Vatican uploads archive detailing aid to Jews

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Thousands of documents detailing requests made to the Vatican by Jews persecuted by the Nazis will be made available to the public online, the Vatican has announced.

In a June 23 statement, the Vatican said universal access to the documentation, which has been available to scholars since March 2020, was done “at the request of the Holy Father.”

The documentation, titled “Ebrei” (“Jews”), aims to “preserve the requests for help from the Jewish people throughout Europe, received by (Pope Pius XII) during the Nazi and Fascist persecutions,” the statement said. .

Pope Pius XII is pictured in the Vatican in a file photo dated March 15, 1949. The Vatican announced June 23 that it would post documentation detailing the Jewish people’s requests for help from Pope Pius XII during the Second World War. (Photo SNC)

“The archive series consists of a total of 170 volumes, which equates to nearly 40,000 digital files. A first 70% of the complete material will be made available initially, before being integrated into the final volumes on which we are currently working, “said the Vatican.

Although the Vatican has not established a direct link, the decision to make the documents available online closely follows controversy over a new book by historian David I. Kertzer.

In his book, “The Pope at War,” Kertzer suggested that Pope Pius kept silent for fear of the Nazis and that the Vatican prioritized rescuing Jewish converts to Catholicism from persecution.

In an article for the Vatican newspaper, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister, highlighted the case of Werner Barasch, a Jewish university student from Germany who was detained in a concentration camp in Miranda. from Ebro, Spain.

Barasch wrote a letter in 1942 to an Italian friend and requested that Pope Pius send the Apostolic Nuncio to Madrid to secure his release so he could travel to the United States and reunite with his mother.

Bishop Gallagher said that while two documents revealed that the Vatican Secretariat of State had intervened, no other document existed that revealed the fate of the young man.

However, an internet search revealed that “he was released from the Miranda camp the year after his appeal in a letter to the Pope, and in 1945 he was finally able to join his mother in the United States”, said the Archbishop.

The documentation posted online, he added, details more than 2,700 cases of requests for help from the Vatican, mostly for families, but also for groups of people.

“Thousands of people persecuted for belonging to the Jewish religion, or simply for having “non-Aryan” ancestry, turned to the Vatican, knowing that others had received help, as the young person writes. Werner Barasch himself,” Bishop Gallagher said. .

Archbishop Gallagher said the cases were given the name ‘Pacelli’s List’, referring to Pope Pius’ first name, Eugenio Pacelli, echoing ‘Schindler’s List’, the title given to the list of those rescued by German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over a thousand Jews during World War II.

“Although the two cases differ, the analogy captures perfectly the idea that the people in the halls of the institution serving the pontiff worked tirelessly to bring practical help to the Jewish people,” he said. .

The Vatican’s foreign minister said releasing the documents to the public will help “descendants of those who have asked for help to trace their loved ones from any part of the world.”

It will also “allow scholars and anyone interested to freely examine this special archival heritage remotely,” the Archbishop said.

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