Pope publishes 170 files on Jews from Vatican archives

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Pope publishes 170 files on Jews from Vatican archives

Pope Francis has ordered the online publication of 170 volumes of files relating to Jewish people from the recently opened archives of Pope Pius XIIPius XII, amid renewed debate about the legacy of the second world war-era pope.

The Vatican's secretary for relations with states, Paul Richard Gallagher, said in a statement that the archive of 2,700 cases collects requests for help sent by Jewish people to Pope Pius XIIPius XII after the beginning of Nazi and fascist persecution.

Pope Francis requested that the documents be accessible to everyone, even though the documents have been available for consultation since March 2020, according to the statement. The descendants of those who asked for help will be able to find traces of their loved ones from any part of the world it said.

The documentation contains 2,700 files of requests for Vatican help from Jewish groups and families, many of whom had been baptised as Catholics and were no longer practising Jews. The files were held in the secretariat of state archives and contain requests for papal intervention to avoid Nazi deportation, to get liberation from concentration camps, or to find family members.

The online publication of the files comes amid renewed debate about Pius's legacy after the 2020 opening to scholars of his archives, of which the files on Jewish people are only a small part. The Vatican has defended Pius against criticism from some Jewish groups that he remained silent in the face of the Holocaust, saying he used quiet diplomacy to save lives.

One recent book cited by the archives, The Pope at War by Pulitzer Prizewinning historian David Kertzer, suggests that the people the Vatican was most concerned with saving were Jews who had converted to Catholicism, the offspring of Catholic-Jewish mixed marriages, or those otherwise related to Catholics.

Kertzer says Pius was not willing to intervene on behalf of Jews or make public denunciations of Nazi atrocities in order to avoid antagonising Adolf Hitler or Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Gallagher wrote for the Vatican newspaper L Osservatore Romano, that the files contained requests for help, but were not much information on outcomes. He wrote: Each of these requests constituted a case that, once processed, was destined for storage in a documentary series entitled Jews. Requests would arrive at the secretariat of state, where diplomatic channels would try to provide all the help possible, taking into account the complexity of the political situation in the global context, wrote Gallagher.

One letter included in the Vatican's press release was written by a 23-year-old German university student seeking freedom from a concentration camp in Spain in 1942. Werner Barasch wrote that there was little hope for those who have no outside help.

The Vatican archives reveal no more information about Barasch, but research from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington shows that he was published a year after sending his letter, ultimately settling in California, the Vatican said.