Saturday, October 13, 2012

American diplomacy and a papal protest 1942

ADSS is the most important source of information about the Holy See and Pope Pius XII during  World War II.  However, there are other archival sources that help us gain a more global perspective on the pressures applied to the Vatican in order to "encourage" the pope to make a public protest against German war crimes in the territories under its occupation.  

The material found in The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) helps the historian gain a better understanding of the American attitude towards the papal protest proposal put forward by the Brazilian ambassador, Idelbrando Accioly at the beginning of August 1942.

FRUS 1942 Volume 3 contains the relevant documents.  

1942.3 p772:  3 August 1942.

Leland Harrison (1883-1951), the ambassador to Switzerland (1937-1947) cabled the State Department relaying a dispatch from Harold Tittmann, the US charge d'affaires at the Holy See.  The substance of the report was:

1.  Tittmann had made repeated requests that the pope make a public protest against Nazi atrocities and that failure to do so was damaging the "moral prestige and is undermining faith both in the church and in the Holy Father himself".  The response given is that the pope has "already condemned offenses against morality in wartime and that to be specific now would only make matters worse".

2.  On 2 August the Brazilian ambassador informed Tittmann of the plan for diplomats to send the pope formal requests from their governments to make a public statement condemning German war crimes.

3.  Tittmann expressed his reservation that such a step would probably not change the pope's mind it would still be worthy of support.

1942.3 p773: 4 August 1942.

Cordell Hull (1871-1955), Secretary of State (1933-1944) replied to Harrison's telegram with authorisation to make "an independent but simultaneous approach to the Vatican Foreign Office" along the lines outlined in the previous telegram.

1942.3 p773 18 August 1942.

Benjamin Sumner Welles (1892-1962), Under-Secretary of State (1937-1943) met with Ronald Campbell (1890-1983) from the British Embassy.  Campbell formally informed the United States the the United Kingdom had agreed to deliver a formal request for a papal protest against German atrocities.  Welles told Campbell that Tittmann had already been authorised to do the same thing.

1942.3 p774 14 September 1942.

Tittmann delivered the formal note from the United States government asking the pope to make a public protest against German atrocities.  (The text will follow in the next post.)

1942.3 p774 18 September 1942

Harrison in Bern passed on a dispatch from Tittmann informing the State Department that the formal note from the Untied States government had been delivered.

1942.3.p775 26 September 1942

Myron Taylor, the Personal Representative of President Roosevelt to Pius XII sent a copy of a document received from the Jewish Agency for Palestine that set out in graphic terms the physical destruction of the Jews of Warsaw in particular and the Jews of Europe in general.  This document appears in ADSS 8.493.

1942.3 p776 6 October 1942

Tittmann wrote to Hull with an update on the progress of the diplomatic notes urging the pope to  protest German atrocities noting that the protest proposal appeared to enjoy the support of the Jesuits.  However, while it was believed the pope was giving the notes serious consideration, opinion in the Vatican was divided as to the wisdom of such a move.

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