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Rabbi Seeks To Dispel Myths About Pius XII

June 19, 2010 by John Rook

History has a funny way of changing over the years.
Take, for instance, Pope Pius XII.
Immediately following World War II, the Pope was hailed by the Jewish community for his help against Nazis throughout World War II. A renowned Israeli orchestra even came to the Vatican to serenade him in honor of his work.
But, starting in 1963, opinions about Pius XII began to change dramatically. A series of publications, including a famous play and renowned book, help shed doubt on the Pope’s actions during World War II.
Instead of being a hero, many now came to question why, at the very least, the Pope had not forcefully and continuously admonished Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, and some even began to suspect that Pope Pius XII may have knowingly turned a blind eye to the Holocaust.
For decades, that suspicion surrounding Pope Pius XII has hung over his legacy, and has engendered many within the Jewish community with a good bit of animosity towards the religious leader.
Rabbi Eric Silver of Temple Beth David in Cheshire counts himself among those who cast a very critical eye towards Pope Pius XII. It was hard to ignore the fact that, seemingly for years, the Pope refused to intervene on behalf of Jews being annihilated all across Europe.
It painted the man as, at best, indifferent to such profound suffering.
So, when Silver was given the opportunity to journey to Rome and be a part of a team researching the possible canonization of Pope Pius XII, he agreed to volunteer in service. He didn’t know if his visit, or his research, would make a difference, but he promised to be “open minded.”
What he learned would change him forever.
“It really helped me grow tremendously by this,” said Silver, who recently returned to the Vatican and met with Pope Benedict XVI. “Somehow, I have been fortunate enough to be in a position to bring out the truth and, for that, I am immensely grateful.”
For five days in September of 2008, Silver joined a group of individuals researching the viability of Pope Pius XII’s canonization Since then, Silver has remained a leading voice in trying to reconstruct the legacy of the Pope in the eyes of the world and Jewish community.
It is work that has earned him praise throughout the Catholic community, including from Pope Benedict XVI, who thanked Silver personally for his efforts earlier this year.
“Lies don’t need much fertilization to grow, but you many times need to dig for the truth,” explained Silver. “When you dig, the truth about Pope Pius XII comes out.”
The research into the Pope, according to Silver, revealed that, while 80 percent or more of the Jewish population in Europe was wiped out by Nazi forces during World War II, 80 percent of Jews in Italy were saved. Much of that can be directly attributed to Pius XII’s actions, Silver explained, as he coordinated efforts to hide and protect Jewish families in churches and Vatican-owned areas throughout Rome and surrounding cities. In fact, it is estimated that Pope Pius XII may have been responsible for saving more than 850,000 Jews during the war.
“That is more than any other one individual,” stated Silver.
While Pius XII is routinely criticized for not admonishing Hitler or the Nazis during the conflict, Silver and his team found that the Pope had spoken out against elements in the Third Reich on 40 different occasions.
But, Silver also concluded that there was good reason for Pope Pius XII to tone down his direct criticism of Hitler and the Nazis.
“The Nazis had a gun pointed at the Pope’s apartment and search lights were kept on all night, shining in the window,” said Silver. “So, you wanted the Pope to denounce them, considering that?
While Nazi troops did respect Vatican territory, Silver argues that such respect only went so far, and that a false step or two by the Pope might have prompted swift action.
In fact, the research conducted by the team Silver was on uncovered documents showing that Pius XII had already planned for his eventual detention by the Nazis, and had set up a plan of abdication, so that someone would take his place immediately following his apprehension.
Also, Silver argues that strong and continuous denunciation of Hitler and the Nazis may have put Jews in Italy in even more danger. In Holland at the time, Dutch bishops read a declaration denouncing the Nazis and the next day 40,000 Jews were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. Those sent to the concentration camp included Anne Frank.
“It was a warning that, if you make such a declaration, this is what will happen,” said Silver.
After the war, Pius XII was hailed for his efforts, but things began to change in 1963 when Rolf Hochhuth produced his play called The Deputy, which indicted Pope Pius XII for not intervening on behalf of the Jewish community. It began a reexamination of the record and brought up strong criticisms of the Pope’s actions.
That negative view of Pius has existed for decades, and even prompted journalist John Cornwell to pen his controversial book, Hitler’s Pope, in 1999.
However, Silver contends that the Pius XII depicted in The Deputy was based less on history and more on a KGB plot to discredit the Pope, who was anti-communist.
“It was a KGB plot, and Hochhuth was a part of it,” said Silver. “It was typical KGB disinformation and, unfortunately, it caught on.”
As for Cornwell’s newer denunciation, Silver says that the journalist has been forced to retract many of the claims he made and explain away the cover of the book — a photograph that appears to show Pope Pius XII leaving a large building while a member of the SS salutes — which was distorted to create a negative look.
“The photo was taken 12 or so years before he was even Pope, and the person saluting is not an SS soldier, but the driver holding the door,” explained Silver.
A book detailing the group’s findings has been published and Silver has continued to champion Pope Pius XII.
“I believe he fulfilled his charge in the most noble and courageous way possible,” said Silver.
Yet, despite Silver’s new-found respect for Pope Pius XII, he knows that some in the Jewish community will be reluctant to change their opinion.
“It is very hard to admit when you have been wrong,” said Silver. “I know I can admit I was wrong, but, for some, it is very difficult.”
“I tell people not to take my word for it, but to research it themselves,” Silver continued. “I believe he was a very holy man, asking himself and his God, ‘What can I do to fulfill my charge in the most effective manner?’ and that charge was to save lives. Had he done it any other way, he would have lost his effectiveness and Jews would have been killed at an accelerated rate.”


Hitler and Pope Pius XII

August 15, 2011 by Gabriel, 5 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 1698

Thank you Rabbi Silver for conducting your research on this matter. I recently heard your interview on the radio and was astounded with what you discovered about Pope Pius XII. It is a disgrace how the character assassination of this man has flourished in the mainstream media all based on slanderous books. I find it rather amazing how millions of people can be duped through misinformation. One need only read what Israel's Prime Minister Golda Meir and Albert Einstein said about Pope Pius XII to realize that he was indeed a great man.

Rabbi, don't be fooled by the "Papal Knights"!

June 28, 2010 by Rayosun (not verified), 6 years 38 weeks ago
Comment: 175

Dear Rabbi Silver,
To see how baseless and indefensible the Gary Krupp cause is, check out his own blog, where two Jewish scholars and a former Roman Catholic priest (myself) have been exposing many of the mistakes made by "the Papal Knights" who are trying to defend the indefensible behavior of "Hitler's Pope". You'll note that he has a very effective response, i.e. "Blah, blah, blah!"

For one thing, all of the talk of the Catholic pope and/or other Catholic officials "saving" Jews totally misses the point that those Jews were saved from prosecution, persecution and execution at the hands of "Christians" and very often by ROMAN CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS, including not only the millions of "grunts" who did the dirty work, but the NAZI LEADERSHIP, which included Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Rudolf Hoess, Julius Streicher, Fritz Thyssen (who bankrolled the Nazi rise to power), Klaus Barbie, and Franz Von Papen were all Roman Catholics, as were the heads of all of these NAZI countries : Leon Degrelle of Belgium, Emil Hacha of Bohemia-Moravia, Ante Pavelic of Croatia, Konrad Henlein of Sudetenland, Pierre Laval and then Henry Petain of Vichy-France. and the R.C. priest, Msgr. Josef Tiso, of Slovakia.
(who wasn't even defrocked after the defeat of the Nazis). Although these were among the most visible Catholic lay people in their countries at the time, did Pope Pius XII excommunicate a single one of them? NO. How can anyone say that this pope did "all that he could", when he failed to take this obvious measure so as to make it clear to the millions of Catholic faithful who were enabling the Nazis to carry out their campaigns of mass murder, not only against Jews, but against their fellow Catholics in Poland, that they should have no part in these monstrous of crimes and most mortal of sins? Apologists for Pius XII who claim that their crimes caused these people to be "automatically excommunicated" miss the point that excommunication isn't intended to tell GOD who is a Catholic and who isn't but to tell THE FAITHFUL whom to shun.
On the other hand, after the Nazis were defeated and no longer posed any threat to the pope, the Vatican, or the Catholic Church anywhere, did Pope Pius XII allow the Vatican to be used to protect thousands of Catholic war criminals such as the above to escape punishment for their war crimes? YES. Whose side was the pope on?
Here are some of the more infamous war criminals the Vatican protected from prosecution:
Adolf Eichmann, "the architect of the Holocaust", ,
Alois Brunner , referred to as his "best man" by Eichman,
Dr. Josef Mengele, "the Angel of Death" ,
Franz Stangl, commandant of the SobibÛr and of Treblinka extermination camp ,
Gustav Wagner assistant to Franz Stangl,
Klaus Barbie, "the Butcher of Lyon" ,
Edward Roschmann, "the Butcher of Riga",
Aribert Heim, Mauthausen concentration camp's "Dr. Death",
Walter Rauff, believed responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths
Otto W‰chter, who from 1939 on, as governor of the Cracow district, W‰chter organized the persecution of the Jews and ordered the establishment of the Cracow Ghetto in 1941. W‰chter is mentioned as one of the leading advocates in the General Government who were in favor of the Jewish extermination by gassing and as a member of the SS team who under Himmler's supervision and Odilo Globocnik's direction planned Operation Reinhard, the first phase of the Final Solution, leading to the death of more than 2,000,000 Polish Jews. After the war W‰chter lived in a Roman monastery "as a monk", under the protection of Bishop Hudal, until 1949, when he died "in the arms" of Bishop Huda at the Roman hospital of Santo Spirito.
Andrija Artuković, "the Himmler of the Balkans"
Ante Pavelić, head of Catholic Croatia, arguably the most murderous regime in relation to its size in Axis-occupied Europe, as I show at my page.

I have been studying the role of Christians and Catholics in particular in the Holocaust for years and have been publishing my findings at .

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