Recently Unearthed Letter Indicates Pope Pius XII Had Comprehensive Knowledge of Nazi Atrocities from German Jesuit Source

by Chloe Baker
6 comments
Pope Pius XII Nazi Atrocities Information

Recent findings point to Pope Pius XII’s possession of detailed accounts from a credible German Jesuit informant, revealing that as many as 6,000 Jews and Poles were subjected to gas chambers daily in Nazi-occupied Poland. These revelations undermine the Vatican’s prior stance that it was unable to validate diplomatic reports of Nazi crimes sufficiently to condemn them publicly.

The unearthed documents, disclosed this past weekend by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, are set to intensify the ongoing discussions surrounding the legacy of Pope Pius XII and his currently halted beatification process. Historians remain split on Pius XII’s role during the Holocaust, with proponents arguing that he employed discreet diplomatic channels to protect Jewish lives, while critics accuse him of remaining mute during the genocide.

The letter in question, dated December 14, 1942, was penned by German Jesuit priest Rev. Lothar Koenig and was directed to Pope Pius XII’s secretary, Rev. Robert Leiber, also a German Jesuit. This letter is part of an upcoming book that focuses on newly accessible files from Pius XII’s papacy, authored by Giovanni Coco, a researcher within the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives.

According to Coco, this letter is pivotal because it provides an exhaustive account of the Nazi extermination efforts targeting Jews, even specifying their incineration. The information originated from a well-informed church source in Germany who was involved in the Catholic resistance against Hitler and managed to transmit otherwise confidential information to the Vatican.

The letter reveals that Jews and Poles were being systematically killed in Rava Ruska, a town that was part of pre-war Poland and is now located in Ukraine. Victims were then transferred to the Belzec extermination camp. The Belzec memorial, established in 2004, records that 500,000 Jews perished in the camp, with thousands from Rava Ruska having been transported to Belzec earlier in 1942.

The timing of Rev. Koenig’s letter is significant as it was received by the Vatican shortly after the liquidation of the Rava Ruska ghetto and after the Pope had been informed by multiple diplomatic sources since August 1942 that up to 1 million Jews had already been killed in Poland.

Though there’s no definitive evidence that Pope Pius XII personally read the letter, Rev. Leiber, his principal aide, had a longstanding professional relationship with him, particularly concerning German affairs, implying a high likelihood that the Pope was made aware.

Noteworthy is that despite receiving this credible information, the Holy See refrained from publicly condemning Nazi actions, as revealed by Monsignor Domenico Tardini in discussions with the British envoy to the Vatican in December of the same year. Tardini indicated that the Vatican could not confirm the atrocities and therefore could not speak out.

The value of this newfound document lies in its confirmation that Pope Pius XII had received precise and comprehensive intelligence about the Holocaust from the German Catholic Church, as stated by Giovanni Coco.

However, Coco also notes that Rev. Koenig advised against public disclosure of the information he had provided, citing concerns for his life and the lives of those who had sourced the intelligence. Supporters of Pope Pius XII have long contended that he remained silent due to the risks of Nazi reprisals.

A forthcoming academic conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, endorsed by various organizations including the Vatican and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust research institute, will delve deeper into these newly discovered documents and their impact on Pope Pius XII’s legacy.

This recently discovered letter was initially located in the Vatican’s secretariat of state archives, and was only transferred to the main Apostolic Archives in 2019, due to the disorganized state of the secretariat’s documents.

Reported by Vanessa Gera, contributing from Warsaw, Poland.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pope Pius XII Nazi Atrocities Information

What is the main revelation of the recently discovered documents?

The newly uncovered documents suggest that Pope Pius XII had detailed information from a German Jesuit priest about the extermination of Jews and Poles in Nazi-occupied Poland. These documents undermine the Vatican’s earlier claim that it couldn’t verify the atrocities to condemn them publicly.

Who discovered the new information and where was it published?

The new information came from the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives and was disclosed by the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. The letter is part of an upcoming book authored by Giovanni Coco, a researcher in the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives.

What is the significance of the letter dated December 14, 1942?

The letter, written by German Jesuit priest Rev. Lothar Koenig, reveals that up to 6,000 Jews and Poles were being killed daily in the town of Rava Ruska and sent to the Belzec death camp. It was sent to Pope Pius XII’s secretary, Rev. Robert Leiber, shortly after the liquidation of Rava Ruska’s ghetto and after Pope Pius XII had received reports from various diplomatic channels about atrocities in Poland.

Did Pope Pius XII personally read the letter from Rev. Lothar Koenig?

It is not definitively known whether Pope Pius XII personally read the letter. However, Rev. Robert Leiber, the Pope’s principal aide who received the letter, had a close professional relationship with him, particularly concerning matters related to Germany. This implies a high likelihood that Pope Pius XII was made aware of its contents.

Why didn’t the Vatican publicly condemn the atrocities despite receiving this information?

Rev. Koenig, who provided the detailed account, advised against public disclosure, citing concerns for his life and the lives of those who had sourced the intelligence. The Vatican had also claimed that it couldn’t verify the atrocities sufficiently to make a public denouncement.

What will happen next in the ongoing discussions about Pope Pius XII’s legacy?

The newly discovered documents are set to be a subject of discussion at a forthcoming academic conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. The conference is endorsed by several organizations, including the Vatican and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust research institute.

Where was Rev. Koenig’s letter originally stored?

The letter was initially found in the Vatican’s secretariat of state archives and was only transferred to the Vatican’s main Apostolic Archives in 2019. The secretariat’s papers were in a disorganized state, leading to delays in the discovery and transfer of such crucial documents.

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6 comments

Linda Scott September 18, 2023 - 7:05 am

Can’t wait to read Coco’s book. With access to all those unindexed archives, who knows what else we’ll find out.

Reply
Sarah Johnson September 18, 2023 - 7:07 am

I’ve always been on the fence about Pius XII, but this… this is hard to ignore. what were they thinking not to speak out?

Reply
John Smith September 18, 2023 - 7:31 am

Wow, this is huge. If Pius XII really knew, why didn’t he say something? Puts a new twist on the Vatican’s role during WWII for sure.

Reply
Mike Wallace September 18, 2023 - 7:34 am

Its not as simple as it looks. The Pope had to be careful, Europe was a powder keg and one wrong move could’ve worsened things for everyone, especially the victims.

Reply
Emily Williams September 18, 2023 - 2:41 pm

honestly im shocked but not surprised. the Vatican always played both sides of the fence and now it looks like they can’t deny it anymore.

Reply
Robert Thompson September 18, 2023 - 10:48 pm

Amazing how long it takes for the truth to come out. Those archives were locked up for years, and it took a researcher to dig out this info.

Reply

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