Pope Pius XII's silence during the extermination of millions of
Jews during the Holocaust has raised controversy. The
question is, why did the Vatican not openly protest against
the slaughter of millions? While the Pope never publicly
spoke out against Hitler and the Holocaust, he nonetheless
acted on an individual basis to save many Jews and others
with church ransoms, documents, and asylum. The reason the
Pope never openly resisted Hitler was because the Vatican
feared that if the Third Reich were to fall, then Communism (in Bolshevik Russia) would
overtake all of eastern Europe. Thus, the Catholic Church's resistance was limited to
underground activity: providing Jews and other persecuted persons with documents, and
hiding them in monasteries.
to Jews in France during the Occupation. Please refer to the present
exhibit at USHMM's website for more information on Father Jacques.
The most provocative accusation of the Pope's neutrality is by Rolf Hochhuth, who wrote the play The Deputy, addressing the question of why the Pope never spoke out. Based on historical evidence, the premise is that the Pope, as the deputy of Christ is in a morally obligatory position to speak out against atrocities against human beings. The question arises: would a formal protest by the Vatican have made a difference in the number of Jews killed? Hochhuth maintains that yes, it would have made a difference. It would have served as a precedent by which all religions would formally protest the brutalities of the Nazis. Catholics themselves were being persecuted during the Holocaust, and thus, the prevention of further persecution of the Catholics was another reason why Pope Pius did not denounce Hitler. The fear of Communism was also a real threat to religion, and thus, the Vatican did not choose to divide against the Nazis.