ADSS 9.147 Report of Burzio to Maglione on Meeting with Tuka



ADSS 9.147 Giuseppe Burzio, charge d’affaires Bratislava to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  report number 1558 (AES 3084/43)
Location and date: Pressburg (Bratislava) 10.04.1943

Summary statement: News of the Slovakian Jews; declaration of the bishops for the Jews; gov’t unmoved. Account of Burzio’s interview with Adalbert Tuka, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Language: Italian

Following the report 1517 of 07.03.1943, I have the honour to refer your Eminence that it is feared that new measures for the deportation of Jews from Slovakia have not been put into effect, the danger has not disappeared.  It seems rather, to be only a matter or time and resources.

There is a persisting situation of distress and anxiety caused by statements of the Minister of the Interior, which I reported in my previous dispatch, and the lack of any response or apparent response to the letter sent to the Head of the Government by the bishop of Nitra (2) has led to the Slovak bishops to feel it necessary to issue a collective statement (3) to once again state the principles of natural and divine law in relation to the Jewish question and the deportation of the Jews.

The document in question, of which a copy has been enclosed with a translation, was read in all churches in Slovakia on the second Sunday of Lent (21.03.1943), even radio listeners could hear the letter on the Pregov station, which transmits religious services on Sunday.  And I was informed that the President, as parish priest of Banovce (4) himself, read the Bishops’ letter to the faithful.

As expected, the printed copies of the document were prevented because of censorship; the copies sent to the parishes were reproduced with polygraph, with the purpose of preventing possible indiscretions, which could have compromised the success of the plan.

However I was informed through one of the Legations that the Minister of the Interior had knowledge of the text four days before is publication, or rather, had a German translation of the document in his hands with the text somewhat altered.  The same day, the Bishop of Nitra received a call from the Minister of the Interior asking him to give instructions that the reading of the Bishops’ letter not take place.  Kmetko immediately wrote to the auxiliary bishop of Tirnavia, Monsignor Buzalka, charging him to go personally to the Minister for clarification. (Attachment No. 2) (5)  Having read and understood the original text of the document and heard the explanations offered by the bishop, the Minister of the Interior seemed satisfied and did not raise further objections about reading the bishops’ letter, which took place on the day and made an excellent impression on the Slovak people.

As I had the honour to mention above, although the threat of new deportations, announced by a speech of the Minister of the Interior, but as yet unfulfilled, does not mean that the purpose of the government has changed. (I might point out that when I say “government” I refer primarily to the Head of Government and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Adalbert Tuka (6) and the Minister of the Interior, Alexander Mach: they bear the greatest responsibility for what has been done against the Jews in Slovakia).  A week ago, I was confidentially informed that the Head of Government had convened a meeting with several civil servants of his staff, to examine measures to be taken for future deportations.

Therefore, I thought it timely to take the instructions given to me by your Eminence, (dispatch number 1376/43 of 06.03.1943) (8) and make very effort  with this government, so the Jews still dwelling in Slovakia might be spared the cruel fate of deportation.  I asked for an audience with the Minister of Foreign Affairs which was granted on 07.03.1943 at 1100.

There is nothing more unpleasant and humiliating than to have a conversation with this character, whom others call the “sphinx”, others a maniac and others a cynical Pharisee.  When I explained the object of my visit, he became visibly annoyed and said “Monsignor, I do not understand what the Vatican has to do with the Jews of Slovakia.  Tell the Holy See this – I reject this step”.  I did not react to this rude and vulgar response, and told him that the Holy See had not interfered and did not intend to meddle in the internal affairs of Slovakia; I asked him to consider the message which I carried on behalf of the Holy See, dictated solely by reasons of humanity and Christian charity, and added that it did not seem inappropriate interference to speak of human and Christian feelings to leaders of a state, which, in the words of its constitution has these words: “Unites the moral and economic force of people into a Christian and national community based on natural law”.

Dr Tuka declared “The state is not and can not be Christian! There is not article of the constitution that declares that Slovakia is a Christian state.  And then, when it comes to the Jews, it is vain to invoke the principles of Christianity and humanity.  I do not understand why you want to prevent me complete my mission, which is to rid Slovakia of these pests, this band of criminals and gangsters”.

I remarked to the Minister that is was not right to consider and deal with the thousands of innocent women and children who were deported last year as criminals.

“When it comes to measures of such importance and scope for a nation, the government can not go for the subtle.  The Jews are an asocial race, unassimilable; they are pernicious and destructive elements that we must root out and eliminate ruthlessly.  But, in short, I say, monsignor, has the Church or the Holy See ever protested when our Slovak people, brutalised by pimps and destitute Jews, was forced to emigrate en masse to the Americas?  And why did they not protest when there was an exchange of Italian and German populations in the Tyrol and in other similar cases?  The bishops and clergy of Slovakia themselves were embroiled over this matter to come to the defense of the Jews.  This shows that the Jewish element is still very influential in Slovakia and is one more reason to do away with them once and for all”.

[Burzio] “Your Excellency is doubtless aware of the sad news reports carried on the terrible fate of Jews deported to Poland and Ukraine.  The whole world speaks of it.  Assuming for a moment that a state can disregard the rules of natural law and dictates of Christianity, I do not think it can, for the prestige and the good future of their nation, be disinterested in international opinion and the judgement of history”.

[Tuka] “I have no direct information that authorises me to believe similar rumours, spread by Jewish propaganda. However, it is my intention to send a commission to inquire into the conditions of the Jews deported from Slovakia.  If these reports of atrocities are true, I will not permit a single Jews to step over the Slovak border.  You mentioned the judgement of history: if one day the present history of Slovakia is told, it will recall that there was a head of government, a good and brave man, who had the strength to free his homeland from the greatest of evils.  As for international opinion, we know that it is divided into two currents: one that does not bother me and the other which does not interest me, because it is directed or influenced by Jewish propaganda.  I regret [Burzio’s insert: he had the gall to add] that the Vatican is not entirely immune from such influence”.

Is it worthwhile for me to continue to report to your Eminence more of my conversation with a lunatic?  Nor is it surprising that the superman is able to apply arguments touching on conscience.  He forestalls and repeats what he said to me, although I would have watched to tap this point: “I know what is good and what is evil; I am a convinced and practicing Catholic, I assist at Holy Mass every day and I take communion frequently.  And I am at peace about my work, for me the supreme spiritual authority, over the bishops and over the church, is my conscience and my confessor”.

I asked him one last question: “Can I at least, this being the opinion contrary to popular belief, inform the Holy See that the deportation of the Jews from Slovakia is an initiative of the Slovak government, but under external pressure?”

[Tuka] “I assure you on my honour as a Christian, that it is our will and our initiative.  So yes, it is true that I was offered the opportunity to carry out my plan and I, truly, have not refused to do so”.  He added that the Jews baptised before the legal deadline will not be deported, nor will elements useful to the state be removed or those who have received dispensations.  However, as regards the later, we will need to review the concessions, because many documents were falsified and there was not a little corruption”.

Then, he still wanted to stress his firm belief that there was no other means than forced deportation to liberate Slovakia from the “Jewish pestilence”.  Having observed that there are laws, courts, sentencing and imprisonment for offenders, but that it is a fundamental and inviolable right of everyone not to be punished without previous judgement given or for other crimes, he [Tuka] replied: “The prison is not enough, the prison does not improve anyone, believe me, I experienced it for nine years”.  Unwittingly, Mr Tuka said the greatest truth and only sincere thing throughout the interview.  Finally, with great relief, I left, accompanied with these parting words, which summarise the outcome of the interview:  [Tuka] “As a Vatican official, you have done your duty, and I will do mine; I remain a friend, but the Jews will leave”. 

Yet these steps have produced some good effect.  The first to react was the President of the Republic who, informed of the interview, called me and expressed his regret for the plea bargaining and response of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  I also made some confidential statements, but I asked earnestly that they not be put into writing but only orally.

This morning the Minister of Religious Affairs (9) sent his representative to the Apostolic Nunciature to confirm that yesterday Dr Tuka reported on the conversation he had with me to the Council of Ministers, and that all the ministers protested and said they considered it an honour that the Holy See intervened.  I was also told that the Council of Minsters decided right away to suspend the deportation of 4,000 Jews who have already been given the relevant provisions by the Ministry of the Interior, that baptised Jews will not be deported whatever the date of their baptism and that as for the other Jews, they should proceed with discretion and only remove those elements truly harmful to the state.  I hope these facts will confirm this information. (10)

References: 
(1) See ADSS 9.85

(2) Karol Kmelko (1875-1948), bishop of Nitra 1920-1948.

(3) See L Hoffmann, Die katholische Kirche und die Tragödie der Juden in der Slowakei, p 80.

(4) Jozef Tiso was parish priest of Banovce.

(5) Not published in ADSS.  On 18.03.1943 Kmelko asked the auxiliary bishop, Michael Buzalka (1885-1962) to speak to the Minister of the Interior [Tuka]:
1. The declaration has already been sent to parish priests to be read next Sunday and it is physically impossible to withdraw it.
2.  Even on moral grounds it is not possible to withdraw it (the prestige of the bishops before the clergy).
3. It is a common declaration of all the bishops, so all of them would have to decide to revoke it.
4. The statement did not pursue the goal you [Tuka] wanted to ascribe to it.  The faithful and the clergy have insisted that the bishops take a stand on this issue, especially after the speech of Ružomberok and the declaration made afterwards, whereby the bishops had to the duty to make their position known.
5. The best thing is to let the matter run its course and not deal with it publicly.  In a week they will speak no more.
6. The bishops of Slovakia are strongly opposed to Bolshevism and do not believe in its victory.  But even allowing for the hypothetical case that it eventuated, the bishops know of the serious consequences it would have for the church and is convinced that the statement in question would not change anything of the attitude of the Bolsheviks against the Church.  So there is no basis for the bishops’ declaration to make such an interpretation.
7. The text of the Joint Declaration is such that it can not offend anyone.  Emphasises what is contained in our constitution: the principles of natural law.
8. The President of the Republic was also informed as meaning that government circles have not ruled in this matter.
If necessary your Excellency will go to the President.

(6) Adalbert Tuka, see ADSS 8.334.

(7) Alexander Mach, see above.

(8) See ADSS 9.81.

(9) Josef Sivak (1896-19xx), Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, (1939-1944).

(10)  See ADSS 9.85 note 1 and ADSS 9.196.

2 comments:

  1. No, It was Karol Kmeťko (1875-1948), bishop of Nitra 1920-1948, no Kmelko.

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  2. Tuka was no pharisee as it has been written by msgr.Burzio, he just told and did what he found well. It was said to him by Nazis he must solve the Jewish Question in way they want otherwise the Slovakia will suffer. Tuka had no proof of what was hapening with Jews. Once he had it (from bishop Vojtassak), the deportations -in spite of big danger from Nazis-- were stopped. In SLovak language is nice written about Tuka in newspaper Kultura

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