Sunday, June 30, 2013

ADSS Volume 4 June 1940-June 1941

Of the 433 document in ADSS 4 only eight deal directly with Jews and Jewish issues.  The overage of documents in Volume 4 extends to the widening scope of the war in Europe from the fall of France in June 1940 up to the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.  Most of the references to Jews in this volume are indirect and often come from insults lobbied at the pope or members of the Catholic Church in different parts of the world.

Documents of particular interest include:

ADSS 4.68: 03.09.1940. Cardinal Maglione wrote to the Apostolic Delegate in the US, Amleto Cicognani concerning attacks made against the archbishop of New York, Francis Spellman (1889-1967) by Roberto Farinacci (1892-1945) in Regime Fascista.  Farinacci was an outspoken anti-Catholic who often accused the Church of being in league with the Jews.  This document outlines such a case.  Farinacci claimed that Jews owned 75% of church property in New York and Spellman was their agent.   In subsequent documents Spellman indicated he would not "take the bait" and would just ignore Farinacci.  Later that month Farinacci claimed the archbishop was in the pay of the Jews (ADSS 4.98) 


ADSS 4.74: 08.09.1940.  Maglione again wrote to Cicognani, this time relaying Farinaci's criticism that the pope was not in agreement with the fascists in "the fight against Judaism".

Attacks in Regime Fascista continued throughout most of the summer.  Accusations of the church in general and the pope in particular being concerned about the Jews or under Jewish influence were common.  See ADSS 4.60; 61; 66; 68; 71; 74; 77; 79; 88; 98; 119; 121; 124; 226; 387; 395; 401; 402; 419; 426.



ADSS 4.107: 04.10.1940.  Nuncio to France, Valerio Valeri wrote to Maglione where comment was made on the imminent implementation of anti-Jewish laws throughout Vichy France.  In his remarks on several conversations with senior Vichy officials, the nuncio commented on the general accepted belief that "without doubt, unfortunately, the Jews have contributed as much as they could to the outbreak of the war".

ADSS 4.124: 25.10.1940.  Maglione's notes commented on the article in Regime Fascista that marvelled at the silence of the Holy See with regard to the passing of anti-Jewish laws in France.

ADSS 4.209: 24.12.1940.  Pius XII's Christmas Address made specific mention of "non-Aryans" along with others suffering because of the war.

ADSS 4.238: 17.01.1941.  In the course of a report to Maglione on attempts to secure a new bishop for the diocese of Budejovice in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Orsenigo mentioned a report he had received of a priest praying publicly from the pulpit for Jews.

ADSS 4.291: 19.03.1941. Cesare Orsenigo, nuncio to Germany wrote to Maglione indicating he was attempting to find out what had happened in Amsterdam when the Gestapo launched a major action against Dutch Jews and various Christian clergy who had spoken out against Nazi antisemitism.  

ADSS 4.393: 08.06.1941.  King Peter II of Yugoslavia, exiled in Jerusalem, wrote to Pius XII appealing for papal help for the Jews and Serbs who were being systematically exterminated by the Croatian regime.  The king's tone is blunt.

ADSS 4.395: 10.06.1941.  Francesco Borgongini Duca, nuncio to Italy wrote to Maglione describing a meeting between himself, Farinaci and the Italian foreign minister, Gian Galeazzo Ciano in an attempt to end Farinaci's attacks on the church.  The nuncio defended the church's teaching regarding baptised Jews - they are Catholics.

Several other themes are worth noting:

Accusations that the Holy See was anti-German: 201; 211; 367.

Accusations that the Holy See was anti-British: 122; 123; 141; 152; 171.

German complaints that Radio Vaticano was either violating Vatican neutrality or reporting in a manner hostile to German interests: 102; 118; 126; 128;  131; 132; 134; 136; 140; 143; 147; 150; 151; 154; 160; 162; 179; 200; 332; 374; 384; 396; 406; 430.

The visit to Rome by the Croatian dictator Ante Pavelic has been covered before.

I will post several translations of some documents shortly.


Anna Foa's article on Giovanni Palatucci from Osservatore Romano

For the sake of presenting both sides to the argument I have posted Anna Foa's article from L'Osservatore Romano.  Foa is an Italian historian who has specialised in Italian and European Jewish history.  Her position is worthy of consideration.  I look forward to reading more on the historical process undertaken by Primo Levi Center.  Without in any way wishing to trivialise the issue at stake here, the academic debate over Palatucci is a model for other historical debates and arguments.  People are not attacked or belittled; issues are addressed.  This is how we learn.

Testimonies silenced and documents gone missing

Meant to mar the Church of Pius XII

Giovanni Palatucci, police superintendent of Fiume in 1944, was arrested by the Germans and died in Dachau in February 1945. Declared Righteous Among the Nations In 1990 for helping Jews during his work at the police headquarters in Fiume, and recognized as a Servant of God by the Church, all of a sudden he was turned into a persecutor of Jews who zealously carried out the orders of the Salò [Italian Social Republic] and of the Nazis. At the origin of this shift was research sponsored by the Centro Primo Levi, New York, undertaken by an international committee of historians who analysed the existing documentation in both the Italian and Croatian archives.

I hope that the Washington Museum, which immediately deleted Palatucci’s name from its sites and exhibitions, has access to the documentation and not only to the lengthy analysis of it drafted by the Centro Primo Levi. On careful reading, this can at most downsize the number of Jews saved by Palatucci, reducing them from the 5,000 originally attributed to him to several dozen, and recasting the role he played in certain episodes. It can certainly not, however, transform him from a saviour of the Jews into a persecutor. I also hope it will be possible shortly to have access to the sources, just as the Centro’s action has made access available to their interpretation.

While waiting to be able to check the full reality of the events in the documents, I would like to mention certain elements of the issue as they emerge from the Primo Levi dossier. The dossier — on the basis of the numbers of Jews living in Fiume and the number of those from Fiume effectively interned by Fiume in the Camp of Campagna, where Palatucci’s uncle was bishop — essentially dismantles the thesis that the police officer was responsible for the mass rescue of the Jews of Fiume, that was pulled off in cooperation between Fiume and Campagna. Here too, in order to express a well-grounded opinion, we await further information, for example, on the actual routes of those Jews transferred from Fiume to Campagna.

Nevertheless the dossier tells us nothing about the individual rescues attested by those very Jews who were saved by Palatucci in the years subsequent to 1940 and during the years of the Nazi occupation. It is likewise silent about the witnesses who documented them. The dossier further informs us that the Bishop of Campagna did his utmost to improve the situation of those interned in the camp but emphasizes, as if thereby to detract from them, his proselytistic intentions; in other words the bishop would have liked to convert his prisoners. Yet let us not forget that we are speaking of a Church, especially the local Church – at that time still heavily marked by anti-Judaism – which was actively encouraging the conversion of Jews. To expect anything else would be utopian. I remember having spoken of this in these same terms to the late Fr Piersandro Vanzan, author of a biography of Palatucci (Giovanni Palatucci. Il questore giusto, Rome, Edizioni Pro Sanctitate, 2009) and a diligent propagator of Palatucci's story.

Furthermore, the dossier underscores the adherence to the Republic of Salò of the police officer Giovanni Palatucci, but tells us nothing about the possibility, supported by at least one source, that he may have acted as a member of the Committee for National Liberation under the false name of Danieli, which is another element to be evaluated or at least mentioned. We are told that the documents on his arrest do not mention the rescue of Jews but only his activities on behalf “of the enemy”, that is, the fact that he had contacts with the Allies concerning a plan to make the Fiume area autonomous. Yet I would like to know whether in Italy at the time the saving of Jews was explicitly mentioned or whether it was implicitly understood as being among the activities on behalf of the enemy.

We are basically facing the problem of the lack of documentation. Yet we find the same lack of documentation in the mass rescues of Jews that that were carried out in the convents of Rome. Do we wish to deny these on the basis of the lack of written documents to prove them? Like all such activities, Palatucci's too could only have been carried out in secret. Might he have pursued them on his own initiative, independently of the Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants? This is an answer we are waiting for from the documents, from the comparison with other situations, but not from interpretations.

One last issue: the so-called denunciation by Palatucci of a group of Jews from Fiume. The documentation that the dossier mentions proves nothing other than that Palatucci responded to a request for information made to him by the Police Headquarters in Ravenna (would it have been possible for him not to have replied?), providing the names of these Jews but saying that he did not know where they were to be found. In other words they were already as free as birds. It is obvious that this too should be assessed on the basis of individual events, but as we read it here it is proof of nothing. Michele Sarfatti, Director of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation and one of the historians said to have taken part in the research organized by the Centro Primo Levi, “I am perplexed about a sentence written by a New York Times journalist who claims that Palatucci ‘helped the Germans to identify Jews to be rounded up’. This sentence is attributed to ‘researchers’ without specifying who; but no proof of this exists”. What then explains the glaring headlines in the press about the policeman who persecuted Jews?

To conclude: the Primo Levi initiative affirms that its intention was to demolish the myth of the “good Italian”, of which the Palatucci case was an expression. But why so? If anything, the Palatucci case speaks of a “good Palatucci”, and not of “good Italians”. The myth of the good Italian had already been blown up, at least at the historiographical level, by many studies and first and foremost by Sarfatti's research. All this leaves no room for doubt that with the regulations introduced in November 1943 the Republic of Salò assumed the duty of tracking down Jews in the first person. The Nazis, after October that year, were unable to take on this task since they were occupied on the military front and in the war against the Resistance.

The impression is in fact that a different issue was involved: the Church of Pius XII; and that, in targeting Palatucci, the intention was essentially to hit a Catholic involved in rescuing Jews, a champion of the idea that the Church spared no effort to help the Jews – a well-known figure whose cause of beatification was under way. But this is ideology and not history.

It is true that first-hand historical research into the Palatucci case is scarce and that facts and figures have been subjected to hagiographic interpretations. It is moreover probable that subsequent to the research under way, the figures may change and certain events be reinterpreted. Yet at the moment, in the presence of such definitive unfounded condemnation, what is fundamental is to answer through the documentation these simple questions. Did or did not Palatucci save Jews? Did or did not Palatucci denounce Jews? We are waiting for the documents alone to provide an answer to these questions. Everything else is commentary.

23 June 2013



Anna Foa



Furore about the Italian "Schindler"

Over the last few weeks there has been considerable press given to a claim that Giovanni Palatucci, described by some as the Italian Schindler, was a Nazi collaborator.  This article appeared in Foward.  Palatucci's uncle was the bishop of Campagna in whose diocese was found an internment camp for Italian and foreign Jews.  Part of the story around Giovanni Palatucci was that he "funnelled" Jews from Fiume to Campagna where they would be safer.  It would appear that much of the received history needs to be re-examined.

The wikipedia entry on Palatucci contains a handy summary of the issues surrounding the man.  More information may be found on the ADL site and in the Sydney Morning Herald.

For a comprehensive treatment of the subject see the Huffington Post with its links.

Catholics Defend 'Italian Schindler' on Nazi Claim

Vatican Paper Rejects Charge Giovanni Palatucci Collaborated


The Vatican newspaper said on Saturday a decision by scholars to brand a wartime Italian previously praised for saving Jews as a Nazi collaborator was part of an attempt to smear the Catholic Church during the papacy of Pope Pius XII.

An article, titled “To Strike at the Church of Pius XII” and written by historian Anna Foa, said the decision to re-classify Giovanni Palatucci, a Catholic, as a collaborator was at best hasty and more study was needed.

Palatucci had been previously credited with saving around 5,000 Jews while he was police official in the city of Fiume, now part of Croatia. He died in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in 1945 at the age of 35.

In 1990, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial honoured Palatucci as a Righteous Among the Nations, the highest recognition for those who helped Jews during World War Two.

But earlier this week The New York Times reported that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington was removing mention of his exploits from an exhibition after officials learned of new evidence that purports to show he was a Nazi collaborator.

In her article in the Vatican newspaper, Foa, a Jewish-Italian author and historian at Rome’s La Sapienza University, said the target of the move against Palatucci was “the Church of Pius XII”.

“The impression is that ... in targeting Palatucci the desire was essentially to hit a Catholic involved in rescuing Jews ..., ” she wrote.

“But this is ideology and not history,” she wrote.


The issue of whether the Vatican and the Church under Pius XII did all it could to help Jews had dogged Catholic- Jewish relations for decades. Pius reigned from 1939 to 1958.

Critics of Pius say he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust but his supporters say he worked behind the scenes to encourage the Church to save Jews because speaking out more forcefully would have worsened the situation for all.

Foa wrote that more documentation and study was necessary about Palatucci “from comparisons with other situations and not from interpretation”.

The New York Times article said more than a dozen scholars from the Centro Primo Levi at the Center for Jewish History in New York reviewed nearly 700 documents before concluding that Palatucci was a Nazi collaborator and not a saviour of Jews.

Among other things, the scholars concluded that Palatucci was sent to Dachau not because he helped Jews but because German occupiers accused him of embezzlement and treason. 


Giovanni Palatucci 1909-1945

John Pollard, Pope Pius XII, and Paul O'Shea

Serious and critical comment is expected and appreciated in book reviews.  Colleagues learn from one another, are guided in further research and stimulated to explore other avenues of enquiry from a well-written and accurate review of their work.  I have read several reviews of my own work and I have also reviewed the work of others. 

When I undertake a review I do so believing in the intellectual and academic honesty of the author unless it is proved otherwise.  I ensure that I read the complete text carefully usually twice.  The first “read” is to get a broad picture of the work and make some preliminary notes.  The second “read” is a combination of external checking and clarification of sources along with the process of writing the draft review.

Over the years I have read my fair share of excellent reviews as well as a number of reviews where I had to wonder if the reviewer had read the book. 

Dr John Pollard is a member of the History Faculty at Cambridge University.  He has written extensively on the papacy, fascism and various intersections between the two.  His published works include “Benedict XV: The Unknown Pope and the Pursuit of Peace” (2001 / 2005) and “Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy” (2008).  I have read the biography of Benedict XV and regard it as the standard text on this significant but largely unknown pope.




Pollard’s review of my book is, I believe, harsh and unfair in a number of areas.  The review follows with my comments in the text in red.

A Cross too Heavy: Pope Pius XII and the Jews of Europe, O'Shea, P. (2011)

Reviewed in “Diplomacy and Statecraft”

Every time I see another "Hitler's Pope" book I groan. There have been so many of them, for and against Pius XII, since the publication of John Cornwell's original Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII in 1999. The ensuing debate, which is essentially a re-run of that triggered by Rolf Hochhuth's play The Representative of 1963, has never struck me as constituting a serious historiographical controversy: historians of the papacy are almost entirely agreed about what Pius XII knew about the Holocaust, when he knew, what he did or not say publicly, what he did to help Jews, and the reasons for his behaviour. Much of the debate has effectively been "political"-between Jews and Catholics or between liberal Catholics like John Cornwell and conservative Catholic apologists for the reputation of Pius XII. Rabbi David Dalin, who has written in support of Pius XII, is the exception that proves the rule. In any case, the debate has been conducted not only through the medium of dozens more books and hundreds of articles, but very largely through other media-TV and radio chat shows, documentaries and journalistic articles and reviews. O'Shea is a Catholic, and an historian, but he does not come out roaring for one side or the other from the outset, though, despite his sympathy for Pius XII's wartime predicament, he ends up being highly critical of him.

I think it is disappointing that a review opens with a statement such as Pollard’s opening line.  It is also disingenuous to neglect to mention at least some of the significant historians who are writing in this field today.  To reduce the study of Pius XII to a “debate” between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics is not helpful.

Sadly, his shaky understanding of modern European and papal historical contexts does not inspire confidence. Referring to Hitler as "Il Duce" rather than "Der Fuehrer" (p. 154) is a terrible solecism.

This is my first cause for concern.   Taking the sentence out of context can lead the reader to believe that I am so ignorant that I could have written that Hitler was referred to as “Il Duce”!  However, that is not at all what the context suggests.  If Pollard had looked up the reference on page 154 – number 54 – and then checked the notes, he would have found a reference to this article published in the Rome based news service Zenit. Matteo Luigi Napolitano is an historian who specialized in diplomatic history.  He has also spent time in the ASV.  In an interview with Zenit in May 2003 Napolitano said that in document he had read he had found explicit instructions from the pope through Cardinal Pacelli to avoid all use of the word “leader” in his New Year Address.  The Italian word for “leader”, in this context, is “duce”.  In fact the most commonly used title for Hitler that I have found in the ASV was “Signor Cancelliere del Reich”.  Pacelli wrote to Orsenigo in Italian.  The relevant section follows:
In the draft of an address for year-end 1936, Archbishop Orsenigo described Hitler as "'Duce' [leader] of the German people."
In the coded reply, which Cardinal Pacelli sent on behalf of the Pope, the nuncio was told to "eliminate the words 'Duce of the German people'" and to "delete" all the part that praises the Führer's activity.
The complete interview may be found here:


 Worse is come when he gives the impression that (Italian) Fascism and German National Socialism were the same thing (p. 99): Fascism was not racialist and anti-Semitic until the mid to late 1930s.

I am not sure how Pollard comes to this conclusion.  My treatment of fascism was to outline the central components of the ideology and ideologies with particular emphasis on the quasi-religious elements.  Italian fascism and its German mutation were similar in much of the ideology that drove them.  It was the German variety that developed into a more extreme form.  I also argue that fascism is inherently racist because of the ideology of nationalism: who belongs and who does not, is essential to the fascist worldview.  Much of my understanding of fascism and National Socialism draws from the work of Michael Burleigh.  Impressions are important; but to take a statement out of context creates an entirely different impression that, in this case, is somewhat inaccurate.

Equally inaccurate is the terminology he uses about the Catholic Church and Catholics-referring to the "Catholic Far Right" (p. 3) is dangerously misleading for those who understand what the term "Far Right" means in contemporary Europe.

I agree that there may be a level of misunderstanding over the use of the term “Catholic Far Right” but I do not accept it is misleading – that implies a deliberate attempt to pervert the historical record. That said I am not quite sure what the contemporary European understanding of the term means.  If it is some sort of alliance or companionship with political elements from the political far right with groups such as “neo-nazis” or other such organisations, then I would probably agree that the term needed more nuance.  However, I doubt that many serious Catholics would lend their aid to groups that pine for an imaginary fascist past.

The Collegio Capranica in Rome was not "known as the starting place for many Vatican diplomats" (p. 81); arguably it was the Pontifical Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics.

This is an example of hair splitting!  Yes, the Pontifical Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics was the diplomatic training place for many of the future Vatican diplomats, but a quick examination of some of the alumni from the Capranica would at least suggest that more than a few diplomats also began their Church careers there. I do accept that the use of the phrase could be “misleading”.

I could list other inaccuracies but the one which is most alarming is his statement that "Pius (Pius XI) expressed a similar attitude to the Catholic political parties. It pertained to the Pope and bishops alone to govern the Church" (p. 85). This is confusing for the uninformed reader: these parties only operated in the secular, political sphere, not inside the Church.

Context!  This is what I wrote:

The long-term strategy employed by Pius X was consistent with the gradual Roman centralism that had begun under Pius IX and continued during the pontificate of Leo XIII. Cornwell summarized it well: “Pius X was determined to exert untrammeled primacy over the Church as a spiritual, doctrinal, legal, and administrative entity. This was the clear-eyed papal vision of total separation of sovereignties: the Church with the Pope unquestioningly at its head, and the world mediated through the papal diplomatic service and the bishops.” Pius expressed a similar attitude to the Catholic political parties. It pertained to the pope and bishops alone to rule and govern the Church. There was no governing role for the laity. Eugenio Pacelli was to follow in very similar patterns in the 1930s.
That would appear to be somewhat different to what Dr Pollard suggested I said.

Finally, it is simply not true that "Pius named almost every victim group except one-Jews" (p. 10). He rarely mentioned Catholic Poles by name either and never other victims of Nazi racial policies like those other Slav untermenschen, the Russian POWs, or homosexuals, or gypsies or, for that matter, the Serbian Orthodox victims of the Croatian Ustasha.

Throughout the course of the war, evidenced in ADSS the pope spoke on many occasions lamenting the loss of life of “innocents”.  While not mentioning individuals or national groups, careful reading of the pope’s addresses demonstrates references to Poles, the people of the Low Countries, hostages, refugees, prisoners of war, indiscriminate taking of life in war zones, victims of euthanasia and other forms of violence.  Pius XII’s commitment to public neutrality was official Vatican policy, a point Cardinal Maglione understood well.  When Maglione wrote to nuncios and other diplomats he echoed the voice and intention of the pope. It is, therefore, safe to say that in ADSS 8.207 (cited 179) Maglione’s comments faithfully represented the views of Pius XII.   

Nonetheless, I will accept Pollard’s criticism that what I have written is, on face value, may not be entirely accurate.  However, context is important.

On the other hand, he is right to draw attention to the fact that neither did Pius name victims of Soviet atrocities-like the thousands of Polish officers massacred at Katyn in 1940. In both cases, he did so for largely diplomatic reasons; he did wish to upset either the Axis or the Allied powers.

He gets better once he has focussed on Pacelli, Hitler, Germany, and the Jews, and his explanation of the complex, tortured personality of the future Pius XII is compelling and convincing. Surprisingly, however, he limits his treatment of the War and the fascist genocides to only one chapter-just 38 pages out of over 200. Here he tackles all the usual issues around Pius XII's responses to the Holocaust and rehearses the reasons why he thinks that papa Pacelli did not carry out the moral functions of his papal office as the Vicar of Christ and the infallible "oracle of God" by publicly and repeatedly condemning the enormity of the crimes of the Nazis, the Italian Fascists, the Croatian Ustasha and other "lesser evils."

The construction of the book is designed to try and explain the “why” of Pius XII’s action or inaction during the war.  In order to understand Pacelli’s responses or lack thereof, I spent most of the book examining his pre-papal life and the context of late Tridentine ecclesiology.  To try and to otherwise would have achieved nothing.  The first several chapters set out the parameters of the Catholic theology of contempt and Supercessionism that found it ultimate expression in the tragic neglect and abandonment of Europe’s Jews during the Third Reich and the war.

And I, with tongue in cheek, take the reviewer to task for appearing not to understand “infallibility”!

His explanation is certainly not original: it stresses Pius XII's determination to do nothing to prejudice Vatican neutrality during the conflict, his obsessive fear of Communism, and his concern that the Church and Catholics-especially German Catholics-would suffer if he spoke out. Above all, he argues that Pius genuinely believed that if he spoke out, this would impede rescue work, and more Jews would suffer. In particular, he was concerned that the work which Vatican envoys, apostolic delegates, and nuncios, were engaged in to save Jews in Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, and Vichy France, and even further afield, should not be adversely affected. So he arguably prioritised the international diplomatic dimension of the papacy over its prophetic functions. But, as O'Shea himself admits, that does not really explain or excuse his failure to do more to save the Italian Jews caught in the round-up of October 1943 in his own see city, Rome.

The last chapter in the book brings us back to the "Hitler's Pope" debate; whether it is opportune for Eugenio Pacelli to be beatified by the Church as Pope John Paul II wanted. He emphatically says "no." This suggests to me that O'Shea's book is directed at a largely Catholic audience, rather than the wider world and this is confirmed by the last statement in the book: "The sins of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust must rest upon the whole Church, not only the Vicar of Christ..." Maybe so, but let us not forget the complicity and connivance of other so-called "Christians," Protestants and Orthodox, in the crimes against humanity during the Second World War.

On the question of for whom the book is best suited, I suggest it is directed at a broad audience.  Dealing with ignorance of the whys and wherefores of Catholicism is a regular part of my own teaching both at secondary and tertiary levels as well as with some colleagues.

John Pollard
Trinity Hall
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, UK


What disturbed me most about this review was the impression, accurate or not, that the reviewer had not read the complete text.  I hope this was not the case.

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