Pius XII born Eugenio Pacelli: Pope in WWII (1939 – 1958)

Pius XII born Eugenio Pacelli: Pope in WWII (1939 – 1958)***

Dear Friends and visitors,

The purpose of this article is only to share with you some interesting facts happened during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

2nd March 2020, Papa Francesco opened the Secrete Vatican Archive to the scholars to study the role of Pope PIus XII in WWII.

It won’t be an easy task for the researchers, millions of documents need to be studied.

The main accusation against Pope Pius XII was that  he did not stand up against the Germans. His silence regarding some important facts that happened during the Nazist occupation of Rome are still controversial.

Was his silence a strategy to protect  the Jews? Was his silence due to indifference or fear? Was he really a friend of the Nazis?

He had lived in Germany for 12 years before WW2 as he was Nunzio Apostolico “Apostolic Nuncio” in Munich from 1917 to 1925 and in Berlin from 1925 to 1929

During that time, he wrote more than 50 letters to the German authorities to protest about acts against the Jews and for this reason was called by the Germans “Friend of the Jews”, when he was elected Pope, Count Galeazzo Ciano, son-in-law of Mussolini called him “friend of the Germans”.

When he was elected Pope, emblematic was his first phrase:  All is lost with the war, nothing is lost with the Peace.

One of the main accusation against Papa Pacelli  is that he never stood up against the Nazis, and his silence about the Holocaust. (British Archive)

On the other hand, we have testimonial from Golda Meier, prime Minister of Israel who said this of him at his death in October 1958:

''During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims.''

I quote also the speech delivered by Pope Pius XII over Vatican Radio on Christmas 1942. It is notable for its denunciation of the extermination of people on the basis of race, and followed the commencement of the Nazi Final Solution program to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

Pope Pius XII never allowed Germans inside the Vatican City but welcomed and met the Allied Forces after the liberation of Rome.

An amazing story is the interview by the American Hebrew (14 July 1944) to  Israel Anton Zoller who was Chief Rabbi in Rome during WWII.

He, like many other Jews, was hidden in the Vatican City during the occupation of Rome, told the paper: “The Vatican has always helped the Jews and the Jews are very grateful for the charitable work of the Vatican, all done without distinction of races”. In his book Antisemitismo Rabbi Zolli would later write: “World Jewry owes a great debt of gratitude to Pius XII for his repeated and pressing appeals of Justice on behalf of the Jews and, when this did not prevails, for his strong prontests against evil laws and procedures…no hero was more militant, more fought against none more heroic than Pius XII in pursuing the work of true Charity.

On September 27, 1944, while leading Yom Kippur services in Rome, Israel Zolli said to have had the religious epiphany that led him to convert to Christianity.  Several months later, in February of 1945, both he and his wife were baptized, and Zolli was christened as Eugenio Maria Zolli, after Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII.

On the other hand we have the words of the actual  Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni,  who after a few days from the opening of the Secret archive of the Vatican said that Pope Eugenio had not intention to stop the train with 1000 Jews deported to Autschiwtz in 16 October 1943.

I want to add that Pope Eugenio donated to Jewish in Rome 20 kilos of Gold of the 50 kilos demanded by the Nazis to avoid the deportation. He was ready to give more gold if necessary.

An other important comment in favour of the Roman Catholic Church  comes from the Jewish physicists Albert Einstein

In the December 23, 1940 issue of Time magazine, Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came to 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….Only the Church 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 a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

*** it is a difficult subject. My English is not perfect so please, forgive any mistakes you may find in this article.

Dr Danila Bracaglia

WW2 Historian and Guide