Saturday, April 5, 2014

ADSS 9.433 Salvatore Asta notes on Padre Benedetto

ADSS 9.433 Fr Salvatore Asta (1) notes on Padre Benedetto.

Reference:  ASS Guerra Varia 43/10

Location and date:  Rome, 19.11.1943

Summary statement: Information on the activity of Fr Marie-Benoît for the Jews.

Language: Italian

 Dr Carlo Carapelle, Commissioner for Immigration – in Via Romagna – told me in confidence, that he had been instructed to denounce some people, including Padre Maria-Benedetto, Capuchin, because they have forged his [Carapelle’s] signature and the stamp of his institution, in order to obtain ration cards for approximately 300 foreigners. (2)

He wishes to save Padre Benedetto who is considered to be an appointee of the Vicariate or the Holy See. (3)

It seems that in the meantime, the said religious, has made an effort to help these poor unhappy people obtain ration cards, believing that the agency had granted the appropriate permissions.

It would be necessary to prevent the lodging of the denunciation, and also to prevent the people, almost all Jewish, who have received the ration cards, from being handed over to the German authorities.

Dr Carapelle promises his support and that to help them reach their goal it would be a good idea to have a word with Commissioner De Dominicis from the same office.

Dr Carapelle, the Commissioner for Migration and Colonisation, ensures that as long as the current situation with regard to the Jews exists, he will suspend the lodging of the denunciation against the people who have forged his signature and the High Commission’s stamp.

20.11.1943: Note of Angelo Dell’Acqua

I told Padre Benedetto repeatedly, (and the last time in a very clear manner), to use the utmost caution and prudence in the interests of the Jews …:  It seems, unfortunately, that he did want to listen to the humble advice offered to him … (4)

Note of Cardinal Maglione:

But is there anything that can be done now?  I do not think so.

(1) Salvatore Asta (1915-2004), worked in the Secretariat of State
(2) The organisation was Padre Benedetto’s Comitato Assistenza Profughi – Committee of Assistance for Refugees.  See ADSS 9.264, 267, 412, 415
(3) The “vicariate” refers to the administration of the Diocese of Rome.  The pope is the bishop of Rome, but the administration of the diocese is entrusted to the pope’s vicar, hence the term vicariate. Vatican City State is not included in the Vicariate of Rome.  Governorship of the Vatican City is overseen by the Governor of the Holy See, an office held at the time by Marchese Camillo Serafini (1864-1952) and the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State.
(4) The editing of this note could be open to suggestion that the editors decided to omit something less than positive in Dell’Acqua’s comments.

ADSS 9.487 Notes of the Secretariat of State on steps taken for Jews

Although many in the Vatican were aware of rescue activities occurring throughout the city, there were varying degrees of anxiety and concern over the nature of the activities and the level of involvement, voluntary or otherwise, that could bring unwanted attention from the Germans.  Padre Benedetto and his colleagues with Delasem, the Italian Jewish aid agency, operated and planned schemes that caused some serious angst in the Vatican.  In this document we see the "angst" along with remarks that point to serious mistrust and suspicion about Jews. 

ADSS 9.487 Notes of the Secretariat of State

Reference:  ASS 1943, Razza 11

Location and date:  Vatican, 29.12.1943

Summary statement: Information concerning steps taken for the Jews.

Language: Italian

 A trustworthy person has learned directly from Israelite elements existing in Rome that there is an organization made up of people of the Jewish faith and individuals “of responsibility in the Vatican” which has as its aims:
1. to issue Vatican City identity cards with false information and bilingual cards (white and yellow) to Jews; (2)

2. to facilitate the admission of members of the Jewish faith to [religious] institutions or communities;

The same person refers to:

a) that some of those elements have been talking to friends and acquaintances and sometimes ostentatiously showing, as proof, the documents referred to above;

b) that people have announced that the son of X has been admitted into the Palatine Guard of Honour;

c) that there are many individuals in Rome who have shown the documents referred to in point 1 to others.(5)

(1) Not identified.
(2) These documents in German and Italian were given to Vatican employees.
(3) See ADSS 9.371
(4) Angelo Dell’Aqua (1903-1972), Secretariat of State, noted: “Several times I have observed that various persons employed at the Vatican or close to Vatican circles interest themselves too much (in a manner that I dare to call almost exaggerated) in the Jews, favouring them, maybe even with elegant schemes … I have always believed … in using the maximum prudence in speaking with Jews, to whom it would be better to speak less … Regarding the bilingual cards … in my opinion it would be opportune to make an inquiry in order to avoid possible trouble …”
(5) The group referred to in this document was the Comitato Assistenza Profughi (Committee for Assitance for Refugees) founded by Padre Benedetto ofm cap in late 1943.  Padre Benedetto’s work created some measure of upset among some in the Vatican.  Susan Zuccotti wrote: “Strangely, when Dell’Acqua’s notes were published in ADSS, Padre Benedetto denied he had ever met or spoken with him.  Perhaps Dell’Acqua had sent an assistant”. Susan Zuccotti (2013) Père Marie-Benoît and Jewish Rescue: How a French priest together with Jewish friends saved thousands during the Holocaust, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, p160 n10.

Angelo Dell'Acqua

"The Vatican, the Holocaust and the Archives" Gencocide Perspectives IV (2012)

I have posted an article that I wrote for Genocide Perspectives on the pages section of the blog.  Once again, it points to the enormous resource that ADSS is in our study of the Holocaust.

Friday, April 4, 2014

ADSS 9.267 Notes of Marie-Benôit OFM Cap: plans for Jewish rescue

One of Padre Benedetto's plans was to try and arrange for ships to take Jews from the Italian zone in France to North Africa where the Allies had expelled Axis troops and were making their way through Sicily.  This plan came to naught.

ADSS 9.267, notes of Fr Marie-Benôit OFM Cap

Reference: No number (AES Italy, 1054)

Location and date: Rome, 16.07.1943

Summary statement: Project for non-French Jews in the Italian zone of France

Language: French


On 16.07.1943 I had the honour to be presented to the Sovereign Pontiff by my Superior General and I gave to His Holiness a note about the Jews. (1)  The note contained four requests addressed to the goodness of the Sovereign Pontiff, and the fourth concerned foreign Jews in France located in the area occupied by Italian troops.  I frankly admitted: “…a fear remains as to what would happen to these eight to ten thousand Jews, in monitored residences, if Germany, for one reason or another, occupied the area currently reserved for Italy?  Their situation would become immediately catastrophic …” (2) This fear is being realised as Italian troops gradually leave France and the Germans are already in the neighbourhood of Nice.

Mr Angelo Donati (3), a Jewish Italian resident in Nice, with whom I worked while I was still in France, has been a long established protector of his coreligionists with the Italian authorities.  He is a man of great heart and courage, who was moved by the present danger and has acted with the Italian government to help move the Jews in France into Italy.  The agreement has been made and steps are being taken and implemented.  There are approximately 30,000 Jews who will come and take refuge in Italy.

For several reasons which are not difficult to imagine and understand, it was decided that this solution was inadequate and unacceptable, and consideration was given to sending these Jews and those who are already in Italy to various concentration camps in North Africa.  An agreement in principle has already been given by the English government, which has also discussed the issue with the government in Washington. (4)  Italy’s goodwill in the current circumstances brings it great honour.  Negotiations continue, and, without minimising difficulties, give cause for hope of success.  This is an important case, since we envisage a total figure of about 50,000 Jews; it is of the highest humanity, since the aim is to ensure the lives of these poor people who have been persecuted for many years.  Could the Holy See instruct its representatives in London and Washington to support and help this enterprise? (5)

I propose to introduce Mr Angelo Donati to the Secretariat of State to explain and present the matter more directly and concretely. (6) 

Cross references: 
(1) See ADSS 9.264.
(2) See ADSS 9.264 appendix.
(3) See ADSS 9.264, note 15.
(4) Documentation about such an agreement has not been found (as of 1975).  Documents found covered the months of August and September 1943, see ADSS 9.321.
(5) Nothing was found in this regard.
(6) Nothing was found in this regard. See Morley, pp65-66.

ADSS 9.265 Valerio Valeri to Maglione: deportation of non-French Jews

At the same time Padre Benedetto was meeting with Pius XII this document arrived in Rome confirming much of what the Capuchin was reporting to the pope.

 ADSS 9.265 Valerio Valeri, Nuncio to France to Cardinal Maglione

Reference: Report number 7809/251 (AES 4886/43)

Location and date: Vichy, 16.07.1943

Summary statement:  Information on the deportation of non-French Jews

Language: Italian


I received the dispatch number 4179/43 of 04.07.1943 (1), together with a petition addressed to the Holy Father by Mrs X.  I would be happy if I were in a position to do something in favour of Mr XX.  Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm for your Eminence that I had the opportunity to relate your reports to him with my reports numbers 6278/1132 of 12.11.1942 and 7476/193 of 27.05.1943. (2)

I have to add in this respect that the German minister, Mr Krug von Nidda (3) who I had asked about other persons arrested by the Gestapo, confirmed that the police are only deporting non-French people.  Among these are, no doubt, mostly non-Aryans.  They, in fact, it seems, after spending some time at the infamous Drancy camp (4) are conveyed under German escort, for unknown destinations so that they disappear without trace, especially as the same German authorities claim to know nothing.

Neither this government, nor the [French] police, who until recently had stopped delivering non-Aryans to the Germans, were better informed.

Therefore, for this and similar cases, it seems that it would be something the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin could attempt to look into.  I have made appeals over these last days, without having high hopes about it.(5)

Cross references: 
(1) Not published in ADSS.

(2) Not published in ADSS.   The most recent report quoted (AES 3966/43) said:
“… I report … these poor wretches just left France, without any trace so that one cannot know if they are alive or dead. There have been no improvements in the painful situation whatsoever.  I know that not even the Red Cross was unable to obtain some facilities from the German authorities”.

 (3) Roland Hans Krug von Nidda (1895-1968), chief of the German delegation to Vichy 1941-1943 under the supervision of Otto Abetz, de-facto German ambassador in Paris.

(4) Pere Marie-Benoit wrote of the camp: (ADSS 9.264, note 17) “Drancy and Compiegne have acquired a sad notoriety through the abuse of the victim internees”.

(5) See ADSS 9.279.

ADSS 9.264 Fr Marie-Benoit ofm cap to Pope Pius XII

 The next few posts are relevant to Zuccotti's biography of Padre Benedetto.  In this document Padre Benedetto gives a summary of the situation confronting Jews in France.

ADSS 9.264 Fr Marie-Benoît OFM Cap (1) to Pius XII

Reference: No number, (AES 4700/43)

Location and date: Rome, 15.07.1943

Summary statement: Report on the situation of Jews in France; information on the deportations and KZ in France

Language: French


Humbly prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, I have the honour to present to Your Holiness a note I wrote about the Jews of France, their conversions, the feelings of gratitude they have towards the Catholic Church for its charity towards them, and they would like to present, through me, their petitions to the Holy See.  The note is accompanied by four appendices, designated by the letters A, B, C and D. (2)

The first two appendices A and B contain lists of deportees about whom we are seeking information.

Appendix C contains “Information on Camps in Upper-Silesia.”

Appendix D contains a “Note on the camps and deportations in France.”

Note of Domenico Tardini:

18.07.1943:  After audience with his Eminence (Maglione). We will be able to say a good word for Italy …

Appendix: Note on the subject of the Jews.

I returned from France a few days ago, after spending three years in our convent of Friars Minor Capuchin in Marseille.  In my ministry, I was brought in to teach the Catholic faith, and I baptised many Jews, exactly fifty one, with the authorisation of the Bishop of Marseilles (3), and helped in this apostolate, with the great intelligence and zeal of the religious of Our Lady of Sion (4) in whose chapel most of the baptisms took place.

As a result of the raging persecution against foreign Jews in France, I undertook this spiritual ministry which led me, naturally, to take every measure I could to protect these unfortunate people – converts or not – because all are subjects of Christian charity, in collaboration with other priests, the religious of Our Lady of Zion, the laity of Catholic Action, and also, needless to say, with Jewish organisations, who show the greatest courage and the utmost dedication in the defence of their co-religionists.

I took the opportunity to getting in touch with the Italian authorities, in their zone of occupied France.  Italy has shown itself very humane and protective of the Jews against both the German and French police, which is to the nation’s honour.  I have been dealing with Mr Lo Spinosa (5), the Italian government representative for Jewish affairs in Nice, and I, as both a Catholic and a Frenchman, have commended and thanked him.

Having learned that I was returning to Rome, the Jews asked me to voice their deep appreciation for the love and dedication shown by the Sovereign Pontiff, and, at the same time to submit their humble petitions.

I agreed, simply assuming the consent of my Superior General (6), because, unfortunately, it was not possible to write on such a subject.  He has now explicitly approved my mission.

In order to speak in a more authoritative manner, I had a meeting in Lyon with the chairman of the central consistory of French Jewish organisations for the last two years, Mr Helbronner, the secretary of the consistory, Mr Meiss (7), the Chief Rabbi of France, Mr Schwartz (8), his assistant, Rabbi Kaplan (9), the Chief Rabbi of Lille, Mr Berman (10), the Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg, Mr Hirschler (11), the Chief Rabbi of Marseilles, Mr Salzer (12), the President of the General Union of French Jews (UGIF), Mr Lambert (13), the President of the French Jewish Scouts, Mr Edmond Fleg (14) and many other eminent persons in the Jewish world, such as the Italian, Mr Donati, Mr Jules Isaac (15), Mr Fisher, etc.  All enthusiastically expressed the same desire, so I am really speaking on behalf of French Jewry, and at the same time for all the Jews of different nationalities across Europe who came to France in hope of refuge, but who now are subject to a very severe persecution with no protection and no humane policy.

This note expresses, in a discreet manner, waiting for a time when it can be done publically and solemnly, the deep recognition of all these Jews to the Sovereign Pontiff, and at the same time, with confidence in his goodness, to present some requests, which I offer on their behalf to the Pope today.

1) Deported Jews:  Approximately 50,000 Jews – French and foreign – were deported from France by the German police. A very small number of them have been able up to now to send news, such as those whose names appear in Appendix A, pages four to nine.  Could the Holy See organise an attempt to find out what has happened to all those unfortunate people, to at least get a sign of life for those dear to them?  Appendix A, from pages one to three, contains the names of those deported.  Appendix B contains a few others and also the name of a Catholic (not Jewish).  Other lists will be sent to me later and I can send them to the Holy See, if approaches prove possible.  Appendix C contains information on the camps in Upper-Silesia where direct inquiries may be made.  Appendix D (17), pages two and five describe the process of the deportations.

2) Jewish concentration camps in France:  Appendix D, written by Mr Hirschler, Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg and currently chaplain for Jewish concentration camps in France, presents the sad situation of these camps.  Could the intervention of the Holy See improve this situation obtaining French or international aid organisations access to these camps?

In case of a refusal by the competent authorities, could the Holy See suggest to the Allied nations to put pressure on the Axis threatening retaliation for both Jews in French camps and those newly deported?

3)  Spanish Jews in France:  Spain has promised to repatriate these Jews, but the administrative procedure is very long.  Meanwhile, they are prone to arrest at any time by the German police.  It is urgent that Spain provides effective protection immediately, for example, by providing provisional papers.  Can the Holy See please say a word to that effect to the Spanish government?

4) Foreign Jews in the Italian occupied zone of France:  I mentioned earlier of the caring and compassionate attitude of Italy towards the Jews.  A fear remains, however, of what would happen to those 8,000 to 10,000 Jews, grouped together in a number of monitored residences, if for one reason or another, Germany decided to occupy the area currently occupied by Italy.  Their situation would be immediately catastrophic.  Since these groups are only a few kilometres from the Italian border, would it not be possible to pass them into Italy for use in various jobs?  Is a suggestion along these lines possible?

I promised the Jews of France – French and foreign – that I would make their needs known to the Holy See, and those they will report to me in the future. (18)

Cross references:
(1) Fr Marie-Benoît (Pierre Peteul) born in Bourg d’Iré (Maine-et-Loire) 03.03.1895.  Entered the Capuchin friars in 1913.  Professor of theology, Rome.  From 1940 he was active in helping foreign-born Jewish refugees from German-occupied France in Marseille, Cannes and Nice and afterwards in Rome.  Died 05.02.1990.

(2) Not published in ADSS.

(3) Jean Delay (1879-1966), bishop of Marseilles 1937-1956.

(4) Congregation founded in 1843 in Paris by Jewish converts for the conversion of the Jewish people.

(5) Guido Lo Spinoso.  Inspector General on Racial Matters, sent to Nice to supervise the estimated 30,000 Jews.

(6) Donato Wynant a Welle (1890-1972), Belgian born General of the OFM Caps 1938-1946.

(7) Jacques Helbronner (1873-1943), former counsellor of State, deported from Lyon 1942, murdered in Auschwitz 23.11.1943; Leon Meiss (1896-1966), President of the Consistory of French Jews; from 1944 head of the council of Representatives of French Jews.

(8) Isaiah Schwartz, (1876-1952), Chief Rabbi of France 1939-1952.

(9) Jacques Kaplan, (1895-1994), Chief Rabbi of Paris, 1950-1955 and of France 1955-1981.

(10) Léon Berman (1892-1943 ), Chief Rabbi of Lille 1934-1939; arrested 15.10.1943 and deported to Auschwitz on 28.10.1943 were he was murdered.

(11) René Hirschler, (1905-1944) rabbi of Mulhouse, then Strasbourg, arrested by the Gestapo in Marseille on 23.12.1943. He was deported to Auschwitz in 03.02.1944, evacuated on death march to KL Mauthausen and then to KL Ebensee where he died of exhaustion shortly before Liberation.

(12) Israël Salzer (1904-1990), Chief Rabbi of Marseille since 1929; saved in hiding by Christian neighbours and Bishop Marius Chalve (1881-1970)

(13)  Raymond-Raoul Lambert (1894-1943), arrested with his family on 21.08.1943.  Murdered in Auschwitz with his wife and four children on 10.12.1943.

(14) Edmund Fleg (Flagenheimer) (1874-1963), writer and early promoter of Christian-Jewish dialogue with Jules Isaac.

(15)  Angelo Donati (1885-1960); Jules Isaac (1877-1963), historian; Joseph Ariel (Fisher) (1893-1965) played an important role in Jewish resistance in France and rescued many Jews.

(16)  This list gave information of thirteen concentration camps in Upper-Silesia, the names of four camps in the Gouvernement General (Poland) and the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia.  The authors make no mention to the extermination of the Jews, but they spoke of labour camps and that “morale among the deportees is generally good and they are confident of the future.”

(17) The note on the deportation and the camps in France is divided into two parts” the occupied zone and the southern zone.  It provides information on arrests of Jews, the camps and deportation.  “ … Most of the interned Jews are deported to unknown locations.  From the time they leave the camp, their families receive no news, and this is where the torture begins, all links are broken.  For many this has gone on for two years … The deportations are often the most painful.  Men have their heads shaved.  Anti-Jewish French police rob the poor of what they still have … The deportations began in the unoccupied zone in August 1942.  From August to September, 12,000 foreigners were deported on successive trains via the occupied zone and then to an unknown destination.  A second deportation took place between 25 February and 3 March 1943, totalling approximately 1,600 people.  These operations were carried out entirely by the French authorities, often with a repugnance they did not attempt to hide.  Departures were less tragic than in the occupied zone … It must be said that the deportees often behaved like heroes …”

(18) See ADSS 9.267

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