Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ADSS 3.2.477 Karol Radonski (in UK) to Maglione: the papal silence

This document comes as something of a shock.  Karol Radonski (1883-1951) bishop of Włocławek had left Poland at the beginning of the war and eventually made his way to the United Kingdom where he spent his time publicising the horrors of life under German Occupation.  

In early 1943 he wrote to Rome appealing for a public word from Pius XII condemning German atrocities in Poland.  His language is clear and specific: by failing to not speak out the pope was sending the message, intentionally or not, that he did not care about Poland.  The bishop further argued that papal silence, for whatever reason, was harming the well-being of Polish soldiers in Scotland even though they remained for the most part, loyal and faithful Catholics.  Finally, Radonski wrote that he could not understand any bishops who would argue that silence was appropriate in the face of the terrible crimes committed in Poland day after day.  His style is florid at time but the sharpness of his criticism of papal policy remains poignant even today.

This document is important for several reasons:

1.  The author was a Catholic bishop, not a diplomat or politician.  This was an internal Catholic voice.
2.  The document is another reminder that accusations of papal silence began during the war and not after.
3.  The information contained in Radonski's letter, explicit and implied, point to a significant amount of generally available material that was accurate in its content.
4.  Radonski's comments about American Protestants gives some indication that he believed that the war would be won by the Western Alliance and not necessarily with the Soviets.  the Red Army had taken Stalingrad less than three weeks before this letter was written and while it pointed to a major set back for the Germans, it did not as yet, portend a German defeat or a Red Army sweep across Poland and Eastern Europe. 
5.  Radonski was not to know that German attitudes towards the Poles were beginning to change.  Most of the Jews under German control were now dead and the Reich needed to secure more labour.  It made economic sense to ease the restrictions on some parts of Occupied Poland.  While conditions were never good under the Germans, they did become a little less murderous.
6.  Finally, Radonski's letter was written three months before the revelation of the massacre of Polish officers by the Soviets in the woods of Katyn.  As far as the Poles in exile in London were concerned, this gave them the first cause for serious concern at the possibility of a Soviet victory "in the East".

The document can be found in the pages section. 


Karol Radonski
1883-1951

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