Wartime Pope Pius XII knew details about the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews in the Holocaust as early as 1942, according to a letter found in the Vatican archives that conflicts with the Holy See’s official position at the time that the information it had was vague and unverified.
The yellowed, typewritten letter, reproduced in Italy’s Corriere della Sera on Sunday, is highly significant because it was discovered by an in-house Vatican archivist and made public with the encouragement of Holy See officials.
The letter, dated Dec. 14, 1942, was written by Father Lother Koenig, a Jesuit who was in the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany, and addressed to the pope’s personal secretary at the Vatican, Father Robert Leiber, also a German.
Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco told the Corriere that the importance of the letter was “enormous, a unique case” because it showed the Vatican had information that labour camps were actually death factories.
In the letter, Koenig tells Leiber that sources had confirmed that about 6,000 Poles and Jews a day were being killed in “SS-furnaces” at the Belzec camp in southeastern Poland. The camp was about 20 km (12 miles) northwest of the town of Rava-Ruska, a railway centre that was then also part of German-occupied Poland but is now in western Ukraine.
“The newness and importance of this document derives from a fact: now we have the certainty that the Catholic Church in Germany sent Pius XII exact and detailed news about the crimes that were being perpetrated against the Jews,” Coco told the newspaper, whose article was headlined: “Pius XII Knew”. [Continue reading…]