Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted in Analysis, Politics and society, Publications

Yad Vashem revises judgment on Pius XII, the Church and the Jews

Yad Vashem revises judgment on Pius XII, the Church and the Jews

01s-198x300YAD VASHEM – On the exhibition for the 50th anniversary of honoring the Righteous Among the Nations, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem recognizes that many Jews found refuge “under the wings of the Church.”

In an exhibition taking place in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum), returns to face the issue of the relationship between the Vatican and the Holocaust. Confirming the result of the historical debate that led in 2012 to the modification of the disputed panel dedicated to Pope Pius XII in the museum, Yad Vashem expressly states that the Vatican was aware of the fact that convents and monasteries opened their doors to Jewish people.

The exhibition marks the fiftieth anniversary of honoring the Righteous Among the Nations – the honorific used by Jerusalem to describe those who, during the Holocaust, put their own lives at risk to save some Jews from Nazi extermination. The exhibition was inaugurated a few weeks ago and is titled “I am my brother’s keeper”. The phrase alludes to a biblical reference that Cain asks but the question mark has been deliberately removed from the exhibition title. The exhibition is based on some controversies and emblematic stories among those of the now almost 25,000 Righteous. And one of the sections of the exhibition is dedicated specifically to men of all Christian Churches (of all denominations) who performed acts of heroism.

Entitled “Under the Wings of the Church,” this part of the exhibition, while highlighting clearly the point of view in Jewish historiography, also refers to the objections raised on the controversial panel dedicated to Pope Pius XII. “The behavior of Christians during the Holocaust continues to challenge the Christian world well into the 21st century. Confronted with the murder of the Jews, many church leaders and clergy remained silent, and some even collaborated. A few, from all Christian denominations, risked their lives to save Jews or spoke out loudly against the murder of the Jews,” the online version of the exhibition’s introductory note reads.

Regarding the relationship between anti-Jewish prejudices and Nazi anti-Semitism, the exhibition argues that “even though Nazi racial anti-Semitism differed from traditional Christian anti-Judaism, however, it strongly built on existing prejudices.” Finally, it comments on the Catholic Church’s attitude during the Holocaust, saying that “the lack of an open and unequivocal stance by the Vatican left the decision to initiate rescue of Jews to the heads of Catholic institutions. Some superiors of convents, monasteries and other intuitions opened their doors to Jewish fugitives, sometimes with the knowledge of the Vatican. In some cases Bishops and other Catholic leaders called on their clergy and believers to help the Jews.”

The statement adds that “some of these Righteous Among the Nations even manifested profound respect for the faith of their protégées; they not only saved their lives, but also helped them adhere to their religious teaching – celebrating holidays, praying and following Jewish religious rules – while in hiding.

Overall, the exhibition in memory of the Righteous shows that opinions are divided over Pius XII’s efforts to help the Jews (which in this case is not explicitly mentioned), it does offer new elements which may help visitors to Yad Vashem understand what has so far been a purely verbal debate.

Giorgio Bernardelli

Source: Vatican Insider