Did Pius XII “go undercover” to save Jews?

From CNA:

Rome, Italy, Nov 4, 2011 / 06:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII of being anti-Semitic believes the wartime pontiff actually went undercover to save the lives of Jews in Rome.

Gary Krupp came across the evidence in a letter from a Jewish woman whose family was rescued thanks to direct Vatican intervention.

“It is an unusual letter, written by a woman who is alive today in northern Italy, who said she was with her mother, her uncle, and a few other relatives in an audience with Pius XII in 1947.” Next to Pope Pius during the meeting was his Assistant Secretary of State, Monsignor Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.

“Her uncle immediately looks at the Pope and he says, ‘You were dressed as a Franciscan,’ and looked at Montini who was standing next to him, ‘and you as a regular priest. You took me out of the ghetto into the Vatican.’ Montini immediately said, ‘Silence, do not ever repeat that story.’”

Krupp believes the claim to be true because the personality of the wartime Pope was such that he “needed to see things with his own eyes.”

“He used to take the car out into bombed areas in Rome, and he certainly wasn’t afraid of that. I can see him going into the ghetto and seeing what was happening,” says Krupp.

Krupp and his wife Meredith founded the Pave the Way Foundation in 2002 to “identify and eliminate the non-theological obstacles between religions.” In 2006 he was asked by both Jewish and Catholic leaders to investigate the “stumbling block” of Pope Pius XII’s wartime reputation. Krupp, a very optimistic 64-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., thought he had finally hit a wall.

“We are Jewish. We grew up hating the name Pius XII,” he says. “We believed that he was anti-Semitic, we believed that he was a Nazi collaborator—all of the statements that have been made about him, we believed.”

But when he started looking at the documents from the time, he was shocked. And “then it went from shock to anger. I was lied to,” says Krupp.

“In Judaism, one of the most important character traits one must have is gratitude, this is very important, it is part of Jewish law. Ingratitude is one of the most terrible traits, and this was ingratitude as far as I was concerned.”

Krupp now firmly agrees with the conclusions of Pinchas Lapide, the late Jewish historian and Israeli diplomat who said the direct actions of Pope Pius XII and the Vatican saved approximately 897,000 Jewish lives during the war. Pave the Way has over 46,000 pages of historical documentation supporting that proposition, which it has posted on its website along with numerous interviews with eye-witnesses and historians.

“I believe that it is a moral responsibility, this has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church,” says Krupp, “it has only to do with the Jewish responsibility to come to recognize a man who actually acted to save a huge number of Jewish lives throughout the entire world while being surrounded by hostile forces, infiltrated by spies and under the threat of death.”

[...]

Read the rest of the fascinating story there!

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23 Responses to Did Pius XII “go undercover” to save Jews?

  1. Dan says:

    Fascinating…it would be interesting to know if there are any other similar accounts. Pius XII had such distinctive features that I think it would be hard for him NOT to be recognized, even if he was in disguise. This reminds me of the scene in “Ring of the Fisherman” when the pope puts on a black priests’ cassock, sneaks out of the Vatican, and ventures out into the city of Rome to see things for himself. Maybe the screenwriters had reason to believe something like that happened before?

  2. albinus1 says:

    (My apologies if this gets posted twice; I seem to be having some technical trouble.)

    Do you mean The Shoes of the Fisherman? A fascinating movie in many respects, though I think the book by Morris West, on which the movie was based, is better.

    I remember that the book and movie enjoyed a kind of vogue when the John Paul II was elected pope in 1978. John Paul II, of course, was born Karol Wojtyla, and was from Poland, and eastern-bloc country. In the book, a Ukrainian bishop names Kiril Lakota is unexpectedly elected pope. The superficial similarities were much remarked-on at the time.

  3. That movie was “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” starring Anthony Quinn as Pope Kiril I, but you’re right, that scene is awesome, and the movie is on my short list of all time favorites. But I digress … many would assume that Pius XII would never have the constitution for cloak and dagger stuff as described here, but in the memoir of Sister Pasqualina Lehnert (his housekeeper) entitled “La Popessa,” he is said to have enjoyed hobbies like bodybuilding and racing high-performance automobiles along the Italian countryside. (Yeah, that last one’s a stretch, I admit.)

  4. Robert_H says:

    Yet another reason I love that I’m Catholic now. Secret agent Popes!

    “The name’s Vicar – Christ’s Vicar.”

  5. AvantiBev says:

    This Sunday, November 6, 2011 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, IL (just north of Chicago) at 1:30 p.m. there will a program honoring righteous gentile rescuers with a special emphasis on ITALIANS. Over 80% of the Italian Jews and Jews who had escaped TO Italy from other parts of Europe survived the war. Many when asked “how” said by hiding in plain sight with the help of Italian printers (forging paperwork), Italian priest, Italian landladies, farmers, etc. Only Denmark of all the other occupied countries had a higher percentage of surviving Jews at WWII’s end.

    May I recommend Elizabeth Bettina’s IT HAPPENED IN ITALY which documents her own surprise as an Italo American at the history of her own family back in Italy helping Jews. Also, the late Walter Wolff who had fled to Italy from Germany wrote a short book about his experiences in Italy: BAD TIMES, GOOD PEOPLE.

    If you are a fellow paesano/a, I urge you to be vigilant in educating yourself about our people’s TRUE history. The stranieri will not tell you and pop culture will only mislead and try to shame you. Rejoice in your Catholic faith and the beautiful, smart, sexy, witty ROMAN bodies into which God put that faith.

  6. nanetteclaret says:

    The name of the 1968 movie was “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” starring Anthony Quinn. Also starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Oskar Werner, Sir John Gielgud, David Janssen, Leo McKern, Vittorio De Sica, Barbara Jefford, and Rosemarie Dexter. Nominated for 2 Academy Awards. It’s one of my all-time favorites!

  7. karmato says:

    Mr. Krupp attended a formal dinner as a guest of the hosts at which I was present . He was not a speaker but asked if he could address those in attendance who were mainly Catholics committed to their faith. This was right at a time when the Holy Father was under considerable attack. He told the story of Pius XII which is fascinating however his point this evening was that as Catholics we must learn from this and understand when the Holy Father is attacked we must take action to fight against contemporary disinformation efforts aimed to vilify the successor to Peter. The attacks to our faith today are no less dangerous or destructive than those waged against Pius XII. What an honorable man Mr. Krupp is. What an example he is to all.

  8. irishgirl says:

    This is pretty cool!
    Robert_H: hey, I like the ‘James Bond intro’! Love it!

  9. jkm210 says:

    It’s true that you would think that you would recognize the pope – any pope, if you lived in Rome – but if the pope was doing something entirely out of character, your brain would simply not believe your eyes. If I saw Pope Benedict wearing jeans and a t-shirt, buying a #1 combo at McDonalds, there is no way I would believe it to be him, even though he also has very distinctive features.

    It’s great to think a story like this could be true!

  10. Dan says: Fascinating…it would be interesting to know if there are any other similar accounts. Pius XII had such distinctive features that I think it would be hard for him NOT to be recognized, even if he was in disguise.

    Maybe that’s why he dressed as a Franciscan: for the bushy beard.

    Incidentally, according to an old, probably out-of-print book of Dominican devotions produced by a cloistered convent of nuns in Connecticut that a member of my chapter owns, Pius XII was a Third Order Dominican. Which would make the Franciscan outfit a double disguise!

  11. Supertradmum says:

    This is excellent information which should be spread about to the liberal media. Ever since that horrible and deceitful drama, “The Deputy”, most people, including some Catholics, have fallen for the slander about Pius XII. Thankfully, Rabbi Dalin in his book set the record straight, among others, and this above fact is absolutely thrilling for those of us who love this great Pope. This is such great news and adds to the list of facts which show the greatness of the Pope during the Holocaust.

  12. Shellynna says:

    Miss Anita, I recently read on the web site of the Franciscans of the Immaculate that every pope from Pius IX to John XXIII was a third-order Franciscan. If so, then Pius XII actually was a Franciscan — making his apparent choice not so much a disguise but a secret identity. :)

  13. ContraMundum says:

    @jkm210

    What I really wouldn’t be able to believe would be the Pope in jeans and a T-shirt, strumming a guitar and singing “Sing a New Church” or “Look Beyond”. :-)

  14. Banjo pickin girl says:

    jkm210, it’s like seeing your dentist in the supermarket (candy section!).

    This post reminds me of the TV movie The Scarlet and the Black which I just love, about Msgr. Hugh Flaherty.

  15. Tony from Oz says:

    This is all very refreshing and honest of Krupp. But did he not know – did he never hear – that Pius XII had been accorded the honour of ‘Righteous Gentile’ by the Government of Israel in the 1950s? An award never rescinded by that Government, despite the lies of ‘The Deputy’. One wishes the Israeli Government, in the years since, had reiterated its official view about good Pope Pius, as this false controversy has raged from time to time, spreading this misconception/lie amongst the Jewish diaspora.

  16. Jerry says:

    @Robert_H – “Secret agent Popes!”

    Thanks! Now I can’t get Johnny Rivers out of my head! Although now the lyrics (“Giving you a number, and taking away your name”) have an entirely different meaning.

  17. Shellynna says: Miss Anita, I recently read on the web site of the Franciscans of the Immaculate that every pope from Pius IX to John XXIII was a third-order Franciscan. If so, then Pius XII actually was a Franciscan — making his apparent choice not so much a disguise but a secret identity. :)

    Of course, I can’t blame the Franciscans for wanting to claim Pius XII. But if it should turn out to be true that Pius XII was really a Third Order Franciscan, then in view of the mutual esteem between Holy Father Dominic and St. Francis, which has continued down the ages in their respective orders, I couldn’t grudge them. :) :)

  18. Robert of Rome says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z., for posting this story here — the only place I have seen it.

  19. Nicole says:

    Well…what everyone seems to disregard is that there was a good reason for the chief rabbi (Israel Zolli) of Rome to take the Christian name of Pope Pius XII (Eugenio) at his baptism after the end of WWII. It seems to me from every account that doesn’t have a skewed worldview Pope Pius XII was held in high regard by all the jews he helped both directly and indirectly.

    Fascinating article clip. :)

  20. Peter G says:

    I look forward to the day when Papa Pacelli is beatified.
    Hopefully this is not too far away.

  21. PostCatholic says:

    I know I usually post criticism of the popes in the comments, but I really think a fair reading of the evidence strongly suggests Pacelli was very far from being “Hitler’s Pope.” I’m glad to see his legacy rehabilitated and thanks for calling this article to our attention.

    Unitarians Varian Fry and Waitshill and Martha Fry did a lot of direct work to rescue Jews from the Shoah. They’re recognized by Vad Yashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.” It would be nice to see Pacelli and Montini get their due there, too, someday.

  22. albinus1 says:

    I saw Pope Benedict wearing jeans and a t-shirt, buying a #1 combo at McDonalds, there is no way I would believe it to be him, even though he also has very distinctive features.

    I often have trouble recognizing my students if I happen to run into them off campus, or even on campus somewhere other than the classroom or my office. Memory tends to work by association and context, and even people we see on a regular basis might be hard to recognize if we see them in a different context from that in which we customarily see them.

  23. Trad Tom says:

    I completely agree with PostCatholic regarding Pope Pius XII and the future Pope Paul VI– that in itself is a shock to my own system!