Jan Meisels Allen
The Vatican opened the Archives of the Holocaust Era Pope Pius Xll. For decades there has been controversy as to whether this Pope kept a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to save Jews while others have labeled him “Hitler’s Pope” as he knew Nazi Germany was murdering Jews but failed to act. Pope Pius Xll served from 1939 to 1958.
Pius, when he was still Eugenio Pacelli, served as the Holy See ambassador to Germany in 1917-29, where he witnessed the beginning of the rise of Nazism. The historic moment of opening the archives was preceded by decades of controversy and debate about why the pontiff, who headed the Catholic Church for almost 2 decades, never spoke out about the slaughter of six millions Jews in Nazi concentration camps across Europe.
"For millions of people, Catholic and Jewish, these archives are of enormous humanitarian interest," Suzanne Brown-Fleming, international programs director at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.”
Journalists were shown a potion of the archives last week.
The Vatican normally waits 70 years after the death of a pope before making his archives available for study. Pope Francis has fast-tracked the opening of the Pius XII archives in order to help clear up the debate over the war-time pope, whose process for sainthood has been temporarily halted. Last year, Pope Francis decided to open the archives. Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican's Apostolic Archives, said the World War Two documents ran into millions of pages, divided into 121 sections according to topic. Scholars will be allowed into the Vatican archives to study the files. More than 150 scholars have applied to study documents covering Pius’s papacy. The archives area is only accessible by reservation. The consultant area has been booked for the rest of the year. Scholars from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is included in the bookings.
In 2006, the Vatican opened its archives to allow historians to access documents from 1922 to 1939. Historians have sought greater access to the Vatican's secret archives to clarify the role of the Church in the run-up to World War Two.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee