September 17 (Reuters) – Wartime Pope Pius It was vague and unverified.
The yellow letter, which was published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday, is of great importance because it was discovered by an archivist at the Vatican and was published with the encouragement of Holy See officials.
The letter, dated December 14, 1942, was written by Father Lothar König, a Jesuit who was part of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, and addressed to the pope’s personal secretary in the Vatican, Father Robert Lieber, also German.
Vatican archivist Giovanni Cocco told the Corriere newspaper that the importance of the letter was “enormous, and a unique case” because it showed that the Vatican had information that the labor camps were in fact death factories.
In the letter, König told Lieber that sources confirmed that about 6,000 Poles and Jews were being killed daily in “SS ovens” at the Belzec camp near Rafa Ruska, which was then part of German-occupied Poland and is now in Poland. Western Ukraine.
Coco told the newspaper, whose article, “The novelty and importance of this document stems from the fact: Now we have certainty that the Catholic Church in Germany sent Pius XII accurate and detailed news about the crimes committed against the Jews.” Its title was: “Knowing Pius XII.”
Asked by the Corriere newspaper whether the letter showed that Pius was aware of this, Cocu said: “Yes, and not only since then.”
The documents were sorted randomly
The letter referred to two other Nazi camps – Auschwitz and Dachau – and suggested that there were other letters between König and Leiber that had either disappeared or not yet been found.
Pius’s supporters say he worked behind the scenes to help Jews and did not speak out in order to prevent the situation of Catholics from worsening in Nazi-occupied Europe. His critics say he lacks the courage to speak publicly about the information he has despite pleas from the Allied powers fighting Germany.
The letter was among the documents that Cucu said was kept at random in the Vatican’s Foreign Ministry and was only recently delivered to the central archives where he works.
Susan Brown Fleming, director of international academic programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., told Reuters in an email that the statement shows the Vatican is taking seriously Pope Francis’ statement that “the Church is not afraid of history” when he ordered the opening of wartime archives in 2019.
“There is a desire and support for a careful evaluation of the documents from a scientific perspective – whether that is positive or negative about what the documents reveal,” she said.
In an email to Reuters, David Kertzer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Pope at War,” a 2022 book about the pope’s years, said Coco was “a serious scholar of the first order,” centrally appointed to the Vatican to uncover Church secrets. fact.
Brown-Fleming, Coco and Kurtzer will be part of a major conference on Pius and the Holocaust next month at the Pontifical Gregory sponsored by Catholic and Jewish organizations, the US State Department and Israeli and US Holocaust research groups, among others.
(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella – Additional reporting by Ludwig Berger in Frankfurt – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Alex Richardson
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