Reviewed by SH.
If you save one [Jewish] life, it is as if you’ve saved the whole world”—Jewish saying.
— See also, Pius XII and the Vatican Secret Archives
Rabbi David G Dalin, in his 2005 book, The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, has marshaled an extensive documentation which shows to us today what the first post-war generation of Jews who actually lived through that terrible period already knew, namely that any charge leveled against Pius XII with respect to that pope’s alleged “silence” or inaction in the face of Nazi atrocities against European Jewry would have to be a pack of horrible lies.
“Liberal War Against the Catholic Church”
Moreover, rabbi Dalin shows that such lies have been motivated by two main strategic objectives: “the liberal best-selling attacks on [Pius XII] and the Catholic Church are really an ad intra-Catholic argument about the direction of the Church today,” perpetrated by certain liberals (especially ex-priest James Carroll, John Cornwell, Gary Wills, and other lapsed or angry Catholics) who reject the direction and teachings of the popes since the Second Vatican Council and so seek to stir up hatred against the Church by virtually any means. All three of these men have a big ax to grind and are, like all propagandists, mostly impervious to any facts which get in the way.”
Dalin says the “battle over the reputation of Pius XII is one of the most historically important battles of” what is more broadly called today the “culture war.” The “Catholic” polemicists are, this book contends, motivated by anger over
“…Church teachings on priestly celibacy, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, the ordination of women, papal infallibility, the doctrine of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, apostolic succession, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and the magisterium itself.”
Gary Wills, Dalin documents, even went so far as to hysterically call on his kind to “overthrow papal tyranny” and referred to John Paul II as a “credulous megalomaniac”. John Paul was, it hardly needs saying, a friend of Jews everywhere, but it was his condemnation of “a culture of death” (abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, all hallmarks also of the Nazi program) that drove the ‘progressive’ Wills over the brink.
Secondly, the delighted reception of such bold lies helps to get the real perpetrators of the Nazi crimes “off the hook”: namely that generation of Germans which put Hitler into power and which uncritically followed his logic of atrocious hatred to the bitter end. Dalin cites in this regard the “Communist agitprop” play,The Deputy, of the early sixties written by a young left-wing German writer, Rolf Hochhuth, a play which was “fictional, highly polemical and offered no historical evidence whatsoever. It nevertheless became a sensation…” among those who were willing to believe anything against Catholicism. Hochhuth appears to have been boxing with his own shadow in writing it at the expense of the Catholic Church.
Dalin’s book also exposes another alarming truth: that similar minded liberal Jews got into the act as well with little regard for the facts. As Jewish theologian Will Herberg put it: “anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of secular Jewish intellectuals”.
This is certainly true, Dalin suggests, of men like Jonah Goldhagen who wrote Hitler’s Willing Executioners and who at first correctly placed the blame where it belonged, with the anti-Catholic Adolph Hitler, his anti-Catholic Nazis, and their fevered followers; but evidently later (in his book A Moral Reckoning) Goldhagen sought to cash in on this new “anti-Semitism of secular Jewish intellectuals” by suggesting Catholicism is the swamp where anti-Semitism festers.
Goldhagen, Dalin writes, “conveniently [ignores] the anti-Semitism of atheistic Soviet Russia and the fact that the Nazis who perpetrated the Holocaust were anti-Christian as well as anti-Semitic…”, also noting that Goldhagen suppresses “overwhelming counter-evidence to his argument”.
Other Jewish scholars, like Michael Berenbaum, observe the same thing, that Golghagen “omits all mention of countervailing” facts in his agenda-driven hatchet job. This makes Goldhagen, rabbi Dalin attests, “the most anti-Semitic [anti-Catholic] of Jewish papal critics,” according to Herberg’s criteria.
Rabbi Dalin finds it incredible, as all honest men and women who study the question must, that some of these new persecutors of Catholicism will hardly let on that they can tell the difference between an Adolph Hitler (one who annihilated so many European Jews) and a Pius XII (who saved Jews, and in such numbers that dwarf many of the righteous acts of those who have been appropriately honored by Israel as “Righteous Gentiles” for helping to save Jews). In the propaganda of the culture wars such distinctions are not helpful and therefore not worth mentioning.
Dalin deplores the fact that a vicious bigotry in the main liberal press has ensured that only the slanderous books have been given extensive and widespread reviews while scholarly defenses of pope Pius “have been virtually ignored”. “The result,” he writes,
“is that the myth of Hitler’s pope is falsely given the mantle of mainstream scholarship, while the truth about Pius XII as a defender of the Jews at their time of greatest peril is written off as merely minority Catholic pleading.”
Among the important but largely ignored books are Ronald Rychlak’s Hitler, the War and the Pope which the rabbi says “provides a devastating point-by-point refutation of Cornwell’s allegations”. He mentions also The Defamation of Pius XII by Ralph McInerny, professor of medieval Christian philosophy at Notre Dame.
It is nevertheless consoling to know that there are not a few (relatively powerless) Jewish scholars who do care about facts and who will not abide the slander of one who showed himself in so many ways a friend to hunted Jews in their time of terrible need. For every Jewish detractor,” Dalin writes, “Pope Pius XII has been blessed with a Jewish defender”.
Jewish historian William D. Rubenstein whom Dalin cites as a “noted authority on the Holocaust” has “characterized (John Cornwell’s) Hitler’s Pope as a ‘malign exercise in defamation and character assassination”. Cornwell, Dalin notes, “later backed away from his own claims” but not before the damage was done.
Dalin also highlights the “historian and diplomat, Pinchas Lapide, who had been the Israeli consul in Milan and had spoken with many Italian Jewish Holocaust survivors.” Dalin says:
“In his meticulously researched and comprehensive 1967 book, Three Popes and the Jews, Lapide persuasively argued that Pius XII ‘was instrumental in saving at least 700,000 but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands’. Lapide’s volume remains the definitive work by a Jewish scholar on the subject.”
Dalin cites Joseph Lichten, the Anti-Defamation representative in Rome, who rebutted “the false and malicious allegations of Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy. And Jeno Levai “who was so angered by accusations of papal “silence” that he wrote Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy: Pius XII Did Not Remain Silent with an introduction and epilogue by Robert M.W. Kempner, the deputy chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg”.
Kempner “did not hesitate to compare those who defamed Pius XII with revisionists who deny the full reality of the Holocaust:
“We are concerned here with another deliberate, or at the very least negligently applied method which aims at reducing the guilt of those who were responsible. This is done by focusing the guilt for the Holocaust not on Hitler as the central figure for the liquidation system but on Pius XII…”
Sheltered at Great Risk
Another Jewish scholar who has defended Pius XII whom the rabbi cites is Michael Tagliacozzo, the “foremost authority on the Nazi roundup of Rome’s Jews,” who documents that “Pius XII personally was instrumental in saving the lives of close to five thousand Roman Jews who, at the pope’s instructions, were sheltered in the Vatican and in the numerous monasteries and convents in Rome. Having lived through the terror of the Nazi occupation of Rome and studied the primary documents relating to it, Tagliacozzo has had nothing but praise for Pius XII.”
Dalin quotes Richard Breitman, “the only historian authorized to study classified American espionage films from World War III” who wrote that “Hitler distrusted the Holy See because it hid Jews”. Indeed, Dalin adds that we also know that Hilter wanted to kidnap the pope on account of this.
Another Jewish scholar who defended the maligned pontiff was Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill:
“Gilbert documents how Pius XII was one of the first to publicly condemn Nazi atrocities (via Vatican radio) and to speak out on behalf of Europe’s Jews…hundreds of thousands of Jews were saved by the Catholic Church.”
“Shocking… Abominable Slander”
Then the author says, “For Jewish scholars of a previous generation, the idea that Pope Pius XII could be smeared as ‘Hitler’s Pope’ would have been shocking”. He cites the tributes paid to Pius by Albert Einstein, Chaim Weizmann, who would become Israel’s first president, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett; Rabbi Issac Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel, Dr. Alexander Safran, the chief rabbi of Romania”. There was also praise from the New York Timesfor Pius during the war. He says that “public figures showered Pius with praise for the actions he took in defense of the Jews during World War II”. To compare him to, or in any way associate him with the Nazis amounts to what Dalin calls “a monstrous moral equivalence,” an “abominable slander”.
One Dimensional Propaganda
Contrary to the popular one-dimensional propaganda of our time which sees only bouts of anti-Semitism in the past, Dalin says, “there has been a tradition of papal support for the Jews of Europe since at least the fourteenth century, a philo-Semitic Catholic tradition that continues into our time with Pope Benedict XVI.”
Rabbi Dalin documents these inexcusably suppressed facts and much more in his book.
Catholic Oskar Schindler, whom Steven Spielberg made famous in the movie, Schindler’s List, to his everlasting credit saved some 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust. He was designated a “Righteous Gentile” by the Jewish people. Rabbi Dalin says that in justice the same should be declared for a pope who spoke out strongly on behalf of the Jews and who took action in the most difficult and terrible of times, saving many, many more Jews.
Finally, the author of this important book says, “Jews, whatever their feelings about Roman Catholicism, have a duty to reject arguments that usurp the Holocaust and use it for a liberal war against the Catholic Church that if successful would undermine the foundations of Christianity and Judaism alike, because of the liberal critics’ overwhelming disregard for traditional religion and the truth”.
—>MI5 documents reveal Nazi plan to send spies dressed as monks into Vatican
Hitler’s plan to kill Pius XII
—>Pius XII ‘set up escape network for Jews’
—> Israeli Ambassador praises wartime pope
—>Pope Pius XII Mobilized Church Leaders to Defend Synagogues. “The letter reads, ‘Do not engage in saving only Jewish people but also synagogues, cultural centers and everything that pertains to their faith: the Torah scrolls, libraries, cultural centers, etc.)’”
Note: What did the Big Gun allied powers do comparable to the unarmed and surrounded Catholic Church which condemned Nazism *before* the war (Mitt Brenner Sorge, 1937), and (see above) saved Jews during the war?
How many battalions did the Church have? None. What did those who did have mighty armies, air forces and navies do? Did they bomb the hell out of the tracks to the camps? No.
New Work: The Pope and the Holocaust:
“Very wisely and helpfully, Professor Hesemann takes up the task of Father Peter Gumpel, who had scoured thousands of documents related to Pius XII and the Nazi Holocaust, and who also had the privilege of knowing Pius the man. Hesemann has befriended the Vatican Apostolic Archive, finding therein a treasure trove of material to produce this painstaking work of unvarnished truth.”– Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D.