Since the opening of the archives of this period, decided by Pope Francis in March 2020, more than two million documents relating to Pope Pius XII, the Curia and the pontifical representations, ranging from 1939 to 1958, largely digitized, are now accessible and make it possible to better understand the Church of that time, in particular her role during the Second World War.
During a conference organized on June 16, 2021 by the German and French embassies to the Holy See, historian Nina Valbousquet from the French School in Rome, and Simon Unger-Alvi, from the German Historical Institute in Rome, spoke on the war and genocide under the pontificate of Pius XII.
The Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain [who was French Ambassador to the Holy See from 1945 to 1948. Editor's note] wrote in 1945 to the Secretariat of State that after the end of the war, the Pope could speak freely of the horrors of conflict.
In the response dated July 19, 1945, it is stated that Pius XII had quite often pointed out the injustice of seeing people persecuted because of their race or their faith. The question of the “silence of Pius XII” must be considered in the context of this time, underlined Nina Valbousquet.
For Simon Unger-Alvi, a differentiated answer to this so important question still takes time. “The fact that the Pope had been informed of the deportations and the massacres by letters, as well as by the Jews of Rome, refugees in churches and monasteries, is established,” he recalled.
Thousands of unpublished documents reveal the extent of the Holy See's activity on behalf of Jews during World War II and can now be consulted by scholars and historians around the world.
Johan Ickx, director of the Historical Archives of the Relations with States section of the Secretary of State, has published a book based on these documents. Entitled The Office. The Jews of Pius XII (Michel Lafon, 2020), the work discusses, through the concrete cases of Jewish nationals, the immense work of the Office put in place at the Holy See to save them.
“I think there are 2,800 cases, a list equivalent to Schindler's list, a 'Pacelli list'. I wonder how it is that the Holy See never reported it,” said the researcher.
“The Bureau, that is to say the first section of the Secretariat of State, was responsible not only for international relations but also for the very many Jews who, during the Second World War, applied to the Vatican for help, support, advice, and protection, explained Matteo Luigi Napolitano in L'Osservatore Romano of March 11, 2021. […]
"'Jews': such is the name of the series of documents gathered in 170 files arranged in alphabetical order, for a total of about 2,800 cases. […]
“The existence of the series' Jews', which Johan Ickx calls “‘Pius XII’s list,’ is tangible proof of the interest shown in people who, because of racial laws, were not considered as ordinary citizens, whether they are Jews or baptized Jews.”
“It is not possible to cite here all the cases of Jews reported to the Vatican. But it can be said that the documents clearly show, as Johan Ickx writes, that the Vatican's efforts were aimed ‘at saving every individual human being, regardless of color or creed.’”