A letter found in the Vatican archives suggests that Pope Pius XII was aware of the crimes committed by Germans in extermination camps as early as 1942. As Reuters notes, this undermines the official position of the Holy See at the time that the information it had was unclear and unverified.
The yellowed letter dated December 14, 1942, discovered by Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco, was made public by the Corriere della Sera. The letter, written by the German Jesuit Lother Koenig, active in the anti-Nazi resistance movement, was addressed to the Pope’s personal secretary in VaticanFather Robert Leiber, also German.
The letter was among documents that Coco said were kept in a disorderly manner at the Vatican Secretariat of State and were only recently transferred to the central archive where she works.
As Corriere della Sera wrote, the letter “confirms that Pope Pius XII was aware of the crimes committed by the Nazis in the extermination camps.”
“Accurate and detailed information about crimes”
Coco said in an interview with the Italian daily that the importance of this letter is “huge, exceptional” because “now we are sure that the Catholic Church in Germany sent Pius XII accurate and detailed information about the crimes committed against the Jews.” Asked by a journalist of “Corriere della Sera” whether the letter showed that Pius XII knew, Coco replied: “Yes, and not only since then.”
Koenig informs in the letter that about 6,000 Poles and Jews were killed daily in the furnaces of the Bełżec extermination camp.
The letter also referred to two other German camps – Auschwitz and Dachau. It is also intended to suggest, as Reuters wrote, that there were other letters exchanged between Koenig and Leiber that were either lost or have not yet been found.
As reported by Reuters, Pius XII’s supporters say he worked behind the scenes to help Jews and did not speak out to prevent the situation for Catholics from worsening in Nazi Germany-occupied Europe. His critics say he lacked the courage to speak out about the information he had, despite requests from the Allied powers fighting Germany.
Suzanne Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum told Reuters that these reports indicate the Vatican took the statement seriously Pope Francisthat “the Church is not afraid of history” when he ordered the opening of wartime archives in 2019. “There is both willingness and support for a careful evaluation of documents from a scientific point of view, regardless of whether the results are favorable or unfavorable,” she said.
Reuters, Corriere della Sera
Main photo source: Eric Vandeville/ABACAPRESS.COM/PAP