Q. Why didn’t the Catholic Church help the Jews who were being murdered by Hitler?
A. The Catholic Church and Pope Pius absolutely DID help the Jews and many other people persecuted by Hitler. The Jewish ambassador and author, Pinchas Lapide, in his book, Three Popes and the Jews, estimates that Pope Pius, through the Catholic Church saved 600,000 -860,000 Jews during WWII by ordering everyone to throw open the doors of the monasteries and convents to the Jews. The Vatican also held and sheltered thousands of Jews and others.
At first, priests, bishops, and the Pope spoke out against Hitler. And what do you think Hitler did?
Out of respect for the Church?
Change his ways?
Repent? And go to confession?
Fear public opinion?
NO! NOT AT ALL. We know in our minds and hearts the character of Hitler and the SS. And we would expect that he would punish this kind of criticism–harshly. And that is exactly what he did. More innocent Jews and Catholics were murdered immediately after public criticism. In fact, the Jewish convert, Saint Edith Stein, was rounded up with other baptized Jews and executed in one of these reprisals.
Therefore, everyone, including the Pope saved the lives of all the people they could—-secretly. To do otherwise would have been to endanger more innocent lives.
Ironically, the very lack of public statements by Pope Pius XII are now being used to condemn him for inaction. So he would have been damned if he did and damned if he didn’t–Can you imagine the outcry if he had selfishly and self righteously raged against Hitler over and over, in spite of the fact, that reprisals took even more innocent lives? The Pope would have been bitterly condemned by everyone! This would have actually been the result IF he had done what armchair critics think he should have done.
Instead of that, he prudently chose to save all the lives he could save quietly and secretly. And so, he is damned for not speaking out. At the end of the war everyone, including the Jews, praised Pope Pius XII for all that he had done.
But today, sixty years later he is judged in popular opinion to have been cold and uncaring, even in league with Hitler. Nonsense!
If you are confused by conflicting information let me tell you a true story.
The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zollie, converted to the Catholic Church after the war. Not during the war, in order to save himself from the Nazi’s, but after the war. He, his wife, and daughter entered the Catholic Church. And do you know what name he chose for his baptismal name?
Eugenio…. not one of the most well known and popular of saint names….
Do you know what the baptismal name of Pope Pius XII was?
Can anyone actually believe that this Rabbi not only converted to the Catholic Church but chose the pope’s own name for his own, at baptism, knowing Pope Pius did nothing?!!! It stretches credulity to believe that the Chief Rabbi of Rome, during World War II, who absolutely knew what the Pope did or did not do for his people, would do such a thing in spite of a do-nothing pope. Rather it speaks to just the opposite conclusion. Pope Pius’ exemplary and heroic behavior during such chaotic and murderous times greatly impressed the Rabbi. This culminated in his final conversion. And he did choose the name Eugenio in honor of the Pope.
If you would like to read the beautiful story of his conversion you can see it here. Or read his book Why I Became a Catholic by Israel Zollie.