Where there's holy smoke there's fire

September 24, 1999

The earliest attack on Eugenio Pacelli's wartime conduct is the 1963 play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Representative in Berlin. Hochhuth's papal portrait is of a heartless, avaricious cynic, who, preoccupied with damage to his investments as a result of Allied bombing of Italian factories, turns a deaf ear to news about the death camps in Poland.

* In historian Saul Friedlander's 1964 book Pius XII and the Third Reich, the author concludes: "The sovereign pontiff seems to have had a predilection for Germany that does not appear to have been diminished by the nature of the Nazi regime."

* In 1964, Paul VI directed a group of Jesuit scholars to edit the Vatican's wartime documents for speedy publication. The work appeared in 11 volumes published between 1965 and 1981 - but was it complete? Gerhard Riegner, who coordinated information in Switzerland from all over Europe during the war, calls attention in his memoirs to the absence in the Holy See's documents of a crucial memorandum he gave to the papal nuncio on March 18 1947, which "revealed the catastrophic situation of the Jews in a number of Catholic countriesI".

* In The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, Guenter Lewy appraises Pacelli's agonising dilemma, granting that protest might have made things worse for the Jews and the Catholics. Nonetheless, he writes: "Situations exist when moral guilt is incurred by omission. Silence has its limits."

* In 1965, Carlo Falconi's The Silence of Pius XII appeared with damning Croatian material. Falconi accuses Pacelli of having known of the Ustashe atrocities, when 420,000 Serb Orthodox and 30,000 Jews were murdered in 1941, but of still approving of the regime.

* Pinchas E. Lapide's The Last Three Popes and the Jews is an endorsement of Pacelli's policies. Lapide, Israeli consul in Milan in the early 1960s, claimed that the Holy See had done more to help the Jews than any other western organisation.

* Robert Katz's Death in Rome (1969) argues that in order to protect the institutional church, Pius was prepared to expend the lives of 335 Romans, including 70 Jews, murdered in the Ardeatine caves in 1944. Katz was sued in Italy - where it is possible to bring libel actions on behalf of the dead - by Pacelli's sister and nephew. The Pacellis lost but appealed and the case was judged inconclusive.

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