Saturday, August 4, 2012

ADSS 9.86, 87, 89, 95, 96: the remnant 20,000 Slovak Jews

The belief that the remainder of the Slovak Jews, about 20,000, were in imminent danger of deportation, prompted a number of telegrams and reports sent to and from Bratislava, Istanbul and Budapest to Rome.  What is of particular interest is the level of knowledge the Vatican possessed at this point - March 1943.  Reading the documents one notices that it is accepted or presumed knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Jews, especially Polish Jews, are dead at the hands of the Germans.  It is also presumed knowledge that "deportation" would mean eventual and certain death.


The situation in Slovakia had raised hopes among Jewish organisations as well as some active Catholics that the Vatican could influence Tiso's government through direct appeal.  The Holy See knew from Giuseppe Burzio's earlier report (ADSS 9.85) of 07.03.1943 that a significant number of clergy were opposed to the government's anti-Jewish laws and actions and one bishop at least had called for Tiso to be removed from the priesthood.  Over the next week pressure continued to build.


ADSS 9.86  Margit Slachta, the Hungarian foundress of the Sisters of Social Service came to Rome to plead for the Slovakian Jews in the first week of March before going to Switzerland to appeal to the Red Cross.  Her visit on 08.03.1943 was met with the standard response that the Vatican was doing all it could, even though in the notes taken the writer observed that Sister Margit did not appear satisfied.  Slachta worked tirelessly for the rest of the war working to save Jews.


ADSS 9.87  Cardinal Maglione wrote to the charge d'affaires in Bratislava on 09.03.1943, Giuseppe Burzio urging him to take all necessary steps to prevent the deportations should the rumours prove true.


ADSS 9.89 Burzio wrote to Maglione on 11.03.1943 that the deportations would most likely still go ahead but not at the moment.  More information was not possible because government officials were "evasive" in their answers to Burzio's questions.


ADSS 9.95-96  On 13.03.1943 Angelo Roncalli, Apostolic Delegate in Turkey wrote on behalf of Eliezer Kaplan, from the Jewish Agency for Palestine appealing for the help of the pope to get two thousand Jewish children out of Slovakia and on their way to Palestine via Hungary and Turkey.  Roncalli had been assured that the Agency possessed British approved certificates for Palestine.  Confirmation of British permission for Jewish children to go to Palestine had been telegraphed to Rome less than an hour before Roncalli's first message arrived. (See ADSS 9.94)


The outcome of the appeals from the Vatican were mixed.  Deportations were suspended indefinitely, but appeals for Jewish children came to nought.  Cardinal Maglione cabled Roncalli on 04.05.1943 to say that the Holy See had intervened several times, especially for Jewish children.


However, there was another problem emerging.  Making appeals to governments to stop the deportation and murder of Jews was one thing; supporting the emigration of Jews to Palestine even if that would clearly save lives, was another.  Even in the middle of the Holocaust, concerns that supporting Jewish emigration to Palestine would eventually create new problems with regard to access to the Christian holy places were not far from the surface.  I shall return to this later.(See ADSS 9.136)


I will post the documents in the next several posts.

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