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Pius XII and the Holocaust

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Pius XII and the Holocaust

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  • Feb. 1, 2014
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Pius XII has often been portrayed as the Pope who kept silent during the Holocaust. There has been much controversy and debate surrounding this issue in the years following Pius’s death. Many historians today claim Pius did not do nearly enough to help the Jews escape the Nazis’ Final Solution. Furthermore, these historians claim Pius XII knew about Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe and still kept silent. In contrast, other historians believe Pius XII did an effective job of helping the Jews of Europe escape. These historians believe Pius was so efficient that he should be remembered not only as a Pope but as the “Pope of Peace.” These defenders of Pius claim that although he may have known about Hitler’s plans, he responded in such a way, that it enabled him to save 800,000 of the 2 million Jews living in Europe before the war. Other historians provide a much more neutral approach to the debate. These historians believe that Pius neither took an active part in saving the Jews nor sat on the sidelines and watched as millions of Jews were persecuted. Although at the center of much debate and controversy, Pius XII ultimately knew about the Holocaust and did what he needed to do in order to save the Jews of Europe. Although at the center of much controversy for his actions during the Holocaust, Pope Pius XII has attracted more critics than defenders in the decades following the Second World War. Many of these critics believe that Pius knew about Hitler’s plans to exterminate the Jews of Europe and failed to act accordingly to save them from that fate. Furthermore, these critics argue that Pius kept silent during the war to protect himself and the Vatican from defamation by critics of the war. In the play, The Deputy (1963), Rolf Hochhuth portrays Pius XII as having failed to take action or speak out against the Holocaust. Hochhuth also casts a penetrating eye on the role that supposed moral leaders must play in times of great humanitarian crises. For...