Exposing Hitler's Pope and Its Author
At the beginning of the 19th century, a book appeared in North America entitled The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk. Lurid and shocking, it told the story of one Maria Monk who, after a Protestant upbringing near Montreal, entered a Canadian convent to be educated and become a nun. To her horror, she found the place a den of sin, with secret tunnels admitting priests to the convent for purposes whose results flowered in the strangling of unwanted babies, buried in lime pits. It was all very shocking and -- given the anti-Catholic nativism rife at the time --just what a particular section of the American public wanted to hear.
As the facts began to emerge, however, the truth appeared: Far from being a credible witness, Maria Monk was actually a mentally disturbed young woman who had spent time in a Canadian asylum, not convent. She had never been a religious postulant much less a nun, and her "disclosures" were not penned by her but by an anti-Catholic fundamentalist minister, who exploited her fantasies for his own bigoted agenda. Nonetheless, Maria Monk was ripe for the nativist propaganda machine. Her book sold 300,000 copies before the Civil War, a great many more afterward, and is still read in the dark recesses of anti-Catholic America.
Over 150 years later, another book appeared which shook the establishment even more: At the beginning of 1983, Stern magazine, Germany's leading news-weekly, announced that it had unearthed the secret diaries of Adolf Hitler, which it would begin serializing in April of that year. After weeks of an unprecedented publicity campaign, touting the diaries as "the find of the century," Stern was forced to subject them to scientific tests, whereupon the truth emerged: The Hitler diaries were not authentic, but grotesque forgeries pieced together by a skilled artist, long known to be a con man. So the hoax was exposed, but not before Stern and The Times of London (which both had published excerpts of the supposed diaries), Europe's leading journalists, and even renowned historian Hugh Trevor Roper (who had initially vouched for the authenticity of the Hitler diaries) all fell for the elaborate hoax, irretrievably damaging their reputations.
Last October, Viking Press published a book, which, for sheer melodrama, tops the sensational nature of the previous two. Entitled Hitler's Pope and soon to appear in paperback, it purports to be the "definitive biography" of Eugenio Pacelli, who served as papal nuncio to Germany (1917-1929) and cardinal secretary of state (1930-1939) before serving as Pope Pius XII from 1939 until his death in 1958. Hitler's Pope combines the anti-Catholicism of Maria Monk with the wartime intrigue of Hitler's Diaries. It has the added allure of having been written by John Cornwell, a supposedly distinguished scholar -- who, we are assured by Viking's publicity department -- is "a practicing Roman Catholic" who takes his faith quite seriously.
What is more, Cornwell reportedly set out to exonerate Pius XII only to discover that Pius was much more guilty than he could ever have imagined. Indeed, Hitler's Pope purports to reveal the "untold story of the most dangerous churchmen in modern history. . . Backed by new research and exclusive access to a wealth of Vatican and Jesuit archives, John Cornwell tells for the first time, in depth, the truth about Pacelli's long career as a Vatican diplomat and the accord between Pacelli and Hitler that helped sweep the Nazis to unhindered power. . . Hitler's Pope shows how Pacelli's entire life and career led to this. . . Cornwell's explosive conclusion is that without Pacelli's contribution, Hitler might never have come to power or been able to press forward with the Holocaust" (from the fall 1999 catalog of Penguin Putnam Inc., the parent company of Viking Press).
When the definitive history of deceit is finally written, this book will take pride of place. For make no mistake, Hitler's Pope is one of the great publishing hoaxes of our time, every bit as disreputable as The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk or the discredited Hitler's Diaries. And just as those notorious fabrications were once accepted as fact, so too has Hitler's Pope been received as gospel truth by the gullible and ignorant -- not to mention the "educated" elites who are always ready to believe the worst about the Roman Catholic Church and, in particular, the papacy.
The deception of Hitler's Pope begins right with the cover, which is a small masterpiece of artful propaganda. The cover of the book depicts Eugenio Pacelli, in full religious garb, leaving a German government building guarded by two soldiers. To the unsuspecting eye, this photo -- combined with the book's outrageous title -- appear to be an image of Pope Pius XII leaving a meeting with Hitler. The clear implication is that the two were involved in a secret, unholy alliance, working hand-in-hand for the destruction of Western civilization.
In reality, however, Eugenio Pacelli, both before and after he became Pope Pius XII, never met Adolf Hitler. Pacelli's contacts were limited to subordinates in the German government. Moreover, the book's cover photo is not of Pope Pius XII visiting the Third Reich but of the then-Archbishop Pacelli as nuncio to Germany in 1927 -- six full years before Hitler came to power in Germany (1933) and 12 years before Pacelli became Pope Pius XII (1939). But one does not discover any of this unless one turns to the back flap of the book's jacket and strains to read, in tiny print, the true circumstances of the cover photo:
"Eugenio Pacelli, before his election to the papacy, leaving a reception for President Hindenburg in Berlin, 1927." Worse yet, this photo -- which has been used before in its full clarity -- is now cropped and blurred so one cannot easily see that the two German soldiers surrounding Pacelli are not Nazis but ordinary German soldiers in the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic! If this is not deliberately lying through a picture, what is? The blatant misuse of the cover photo of Hitler's Pope symbolizes the rank dishonesty of the entire book, and sets the stage for the hurricane of lies contained within its covers.
In his prologue, Cornwell wastes no time misleading his readers. He presents himself as a dispassionate scholar and committed Catholic who set out to write an objective study of the life and legacy of Pope Pius XII. The truth, of course, as has since come to light, is that despite his fancy position as a "senior research fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge" Cornwell is neither a trained historian nor a competent theologian. He is nothing more than a journeyman newspaper man whose chief claim to fame is his previous book, A Thief in the Night: The Death of John Paul I (1989), which "disproved" the theory that the late Pontiff was murdered (as if that ludicrous notion needed to be disproved), but blamed his natural death on Vatican incompetence and neglect. An incisive review on Amazon.com's web site had this to say about Cornwell's intrepid reporting:
"Eight out of ten for suspense and plot. But this book should be under 'fiction.' Very sad to see that Cornwell lets his private journalistic ambition sully his integrity as a writer of supposed 'history.' This man has a clear agenda: Vilify the Vatican in every possible way, cast aspersions on those who cannot defend themselves, and where possible make the Catholic Church generally and the Vatican 'establishment' in particular look like a bunch of power-hungry egomaniacs and a den of thieves. Sadly, many ignorant Catholics and non-Catholics won't know enough to refute his slander, and this book is wonderful fodder to anti-Catholics. Avoid this trashy 'journalism'."
In the preface to his new book, Cornwell again poses as the great detective, claiming he has obtained "generous access to unseen material: depositions under oath gathered 30 years ago for Pacelli's beatification, and also documents in the office of the Secretariat of State." These claims are fraudulent. "In fact," writes Kenneth Woodward, Newsweek's distinguished religious editor, "the Vatican archives Cornwell perused are open to any inquirer with an academic connection. (Amending what he wrote in his book. Cornwell insisted to Newsweek that he was nonetheless the first to open certain folios, which the Vatican archivist denies.) He also examined testimony given in connection with the Pope's beatification process, which is under the direction of Jesuit scholars in Rome. These are private documents, but hardly secret: I have seen them myself. And what he cites from these materials in no way supports his portrait of a moral 'hypocrite' " (Newsweek International, September 27, 1999, emphasis added).
Moreover, Cornwell's assertion that he began his book with a sincere belief in Pius XII's innocence ("I was convinced that if his full story were told, Pius XII's pontificate would be vindicated," p. viii) simply cannot be believed. For John Cornwell had already attacked Pius XII ten years ago, speaking of his "alleged anti-Semitism" without refuting that canard, and mocking him as "a Roman emperor" who was "somebody totally remote from experience," and who looked like an "emaciated, large-eyed demigod" (cf. Cornwell's A Thief in the Night, pp. 50, 162).
Underscoring these facts, Cambridge historian Felicity O'Brien -- who, ironically, is thanked by Cornwell in his afterword as one of the authorities he consulted -- wrote a letter to Newsweek magazine, flatly contradicting Cornwell's claims:
"It was refreshing to read Kenneth L. Woodward's feature on John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope. . . In the late 1980s, I studied the sworn testimonies gathered for the canonization cause of Pius XII in Rome. Several of them speak of his concern and help for Jews, both before and after he became Pope, Cornwell charges him with hypocrisy, but the testimonies show him to have been a transparently honest person. While ascetic and always requiring the best from himself and others in the service of the Church, he is shown also to have been courteous and kind, with a sense of humor. In an article on Cardinal Martini in London's Sunday Times magazine in 1993, Cornwell described Pope Pius as a diplomat, a hypochondriac, and a ditherer. This was hardly the most positive image to have in mind when he was setting out to write his book" (British edition of Newsweek, October 25, 1999, p. 18).
As for his alleged commitment to Catholicism, Cornwell recently wrote a cover story for that same Sunday Times magazine of London (March 12, 2000) in which he revealed his true agenda. The article mocks Pope John Paul II and his "sclerotic pontificate," ridicules his supporters as "right-wing," "reactionary," and "ultraconservative," accuses John Paul II of "rank heresy" suggests the Pope resign, and speaks luridly of a "Deep Throat" informant inside the Vatican. None of which should surprise anyone, for Cornwell is an ex-seminarian who has a long history of assailing the Church (cf. "Hitler's Pope Author Exposed as Bitter Ex-Seminarian," The Wanderer, September 24, 1999, p. 1). One passage from his "spiritual" autobiography will provide some essential background for understanding John Cornwell. Describing his loss of faith in the seminary, Cornwell writes:
"I had managed to linger in a state of late childhood. Now on the grim city's edge, the storms of adolescence, with accompanying ravages of scrupulosity and guilt, were unleashed. I suffered migraines and stomachaches; I lay awake at night and fell asleep in chapel and through lectures in the mornings; I took up smoking and drinking; against the severe rules of the house I escaped whenever I could to the cinemas down in Birmingham. I was desperate for affectionate companionship, wracked with sexual torment" (The Hiding Places of God, New York: Warner Books, 1991, p. 23).
This is the man, we must never forget, who set out to judge the life and character of a Pope many believe to be a saint.
In his attempt to assassinate the character of Pope Pius XII, Cornwell leaves nothing unsaid. Every imaginable crime is laid at the feet of Eugenio Pacelli, both before and after he became Pope. According to Cornwell, Pacelli was an anti-Semite and racist; Pacelli was an ambitious power broker whose machinations unleashed worldwide turmoil; Pacelli's policy on the German Concordat helped sweep Hitler to power; Pacelli suppressed the German resistance to Hitler; Pacelli kept silent about Nazi atrocities, especially Hitler's persecution of the Jews; Pacelli collaborated with fascist Croatia; Pacelli saw Nazism as a bulwark against Communism, and therefore aligned himself with the Third Reich; Pacelli was an extreme reactionary who sacrificed humanity for the sake of aggrandizing papal power. Pacelli, in short, is blamed for every major evil of the 20th century -- including World War I, World War II, and the Nazi Holocaust. Deaths from AIDS and cancer are the only evils Eugenio Pacelli is not held responsible for -- though perhaps that is the subject of Cornwell's next book.
That such charges can be made and believed in is astonishing even in an age, which takes its philosophy from Jerry Springer and its history from Oliver Stone. But the capacity for deception now appears boundless, with no clear remedy in sight.
In his opening chapters, Cornwell wastes no time aiming a moral dagger at the heart of Eugenio Pacelli, portraying him as a typical anti-Semite. This is done by providing a highly charged survey of European anti-Semitism, and quoting some of its leaders -- then trying to implicate Pacelli in their bigotry. On page 27, using the special pleading of a prosecutor who has no case, Cornwell writes that "Pacelli in all likelihood" was influenced by these fringe anti-Semites, just as he was "surely influenced" by (the supposed) anti-Semitism of Italian schools -- which is another way of saying that no convincing evidence exists for either charge. Pressing his imaginary case further, Cornwell writes that in 1917, a rabbi in Munich approached Nuncio Pacelli to see if the Holy See might help import Italian palm fronds, so the rabbi's congregation could celebrate the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. After inquiring about the request and exchanging letters, Pacelli replied that, regrettably, he was unable to do so. This asserts Cornwell, combined with the nuncio's alleged reference to the rabbi's Jewish "cult," proves Pacelli was an anti-Semite.
It proves nothing of the sort. First of all, the very fact that the rabbi approached Pacelli demonstrates that Jewish leaders regarded the German nuncio as a trusted friend of the Jews -- an obvious fact Cornwell ignores.
Second, the reason that Pacelli was unable to have the Holy See import the requested goods was because Germany and Italy were then at war, the Church was a nonbelligerent, and any such intervention would have jeopardized the Vatican's strict neutrality during World War I -- which was essential for maintaining access to its countless victims, whom the Holy See did so much to assist throughout the conflict. Indeed, Cornwell himself concedes that "[Nuncio] Pacelli traveled tirelessly in Germany during the final 12 months of the war, bringing food and clothing to the starving 'of all religions' on behalf of the Holy See" (p. 69). Exactly. And among these unfortunates were Jewish soldiers whom Pacelli helped feed and nurse back to health, along with all the others. Protecting the basic human rights of these victims took clear precedence over engaging in special religious favors, which could easily have backfired and wrecked the entire humanitarian project.
Third, Pacelli never used the words "Jewish cult"; that is Cornwell's English translation of Pacelli's use of the Italian word "culto," which quite normally means Jewish liturgy and faith. To use the English word "cult" -- which is a complete mistranslation, and carries a very negative connotation -- to describe Pacelli's standard Italian phraseology is to blatantly misrepresent the nuncio's attitude toward the Jewish people and religion.
Finally, after Nuncio Pacelli personally explained to the rabbi why the Vatican could not import the palm fronds to Germany, the rabbi was, as Pacelli wrote to his superior in Rome, "perfectly convinced of the reasons I had given him and thanked me warmly for all that I had done on his behalf -- a statement that Cornwell briefly mentions (p. 71) but does not realize invalidates his accusations against Pacelli. (Why would the rabbi thank an anti-Semite?) Instead, Cornwell presents this wholly innocent affair as if Eugenio Pacelli were playing a devious cat-and-mouse game with the rabbi, deliberately raising his hopes then deserting him, just so he could experience the anti-Semitic thrill of manipulating a prominent rabbi. This interpretation is beneath contempt, but typical of the tactics Cornwell uses throughout his book.
Having proven nothing, Cornwell then supposedly cements his case against Pacelli by presenting his chief piece of evidence: a 1919 letter, signed by Pacelli and sent to his superior in Rome, describing an eyewitness account of Communist revolutionaries in Munich. The letter reads in part:
"The scene that presented itself at [Communist headquarters] was indescribable . . . the building, once the home of a king, resounding with screams, vile language, profanities. Absolute hell. An army of employees were dashing to and fro, giving out orders, waving bits of paper, and in the midst of all this, a gang of young women, of dubious appearance, Jews like all the rest of them, hanging around in all the offices with lecherous demeanor and suggestive smiles. The boss of this female rabble was Levien's mistress, a young Russian woman, a Jew and a divorcee, who was in charge. . . This Levien is a young man, of about 35, also Russian and a Jew. Pale, dirty, with drugged eyes, hoarse voice, vulgar, repulsive, with a face that is both intelligent and sly" (pp. 74-75).
In the publicity blitz coinciding with the release of his book, Cornwell claimed that "this letter has lain in the Vatican archives like a time bomb until now" (The Times of London, September 12, 1999). That is a blatant lie. The letter was published long before Cornwell's book appeared and was well known to scholars. As L'Osservatore Romano (October 13, 1999) documented: "In fact, said letter (of which Cornwell only quotes some limited phrases . . .), had already been published in 1992; in other words, seven years before the publication of Cornwell's book. The full text of this document appeared in Emma Fattorini's book, Germany and the Holy See: The Pacelli Nunciature Between the Great War and the Weimar Republic (Il Mulino: Bologna, 1992, pp. 322-325)."
Ignoring this fact, Cornwell presents the letter as his own spectacular discovery, and claims that it conclusively proves Pacelli's 'anti-Semitism:
"Pacelli's constant harping on the Jewishness of this party of power usurpers is consistent with the growing and widespread belief among Germans that the Jews were the instigators of the Bolshevik revolution, their principal aim being the destruction of Christian civilization. But there is something else about the passage that is repugnant and ominous. The repeated references to the Jewishness of these individuals, amid the catalog of epithets describing their physical and moral repulsiveness, give an impression of stereotypical anti-Semetic contempt" (p. 75).
Only someone devoid of critical faculties would accept this perverse interpretation. Pacelli was not, as Cornwell claims, condemning Jews as a people and a race, much less associating Judaism with Bolshevism. When the nuncio used the phrase "Jews, like all the rest of them" he was not speaking about all Jews, or making rash generalizations. He was decrying the conduct and character of a tiny handful of Communist revolutionaries who happened to be Jewish -- who in no way represented most European Jews -- and who, far from being faithful children of God, were radical apostates who hated and persecuted every form of religion, including Judaism -- a fact recognized by faithful Jews at the time.
As The New York Review of Books (March 23, 2000) commented: "Most leaders of the Bavarian Soviet Republic were in fact [apostate] Jews, and conservative German Jews found these rather childish and yet often brutal young intellectuals similarly unappealing." (Indeed, if anyone was anti-Semitic, it was these atheistic Marxists, who following the command of Karl Marx -- who called for "the emancipation of humanity from the Jews" -- tried to achieve just that when they later endorsed the infamous Nazi-Soviet pact, thus paving the way for Auschwitz.) The reason that Pacelli referred to the ethnicity of these Communists was to provide a physical description of them for his superiors, so the latter could identify who was persecuting people of faith in Germany. To argue, as Cornwell does, that Pacelli's language reveals anti-Semitism is as absurd as stating that an Israeli police officer writing a report about Arab terrorists is an anti-Arab racist if he mentions that the terrorists were Arab. Lest there be any doubt about the vacuous nature of Cornwell's charges, one need only quote Professor Ian Kershaw's description of these same Communists in his acclaimed biography of Hitler:
"The revolution in Bavaria had preceded that in the Reich itself. It took place in circumstances and developed in ways that were to leave a profound mark. . . It was more radical . . . it degenerated into sheer anarchy, then into a short-lived attempt to create a Communist-run Soviet-style system; this in turn led to a few days -- though a few days which seared the consciousness of Bavarians for many years to come -- that amounted to a mini-civil war, ending in bloodshed and brutality; and a number of the revolutionary leaders happened to be Jewish, some of them east European Jews with Bolshevik sympathies and connections. Moreover, the leader of the Bavarian revolution, the Jewish journalist and left-wing socialist Kurt Eisner. . . had unquestionably tried to stir up industrial unrest" (From Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris, New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1998, p. 112).
Note here what Professor Kershaw has done: He describes these revolutionaries as bloodthirsty and mentions their Jewish ethnicity three times in a space of two sentences. Does this mean that he too harbors anti-Semitic sentiments and associates Judaism with evil? Of course not; he is merely providing a factual profile of those radicals -- which is no more than what Pacelli did.
But none of this would be necessary to explain if Cornwell had not so grossly misrepresented his subject’s attitudes toward Jews and Judaism. For anyone familiar with the life and character of Eugenio Pacelli knows that to accuse him of anti-Semetism is not only false, it is positively defamatory. Far from being anti-Semitic, Pacelli was an active opponent of anti-Semitism. Throughout the 1920s, Pacelli, who was then serving as papal nuncio to Germany, witnesses firsthand the rise of anti-Semitism and never ceased to alert the Vatican to its potential dangers.
And as the historian Fr. Robert Graham, S.J., frequently and emphatically told the present writer, "It was at Archbishop Pacelli's explicit insistence that the Holy See make a clear and unequivocal statement against anti-Semitic bigotry." Consequently, on March 25, 1928, Pope Pius XI's Holy Office (with the assistance of Eugenio Pacelli) issued a formal decree, which did precisely that. "Moved by the spirit of charity," it declares, "the Holy See is obligated to protect the people of Israel against unjust persecutions, and since it condemns all jealousy and strife among peoples, it accordingly condemns with all its might the hatred directed against a people which was chosen by God; that particular hatred, in fact, which today commonly goes by the name of anti-Semitism."
At the time, the Nouvelle Revue Theologique, one of the leading theological journals in Europe, devoted an entire issue to it, and concluded that the decree was "one of the most explicit condemnations of anti-Semitism that Rome has pronounced up to this time" (Nouvelle Revue Theologique 40, July 1928, p. 537). This solemn condemnation came five years before the Nazi seizing of power, so no one can claim that the Vatican did not sufficiently warn the world about the poisonous hatred, which culminated in the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Moreover, when that persecution came. Catholic religious leaders and laymen frequently referred to this famous decree as a way to protect their Jewish brothers and sisters.
Thus, the July 25, 1942 issue of The Tablet of London -- the leading English-language periodical in war-torn Europe -- documented how Roberto Farinacci, Italy's notorious fascist propagandist, was claiming that the Nazi campaign against the Jews was a divine prerogative. "In waging this supreme struggle," Farinacci wrote to his fellow Italians, "we are sure of obeying the injunctions of the Church; we are sure of doing our duty as Christians." But these statements were nothing but blatant lies, grossly perverting Catholic teaching. As The Tablet commented: "[Farinacci] was forgetting, no doubt, the official declaration of the Church on anti-Semitism, issued from the Holy Office in Rome on March 25, 1928" -- which it then quoted.
It is Eugenio Pacelli that we have to thank for this declaration, which, according to Fr. Peter Gumpel, S.J. (relator for Pius XII's beatification cause), "was directed against authors who had left the Catholic Church to promote racism and an exaggerated nationalism, the exaltation of the Nordic race, and scorn for everything else" (ZENIT News Agency, March 16, 1999).
What does John Cornwell have to say about this early condemnation of Nazi-style anti-Semetism? Absolutely nothing. In a book of 430 pages which purports to be the definitive history on the topics covered, Cornwell does not mention the 1928 decree even once--much less Eugenio Pacelli's responsibility for it. Nor does Cornwell mention the work of the eminent Polish Jewish scholar Dr. Joseph Lichten (himself a refugee from Nazism) whose immensely important monograph A Question of Judgment: Pius XII and the Jews (1963) documents the extraordinary assistance Pacelli provided Jews both before and after he became Pope. As Dr. Lichten reveals, shortly after World War II broke out in September of 1939, the Vatican "operated a rescue mission during the war for Nazi victims that was the direct outgrowth of the work Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, when Vatican secretary of state, had begun on behalf of Jews in 1936 [immediately after the Nazis passed the notorious Nuremberg Laws, which stripped German Jews of their remaining fundamental rights]. That year the German bishops had requested Cardinal Pacelli to ask the Vatican to found an International Emigrant Organization; Pius XI agreed, and the cardinal himself had written to all the American bishops asking for their support" (from A Question of Judgment, reprinted in Pius XII and the Holocaust: A Reader, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 1988, p. 123).
Indeed, shortly before he ascended to the papacy, Eugenio Pacelli, acting in his capacity as Vatican secretary of state, appealed to governments throughout the world to throw open their borders to persecuted Jews who were seeking emigration and refuge from Hitler's reign of terror. Tragically, most of these countries kept their borders tightly shut but Cardinal Pacelli, undeterred by these rejections, continued his heroic work, especially after he became Pope. Dr. Lichten writes:
"Prior to Italy's entry into the war, masses of Jews fled to Italy from Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and other Balkan states. St. Raphael Verein, an organization long active in helping emigrants leaving Europe for the New World, received instructions from Pope Pius to give the refugees care, without regard to their religion or nationality, . . . Passports, visas, medical certificates -- valid and otherwise -- had to be procured; the papal Ministry of State made innumerable requests of foreign governments for exit and entry papers, with more than fair success. ... The operating costs of the rescue group were enormous . . . and the first source for this money was the Vatican itself' (ibid., p. 123).
Among the countless Jews who were rescued by these actions was Guido Mendes, a childhood friend of Pacelli's. When Pius XII died in 1958, Dr. Mendes gave an interview to The Jerusalem Post revealing Pacelli's love and respect for the Jewish faith and people:
" 'The late Pope Pius XII was an excellent pupil at school, and even then spoke of devoting his life to the Church,' 82-year-old Prof. Guido Mendes told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.
"Prof. Mendes, a lung specialist, studied at the Collegio Romani Gymnasium in Rome with the late Pope. The young-looking octogenarian recalled that in the late 1890’s ‘we were all anticlerical, but Eugenio (the late Pope) was always outspokenly in favor of the Church. . .’
"They had been good friends, and Prof. Mendes recalled visiting the home of the Pacelli family, who were of princely stock and had always been closely associated with the Vatican. . . 'When Pacelli came to my home, he asked to borrow my copy of Rabbi Ben Hamozeg's work Apologetica and Dogmatica,' Prof. Mendes recalled.
"Their paths separated after their school years -- Pacelli going into the Church and Mendes to medical school. They next met in the First World War whilst he was an officer in the Medical Corps and the Pope already a monsignor.
"In 1938, with the beginning of the persecution of the Italian Jews, Pacelli's secretary called from the Vatican to ask the Mendes family if they needed help. The Mendes later escaped to Switzerland, and the Vatican secured them certificates to Palestine in 1939.
"Since World War II, the professor had met with the late Pope twice, and on both occasions the meeting had been extremely cordial. . . Mendes recalled that the Pope, meeting survivors of the concentration camps in Italy in 1945, had then predicted, 'Soon, you will have a Jewish state' " (The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 1958).
Not exactly the actions of an anti-Semite. Needless to say, Guido Mendes and his story appear nowhere in Hitler's Pope.
Cornwell is not content with smearing Eugenio Pacelli as an anti-Semite: He actually accuses him of provoking world war. In chapter three (offensively entitled "Papal Power Games"), Cornwell argues that Pacelli, as a young Vatican diplomat, personally and decisively contributed to World War I by helping negotiate a Vatican concordat with Serbia in June 1914. The charge is as ludicrous as it is malicious. In the last five years, two major histories of this conflict have appeared: The First World War: A Complete History (Henry Holt, 1994) by Martin Gilbert (the official biographer of Winston Churchill); and The First World War (Alfred Knopf, 1999) by John Keegan, Great Britain's leading military historian. The first work is 615 pages long, the second 475. Neither book even mentions the Vatican-Serbian concordat, much less the name Eugenio Pacelli. Yet Cornwell places Pacelli at the front and center of the war's causes, wildly exaggerating the influence of this relatively minor concordat, as 'well as Pacelli's involvement in it. Pacelli was then in a subordinate position; his superiors Pietro Gasparri, cardinal secretary of state, and Pope Benedict XV were responsible for the concordat and they had very good reasons for signing it, as Robert Graham revealed in his Vatican Diplomacy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959) -- a definitive history of concordats which Cornwell nowhere mentions.
The origins of World War I are the result of centuries of ethnic and cultural conflict, which the 1914 concordat had nothing to do with, and which Eugenio Pacelli and his Vatican colleagues actually tried to heal and resolve. If Cornwell had genuine historical knowledge and understanding he would have explained all of this. But John Cornwell has neither, and so must write: 'There is no indication that Pacelli questioned the dangerous implications of the Serbian negotiations . . . the episode marks the ominous beginnings of Pacelli's pattern of aloofness from the far-reaching political consequences of his diplomatic actions" (p. 58).
Having blamed Pacelli for the outbreak of World War I, it is only natural that Cornwell blames him for World War II as well. Indeed, had Pacelli not lived, according to Cornwell, Hitler never would have accrued power and World War II never would have occurred. To quote Viking's lurid publicity release:
"As a brilliant young Vatican lawyer in the first decade of the century, Pacelli helped shape a new ideology of unprecedented institutional papal power of the 20th century, drafting new church laws granting future popes legal means to dominate from the Roman center and reducing the power of the world's bishops. Until now few have known of Pacelli's central role in the creation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which scholars have dubbed the single most important event in Church history this century. . . As papal nuncio (diplomatic ambassador) in Munich and Berlin during the 1920s, Pacelli sought with cunning and frequent moral blackmail to impose that power, province by province, on Germany's 23 million Catholics -- the largest, best-educated Catholic population in the world. . . In 1933, as the Vatican's secretary of state, he found his perfect negotiating partner in Hitler, with whom he forged the fatal Reich Concordat -- a church-state agreement for the whole of the Third Reich. The treaty authorized the papacy to impose canon law on German Catholics, and granted generous financial payments to Catholic clergy in exchange for Catholic withdrawal from social and political action. . . Pacelli secretly influenced the Catholic Center Party vote for Hitler's dictatorial Enabling Act then encouraged the party -- the last democratic group in Germany -- to disband. . . The 'voluntary' abdication of political Catholicism imposed from Rome ensured the rise of Nazism unopposed by the most powerful Catholic community in the world."
No greater number of fallacies was ever strung together in one short paragraph. To begin with, there is not one major biographer of Adolf Hitler who believes that Eugenio Pacelli had anything to do with Hitler's rise to power; this is the sole superstition of John Cornwell. Neither Alan Bullock (Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, 1962) nor Joachim Fest (Hitler, 1976) nor John Lukacs (The Hitler of History, 1997) nor Ian Kershaw (Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, 1998) place Pacelli anywhere near the tumultuous events which paved the way for Hitler. On the contrary, all place great emphasis on the cultural, economic, and political factors which Cornwell's book races over or even fails to mention: the catastrophic Treaty of Versailles, which sowed the seeds of German resentment after World War I; the backlash created by the murderous Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia, who sent their agents to Germany to wreak similar destruction; the economic depression of 1929, which traumatized Germany and created an atmosphere of havoc and desperation; the virulent assault against Judeo-Christian faith and morals during the decadent Weimar Republic; and the nefarious rise of atheistic Darwinism and eugenics, which laid the foundation for Hitler's campaigns against the disabled and Jews and Poles and Gypsies -- and everyone else "unfit" for his demented concept of Aryan supremacy.
"What made Hitler's triumph possible," comments Dr. Kershaw, "were important strands of continuity in German political culture stretching back beyond the First World War -- chauvinistic nationalism, imperialism, racism, [and the] glorification of war" (op. cit., p. 434) -- all evils which the young Eugenio Pacelli loudly and consistently condemned.
If there is one fact we know about Eugenio Pacelli, it is that he was a deadly enemy of Nazism, and did everything possible to prevent Hitler from attaining power. "Of the 44 speeches which the Nuncio Pacelli had made on German soil between 1917 and 1929," writes the illustrious Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide, "at least 40 contained attacks on Nazism or condemnations of Hitler's doctrines. 'Germanism,' said Hitler; Pacelli, who never met the Fuhrer, called it 'neopaganism' and countered with 'humanism'; 'racial struggle' thundered the Austrian house-painter; but the archbishop from Rome preached 'fraternal love'; to 'master race' he responded with the 'universal kinship of mankind' and against 'the combatant spirit' he stressed time and again 'peace, and always peace' " (Three Popes and the Jews, New York: Hawthorn Books, p. 118).
In 1929, four years before Hitler came to power, and right before he left Germany to become cardinal secretary of state, Eugenio Pacelli poured out his feelings about Germany to Sr. Pascalina Lehnert, his lifelong assistant. What he said, as testified to by Sr. Pascalina, is of capital importance now that Cornwell's book has appeared:
"A distressing thought disturbed the nuncio on his departure from Germany: the continuing progress of National Socialism. How perceptive he had been already at that time in judging Hitler and how many times he had warned the German people of the tremendous danger that threatened them! They did not wish to believe him. People of every rank and class let him know at the time of his departure what they expected of Hitler: the ascent and greatness of Germany.
"On one occasion I asked the nuncio if he did not think that this man could have some good in him, and that . . . he [Hitler] could perhaps help the German people. The nuncio shook his head and said: I would be very, very much mistaken in thinking that all this could end well. This man is completely obsessed: All that is not of use to him, he destroys; all that he says and writes carries the mark of his egocentricity; this man is capable of trampling on corpses and eliminating all that obstructs him. I cannot understand how many in Germany, even among the best people, do not understand and are not able to draw the lesson from what he writes and says. Who among these has at least read his horrifying book Mein Kampf?
"When, later on, one of the Hitlerites of that time came to Rome, he said to me: 'How much moral misery; how much humiliation and how much shame we and the world would have been spared if at that time we had paid attention to Nuncio Pacelli!' "
(Translated from the original German edition: Sr. M. Pascalina Lehnert, Ich durfte ihm dienen: Erinnerungen an Papst Pius XII. Wurzburg, first edition, 1982, fourth edition, 1983, pp. 42-43).
When Cornwell was "researching" his book in Rome, this key passage of Sr. Pascalina's memoirs was brought to his attention by Jesuit Fr. Gumpel, the aforementioned relator for the cause of Pope Pius XII. "The late Sr. Pascalina's memoirs were originally published in German in 1982," said Fr. Gumpel to the present writer in a recent interview. "The book went through several editions and was translated into various languages, but not into English. Both the German and Italian editions were made available to Cornwell."
Yet, though Cornwell lists the German edition in his select bibliography, nowhere does he quote this crucial passage. This can only mean one of two things: 1) Cornwell did not actually read the book but pretends that he has by listing it in his bibliography; or 2) Cornwell has read the book but deliberately omitted using Pacelli's prophetic 1929 condemnation of Hitler, lest it invalidate the thesis of his book. In either case, these facts destroy John Cornwell's credibility, and expose as fraudulent his claim that "I have attempted to write the first scholarly and honest appraisal of Pius XII" (The Times of London, September 12, 1999). © The Wanderer, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733.
© The Wanderer, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733.
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