Letter shows Pope Pius XII probably knew about the Holocaust from the beginning | ET REALITY

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Sept 17 (Reuters) – Wartime Pope Pius XII knew details about the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews in the Holocaust as early as 1942, according to a letter found in Vatican archives that conflicts with the official position of the Holy See at the time the information what had been was vague and unverified.

The yellowed, typewritten letter, reproduced Sunday in Italy’s Corriere della Sera, is highly significant because it was discovered by an internal Vatican archivist and made public with the support of Holy See officials.

The letter, dated December 14, 1942, was written by Father Lother Koenig, a Jesuit who was in the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, and addressed to the Pope’s personal secretary in the Vatican, Father Robert Leiber, also German.

Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco told Corriere that the importance of the letter was “enormous, a unique case” because it showed that the Vatican had information that the labor camps were actually death factories.

In the letter, Koenig tells Leiber that sources had confirmed that around 6,000 Poles and Jews were murdered each day in the “SS ovens” at the Belzec camp near Rava-Ruska, which was then part of Poland. occupied by the Germans and is now in western Ukraine.

“The novelty and importance of this document derives from a fact: we now have the certainty that the Catholic Church in Germany sent Pius XII accurate and detailed news about the crimes that were being perpetrated against the Jews,” Coco told the newspaper. whose article had the title: “Pius XII knew it.”

When the Corriere interviewer asked him if the letter proved that Pío knew, Coco replied: “Yes, and not only from then on.”

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The letter made reference to two other Nazi camps, Auschwitz and Dachau, and suggested that there were other letters between Koenig and Leiber that had disappeared or had not yet been found.

Pius’s supporters say he worked behind the scenes to help Jews and did not speak out to prevent worsening the situation for Catholics in Nazi-occupied Europe. His detractors say he lacked the courage to speak out about the information he had despite pleas from the Allied powers fighting Germany.

The letter was among documents that Coco said were kept haphazardly in the Vatican Secretariat of State and were recently delivered to the central archives where he works.

Suzanne Brown-Fleming, director of International Academic Programs at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, told Reuters in an email that the publication demonstrated that the Vatican was taking seriously Pope Francis’ claim that “the Church is not afraid of history” when he ordered the wartime archives to be opened in 2019.

“There is a desire and support for a careful evaluation of the documents from a scientific perspective, whether favorable or unfavorable in what the documents reveal,” he said.

In an email to Reuters, David Kertzer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Pope at War,” a 2022 book about the Pius years, said Coco was a “serious, first-rate scholar” located in the center of the Vatican to unearth the truth.

Brown-Fleming, Coco and Kertzer will be part of a major conference on Pius and the Holocaust next month at the Pontifical Gregorian, sponsored by Catholic and Jewish organizations, the U.S. State Department, and Israeli and American Holocaust research groups. among others.

Reporting by Philip Pullella, additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Alex Richardson

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