Records and Documents of the Holy See Relating to the Second World War
Pope Pius XII and the Vatican have been severely criticized for their silence and lack of action concerning the atrocities committed by the Germans in World War II. The Vatican has recently responded to such accusations by opening up eleven documentary volumes on this subject. This information was released far too late to have much effect on previously formed opinions. In 1939 with war looming, the Pope did try to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. Having failed, he chose neutrality and silence, fearful that his intervention might lead to retaliations against those he wished to help. His appeal to Latin American countries to accept Jewish refugees was rebuffed. In March 1942 the Catholic Church already knew and informed the Pope of the deportations from Slovakia and the mass murders there. Nevertheless, the Vatican continued to maintain strict impartiality. Only in July 1944 did the Pope appeal to Regent Horthy to stop the persecution of Hungarian Jewry. The Pope made more effort to prevent the bombing of Rome than to saving the lives of Jews in the ghettos of Eastern Europe. To say that nothing positive was done by the Holy See is not correct, but it is certain that much more could have been done.