The Vatican and the Holocaust

The Vatican and the Holocaust

The Vatican statement on the Shoah* addresses two questions: Why didn’t Church authorities speak out against the murder of the European Jews? And is there a relationship between Christian anti-Judaism and Nazi anti-Semitism?

It is still unclear why Pope Pius XII remained silent in the face of his knowledge of the death camps. The Vatican statement simply reiterates the old argument about the necessity of caution, according to which Pope Pius XII was silent because he feared the Nazis would take retaliatory measures against Catholic targets, and even against the Vatican itself.

This defense of the Vatican’s silence fails to come to grips with the most damning piece of evidence: how the Vatican behaved at the end of the war. Pius XII might have been intimidated before the spring of 1945, but why did he remain silent after Hitler’s defeat? The most incriminating insight into the Vatican’s real attitudes is its effort to secure safe passage out of Europe for former SS officers being hunted by the Allies. No less a figure than Franz Stangl, former commandant at Treblinka, wanted for the murder of six hundred thousand people, was spirited to South America by an underground railroad of Catholic priests, under the guidance of the Vatican’s own Bishop Alois Hudal. The intriguing question is what might have motivated the Vatican to assist those murderers. Surely money was not a factor, nor was political gain. Could it be that the Vatican felt a closer bond to the Nazis than the Jews?