Pius XII: Be proud to be a Jew!”

With a tip of the biretta to Against The Grain    o{]:¬)  I alert you to this fascinating piece from Inside The Vatican edited by my friend Robert Moynighan, to which you should subscribe after you subscribe to The Wanderer.

(This newsflash will be followed by a full-scale commentary by Doino, in an upcoming issue of Inside the Vatican magazine, in which he evaluates the importance of this testimony for Pius XII studies, recounts the story of the shipwrecked Jewish refugees, the Vatican’s support for them, and gives clues as to whom the anonymous Jewish author might be. To subscribe, click here or, in the USA, call the toll-free number 1-800-789-9494.)

Pope Pius XII: "Be proud to be a Jew!"

In a remarkable historical find, testimony has emerged revealing that, in 1941, Pope Pius XII received a German Jewish visitor at the Vatican who was seeking help for certain Jews who were being held in an Italian internment camp. After welcoming the young man and promising him help, Pius told him not once but twice–in emotional language, in front of a large group that included German soldiers–"Be proud to be a Jew!"

The amazing testimony, written as a first-hand account by an anonymous Jewish author in wartime Palestine, originally appeared on April 28, 1944 in The Palestine Post (now, The Jerusalem Post), the most influential Jewish publication in the world at that time.

According to longtime Inside the Vatican contributor William Doino, who discovered the testimony in an archive, maintained by Tel Aviv University, "the testimony has apparently been forgotten, because, as far as I know, no leading Holocaust authority or biographer of Pius XII has ever cited it."

As the article reports, the Jewish author attended a papal audience in the autumn of 1941. He entered the papal chamber along with numerous other people, including a group of German soldiers. (It was common for soldiers to visit the Pope early in the war era. Later, when Hitler learned of what the Pope told them, he put an end to this practice.)

The author was the final individual to approach the Pope that day. He wanted to tell Pius about a group of Jews who were being interned by Italy’s Fascist government on an island, in danger of starvation. He tried to speak in broken Italian, but the Pope invited him to use his native language, assuming that it would be German. "You are German, too, aren’t you?" asked the Pope. The author then explained that he was born in Germany, but he was a Jew.

Pius invited the author to finish his story. He listened intently then said: "You have done well to come to me and tell me this. I have heard about it before. Come back tomorrow with a written report and give it to the Secretary of State who is dealing with the question. But now for you, my son. You are a young Jew. I know what that means and I hope you will always be proud to be a Jew!"

Pius then raised his voice so that everyone in the hall – including the German soldiers – could hear it and said (in a "pleasant voice"): "My son, whether you are worthier than others only the Lord knows, but believe me, you are at least as worthy as every other human being that lives on our earth! And now, my Jewish friend, go with the protection of the Lord, and never forget, you must always be proud to be a Jew!"

The significance of this testimony, particularly for the cause of Pius XII, is still too early to gage, but Doino believes "it may well be the most explicit single testimony about Pius’s personal feelings toward Jews that has ever been recorded. It is not too far removed from Pius XI’s famous declaration of September 1938: "No, it is not possible for Christians to take part in anti-Semitism…. Spiritually, we are all Semites." But Doino notes one great difference between the statements: "Pius XI’s remark to a group of Belgian pilgrims was given wide publicity and is often quoted; Pius XII’s statement has been lost to history — until now."

"For Pius XII to make this statement to a German Jew, in 1941, in private, would have been remarkable enough," continued Doino. "That he did it in public, with his voice raised so that ‘everybody in the hall’ could ‘hear it clearly,’ in front of German soldiers, as well as cardinals, bishops and other high dignitaries of the Vatican government, is more astonishing still. It doesn’t merely reveal Pius XII’s kindness and Christian compassion; he goes well beyond that and affirms the young man’s Jewishness, the very core and dignity of his being."

Attached below is the original article, as it first appeared in the pages of The Palestine Post, in 1944, describing events that had occurred three years earlier. This will be followed by a full-scale commentary by Doino, in an upcoming issue of Inside the Vatican magazine, in which he evaluates the importance of this testimony for Pius XII studies, recounts the story of the shipwrecked Jewish refugees, the Vatican’s support for them, and gives clues as to whom the anonymous Jewish author might be — the editors of Inside the Vatican

Note: the original article can be found online by accessing the archives of the "Palestine Post," run by Tel Aviv University, here.

Follow the instructions to access the April 28, 1944 issue of the Palestine Post, forward to page 6, and go to the article entitled, A Papal Audience in Wartime, by "Refugee."

I find this especially interesting in light of the discussion these days on the part of the more traditionally minded about the Good Friday prayer controversy aroused again by Summorum Pontificum.

There is more to that article.  Go read it. 


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dan J. Howell says:

    If there was any need to for truth to come out here it is. Pope Pius XII showed more courage in those words then all of the bigots showed now. He stood up and told him not to be ashamed of who and what he is. I will take this and hold it close to me when I look at those people who say to be out of ignorance that Catholics are not Christians. I know that is weird to hear but I have heard it. Be Proud to be a Catholic, that should be the rallying crying against a secular world.

  2. Richard says:

    Blessed…(er…wait, not yet)…Venerable Pope Pius XII, pray for us!

  3. danphunter1 says:

    Proud to be a jew who converted to the Catholic Church.

  4. Tim Ferguson says:

    I don’t think there is any indication that the Jew whom Pius XII told to be “proud to be a Jew” was someone who had converted to the Catholic Church, Mr. Hunter.

  5. Jason says:

    Ronald Rychlak records another story in his book “Hitler, the War, and the Pope,” about Pius XII receiving a group of Jews after the war (apparantly it was through some special doors in Rome, I forget what the name was), and he told them, “I am only the Vicar of Christ, but you are his very kith and kin.”

  6. Victor says:

    Tim Ferguson: I think what Mr Hunter wanted to say that he, Mr Dan P. Hunter, is proud to be a Jew who converted. I could be wrong, though…

  7. Dan Hunter says:

    you are correct.
    God bless you.

  8. Whether the man in question converted or not, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Our Lord was not ashamed of his Jewishness. And if Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism, there remains that hope that distinguishes them from adherents of other non-Christian religions of the world.

  9. momof7 says:

    Both my parents are Polish Catholic Holocaust survivors. My Father survived Dachau, Bergen Belsen and Neungamme.

    One thing that has always, always upset my Father, was the outright BIAS of non-european Jews towards Catholics. My Father, God Bless him at 82, reiterates to all of us that no Polish Jew that he ever knew or met in his entire life- EVER critisized the Church or the Poles for their lack of standing up to the Nazi regime.

    He has always stated that only those outside of Europe during WWII came down harshly upon the Church and Poles for not doing enough. This upsets my Father to this day and he blames the American and non-European Jews for this propoganda.

    I could tell you more about how he was treated at the Holocaust Museum in DC when we went to visit there the year it opened. To make a long story short.. They denied him to register in the Holocaust registry because he was NOT a Jew and therefore would not be considered as a survivor- even though he was in several camps and miraculously survived through it all the last year of the war..This Bias will continue until the end of time. This I am sure of.

    I dont get too wrapped up anymore at what our Jewish brethren have to say about what we Catholics did or did not do during the war. I know the truth, I have lived it through my Fathers eyes.

  10. Gen X Revert says:

    I heard Bill Doino tell this story at a great conference at St. John’s Law School in NY on 10/27. The conference included Bill Doino, Ronald Rychlak, Sr. Margherita Marchione, Fr. Edwin Krause and Kenneth Whitehead. Bill Donohue was also in the audience. Sr. Marchione mentioned an interesting fact – John Cornwall has now retracted the entire premise of his book Hitler’s Pope! The people on this panel are doing a great job in an uphill battle defending Pius XII against lies.

  11. Matthew Mattingly says:

    This should help put an end a lot to the bigotry of some non-Catholic “Christians” who jumped on the bandwagon to condemn Venerable Pope Pius XII, and also the habitual anti-Catholic/anti-Pius XII rants of Abraham Foxman of the JDL.

  12. Prof. Basto says:

    By the way…

    Are there any news regarding the Decree on Pope Pius XII\’s heroic virtues?

    The draft decree recognizing them was submitted by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints to Pope Benedict circa two months ago, and, if I recall it correctly, a consistory for causes of canonization was held after that file was submitted to the Pope, but the Pope announced no decision regarding his predecessor\’s cause, and that consistory dealt with other causes instead. Are there any news?

  13. Brian says:

    Richard wrote:

    Blessed…(er…wait, not yet)…Venerable Pope Pius XII, pray for us!

    :) Plenty of empathy, over here… I’ve been (quietly and to myself) calling him “St. Pius XII” for some time… has a nice ring to it, I think!

    In Christ,

  14. Richard says:

    Tell me about it, Brian. My wife and I pray his consecration prayer the to Immaculate Heart before our rosary daily. This has contributed so to our faith as a family, I feel his beatification is long overdue.

  15. Luca says:

    Father, do you know an Italian historian whose name is Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio Community? He is now acting like a sort of official Church historian. But I remember that in 2000 he was speaking at a seminary of historians in the Augustinianum in Rome, and he said that, due to the impossibility of reading the documents in Vatican Archives, the historiographical line about Pius XII was already traced. So, while some less known but more serious scholars were (and are) trying to defend Pope Pius XII against that rubbish, Professor Riccardi was acting like Pontius Pilatus in order to look sympathetic to liberal and “progressive” Catholics (and not only Catholics), as he himself is. I am making archival researches for a Ph.D dissertation about Aegean Islands (where the Jew who wrote the quoted article was from) and I will be very happy to insert some examples of the charity of Pope Pius XII. But you, Father, please, make something so that people like Riccardi would not taken seriously any more in the Roman Curia.
    Forgive me for my bad quality English!

  16. Eugeny Rosenblum says:

    I’m proud to be a Jew and Roman Catholic in some time. My name is Eugeny and I honour Pius XII as my saint patron.

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