-inspired movement to unify Italy and break the temporal power of the Catholic Church, established the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. By 1871 Rome, home of the Vatican, became the capital of Italy, and the Vatican suddenly found itself without temporal power. Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI were virtual prisoners in the Vatican.
Holy Mother Church’s Canon Law, based on the Quinque Libri Decretalium (1234), had become over seven centuries an ancient patchwork of secular and ecclesial law, so the Risorgimento made her internal life subject to secular domination. Early in the twentieth century young Father Eugenio Pacelli, later to be Pope Pius XII, worked on what would become the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which eliminated the secular laws and gave the Church full control over her internal life.
Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) had quickly realized that the Church’s mission would have to be accomplished through her independence as a moral and spiritual power. He reawakened Rabbi Paul’s practice of writing letters that authoritatively brought Rabbi Yeshua‘s teaching to the world’s churches. Pope Leo XIII wrote 85 encyclical letters, many of them to the world’s bishops.
The Twentieth Century
Less than 70 years later, in 1929, a fleeting instant in salvation history, the Lateran Treaty confined the Vatican to only 109 acres, its present size. Only four years later, Hitler became chancellor of Germany and began to instigate a religion, opposite in every way to the Catholic Church, that actively sought to murder Europe’s Jews. In this radically new temporal environment, the Barque of Peter sailed across stormy seas.
By 1930, when the Anglican revolt abandoned the solid phalanx of Christian teaching against contraception, the Barque of Peter had to sail across the years in seas even more stormy than before. Russia had been an implacable enemy of the Church since 1917. From the beginning it had enacted a war against the Jews. Even Fiddler on the Roof 7:35, pure entertainment, ends with Jews being driven out of Anatevka 3:19 in 1917. The Blessed Virgin Mary had warned at Fatima that Russia would spread her errors throughout the world. By 1933 Russia already had the Ukraine Famine underway, starving to death an estimated 7,000,000 men and women in the breadbasket of Europe.
Pope Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli, then Vatican Secretary of State, saw a concordat with a great European power as necessary for the Church’s temporal survival. A concordat is a legal document defining the relationship between the Church and a secular state. Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli had to make a terrifying decision. While extremely difficult, it represented a prudent judgment as to which country would best insure the Vatican’s survival. Cardinal Pacelli as the Vatican Secretary of State signed the Reichskonkordat on behalf of Pope Pius XI, with Germany on July 20, 1933.
Cardinal Pacelli’s signing the Concordat was prescient. All during the Holocaust, Germany respected Vatican neutrality and did not invade even when it knew the Vatican was hiding Jews in its every nook and cranny. A full-scale military invasion of the Vatican, killing not only Pius XII but also most of the cardinal-electors who would have voted in his successor, would have been unimaginable. Without the Concordat there might have been no Vatican to protect Catholics worldwide and great numbers of Italian Jews. And, when Hitler began violating it, Pius XI, boldly warned in Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Sorrow), 1937, § 4,
They, and they alone with their accomplices, silent or vociferous, are today responsible, should the storm of religious war, instead of the rainbow of peace, blacken the German skies.
Pinchas Lapide, an Orthodox rabbi and a senior Israeli government historian, did extensive research in the archives of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. Rabbi Lapide had also been Israel’s consul general in Milan and had met with many Italian Jews who survived the Holocaust. He wrote that Pope Pius XI “had good reason to make Pacelli the architect of his anti-Nazi policy. Of the forty-four speeches which the Nuncio Pacelli had made on German soil between 1917 and 1929, at least forty contained attacks on Nazism or condemnations of Hitler’s doctrines.… Pacelli, who never met the Führer, called it ‘neo-Paganism.’”9
With all of that, Pius XII’s attackers defame his decision of 1933, invoking vivid images of Jews in gas chambers from a decade later, which no one at the time foresaw, when at the time of those images Pius XII was in the middle of saving 860,000 Jewish lives.10 Attacking men who did their best in so momentous a situation, after all of the eyewitnesses were decades older or dead, is beneath contempt.
The New York Times
God always gives us a warning. Before the Holocaust the New York Times covered up a deliberate killing of some five million Ukrainians. During the early 1930s Ukrainian peasants refused to accept the Soviet Union’s forced collectivization program. In 1932 the Soviets suddenly increased the Ukraine’s grain quota by 44 percent. Soviet law said that no grain could be used to feed the Ukrainian peasants until their quota was met. Ukraine could not meet the new quota, so its peasants could not eat their own grain. The Soviets sealed the borders so that no Ukrainians could leave the country, and implemented an internal passport system so that Ukrainian peasants could not travel within the country in search of food. Soviet military forces and NKVD secret police units hunted down and killed peasants hiding grain to feed their starving families. Some five million Ukrainians, nearly 20 percent of the country’s population, perished.
During all that time, Times reporter Walter Duranty denied that there was any such thing as a deliberate famine. He originated the flip phrase, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs,” repeating it again and again in his articles.
On March 31, 1933, the New York Times published Walter Duranty’s report cabled from Moscow, including this:
There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition. In short, conditions are definitely bad in certain sections – the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga. The rest of the country is on short rations but nothing worse. These conditions are bad, but there is no famine.
But the issue wasn’t breaking eggs to cook an omelet. It was Stalin killing millions of innocent people to collectivize agriculture. The New York Times, by declining to publish what was happening, tacitly supported the killing of millions of innocent people to build a “better society.”
The New York Times won its first Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for Walter Duranty’s coverage of Stalin’s collectivization program.11 Each year, when The New York Times lists its numerous Pulitzer recipients, Walter Duranty’s name is right there at the top. It is accompanied by an asterisk showing that his work is disputed, but we can only imagine what the case for its excellence might be.
Hitler came to power in January 1933, during the height of the Ukraine famine, and quickly announced his hatred for Jews. Jewish leaders initially reacted fast, planning an anti-Hitler parade for May 10, 1933. Before it could take place, however, the American Jewish Committee and the B’nai B’rit jointly condemned public agitation in the form of mass demonstrations. The Jewish leaders cancelled the parade.
The Nazis enacted the Nuremberg race law on September 15, 1935. It stated, “Only the citizen of the Reich may enjoy full political rights in consonance with the provision of the laws.”12 An administrative decree soon followed: “A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich. He cannot exercise the right to vote; he cannot hold public office.”13 It added, “Jewish officials will be retired as of December 31, 1935.”14
The Nuremberg race law specified four categories. A volljude, full Jew, had either four or three Jewish grandparents. A geltungsjude, self-declared or believing Jew, had two Jewish grandparents and two non-Jewish grandparents and was raised in the Jewish religion. A mischling (mixed-breed) first degree had two Jewish and two non-Jewish grandparents, and was either baptized and brought up Christian or practiced no religion. A mischling second degree had one Jewish grandparent and three non-Jewish grandparents, and was baptized and raised Christian or with no religion.15 The race law also dictated that a Jew could only marry within his own category. A mischling, for example, could not marry either a full Jew or a Christian.
On August 14, 1936, after the close of the German Olympics, with the Nuremberg race legislation already in force, the New York Times published this editorial:
Foreign visitors are departing almost fulsome in their praise of German organization and German hospitality. Foreigners who know Germany only from what they have seen during this pleasant fortnight can carry home only one impression. It is that this is a nation happy and prosperous beyond belief; that Hitler is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, political leaders in the world today, and that the Germans themselves are a much maligned, hospitable, wholly peaceful people who deserve the best the world can give them.16
Compare it with Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Sorrow), March 14, 1937. Mit Brennender Sorge had been published in German rather than the traditional Latin, printed in Italy, taken into Germany by couriers, distributed to the bishops, and then to the parish priests, entirely without using the post offices. Many priests received their copies less than an hour before they read it to their flocks, all so the Gestapo could not suppress it.
Sr. Margherita Marchione wrote,
The encyclical, prepared under the direction of Cardinal Pacelli, then Secretary of State but later Pope Pius XII, was written in German for wider dissemination in that country. It was smuggled out of Italy, copied and distributed to parish priests to be read from all of the pulpits on Palm Sunday, March 14, 1937.… No one who heard the pontifical document had any illusion about the gravity of these statements or their significance.… An internal German memorandum dated March 23, 1937 stated that it was ‘almost a call to do battle against the Reich government.’ The encyclical was confiscated, printers arrested, and presses seized.17
Pope Pius XI told a group of Belgian pilgrims on September 6, 1938:
Through Christ and in Christ, we are spiritual descendants of Abraham. No! It is not possible for Christians to participate in anti-Semitism. We recognize the right of anyone to defend himself, to take the necessary means to protect himself against whatever threatens his legitimate interests. But anti-Semitism is inadmissible. We are spiritually Semites.18
The Holy Father said this in Rome while Europe’s most powerful nation had an anti-Semitic government just a few hundred miles to the north. The National Jewish Monthly in January 1939, reported, “The only bright spot in Italy has been the Vatican, where fine humanitarian statements by the Pope have been issuing regularly.” The Second Person of the Holy Trinity wore tzitzit. In this way Pope Pius XI awakened Holy Mother Church to her own deepest identity as the new Israel.
The Church states explicitly that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek Acts 10:34–35; Rom 10:12. Pope Pius XI “spiritual Semites” statement was also part of his instructions to Fr. John LaFarge, S.J., concerning a papal encyclical Fr. LaFarge had drafted denouncing racism and anti-Semitism to be called Humani Generis Unitas (“The Unity of the Human Race”). Fr. LaFarge’s draft contained the famous statement but also spoke of “the authentic basis of the social separation of the Jews from the rest of humanity” and “the spiritual dangers to which contact with Jews can expose souls.” Higher level Vatican officials saw the religious anti-Semitism in these statements and stopped the draft. The story is in The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI by Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky, (Harcourt Brace, 1997, 319 pp.). The book, despite its anti-Catholic perspective, makes clear that the draft’s anti-Semitic perspective made its release impossible.
Father Louis Bouyer added, “There is nothing in the fundamental, permanent institutions of the Church which is not Jewish in its source.” (Fr. Louis Bouyer, noted French Hebrew Catholic theologian, in “The Church and the Jewish People,” Inside the Vatican, April 2000.) Rabbi Yeshua confirmed it: “Salvation is from the Jews” Jn 4:22.
After Kristallnacht,19 in 1938, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rit, and the Jewish Labor Committee, debated immigration reforms that would help German Jews. They decided that, at least for the time being, nothing should be done. No parades, demonstrations, or protests.
In 1938 Hitler offered to send German Jews to any country willing to receive them. “I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals, will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.”20 If this statement had been given front page headlines at the time, Hitler might have allowed German Jews to be brought to safe countries.
Hitler allowed at least one ship. On May 13, 1939, at Nazi Germany’s port of Hamburg, 930 Jews bearing landing certificates for Cuba were allowed to leave aboard the SS St. Louis. They did not know that, right after they had paid $150 for each certificate, Cuban President Federico Laredo Bru signed a decree invalidating them all. On May 27, when the St. Louis reached Havana, the Jews’ visas and quotas were revoked. On June 2 Cuban officials ordered the ship to leave harbor.
When the St. Louis was ready to depart Havana, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJJDC) did not arrange for the Jews to be admitted to the United States, but instead negotiated with the Cubans for a $453,000 bond, about $500 per refugee, to be deposited by the following day, an amount the passengers could not pay and the AJJDC would not pay. The St. Louis arrived at the port of Miami but President Franklin Roosevelt refused to admit the Jews.
It is a mercy that the St. Louis landed in Miami, rather than sailing past the Statue of Liberty where the 930 Jews on board could have read Emma Lazarus’ classic inscription:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
On June 6 the St. Louis set sail back to Europe. When she arrived in European waters, her desperate captain was able to arrange for England, France, Belgium and Holland to each take a quarter of the passengers. Four months later the war started. Most of the St. Louis passengers perished.21
The SS St. Louis story was widely reported. On five different occasions during the first eight days of June articles regarding the ship appeared on the front page of the New York Times.22 Yet, none of these articles suggested any way of rescuing the Jews. After the St. Louis had left the port of Miami and was in the open sea, the Times said that it was “useless now to discuss what might have been done.”23
That was a fig leaf. At that time the ship’s destination was Germany. If the United States had agreed to take its passengers in, the ship could have been turned around and sailed back to Miami or New York. By 1939 all transatlantic ships were equipped with short wave radio stations that could communicate everywhere in the world, staffed by professional radio operators during the daylight hours. Larger ships such as the St. Louis had radio operators on duty around the clock.
The Jews on the St. Louis 9:52 reflected sadly, “No one wanted us.”
Roy Schoeman – Holocaust and Salvation 44:27
The New York Times has been among the most prominent voices charging that Pope Pius XII should have spoken out more forcefully during the Holocaust, so it is fair to ask whether the Times spoke out forcefully during the Holocaust. The comparison is Biblical in its importance.
The charge that Pius XII did not speak out enough against the Holocaust was also inherently dishonest because it was framed as what formal logic calls the fallacy of the unfalsifiable proposition. No matter how often Pius XII publicly spoke out against the Holocaust, it could always be argued that he should have done more. We can replace it with a verifiable proposition: American Jewish liberals, who in God’s plan were part of the Jewish nation, their “brother’s keeper” Gen 4:9, did less than Pius XII to protect European Jews.
To make this a fair comparison, we have to consider each side’s primary mission. Holocaust resistance required two things above all, saying and doing. First, it was important that a major institution speak out boldly against the Holocaust. The New York Times was ideally positioned to do that. Its mission was, “All the news that’s fit to print.” New York City was thousands of miles across the Atlantic from Nazi Germany. The Times’ capacity to distribute information within the United States was virtually unlimited. Second, it was important that a major institution step forward to shelter Jewish refugees. The International Red Cross’ mission was, as its web site says, “to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies.” Sheltering Jewish refugees was obviously central to its mission. This page will examine their records. Because the Times attacked the Catholic Church for not doing enough, we will concentrate mostly on the Times’ own record.
Pius XII, by contrast, had two primary responsibilities: protecting the Vatican, the See of Peter and repository of Rabbi Yeshua‘s deposit of faith for the world’s one billion Catholics, and protecting the lives of perhaps 200 million Catholics all across Europe.
To further ensure a fair comparison we have to consider each side’s freedom of movement. From the conquest of the Papal States in 1870 to the Lateran Treaty of 1929, Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI were virtual prisoners on the Vatican’s 109 acres, an area considerably smaller than the Washington DC Mall. Pius XII, protected only by colorful Swiss Guards with pikestaffs, was entirely surrounded by Rome, then the capital city of Nazi Germany’s chief ally, facing the combined power of Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, and Mussolini’s Fascist Italian forces. Michael Novak reminds us that during World War II, “Vatican City depended on the Fascists for its electricity, water, garbage removal, and work force. That work force (including some clergy) was thoroughly penetrated by Italian and German intelligence agents. The Vatican’s secret communication codes were known, and its means of communication, even with its own bishops, were open to hostile inspection. Its city gates and approaches were guarded by enemy soldiers.”24
By contrast, American Jewish liberals, protected by three thousand miles of Atlantic ocean and the mighty power of the United States armed forces, were free to mobilize world opinion. Their highest responsibility was pikuakh nefesh. And they had the New York Times, then the world’s greatest newspaper, ready and waiting.
The New York Times was more than a newspaper. It was an institution. On April 12, 1943, Time magazine wrote, “What Harvard is to U.S. education, what the House of Morgan has been to U.S. finance, the New York Times is to U.S. journalism.” On September 10, 1944, the Times mentioned on page one that it was publishing an average of 125,000 words each day on World War II, far more than any other newspaper in the world,25 culled from 1 million words received each day from the paper’s overseas bureaus, wire services and other sources.26
The Times syndicate sent articles to 525 newspapers, including the most prominent ones in their own cities such as the Detroit Free Press, the Chicago Tribune, the Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.27 The White House, every major U.S. Government agency, and all the major foreign governments had numerous subscriptions. Pope Pius XII was “a careful reader of the foreign press in general and the New York Times in particular.”28
Times readers were interested in European Jewry. During the 1850s and 1860s many liberal Jews had left the Orthodox Jewish ghettos of Central and Eastern Europe, particularly Germany, to come to the United States and assimilate as soon as possible. Significant numbers of Orthodox Jews had followed during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth. During the 1940s the Times’ New York City circulation area included almost three million Jews, nearly half the Jews in the United States.29 Including its syndicated articles, the Times reached virtually every Jewish family. Most were intensely interested in knowing what was happening to their families back in Europe.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the German-Jewish publisher of the New York Times, in a largely Jewish city with a largely Jewish readership, could have declared the Holocaust an event of Biblical proportions and covered it massively. He had bureaus in Berlin, Rome, Paris, London and elsewhere that knew what was going on. He was the final authority on what the Times published from 1935 to 1945. God allowed this awesome authority to a man who said repeatedly, “I do not believe Jews are a race. I do not believe that they are a people.”30
That was precisely the point. During the Old Testament days, and even in more recent centuries, every Jew knew that he was part of the Jewish nation, a people apart Deut 7:1–5. During the preceding 1,900 years persecuted Jews had been allowed to save their lives by renouncing Judaism. When they boldly chose to affirm their faith even at the point of death, in the tradition of Rabbi Akiva, they sanctified God’s name and gained eternal life through martyrdom. But the Nazi State was relentless in its racial classifications. Individual Jews had no opportunity for personal martyrdom. The Jewish people gained martyrdom as a nation. In this we see a pre-figure of the § 674 ingrafting Rom 11:24, when all Israel will gain resurrection as a nation.
Even with Sulzberger’s perspective the Times could have covered the Holocaust in the same depth as it covered other war news of comparable importance by the standards of professional journalism: It could have told its readers who, what, when, where, why, how. About 60 million persons were casualties of World War II, Jews were ten percent of the casualties. The Times was printing 125,000 words a day on the war; it could have devoted 12,500 words a day to what happened to the Jews. President Roosevelt, leaders of the House and Senate, and heads of foreign governments all over the world would have known in detail what was going on, and would have known that the American people knew.
The New York Times from 1939 to 1945 published 24,000 front page stories, about half of them on the war.31 Exactly 44 were about the Jews in Europe, less than two of every thousand, fewer than eight per year. These are the 44 front page headlines:
October 31, 1939: “Nazi Tortures Detailed by Britain; Concentration Camp Horrors Told” January 19, 1940: “Kin of Boston Man Found by Pope in Warsaw; Other Agencies Long Unable to Aid Tailor” January 31, 1940: “Dominican Haven Set Up for Exiles: Trujillo Signs Contract to Put 500 Families on Land Which He Has Given Personally” February 29, 1940: “Palestine Curbs Jews’ Land Buying; British Bans Purchases in Big Area, Limits Them in Another–Jewish Agency Defiant” March 2, 1940: “Vatican Post Goes to Jew as Italy’s Ban Is Imposed” August 1, 1940: “France to Seize Fortunes of Rothschild, Louis-Dreyfus and Other Noted Exiles” November 26, 1940: “Refugee Ship Off Palestine Sunk by Blast; Casualties Feared Among 1,771 Homeless” January 9, 1941: “U.S. Refuses French Plea to Take Refugees; Reich Curb Called Bar to Orderly Emigration” March 13, 1941: “Last Sea Route from Lisbon to U.S. Stops Ticket Sale to Refugees” May 7, 1941: “Nazis Held Ready to Crush Serb Guerrillas and Jews” June 18, 1941: “U.S. Bars Refugees with Kin in Reich; Charges Threat to Torture Relatives Force Immigrants to Become Espionage Spies” August 22, 1941: “Zone in Paris Is Encircled For a Round-Up by Police” November 9, 1941: “Berlin Dean Held; Prayed for Jews” December 14, 1941: “100 Hostages Shot by Nazis in France” June 14, 1942: “258 Jews Reported Slain in Berlin for Bomb Plot at Anti-Red Exhibit” July 15, 1942: “2 Die in Marseilles in Bastille Parade” July 22: “Nazi Punishment Seen by Roosevelt; Says Hitler Will Be Held to ‘Strict Accountability’–Churchill Greets Rally” August 6, 1942: “Pope is Said to Plead for Jews Listed for Removal from France” August 22, 1942: “President Warns Atrocities of Axis Will be Avenged” September 16, 1942: “Hull Warns Vichy on Labor Draft; Condemns Deportations of Jews” September 18, 1942: “Laval Interns a Catholic Leader In Wake of Church Plea for Jews” September 20, 1942: “Pope Has Long Talk with Taylor; Move to Aid Jews in France Seen” December 18, 1942: “11 Allies Condemn Nazi War on Jews” March 2, 1943: “Save Doomed Jews, Huge Rally Pleads” April 20, 1943: “Refugee Aid Linked to Victory in War” April 22, 1943: “Secret Polish Radio Asks Aid, Cut Off” August 31, 1943: “Rescue at Once of Europe’s Jews Demanded at Conference Here” September 2, 1943: “Opening of Palestine as Homeland Demanded by Jewish Conference” October 17, 1943: “Pope Said to Help in Ransoming Jews” December 11, 1943: “580,000 Refugees Admitted to United States in Decade” January 30, 1944: “Roosevelt Board Is Negotiating to Save Refugees from Nazis” March 5, 1944: “Marshall Opposes Vote on Palestine” March 6, 1944: “Senate Expected to Defer Vote on Palestine Immigration Issue” March 10, 1944: “Roosevelt Backs Palestine Plan As Homeland for Refugee Jews” March 25, 1944: “Roosevelt Warns Germans on Jews” April 19, 1944: “’Free Ports’ to Admit Refugees May Be Set Up Under U.S. Plan” June 10, 1944: “1,000 Refugees Will Enter, To be Housed at Fort Ontario” June 13, 1944: “President Predicts Murder Orgy by Nazis to Wipe Out Minorities” August 30, 1944: “Nazi Mass Killings Laid Bare at Camps” October 20, 1944: “Dewey Backs State Department in Warning Nazis Over Murders” November 13, 1944: “Foe Put Nurseries Inside Death Camp; Fairy-Tale Settings to House Children of Internees Are Found at Holland Prison” November 26, 1944: “U.S. Board Bares Atrocity Details Told by Witnesses at Polish Camps” April 18, 1945: “Nazi Death Factory Shocks Germans on a Forced Tour” May 1, 1945: “Dachau Captured by Americans Who Kill Guards, Liberate 32,000”32
From 1939 to 1942 many people knew, but did not know. The idea of killing millions of Jews simply because they were Jews was incomprehensible. But in December 1942 the eleven Allied governments positively confirmed the Final Solution.33 The Times gave it front page coverage on December 18, 1942. From 1943 to 1945 all the newspaper reporters knew. Yet the Times did not significantly change its coverage after the Holocaust had been firmly documented. Overall, it printed 240 stories about what was happening to the Jews in 1940, 207 in 1941, 139 in 1942, 186 in 1943, and 197 in 1944, less than one a day.34
But only by looking inside the paper can we comprehend how the Times covered the Holocaust:
On July 2, 1942, the Times reported that gas chambers and massacres were killing Jews. “At Lwow 35,000 were slain; at Stanislawow, 15,000; at Tarnapol 5,000; at Zioctrow 2,000; at Brezanzany only 1,700 were left of 18,000. The massacre still continues in Lwow.” That story ran on page 6. The story of Gov. Lehman’s donation of his tennis shoes to the scrap rubber drive ran on the top of page 1.35
On April 20, 1943, the New York Herald Tribune’s front page blared: “Report Tells of Nazi Annihilation of 2,000,000 Jews in Europe.” The sub-headline was: “Inter-Allied Committee, in Passover Document, Tells of Butchery of Eighth of Jewish Peoples and Peril of Death Facing 5,000,000 More.” On the same day, the Times gave the Inter-Allied Committee’s report twenty-three lines on page 11 as an addendum to its coverage of the Bermuda Conference.36
Before World War II, more than three million Jews lived in Poland. During the Holocaust 90 percent were killed. With that as background, on April 19, 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began. Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, for the first time in all of German-occupied Europe, made a heroic decision to fight back against overwhelming odds. On April 22, 1943, at the top of the front page, under the headline “Secret Polish Radio Asks Aid, Cut Off,” was a tiny three-paragraph article. “The last 35,000 Jews in the ghetto at Warsaw have been condemned to execution … Warsaw again is echoing to musketry volleys. The people are murdered. Women and children defend themselves with their naked arms. Save us.”37
There were no further stories about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on page 1. It continued for nearly a month, until May 16, 1943. The Wehrmacht destroyed the ghetto, for example by breaking into its hospital, shooting everyone in bed, and torching the place, virtually wiping out Poland’s thousand year old Jewish community. During that month the Times did not even publish an editorial on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Six months later, on October 28, 1943, a Times editorial said, “500,000 persons … were herded into less than 7 percent of Warsaw’s buildings.” It added, “400,000 persons were deported [to their deaths at Treblinka].”38 It never mentioned that they were Jews.
On March 2, 1944, the Times’ front page carried articles on the Allies holding off the Nazis near Anzio and the Red Army’s progress in retaking parts of the USSR. On page 4 were 13 stories. One of them contained five paragraphs. The first two paragraphs described the House of Commons’ decision to help fund the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. The fifth paragraph described Commons’ decision to help the International Red Cross open an office in Shanghai. Sandwiched between them were the third and fourth paragraphs:
During the discussion, S.S. Silverman, Labor member, read a report from the Jewish National Committee operating somewhere in Poland, saying:
Last month we still reckoned the number of Jews in the whole territory of Poland as from 250,000 to 300,000. In a few weeks no more than 50,000 of us will remain. In our last moment before death, the remnants of Polish Jewry appeal for help to the whole world. May this, perhaps our last voice from the abyss, reach the ears of the whole world.39
A July 2, 1944, dispatch citing “authoritative information” that 400,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to their deaths and an additional 350,000 were to be killed during the next three weeks received four column inches on page 12. That same day a story about Fourth of July holiday crowds ran on the front page.40
On July 3, 1944, after the War Refugee Board had finally and authoritatively published its complete report on Auschwitz, a Times article listed the number of Jews “eradicated” in Auschwitz and its satellite camp Birkenau. Midway down the center column were these totals.
◦ Poland 900,000
◦ Netherlands 100,000
◦ Greece 45,000
◦ France 150,000
◦ Belgium 50,000
◦ Germany 60,000
◦ Yugoslavia, Italy, Norway 50,000
◦ Bohemia, Moravia, Austria 30,000
◦ Slovakia 30,000
◦ Foreign Jews, camps in Poland 300,000
The Times reporter added information about Hungarian Jews. “About 30 percent of the 400,000 there have been slain or have died en route to Upper Silesia [Auschwitz].” The article described how prisoners were “ordered to strip for bathing” and then taken to rooms into which “cyanide gas” was released. The article noted that death came in three to five minutes, after which the bodies were burned. Yet even this article ran on page 3. The Times did not publish a front page story on the Holocaust until August 30, 1944.
There were isolated efforts to help the European Jews even among the liberals. There was a movement to pressure President Roosevelt to create a federal agency devoted to rescuing European Jews. Max Lerner supported it from his New York Post platform. Varian Fry wrote the New Republic’s December 1942 cover story, “The Massacre of the Jews,” condemning the U.S. and British governments for their inaction.
Finally, the War Refugee Board, in an effort to rouse public support for action, sent copies of its complete report of eyewitness accounts at Auschwitz to all of the major newspapers with a release date of November 26, 1944. At that point the Holocaust could no longer be minimized. On that day the New York Times published its page 1 article, “U.S. Board Bares Atrocity Details Told by Witnesses at Polish Camps.”41 Even after that, in all of 1945, it published only two more front page stories on the Holocaust.
Why This Astonishing Reticence
A century earlier, historian Alexis de Tocqueville had praised the press in large nations such as the United States for its ability to unite people who share particular beliefs but cannot act alone. Tocqueville believed that a newspaper’s highest purpose is to serve as a “beacon” to bring such people together and keep them united. If there were no newspapers, or if the newspapers did not serve, “There would be no common activity.”42 But why, then, did America’s premier newspaper not serve?
Deborah Lipstadt suggests a plausible explanation. “Surveys taken from 1940 to 1946 show that Jews were almost consistently seen as a greater menace to the welfare of the United States than were any other national, religious, or racial group. In June 1944, with the war in Europe and in Japan still raging, 24 percent of those responding to a poll believed Jews a ‘threat,’ while only 6 percent considered the Germans to be one and 9 percent believed this of the Japanese.”43
Liberal Jewish leaders in the United States, aware of these attitudes, called for “no parades, demonstrations, or protests by [American] Jews.” But, as Jews, they were called by God to the principle of pikuakh nefesh, to save a life. Those who did not witness even to their American neighbors to save the lives of their European brothers bring to our time God’s words to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” Gen 4:10.
Gay Talese observed, “The New York Times does not wish to be thought of as a ‘Jewish newspaper’ … and [therefore] it will bend over backwards to prove this.”44 Sidney Zion, New York Daily News columnist, agreed that the decision not to cover this event of Biblical proportion, and perhaps to let millions of Jews die, was taken to protect the reputation of a newspaper:
“How about the Holocaust? The Times never covered the destruction of the Jews of Europe. Not because it had a reporter who figured out it was best to ignore the slaughter. This was a decision made from the top. Arthur Hays Sulzberger, publisher of the Times from 1935 to 1961, decided that the newspaper of record would ignore the greatest massacre in history lest the readers of the Times consider it ‘a Jewish paper.’”45
Daniel Johnson wrote,
The correspondents, the editors, and especially the publisher of the Times had the information they needed in order to grasp what was going on. Yet they quite cold-bloodedly downplayed the scale and significance of the unfolding tragedy: not inadvertently but as a matter of policy. For the Times, the Holocaust was not a story. Why not? As Leff writes, to have drawn attention to the genocidal aims and methods of Nazi anti-Semitism, or to focus on the fate of individual victims, would have imposed a duty upon the Times to mobilize public opinion. The newspaper would have been obliged, through its news columns and editorial pages, to raise the national consciousness and thereby put pressure on the U.S. government to save as many Jewish lives as possible. That, however, was precisely what Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher, and his senior staff were determined not to do.46
Johnson summarized: “In [Laurel] Leff’s plausible judgment, the underlying reason for Sulzberger’s stubborn refusal … was an unspoken fear of putting at risk a century of Jewish assimilation in American society. Above all, he was wary of any new influx of European Jews into the United States.”47
Some Jews reply that the Holocaust was so searing an experience for those who survived that they really don’t want to remember it. But Jews tell the Passover stories each year about slavery in Egypt, because God wills that the stories survive. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever” Ex 12:14. Each survivor is personally free to reflect on them or not, but we as a people are on a journey to heaven. Without the stories we do not know where we came from, where we are going, or why we are going at all.
The Consequences of Assimilation
In Rabbi Yeshua’s time, the chief priests and the Pharisees said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation” Jn 11:47–48. During the Holocaust America’s most powerful Jews, Arthur Hays Sulzberger and Henry Morgenthau, Jr., feared that the Gentiles would come and destroy American Jews’ holy place and nation if they spoke out for European Jews. They did not speak out even for the passengers on the SS St. Louis.
The rest of American Jewry could have spoken out. In the main, during this event of Biblical proportions, the liberal American rabbinate did not rise up, as its prophets had done in the Old Testament days.
The rabbis knew what was going on. Many of their congregants had family in Germany and Poland. Most of the rabbis read the New York Times and saw at least its front page headline of December 18, 1942, “11 Allies Condemn Nazi War on Jews.” The liberal American rabbinate spoke each Saturday morning to Jews all over the United States. Banded together, the rabbis could have stirred their congregations into writing a blizzard of letters to President Roosevelt, to their congressmen and senators, to major newspapers and news magazines all over the United States, and to the major Jewish organizations. If a million New York City Jews stopped buying the Times, and stopped buying from any company advertising in the Times, Arthur Hays Sulzberger might have become the twentieth century’s Isaiah.
“With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” Mt 7:2. Like the Old Testament Israelites who assimilated so much into the pagan culture that they merged into the local populations, the Reform Jews wanted to assimilate into a culture that would soon turn pagan.
As a result, the conflict between the Zionist rabbinate led by Stephen Wise and Hillel Silver, and the anti-Zionist rabbinate led by the American Council for Judaism, evidently consumed more of their attention than did the Holocaust. Thomas A. Kolsky, the distinguished historian of that battle, wrote,
One aspect of the confrontation between the American Zionists and the Council is most troubling. Neither of the two antagonists made serious efforts to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. That was an inexcusable failure. Rather than suspend their ideological war and join in a common endeavor to save Jewish lives during a time of crisis, both groups were preoccupied with plans for the postwar period. The American Council for Judaism issued impressive statements about the virtues of emancipation and free immigration after the war as the best way to solve the problem of Jewish suffering. The Zionists, who campaigned steadfastly during the war to convert Americans to their program, assigned a much higher priority to promoting support for Jewish statehood than to rescuing Jews.48
As Dr. Kolsky observes, the most important reason for speaking out was pikuakh nefesh, but there was another. God held his people Israel responsible for maintaining accurate and detailed historical records. A people remains alive through zakhor, remembrance. Through the Hebrew Scriptures Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon and all the rest continue to live in our hearts and minds. The genealogies record the passing generations. Anyone who visits Yad Vashem or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum can see that the Holocaust is already documented in great detail, but if the Times had published ten thousand words every day, 365 days a year for seven years, we would have had a historical record an order of magnitude greater than we now have, written in our hearts. It would have been possible to construct neighborhood-by-neighborhood and block-by-block accounts of the six million martyred Jews.
What if the Jewish nation had remained Torah-observant and continued to be a people apart? Arthur Hays Sulzberger would not have grown up as the evil son who declares, “I do not believe Jews are a race. I do not believe that they are a people.”
The Orthodox Jews were prepared to boldly do what they could for European Jews. Following the Torah, they continued to live as a shining model of obedience to God. They honored the Sabbath by refusing to ride, which meant they had to live within walking distance of an Orthodox shul. So each shul became the center of an intensely Jewish neighborhood in which neighbors reinforced one another in observing God’s law.
On October 6, 1943, in Washington, DC, more than four hundred rabbis marched solemnly from Union Station to their first stop, the Capitol. The rabbis recited the Kaddish; sang the traditional Jewish prayer for the nation’s leaders to the tune of The Star Spangled Banner, and solemnly read aloud, in English and Hebrew, their petition calling for the creation of a federal agency to rescue European Jews and expand the limited quota on Jewish refugee immigration to the United States.
Many more Orthodox rabbis gave impassioned sermons urging that something, anything, be done. The situation was an echo of Rabbi Yeshua’s life and crucified death, in which many Jews followed personally, but the Jewish nation did not follow. The chief priests insisted, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Jn 19:15. Worldwide, the Jewish nation remained virtually silent.
What Might Have Been Done
Henry Morgenthau, Jr., also a Jew of German descent, had been a lifelong friend of Sulzberger. As Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury from 1934 to 1945 he had full access to United States diplomatic and intelligence resources in Europe. After December 1942, when the eleven Allied governments positively confirmed the Final Solution, all the “chief priests” knew. The evidence warranted belief.
Morgenthau could have prevailed on Sulzberger to cover this event of Biblical proportions, but he did not. Sulzberger, Morgenthau, Felix Frankfurter and other prominent American Jews did not press Roosevelt to bomb the Nazi death camps or the railroad tracks that carried the death trains. Blowing up Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, Treblinka, Dachau, Chelmno, Gross-Rosen, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek and the rest would foreseeably have killed some Jews who would soon be killed anyway by Zyklon-B gas, but might have saved millions.
Perhaps the most persuasive objection is that it might not have succeeded. The Nazi war machine defeated the Allies in every major battle until the British victory over the Germans in North Africa near the end of 1942. The tide began to turn in 1943.
Another objection sometimes raised is that the Allies did not want to bomb civilians. But, having bombed Dresden, they would not have flinched at bombing the camps. The Nazis could simply have killed the Jews in their own city neighborhoods, but it would have been much more visible and much slower. How could the Nazis, while distinguishing Jews from Christians, have killed the entire population of New York City in place? The whole population would have known what was going on and may have resisted as the heroic Warsaw ghetto residents had but on a much larger scale.
The point is not whether the Allies would have been able to carry out that particular strategy. The Aryan heroes of Wagnerian legend were killing old men and women dragged out of nursing homes, nuns dragged out of convents, Jews dragged out of tailor shops, and rabbis, priests, and ministers dragged out of their places of worship. Had the Times reported all this day after day, describing all the Nazi death camps in pitiless detail, President Roosevelt and the other Allies would have had to try something.
What Pope Pius XII Did
Certificates of Baptism
Pius XII quietly ordered that monasteries and churches give Jews certificates of baptism to save their lives. The Church teaches § 1789, “One may never do evil so that good may result from it.” How then can Church authorities issue baptismal certificates when no baptism has occurred? The answer is pikuakh nefesh.
Cardinal von Galen, on August 3, 1941, in his Third Sermon, declared,
My faithful brethren! In the pastoral letter drawn up by the German Hierarchy on the 26th of June at Fulda and appointed to be read in all the churches of Germany on July 6th, it is expressly stated: “According to Catholic doctrine, there are doubtless commandments which are not binding when obedience to them requires too great a sacrifice, but there are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one can release us and which we must fulfill even at the price of death itself. At no time, and under no circumstances whatsoever, may a man, except in war and in lawful defense, take the life of an innocent person.
Once admit the right to kill unproductive persons … then none of us can be sure of his life. We shall be at the mercy of any committee that can put a man on the list of unproductives. There will be no police protection, no court to avenge the murder and inflict punishment upon the murderer. Who can have confidence in any doctor? He has but to certify his patients as unproductive and he receives the command to kill. If this dreadful doctrine is permitted and practiced it is impossible to conjure up the degradation to which it will lead. Suspicion and distrust will be sown within the family itself. A curse on men and on the German people if we break the holy commandment “Thou shalt not kill” which was given us by God on Mount Sinai with thunder and lightning, and which God our Maker imprinted on the human conscience from the beginning of time! Woe to us German people if we not only license this heinous offense but allow it to be committed with impunity!
Pius XII told Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini (later Pope Paul VI), “We would like to utter words of fire against such actions; and the only thing restraining us from speaking is the fear of making the plight of the victims worse.”49
The secretary general of the World Jewish Congress concurred on November 28, 1944: “Unfortunately, the Germans, convinced that their march toward world domination could not be halted by any power on earth, not only refused to be deterred by these warnings; they even accelerated the pace of the massacres and brought their technique to ghastly perfection.”50
Pius XII knew this, and more. After the Catholic bishops of Holland protested against the persecution of Jews, the Nazis arrested and executed Catholics of Jewish origin. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) was arrested on August 2, 1942, and executed on August 9, 1942, at Birkenau. She and many other Dutch Catholics died as a result of the bishops’ protest. There is even statistical evidence. Rabbi Pinchas Lapide wrote in Three Popes and the Jews: “Whilst the Catholic clergy of Holland protested more loudly, expressly and frequently against Jewish persecutions than the religious hierarchy of any other Nazi-occupied country, more Jews—some 110,000 or 79 percent of the total—were deported from Holland to death camps; more than anywhere else in the West.”51
Early 1960s criticism cited a 1943 telegram from Von Weizsaecker to Berlin: “Although under pressure from all sides, the Pope has not let himself be drawn into any demonstrative censure of the deportation of Jews from Rome.… As there is probably no reason to expect other German actions against the Jews of Rome we can consider that a question so disturbing to German-Vatican relations has been liquidated.” Von Weizsaecker’s telegram was broadcast all over the world and repeated in book after book, wrenched from context. The telegram was in fact a diplomatic initiative to stop the proposed deportation of the Roman Jews, backed by a warning from Pius XII to Hitler: if the pursuit and arrest of Roman Jews was not halted, the Holy Father would have to make a public protest. This careful diplomacy by Von Weizsaecker and Pius XII ended the Nazi manhunt against the Jews of Rome, saving an estimated seven thousand lives.
Pius XII’s quiet diplomacy saved many more Jews. Rabbi Dalin, observes, “The survival rate of Jews in Catholic countries such as Italy and Belgium was much higher than in non-Catholic countries occupied by the Nazis. The indisputable fact is that in those Catholic countries where Pius XII and his Vatican diplomatic representatives had some political leverage—including Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Croatia—Pius was able to halt the deportation and mass murder of Jews by the Nazi puppet governments.”52
Pius XII knew what Hitler intended for the Catholic Church from its experience in Poland. In December 1939 Cardinal Hlond, the primate of Poland, had written to him: “The Nazi aim is to de-Christianize as rapidly as possible these countries which are attached to the Catholic faith … 95 percent of the priests have been imprisoned, expelled, or humiliated before the eyes of the faithful. The Curia no longer exists; the Cathedral has been made into a garage … the bishop’s palace into a restaurant; the chapel into a ballroom. Hundreds of churches have been closed. The whole patrimony of the Church has been confiscated, and the most eminent Catholics executed.”53
Pius XII also had to preserve the appearance of Vatican neutrality so that Vatican City could remain a refuge for Jews and other war victims. Hitler had credibly threatened to invade the Vatican. His May 1938 visit to Rome was an obvious threat. The Nazi swastika was everywhere in the city, especially on the Vatican borders. On September 10, 1943, the Nazis invaded and took control of Rome, an even more obvious threat. Just three days later: “On September 13, 1943, the Governor of Vatican City received a phone call from the Military Commander of Rome informing him that at 4 p.m. on the same day German sentries would be posted at the Vatican-Italian boundary line. At the appointed hour, Nazi paratroopers appeared in full battle dress, with helmets and machine guns and took up ‘protective patrol.’”54 A few days later, “Incoming and outgoing postal facilities were cut off from Vatican City; telephone trunk lines passing into Rome were tapped.”55 Rabbi Lapide comments: “Undaunted by these measures, the smallest state on earth went on quietly defying the military masters of Continental Europe.”56
In May 1944 Hitler ordered General Karl Otto Wolff, the SS commander of Nazi-occupied Rome, to kidnap Pius XII before the German retreat. By then Mussolini had fallen. The Nazi regime in northern Italy was preparing to retreat as Allied forces advanced on Rome, which they liberated on June 5, 1944. Wolff, appalled, quietly went to the Vatican at night in civilian clothes with the help of a priest to personally assure Pius XII that no kidnapping would occur but also to warn him to be on guard as the situation was confused and there was great danger.57
A Lonely Voice in the Silence And Darkness
Mi Y’malel … Who can retell 3:31 the things that befell us, who can count them? The historical record is filled with testimony from responsible Jews of the time when living eyewitnesses were abundant and memories were fresh.
Pope Pius XII on October 20, 1939, published Summi Pontificatus (“On the Unity of the Human Family”), which was taken everywhere as a denunciation of the Nazis. In response, the Nazis arrested numerous priests. Eight days later, on October 28, 1939, the New York Times carried a front-page article headlined: “Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism; Urges Restoring of Poland.” The Times saw it as a powerful attack on totalitarianism and a clear expression of the Pope’s determination to boldly defend the rights of individuals and families and to fight the enemies of the Church. A Times writer saw the pontiff as an Old Testament prophet “speaking words of fire.” The Times printed the entire encyclical on pages eight and nine of the paper.
The New York Times editorial of March 14, 1940, headlined, “Pope is Emphatic About Peace: Jews’ Rights Defended,” said,
Twice in two days Pope Pius XII has gone out of his way to speak out for justice as well as for peace, and Vatican circles take this as an emphasis of his stern demand to Joachim von Ribbentrop, that Germany right the injustice she has done before there can be peace … the Pontiff, in the burning words he spoke to Herr von Ribbentrop about religious persecution, also came to the defense of the Jews.
Time magazine’s December 23, 1940 cover caption said, “In Germany only the cross has not bowed to the swastika.” The same cover story quoted the great Jewish physicist Albert Einstein: “Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom. 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 suppressing truth. I had never had any special interest in the 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. I am forced thus to confess, that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.”
The New York Times editorially lauded Pius XII on December 25, 1941: “The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas… He is about the only ruler left on the Continent who dares to raise his voice at all.” The New York Times editorial of December 25, 1942 added: “This Christmas more than ever the Pope is a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent … Pope Pius XII expresses as passionately as any leader on our side the war aims of the struggle for freedom.”58 There were many more reports. A New York Times headline on August 6, 1942 stated, “Pope is Said to Plead for Jews Listed for Removal from France,” and on August 27, 1942: “Vichy Seizes Jews; Pope Pius Ignored.”
Sr. Margherita Marchione, in Consensus and Controversy, devotes fifty pages to New York Times published information supporting the actions of Pope Pius XII and the Church during the war.59 Her index for that chapter alone covers three pages.
On February 28, 1944, Dr. Isaac Herzog, then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, sent the Pope a personal message of thanks in which he said: “The people of Israel will never forget what His Holiness and his illustrious delegates, inspired by the eternal principles of religion which form the very foundations of true civilization, are doing for us unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most tragic hour of our history, which is living proof of divine Providence in this world.”60
The Chief Rabbi of Rome during the Holocaust, Rabbi Israel Zolli, wrote: “What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts.… Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism.”61 Rabbi Elio Toaff, the Chief Rabbi of Rome after Rabbi Zolli, wrote: “More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness, filled with compassion and magnanimity, that the Pope displayed during the terrible years of persecution and terror.”62
Rabbi Zolli had lived a distinguished Jewish life. After a time as a professor at the University of Padua and vice-rabbi of Trieste, in 1918 he became the chief rabbi of Trieste, and twenty years later the chief rabbi of Rome. In that position he had been the primary contact between the Jewish community and the Vatican. After the Nazis invaded Rome, SS commandant Herbert Kappler demanded 50 kilograms of gold. When Rome’s Jewish community could only come up with 35 kilograms, Rabbi Zolli went to the Vatican to ask for the remaining 15 kilograms. Pius XII immediately agreed, and Rabbi Zolli returned later that same day to pick up the “package.” In 1945 Rabbi Zolli resigned as chief rabbi of Rome to be baptized a Catholic, taking for his baptismal name Eugenio, the baptismal name of Pius XII.
On May 26, 1955 the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, composed of Jewish refugees from many nations, played a concert at the Vatican to thank Pius XII for the Vatican’s work in saving Jews. “Conductor Paul Klecki had requested that the Orchestra on its first visit to Italy play for the Pope as a gesture of gratitude for the help his Church had given to all those persecuted by Nazi Fascism.”63
At the death of Pius XII in 1958, Golda Meir, then Israel’s Foreign Minister, cabled the Vatican, “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict.” Rabbi Herzog, then Chief Rabbi of Israel, cabled, “The death of Pope Pius XII is the loss of a great man to the world at large. Catholics are not alone in lamenting his passing.”64
Rabbi Lapide put it all together: “The final number of Jewish lives in whose rescue the Catholic Church had been instrumental is thus at least 700,000 souls, but in all probability is much closer to the maximum of 860,000.… These figures … exceed by far those saved by all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations combined.”65 He added, “[Pius XII] … alleviated, relieved, retrieved, appealed, petitioned – and saved as best he could.… Who but a prophet or martyr could have done much more?”66 Rabbi Lapide comments: “Lapide’s volume remains the definitive work by a Jewish scholar on the subject.”67
Pius XII was not the only hero during those terrifying years. Raoul Wallenberg, Oskar Schindler, Irena Sendler and many other unsung heroes did their part as well. But Pius XII exceeded by far those saved by all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations combined.
Sir Martin Gilbert, the distinguished Jewish historian and official biographer of Winston Churchill, wrote Auschwitz and the Allies: A Devastating Account of How the Allies Responded to the News of Hitler’s Mass Murder,68 The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War,69 and Never Again: A History of the Holocaust,70 in which he highly praised Pope Pius XII’s efforts to save Jewish lives.
Perhaps the most eloquent voice was that of Rabbi Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome during the Holocaust. Rabbi Zolli had lived a distinguished Jewish life. After a time as a professor at the University of Padua and vice-rabbi of Trieste, in 1918 he became the chief rabbi of Trieste, and twenty years later the chief rabbi of Rome. In that position he had been the primary contact between the Jewish community and the Vatican. After the Nazis invaded Rome, SS commandant Herbert Kappler demanded 50 kilograms of gold. When Rome’s Jewish community could only come up with 35 kilograms, Rabbi Zolli went to the Vatican to ask for the remaining 15 kilograms. Pius XII immediately agreed, and Rabbi Zolli returned later that same day to pick up the “package.” In 1945 Rabbi Zolli resigned as chief Rabbi of Rome to be baptized a Catholic, taking for his baptismal name Eugenio, the baptismal name of Pius XII.
But the most powerful witness is silent. Under Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, is the ruin of the palace of the Emperor Tiberius. In its subterranean vault is an enormous wooden cross, gratefully given to Pius XII at the end of the war by the thousands of Jews who had lived there in hiding.71
Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5 taught that the Torah was indivisible. As part of that integral observance, the rabbis taught that, “Whosoever preserves one life, it is accounted to him by Scripture as if he had preserved a whole world.”72
Echoes of the Holocaust
The Holocaust was an event of Biblical proportions. Since the days of Hebrew Scripture there has been nothing like it until 1939-1945. it is seared into Jewish memory.
However, as the Holocaust recedes into the past its eyewitnesses have become few. A very small number of persons have started to come out of the woodwork to say that it never existed. Blessedly, God made sure it would be remembered. There are Holocaust centers of remembrance all over the world. Most prominent among these is Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Another prominent remembrance center is the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
The number in the United States alone is formidable. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust, is located in the nation’s capital, adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is immense, and since its opening has had more than 40 million visitors! Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, has welcomed some 2 million visitors.
Perhaps no other single subject has been so extensively covered by remembrance centers. Establishing so many major centers of remembrance worldwide absolutely requires a strong and genuine historical presence in the world.
Seventy years after the Holocaust ended, Germany admitted more than a million “asylum seekers” from Muslim countries. We would expect Germany of all nations to be aware of Islam’s propensity to kill Jews.
Islam’s most holy books are clear that Muslims are to kill Jews. The Jewish Virtual Library has a long list of References to Jews in the Quran. Most of them indicate that Muslims are to kill Jews. The Hadith, another Muslim holy book, at Bukhari 52:177, quotes Muhammad, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” This verse makes it possible for Muslims to kill Jews with a sense of honor. The German government knew all this.
It knew too that there was no way to vet Muslims arriving from Syria and the surrounding countries. The one sure indicator the Germans had, the composition of the arriving Muslims, indicated trouble. Most refugee populations consist mostly of women and children. Men of fighting age normally remain behind to defend their homeland. But the Muslim refugees were mostly men of fighting age. The women and children remained behind, indicating that they had viable living arrangements. Arriving men of fighting age are much more likely to be invaders.
Men of fighting age committed by their religion to kill Jews are likely to kill Jews. Men of fighting age arriving without women are likely to rape the women they find. And these same men, especially numbering more than a million, would be impossible to remove. They will remain in the German population forever.
Admitting these men was a decision made by the German government. It could have sent military forces to all of Germany’s entry points to refuse these young men entry and send them back to where they came from. The German government chose to admit them.
Once again, Jews in Germany live in fear. Many have already left, others are leaving. The press does not print stories of Jews attacked by Muslims, or Jews leaving, or women raped. The astonishing reticence of the media as Jews are killed has returned. The Germans have finally found a way to live without Jews.
The Crucifixion of the Church
A third crucifixion has begun and is still underway.
Holy Mother Church is truly our mother. When any of her children are crucified, she is always is on the Cross with them. Satan had to attack the Catholic Church in Germany as part of his assault on the Jewish nation.
The Nazi Ape of the Church
Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” is natural among animals. If men were animals, superior races killing their inferiors would be natural behavior. Hitler proposed a master race among humans that would use war and eugenics for the merciless extinction of inferior races.
“[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning” Jn 8:44. Nazi, ostensibly an acronym for National Socialism, is a twisted and broken form of Nazarene.
The swastika is a cross twisted and broken by an enraged demon. Its form is the crux gammata, a quadrupling of the Greek letter gamma, widely found in pagan cultures. New Advent’s Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix explains, “The primitive form of the cross seems to have been that of the so-called ‘gamma’ cross (crux gammata), better known to Orientalists and students of prehistoric archaeology by its Sanskrit name, swastika.”
Hitler had people greet one another, “Heil Hitler,” from the Roman “Hail Caesar” and a gross perversion of the Hail Mary Lk 1:28. He used the term final solution to describe his plan to exterminate the Jewish people, an even more gross perversion of Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice. The “thousand year Reich” is a pagan reference to “They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years” Rev 20:6.
Hitler declared, “Those who see in National Socialism nothing more than a political movement know scarcely anything of it.… It is more even than a religion. It is the will to create mankind anew.” This mocked Rabbi Yeshua’s creation of the world anew and his promise for the Second Coming, “Behold, I make all things new” Rev 21:5. Hitler added, “The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again. The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.” Hitler added, “We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”73
Hitler needed music that would ambiguously mix Christian symbolism with pagan and occult themes to lead the German population of Catholics and Lutherans into his pagan religion. Richard Wagner’s pagan Ring of the Nibelungs opera tetralogy, especially his “Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walküre, soon became the most popular Nazi music.
The Nazi Plan for the Churches
Antiochus’ plan to keep the outer appearance of the Temple while filling it inside with pagan ceremonies, and Herod’s plan to leave the outer forms of Judaism intact through the presence of an outwardly beautiful Temple while corrupting the people it served, were part of Satan’s frequent use of outer beauty to conceal interior corruption. Rabbi Yeshua saw it: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” Mt 23:27–28.
Satan continued that pattern during the Holocaust. At a meeting of the German Faith Movement in Hanover in 1937, the provincial leader, was asked, “What is to become of the numerous churches when the present generation which still clings to Christianity has died out?” He replied, “Churches of artistic and historical value will, of course, be preserved; they will be used for the solemn festivals of the German people, but naturally only after removing all Christian symbols.… Second and third rate churches, however, will be demolished.”74
A pastoral letter signed by all the Catholic bishops in Germany issued on March 22, 1942, and read from every Catholic pulpit in Germany, asserted: “Hitler would blot out from the entire earth every vestige of Christianity, if he should find it advisable in his military undertakings.” A New York Times editorial published three months later observed that since Germany’s population was ninety-five percent Christian, “This, then, means that the Nazi dictatorship is waging war on its own people.”75 The editorial ended, “The measure of Nazi madness is to have precipitated a civil war in the midst of an effort to conquer the world.”76
Pagan Festivals Replace Christian Festivals
The 1935 German Farmers Almanac replaced every Christian feast day with a pagan celebration. “Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord, is the ‘Feast of Ostara’ (a German Spring goddess). Ascension Day is ‘Rescue of Thor’s Hammer.’… Christmas is ‘The Birthday of Baldur, god of Light, and the Visit of the Infant Yule.’”
Msgr. Bornewasser, Bishop of Trier, wrote,
“You have heard of the so-called Winter Solstice celebrations.… This artificially stirred-up old Germanic pagan Consecration of Fire is meant as a direct challenge to the highest mystery of our religion, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ on the Holy Night of Bethlehem.… What I am going to read is taken from the periodical Fuhrerdienst (The Leader’s Task) of the Jungfolk (Junior Section of the Hitler Youth), 12th Number, December, 1937, page 6: “At another meeting the Winter Solstice will be celebrated. We have to train our young members in order to enable them to celebrate this Christmas stripped of all the parasitical excrescences which were implanted in the hearts and minds of the German people by the Christian denominations.” … Now you know the real meaning of the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Up to now it has been concealed behind a mask, but today this mask has been dropped. We know now that all this talk about the German Winter Solstice is in reality directed against the most sublime mystery of Christmas, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”77
Pope Pius XII at War
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal” Ecc 3:1–3.
Rabbi Yeshua told us during his mortal life, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” Mt 10:34. But after rising from the tomb he greeted us, Shalom alekhem, “Peace be with you” Jn 20:19.
Holy Mother Church is a place of Gregorian Chant 1:03:28, a foretaste of heaven. But here in this life she is called the Church Militant. And even among the Church Militant‘s bravest warriors there remains the struggle for holiness.
Pope Pius XII is well known for saving Jews in the Vatican and around Rome. Rabbi Lapide, in Three Popes and the Jews, emphasized that Pius XII some 860,000 Jews. Another true story, The Scarlet and the Black, focused on the heroic Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty and Pius‘ need to maintain Vatican neutrality.
But Pope Pius XII also became actively involved in an effort to assassinate Adolf Hitler and thereby end the Holocaust! Mark Riebling, Fellow in 20th-Century History at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana (Rome), and lecturer in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Georgetown University, tells the story in his book, Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler, 2015.
By AD 1095 Islam had conquered by military force some two-thirds of all Christian lands. Pope Urban II in the Councils of Piacenza and Clermont appealed to the knights of Europe. Thousands of Frenchmen, Germans, English, and Italians wore on their chests a cross of red fabric and rode off toward the Holy Land.
Pope Pius XII ‘s effort was very different. It was personal. Here are a few brief quotations:
Page 1 “In April 1945 the Nazis tried to break the man they called ‘the best agent of the Vatican Intelligence in Germany.’ On the surface, Josef Müller seemed just a big-eared Bavarian book publisher who puffed a pipe and collected stamps. Yet since his arrest for giving Jews false papers and money, he had come to figure in a case of sensational significance. The Gestapo claimed that Müller had plotted to kill Hitler ‘using the spy service of the Catholic clergy.'”
Page 29 “At the back of the room sat a mouse-like man, nervous and intense, with piercing blue eyes and a shock of white hair. He pulled out a pad and pencil. As chief of German military intelligence (Abwehr), Admiral Wilhelm Canaris could make notes on secret German military briefings.”
Page 30 “What Hitler said next shocked his generals. Canaris dared not put it to paper, but Field Marshal Fedor von Bock later confided the details to a colleague. Special SS Death’s Head formations, Hitler revealed, would snuff out the least flicker of Polish strength by liquidating thousands of Catholic priests.”
Page 31 “Canaris hated Hitler with the fervor of one who once had loved him. Hitler had promised to preserve Germany’s religious and military traditions, but delivered a pagan mockery of the old ideals. … Rather than resign in protest, Canaris stuck to his post as spy chief, giving Hitler’s conservative enemies a secret weapon to destroy the monster they had helped create. Directing covert activities, privy to state secrets, Canaris and his comrades were perfectly positioned to damage the Nazis. They could strike at Hitler from within.”
Page 31 “On 1 September 1939, a million Germans poured into Poland. Two days later, Hitler boarded a train to tour the front. There his henchmen began to liquidate what he called the ‘spiritual factors’ that might inspire resistance. ‘We will let the small fry off,’ SS spy chief Reinhard Heydrich said, but ‘the Catholic priests must all be killed.'”
Page 34 “Canaris knew and trusted Pacelli. During 1920, when the future pope was the ‘best-informed diplomat in Berlin,’ they had shared horse rides on a mutual friend’s estate. Canaris admired Pacelli’s realism and discretion—and his dislike for Hitler.”
Page 36 “Josef Müller was a self-made lawyer of sturdy peasant stock, a beer-loving Bavarian with sky-blue eyes, and an Iron Cross hero of the Great War. Because he worked his way through school driving an oxcart, friends ribbed him as Ochsensepp, Joey Ox. The nickname aptly captured Müller’s robust build, his rural roots, and the strong will that brought him such bad and good fortune.”
Pages 39-40 “Munich Cardinal Michael Faulhaber did not actually ask Josef Müller to spy. Though they were fraternity brothers and addressed each other with the familiar du, Faulhaber used an intermediary … helped Müller get his mind around the Church doctrine of the Disciplina Arcani, the Way of Secrecy.”
Page 40 “The Way proceeded from the practice of Christ himself. Preaching in a hostile environment, he ordered his disciples to conceal his identity, his words, and his actions from the uninitiated. He formed his apostles into clandestine cells, led by James and John, whom he called the “Sons of Thunder,” and whom he took to a mountain, with his protégé Peter, to discuss secret matters. They met in safe houses, which Jesus accessed by hidden separate entrances, and whose locations they revealed to each other through coded signals, such as following a man with a jug of water through Jerusalem. Christ took these measures not to evade the Roman political authorities, but to elude the Jewish high priesthood, then held by the Annas family, of whom the Talmud records: ‘A plague on the House of Annas: A plague on their spying.'”
Page 40 “Church Fathers followed the Way of Secrecy after Jesus died. The faith at first survived only as a clandestine movement in Rome; and since the Gospel writers thought Jesus’ return imminent, the early Christians perhaps expected to remain underground operatives until the end of times. For three centuries, until Christianity became Rome’s religion, the Church concealed baptism and confirmation, the Our Father, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist, the creeds and Scriptures, not only from heathens, but even from converts to the faith, who, as one later Church authority explained, ‘might be spies wishing to be instructed only that they might betray.'”
Page 59 “At Castel Gandolfo, Pius walked the same path each afternoon. It curved through rose gardens, past the broken columns of a villa built by the Roman emperor Domitian. Amid these vine-wrapped ruins, the pope pondered the most fateful decision of his young pontificate. Could he, the deputy of Christ on earth, become accessory and agent in a military plot to remove a secular leader?
Page 59 “Church teaching stated the conditions under which citizens could kill tyrants. Catholic doctrine permitted capital punishment; and though a priest himself could not shed blood, a Christian knight could wield the sword of justice at the bidding of a priest. According, over the centuries, Catholic theologians had developed a nuanced doctrine of tyrannicide, covering every conceivable context. They divided the tyrants into two classes: usurpers, who seized power illegally, and oppressors, who used power unjustly. Hitler, who held office legally but ruled unjustly, had become an oppressor. He therefore fell into the class of evildoers who—as Aquinas and some Jesuit theologians argued—citizens could assassinate.
Page 59 “But Catholic ethics strictly limited political violence. The tyrant’s executioners must have good grounds for believing his death would actually improve conditions and would not cause a bloody civil war. The tyrant himself must not merely stand revealed as the primary instigator of unjust policies; his assassins must have sufficient reason to believe that those unjust policies would end with the tyrant’s life. If another tyrant would continue those policies, the assassins had no moral basis to act. Finally, the assassins must have exhausted all peaceful means for removing the tyrant.”
Page 62 “When the pope arose the next morning, he had made up his mind. He would engage the German military resistance and encourage a conservative counterrevolution. He would serve as secret foreign agent for the resistance—presenting and guaranteeing its plans to the British. He would partner with the generals not just to stop the war, but to eliminate Nazism by removing Hitler.”
Page 65 “At Abwehr headquarters, Müller’s mentors began planning his Vatican ‘show.’ In spy jargon a show meant the whole composed of two halves—a secret operation and its cover. Canaris would cover Müller’s Vatican contacts as an Abwehr project. … The Abwehr would tell the Gestapo in advance that Müller was posing as a conspirator … To all bureaucratic appearances, Müller would advance the war effort by pretending to talk peace.”
Page 66 “But he would only be pretending to be pretending. He would actually be the plotter he was pretending to be. He would be a plotter, covered as a spy, covered as a plotter. He would do a kind of triple backflip without moving a muscle.”
These few brief quotations only hint at Pius’ leonine courage. For the whole story, read Mark Riebling‘s, Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler, 2015.
Pope Pius XII on the Cross
The Blessed Virgin
Why would Satan so tenaciously attack Pius XII? The spiritual war is a vast battlefield. Most Catholics know that Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption § 44, thereby elevating the Blessed Virgin as a model of Christian virtue, but he had done much more as a great Marian pontiff. We may be certain that Pius XII constantly asked the Blessed Virgin to rescue Jews, and that she saved them for her Son using Pius XII.
We may believe too that she interceded for the souls of the Jews who perished, that they might enter heaven with the crown of martyrdom for being the saving warning, witnesses for all the world. And there was more. The Blessed Virgin Mary had said during her July 13, 1917 apparition that “The Holy Father will have much to suffer.” Pius XII was buried on October 13, 1958, the 41st anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s last appearance at Fátima. He had much to suffer during his earthly life. After he passed into eternity his earthly reputation came under severe attack.
Satan’s real target was not Pius XII but the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Heart, represented by the Catholic Church. Rabbi Dalin highlights this: “Very few of the many recent books about Pius XII and the Holocaust are actually about Pius XII and the Holocaust. The liberal bestselling attacks on the pope and the Catholic Church are really an intra-Catholic argument about the direction of the Church today. The Holocaust is simply the biggest club available for liberal Catholics to use against traditional Catholics.”78
Perhaps most of all, Satan had been trying to kill Jews. Through the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pius XII had saved perhaps 860,000 Jews.79
Golgotha of the Twentieth Century
St. John Paul II, during his visit to the Auschwitz death camp on June 7, 1979, referred in his homily to the Holocaust as “the Golgotha of our century.” Eight years earlier, as Karol Cardinal Wojtyla of Kraków, Poland, marking the beatification of Father Maximilian Kolbe, he gave a radio address on October 20, 1971 in which he called the place where Father Kolbe was killed “the Golgotha of Auschwitz.” He also declared:
The Church of Poland sees the necessity of a place of sacrifice, an altar and a sanctuary, precisely in Auschwitz. This is even more necessary after the beatification of Father Maximilian. We are all convinced that in this place of his heroic immolation, a church should be erected, in the same way that since the first centuries of Christianity, churches were built on the tombs of martyrs, beatified people and saints.
St. John Paul II declared on June 14, 1987, during a meeting with Jewish leaders in Warsaw that in the Holocaust the entire Jewish nation had become an Old Testament prophet:
Be sure, dear brother, that … this Polish Church is in a spirit of profound solidarity with you when she looks closely at the terrible reality of the extermination–the unconditional extermination–of your nation, an extermination carried out with premeditation. The threat against you was also a threat against us; this latter was not realized to the same extent because it did not have time to be realized to the same extent. It was you who suffered this terrible sacrifice of extermination: one might say that you suffered it also on behalf of those who were in the purifying power of suffering. The more atrocious the suffering, the greater the purification. The more painful the experience, the greater the hope. Because of this terrible experience … you have become a warning voice for all humanity, for all nations, all the powers of this world, all systems and every person. More than anyone else, it is precisely you who have become the saving warning. I think that in this sense you continue your particular vocation, showing yourselves still to be the heirs of that election to which God is faithful. This is your mission in the contemporary world, before all the peoples, the nations, all of humanity, the Church.
Look again at the Holy Father’s words.
More than anyone else, it is precisely you who have become the saving warning. I think that in this sense you continue your particular vocation, showing yourselves still to be the heirs of that election to which God is faithful. This is your mission in the contemporary world, before all the peoples, the nations, all of humanity, the Church. The saving warning!
The Recent Attacks
The attacks became more and more shrill, reaching a peak during the 1990s, when a “wolf pack” consistently attacked Pius XII, decrying his “silence” during the Holocaust. Here we will look only at the New York Times. The wolf pack mostly waited until the 1990s, a half-century later, when all the eyewitnesses were aging or gone.
The constant liberal Jewish charge had been that Pius XII did not speak out enough. When it became obvious that Pius XII had been a lonely voice in the silence and darkness,80 the New York Times, on March 18, 1998, tried to raise the bar: “He did not encourage Catholics to defy Nazi orders.” But Mit Brennender Sorge had been “almost a call to do battle against the Reich government,”81 and the World Jewish Congress had already concluded that an even more stentorian protest would have cost more Jewish lives.82 Had Pius XII encouraged Catholics to defy Nazi orders, the Times’ argument might have been that he recklessly caused many more Jews—and Catholics—to be killed.
When “defy Nazi orders” didn’t fly either, the Times tried character assassination. On December 28, 2004 the liberal Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera published a bizarre claim by Alberto Melloni that in 1946 Pius XII had sent explicit instructions to Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later St. John XXIII), his nuncio in France, ordering him not to return Jewish children to their parents if the children had been baptized while being sheltered by Catholic families or institutions during the Holocaust.
Since there was no evidence that had occurred, the article alleged that Archbishop Roncalli had ignored Pius XII’s “stone-hearted instructions.” The New York Times, without verifying the information, on January 9, 2005, published its own article, “Saving Jewish Children: But at What Cost?” to repeat the false charge.
There were four reasons to doubt the authenticity of that supposed papal letter. (1) It was not signed. (2) It was not on Vatican letterhead. (3) The words used were not typical for Vatican directives. (4) And the purported letter from one Italian (Pacelli) to another (Roncalli) was in French.83
On January 11, 2005, the Milan newspaper Il Giornale published Andrea Tornielli’s response on its front page. Tornielli found the original document and compared it with the French version published by Il Corriere della Sera and the Times. The original had been three pages in length, and the pages had been attached in the archive, but the French version had translated only the first page as if it were the entire document.
Rabbi Herzog had gone to Pius XII in March 1946 to ask about turning these orphans over to Jewish families so that they might be raised Jewish. Pius XII promised to look into it. Evidently the children were returned to their Jewish families; Rabbi Herzog for the rest of his life spoke well of Pius XII.84
The New York Times tried once more. When Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg condemned the propensity for religious violence as evil, the very same evil that Hitler committed against six million Jews, the Times attacked the Holy Father: “Now that Pope Benedict XVI has expressed regret for offending Muslims in remarks he made last week, we hope Catholics and Muslims alike will put aside the pontiff’s ill-considered comments and move forward in a conciliatory spirit.”85 The Times subtly insinuated that the Holy Father “expressed regret for offending Muslims,” as if he considered his own remarks offensive. In fact, he regretted only that Muslims took offense.
When we see the wolf pack attack one pope for not speaking out against evil, and another pope for speaking out against evil, we know that they are not articulating a coherent principle but only attacking the pope.
Many liberal Jews still airbrush Catholic protection of Jews. The World Jewish Congress recently wrote: “Nazi efforts to deport Italian Jews to death camps were stymied by the Italian population that harbored Italian Jews.”86
Where was the International Red Cross during all this? François Bugnion, Director for International Law and Cooperation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), spoke on this at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva on November 4, 2002, at a round table organized for an exhibition titled Mémoire des Camps. M. Bugnion emphasized that documentary evidence is incomplete, but referred to Jean-Claude Favez as a useful source.87
M. Bugnion said that the ICRC tried to monitor the persecuted Jews by tracing missing family members, and making “representations of a general nature concerning the fate of the hostages” to the German Red Cross, even though “the German Red Cross was itself under Nazi control and that its main leaders took part in the persecution and genocide.”
The ICRC also did its best to send food parcels to some camps and ghettos. A few ICRC delegates “were able to exploit the tiny margin of tolerance that still existed in the satellites of the Reich to provide a minimum of protection for victims of persecution and to spare some of them the ordeal of deportation.”
And, after the war was over, “The ICRC took advantage of the dismantling of the Nazi power apparatus to introduce delegates into certain concentration camps and participate—in an admittedly limited way—in rescuing the survivors.” M. Bugnion admitted, “The failure was, above all, that of the ICRC’s inability—or unwillingness—to fully recognize the extent of the tragedy that was unfolding, and to confront it by reversing its priorities and taking the risks that the situation demanded.”
Contrast the ICRC’s timid bureaucratic cooperation with Nazi officials with the high personal risks taken by Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty described in The Scarlet and the Black, 3:23 and thousands of others, which resulted in Rabbi Lapide’s conclusion that Vatican efforts actually saved an estimated 860,000 Jews.88
In the Holocaust and the wolf pack attacks, Satan’s tracks are most evident in the records of the New York Times and the International Red Cross on protecting Jews. The institution set up to distribute information about world events said nothing. The institution set up to rescue refugees did nothing. The only institution the wolf pack attacked was the one that exceeded by far those saved by all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations combined.