As the survivors of the Holocaust leave us, it is up to each and every individual to do his and her part in educating the public of the horrors, depravity and evil the Nazis unleashed upon this earth.
As anti-Semitism grows in America and around the world, this endeavor assumes an even greater importance and priority. It is anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. It is anti-Semitism in all its forms, guises and manifestations that led man to push people into cattle cars and later suffocate them with Zyklon B gas. The barbarism and torture perpetrated by the Nazis brought the human race to its lowest level in the history of the world. It was assembly-line genocide on a scale made possible by a highly technologically advanced society.
There were many who could have done much more to help the Jews but did not. One such individual was Pope Pius XII. Even The New York Times, which was shamefully negligent in its coverage of the Holocaust during World War II, entitled a recent article on him: “New reasons to doubt the Pope during the ‘40s sought to save Jews.”
Former presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, when she was 11 years old, wrote in the Yad Vashem guestbook, “Why didn’t somebody do something?”
The Vatican on March 2 opened its sealed archives from Pope Pius XII years. David Kertzer of Brown University, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pope Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, described in a recent article in The Atlantic some of the pages in the trove of documents as “steeped in anti-Semitic language.”
He further wrote that the memoranda from the archives prove that Pope Pius XII purposefully stayed quiet on October 16,1943 as 1,259 of Rome’s Jews were rounded up by the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz. He could have saved them, but did not.
On Sept. 21, 1945, the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, Leon Kubowitzki, asked Pope Pius XII to issue a public declaration denouncing anti-Semitism. He said, “We will consider it.” In the end, he did nothing.
On March 10, 1946, the chief rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Isaac Herzog, asked Pope Pius XII to help in locating the missing orphans of the Holocaust who were in the homes of Catholic families. The Pope responded by calling it a “rather delicate problem.”
Very little, if anything, was done to return Jewish children to their people. Most grew up as Catholics and never made it back.
Regarding the discussion over whether to grant Pope Pius XII status as a saint, the current Pope, Pope Francis, said, “The cause for Pius XII is open. However, there has been no miracle, and if there are no miracles, it is not yet possible to go ahead.”
In releasing the hitherto sealed documents, Pope Francis said, “The Church is not afraid of history.” History will show that Pope Pius XII was far from a saint. The archives make it clearer than ever that he should not even be considered for this distinction.
Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.