In early May 2007, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints met and recommended to Pope Benedict XVI that he should declare Pope Pius XII “venerable” - a step in the canonization process; the following declarations would be “blessed” and then sainthood. This recommendation came only after much research and investigation into the life of Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958. Following the announcement of the recommendation to the media, opponents recommended to the Pope that he wait longer, until information in the Vatican Archives on Pope Pius had been made available to the public, allowing scholars more time to examine that material. While on the face of things this may sound like a good idea, some would oppose Pius’ cause no matter what.
Rabbi David G. Dalin wrote The Myth of Hitler’s Pope before the Vatican’s congregation met, arguing that Pope Pius should be canonized as well as being declared a “righteous gentile,” an honor given by the Yad Vashem Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum to non-Jews who helped save Jews from the Holocaust. Since the early 1960s, Pope Pius’ memory has been slandered starting with the German play The Deputy (1963) by former Hitler Youth member Rolf Hochhuth to this day in numerous books and articles. Pius has been vilified as “Hitler’s pope” by authors like John Cornwell (Hitler’s Pope, 1999), Garry Wills (Papal Sin, 2000), James Carroll (Constantine’s Sword, 2001), Daniel Goldhagen (A Moral Reckoning, 2002), Susan Zuccotti (Under His Very Windows, 2000), and others. Conversely, he has been defended by authors like Ronald J. Rychlak (Hitler, the War and the Pope, 2000), Pierre Blet (Pius XII and the Second World War: According to the Archives of the Vatican, 1999), Sr. Margherita Marchione (Consensus and Controversy, 2002, and other books and articles), Ralph McInerny (Defamation of Pius XII, 2001), Justus George Lawler (Popes and Politics, 2002), Jose Sanchez (Pius XII and the Holocaust, 2002), Pinchas Lipide (Three Popes and the Jews, 1967), Jeno Levai (Hungarian Jewry and the Papacy, 1968), Sir Martin Gilbert (The Righteous, 2003),and others. These authors are Catholics, Jews, of other denominations or of no religion.
Dalin examines most of the pro- and con- authors on Pope Pius and his actions during World War II. He shows that many of Pope Pius’ detractors have made historical errors or simply created false information in order to promote their agendas. Dalin backs up his claims of the detractors’ errors by presenting sources and authors who know the history and sources. Dalin presents the detractors’ agendas as anti-Catholic and anti-papal, liberals who are against the Catholic Church, Pope Pius and Pope John Paul II. Some of them have used their arguments against Pius to attack Pope John Paul and now Benedict. The so-called Catholic detractors are angry liberals who are upset with the Church and the Pope over various issues; non-Catholic detractors are liberals who only want a liberal secular society where almost anything goes.
Many of Pius’ defenders show that he and the Church helped to save the lives of thousands of Jews. Dalin gives various examples where Pope Pius sent orders to his nuncios (ambassadors) and other Church officials to save the Jews and others from the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. The Jewish author Pinchas Lapide says that Pius saved from 700,000 to 800,000 Jews from the Nazis, opening all churches, convents, and monasteries in Rome and other areas of the world to the Jews and others. In this way, many were saved.
Several documented examples from the Nazis themselves show that they considered Pius a Jew-lover. When he spoke as he did several times against the killing of those of other races and nationalities, they knew he was speaking to them. They were angered by Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (“With Burning Anxiety) written in 1937 with the help of then-Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later named Pius XII). This encyclical was written only in German, not in Latin, which is traditionally done, and it was blatantly against Nazism.
Pope Pius’ involvement in helping Jews outside of Rome and Italy included Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and other places where he provided funds and other resources to help the oppressed. He also helped to hide escaped prisoners of war in the Vatican and other places. For many of these actions and other reasons, Hitler wanted to kidnap Pope Pius, but this plan never came to fruition because some generals thwarted Hitler’s plans. This story will soon be told in A Special Mission by Dan Kurzman, published by Da Capo.
Many praised Pope Pius during his life and at his death: Albert Einstein; Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel; Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, prime ministers of Israel; Rabbi Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Israel; Dr. Alexander Safran, the chief rabbi of Romania; and many others. Pope Pius XII was not Hitler’s pope. He was a friend and protector of the Jewish people, as the historical record shows.
Dalin reveals Hitler’s cleric truly was: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini. Husseini was opposed to the Jews in word and deed, and dead set against more Jews coming to Palestine. Husseini befriended Hitler, becoming active in Europe as well as the Middle East. Escaping to the Middle East after the War and protected by various Arab governments and groups, Husseini spread his form of Islam throughout the the region. Dalin says that Husseini influenced Yasser Arafat, the PLO and other Palestinian organizations. Many Arab political parties took up Nazi ideology; Dalin says that al-Qaeda and other “fundamentalist” Islamic terror groups have been influenced by Husseini, Hitler’s mufti.
Rabbi Dalin’s presentation refutes those who detract the memory of Pope Pius XII and use this as a means to attack Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church. He also presents the case that liberals oppose conservatives in society by attacking conservative leaders like Pius and John Paul II. No illustrations or bibliography are included, although the endnotes serve as a bibliography. Dalin thought-provokingly presents his case that Pope Pius XII should be canonized and declared a “righteous gentile.” This book is highly recommended to those interested in Pope Pius XII and the controversy surrounding his life during World War II.
Rabbi David G. Dalin is a professor of history and political science at Ave Maria University, Naples, Florida. He is the author of American Jews and the Separatist Faith (1993), and co-author of
The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII (2004), The President of the United States and Jews (2000), Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience (2000), and other books and articles.