The Chief Rabbi of Rome has blasted the Vatican for “suspicious sensationalism” in the opening of the World War II Pope Pius XII archive.

– “A boomerang for the apologists at all costs”

As The Algemeiner reported March 4, in an interview with ANSA Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni accused the Vatican of presenting documents from the archive – finally unsealed this week – in a way that suggested Pius XII was unquestionably a hero of Jews facing persecution from the Nazis.

“This sensationalism is highly suspicious, with files that are ready, and easy conclusions laid out on a tray”, Di Segni said the interview March 3.

“It does not take much to realise that the scarcity of revelations will become a boomerang for the apologists at all costs”, the Jewish leader added.

– “The help was targeted at protecting people who had been baptised”

Historians have long been divided over whether Pius XII was an anti-Semite and collaborationist of Hitler, or whether he saved thousands of Jews with his behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

But Di Segni suggested the latter was the conclusion that the Vatican was pushing historians to come to, with the Vatican highlighting of one particular document suggesting that the wartime pope had in fact aided Roman Jews facing deportation in 1943 while promoting official Vatican silence on humanitarian assistence to the persecuted community.

“It can be clearly seen that there was no desire to stop the [deportation] train of October 16, 1943 and that the help was targeted at protecting people who had been baptised”, Di Segni was quoted as challenging the Vatican narrative.

– Hitler’s fury at Pius XII: “How many Jews he saved, and I was unable to capture him!”

Later this week, on Wednesday, the Vatican was keen to draw researchers’ attention to documents revealing rumours that Hitler wanted to occupy the Vatican and take Pius XII prisoner in Germany.

Vatican authorities were keen to highlight statements such as that of the pope’s housekeeper, Sister Pascalina Lehnert:

“The rumor spread that Hitler wanted to take the Holy Father prisoner to Germany. He did not want to take any precautions because he said he trusted only in God, who could do whatever he wanted. He did not neglect even the usual walk in the Vatican gardens, despite the fact that authoritative people had advised against it”.

Also put by Vatican authorities under the noses of researchers was an account of a 1936 meeting between Hitler and Archbishop of Munich and Freising Cardinal Michael Von Faulhaber, in which the Nazi dictator expressed his anger and frustration with the supposedly heroic actions of Pius XII.

During the encounter between Hitler and Von Faulhaber near the Führer’s Berchtesgaden mountain retreat, the dictator was reported to have said: “I would like to know from where that miserable man [Pius XII], who is nothing but skin and bones, draws so much strength to resist me and hinder what I want”.

“I can’t destroy Rome, which I would have done with great pleasure. How many Jews he [Pius XII] saved, and I was unable to capture him!”, the account presented to researchers continued.

Next on Novena:

“Decisive” moment for Church and history as Vatican opens archives on controversial WWII Pope Pius XII


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.