Los Angeles Times - 04.03.2020

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a novelist.



ROME — The chief rabbi
of Rome sharply criticized
the Vatican on Tuesday for
its handling of the long-
awaited opening of its ar-
chives on the controversial
papacy of Pius XII, who kept
silent during the slaughter of
6 million Jews in the Holo-
Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni
said that rather than wait-
ing for researchers to study
the archives and reach their
conclusions, the Vatican se-
lectively published docu-
ments on its website in an ef-
fort to convince the public
that Pius was on the side of
the Jews.
“After saying that years of
study would be needed, now
the answers emerge on the
first day like a rabbit from a
magician’s hat,” he told the
Italian news agency ANSA.
“Please, let the historians
get to work.”
At issue is whether Pius
should be remembered for
quietly hiding 4,000 Jews
from the Nazis in convents

and churches — knowing
that denouncing Adolf
Hitler would make their
plight worse — or must be
condemned for not speaking
out as Jews were gassed in
death camps.
The archives, which took
14 years to prepare and in-
clude 2 million documents,
could help settle that ques-
Pius was pope from 1939
until his death in 1958. A
pope’s archives are usually
kept sealed for 70 years after
he dies, but Pope Francis
sped up their publication,
announcing, “The church
isn’t afraid of history.”
As historians gathered in
Rome over the weekend,
ready to get in line Monday
to view the archives for the
first time, Vatican officials
suggested the church had
nothing to hide about Pius’
He “emerges as a great
champion of humanity, a
man deeply concerned
about the fate of humankind
during those terrible years,
somebody who was very sen-
sitive and concerned about
those who were being per-
secuted, somebody who was
also the object of the hatred
of Nazis and fascism,” said
Archbishop Paul Richard
Gallagher, the Vatican’s sec-
retary for relations with

On Monday, Vatican ar-
chivist Johan Ickx published
screen shots of two docu-
ments and described a list
found in the archives of 4,
people, including baptized
Italians of Jewish ancestry,
but also some practicing
Jews, who had asked the
pope to be saved from Nazi
“The documents show
the effort made to respond
to the appeals for saving by
the persecuted and needy
whose lives were in danger,”
Ickx wrote, adding the docu-
ments show how other
states were reluctant to take
in Jews.

That drew the ire of the
“This sensationalism is
highly suspicious, with files
that are ready and easy con-
clusions laid out on a tray,”
he said.
Historians have not
treated Pius kindly. John
Cornwell, the British author
of the 1999 book “Hitler’s
Pope,” believes Pius made it
clear to Hitler he would not
speak out against the Holo-
Before he become pope
and took the name Pius XII,
Eugenio Pacelli served as
the Vatican’s ambassador to
Germany from 1917 to 1929,
witnessing the rise of Na-

zism before he became sec-
retary of state in Rome.
Among the historians
gathered at the Vatican on
Monday was David Kertzer,
a professor of anthropology
and Italian studies at Brown
University, who said various
archives from different Vati-
can departments would be
ready for inspection.
“An important one is the
Apostolic archive, which will
have correspondence with
the Vatican’s ambassador in
Berlin, but also with the am-
bassador to the fascist gov-
ernment of Benito Mussolini
in Italy,” he said.
Kertzer said that he was
not looking to solve a mys-
tery about Pius.
“If you want to know if
this pope denounced the Na-
zis for killing most of the
Jews in Europe, the answer
is he didn’t, and there is
nothing in the archive which
will tell us different,” he said.
“But there is a lot we need
to know about how decisions
were made and who took
them,” he added.
Kertzer gave as an exam-
ple the Vatican’s lack of reac-
tion to the Nazis’ rounding
up of 1,000 Jews in Rome in
October 1943 for transfer to
the Auschwitz concentra-
tion camp.
“We know the pope was
upset and we know he knew

they would be killed,” he
said. “He had his secretary of
state summon the German
ambassador and tell him he
was unhappy.”
“We also already know
that the ambassador replied
that the order came from
very high up, adding that the
Vatican could lodge a com-
plaint, even if it would dis-
please people. The secretary
of state effectively respond-
ed, ‘No, we’ll leave it to you.’ ”
“So we know what Pius
did and didn’t do. I would
like to know in this case what
his close advisors were sug-
gesting at the time,” he said.
Kertzer said he also
wanted to know more about
why Pius did not oppose the
1938 racial laws that were in-
troduced by Mussolini and
ejected Jews from public life.
“I will be looking to see if peo-
ple in the Vatican were urg-
ing him to take action,
whether there was debate,”
he said.
“The Nazi regime was
persecuting the Catholic
Church in Germany and in
occupied countries,” he said.
“Pius had no love for Hitler
and saw his role as defend-
ing the church. Other issues
were lamentable, but they
weren’t his responsibility.”

Kington is a special

Vatican faces anger over Pius XII archives

The church sought to

convince public that

the pope was on side

of Jews, rabbi says.

By Tom Kington

AN ATTENDANT opens the section at the Vatican
archives that is dedicated to Pope Pius XII.

Alberto PizzoliAFP/Getty Images

Thousands of migrants and
refugees searched for ways
to cross Greece’s border
with Turkey on Tuesday, as
Athens ramped up its diplo-
matic efforts for help from
the European Union to seal
off its eastern land and sea
Turkey has made good on
a threat to open its borders
for those seeking to cross
into Europe. Many seeking
to enter Greece, which has
made clear its border is shut,
were trying their luck by
wading or rowing across
the Evros river that runs
along most of the land fron-
The action by Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Er-
dogan triggered days of vi-
olent clashes and scenes of
chaos at the land border,
while hundreds of others
have headed to Greek is-
lands from the nearby Turk-
ish coast in dinghies. Greece
has struggled to push back
the wave of migrants, with
its armed forces now leading
the effort.
Prime Minister Kyriakos
Mitsotakis toured the trou-
bled border along with top
EU officials, including Euro-
pean Commission President
Ursula von der Leyen and
European Council President
Charles Michel.

Mitsotakis said Turkey
was breaching a 2016 agree-
ment with the EU on migra-
tion and “has systematically
encouraged and assisted
tens of thousands of ref-
ugees and migrants to il-
legally enter Greece. It has
failed, and will continue to
fail, should it continue to
pursue this strategy.”
“This is no longer a ref-
ugee problem. This is a bla-
tant attempt by Turkey to
use desperate people to pro-
mote its geopolitical
agenda,” he said.
The government has
called the situation a direct
threat to Greece’s national
security and imposed emer-
gency measures to carry out
summary deportations and
freeze asylum applications
for one month. Migrants
have said that they are being
summarily pushed back
across the border into Tur-
The Greek army and
navy held live fire exercises
across the eastern border
areas for a second day Tues-
day to reinforce the message
of deterrence.
Greek authorities said
they had prevented 26,
people from entering the
country between Saturday
morning and Tuesday after-
noon, and arrested 218.
“The Greek worries are
our worries,” Von der Leyen
said. “This is not only a
Greek border, but it is also a

European border, and I
stand here today as a Euro-
pean at your side.” She said
those at the borders had
“been lured by false promis-
es into this desperate situa-
Turkey’s announcement
Thursday that it would not
stop those wishing to cross
into Europe came amid a
Russian-backed Syrian gov-
ernment offensive into
northwestern Syria’s Idlib
province, where Turkish
troops are fighting.
The offensive has killed
dozens of Turkish troops
and sent nearly a million
Syrian civilians toward Tur-
key’s sealed border. Howev-
er, Oleg Zhuravlev, head of
the Russian military’s coor-
dination center in Syria, said
Tuesday that the claims
about a humanitarian crisis
in Idlib were false.
The announcement on
Turkey’s opening of its bor-
ders upended Ankara’s pre-
vious policy of containing
refugees under a 2016 agree-
ment with the European
Union, in which the EU
would provide billions of
dollars in funding for the
care of refugees within Tur-
Turkey, which hosts
more than 3.5 million Syrian
refugees, has long main-
tained the EU has not hon-
ored the deal.
But European countries
say that is not the case.

“Turkey’s use of migrants
as a means of pressure and
blackmail on Europe is
absolutely unacceptable,”
French Foreign Minister
Jean-Yves Le Drian told law-
makers in Paris.
“We reached an accord in
March 2016. This accord
should be respected,” he
said. “It is respected by Eu-
rope.... It should also be re-
spected by Turkey, espe-
cially because the financial
commitments [to Turkey]
are significant.”
Austrian Chancellor
Sebastian Kurz leveled
blunt criticism at Turkey for
the crisis.
“The people are being
used by President Erdogan
as a political football, as
weapons and as instru-
ments of pressure on the Eu-

ropean Union,” he said in Vi-
Von der Leyen said the
EU border protection
agency Frontex would send
an offshore vessel and three
coastal patrol vessels, two
helicopters and other air-
craft, as well as three ther-
mal-vision vehicles, and add
100 border guards to the 530
it already has in Greece. The
EU would also provide about
$780 million in assistance.
The movement of mi-
grants has appeared well or-
ganized, with buses, mini-
buses and cars provided in
Istanbul, Turkey, to ferry
people to the border. The
vast majority appeared to be
Afghans, along with people
from a wide variety of other
countries, including Syr-

Human rights groups
said the Greek response,
while justified, has been
“Showing humanity and
defending rights is the best
way to defend the EU bor-
ders,” said Lotte Leicht, EU
director at Human Rights

Thousands of migrants try

to find a way into Greece

associated press

MIGRANTSblock a road outside Lesbos’ port after rumors they could be taken to
Greece’s mainland amid a surge in crossings after Turkey opened its borders.

Angelos TzortzinisAFP/Getty Images




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