ADL Disputes Claim that Pope Pius XII Saved Jews During WWII


pope-pius-xiiThe Anti-Defamation League took the Catholic Church to task this week, disputing “historical evidence” cited by Church officials as proof that WWII-era Pope Pius XII had worked to save Jews from the Holocaust. The evidence in question was presented at a conference in Rome in September 2009 and apparently cleared Pius XII of accusations that he was silent in the face of the atrocities taking place in wartime Europe.

The conference was held by the Pave the Way Foundation, a group that works to bridge religious divisions.

On December 19, Pope Benedict declared Pius “Venerable,” a stage on the road to full canonization and sainthood. The move was met with criticism from Jewish groups that believe Pius deserves censure for his “neutrality policy” and acquiescence during the war, even while European states passed anti-Jewish laws and began mass deportations of Jews to concentration camps in the east.

The Vatican has claimed that Pius worked to save Jews throughout the war but was forced to do so behind the scenes because he was surrounded by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

According to the ADL, the evidence, which included wartime documents from an Italian internment camp for Jews in Campagna, did not demonstrate “Pope Pius XII’s efforts to help Jews in the face of Nazism,” as claimed by Pave the Way founder Gary Krupp.

After examining the evidence with a handful of expert historians, the ADL concluded that the claim amounted to an “apparent campaign of misinformation” and urged Pope Benedict XVI to reject its conclusions.

“To use the Campagna files to suggest that Pope Pius XII was active in attempting to rescue Jews is to demand something that [the] historical record cannot sustain,” according to historian Paul O’Shea, author of A Cross Too Heavy: Eugenio Pacelli, Politics and the Jews of Europe 1917-1943, who participated in the study.

“Our examination serves as a salutary reminder of the distinction between alleged claim and verifiable fact,” said Debórah Dwork, a Holocaust scholar at Clark University in Massachusetts.

ADL national director Abraham Foxman said the “historical evidence” presented to Pope Benedict [by the Pave the Way conference] makes it all the more crucial for the Vatican to open its Holocaust-era archives to independent scholars and historians now.

“We reject the claim that the world and aging Holocaust survivors must wait another six years until all 16 million documents from Pope Pius’ papacy are catalogued by the Vatican.

“We note that Pope John Paul II opened a cache of Holocaust records from Pope Pius XI before the records of his entire papacy were catalogued. We request that Pope Benedict take the same courageous decision and order the relevant Holocaust-era materials be opened now.”

{ADL/JPost/Yair Israel}


  1. It’s none of our business who the church decides to declare a saint.
    From the Vatican’s point of view he was wonderful. He managed to convert hundreds or thousands of Jewish children, something that few have accomplished. From their point of view what could be better?
    We as Jews may not like that, but it’s the Vatican that is calling him a saint!

  2. Pave the Way foundation is Sadden by the Recent Attack on our Work by Abe Foxman.
    Pave the Way Foundation, is a non-sectarian organization, which sought to bring this 46 year old negativity between Jews and Catholics of the papacy of Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) to a public forum. To correct Foxman’s fallacious statements, we held our symposium in Rome in September 2008 not 2009. All of the Holocaust institutions and the critics (including Prof. Paul O’Shea) were invited to attend, so that there could be an exchange of information with the hope of revealing newly discovered documents, eye witness testimonies and where questions and impressions could be responded to on both sides. All of the critics collectively declined our invitation since they didn’t consider it a scholarly forum and it was going to be open to a public group of Rabbis and Jewish leaders. These same critics claimed that the symposium was one sided, which is comical since their refusal to participate made it one sided.
    The documents, Foxman is referring to, were only recently discovered in Compagnia and only showed that there are thousands Vatican WWII documents that are available for study by those who wish to simply look. To correct Foxman again, according to the report Prof. Paul O’Shea sent to me, the Campagna documents did in fact show Pius XII direct efforts to send financial aid specifically for care of the Jews. This was in one small diocese in Italy. Just like General Eisenhower, Pius XII had his army of trusted clergy to carry out his instructions and verbal orders. He physically couldn’t do everything as Foxman seems demand as proof of his benevolence. He acted to save Jews when no one else would and did so with, according to our original documents, fully expecting a full scale invasion of the Vatican where he would be kidnapped and the clergy would be killed.
    The significant evidence that we have gathered is from many other countries. More importantly the testimony from eye witnesses who describe the secret actions that they were ordered to take by the Vatican to save Jewish lives. Pius XII took these actions with German guns 200 yards under his very windows when he expected the imminent attack on the Vatican. He still managed to save more Jews than all of the worlds religious and political leaders combined. Pacelli acted directly to stop the arrest of the Roman Jews 2 PM the day it began October 16, 1943 and managed to hide over 7000 in just one day. He all of this anonymously (this is our highest form of charity).
    Foxman is calling for the Vatican Archives to be opened when curiously just over 2 years ago Pope Benedict XVI ordered the opening of the archives up to 1939 along with the documents of the Inter Arma Caritas up to 1947. According to the sign in sheets in Rome, none of the recognized critics or institutions showed up to study this material. What should be questioned is why did virtually every Jewish organization, (including the ADL), every major Jewish religious personality and Israeli leader of that era, who lived through the war, praise Pius XII unreservedly? What happened? What smoking gun? What documents were discovered to change this?
    I Invite Foxman to devote 56 minutes to view a narrated power point illustrating just a small part of the evidence we discovered then you be the judge. This can be viewed on I further challenge the ADL to host its own open forum on this subject and, like in our cherished jury system, allow the public to decide whether Eugenio Pacelli is guilty of these charges.