Page 5, 4th October 1974

4th October 1974
Page 5
Page 5, 4th October 1974 — Defence of Pius Xli's attitude to Nazis

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Organisations: Catholic Truth Society
Locations: Surrey


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Defence of Pius Xli's attitude to Nazis

From Sir Alec Randall Will you allow me to supplement, from my own experience, the review by Mr Christopher Hollis and the comment by Fr Joseph Crehan, S.J. which you published on September 27 about Pius Xll's alleged neglect to condemn publicly the Nazi policy of euthanasia and the extermination of the European Jews?

In 1963, when Hochhuth's notorious play Der Stellvertreter ("The Representative'') appeared I dealt publicly with its falsification of history and its scandalous depiction of the Pope as a "Pontius Pilate," washing his hands of the question of the Nazi extermination camps.

Many people came forward to defend Pius XII, notably the British Minister to the Holy See. Sir Francis D'Arcy Osborne, who had to reside in the Vatican throughout the war, and met the Pope frequently.

He testified, in a letter to The Times, that if the Pope felt he could stop the war or the persecution by laying down his life, he would not have hesitated. My arguments were briefly set forth in a pamphlet, "The Pope, the Jews and the Nazis," published by the Catholic Truth Society in 1963. Since then many documents have appeared which throw light on this question — the eight volumes of the Vatican's war-archives, many tributes to the Pope from Jewish organisations, a most copiously documented book, "The Last Three Popes and the Jews," by a Jewish writer. Pinches Lapide, published in 1967. He estimates the number of Jews saved by the Pope at about 860,000. This fully justifies Fr Crehan's defence of the Pope.

Now to deal with two points in Mr Hollis's review. First the "mistake" of signing the Concordat with Hitler, Pius XII told the Charge d'Affaires at the British Legation to the Holy See, the late Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, that he was under the severest pressure to sign; the alternative, he was convinced, would have been greatly increased persecution of German Catholics.

And, seeing what concessions were made in the Concordat

over the freedom of Catholics and 'Catholic organisations, what would have been the feelings of German Catholics had he rejected so favourable an offer? Of course the Pope was under no illusion, and in fact the signature was followed by a systematic breach by Hitler of all its chief provisions. This was a common experience -for example, Hitler's promise to Neville Chamberlain.

Secondly, the superior achievement of Mgr. Roncalli, the future Pope John, over Pius XII in the rescue of Jews. Pope 'John undoubtedly saved many Jews while he was the papal representative in Bulgaria, but he always said that he had acted under Pius XII's instructions.

Now. euthanasia. In 1937 and 1938 I was serving in Denmark, and our parish priest, a German Jesuit. told me after he had paid a visit to his parents in Germany how disturbed were many people at finding that their elderly or handicapped relations were carried off to sanitoria without notice. Later they received their ashes, with the message that they had unfortunately died.

But Hitler's eugenics policy, like his successful reduction of unemployment, at first deceived many people who could have been expected to condemn Nazism. Thus the eugenic policy was well received by a Jesuit scientist, Fr Muckermann. Hitler's reaction against the current loose morality, in particular his care for family life shown in bonuses paid to young married couples, providing them with homes.

But Fr Muckermann was quickly disillusioned and withdrew to Holland, from where he published an anti-Nazi review. This perhaps may be added to Fr Crehan's well-documented refutes Lion of Miss Sereny's arguments.

Of course it can be argued that had Pius XII, like Pope Leo against Attila, defied the tyrant, the world might have been saved from unspeakable horrors. It was not lack of courage that deterred Pius XII, but his conviction that his boldness would surely he visited upon German Catholics and It was his paramount duty to continue to govern the Church and save his beloved German Catholics from destruction.

The argument had been made that Bishop von Galen's courageous protest against euthanasia had some effect, and that similar courage on the Pope's part would have saved the Jews. But there was no analogy between the two cases.

Euthanasia was for Hitler a subordinate question on which concessions could be made. The "Final Solution" was fundamental to Nazi policy, and what the Pope had to consider was whether his action might not make the case far worse. There were instances to support this.

Then, if he condemned the German Nazis, ought he not to condemn the Russians, then allied with the Nazis? In that case what would have been the fate of his beloved, loyal Poles? Pius XII, like Benedict XV, for whom he had a life-long devotion, was condemned by both sides, Today it would probably be admitted by most of his critics that he was wiser than they. So, perhaps, there will be similar acknowledgement of Pius XII's motives in the most agonising decision imposed in the history of the Papacy.

Alec Randall 9 Master Close, Oxted, Surrey.

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