The headline, “Vatican Aids Eichmann to Escape” is splashed on Page One of the Jerusalem Post. Of course my stomach turns, I’m a Roman Catholic. My husband and I have spent the past five years conducting research and documenting the growth of anti-Semitism in some conservative Catholic organizations, so I have no difficulty in believing that there could have been pro-fascists in the clergy who would have been disposed to help even Eichmann evade justice and hide in Argentina.
I assume the article will announce the declassification of previously sealed files that confirm that Priests or Bishops actually helped the Architect of the Holocaust escape from Germany, and I brace for impact. By the time I am done reading, I have learned nothing more than that a German advocacy group, the BND, headed by investigative journalist, Gabriele Weber, has requested a 4, 500 page file concerning Eichmann be declassified.
“There is good reason to believe [Eichmann] received help from German, Italian and Vatican officials.”
That’s it? That merits being sensationalized as, “Vatican Aided Eichmann?” The entire question of the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in the Holocaust is a mine-field, capable of alienating human beings whose deepest mutual benefit demands that utmost respect for the truth be demonstrated by all who speak to this issue. The Holocaust was the fruit of lies, some, centuries old. Perversion of the truth is at the heart of the murder of 6,000,000 innocent men, women, and children.
This evil can only be justly deplored, expiated, and prevented from reoccurring by speaking the truth. If the Vatican releases the documents and these prove involvement by high, or even the highest officials, then so be it. Until that time, announcing as fact that which is unsubstantiated conjecture is irresponsible and not worthy of a serious journalist concerned with veracity.
Far more serious is the failure to properly research the background of the man named by the Post as the Vatican Official, Alois Hudal. In 1937, then Pope Piux XI wrote and ordered read in all the churches of Germany, an officical letter Mit Brennender Sorge, With Much Bitterness. The letter condemned the doctrine of the Nazis and warned Catholics to have nothing to do with Hitler.
Bishop Hudal, stationed at Rome to minister to the congreation of Austrian Catholics there, wrote two books in favor of the Nazi teachings and deplored the stance the Pope had taken against the Nazis. The Vatican responded with disapproval and the Bishop, who had been promoted prior to his pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic stand, fell from favor and was sent away from Rome after the War. Far from being a‘‘ Vatican Official,“ Hudal was repudiated by the Pope for his pro-Nazi position.
In 2003, Rabbi David G. Dalin, a visiting fellow at Princeton University’s James Madison Program, wrote of Hudal in his article, When Religion is Bigotry:Daniel Goldhagen slanders the Catholic Church:
“The recently released memoirs of Adolf Eichmann also contain new evidence disproving Goldhagen’s claim. The memoirs confirm that Vatican protests played a crucial part in obstructing Nazi intentions for Roman Jews. Eichmann wrote that the Vatican “vigorously protested the arrest of Jews, requesting the interruption of such action.’ At Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, Israeli attorney general Gideon Hausner said, “the pope himself intervened personally in support of the Jews of Rome.” Documents introduced at the trial provide further evidence of Vatican efforts to halt the arrest and deportation of Roman Jews.”
“No accusation is too preposterous for Goldhagen to accept. Commenting on the Vatican’s alleged link to Nazi war criminals, he claims that Alois Hudal, an Austrian prelate and Nazi sympathizer, was “an important Catholic bishop at the Vatican,” as well as a “close friend” and “confidant” of Pius XII. Indeed, he adds, both Pius XII and the future Paul VI actively supported Hudal in his criminal assistance to fleeing Nazi war criminals.”
“As it happens, Alois Hudal was never a bishop “at the Vatican,” much less an “important” one, but rather an obscure rector of the Collegio dell’ Anima in Rome, where he was placed to confine him to a post of little significance. Hudal also was never a “close friend” of Pius XII or Montini.”
“In fact, Hudal’s memoirs bitterly attack the Vatican for steadfastly refusing an alliance with Nazi Germany to combat “godless Bolshevism.” Far from assisting Nazi war criminals in their escape, Pius XII authorized the American Jesuit Edmund Walsh to submit to the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg a dossier documenting Nazi war crimes and atrocities. The recent book by David Alvarez, “Spies in the Vatican: Espionage & Intrigue from Napoleon to the Holocaust,” shows how much Hitler distrusted and despised Pius XII.”
Serious scholars continue to research and clarify of the role played by Catholics in the Holocaust, both the despicable and the heroic. Hastening to impugn the Vatican in this matter is a lack of due diligence that trivializes the demonic guilt of the truly culpable.