A letter recently unearthed from Vatican archives has shed new light on Pope Pius XII’s wartime actions..
This correspondence, published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, suggests that the Pope possessed detailed information about the mass gassing of up to 6,000 Jews and Poles per day in German-occupied Poland during World War II.
These revelations directly challenge the Vatican’s previous claims of being unable to verify and denounce Nazi atrocities.
The controversial legacy of Pius XII is revived
The historical record of Pope Pius XII has long been a topic of debate among historians. Supporters argue that he used quiet diplomacy to save Jewish lives, while critics maintain that remained silent in the face of the Holocaust.
This newly discovered letter, dated December 14, 1942, written by a trusted German Jesuit priest, the Rev. Lothar Koenig, to Pius’s secretary, the Rev. Robert Leiber, could reignite discussions surrounding Pius’ legacy.
The importance of this letter lies in its detailed account of Nazi extermination activities against Jewsincluding the use of ovens.
The Reverend Lothar Koenig, a member of the anti-Hitler Catholic resistance in Germany, transmitted this information to the Vatican, highlighting the existence of informed ecclesiastical sources capable of sharing secret information.
The letter mentions the horrible daily deaths of Jews and Poles in Rava Ruskaa city in pre-war Poland that is now part of Ukraine.
The timing of Koenig’s letter is noteworthy. He points out that this trusted Jesuit’s correspondence reached the Vatican shortly after the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto of Rava Ruska, adding a crucial dimension to the debate. Furthermore, this occurred after Pius received diplomatic notes and visits from foreign envoys, who had reported the deaths of up to a million Jews in Poland.
Yes ok It cannot be definitively confirmed that Pius saw the letterthe close working relationship between Leiber and the Pope, dating back to their stay in Germany, suggests that such information may have reached the Pope’s office.
The release of this document raises questions about the Vatican’s previous stance on verification of Nazi atrocities. Monsignor Domenico Tardini, a senior official, had previously informed British envoys that the Vatican could not speak due to a lack of verification. However, this newly discovered letter challenges that narrative, providing evidence of detailed news stories about crimes against Jews reaching the Vatican.
Giovanni Coco, researcher and archivist of the Vatican apostolic archives, underlines the importance of this document, stating that it confirms that Pius XII received accurate information about the Holocaust from the German Catholic Church, according to The New York Times.
However, Koenig’s letter also reveals fear for his life and that of the resistance sources, urging the Holy See not to make this information public. Supporters of Pope Pius XII have long argued that his reluctance to speak out forcefully against the Nazis was due to genuine concerns of reprisals.
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