Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pius XII and Yad Vashem

There is a minor brouhaha with Joe the Pope’s upcoming visit to Israel. Joe is going to lay a wreath at the Holocaust Museum - Yad Vashem - Martyrs' Remembrance site. Joe is not going to visit the exhibition center – no time on the schedule. And while Joe did at some point wear the unifrom of the Wermarcht he wears a totally different uniform now.

There is a plaque among the exhibits that basically trashes Pope Pius XII for his not renouncing Hitler and you know the rest.

I have not been able to find words in print but have taken words off of photos of the exhibit which may at present be worded differently but this is what I have seen:
While the ovens were fed by day and by night
The most Holy Father who dwells in Rome
Did not leave his palace, with crucifix high,
To witness one day of Pogrom...


…When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the Pope did not intervene. The Pope retained his neutral position throughout the war…His silence and absence of guidelines obliged Churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react.
The above photo is not unlike the holy cards of my childhood whereby the Pope was of a distant and mythical character. The Pope never left the Vatican once elected and stayed there until he died. Vatican II saw John XXIII walking around and visiting the city of Rome and even talking to gardeners in the Papal gardens.

Pius XII is of the old world and the new world. The ugly world of the Third Reich was quite visible to this pontiff in many ways. In many ways he had been elected because he had been the Papal ambassador to Germany in the twenties and because he had experience with and contacts with the Nazi Regime.

Never forget that the Pope is both a spiritual leader and a politician with most times the equivalency of an accounting degree. What was in Pius XII‘s heart regarding the Holocaust? We will never know short of Judgment Day.

Who is to say that Pius XII and his passive actions towards the Nazis did not save more Jews than if he openly opposed them. So too perhaps neutrality was a truth in that Vatican Passports saved Jews before and during the war just as those same passports whisked Nazis to South America after the war.

What I find offensive is not the exhibit itself but where are the photos of all the Jewish leaders before and during the war that had told their peers and subordinates that this was just another Pogrom – that it would pass - stay in place and do not flee. In hindsight, how would all these Jewish leaders and Pius XII know that the storm of the century – a perfect storm - of hate - and the Holocaust were about to happen?

I support Benedict XVI and his action to diplomatically ignore this offensive exhibit at Yad Vashem. The Martyrs deserve better remembrance and wiser insight of that era.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Don't know a lot about this issue but it would seem that a lot of denominations blew it when Hitler came to power. How many denominations existed in Germany back then? I know several Lutheran pastors died for their help to the Jews. Thanks for visiting this topic and I see your point clearly.