Martin Gilbert: Even he isn't ready to say Pope Pius XII was indifferent to the fate of the Jews

Historians in the News

Thirteen years have passed since Israel and the Vatican established diplomatic ties, close to 2,000 years since Jesus was crucified, and there are still no "normal" relations between the State of Israel and the Vatican State. We might add: There never will be. Anyone who looks for "normalization" between the Jewish people and the Christian world, in the fullest ethical and emotional sense, is mistaken. Just as "normal" relations, in the fullest sense, are not possible between Jews and Germans, and any German would understand this, it can also be understood by any Christian, who mourns the crucifixion of Jesus, and believes in his heart of hearts that the Jews played a part in his crucifixion at the time.

In the end, the representative of the Vatican in Jerusalem, Archbishop Antonio Franco, decided not to boycott the memorial ceremony for the Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem, but his original intention of not attending was a severe error and even a harsh insult. Had he carried out his intention, this would have offended the Jewish people in the sacred moments of silence - yes, sacred - in memory of those of us who perished in the Holocaust. The reason of the boycott by the apostolic delegate: A caption next to the photograph of Pope Pius XII at the Yad Vashem museum, which criticizes his indifference to the fate of the Jews during World War II. This is at a time that the Vatican is only speeding up the process of Pius's canonization.

I believe the representative of the Vatican in Jerusalem, Antonio Franco, who said to me: "I love the Jews, I have met with them in many places, I love this country - but I am disappointed."

The ambassador of the Vatican in Jerusalem should be told the following: The historical responsibility for judging the actions of Pope Pius XII during the time of the Holocaust falls solely on the popes who were chosen to fill his place, and on the current pope as well. Even a great Jewish historian, Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official historian, who wrote extensively about the Holocaust, is not willing to pass sentence and evaluate the conduct of Pius XII one way or another.

In his last visit to Israel, Sir Gilbert said to me that as a historian, who is not motivated in his historiographic writing by emotions, he cannot judge how Pius XII behaved in those dark days. Why? I asked, and he said to me: "Until we see the messages that Pius sent to his delegates in Europe - we will not know. We could find that he was an anti-Semite of the worst kind, or we could find that he was an utterly righteous man. But the Vatican archives are sealed."

Pius XII, then, remains guilty rather than innocent, if only due to the doubt on the matter. The key to his exoneration in the eyes of history lies in the hands of the Holy See in Rome. Let the archives be opened, and then not only an important historian like Martin Gilbert, but all of us, Jews and Christians alike, will know how Pius XII acted. ...
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James Burris - 2/12/2009

I guess you don't really know Martin Gilbert that well. He has had this to say about Pius XII:
"In an interview broadcast Feb. 2 on C-Span, Gilbert was asked if Pope Eugenio Pacelli was passive in face of Nazism.

Gilbert replied: "Please read my new book, 'The Righteous.' I've written extensively there about the Catholic Church, some of whose leaders played a remarkable part in the rescue of Jews, many of whose priests and [...] ordinary Catholics played a remarkable part."

"The Pope himself was denounced by Dr. Goebbels" -- the Nazi propaganda minister -- "for having taken the side of the Jews in the Christian message, in December 1942, where he criticized racism," Gilbert said.

He continued: "The Pope also played a part, which I describe in some detail, in the rescue of three-quarters of the Jews of Rome, at very short notice, when the SS came in and tried to round up all 5,000, at least 4,000 of whom were given shelter in the Vatican itself and other Catholic places. ...

"So I hope that my book can restore, in a way, on the foundation of historical fact, the true and wonderful achievements of Catholics in helping Jews during the war."
See: http://www.zenit.org/article-6593?l=english

You can also read his laudatory review of Rabbi David Dalin's defense of Pius XII here:
"That the Pope and the Vatican were either silent bystanders, or even active collaborators in Hitler's diabolical plan -- and "rabidly anti-Semitic," as stated above -- has become something of a truism in Jewish educational circles, and a powerful, emotional assertion made by American-Jewish writers, lecturers, and educators.

David G. Dalin, professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University, Naples, Florida -- and an ordained rabbi -- demonstrates in his recent book, The Myth of Hitler's Pope, that this is a false and distorted portrayal. He also shows its long pedigree, starting more than 40 years ago, in 1963, with Rolf Hochhuth's play The Deputy. Although that play was fiction, it was widely regarded as based on fact in its strident assertion of the moral cowardice and silence of Eugenio Pacelli, who in 1939 became Pope as Pius XII."

The full review Martin Gilbert wrote is here: http://spectator.org/archives/2006/08/18/hitlers-pope

Now who was the Martin Gilbert you are talking about??