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Vatican releases thousands of Holocaust-era files, including requests for help from Jews

Pope Francis ordered publish 170 volumes of Jewish files online from the recently opened archives of Pope Pius XII. The Vatican made the announcement amid renewed debate over the Pope's World War II legacy. Read more about this publication The Times Of Israel.

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The documentation contains 2700 files of requests for help in the Vatican from Jewish groups and families, many of whom were Catholics. The files were kept in the archives of the Secretariat of State and contain requests for the intervention of the Pope to avoid deportation by the Nazis, obtain release from concentration camps, or help find family members.

The release of the files online comes amid renewed debate about Pius' legacy after Pius' archives were opened to scholars in 2020, of which the "Jewish" files make up only a small fraction. The Vatican has long defended Pius from criticism from some Jewish groups for remaining silent in the face of the Holocaust, calling it quiet diplomacy.

In one of the books by the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer, The Pope at War, citing recently opened archives, it is said that the Vatican cared most about saving the Jews who converted to Catholicism, the descendants of Catholicism. Jewish intermarriage or otherwise associated with Catholics.

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Kertzer argues that Pius did not want to intervene on behalf of the Jews or publicly denounce Nazi atrocities against them so as not to irritate Adolf Hitler or the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Vatican Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher expressed hope that the digital release of the "Jewish" files would help researchers, as well as the descendants of those who turned to the Vatican for help, to "find traces of their loved ones in any part of the world."

Gallagher said the files contained pleas for help, but without detailed information about the results of such pleas.

“Each of these requests was a file, which after processing was intended to be stored in an archive called “Jews”,” he wrote.

“Requests went to the State Secretariat, where they tried to provide all possible assistance through diplomatic channels, taking into account the complexity of the political situation in the global context,” Gallagher said.

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He cited one case found in the files: a Jewish baptized Catholic in 1938, Werner Barasz, who asked the Pope for help in 1942 to be released from a concentration camp in Spain. According to the archives, his request was sent to the Vatican embassy in Madrid, but the documentation was then frozen.

“As for most of the other requests for assistance, their results were not reported,” said the Foreign Minister. “In our hearts, we inevitably hope for a positive outcome, that Werner Barash was later released from a concentration camp and was able to reach his mother across the ocean.”

Subsequent online research, including at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, found that Barash did survive and was able to join his mother in the United States in 1945.

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The Holocaust Vatican publication World
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