Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: The Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II
The question of whether Pius XII and the Vatican must bear blame for failing to act decisively in response to Hitler’s Final Solution is as hotly debated today as in the years directly following World War II. INSIDE THE VATICAN OF PIUS XII presents for the first time the observations of an American diplomat who spent four years inside the Vatican. This memoir of Harold H. Tittmann, Jr., describes his encounters with Pius XII and offers details that give a full picture of daily life in the Vatican. Writing of his own activities as a diplomat, Tittmann chronicles his role in assisting and hiding escaped prisoners of war and his experiences navigating the tensions with the representatives of enemy states, with whom he lived side by side. Deftly conveying the beauty and solemnity of events that took place in the dramatic settings of St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel, and the Pope’s private chapel, Tittmann’s work will be valued by historians and students of history for generations to come.
Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust
The Israeli consul, Pinchas E. Lapide, in his book, Three Popes and the Jews (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1967) critically examines Pope Pius XII. According to his research, the Catholic Church under Pius XII was instrumental in saving 860,000 Jews from Nazi death camps (p. 214).
An invaluable contribution to the history of the Catholic Church during the Second World War, this is a richly detailed eyewitness account of the life and politics of the Vatican by an American who worked there from 1940 to 1944.
VATICAN CITY IN WORLD WAR II
The State of the Vatican City has followed a policy of neutrality during the Second World War, under the leadership of Pope Pius XII. Although the city of Rome was occupied by Germany from 1943 and the Allies from 1944, Vatican City itself remains free.
Newly discovered World War II documents further vindicate Pius XII
New findings have revealed documents and testimony which clearly show that on 16 October 1943 it was the intentional lack of a public denunciation by Pius XII against the arrest of the Roman Jews which saved their lives and enabled their rescue.
A signed 1972 deposition of General Karl Wolff, SS commander for Italy and deputy to Heinrich Himmler, states that in September 1943 Adolf Hitler ordered him to develop a plan to invade the Vatican, kidnap the Pope, seize the Vatican assets, and kill the Roman Curia. This plan was to be carried out at once.
General Wolff knew that if this invasion were executed, massive riots throughout Europe would ensue, seriously hindering the German war effort. He said that he was successful in convincing Hitler to delay the invasion. This view of a potential military disaster was shared by the military governor of Rome, Major General Rainer Stahel, and the German ambassador to the Holy See, Ernst von Weizsäcker.
The Storm Begins - Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty
In accordance with the Lateran Treaty, the Vatican remained neutral when war was declared. But it was a tiny island of neutrality—the Vatican covers only 0.44 square kilometers (108.7 acres), and is completely surrounded by the city of Rome. It does not even have its own water supply; every necessity has to come through Rome. When Italy went to war in 1940, the Vatican was effectively isolated in Fascist territory. In this position, it was vulnerable to the decisions of Mussolini and Hitler, but it was equally as vulnerable to British and American bombing raids. Halfway through the war, the Germans had a white line painted on the cobbles across the opening of St. Peter’s Square. This was ostensibly to keep Axis troops out and show them where their jurisdiction ended—but some also saw it as a way to keep Vatican members in, and show them where their neutral privileges ended. Whatever the case, it was a very literal expression of the figurative fine line the Vatican’s citizens had to walk during the war.
Understanding the Vatican During the Nazi Period
It is not always fully appreciated that the Vatican was neutral during the Second World War, having committed itself from the very outset to a policy of conciliation that marked church diplomacy in the inter-war period. To the Vatican, neutrality meant remaining apart from the two power blocs and, most important, maintaining an environment in which the church could operate as freely and openly as possible. Particularly since the presentation of Rolf Hochuth's angry play, Der Stellvertreter (The Deputy) in 1962, this posture has been subjected to withering criticism. The Vatican has responded with the publication of a voluminous collection of documents on the role of the Holy See during the war, generating one of the most extensive historical discussions of the many ethical questions associated with the history of the Holocaust.
Historians generally see the policy of Pius XII as consistent with a longstanding tradition of Vatican diplomacy. During political storms of the depression years, this tradition was interpreted by Eugenio Pacelli, Cardinal Secretary of State under Pius XI and later to become the wartime Pope. Pacelli exemplified a profound commitment to the spiritual and pastoral mission of the Holy See; he saw his role as avoiding association with power blocs and forging diplomatic links with conservative or even fascist regimes. As fascism extended its influence in Europe during the 1930s, the Vatican remained aloof, occasionally challenging fascist ideology when it touched on important matters of Catholic doctrine or the legal position of the church, but unwilling to interfere with what it considered to be purely secular concerns. Beyond this, the Vatican found most aspects of right-wing regimes congenial, appreciating their patronage of the church, their challenge to Marxism, and their frequent championing of a conservative social vision.
Inside the Church during WWII
I have dwelt on Pope Pius XII for a considerable part of this series, simply because his role is vital. I hope that the evidence which I have presented has shown conclusively that Pius in no way condoned the Nazis, that he distanced himself from those European regimes, like those in Italy, Croatia and Vichy France, when these implemented racist or anti-Semitic policies, and that he frequently engaged in facilitating resistance against the Nazis.
Of course the main charge against Pope Pius XII is his silence. Now I have shown that he was not always silent, that he did, publicly, through the press or radio, condemn the Nazis and their policies. However, his silence can, indeed, often be discomforting. One would have liked to have him stand up, possibly even to have stood as a witness like St. Maximilian Kolbe. But that would have been very impractical. His position was vital if the Church was to continue bearing witness to the Truth. There is the salutary lesson from the Dutch Church, too. Archbishop De Jong wrestled with his conscience for the remainder of his life, after his outspokenness caused the immediate death of Holland’s Catholic Jews. These included German refugees, and amongst them was the gentle, learned and lovable St. Edith Stein. De Jong once said that he felt he had condemned them to their graves.
Aloysius Stepinac - When Marshal Tito's secret police arrested Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac on Septemeber 18, 1946, the Western World was aroused by this evident act of persecution of religion by communism. But as the trial of the Archbishop began there was confusion among readers of newsapaper accounts because of the many conflicting issues, not only of communism vs the Church, but Serb against Croat, Partisan vs Chetnik, and the apparent alliance of German and Italian fascism with the Ustasha party in Craoatia. a comprehensive and authoritative array of documents, statements, and evidence to show the innocence of Archbishop Stepinac. This volume demonstrates graphically and eloquently the whole mechanism of Stepinac's staged trial, the faked evidence, and the distortion of facts. It proves also, that despite his rapprochement with the West and break with the Soviet Union, Marshal Tito's government is identical in every detail to the communist regimes in Iron Curtain countries, and just as morally repugnant.
Ratlines (World War II)
Ratlines were a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe at the end of World War II. These escape routes mainly led toward havens in South America, particularly Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Bolivia. Other destinations included the United States, Great Britain, Canada and the Middle East. There were two primary routes: the first went from Germany to Spain, then Argentina; the second from Germany to Rome to Genoa, then South America; the two routes "developed independently" but eventually came together to collaborate.
The origins of the first ratlines are connected to various developments in Vatican-Argentine relations before and during World War II. As early as 1942, Monsignor Luigi Maglione contacted Ambassador Llobet, inquiring as to the "willingness of the government of the Argentine Republic to apply its immigration law generously, in order to encourage at the opportune moment European Catholic immigrants to seek the necessary land and capital in our country". Afterwards, a German priest, Anton Weber, the head of the Rome-based Society of Saint Raphael, traveled to Portugal, continuing to Argentina, to lay the groundwork for future Catholic immigration, this was to be a route which fascist exiles would exploit - without the knowledge of the Catholic Church. According to historian Michael Phayer, "this was the innocent origin of what would become the Vatican ratline".
Just the tip of the iceberg refuting the grotesque lies circulating about the Vatican during wwii.