Category Archives: The Church and the Holocaust

Baruch Dayan HaEmet (Hitler’s Pope? cont.)

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The New York Times reports:

Alexander Safran, the former chief rabbi of Romania who tried to prevent the deportation of Jews by his country’s pro-Nazi regime during World War II, died on Thursday at his home here. He was 95.…

After leaving Romania for Switzerland, Rabbi Safran became the chief rabbi of Geneva in 1948. He was also professor of philosophy at the university there and published a number of literary works.

Rabbi Safran-1

Rabbi Safran was elected chief rabbi of Romania in 1940, when he was only 30. From April to August 1940, as a member of the Romanian Senate, he tried to persuade the military government of Ion Antonescu to moderate its anti-Jewish legislation.

After the authorities ordered the dissolution of all Jewish organizations in December 1941, Rabbi Safran helped set up the Jewish Council, an underground organization that included all sectors of the Jewish population. His home became the group’s meeting place.

The council used its links with Romanian church officials, the Vatican and the royal family in an effort to prevent the mass deportation of Romania’s Jews to the Nazi extermination camps.

About half of the 800,000 Jews who lived in Romania before World War II were killed during the war. But the fact that many were saved was widely attributed to Rabbi Safran’s efforts.…

Rabbi David Dalin notes on page 14 of his book, The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, that Pope Pius XII was praised by Rabbi Safran for his efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust – efforts, one can see, Rabbi Safran had personal knowledge of.

Just another bit of information that helps prove that DovBear is mistaken on this issue.


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Sir Martin Gilbert Responds

Sir Martin Gilbert was kind enough to respond to challenges posed by readers, including DovBear. With his permission, his response:

One of your readers writes to you (entirely erroneously in my view):

“Churchill knew about the dangers the Jewish people

faced, and even gave speeches about it, well before

WWII officially started. However, once the war

started, rescuing Jews was not a priority of his, and he did hardly or nothing to help. His five volume history of the war barely mentions

the Holocaust and does not record any effort by England

to help the Jews.

Your correspondent adds:

“Which is sad, not only for those who may have been

saved and were not, but because Churchill otherwise

has an overwhelmingly favorable WWII resume. Also

note that Churchill was saved from financial

ruin before the war by a Jewish financier who


that Churchill was needed.”

Your correspondent ends:

“It is impossible that Churchill did not know what

was going on….”

All the above points are dealt with in detail in my

forthcoming book, Churchill and the Jews, which will, hopefully, be

published during the Fall or Winter of 2007: by Holt

in the USA, and by Simon and Schuster in the Britain, as well as by

McLelland and Stewart in Canada.

Incidentally, Sir Henry Strakosch, Churchill’s

financier in 1938 was not Jewish!

I feel that my American Spectator review answers the

other questions posed about Pope Pius XII, in so

far as those questions are dealt with in my review – as

most of them are.

You can read Sir Martin Gilbert’s review of Rabbi David Dalin’s book by puchasing the American Spectator at your local newsstand or by reading it in your local public library.


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The Pope and the Holocaust: A (Partial) Response To Dovbear [UPDATED 7-28-06]

DovBear asks why I carry a brief for Pope Pius XII and the Church. I do not. I simply seek the truth, and the truth in this case supports the Church. I made scans of (part of)  Sir Martin Gilbert’s endorsement of Rabbi David Dalin’s book defending Pius. Page 1 appears immediately below; page 6 is posted after the jump. Please click on the images to enlarge:


Continue reading


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Hitler’s Pope – No Way, Says Sir Martin Gilbert

Sir Martin Gilbert has a review [not online as of yet] of Rabbi David Dalin’s The Myth of Hitler’s Pope in the June/July American Spectator. Gilbert strongly endorses the book and, in several pages of terse prose brings case after case after case documenting Pius XII efforts to save Jews. He also confirms much of what I wrote previously regarding Pius. (Please see below.)

Gilbert is perhaps the world’s leading historian on both WW2 and the Holocaust.

What will Church-haters like Beyond BT’s Steve Brizel and, of course, DovBear, do with this shining endorsement of Pius? My guess? (And this is only that – a guess.) Continue to hate at all costs. After all, that is what bigots do.

[Earlier coverage of the issue: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.]

UPDATE: I have uploaded scans of Sir Martin Gilbert’s review here.


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The Church And The Holocaust

Ha’aretz reports:

Government sources have called statements made by a senior Vatican official condemning the silence of the Holy See during the Holocaust “unprecedented.” 

Sources in Jerusalem said it is still too early to tell whether the statements made Tuesday by Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land, reflect a change in Vatican policy about the silence of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust.

Speaking in Hebrew at a conference at Tel Aviv University on the actions of the Church during the Holocaust, Pizzaballa criticized “church leaders, including those of the highest level, who did not adopt a courageous stand in the evangelical spirit in the face of the Nazi regime.”

Pizzaballa said that after the Holocaust, the Church struggled with “the question of how it failed at the task of molding the conscience of the faithful so they would refuse to cooperate with the Nazi machine of destruction. How so many of the faithful cooperated and even more stood and did nothing.” Pizzaballa added that the 1965 Vatican declaration absolving the Jews from killing Jesus was a “response to the deep crisis created after World War II.”

He said the Church subsequently had made a number of far-reaching changes, among them emphasizing the Jewish identity of Jesus and recognition of the Hebrew Scriptures as an inseparable part of Christian tradition, and that “preachers and the greatest of teachers” had presented Jews in a distorted way, which laid the groundwork for modern anti-Semitism.

“I cannot avoid the horrific thought that if Jesus were alive in the Holocaust, he would have been condemned to the same fate as the Jewish people, as would his mother, his family and his disciples.” Pizzaballa said.

Rabbi David Rosen, a member of the Permanent Bilateral Commission of the State of Israel and the Holy See and brother of Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, does not believe this indicates a change in Vatican policy. Rabbi Rosen argues that Father Pizzaballa is simply more attuned to Jews because of living in Israel and his familiarity with Jewish and Israeli culture. That accounts for what appears to be a more wide-reaching statement.

Will Pious XII be beatified? Should we as Jews care? And does it matter that 85% of Italy’s Jews survived the Holocaust, many of them under the protection of the Church?

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Saved By A Priest

Joe Schick writes:

Later, in 1943, the surviving members of my mother’s family were forced to flee France for Italy. By then, my mother’s mother was pregnant with her first child, and a Catholic priest arranged for refuge for the family in villages around Cuneo, Italy. The men were with the partisans fighting the Nazis and fascists, with the women and children hidden elsewhere.

So the matriarch of one of the most important families in the American Orthodox world was saved by a Catholic priest. Yet, see this post, where I noted:

Two years ago, I was speaking with a Yeshiva University rosh yeshiva about a halakhic matter. Suddenly, while commenting on the Catholic Church’s view of an issue, the rosh yeshiva blurted out, “The Pope, yemach shemo, ….” [“The Pope, may his name be blotted out,” a traditional curse reserved for the greatest enemies of the Jewish people, like Hitler and Haman, now directed at Pope John Paul 2, the Pope who had done the most to restore relations with the Jewish people.] Can one imagine Rabbi Joseph Ber Soleveitchik speaking about the Pope this way?

I wonder how many anti-Nazi gentiles the Va’ad Hatzalah saved? How many retarded? How many Gypsies? Actually, I know the answer: zero. You would think the Va’ad along with Lubavitch and the other Orthodox groups would have saved a few of the non-Jews who were also targeted by Hitler. But they did not. Why?


For more background on the issue of the Church and the Holocaust, read David Dalin’s book, The Myth of Hitler’s Pope.


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A Question For Yom HaShoah

Does anyone know what attempts, if any, were made to save mentally ill, disabled and retarded Jews during the Holocaust? We know of rescues of a few important people, rabbis and community leaders. Were any disabled or retarded people rescued? Are their stories in print? Does anyone know? Please cite sources. Thank you.


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