Saturday, January 5, 2013

by Gordon Thomas

Eugenio Pacelli (better known as Pope Pius XII) has been castigated for years by critics for not standing up to Hitler during World War II. Why did he remain silent and not do anything for the Jews? Pius XII has been erroneously accused. On the contrary, he set up this tremendous network of priests, nuns, and the citizens of Rome using monasteries, convents, the Vatican, and private homes to hide both Jews and Allied soldiers.
For many years, Pius XII had been a great friend to the Jewish community in Rome. Hitler actually considered kidnapping him because he was such a threat to Nazism. (That idea was quashed.)
As the Nazis came ever closer to Rome, visas were forged so that the hunted could escape to the United States and Palestine (eventually called Israel).
The Vatican provided false documentation for the Jews proclaiming them to be baptized Catholics. They were given shelter in the Vatican and every effort was made to keep them fed (a kosher butcher was hired and food was brought by trucks), safe, and protected. Even a hospital (Fatebenefratelli) was able to keep German soldiers away by telling them that their patients had an illness (K-Syndrome) which was highly contagious (the patients were told to cough, intentionally). It was totally false but many Jews were saved by the courageous doctor and nuns who looked after them.
In reality, Pius XII was not "Hitler's pope," was not anti-Semitic (he made forty speeches attacking racial hatred of the Nazis and the Holocaust plus wrote many papers) and saved thousands of Jews. So, he was not silent after all.
The Pope's Jews is a tremendous story. Gordon Thomas is quite prolific having written forty books and he does justice with this one. He is an expert in secret intelligence (he has been writing about it for fifty years) and is a true master with bringing all of the characters together (there are six pages at the beginning of the book of the Key Principal Personae).
There were many heroes who risked their lives to help those less fortunate. Pope Pius XII is at the top.
Very highly recommended.