Sept 17 (Reuters) – Wartime Pope Pius XII knew details of the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews as early as 1942, according to a letter found in Vatican archives that contradicts the Holy See’s official position at the time. It was vague and unverified.
The yellow, typed letter, reprinted in Italy’s Corriere della Sera on Sunday, is significant because it was discovered by an internal Vatican archive and made public with the encouragement of Holy See officials.
The letter, dated December 14, 1942, was written by Father Lothar König, a Jesuit active in the anti-Nazi movement in Germany, and addressed by a German to Father Robert Lieber, the Pope’s private secretary at the Vatican.
Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco told the Courier that the significance of the letter was “enormous, a singularity” because the Vatican had information that the labor camps were actually death factories.
In the letter, Koenig tells Lieber that sources confirm that about 6,000 Poles and Jews per day were killed in “SS-furnaces” at the Belzec camp near Rawa-Ruska, which was then part of German-occupied Poland. Western Ukraine.
“The novelty and importance of this document derives from one fact: we are now convinced that Pius XII sent accurate and detailed messages about the crimes committed against the Jews by the Catholic Church in Germany,” Koko told the newspaper. Title: “Pius XII Knows”.
Asked by a Courier interviewer if the letter showed Beuss knew, Coco said: “Yes, not just from that.”
The documents were arranged in random order
The letter mentions two other Nazi camps – Auschwitz and Dachau – and other missing or still undiscovered missiles between Koenig and Lieber.
Pius’s supporters say he worked behind the scenes to help Jews and did not speak out in order to prevent the situation of Catholics from worsening in Nazi-occupied Europe. His detractors say he lacked the courage to speak out about the information he had, despite pleas from the Allies fighting Germany.
The letter was among documents that Coco said had been stored in haphazard ways at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and had only recently been handed over to the Central Archives, where he works.
Suzanne Brown-Fleming, director of international education programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, told Reuters in an email that the publication shows the Vatican is taking Pope Francis’ statement that “the church is not afraid of history” seriously. In 2019, he ordered the opening of wartime archives.
“There is a willingness and support to carefully evaluate the documents from a scientific perspective – whether they are positive or negative in terms of what they reveal,” he said.
In an email to Reuters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Kertzer, whose 2022 book about the Pius years, “The Pope at War,” said Coco was an “excellent, serious scholar” that is centered on the Vatican. true
Brown-Fleming, Coco and Gertzer will be part of a larger conference on Pius and the Holocaust next month at the Pontifical Gregorian sponsored by Catholic and Jewish organizations, the US State Department and Israeli and US Holocaust research groups, among others.
Reporting by Philip Pullella, additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Alex Richardson
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