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Yad Vashem Softens Account of Pius XII’s Role

Yad Vashem is due to unveil a new wall text on Sunday describing the actions of Pope Pius XII during World War II, softening a previous message which stated that the head of the Catholic Church had not protested verbally or in writing to the murder of Jews by the Nazis.

The initial wall text sparked a diplomatic incident in 2007. The new wall text still blames Pius XII for the fact that the Church did not intervene on the Jews’s behalf at the time. But it paints a more complex picture of his conduct and contains veiled criticism of the Vatican for refusing to open its archive to allow historians to scrutinize the actions of the Holy See during the war.

In April 2007, the papal nuncio to Israel, Antonio Franco, refused to take part in the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony because of the wall text, installed when the new Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum opened in 2007. Yad Vashem said the wall text would be changed only if the Vatican opened its archive to researchers, and if subsequent research revealed new information about the actions of the Holy See during the war. Franco did eventually attend the ceremony.

The old wall text, entitled “Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust,” read: “Pius XII’s reaction to the murder of the Jews during the Holocaust is a matter of controversy. In 1933, when he was Secretary of the Vatican State, he was active in obtaining a Concordat with the German regime to preserve the Church’s rights in Germany, even if this meant recognizing the Nazi racist regime. When he was elected Pope in 1939, he shelved a letter against racism and anti-Semitism that his predecessor had prepared. Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the Pope did not protest either verbally or in writing.

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