The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

October 07, 2015

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The Pope Pius XII Controversy
Kenneth D. Whitehead

The pope and his associates repeated on various occasions this same justification for not speaking out. In February, 1941, for example, the pope again commented that silence was "unhappily imposed on him." (Blet, 64) This was no mere excuse. At the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals after the war, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring testified that Pius XII no doubt did not protest "because he told himself quite rightly: 'If I protest, Hitler will be driven to madness; not only will that not help the Jews, but we must expect that they will then be killed all the more." (Rychlak, 261)

Similarly, Dr. Marcus Melchoir, the Chief Rabbi of Denmark, who was himself rescued with his entire community by unpublicized efforts, expressed the same opinion after the war: "I believe it is an error to think that Pius XII could have had any influence whatever on the brain of a madman. If the pope had spoken out, Hitler would probably have massacred more than six million Jews and perhaps ten times the number of Catholics." (McInerny, 140)

The best known case of how publicly challenging the Nazis in occupied Europe could indeed make things worse is that of the Dutch bishops. Their public protest in July, 1942, against the persecutions being carried out by the Nazis resulted in the immediate revocation of what had been an exemption in favor of baptized Jews—and in the immediate deportation to Auschwitz and execution of all the Catholic Jewish converts, including the philosopher and Carmelite nun Edith Stein, later canonized by the Church. Jewish converts to Protestantism were not taken at this time because their leaders had agreed not to protest publicly.

All of our authors except David Kertzer record the Dutch incident (Blet, 147–148; Cornwell, 286–287; Marchione, 20, 28; McInerny, 84–85; Phayer, 54–55; Wills, 54–56; and Zuccotti, 312–313); José Sánchez touches on it only fleetingly, but seems to accept that the public protest of the Dutch bishops "led directly to the deportation and killing of Jews who had converted to Catholicism." (Sánchez, 133)

The anti-Pius authors are not so sure. Cornwell accepts the basic facts but then launches into a discussion of how the incident has been used as the basis of "exculpatory statements" for Pius XII; he particularly objects to one by the pope's long-time housekeeper, Sister M. Pasqualina Lehnert, who, many years later, reported that the pope had actually proceeded to destroy a protest document he had drafted against the Nazi persecutions when he learned of this incident concerning the Dutch bishops.

Phayer is even more skeptical than Cornwell about this story, using the incident to question the credibility of Sister Pasqualina. Garry Wills cites the story in order to question the legitimacy of the canonization of Edith Stein as, properly speaking, a Catholic martyr (rather than a Jewish victim). Zuccotti cites the story mostly as related to her primary subject, the Holocaust in Italy, but finally concedes that "the pope was probably correct that some Jews involved with Catholicism, as well as some Catholics, would suffer from a public protest"—she does not concede that a papal protest might have made things worse for the Jews as such, since her primary thesis is that many more Jews suffered and were sacrificed than necessary because the pope never found a way to speak out against the Nazis.

The pro-Pius authors take the opposite viewpoint; they are all convinced that the incident strongly vindicates the Vatican's policy. Pierre Blet records that the Vatican had actually been expecting a much better outcome in Holland based on diplomatic reports it had received, and was surprised and dismayed by the deportations (which would seem to indicate that the Nazis did change their policy abruptly). Margherita Marchione strongly deplores the protests later raised against the Church's beatification of Edith Stein as a result of her deportation and death. McInerny speaks of the "the tragic consequences of open confrontation" and reports the actual words of the Nazi Reichskommissar reacting to the public protest of the Dutch bishops: "If the Catholic clergy does not bother to negotiate with us, we are compelled to consider all Catholics of Jewish blood as our worst enemies, and must consequently deport them to the East." Rychlak points out that the Reichskommissar in question expressly stated that the Catholic bishops had "interfered," and therefore the deportations had to be carried out. The particular interpretation of each of our various authors of this particular incident is typical of their treatment of Pius XII and the Holocaust generally: the same set of facts is made to serve each author's position, whether for or against the pope.

Still, nothing related to this incident suggests that there were not serious consequences or penalties for speaking out against the Nazis or trying to pressure them. On the contrary, it seems that even the anti-Pius authors basically have to concede this in this case—while, in the case of a couple of them, fuzzing the whole thing up by then diverting attention to the credibility or lack of it of Sister Pasqualina.

Other examples of the same kind can be cited, however. In Hungary in 1944, for example, in a liberated Rome when Pius XII and his nuncios were in a better position to speak and act more forcibly and were quite vigorously doing so—and with some success in preventing further deportations of Jews—the Germans responded by overthrowing the Hungarian government and installing a new and more violent one willing to proceed against the Jews.45 That resistance to the Nazis often did make things more difficult for the victims was an established pattern in Nazi-occupied Europe. Pius XII was not merely rationalizing his decision not to speak out forcefully by saying it made things worse; he was referring to a reality that was obvious to those coping at the time with the war and the evils it had brought in its train.

And there were yet other reasons for the course of action that Pius XII followed. No better summary of them probably exists than that of J. Derek Holmes in his book The Papacy in the Modern World:

[Pius XII] was very skeptical, probably rightly, about the influence of public denunciations on totalitarian regimes. Such condemnations were not only useless, but might even provoke retaliation.
Pius XII was certainly concerned to safeguard German Catholicism from the threat of National Socialism and might even have been afraid of losing the loyalty of German Catholics. He was also anxious to avoid jeopardizing the position of Catholics in Germany and in the occupied territories. Judging from the pope's correspondence with the German bishops, fears of reprisals would seem to have dominated his attitude towards the fate of the Jews in Germany. The very evil to be condemned was sufficiently evil to be able to prevent its condemnation. But the pope had to struggle hard to maintain his "neutrality." He was certainly well-informed and there is a suggestion of total helplessness in his letters in the face of such incredible evil. Even if he made the wrong decision in keeping "silent," he cannot be accused of taking the decision lightly. Finally, the pope's own work on behalf of the Jews might have been endangered by a public denunciation of the Nazis, even though such a denunciation might have justified his moral reputation in the eyes of mankind.46

These, then, were some of the reasons why Pius XII decided upon the relative silence he maintained in the face of the Holocaust. He was far from totally silent, as we have seen, and through the organs of the Church he worked to help the Jews and other victims.

As for the effect of some of the statements that he did make during the war years, one researcher, Stephen M. DiGiovanni, had the idea of going directly to the New York Times, available on microfilm in most large libraries, to see what America's newspaper of record had to say about Pius XII as events in wartime Europe unfolded. The results of his inquiry, available on the website of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights,47 cast considerable doubt on the allegations that Pius's statements were too few, too muted, and too indirect ever to enable the public to understand what was happening in Europe under the Nazis.

It is true that many historians sniff at mere newspaper article research, preferring no doubt to burrow in the archives. Still, it is hard to credit the overall thesis of the pope's culpable silence when we come upon such New York Times headlines as these: POPE CONDEMNS DICTATORS, TREATY VIOLATORS, RACISM (October 28, 1939); or, POPE IS EMPHATIC ABOUT JUST PEACE . . . JEWS' RIGHTS DEFENDED (March 14, 1940); or when we come upon Times editorials such as those commenting on the pontiff's 1941 and 1942 Christmas Messages where the pope is described as "a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent."

2) What did Pius XII do for the Jews and could he possibly have done more?

It is surely something of a truism to say that historical figures could have "done more" or acted differently, but it is also beside the point. The proper task of history, it would seem, is to understand what someone did and why. When Pius XII is instead charged with "silence," it is very hard to deal with the question; it is like an unprovable negative.

Actually, Pius XII and the Vatican were heavily involved in relief work throughout the war, quite apart from what the pope said, or did not say; on the "silence" question, Marchione, among other authors, points out that other agencies involved in relief work were similarly "silent." She notes that the World Council of Churches, for example, left any possible denunciations of crimes to its member churches—just as the Holy See regularly left it to the Catholic bishops to say whatever seemed necessary or helpful.

Similarly, the International Red Cross began drafting a protest statement against the Nazis in 1942, but it was never issued. (Marchione, 174–175) In February, 1943, at a meeting called to examine the problem of helping Jews threatened by the Nazis—a meeting which included the papal nuncio as well as a pastor from the World Council of Churches—the Red Cross articulated its reasons for deciding not to issue any protest statement. Protests, in the view of the Red Cross, would jeopardize the relief work the agency was carrying out in favor of war victims:

Such protests gain nothing; furthermore, they can greatly harm those whom they intend to aid. Finally, the primary concern of the International [Red Cross] Committee should be for those for whom it was established. (Blet, 162)

That this was the considered view of the Red Cross reveals a great deal about how the situation was viewed at the time. Yet I do not recall that a single one of the anti-Pius books—nor do the indexes of any of them reveal—any mention of the fact that the Red Cross, like the Vatican, was attempting to carry on doing what it could in the way of relief without issuing direct challenges to regimes which exercised iron control in the very territories where most of the victims in need of assistance were located. Sánchez does mention this "silence" of the Red Cross, but goes on to say that, in his view, more was expected of the pope as "the moral voice of Catholicism." (Sánchez, 120)

In this connection, people have often asked why Pius XII did not excommunicate Hitler, a baptized Catholic, along with those Catholics who participated in the Nazi killings. Our authors generally do not dwell on this question, perhaps considering themselves to be at a level of sophistication above asking such a question. Certainly any such excommunications would have constituted a provocation, if that was what the pope, like the Red Cross, was trying to avoid.

More than that, though, while excommunication might have been effective back in the ages of faith, when a head of state had to contend with strong feelings about excommunication on the part of his subjects, in the secularized world of the twentieth century it was not likely to have much effect. The Holy See, moreover, had first-hand experience of how ineffective excommunications had been for a very long time: the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I had certainly not helped the Catholic Church in England; nor did it deter Napoleon. In more recent times, the pope had without any discernible effect whatsoever excommunicated the Savoy ruler who became King Vittorio Emmanuele I of a United Italy, along with his famous Prime Minister Count Camillo Cavour. The excommunications of both of these men later had to be quietly lifted to enable them to receive the last Sacraments of the Church at the time of their deaths.48

More than that, Hitler had long since "excommunicated" himself; he had not practiced the Catholic faith since childhood, and on numerous occasions had expressed his hatred of it. (Rychlak, 272–273) Nor does it seem that those who proved themselves capable of engaging in the Nazi killings could have been much influenced by being told that they had been excommunicated. Excommunication would have amounted to an ineffective gesture (like speaking out). More important for the pope would be what could effectively be done under the circumstances.

So what did the Vatican do for war victims, including the Jews? Pope Pius XII set up both a Pontifical Relief Commission and a Vatican Information Service; the former was designed to provide aid in the form of whatever funds, goods, medicine, or shelter could be obtained and distributed, while the latter aimed to find and report on missing soldiers or civilians who had become separated because of the war. Headquartered at the Vatican, these organizations raised money, for example, in the Americas, and then worked through Church institutions and personnel at all levels to funnel aid to needy victims. Thousands of people were involved in this work: priests, monks, friars, nuns, lay volunteers, military chaplains, and others. The networks established by and through these organizations would also prove to be instrumental in hiding Jews or helping them to escape.

From the outset Pope Pius insisted: "It is our ardent wish to offer to the unfortunate and innocent victims every possible spiritual and material succor—with no questions asked, no discrimination, and no strings attached."49 In other words, the assistance specifically provided by the pope and the Church to the Jews was rendered to them along with the aid provided to other wartime victims. It was the Church's policy, as well as the Church's boast, that whatever assistance she could give would be given impartially. McInerny observes that because the Church was engaged in a defense of the "the common rights of the innocent, there was no need to make special mention of the Jews. The Church must come to their defense as to that of any other innocent victims"—he also notes, though, that "Pius XII did make special mention of the Jews" anyway. (McInerny, 59)

Since so much is commonly made about what Pius XII did not do for the Jews, there is obviously a great misunderstanding at work here. While the Church saw herself as attempting to provide help indiscriminately to all, including the Jews, most of the anti-Pius writers see the pope's "failure" to single out the Jews for mention more often and more specifically than he did as proof of his alleged small concern for the Jews and their unique problems, if not as actual anti-Semitism on his part. (Cornwell, 296–297; Phayer, 41, 110; Wills, 66–67; Zuccotti 1–2 and passim) David Kertzer even declares that "as millions of Jews were being murdered, Pius XII could never bring himself to publicly utter the word 'Jew.'" (Kertzer, 16)

Kertzer, of course, is mistaken about this, but his very exaggeration indicates the depth of emotion invested in this question by some of our authors. This raises a further question, though, of why the anti-Pius authors generally give so little attention to the actual wartime relief and rescue efforts that the Church did carry out, however inadequate they may have been in comparison with the enormity of the Holocaust against the Jews. These efforts are pretty consistently downplayed or even ignored by most of the anti-Pius authors, even while they go on at length about the inaction of Pius XII and his supposed negative attitudes towards the Jews.

On the other hand, all of the pro-Pius authors strongly emphasize the Church's wartime relief efforts. All of them quote the estimate of Israeli diplomat and pro-Pius author Pinchas Lapide that "the Catholic Church, under the pontificate of Pius XII, was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands." (Blet, 286; Marchione, 2, 50; McInerny, 168–169; Rychlak, 240, 404)

Sánchez also quotes the same passage but then calls it "undocumented" and says the "uncritical acceptance of Lapide's statistics and statements has weakened [the] arguments" of the pope's defenders. (Sánchez, 140) Yet Sánchez himself has little more to say at all about what the pope and the Church did, in fact, do in a positive way to help the Jews; and, in this respect, his book resembles the books of the anti-Pius authors.

The anti-Pius authors themselves, however, with the exception of Zuccotti, ignore Lapide's statistics completely, not merely as inaccurate, but as if they did not even exist. Relying on the these authors alone, it would be difficult to learn that Pius XII did anything or helped anybody, and this represents a serious failure on the part of these authors to deal with all the facts of the case.

Zuccotti represents a special case here (as, to a lesser extent, so does Phayer), since she does cover many instances of Jews being helped by Catholics and Church institutions and personnel. But her concern is almost invariably to show that they received such aid apart from—and perhaps even in spite of—anything that Pius XII may ever have said or done. She even mentions Lapide several times, only to charge his work with "being replete with egregious mistakes and distortions" (of which she actually cites only two misattributions in newspaper articles). She goes on to characterize Lapide's methodology as "flawed and the results unreliable." (Zuccotti, 303–4, 336n11, 337n20, 394n7) She does not document this, however, but merely asserts it.

So what is the case, then? Did the pope, or the Church under his leadership, help or save any Jews in their hour of need, or not? If so, how much help? How many Jews were hidden or saved? If Lapide's frequently quoted figure is so "flawed," then what were the numbers, approximately, if any numbers are obtainable at all? There is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence of Jews being aided. Should not these questions at least be addressed by those trying to make the case against Pius XII, even if wholly accurate answers might understandably be difficult to come by?

Alas, these questions are basically not addressed by the anti-Pius authors. Unless and until they are addressed, their case against the pope can hardly be considered made. If the pope who is accused of being culpably silent and passive in the face of the Holocaust was, in fact, quite active in helping the Jews—just as he was far from entirely silent as well—how are the charges going to hold up? What is the Pius XII controversy all about? As Robert P. Lockwood points out in a well-documented and judicious "white paper" on Pius XII available on the website of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, even if Lapide's figures represent "an exaggeration by half, it would [still] record more Jewish lives saved than by any other entity at the time."50

3) What was the attitude of Pope Pius XII towards the Nazis, the Communists, and the Democracies? Did he favor or collaborate with the Nazis?

Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, spent many years as papal nuncio in Germany, spoke fluent German, and was very sympathetic to Germans and German culture. Throughout his pontificate in Rome, his private secretary and closest confidante was a German Jesuit, Father Robert Leiber, S.J., while the papal household was managed by a German nun, Sister Pasqualina Lehnert. The pope was obviously very comfortable in a "German" environment, even within the Vatican walls.

Many have taken these pro-German proclivities of the pope, combined with his well-known abhorrence of Communism, as proof that Pius XII favored a German victory in the war with the Soviet Union, and that he even saw Nazi Germany as some kind of "bulwark" against Communism. This was one of the principal themes of The Deputy. In their starkest form, these accusations are no longer directly lodged against the pope—but they continue to be strongly implied in the anti-Pius literature.

Citing historians who have made use of the volumes of the ADSS collection, Sánchez says that the notion that Pius was pro-German in the war cannot be supported. (Sánchez, 106) Blet points out that Pius XII's consistent position calling for a negotiated peace in no way changed when Hitler launched his attack against the Soviet Union. "Pius never spoke, even by means of allusion about a 'crusade' or a 'holy war' against Bolshevism. His work on behalf of peace after June, 1941, was in no way different from what he did previously." (Blet, 63)

Although the Third Reich was pretending to lead a "crusade" against Bolshevism, from the very first days of the war it had in fact been carrying out a relentless persecution against the Catholic Church and Polish Christians; this persecution was greatly intensified when German forces entered the Soviet Union. In those days, it was the Axis which complained of the "silence" of Pius XII. Mussolini, through his ambassador to the Vatican, tried hard to get the pope to endorse the Axis "crusade" against Godless Communism. The ambassador stated that "the silence of the pope has been a thorn in the heart of Mussolini."

Pius XII's collaborator in the Vatican Secretariat of State, Archbishop Domenico Tardini, speaking for the pontiff, told this same ambassador: "I should be only too pleased to see Communism disappear from the face of the earth. It is the Church's worst enemy. But it is not the only one. Nazism has conducted and still conducts a violent persecution of the Church . . . the Church can hardly regard the Hakenkreuz [Swastika] as . . . the symbol of a crusade!"51

Among the authors covered here, Cornwell still tries hard to perpetuate the myth of a pro-German Pius, and he even describes the concordat concluded by the Vatican with Nazi Germany as delivering "the powerful institution of the Catholic Church in Germany into the hands of Hitler" (Cornwell, 85); but then, Cornwell is trying to show, precisely, that Pius XII was "Hitler's pope," a characterization that the record does not support. Although the Vatican, like the rest of Europe at the height of Hitler's power, was obliged to accommodate itself in various ways to what seemed to be shaping up as a very long rule by a victorious totalitarian Germany, at no time was the Vatican's official neutrality (or, as Pius XII preferred to call it, "impartiality") ever seriously compromised. There was never the slightest question of any "collaboration."

Moreover, Pius XII, both before and after his accession to the papacy, made many statements strongly critical of Nazism (in addition to the strictures against statism and racism found in his official Church teaching documents). Rychlak notes that "of the forty-four public speeches that Nuncio Pacelli made on German soil between 1917 and 1929, at least forty contained attacks on National Socialism or Hitler's doctrines." (Rychlak, 18) The Berlin Morgenpost of March 3, 1939, greeted the election of Cardinal Pacelli to the papal chair as "not accepted with favor in Germany because he was always opposed to Nazism."52 The Germans pointedly sent no delegation to the coronation of Pius XII—a notable diplomatic snub.53 Joseph Goebbels called the pope "the deputy of the Jew God." (McInerny, 158) Mussolini called him "a renegade Italian who has sided with the enemies of his country." (Rychlak, 228)

To various interlocutors Pope Pius XII made a number of extremely critical statements about the Nazis; if these were not known during the war to the public at large, they certainly should be known to historians examining the record today, and should exclude any suggestion of Pius favoring the Nazis. Typical of such statements was the pope's remark to the rector of the Gregorian University in December, 1942: The Nazis "want to destroy the Church and crush it like a toad . . . . There will be no place for the pope in the new Europe."54 As early as 1933, Cardinal Pacelli had voiced his strong misgivings about the Nazis to the British Chargé d'Affaires to the Holy See, Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, who reported to London that "Cardinal Pacelli deplored the action of the German government at home, their persecution of the Jews, their proceedings against political opponents [and] the reign of terror to which the whole nation has been subjected." (Rychlak, 49)

If the record shows, then, that Pius XII was not even remotely pro-Nazi, or pro-German in the war—or a "collaborator," even indirectly—the pope's anti-Communism, on the other hand, was well known, and was a notable feature of his pontificate. In this regard, and in the light of the Cold War that followed World War II, Pius XII proved to be more prescient than some of the other prominent leaders of the day. But his anti-Communism did not well-dispose him towards the Nazis: he considered Soviet Communism a greater long-term evil than Nazism, but he thought that the latter constituted a more immediate evil.55

As Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli had been instrumental in the preparation and issuance of the papal encyclical Divini Redemptoris, in which his predecessor, Pope Pius XI had declared that "Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatever."56 Issued just five days after the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge ("With Burning Anxiety"), in which Pius XI had so sternly condemned Nazism for its idolization of race and state, and its "war of extermination" against the Church,57 this anti-Communist encyclical Divini Redemptoris effectively demonstrated the Vatican's wish to condemn both totalitarian systems together. The Church did not dispose of any armed force to "fight" either system, of course, but at least the issuance of these two encyclicals only a few days apart unmistakably showed where the Church stood. Cardinal Pacelli played a major role in the production of both documents; and the record therefore shows that he opposed both Nazism and Communism.

Writers such as Cornwell who dwell on Cardinal Pacelli's earlier role in negotiating the Vatican Concordat with Germany try to imply that the Vatican would never have concluded such an agreement with the Soviet Union. They are quite wrong about this, however, since it was none other than the young Eugenio Pacelli himself who tried (but failed) to negotiate a concordat regularizing the Church's status in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.58 Cornwell actually mentions this but interprets it as providing one more example of how Pius XII was hardened in his conviction of "the impossibility of striking deals with Bolshevism." (Cornwell, 263)

In spite of his pronounced anti-Communism, and in spite of the official neutrality he was determined to maintain, Pius XII nevertheless certainly favored an Allied victory in the war. This was brought out quite clearly in the way the pope resolved in favor of the Allies a question that raged in the United States regarding lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union. Since Pius XI had so clearly condemned Communism as "intrinsically evil," many American Catholics could not see how there could be any "cooperation" with such an evil regime, since this would go against the express words of the late pope.

To resolve this dilemma, President Roosevelt sent his personal representative Myron C. Taylor on a mission to Rome to speak with Pius XII. The idea was to try to secure an interpretation of the Church's teaching that would allow American Catholics in good conscience to support lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union. The pope's solution was to supply an "interpretation of the encyclical of Pius XI as not condemning the Russian people, but as directed [only] against Soviet practices in respect to religious liberty."59

The Apostolic Delegate in Washington was instructed by the Holy See to convey this papal interpretation to appropriate American Catholic bishops. Soon the Archbishop of Cincinnati, John McNicholas, O.P., issued a pastoral letter embodying the interpretation. And, shortly after that, on November 16, 1941, only three weeks before America would find herself at war, the American bishops issued a statement "warning of the twin evils of Nazism and Communism, but recalling that Pius XI himself, while condemning atheistic Communism, had professed his paternal and compassionate benevolence for the peoples of Russia."60 Thus ended opposition by American Catholics to lend-lease aid to the Soviet Union.

This whole incident showing a decided tilt by Pius XII toward the Allies (when he could so act without violating Vatican neutrality) provides yet one more example of how the authors under review here report, or fail to report, specific words and actions of the wartime pope depending upon their own viewpoints. Almost all of the pro-Pius authors report this action of the pope. (Blet, 126; Marchione, 66–67; Rychlak, 161–162) None of the anti-Pius authors reports it or even alludes to it; nor does the "neutral" author, Sánchez. Unfortunately, we could cite other examples of this same kind of one-sidedness. It cannot but raise questions about the extent to which we are getting the whole truth about Pope Pius XII in some of these books.

4) Was Pope Pius XII an anti-Semite?

The main accusation in the whole Pius XII controversy is that the pope, as a moral leader and head of a worldwide Church, did not do or say what he could and should have done and said to help the Jews during the Holocaust. Those seeking an explanation for what they consider to be his silence and inaction have sometimes asked whether the pope was himself possibly anti-Semitic, sharing in or at least tolerating the historic anti-Semitism unfortunately found in Christian Europe. Merely to ask the question in the post-Holocaust era of greater sensitivity to the great wrong done to the Jews, however, is almost inevitably to stigmatize the person about whom the question is even asked.

No one can disagree that the Nazi attack on the Jewish people was indeed unique. As historian Michael Burleigh puts it, "The comprehensiveness of the 'Final Solution' differentiated it from Nazi violence towards such categories of people as Communists, Conservative Catholic Poles, or homosexuals, persecutions of whom did not routinely extend to killing every family member."61

Being Jewish constituted a category all by itself. Yet at the time, this may not have been as clear as it is today. As Burleigh himself goes on to point out:

Nazi killing started first with German mental patients and defectives in the euthanasia program before the war; after the beginning of the war, the Nazis began killing indiscriminately those who got in their way—not just Jews, but Poles, Gypsies, "Bolsheviks," etc. The killing intensified after the attack on Russia—and all this before the "Final Solution" was even decided upon.62

There has been much discussion in the literature, including in the books under review, about just what the pope knew about the Holocaust against the Jews and when he knew it. The general assumption seems to be that if and when he knew anything definite about what we now know to have been going on in Eastern Europe, he most assuredly should have spoken out against it. This is the Hochhuth thesis, of course, which has seemed to command near universal assent from the time that it was first articulated. That other allied leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill similarly did not speak out effectively against the Holocaust while it was going on is not thought to be pertinent to the case of Pius XII, since the latter professed to be primarily a spiritual and moral leader, and the Holocaust constituted an unprecedented moral issue for the world.

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