De Plaatsvervanger

Cristiana Couceiro
From left to right: Adolf Hitler, Prince Philipp von Hessen, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Pope Pius XII

Ein christliches Trauerspiel


Regie: Erwin Piscator



Sinds het verschijnen van “Der Stellvertreter” van Rolf Hochhuth heeft me de problematiek rond paus Pius XII niet meer losgelaten. Daar kwam later de wetenschap bij over de beruchte rattenroute voor nazi’s op de vlucht via het Vaticaan.
In 2019 gaf paus Franciscus toestemming voor de opening van de Pius XII-archieven, die in 2020 beschikbaar kwamen voor wetenschappelijk onderzoek. In de twee jaar daarna is geen nieuwe ontdekking zo dramatisch geweest als het feit dat Pius XII, kort nadat hij paus werd, samenkwam in geheime onderhandelingen met Hitler, een verhaal dat hier voor het eerst door David Kertzer wordt verteld.
In de Forward volgde een uitgebreid interview met de auteur. Hieronder de inleiding op dat gesprek.




Using newly-opened Vatican archives, David Kertzer discovered the pope’s secret meetings with Nazis and refusal to confirm the mass murder of Jews to the Allies

PJ Grisar


Eugenio Pacelli’s coronation as Pope Pius XII on March 12, 1939. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One day in late October 1941, Pope Pius XII received chilling news. A bishop in Slovakia wrote to say that the country’s Jews “are simply being shot … systematically murdered, without distinction of sex or age.”
We can get a sense of how Pius reacted to this report, the first credible account of Nazi mass murder to reach him; that same day, in addition to blessing 80 Nazi soldiers, the pope sat for a sculptor. Both the pope’s sculptor and the head of the household reported his agitation, while a reference photo of the pontiff, holding his spectacles and staring straight at the camera, betrays a beleaguered intensity.

Pope Pius in 1941, sitting for his bust
Courtesy of David Kertzer

You can find the picture in David Kertzer’s new book, “The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini and Hitler” — and while it may be worth a thousand words, the pope’s evident distress was not enough to break his policy of silence.
“We have accounts of where priests are coming and telling him about the Jewish babies being murdered and tears come to his eyes,” said Kertzer, also the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Pope and Mussolini,” about Pius XII’s predecessor Pius XI. “At some human level, obviously, he’s affected by this, but also he’s obviously defensive about the fact that he isn’t denouncing it.”
While it’s known that Pius never spoke out against the Nazi persecution of Jews before, during or after World War II, historians like Kertzer have only recently had access to Pius XII’s Vatican archive, unsealed in 2020. (A delay in opening papal archives is typical, though researchers had taken a particular interest in the wartime pope.) Drawing from its documents, Kertzer’s book details for the first time evidence of secret meetings between the pope and an emissary of Hitler as well as the cleric’s refusal to confirm reports of Nazi mass murders to Franklin Roosevelt.
Pius XII, who served as nuncio to Germany and cardinal secretary of state before his ascension, emerges as a circumspect diplomat, eager to appease the Nazis and Mussolini in the hopes of protecting the church and advancing its interests — and ever aware that many avowed Nazis were among his faithful. Pius’ public pronouncements were carefully calibrated to be ambiguous in their praise and criticisms of wartime hostilities. His actions to stop the oppression of Jews were concerned above all with the baptized and those in mixed marriages. In the end, he wanted a role in brokering a peace, largely to curb the spread of communist influence in Europe, which he deemed a larger threat than Nazism.
Kertzer’s book is a captivating account of palace intrigue, packed with cardinals, diplomats, princes and fascist leaders. Kertzer’s revelations can be infuriating, but they help make sense of a papal tenure often excused away by apologists and, until now, not fully understood by scholars. In the final reckoning, the author shows that Pius XII was neither “Hitler’s Pope” nor a moral leader to be admired.
I spoke with Kertzer about the pope’s infamous silence and how he thinks the Vatican will respond to his latest book.

7 juni 2022


Bron: © The Forward

David I. Kertzer is the author of the forthcoming book The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler. Kertzer was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe.

Uitgelicht: The Atlantic. Sources: Ullstein / Getty; Süddeutsche Zeitung / Alamy; Realy Easy Star / Fotografia Felici / Alamy
Audio: bron YouTube

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