Thursday, April 30, 2009

A word about Pius XII and the line about "silence"...

Last month while at a lovely dinner party in a resort town near Rome I got chatting with an elderly woman who was abrasive, anti-war and would not say where she was from. Her first question to me was: "So, are you conservative?"

Just before the meal with a drink in one hand and a friendly wave with the other I made my way over to her on the couch and she warmed up in a flash. We enjoyed a lovely conversation in which she shared her life story: born in Berlin before the war and survived April and May of '45.

Curious to hear her take on Pius XII I asked if at that time she in her youth knew that the camps existed and what they were doing to Jews inside of them and her reply was a firm: "Yes, we already knew everything even before the end."

Then I asked if Pius XII was guilty of "silence" and she replied: "Surely, he must have known everything what with all the bishops and priests that could have reported the news to him."

Just today I finished reading The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966). Here's an interesting bit from pp. 328-329:

"General Eisenhower made a personal tour of a camp near Gotha. Ashen-faced, his teeth clenched, he walked through every part of the camp. 'Up to that moment,' he later recalled, 'I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources...I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.'"

So, if the brass of the Western Allies at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) had not a clear picture, then how could the Pope have known!

Thunderstruck we should be that the anti-Catholic secular media still goes after Pius XII.


gemoftheocean said...

The media never went off on Pius XII until well after the war. It was only during the 60s that Hochhuth and his scurrilous play, based on lies, The Deputy, came out.

Actually, I think the pope DID know. What people seem to forget is that in the early 40s the Germans were rounding up Dutch Jews. The Vatican spoke out, and it resulted in hundreds of thousands more Jews rounded up in retaliation - more Jews got killed.

It was a pragmatic decision in order to save more lives.

Terry Nelson said...

Just about everyone in Europe "knew" what was going on at the time, as Eisenhower said, he heard about it, just never experienced it until then.

And yes, Pius XII knew and did a great deal to avoid more deaths.

Anonymous said...

Proof that many Germans did not know the whole truth is the fact that many believed for years post bellum that it (the Shoah) was a myth of Allied propaganda.

Dymphna said...

People probably knew but didn't think about it much as they had their own problems. What shocked people was the full scale of the depravity. The whole thing was more horrible than a normal person could imagine.