Pope Orders Online Release of Pius XII World War II Jewish Files

ROME — Pope Francis has ordered the online publication of 170 volumes of his Jewish files from the recently opened Pope Pius XII archives, the Vatican announced on Thursday, amid renewed debate over his Pope’s World War II legacy.

The documentation contains 2,700 files of requests for Vatican help from Jewish groups and families, many of them baptized Catholics, so basically no more practicing Jews. The files were kept in the archives of the Secretariat of State and contained requests for papal intervention to prevent Nazi deportation, to obtain liberation from concentration camps or to help find relatives.

The online publication of the files comes amid renewed debate over Pius’s legacy following the opening of his archives in 2020 to scientists, of which the “Jews” files are only a small part. The Vatican has long defended Pius against criticism from some Jewish groups that he was silent in light of the Holocaust, saying he used quiet diplomacy to save lives.

A recent book citing the recently opened archives “The Pope at War” by Pultizer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer suggests that the people the Vatican was most concerned about saving were Jews who had converted to Catholicism, the descendants of Catholic Jewish intermarriage or otherwise related to Catholics.

Kerzer claims that Pius was no match for intervening on behalf of Jews, or publicly denouncing the Nazi atrocities against them, in order to avoid antagonizing Adolf Hitler or Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. would hunt.

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher said he hoped the digital release of the “Jews” files would help scientists with research, as well as descendants of those who asked for Vatican help, to “find traces of their loved ones from every part of the world.”

In an article for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Gallagher said the files contain requests for help, but without much information about the results.

“Each of these requests constituted a case that, once processed, was destined for storage in a documentary series titled ‘Jews,'” he wrote.

“The requests would arrive at the Secretariat of State, where diplomatic channels would try to provide every possible assistance, taking into account the complexity of the political situation in the global context,” Gallagher wrote.

He cited one case found in the files: a Jew who was baptized a Catholic in 1938, Werner Barasch, who in 1942 sought help from the Pope to be liberated from a concentration camp in Spain. According to the records, his request was forwarded to the Vatican embassy in Madrid, but the documentation then went cold.

“As for the majority of requests for help witnessed by other cases, the outcome of the request was not reported,” Gallagher wrote. “In our hearts we immediately inevitably hope for a positive outcome, the hope that Werner Barasch was later released from the concentration camp and could reach his mother overseas.”

Subsequent online research, including at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, found that Barasch did indeed survive and was able to join his mother in the United States in 1945, Gallagher reported.

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