Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust
The papacy of Pius XII began on 2 March 1939 and continued to 9 October 1958, covering the period of the Second World War and the Holocaust, during which millions of Jews and others were murdered by Adolf Hitler's Germany. Before becoming pope, Cardinal Pacelli (the later Pius XII) served as a Vatican diplomat in Germany and as Vatican Secretary of State under Pius XI. His role during the Nazi period has been closely scrutinised and criticised. His supporters argue that Pius employed diplomacy to aid the victims of the Nazis during the war and, through directing his Church to provide discreet aid to Jews and others, saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Pius maintained links to the German Resistance, and shared intelligence with the Allies. His strongest public condemnation of genocide was, however, considered inadequate by the Allied Powers, while the Nazis viewed him as an Allied sympathizer who had dishonoured his policy of Vatican neutrality.
Some post-war critics have accused Pius of either being overly cautious, or of "not doing enough", or even of "silence" in the face of the Holocaust. Yet, supporters have held that he saved thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of Jews by ordering his Church to provide them with sanctuary and aid, and that he provided moral and intellectual leadership in opposition to the violent racism of Nazi ideology.
As Secretary of State, he had been a critic of Nazism and helped draft the 1937 Mit brennender Sorge anti-Nazi encyclical. In his 1939 Summi Pontificatus first papal encyclical, Pius XII expressed dismay at the 1939 Invasion of Poland; reiterated Catholic teaching against racism and antisemitism; and endorsed resistance against those opposed to the ethical principles of the "Revelation on Sinai" and the Sermon on the Mount. At Christmas 1942, once evidence of the industrial slaughter of the Jews had emerged, he voiced concern at the murder of "hundreds of thousands" of "faultless" people because of their "nationality or race". Pius intervened to attempt to block Nazi deportations of Jews in various countries from 1942–1944. Upon his death in 1958, Pius was praised emphatically by the Israeli Foreign Minister, and other world leaders.[who?] But his insistence on Vatican neutrality and avoidance of naming the Nazis as the evildoers of the conflict became the foundation for contemporary and later criticisms from some quarters. Studies of the Vatican archives and international diplomatic correspondence continue.