Videos of the Conference and Paper Abstracts

Monday 9 October 2023

Pre-Conference Session

Jews Rescued in Ecclesial Houses During the Nazi Occupation of Rome: A Documentation Discovered at the Pontifical Biblical Institute

A documentation of more than 4.400 names of survivors who were persecuted by the Nazis as Jews in Rome has been rediscovered in the archive of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. These persons were given refuge in ecclesial institutions in Rome, including 100 female and 55 male congregations. While the list of these congregations with the respective numbers of hosted persons was published by Renzo De Felice in 1961, the full documentation was considered lost. Sr. Grazia Loparco, FMA, Dr. Dominik Markl, SJ, Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto, and Dr. Paul Oberholzer, SJ, will give a brief presentation on the document’s historical context and contents, as well as the history of its disappearance and rediscovery.


Auxiliary Bishop Étienne Vető, Reims, France, formerly Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies, Pontifical Gregorian University 

Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies,  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

Dr. Iael Orvieto, Institute for International Research, Yad Vashem 

His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, The Holy See 

Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome 

Session I – The Motivations and Decisions of Pope Pius XII

In the face of fascism, Nazism and Communism, among other major political changes in Europe and the world, why did Pope Pius XII make the decisions that he did? How did the Roman Pontiff balance his roles as head of the Church and head of the Holy See? 

Moderator: Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Parole, silenzi e incomprensioni nei documenti di Pio XII (1939-1958), Dr. Giovanni Coco, Vatican Apostolic Archive

In November 1945, Pope Pius XII held for the first time an audience with a group of Jews. They were survivors from concentration camps and coming to express their deep gratitude for the aid received by the Catholic Church. In his speech, the pope was sympathetic; he mentioned the “racist passions” that had “swallowed up countless innocent victims” because of their “race,” but he carefully avoided making any explicit reference to the word “extermination.”

This persistent silence on the Shoah is a matter of long historical controversy, enduring the past half-century. The debate about the attitude of the pope has involved historians, philosophers and theologians, even though previously, the complete Vatican papers were not directly available - except for the selection published in the Actes et Documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale.

The recent opening of the Vatican Archives for the Pontificate of Pius XII has finally granted access to all papers. And now the documents will be able to reveal how concepts, such as anti-Semitism, extermination, and silence, were formed in the mind of Pope Pacelli and of the Church at the time.

Pius XII and the November 30, 1943, Italian Social Republic Order to Arrest All of Italy’s Jews, Dr. David I. Kertzer, Brown University

On November 30, 1943, Mussolini’s recently constituted Italian Social Republic ordered police to arrest all Jews living in Italy, send them to concentration camps, and seize all their property.  The recently opened archives for the papacy of Pius XII now permit a much fuller understanding of the appeals that came to the pope to protest this new development and the advice he was getting on how to respond from those he turned to in matters regarding the persecution of Jews.  The pope appeared to many in Italy as their last hope, the sole source of authority in the country aside from the newly installed puppet regime and the German military. A certain continuity would mark the Vatican’s action as the five years of persecution of Italy’s Jews though the racial laws (1938-1943) took its new murderous turn following the German military occupation of the country, as documented in this paper.

Pope Pius XII, Head of Vatican Diplomacy and the Holocaust: Insights from the Archives, Dr. Nina Valbousquet, École française de Rome/CNRS 

During the Holocaust, Pius XII rarely intervened in the first person. In such matters, the pope left a great deal of autonomy to the national ecclesiastical hierarchies and to the prudent diplomacy of the nuncios. In my paper, I examine the Vatican responses to anti-Jewish persecutions in war-time France as a case in point of its diplomatic priorities, mechanisms, and limitations. Prior French research often portrayed Valeri favorably, sometimes depicting him as actively involved in bishop protests over the 1942 roundups. In contrast, new revelations from the Pius XII archives present a more nuanced picture of dynamics between the Holy See and French Catholic hierarchy. Untapped documents bear witness to the reactionary mindset and anti-Jewish prejudices of the nuncio. Valeri did not issue any official protest against Vichy's anti-Semitic laws and even endorsed aspects of the 1940-41 Jewish Statutes. Vatican archival materials shed new light on the meaning of his well-known expression “platonic protest” regarding the archbishop of Paris intended as “respectful protest”. In the summer of 1942, Valeri was mostly concerned that the five bishops’ protests against the roundups could be weaponized by partisans and communists and feared that they might damage relationships between the Church and Petain’s regime. 

The Catholic Church and the Holocaust. Sectarianism, Universalism, and Theology of the Relations between Church and State, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, Villanova University 

The paper analyzes the role of Catholic ecclesiology in the “long nineteenth century” and before Vatican II in the understanding of the relationship with the Jews in the context of the racial and racist policies of the authoritarian regimes in Europe leading to the Holocaust. In particular, the paper addresses the role of the nation State in Catholic teaching and the self-understanding of the Catholic Church in its relations with the modern State before Vatican II. World War II and the Holocaust were also a theological and ecclesiological catastrophe, which entailed a rethinking of ecclesiology, of the Church in the modern world, and of the relationship between Church, society, and the State. Vatican II did it in ways that were significantly different from, and a development of, the Catholic critiques of racial anti-Semitism of the 1930s.


Tuesday 10 October 2023


Session II: The Vatican’s Worldview and the Holocaust 

Pope Pius XII did not operate alone. The Vatican as both a temporal and spiritual institution was shaped over centuries by particular views of the world, the church’s role in it, and its position toward other nations and religions. When confronted with the unprecedented atrocities of the Holocaust, these views shaped the response of the officials around Pope Pius XII, including prelates and laypersons.

Moderator: Dr. Umberto Gentiloni Silveri, Sapienza University of Rome

Papal Humanitarianism and its Limits in the Era of the Two World Wars and the Holocaust - Dr. Robert Ventresca, King's University College at Western University 

My research evaluates the development and deployment of papal humanitarian diplomacy to respond to war, genocide, and post-conflict transitions in the era of the two world wars and the Holocaust. I argue that the Vatican’s responses to the Holocaust cannot be understood fully if studied in a vacuum; that is, isolated, and disconnected from a critical examination of the humanitarian discourse and structures of papal diplomacy in the era of the two world wars.  It is important to consider the extent to which the transnational vectors of papal humanitarian diplomacy were forged and transformed on the eve of World War Two, processes that started with fundamental transformations under both Benedict XV and Pius XI.  At the same time, we need to evaluate critically the political and ideological premises underlying those structures.  Ultimately, my research seeks to understand how theology, politics and diplomacy intersected and interacted to determine the course of papal policy in times of extreme humanitarian crises.   

During World War Two and in its immediate aftermath, Pius XII repeatedly articulated a vision of a “new world” to emerge from the physical and moral ruins of a war-ravaged continent; a new political and diplomatic order premised on universal values and principles to ensure a sound and lasting peace for all humanity.  One of the most unsettled historical – and theological – questions of all is: what room was there for the Jewish people in this “new world” after war and genocide? 

Governare da Roma: Il Vaticano e le sue Nunziature - Dr. Roberto Regoli, Pontifical Gregorian University 

Una voce diversa dall’interno: il card. Giovanni Mercati in aiuto degli studiosi colpiti dalla persecuzione antisemita - Dr. Annalisa Capristo, Center for American Studies, Rome 

In my paper I will focus on the stance of Cardinal Giovanni Mercati, a well-known scholar and humanist and notable personality of the Curia circles in the Thirties, towards anti-racism particularly in support of Italian and foreign scholars affected by the anti-Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Among these were both Israelites and converts to Catholicism or Evangelical-Lutherans. New documentation that has emerged from the Vatican, Italian and American archives confirms his openly anti-racist commitment and the support he offered to the many who turned to him for help (in particular, for scientific collaboration and/or to find a job abroad), including Roberto Almagià, Umberto Cassuto, Jacob Hess, Paul Oskar Kristeller, Giorgio Levi Della Vida, Friedrich Lenz, and many others.

Storia diplomatica di un Papa: Pio XII e la politica internazionale - Dr. Matteo Luigi Napolitano, Universita' degli Studi del Molise

For a long time, a "shadow of Banquo" has shrouded historiography: Pope Pius XII and his action, or non-action, as evidenced from documents, memoirs, hagiography, and polemics.

The eleven volumes of the Actes et Documents du Saint-Siège pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, drawn from the Vatican archives and other archives around the world, have helped to rebuild the diplomatic history of Pius XII's pontificate. That collection, however, did not erase the metaphorical cloud of "Hitler's Pope." For example, some scholars were unfamiliar with the Italian language (in which Vatican documents were mostly written) or they held pre-existing attitudes towards Vatican diplomatic practice which were unaltered by the text.

The new archives on the pontificate of Eugenio Pacelli (1939-1958) opened a wholly fresh period of studies in diplomatic history. A basic issue lies in the fact that it is not possible to analyze the Holy See's international relations only by religious or moral canons. The "realist school" has given little credence to the Vatican's role in international relations, forgetting that several scholars today also consider a realist approach to be valid in the Vatican's diplomatic relations, in the pursuit of peace and international stability.

Session III – The Racial Laws in Theory and Practice

The racial laws began in Nazi Germany and spread throughout Europe. How did they manifest themselves in theory and on the ground? 

Moderator: Dr. Lucia Ceci, University of Rome Tor Vergata

La Santa Sede e la Polonia durante la seconda guerra mondiale: silenzi e attività umanitaria - Dr. Gabriele Rigano, Università degli studi Roma Tre

In this speech, I intend to analyse the position of Pius XII with respect to the Polish situation during the Second World War. In terms of the Holy See's approach to the conflict and the reaction of public opinion, Poland represented for Pius XII what Belgium previously represented for Benedict XV. During World War I, the papacy was confronted for the first time with a worldwide conflict that divided Catholics between two warring sides. To carry out his ministry, the Benedict XV believed he could only assume a position of impartiality. When war broke out on the 1st September 1939, Pacelli, who had only become pope a few months earlier, re-proposed the "doctrine of impartiality." There was no need for further elaboration because the model had already been described by Benedict XV. The first field of application and the first proof of the impartiality of Pius XII was Poland - a Catholic nation that expected public support from the pope, and a clear and unequivocal condemnation of the invading Germans, which was not given.

The historicization of the "silence" helps us to understand in-depth the fragility of the position of the papacy in international conflicts, and to move beyond the personalization of the problem of Pius XII and the Shoah, which for many years has acted as a misleading element. The widening of the view therefore allows us an understanding that goes beyond the typical public history debate that has been elaborated for decades.

The Theological Meaning of ‘Humani Generis Unitas’ - Dr. Philip Cunningham, Saint Joseph’s University

In 1938, Pope Pius XI desired to issue an encyclical to condemn antisemitism and racism. He secretly requested the American Jesuit John LaFarge, author of a remarkably insightful book on anti-Black racism in the United States, to prepare a draft. The pontiff died in 1939 without leaving any reactions to the draft that LaFarge composed with two other Jesuits, Gustav Gundlach of Germany and Gustave Desbuquois of France. The project was not taken up by Pope Pius XII.

This presentation posits that three particular theological presuppositions shaped the work of the drafters, presuppositions that effectively undercut their attempt to definitively repudiate antisemitism on religious grounds. After comparing this draft text, called Humani Generis Unitas, with the 1965 Second Vatican Council declaration Nostra Aetate and subsequent documents, it argues that had this projected encyclical been promulgated in a form resembling the draft, it would have rendered impossible both Nostra Aetate and the post-conciliar theological rapprochement between Catholics and Jews.

La Compagnia di Gesù, gli ebrei e l'antisemitismo tra gli anni Trenta e la seconda guerra - Dr. Raffaella Perin, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

The topic – Jesuits and Jews between the 1930s and World War II – has been dealt with in some depth, though fragmentarily, by historiography. In my paper I try to give relevance to two new research studies I have conducted in the Vatican Archives and especially in the Archive of the General Curia of the Society of Jesus. In the first part of the paper, after a brief introduction that gives an account of the results that the historical research has reached, I will address a hitherto unpublished aspect of Jesuit-Jewish relations, namely the prayer intentions for the conversion of Jews promoted by the Apostolate of Prayer. In the second part, I will outline the status quo of research on Jesuits, Jews and the Shoah at the European level, and present the latest results of my ongoing research on the role played by Pietro Tacchi Venturi SJ within the system of aid provided by the Holy See to Catholics of Jewish origin affected by the racial laws in Italy. The goal is to show how even within the Society of Jesus it is possible to identify a multiplicity of facets in the relationship between Jesuits and Jews with differing accounts of anti-Jewish prejudice.

La Santa Sede e la persecuzione razzista e antisemita nelle università italiane (1938-1948) - Dr. Tommaso Dell’Era, Tuscia University, Viterbo

Il presente intervento intende costituire un contributo alla ricostruzione storica dell’atteggiamento della S. Sede di fronte alla persecuzione razzista e antisemita nelle università italiane attraverso tre diversi momenti di indagine: 1. La ricostruzione della vicenda del sostegno e della “presa in carico”, almeno per un breve periodo, del progetto di conversione collettiva degli ebrei italiani presentato da un noto docente italiano espulso dall’università nel 1938. 2. La breve descrizione di alcuni elementi fondamentali del soccorso fornito ai perseguitati espulsi dagli atenei italiani perché considerati di “razza ebraica”. 3. Brevi cenni sul soccorso vaticano a persecutori e a razzisti italiani. Da queste vicende, significative anche se non esaustive, emerge la necessità di storicizzare le nozioni cattoliche di carità e giustizia e di considerare l’interazione del tradizionale pregiudizio antiebraico con altri fattori, nella convinzione che l’approccio metodologico più adeguato e fecondo consista nel contestualizzare l’opera di soccorso fornita agli espulsi dalle università italiane nel quadro più ampio dell’aiuto prestato ad altri gruppi e categorie di persone durante e dopo la guerra, tra le quali anche i persecutori.

This paper aims to be a contribution to the historical reconstruction of the Holy See's attitude towards racist and anti-Semitic persecution in Italian universities through three different moments of investigation: 1. The reconstruction of the story of the support and "taking charge", at least for a short period, of the project of collective conversion of Italian Jews presented by a well-known Italian professor expelled from the university in 1938. 2. A brief description of some basic elements of the relief provided to persecuted persons expelled from Italian universities because they were considered to be of the "Jewish race". 3. Brief mentions of Vatican relief to Italian persecutors and racists. From these events, significant though not exhaustive, emerges the need to historicize Catholic notions of charity and justice and to consider the interaction of traditional anti-Jewish prejudice with other factors, in the belief that the most appropriate and fruitful methodological approach is to contextualize the relief work provided to expellees from Italian universities within the broader framework of the help provided to other groups and categories of people during and after the war, including persecutors.

The Meaning of Whiteness: Race, Supersessionism, and the Failure of Christian Theology - Dr. Willie James Jennings, Yale Divinity School 

When does the church stop thinking like the church and begins thinking like a racial state? This is the question that emerges as we reflect on the New Documents of Pope Pius XII. We cannot understand the geo-political dilemmas of that Pope and the church or the failure of Christian theology unless we grasp what it means to be immersed in a racial state. I want to think racial state in both senses of those words, a state as a form of governmentality and a state as a mode of being. The racial state emerged as the church formed inside a supersessionist logic that stripped away the Jewishness of Jesus. My presentation reflects on the affects of that stripping away and the dimensions of the racial state. 

Special 30 minute-session

Father Robert Leiber, S.J., “Antichamber” of Pius XII: A short look at his personal archives

Dr. Paul Oberholzer SJ presents an overview of the Leiber Fund within the Historical Archives of Pontifical Gregorian University.

Session IV – The Rescue of Jews: Part 1

Who rescued Jews and why? When refuge was refused, what were the motivations? The year 2023 also marks the 80th anniversary of the October 1943 round-up in Rome, one of the most important moments of opportunity for the Vatican. What can the new archives tell us about this event with regard to why rescue did or did not take place?

Moderator: Dr. Rebecca Carter-Chand, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Asking the Pope for Help: Questions raised by the critical online edition of Jewish petitions kept in the Vatican archives Prof. Dr. Hubert Wolf, University of Münster

The Münster project “Asking the Pope for Help” is a digital edition of the petitions sent to the pope and the Church by Jewish people in distress during the time of the Shoah. These are primarily personal letters, in which the petitioners themselves depict their needs and sorrows, letters written by friends and relatives, letters from Church people or influential persons and letters of recommendation, as well as requests for the pope’s general intervention in favor of Jews. In addition to transcribing these intimate petitions, the project includes other documents in the Vatican archives pertaining to the respective cases and also offers extensive educational and didactic tools. On the basis of the sheer multitude of documents the project deals with, the present talk offers selected theses which are important for the Jewish-Christian dialogue. Thus, questions are asked about: the pope’s decision-making power and freedom as head of the Church; the role of the petitions in political education in times of newly awakening anti-Semitism worldwide; the identity and/or belonging of the respective petitioners; the conflict between dogma and diplomatic policy of the Curia; and the distinction between Jews and baptized Jews.

The Issue of Rescue and the October 1943 Round-Up of Jews in Rome - Dr. Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi, Università di Padova

The historical judgment of Pope Pius XII is closely linked to the raid of the Roman Jews on 16 October 1943. This paper analyzes the various theses made by historians concerning the pontiff's position in the autumn of 1943.

It is argued that many of these historical judgments are based on statements made by German military or diplomats during or after the war, and which must be verified.

This report deals with this topic on the basis of a number of documents, both published and unpublished, which have not yet been used or not sufficiently investigated, in order to frame the policy not only of the pope, but of the Roman Curia as a whole.

Furthermore, the report attempts to frame the topic of the raid of 16 October within the Vatican's more general policy towards Nazism, and the pope's concern for the collapse of his figure as a moral authority.

Gli ebrei nascosti negli istituti religiosi e in edifici ecclesiastici di Roma - Sr. Grazia Loparco FMA, Pontificia Facoltà di Scienze dell'Educazione Auxilium, Roma 

A Roma c’erano circa 12.000 ebrei nel 1943. Robert Leiber SJ scriveva sulla Civiltà Cattolica (1961) che circa 150 istituti, femminili, maschili e alcune parrocchie avevano nascosto per mesi 3.667 ebrei, altri 680 per minor tempo, in totale 4.447. Renzo De Felice pubblicava i nomi delle Congregazioni. 

I numeri si basavano su un Memoriale coevo, finora inedito, di Gozzelino Birolo SJ, conservato nel Pontificio Istituto Biblico, contenente gli elenchi nominali degli ebrei nascosti tra i religiosi e in edifici direttamente dipendenti dalla Santa Sede. Nell’Archivio Apostolico Vaticano sono registrate molte vicende, specie nella Segreteria di Sato, Commissione Soccorsi e tra le Carte del Sostituto. Il confronto tra questi documenti e l’elenco di Birolo indica l’identità e frequenza tra chi si rivolse al Papa e chi, la maggioranza, trovò spesso asilo bussando direttamente ai portoni o servendosi di conoscenze comuni.

Dai fascicoli vaticani si conferma la sinergia tra assistenza “organizzata” e assistenza “spontanea”,  emergono le strategie e la rete di collaborazione per soccorrere persone, oltre che l’attività assistenziale presieduta dalla Segreteria di Stato. Soprattutto Montini, per volontà di Pio XII, divenne protagonista e filtro nella gestione delle richieste in nome della carità. 

Grazie ad altre fonti religiose ed ebraiche sono apparse anche altre vicende ignorate nei suddetti archivi.

Session IV – The Rescue of Jews: Part 2

Iniziative incrociate tra ebrei perseguitati e soccorritori, Italia 1943-1945 - Dr. Liliana Picciotto, Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center Foundation (CDEC) 

Gli ebrei in Italia, alla vigilia dell’occupazione tedesca e della formazione della Repubblica di Salò, erano circa 39.000; più di 7.000 di loro furono arrestati, subendo torture e assassinio; circa 4.500  riuscirono a riparare in Svizzera. Ne rimasero da salvare circa 27.000, fragili e disarmati psicologicamente e materialmente. Nel mio paper, analizzo la questione dal punto di vista numerico, un approccio finora poco considerato. Ogni capo famiglia si arrangiò contando su parenti non ebrei, amici, colleghi di lavoro, conoscenti, sacerdoti della parrocchia vicino a casa. Il soccorso fu una questione totalmente privata, da persona a persona. Parecchie decine di milioni di italiani dovettero confrontarsi con l’emergenza della salvezza di qualche decina di migliaia di Ebrei. Questi sono i termini della questione.  

L’atteggiamento della Chiesa rispetto al particolare pericolo che gli Ebrei correvano va analizzato con cura alla luce dei nuovi documenti emersi, che non mi sembra, però, gettino una luce diversa da quella già nota.

L’accoglienza delle case religiose romane va vista nella prospettiva della grande opera di soccorso prestata a migliaia di persone che richiedevano asilo, perché rimaste senza casa, di profughi dalle zone meridionali in preda alla guerra, di politici a rischio di essere arrestati, di militari in clandestinità. Il numero di residenti a Roma, durante la guerra, era aumentato vertiginosamente. Erano persone in cerca di un posto per dormire o sostare. Per tutti loro, il clero cattolico distribuì misericordia a piene mani e in maniera indifferenziata, comprendendo in quest’opera anche l’accoglienza ad un certo numero di Ebrei. L’opera di soccorso in loro favore va considerata, a mio avviso, all’interno di questo quadro e non va estrapolata come fosse una particolare attenzione alla questione da parte della Santa Sede. 

The Return of Jewish Children Hidden in Religious Institutions in France based on Multiple Archival Sources - Dr. Eliot Nidam, Yad Vashem 

Baptism as Rescue?: Parental Rights and the Question of Baptism Invitis Parentibus - Dr. Matthew Tapie, Saint Leo University

In the years after the war, Jewish relatives and institutions sought the return of baptized children who were hidden with Catholic institutions and families. While in hiding, some children were baptized for a variety of reasons. Although some children were returned, some Christians refused the requests of Jewish relatives and institutions to return children, especially if the children had been baptized. Recent scholarship on the newly opened archives indicates that the Holy Office ruled that baptized children could not be given up and viewed such cases as a conflict between the rights of the Church versus the rights of Jewish relatives and institutions. This essay is a theological analysis of the rationale that denied the return of baptized children that were hidden in Catholic institutions. Is there a sound theological justification for overturning the rights of Jewish parents in order to provide a Christian education to a baptized child? The essay examines two different answers to the above question from theologians who lived in different historical contexts: Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) and Pope Benedict XIV (r. 1740–1758). I argue that there is a positive but neglected theological affirmation of Jewish parental rights in Catholic tradition that can serve as a resource for contemporary Catholic reflection on the right of each family to order freely its own domestic religious life, under the guidance of the parents.



Wednesday 11 October 2023

Session V: The Roles of the Papal Diplomats

How did the various papal nunciatures around the world react when faced with the refugee crisis and the horrors of the Holocaust?

Moderator: Dr. Rebecca Boehling, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Shades and Shadows: Vatican Diplomacy and the Holocaust in Romania Dr. Ion Popa, University of Manchester 

The opening of the Pius XII collections has brought to light new documents on Vatican theology and diplomacy that further knowledge on the Holocaust in general and on events in Romania in particular. My presentation examines a few of these findings, putting them in the context of what was known before. They show examples of Holy See helpful actions, such as aid provided to refugees and prisoners of war, or the 1942 willingness of the Holy Office to be more theologically accommodating to Jews who, being in danger, were seeking conversion to Catholicism. My paper also explores duplicitous attitudes, such as Cardinal Pacelli’s January 1938 open calls to continue relations with the highly antisemitic National Christian Party cabinet, or the July 1943 audience of Mihai Antonescu, vice-president of the government and deputy to Ion Antonescu, with both Pope Pius XII and the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Luigi Maglione. Mihai Antonescu was a well-known antisemite, one of the main politicians responsible with the 1941-1942 campaign that led to the murder of approx. 350,000 Jews at the hands of Romanian authorities. 

Le notizie sulla Shoah arrivate in Vaticano - Dr. Michele Sarfatti, Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center, Milan

Questa relazione concerne le notizie scritte sulla Shoah pervenute alla Santa Sede mentre lo sterminio veniva attuato, più precisamente quelle giunte nel 1942, anno nel quale avvennero metà di tutte le uccisioni degli ebrei. Esse erano riferite da sacerdoti rientrati da viaggi, esponenti religiosi locali, nunzi apostolici, rappresentanti di governi, cittadini laici, singoli ebrei, enti ebraici. Il Vaticano fu uno dei maggiori punti di arrivo delle notizie sulla Shoah. Scorrendo i documenti, emerge la lenta ma continua crescita dell’affiancamento dei vocaboli “ebreo” e “morte”. Le notizie segnalavano chiaramente che era in atto un evento immane. Nel luglio 1942 arrivò anche l’informazione dell’utilizzo di “camere a gas”. La relazione propone alcuni esempi di tali notizie. Esse sono contenute sia in documenti aperti alla consultazione nel 2020, sia in documenti già editi dal Vaticano a partire dal 1965. Per quanto concerne il 1942, l’unico riferimento pubblico alle vittime fatto dalla Santa Sede fu quello contenuto nel noto discorso pronunciato da Pio XII alla radio il 24 dicembre, che però non nominò né gli ebrei né i loro assassini, né contenne un’esortazione pubblica alla loro difesa.

This presentation concerns written reports on the Shoah received by the Holy See as the extermination was being carried out, more specifically those that arrived in 1942, the year in which half of all the killings of Jews took place. They were reported by priests returning from journeys, local religious representatives, apostolic nuncios, government officials, lay citizens, individual Jews, and Jewish organizations. The Vatican was one of the major points of arrival for news of Shoah. Scanning the documents, the slow but steady growth of the juxtaposition of the words "Jew" and "death" emerges. The news reports clearly signaled that a huge event was taking place. In July 1942, information also arrived about the use of "gas chambers." The presentation offers some examples of such reports. They are contained both in documents opened for consultation in 2020 and in documents already published by the Vatican since 1965. As far as 1942 is concerned, the only public reference to the victims made by the Holy See was that contained in the well-known speech delivered by Pius XII on the radio on December 24, which, however, did not name either the Jews or their murderers, nor did it contain a public appeal for their defense.

I ruoli dei Nunzi visti nei "Serie Ebrei" - Dr. Johan Ickx, Archive for Section for Relations with States, Secretariat of State, Vatican 

Polish Catholic Bishops and the Holocaust - Dr. Monika Stolarczyk-Bilardie, KU Leuven 

In this paper, an analysis will be conducted of the recently declassified Vatican documents pertaining to Polish bishops’ attitudes toward the persecution and murder of Jews. The objective is to identify new insights and suggest potential directions for future research. The focus will be on the four Polish bishops who had the most communication with the Vatican: Archbishop Adam Sapieha from Kraków, Bishop Stanisław Gall (and his successor Antoni Szlagowski) from Warsaw and Bishop Stanisław Adamski from Katowice. The analysis of the bishops’ written correspondence published for the most part in Actes et Documents (1965-1981) has led to the preliminary conclusion that the Polish bishops did not inform the Vatican about the ongoing Holocaust in Poland. This view will be checked via the newly available archives and analyzed in its broader context, including the bishops’ verbal communication and their stance on the persecution and murder of Jews, as conveyed by the intermediaries who spoke to them on behalf of the Holy See.

Session VI – Contested Memory, Contested Narratives

Particular moments in the history of the Holocaust and the postwar period remain highly charged. This panel examines aid to Nazi and Axis war criminals after the war’s end and the Vatican’s efforts on behalf of Germans convicted of war crimes in the postwar international military tribunals.

Moderator: Dr. Massimo Gargiulo, Pontifical Gregorian University

The Vatican and the Escape of Nazi War Criminals from Allied Justice - Dr. Gerald Steinacher, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 

The role, extent, and motivation of the Vatican in helping Axis war criminals escape Nuremberg justice is still a subject of controversy. Recent research has documented the involvement of the Pontificia Commissione Assistenza (Papal Aid Commission for Refugees, or PCA) in facilitating the emigration of Axis criminals to overseas. The PCA was embedded in the overall Vatican network of practicing charity, saving souls, and defending the interests of the Church. The PCA was not only called for by the Vatican, but it was also supervised and financed (both directly and indirectly) by the Holy See. Its leadership was appointed by Pope Pius XII, who took great interest in the organization’s humanitarian work. The Vatican Secretariat of State received information about the PCA’s involvement in the escape of Axis war criminals but did little to stop it. As this paper argues, the PCA’s aid to Nazis and their collaborators must be understood in the wider context of Vatican postwar policies and priorities in the immediate postwar years. Saving the souls of former Nazis and re-Christianizing society, promoting caritas and forgiveness for the vanquished nations, as well as fighting the imminent threat of atheistic communism – these all emerge as motivations when examining the Vatican’s responses to the enormous challenges of the postwar years. 

The Holy See and the Postwar Clemency Campaign Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

This presentation examines the multi-faceted clemency campaign on behalf of convicted German war criminals undertaken by the Holy See's Secretariat of State to mitigate or reverse sentences for high-ranking Nazis after World War II. With access to the archives for the 1939-1958 period, it is now possible to study this campaign in detail, including both public and private interventions. It is also possible to study the correspondence revealing the motives and private exchanges between officials in the  Secretariat of State, their papal representatives in Germany and the United States, and U.S. and German officials.

Il soccorso pontificio ai profughi e ai rifugiati nel dopoguerra (un censimento archivistico)" - Dr. Luca Carboni, Vatican Apostolic Archive

L’Europa dell’immediato dopoguerra è un continente in rovina. Germania, Austria e Italia, per ragioni diverse, sono i principali territori nei quali milioni di persone vivono la condizione di essere profughi, rifugiati o sfollati per i più diversi motivi. Di loro si occuparono le forze Alleate anglo-americane, gli organismi intergovernativi e quelli internazionali non governativi, organizzazioni e associazioni confessionali, enti ad hoc predisposti nei singoli Paesi e i comitati espressione delle diverse comunità nazionali dei profughi, nonché la Santa Sede. Il presente contributo analizza i fondi archivistici vaticani per la storia dell’assistenza umanitaria e per quella della ricostruzione post-bellica, soffermandosi su ogni singolo ufficio e su cosa può raccontare ai fini della nostra ricerca il fondo archivistico ad esso correlato, limitando l’indagine ai primi cinque anni del dopoguerra (1945-1950), in particolare: l’Ufficio Informazioni Vaticano per i prigionieri di guerra; la Commissione Soccorsi; la Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza; la III Missione Pontificia di Assistenza in Kronberg im Taunus; l’ Ufficio Migrazione della Segreteria di Stato; la Sezione Alleati della Segreteria di Stato; le diverse Rappresentanze Pontificie nel mondo (ma anche i fondi archivistici Carte Pio XII e Carte del Sostituto).

Criticizing our Sacred Institutions and Figures Rabbi David Meyer, Pontifical Gregorian University 

Investigating the actions, words and silences of Pius XII during the Shoah and the post-war years is a theological and political minefield. While the opening of the Apostolic Archives undoubtedly helps shed light upon this complex topic, it will also, perhaps, exacerbate certain ideological postures and divides. It could as well impact the nature of Jewish-Christian dialogue. This paper proposes to decontextualize a short talmudic text (Shabbat 56a) from its original context (revisiting David’s life and sins) in order to recontextualize it in light of the contemporary debates surrounding the discoveries made in the Apostolic Archives. Opening and digging in the archives of the biblical and rabbinic texts, I will argue that the talmudic discourse on King David is none other than the expression of a measured yet profound criticism of his actions, disguised in a language of praise. We will suggest that the rhetorical method of the Talmud, that of shrouding criticism in a language of praise, could be meaningfully applied by the Church today in search of its own tonality through which to communicate on aspects of Pius XII’s pontificate.

Session VII – The Uncertain Road to Nostra Aetate

In 1965, twenty years after the Holocaust, the Second Vatican Council rejected antisemitism and underlined the deep bond between Christianity and Judaism. How did Nostra Aetate come to be? Who developed it, and why? How did the Church understand her relations to the Jewish people, especially after the birth of the modern state of Israel?

Moderator: Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Jan Mikrut, Pontifical Gregorian University

The Theological Journey of Notre Dame de Sion: From Conversion to Dialogue, Sr. Celia Deutsch, Sister of Our Lady of Sion 

Accounts of Nostra Aetate most often focus on a small group of Catholic and Jewish leaders: Jules Isaac, Pope John XXIII, Augustin Cardinal Bea, Msgr. John Oesterreicher, Dr. Joseph Lichten, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. However, the document was due to the work of a broader cast of people, working in collaboration over a period of decades. Notre Dame de Sion, especially the Sisters, was part of that effort. This paper will focus especially on the role of the Sisters, and their theological evolution from 1945-1965 the year of the promulgation of Nostra Aetate.

How did this religious congregation, founded in 1847, with a mandate to pray for the conversion of the Jews, evolve to a congregation some of whose members were active in writing draft material that became Nostra Aetate, paragraph 4, on the relationship of the Church to the Jewish people? While acknowledging the indispensable contribution of the Religious of Notre Dame de Sion (the men’s congregation), this paper will focus on the role of the Sisters, examining briefly five elements that led to that transformation: 1) the life of the founder, Theodore Ratisbonne; 2) philosémitisme; 3) ressourcement; 4) the Shoah; 5) the Finaly Affair (l’affaire Finaly).

From Amici Israel to Nostra Aetate: Changes in the Theological Understanding of the Jewish People in the Catholic Church, Dr. Claire Maligot

This paper analyzes the ambiguities of the Vatican (Holy Office, Secretariat of State, pope) towards the budding interfaith relations between Christians and Jews as of WWII and the “Seelisberg moment”. It shows that the cautionary measures by Rome in October 1950, taken on a disciplinary and doctrinal level, had long-standing effects on how to arrange contacts and discussions with Jews. Hence, it questions the historiographical pathway often highlighted, from Seelisberg to Nostra Aetate, analyzing the Catholic resistance to change, from the Roman curia to bishops in their dioceses. The Pacellian era was a time when it was difficult for the Church as an institution to go beyond Ratti’s declaration that “we are all spiritually Semites”, that had made a breakthrough by insisting that antisemitism was an anti-Christian attitude. How did Rome react to Jewish and Catholic aspirations to go beyond this stance and invent new pathways?

Self-Understanding and Understanding the Other: Nostra Aetate and a Theology of Dialogue, Rabbi David Maayan, St. Leo University 

Closing Session 

This session consists of Auxiliary Bishop Étienne Vető  in conversation with Rabbi Dr. David Sandmel (Immediate Past Chair, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations), Dr. Alberto Melloni (Unesco Chairholder of the Chair on Religious Pluralism & Peace/FSCIRE, University of Bologna); the Honorable Deborah Lipstadt (United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University); and Rev. Father Mark Lewis, SJ, (Rector, Pontifical Gregorian University)