Michael Gaynor
July 30, 2005
Exploding the "Hitler's Pope" myth
By Michael Gaynor

Bravo to Rabbi David Dalin for brilliantly and boldly refuting John Cornwell's contemptuous and contemptible book about Pope Pius XII, Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII, in The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis

And to Raymond Arroyo, EWTN's News Director and host of "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo," for not only interviewing Rabbi Dalin at length, but also presenting, both visually and orally, compelling evidence in the form of quotations from respected Jewish contemporaries of Pope Pius XII during the July 29, 2005 "World Over" program.

John Cornwell became a darling of secular extremists by writing Hitler's Pope.

Books like Cornwell's Hitler's Pope and Garry Wills's Papal Sin became New York Times bestsellers by charging that Pope Pius XII was at least complicit in the Holocaust by failing to do enough to save the Jews from Nazi extermination.

The following review of Hitler's Pope by Wendy Smith illustrates the gullibility or ignorance of many of Pope Pius XII's detractors and puts in context the valuable service that Rabii Dalin performed in writing The Myth of Hitler's Pope for those willing to examine the facts instead of to blindly accept what passes as the conventional wisdom in the secular extremist media.

"This devastating account of the ecclesiastical career of Eugenio Pacelli (1876-1958), who became Pope Pius XII in 1939, is all the more powerful because British historian John Cornwell maintains throughout a measured though strongly critical tone. After World War II, murmurs of Pacelli's callous indifference to the plight of Europe's Jews began to be heard. A noted commentator on Catholic issues, Cornwell began research for this book believing that 'if his full story were told, Pius XII's pontificate would be exonerated.' Instead, he emerged from the Vatican archives in a state of 'moral shock,' concluding that Pacelli displayed anti-Semitic tendencies early on and that his drive to promote papal absolutism inexorably led him to collaboration with fascist leaders. Cornwell convincingly depicts Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli pursuing Vatican diplomatic goals that crippled Germany's large Catholic political party, which might otherwise have stymied Hitler's worst excesses. The author's condemnation has special force because he portrays the admittedly eccentric Pacelli not as a monster but as a symptom of a historic wrong turn in the Catholic Church. He meticulously builds his case for the painful conclusion that 'Pacelli's failure to respond to the enormity of the Holocaust was more than a personal failure, it was a failure of the papal office itself and the prevailing culture of Catholicism.'"

The secular extremists loathe Catholicism, try mightily to discredit it and use apostate Catholics shamelessly.

Was Pope Pius XII "Hitler's Pope"?

Of course not.

Was Hitler an admirer of Pope Pius XII?


Does the secular media give Pope Pius XII fair treatment?


And Bill Donahue, the head of the Catholic League, who knows that the secular media is deliberately biased, illustrated it beautifully in this statement:

"An Italian newspaper claims to have uncovered a 1946 document that says Pope Pius XII sought to block the return of Jewish children (who had been hidden by Catholics from the Nazis) to their original families after the war, and immediately the New York Times runs a story on it.

"Moreover, a number of Jewish organizations and pundits jump on the story, making demands on the Vatican; one critic called for an international investigation.

"We now know that the story appears to have been wrong on every salient point. No matter, we have yet another story on the pope, printed in another Italian newspaper, that says Hitler wanted the pope kidnapped. Only this time the response has been quite different.

"Though the wire services and many major newspapers at home and abroad carried the story, readers of the New York Times have yet to read about Hitler's plot.

"As reported by the British news service Reuters, 'shortly before the Germans retreated from Rome, SS General Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff, a senior occupation officer in Italy, had been ordered by Hitler to kidnap the pope.'

"According to the Italian newspaper, Avvenire, Wolff subsequently arranged for a secret meeting with the pope; he went to the Vatican in civilian clothes at night with the help of a priest. Wolff assured the pope that no kidnapping would occur, but warned him nonetheless. The newspaper said Hitler considered the pope to be an obstacle to his plan for global domination.

"Writers like Garry Wills, James Carroll, John Cornwell and Daniel Goldhagen have sought to paint Pope Pius XII as 'Hitler's Pope.' But if they're right, why did Hitler want to deep-six his buddy? Maybe the New York Times will offer one of these professional Pius bashers an opportunity to explain himself on its op-ed page. After, of course, the newspaper first runs a news story on the event."

Given the obvious media bias, it is up to people to read more than the secular press and EWTN and Mr. Arroyo afforded their viewers an opportunity to learn the truth that papers like The New York Times do not deem "fit to print."

The facts are there to be found, and Mr. Arroyo treated his viewers to this quotation by Albert Einstein:

"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I had never any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom." (Quoted in Time Magazine, December 23, 1940)

There are many more, of course.

Including these three:

The 1943-44 American Jewish Yearbook reported that Pope Pius XII "took an unequivocal stand against the oppression of Jews throughout Europe."

Dr. Rafael Cantoni, head of the Italian Jewish Assistance Committee said: "The Church and papacy have saved Jews as much and in as far as they could save Christians...Six million of my co-religionists have been murdered by the Nazis, but there could have been many more victims, had it not been for the efficacious intervention of Pius XII."

Shortly after World War II, Grand Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Jerusalem wrote: "I express my thanks as well as deep appreciation...of the invaluable help given by the Catholic Church to the Jewish people in its affliction."

Were Pope Pius XII's contemporary admirers somehow mistaken?

Was Pope Pius XII secretly in league with Adolf Hitler?

Rabbi David G. Dalin not only answers no, but explains why that is so, in The Myth of Hitler's Pope.

And reports that as Pope Pius XII worked to save Jews from the Nazis, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, became Hitler's staunch ally and a promoter of the Holocaust.

Thomas Woods, in his review of Rabbi Dalin's masterpiece, succinctly set forth pertinent facts not likely to be highlighted in the secular media:

"As Cardinal Pacelli he had played a central role in the drafting of Mit Brennender Sorge, Pius XI's 1937 encyclical condemning Nazism. His inaugural encyclical, Summi Pontificatus (1939), made clear the incompatibility of National Socialism with the Catholic faith. The New York Times headline read, 'Pope Condemns Dictators, Treaty Violators, Racism.' Allied aircraft even dropped some 88,000 copies of the Pope's document over Germany in order to undermine the Nazi government. The abortive Nazi plan to kidnap Pius XII is also rather difficult to square with the 'Hitler's Pope' myth."

And described the genesis of the attacks on Pope Pius XII as follows:

"Now if what Rabbi Dalin says in this book is true and Pope Pius XII was in fact a great friend of the Jews, how do we account for the ceaseless attacks on the wartime pontiff? Let Rabbi Dalin answer that one:

'Very few of the many recent books about Pius XII and the Holocaust are actually about Pius XII and the Holocaust. The liberal bestselling attacks on the pope and the Catholic Church are really an intra-Catholic argument about the direction of the Church today. The Holocaust is simply the biggest club available for liberal Catholics to use against traditional Catholics in their attempt to bash the papacy and thereby to smash traditional Catholic teaching. . . .

"Dalin concludes: 'The anti-papal polemics of ex-seminarians like Garry Wills and John Cornwell (author of Hitler's Pope), of ex-priests like James Carroll, and or other lapsed or angry liberal Catholics exploit the tragedy of the Jewish people during the Holocaust to foster their own political agenda of forcing changes on the Catholic Church today."

The secular extremists exploit :intra-Cathlic argument" and gleefully misuse even the Holocaust for their own anti-religious purposes.

Michael Medved, nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and bestselling author, was unstinting in his praise of Rabbi Dalin and his book:

"Rabbi Dalin explodes the myth of Hitler's pope and condemns the myth-makers for not only rewriting history, but also for denying the testimony of Holocaust survivors, hijacking the Holocaust for unseemly political ends, and ignoring the real threat to the Jewish people.

"A courageous, impassioned, and desperately needed book that restores essential balance to the ongoing discussion of one of the most reviled figures in recent religious history."

Others enthusiastically concurred:

"This is a stunning book. I wish I had known more of this material years ago." MICHAEL NOVAK, George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

"Rabbi David Dalin's powerfully written defense of Pope Pius XII taught me much that I did not know, and deserves close reading. People of all faiths need to ponder the implications of Dalin's devastating conclusion: that while the Catholic pontiff was saving Jewish lives, the grand Arab mufti of Jerusalem was openly supporting Hitler's Final Solution." JONATHAN D. SARNA, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History

"David Dalin's search for the truth about Pope Pius XII led him to the discovery that the tragedy of the Jewish people has been shamelessly exploited by foes of traditional religion. With righteous indignation, Dalin sets the record straight, documenting the dishonesty of Pius's leading attackers and demonstrating that the wartime pope was a friend and protector of the Jewish people in their time of greatest need." MARY ANN GLENDON, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

"Rabbi Dalin is a credible source both because of his Jewish identity and because of his academic credentials which include a doctorate from Brandeis University. He refutes in page after page of documented facts the great and repeated lie that Pope Pius XII was sympathetic to the Nazis. The truth that emerges again and again from each documented fact is that Pius XII spoke out against Nazi racism both before and after he became pope, that Pius XII instructed papal diplomats to aid persecuted Jews in the occupied nations of Europe, that he contributed money to aid desperate Jews, that he opened Catholic facilities in the Vatican and in other parts of Rome and Italy to shelter thousands of Jews from the Nazis, and that he gave direct face-to-face orders to protect Jews from the Nazis. This book is so well documented that Pius's detractors have to either put up or shut up. In fact, the detractors should apologize and formally retract their slanders. Of the many outrageous slanders against Pius XII, one in particular stands out to show the level of distortion used by the haters of this Pope. Rabbi Dalin recounts how Pius hater John Cornwell even uses a misleading cover for his book Hitler's Pope that makes it seem to the uninformed reader that Pius, who was then the papal nuncio (ambassador) to Germany, is just exiting from a meeting with the Nazis when in fact the picture is from 1927, well before Hitler took power, and in fact shows the future Pius XII, in the course of his formal diplomatic duties, emerging from a diplomatic reception for the elected President of Germany in 1927 during the democratic and pre-Nazi Weimar Republic (pp. 62-63). The book reads quickly, gets to the point, and has copious footnotes and a convenient index. Rabbi Dalin has performed a righteous deed. For a more detailed review, see my website. Oswald Sobrino," CatholicAnalysis.blogspot.com

"Rabbi David Dalin has given us a book that makes at least three important contributions. First, it provides information that refutes the popular notion of the past several years that Pope Pius XII was an anti-Semite and complicit with the Nazi Regime. He demonstrates it to be not only false, but a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth. A simple example is the famous photograph on the jacket of both the English and American editions of the Pope leaving what looks like a Nazi meeting. In fact, it was a diplomatic meeting with Hindenburg in 1927! Both before the Nazis were in power and before Pacelli had been elected Pope.

"This book provides evidence upon evidence of how the Pope walked the tightrope to save thousands of Jews while avoiding provoking the Nazis into attacks upon Catholics. He wrote encyclicals, gave Jews asylum even to the point of decloistering a nunnery so it could shelter Jewish boys. The author also points out the use by these authors of bad translations of texts and then carefully trimming these to twist the meaning to their purposes. Rabbi Dalin also demonstrates the good relations that Pope Pius and the Church had with Jewish leaders and how those leaders even asked the Pope to not be more provocative in his public statements and actions.

"Second, the author demonstrates how these authors have as part of their agenda an attack on the Catholic Church and are using political means to try and foist their liberal agenda on the Church in all sorts of ways: changes in doctrine, changes in Church governance, changes in policy and all to the purpose of bending others to their views. We see their double standards in purporting anti-Semitism onto Pope Pius XII while ignoring the very real and very great anti-Semitism in the Muslim world from WWII to the present. Some of these authors have even supported the political motives of Yassir Arafat and denied his self-proclaimed anti-Semitism and acts of violence against Jews.

"The third benefit flows from the first two. We get a better sense of where some of the battle lines are drawn in our present culture wars, the tactics being used, and in the service of what strategy. It is fascinating to see the inversion of values in our modern culture where what was called good is now called false and deviant and what never was good or an ideal is now held up as a virtue worth fighting for. Rabbi Dalin does us all a service by telling the truth in this concise and informative book." Craig Matteson

Rabbi Dalin is a Professor of History and Political Science at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida and the author or co-author of several books, including The Presidents of the United States and the Jews (with Jonathan D. Sarna) and Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience. He received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, his M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University, and his Rabbinic Ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

And defending Pope Pius XII is nothing knew for Rabbi Dalin.

There have been a number of bestselling books from major publishers, defaming Pope Pius XII by accusing him of "silence" at best, complicity at worst in the Nazi persecution and genocide of the Jews.

In The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII, Rabbi Dalin and Joseph Bottum collected reviews from a wide range of publications and, with a team of professors, historians, and other experts, investigated and refuted the pernicious claims.

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, executive editor of First Things, wrote this appreciative review of The Pius War:

"The Pius War will likely remain the definitive answer to the slew of malicious and misleading books that have in recent decades assailed Pius XII for his 'silence,' or worse, during the period of Hitler and the Holocaust. Turning the tables, Rabbi Dalin makes a persuasive case that Pius should be honored as a 'righteous gentile' in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Of inestimable value, and the product of years of laborious effort, is an annotated bibliography by William Doino, Jr. It is almost two hundred pages in length and will become an indispensable reference for all responsible writers on Pius XII, the Holy See, and the Hitler era. The Pius War includes a brilliant critique of John Carroll's Constantine's Sword by Robert Louis Wilken. . . . On the specifics of what Pius did or did not do, could or could not do, during the Holocaust, and also on the larger theological questions addressed by Wilken and others, The Pius War will likely be an important resource in advancing the cause of Pius XII toward his canonization."

Other reviewers were likewise impressed:

"A valuable corrective to the over the top 'Pope bashing' so prevalant in politically correct academic circles. Taken as a whole the contributors' critique of the recent attacks on Pope Pius XII's conduct during World War II offers a compelling case for the defense. The annotated bibliography of the dispute is an indispensible vade mecum for future scholars." Marshall Breger, Catholic University of America

"Rabbi David Dalin's omnibus review in the February 26, 2001, Weekly Standard . . . opened and changed my mind. To see it here at the center of this fine collection, buttressed by William Doino's astonishing bibliography, is a great pleasure. David Dalin and Joseph Bottum are indeed friends of truth." David Klinghoffer

"A devastating blow to those who claim to be combating anti-Semitism yet descend into deceit, hate, and anti-Christianism. Read it and find yourself stirred to indignation at how the smear of secularism stained a righteous reputation, and be inspired by these brave authors who herein right a historic wrong." Rabbi Daniel Lapin, President, Toward Tradition

"Those who have read the well-publicized works of Pius's critics will find much to ponder in this collection of patient and thoughtful writings in his defense." Robert P. George, Princeton University

"The contributors to this important volume have made judicious arguments in defense of the actions of Pope Pius XII before, during, and after the Holocaust. These arguments deserve an equally judicious hearing from non-Catholics especially from Jews who need to know how they are to judge this pope when they remember an unforgettable event in their own history and in the history of the West." David Novak, University of Toronto

"One of the best volumes to emerge from the controversy so far. . . . a tour de force of scholarship, and highly readable to boot." Michael Potemra, National Review

But Rev. Neuhaus has been proven wrong: Rabbi Dalin's latest book is the definitive answer to the defamation of a Pope who not only had personal friends of the Jewish faith, but labored to save Jews he did not know from Nazi persecution.

© Michael Gaynor

Comments feature added August 14, 2011

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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