In a reversal from the famous quote by Churchill that “History is written by the victors” it seems that history continues to be re-written by the victims. The Vatican’s ambassador to Israel, Monsignor Antonio Franco, said on Thursday that he would not attend an annual Holocaust memorial next week at the Yad Vashem memorial because of its negative portrayal of Pope Pius XII. A picture of the Pope states that his:
“reaction to the murder of the Jews during the Holocaust is a matter of controversy” and “his silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react.”
I am glad to see that the Vatican is taking this tougher line. I know that this is a difficult and touchy subject but the impression cannot be allowed to stand that the Church accepts these pernicious un-truths. I do not pretend to understand the myriad reasons why someone who did so much for the Jews during that horrible time is used as a scapegoat when even the best scholarship by Jewish sources clearly indicates otherwise. It was not the Pope or the Church that acquiesced to the Nazis, but rather secular and enlightened Europe. For the record:
Golda Meir, Israel’s representative to the United Nations, was the first of the delegates to react to the news of Pope Pius XII’s death. She sent an eloquent message: “We share in the grief of humanity at the passing away of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII. In a generation afflicted by wars and discords he upheld the highest ideals of peace and compassion. When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for its victims. The life of our times was enriched by a voice speaking out about great moral truths above the tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace.”
The former chief rabbi of Rome during the German occupation, Emilio Zolli, concluded his firsthand account of wartime events thus: “Volumes could be written on the multiform works of Pius XII, and the countless priests, religious and laity who stood with him throughout the world during the war.” “No hero,” he said, “in all of history was more militant, more fought against, none more heroic, than Pius XII in pursuing the works of true charity . . . and thus on behalf of all the suffering children of God.”
Albert Einstein, who himself barely escaped annihilation at Nazi hands, made the point well in 1944 when he said, “Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, but the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Then I looked to individual writers . . . . they too were mute. Only the Church,” Einstein concluded, “stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. . . . I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel great affection and admiration . . . . and am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly.”
David G. Dalin, an ordained Rabbi details this all in his book The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: Pope Pius XII and His Secret War Against Nazi Germany.