Monday, August 17, 2009

L'Oservatore attacks Allied "Silence"

Jewish refugees at Castelgandolfo

L'Osservatore Romano this week has gone on the attack. It contrasts the behaviour of the US and British governments with that of Pius XII towards the Jews from 1942 onwards.

The article quotes heavily from the diary of Henry Morgenthau Jr., U.S. secretary of the treasury during the war, who said that as early as August 1942 administration officials "knew that the Nazis were planning to exterminate all the Jews of Europe."Morgenthau cited a telegram dated Aug. 24, 1942, and passed on to the State Department, that relayed a report of Hitler's plan to kill between 3.5 million and 4 million Jews, possibly using cyanide poison. The Vatican newspaper reproduced a copy of the telegram.

It was not until 1944 that that US set up the War Refugee Board in the meantime under the direct influence of Pius XII Jews were being hid in convents and monasteries, in Rome, throughout Italy and the rest of Europe by people heroic religious like our own Brigitine Mother Richard. Churchill's silence seemed to have been sustained until the liberation of the first concentration camps.

10 comments: said...

There are two questions to be asked about this telegram of August 1942.

First, it's remarkably prescient that it mentions the use of cyanide gas as a means of extermination when the norm at that time was to use carbon monoxide.

Zyklon B had been used experimentally at Auschwitz on Gypsy children in 1940 and on Soviet prisoners of war in 1941. It was first used operationally at Belzec, which was one of the Operation Reinhard camps tasked with the extermination of the Jews of Poland.

The second point is why the telegram reports a plan to exterminate less than all the Jews of Europe, when the record of the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 envisaged the extermination of all of them.

gemoftheocean said...

Okay, even if it was a given, in Aug. of '42 that it was a known objective, practically speaking, what could the US or the UK have done THEN? The US wasn't even in the war until late '41, and neither country was in any shape to go pluck out millions of Jews. The Nazis held most of the territory at that time.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Bomb the Auchwitz factories and railway lines, as Jewish leaders had begged, would have been a start.
Promise post-war retribution to those who murdered, or were complicit.
What the author is trying to do is to say Pius was not alone in his silence, but he alone is attacked.

Catholic Mom of 10 said...

I'm busy reading about Blessed Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad..Bridgittine reformer..& I love St Bridget..recently staying in all 3 Bridgittine Convents..Holywell, Maryvale & Iver Heath. Wonderful spirituality & hospitality. I have several You Tube clips of the various prayers..scroll back a long way on my blog.

gemoftheocean said...

I quite agree that Pius XII got a rotten deal from the Hochhuth crowd starting with the incendiary play "The Deputy." But I'd say the "swing bodies" of the responsible parties was partial retribution. A think Europe today would supposedly be horrified by, being against the death penalty.

I think it unwise to anachronistically ascribe allied bombing capability of the present age to have been able to do something similar in 1942. There were no such things as "surgical precision strikes" in 1944. The 1st tomahawk cruise missile was only used Feb of 1991. Any bombing raids were "general ball park." Does the Vatican or others SERIOUSLY suggest that only the crematorium would have been hit and not the thousands of Jews crammed into nearby buildings? Ditto the rail lines themselves? The allies DID regularly bomb the train stations and try to keep them as in operable as possible, but you could only do so much.

Readers may find this article of interest.

If the Vatican article you site REALLY wants to go after the allies, they would be right to concentrate their efforts on the indifference of the allied countries (many) for not taking in refugees from Germany. Hindsight, of course, being 20-20.

The Vatican is right to defend the pope's actions. But if they are going to criticise the UK and US and others, they are certainly going about it in a ham-handed, not very bright way! There is certainly enough evidence to castigate the west for indifference (start with Joe Kennedy for one) but they can't yell at us for not bombing the crematorium!

A factory or a railway station is a LOT bigger target than a few relatively small buildings jammed right next to helpless penned in Jews and others.

Michael Petek said...

Father, I remember Lawrence Rees - the author of the BBC book and TV series - has addressed the point about bombing the crematoria etc.

Before March 1943 the only operational gas chambers in Auschwitz were the 'Little White House' and the 'Little Red House', both farmhouses converted into gas chambers. Without intelligence it would not have been possible to recognise these buildings for what they had been adapted for.

The big industrial gas chambers at Birkenau were put into operation from March-June 1943. Yet the Allies obtained the Vrba-Wetzler report only in June 1944.

The spring and summer of 1944 was the most murderous period in the history of Auschwitz because the Jews of Hungary were then being transported there and gassed. The Commandant Rudolf Hoess (who had been assigned elsewhere) returned to Auschwitz to supervise this operation.

All four crematoria ran at or close to their full capacity of 12,000 persons a day during that period. But the Pope, President Roosevelt and the King of Sweden appealed to Regent Horthy of Hungary to stop the deportations, and he did.

In August 1944 the extermination of the Hungarian Jews had gone as far as it was going to, and the numbers gassed and cremated dropped to 2,000 per day. August was also the earliest month when an air raid on the crematoria could practically have been organised.

But even if it had been it would have served no purpose, because the numbers being murdered were so low that the Little White House and the Little Red House could have been brought out of mothballs if the newer crematoria had been destroyed.

As for bombing the railways, it is highly doubtful that this would have worked either. Auschwitz received only two (at most three) transports a day. Shattered railway tracks could easily be rebuilt in a short time by military engineers, and there was no way Allied aircraft could stay in the airspace in perpetuity.

By the way, Gem of the Ocean, there weren't any Jews crowded into buildings near the crematoria. The crematoria were a fair distance from the barracks sequestered in their own part of the camp.

Thomas Windsor said...

What a very sad part of the history of the 20th c.

The main problem as I see it is to assume that the Allies were good and the Axis was bad. To describe Stalin as being on the good side... (The second worst in number mass murderer of the 20th c.) is beyond belief.

As for Britain and American, they were too busy bombing civilians in a deliberate policy to wipe out the women and children of Germany. Churchill had earlier said that the use of chemical weapons on the civilians of Irag and other parts of the sometime Persian empire, and was fully in favour of the bombing campaign, that led to the Nazi retaliations (Coventry).

America of course saw fit to use Nuclear weapons, not against heavily fortified islands, but against a cities full of innocent civilians including that city with the highest number of Catholics!

The Allies cared as much for the Jews as they did any other subject / citizen in Europe.

The only good side was of course the Pope, and he is attacked because he shows all the others as being inferiour and lacking in any Christian charity.

An excellent blog about the Allied can be found here.

Edward P. Walton said...

It is all a waste of time.They have their agenda and they will stick to it, no matter what the explanation or evidence.

Pius XII was one of the greatest Pontiffs to ever grace the Chair of Peter.

matthias said...

Whilst Churchhill stood up to Hitler,this part of history is surely one of his and the USAs' poorer moments.
afterall he sent out to us here in 1940 jewish and german refugees on the HMT DUNERA.They were treated appallingly on the voyage out,and when theya rrived in sydney,received different treatment. Several British Army officers were court martialled. A friend of ours father was on this boat and recalled an Australian guard,saying to him' hold my gun mate whilst i light a cigarette". some months later all of these men were serving in australian army labour corps units.
The Dunera Boys as they came to eb called either returned to Europe or stayed here and contributed to post war Australia.

Edward P. Walton said...

Regarding Pope Pius XII, any change of heart from his detractors will come in God's time, not ours.

Those of us, who had the privilege to live during the reign of this venerable Pomtiff, anxiously await the day when we can pray publicly for his intersession.

The present Pontiff, Benedict XV, who as a youth lived thru the "Fire Storms" and "Saturation Bombings" of those horrific times, could in Providence be the one to bring this happy event to completion.