Monday 11 February 2013

Gordon Thomas's new book on Pius XII - the truth for slow learners

Hopefully the big news won't crush out this news which is that the media is finally catching up with the rest of us and realising that Venerable Pope Pius XII was not "Hitler's Pope" but instead the Jews' Pope.

Story in The Observer, The Daily Mail and Newser.  Daily Mail has good photos too.  The Observer article is below:

Pius XII has long been vilified as "Hitler's pope", accused of failing publicly to condemn the genocide of Europe's Jews. Now a British author has unearthed extensive material that Vatican insiders believe will restore his reputation, revealing the part that he played in saving lives and opposing nazism. Gordon Thomas, a Protestant, was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before.
The Pope's Jews, which will be published next month, details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe's convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects.
Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy.
During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders – such as Jerusalem's chief rabbi in 1944 – said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates "are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour". Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him "a Jew lover".

However, his image turned sour in the 1960s, thanks to Soviet antagonism towards the Vatican and a German play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, which vilified the pope, accusing him of silence and inaction over the Jews. It was a trend that intensified with the publication of Hitler's Pope, a book by John Cornwell.

However, as the Vatican's secretary of state before the war, the future pope contributed to the damning 1937 encyclical of Pius XI, With Burning Anxiety, and, as Pius XII he made condemnatory speeches that were widely interpreted at the time – including by Jewish leaders and newspapers – as clear condemnations of Hitler's racial policies. Due to the Vatican's traditionally diplomatic language, the accusation that Pius XII did not speak out has festered.

Professor Ronald J Rychlak, the author of Hitler, the War and the Pope, said: "Gordon Thomas has found primary sources … He has tracked down family members, original documentation and established what really was a universal perception prior to the 1960s. He's shown what the people at the time – victims, rescuers and villains – all knew: that Pius XII was a great supporter of the victims of the Holocaust."

Asked why the Vatican had not made the new material available until now or, where stories were known, disseminated them more widely,Thomas said: "The church thinks across centuries. If there's a dispute for 50 years, so what?"

William Doino, a Vatican historian, described Thomas's research as "unique and groundbreaking". He spoke of the book's new insight, for example, into Hugh O'Flaherty, an Irish priest: "Everybody has always praised [O'Flaherty] because he helped Jews and escaped POWs. They made a movie about him, The Scarlet and the Black, with Gregory Peck. However, they always say he was acting on his own authority and that Pius was either aloof or not giving him anything. Gordon has spoken extensively with O'Flaherty's family, who gave him private correspondence and told him that O'Flaherty said that everything was with Pius XII's co-operation."

The book also tells the story of Vittorio Sacerdoti, a young Jewish doctor who was able to work in a Vatican hospital, inventing a fictitious deadly disease that deterred Germans from entering. Dozens of fake patients were taught to cough convincingly.

Thomas interviewed Sacerdoti's cousin, who recalled that as a child she was one of those patients – "feeling there was nothing wrong with her, yet having to cough regularly in the ward".

The Vatican is so excited by The Pope's Jews that it is supporting a feature documentary film being planned by a British producer who has bought the rights to it.

Allen Jewhurst, who has produced documentaries for BBC TV's Panorama, said that, with more than a billion Catholics worldwide, interest in the story is huge. After a meeting with two cardinals at the Vatican, he and Thomas now hope to get exclusive access to the archives. "This will, hopefully, be a definitive film," said Jewhurst.

Thomas, who also wrote the book Voyage of the Damned, about Jewish refugees, recalled: "The Vatican people said, 'How wonderful, the truth out at last'."

"The Pope's Jews: The Vatican's Secret Plan to Save Jews from the Nazis" is published by The Robson Press on 7 March


  1. I'm sure RTE cant wait to have Gordon Thomas on the Late Late Show to promote his positive book about Pope Pius !.

  2. While I praise Gordon Thomas' general position regarding Pope Pius XII I must correct some glaring errors in his account. He does not give any footnote or endnotes to substantiate his version of events; his book is basically a novel. He lists a lot of books in his bibliography but he fails to point to specific passages in those books which back up what he maintains. For instance, he completely excludes the actual role Pius XII had in stopping the roundup of the Jews on October 16. My book points out that Pius XII sent his nephew Carlo Pacelli to Bishop Hudal, specifically to urge him to write a letter to General Stahel, to stop the roundup. Even Bishop Hudal recorded this in his diary. Pius XII then had Father Pfeiffer take that letter to General Stahel. Stahel wanted to comply but he said that Himmler wouldn't listen to such humanistic arguments. He knew a better way to get Himmler to stop. So he phoned Himmler and argued that if those roundups were to continue there would be a popular uprising in Rome (which was not true) and that furthermore he was going to have to withdraw his troops because they were needed elsewhere. Himmler fell for that lie (for the time being), and stopped the roundup. This is very minutely documented in my book with explicit references to the sources for each detail. This proves that the Pope had a hand in getting the roundup to stop, through his intermediaries Carlo Pacelli and Fr. Pfeiffer.
    The version of events which Gordon Thomas gives in this regard is highly inaccurate. There are many other inaccuracies and omissions in Thomas' book, most of which I address in my book, Pope Pius and the Jews – What's Fact and What's Fiction?
    Marilyn Mallory.

  3. Thank you for those comments, Marilyn, which if you don't mind I'll put up as a separate post. I haven't read Thomas's book but my point wasn't in any sense to promote it but to comment on the bizarre fact that liberal journalists seem to be treating it as some great discovery when it fact it's repeating things we've all known for years, including something as simple as the comments of Jews immediately after the War who were presumably much closer to events than modern commentators.