"Inside Rome with the Germans" was title given to the diary kept by Mother Mary St Luke and published under her nom de plume, "Jane Scrivener".
Close friends of Mother Mary, Carlton and Mary Hayes, remained in contact with her throughout the war years. Her letters to the Hayes' were filled with candid descriptions of life in Rome during the war and, from September 1943, under German occupation. Carlton J Hayes (1882-1964) was appointed United States Ambassador to Spain in 1942. At the end of his term in 1944, he asked Mother Mary for a copy of her diary, believing it deserved a wide audience for its vivid portrait of the city in the months before liberation. Initially reluctant, Mother Mary finally agreed and Hayes organised its publication by Macmillan in 1945
About Mother Mary St Luke surprisingly little is known. She had lived in Rome for many years before the war and worked in the Vatican Information Service during the war. Thus her diary entries reflected a high degree of accuracy in the details she recorded along with observations of daily life under the German occupation. Always discreet, and with personal names of most people avoided, Mother Mary, penned a frank and clear narrative, that captures a sense of the nine months of a brutal and harsh occupation. Curiously, she mentions nothing of her religious community and there are only glimpses of her own religious practices. The entries were written after her return to the convent in which she lived on Via Veneto.
The diary is largely accurate in its description of Vatican relief efforts for the city of Rome which faced the real threat of starvation in the last months of the German occupation. It is also accurate in the description of hiding Jews and "patriots" (anti-fascists). She writes of well-known events such as the bombings of Rome from July 1943 onwards, the bombing of the Vatican in November 1943, the raid on St Paul outside the Walls in February 1944, the partisan attack in the Via Rasella in March 1944 and the fate of well known fascists and collaborators, for whom she clearly had little sympathy. Interestingly, she writes very little about the grande razzia, the "great raid", on the Jews of Rome in October 1943, although she appears to be aware of the grave danger Rome's Jews were in after September 1943.
About Pope Pius XII, Mother Mary writes in a sober manner. She records papal relief efforts, the opening of Piazza San Pietro and Castel Gandolfo to refugees, the muted expressions of horror at German atrocities through L'Osservatore Romano and Pius' appeals for calm and forbearance in the city until the Liberation. What she does not make mention of is anything to do with a papal order to open the religious houses to take in Jews. From the tone of her writing, I doubt she would have thought such an order necessary. Religious houses were opening their doors to Jews, British and American airmen and escaped POWs, anti-fascists and others sought by the Germans and their Italian fascist collaborators.
I have read through the diary and noted passages that are of relevance to my study of Pius XII. Below are extracts from "Inside Rome with the Germans" that deal with the Jews. Her comments reflect what was probably common opinion among many Romans, about events that were often not clear. The perception that the Jews of Rome sought and received papal help with the ransom money is echoed in Mother Mary's diary, and is one example of what we now know to be inaccurate. (The Rome Jews raised the gold and money for the ransom without papal aid). Another is the lack of understanding about the inner workings of the Jewish community in Rome and the tensions that existed between the Rabbi, Israel Zolli and the community leadership.
P38. Sunday 17.10. “The SS are doing exactly what one expected, and at 4.30 am began to round up the Jews in their own houses, The Rabbi did not destroy his registers, and they know where every Jew lives. And this, after the promise made when they produced that ransom … Some Jews escaped, others were herded into open lorries in the rain, and we know nothing about their destination. It is a nameless horror. People you know and esteem, brave, kind, upright people, just because they have Jewish blood, treated like this. Some of them are heroic. They came for the father of a family we know. He was out. The Germans said in that case they would take his wife. Whereupon the daughter said: ”Where my mother goes, I go too” – and although they did not want her particularly, she was taken as well.”
P39. Tuesday 19.10. “It is understood that the Pope has asked the German Ambassador to make an effort to help the Jews. It is difficult for von Weiszacker, of course, as the SS are independent of him. However, he did have some measure of success, for we hear that the women and children will be released.” (Probably a reference to non-Jews who were caught in the raid who were released.)
P56. Tuesday 16.11. “A few Jews have been allowed to return to their homes, largely on account of action taken by the Pope. Is it possible to hope that the man-hunting is over?” (This reference is unclear. I do not know of any arrested Jews returning to their homes. I suspect this was repeatnig a rumour she may have heard.)
P61. Friday 26.11. “Once more the Jews: all objects of art belonging to them are declared to be sequestered by the nation.”
P65. Friday 03.12. “Today the Vatican daily, the Osservatore Romano, publishes a strong protest against the treatment of Jews; it is called forth by the new directions issued by the “Republic” to the heads of the Provinces, to the effect that all Jews must be sent to concentration camps. The order was issued obviously at the instigation of the Germans. The Osservatore points out that it is unreasonable, unchristian and unhuman. Times are bad enough, it says, without our creating fresh sources of suffering and anxiety; we are sorely in need of God’s help, which we can gain by exercising charity towards his creatures, and all of us, nations aw well as individuals, are in need of that today … It was a bold protest, courageously made.”
P66. Saturday 04.12. “The Rome German-controlled press answered the Osservatore by asserting that Jews were considered foreigners, and as such they were potential enemies and therefore might with perfect justice be sent to concentration camps. This evening’s Osservatore replies firmly that no decree issued by any political party can change the status of an Italian-born citizen, possessing his nationality by the existing laws of the land; and that, even if enemy aliens were to be sent to concentration camps, the old and infirm, women and children are exempt.”