Pope orders WWII-era Jewish archives published online Pius XII

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ROME – Pope Francis has ordered the publication online of 170 volumes of his Jewish archives from the recently opened archives of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican announced Thursday, amid renewed debate over his pope’s legacy from the era of the Vatican. Second World War.

The documentation contains 2,700 files of requests for help from the Vatican from Jewish groups and families, many of them baptized Catholics, so in reality they are no longer practicing Jews. The files were in the archives of the Secretary of State and contain requests for papal intervention to prevent Nazi deportation, obtain release from concentration camps or help find relatives.

The online release of the archives comes amid renewed debate about Pius’s legacy following the opening of his archives to scholars in 2020, of which the “Jewish” archives are only a small part. The Vatican has long defended Pius against criticism from some Jewish groups that he remained silent in the face of the Holocaust, saying he used quiet diplomacy to save lives.

A recent book citing the newly opened archives, “The Pope at War,” by Pultizer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer, suggests that the people the Vatican was most concerned with saving were Jews who had converted to Catholicism, descendants of Roman Catholics. . Jewish or Catholic related mixed marriages.

Kerzer claims that Pius was reluctant to intervene on behalf of the Jews, or publicly denounce Nazi atrocities against them, to avoid alienating Adolf Hitler or the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher said the digital release of the “Jews'” archives was expected to help scholars with research, but also descendants of those who had requested Vatican help, to “find traces of your loved ones anywhere in the world”. world.”

In an article for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Gallagher said the files contained requests for help, but without much information on the results.

“Each of these requests constituted a case which, once processed, was destined for storage in a documentary series titled ‘Jews,'” he wrote.

“Requests would reach the Secretary of State, where diplomatic channels would try to provide all possible assistance, taking into account the complexity of the political situation in the global context,” Gallagher wrote.

He cited a case found in the archives: a Jew who was baptized Catholic in 1938, Werner Barasch, who sought help from the Pope in 1942 to be released from a concentration camp in Spain. According to the files, his request was forwarded to the Vatican embassy in Madrid, but then the paperwork went cold.

“As for the majority of requests for help witnessed by other cases, the outcome of the request was not reported,” Gallagher wrote. “In our hearts, we inevitably immediately hoped for a positive result, the hope that Werner Barasch would later be released from the concentration camp and could find his mother abroad.”

Further research online, including at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, found that Barasch survived and was able to join his mother in the United States in 1945, Gallagher reported.

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