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Jews ask to see Vatican archives from WWII

January 18, 2010

The concern over the Catholic Church’s action (or inaction) during the Holocaust haunted Pope Benedict’s visit to Rome’s main synagogue. The pope said the Vatican did try to help victims, often in secret. And that may well be true. Of course, we have heard stories of ordinary Catholic clergy and lay people risking their own safety to protect Jews. But what of the man in charge at the time — Pope Pius XII? That’s what many Jews want to know and why they are asking for the Vatican to open its World War II era archives.

Speaking before the pope, the head of Rome’s Jewish community demanded access to Vatican archives on Pius XII.

“Awaiting a shared judgement, we wish with the utmost respect that historians will have access to the Vatican archives concerning this period,” Riccardo Pacifici said, referring to the “painful” silence of the wartime pope.

“Maybe he could not have stopped the death trains, but he could have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity for our brothers taken off to Auschwitz,” he said.

Pacifici, whose grandparents died at Auschwitz, however said in a voice choked with emotion that he was “grateful” to Catholic nuns in Florence for sheltering his father and uncle.

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