Historians discover Nazi-era notes at Vatican

10th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 October 2006, MUENSTER, GERMANY - German historians who are studying the papacy's response to the Nazis have at last discovered key documents in the Vatican secret archives, but said Tuesday it could be years before the coded notes were deciphered. The notes were jotted between 1930 and 1939 by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who became head of the Catholic Church as Pope Pius XII from 1939 until his death in 1958. As Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pacelli met daily with his predecessor Pius XI. Jewish

10 October 2006

MUENSTER, GERMANY - German historians who are studying the papacy's response to the Nazis have at last discovered key documents in the Vatican secret archives, but said Tuesday it could be years before the coded notes were deciphered.

The notes were jotted between 1930 and 1939 by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who became head of the Catholic Church as Pope Pius XII from 1939 until his death in 1958. As Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pacelli met daily with his predecessor Pius XI.

Jewish critics of the papacy have claimed that Pacelli was too passive towards the Nazis and should have denounced the Holocaust.

Hubert Wolf of the German university of Muenster, who is leading the research, said the archives, which are no longer secret, showed Vatican officials were very well informed about world events up to 1939.

"So I would say that when the British and US governments obtained certain knowledge that the Final Solution (Holocaust) was happening, the Vatican would also have found out," he said.

The Vatican has opened up its pre-1939 document collection in Rome to historians, but the researchers must first create a road-map of the jumble of letters, minutes and notes whose meaning was only plain to Vatican officials long dead.

"You need to have 1,000 other files at hand to understand a single note," said Wolf of the Pacelli minutes. "They list the topics that the secretary of state thought were too important for him to decide himself and which needed to be checked with the pope."

However they only contained reference numbers to documents and a note on the pope's decision.

"If you don't know what the number refers to, what the papal nuncio (the Vatican ambassador in Berlin) had reported and what the secretary of state's draft said, you won't understand anything," Wolf said.

The historians have been researching Vatican dealings with Nazi Germany for the past three years, but have yet to begin a survey of reports dealing with the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s or reports from Prague on the German minority in Czechoslovakia.

Pacelli, born in 1876 in Rome, had a close knowledge of Germany, having been papal nuncio in Berlin from 1917 till 1929. Wolf's team intends to publish the nuncio's reports to the Vatican in an online scholarly edition.

DPA

Subject: German news

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