Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen: Pope Pius XII did not do enough to save Jews during WWII

Pope Pius XII was aware of the destruction of the European Jewish population by the Nazis and their acolytes but kept silent - after the war he did not explicitly and publicly condemned anti-Semitism. The Pope did not excommunicate any Nazi criminals and was the only head of State with Adolf Hitler to have given audience to the infamous Ante Pavelic. The Holy See showed great reluctance in recognizing Israel - the mutual recognition agreement was finally signed on December 30, 1993.
Source: Free Republic
"At this hour, the Synod is still being led by the afternoon-long presentation of the chief rabbi of Haifa Shear-Yashuv Cohen -- the first Jewish speaker ever to address the body.
Yet with the gathering convening in the run-up to Thursday's 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII -- a milestone that, this year, just so happens to coincide with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and Judaism's most sacrosanct observance -- Cohen said in an interview published this morning that, had he known of the confluence, he mightn't have come:
"We feel that the late pope (Pius) should have spoken up much more strongly than he did," Cohen, 80, said in an interview hours before he was due to address the gathering of Catholic bishops from around the world.

Cohen said that in his speech he planned to make an indirect reference to Jewish disappointment about Pius as well as an appeal to all religious leaders to denounce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Last month Pope Benedict forcefully defended Pius, saying he "spared no effort" on behalf of Jews during World War II.

Some Jews maintain Pius did not do enough to save Jews while the Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to help because more direct intervention would have worsened the situation.

"He may have helped in secrecy many of the victims and many of the refugees but the question is 'could he have raised his voice and would it have helped or not?'" Cohen said.

"We, as the victims, feel yes. I am not empowered by the families of the millions of deceased to say 'we forget, we forgive,'" said Cohen, who is chief rabbi of Haifa in Israel....

"I did not know (the anniversary commemorations) happened during the same meeting. If I had known ... I might have refrained from coming because we feel that the pain is still here," Cohen said.

"I have to make it very clear that we, the rabbis, the leadership of the Jewish people, cannot as long as the survivors still feel painful agree that this leader of the Church in a time of crisis should be honored now. It is not our decision. It pains us. We are sorry it is being done," he said.

Cohen said only God knows if Pius spoke out enough against the Holocaust: "God is the judge ... he knows the truth."The Pope will celebrate a memorial Mass for his wartime predecessor in St Peter's on Thursday's anniversary.

And at his turn in the Aula, Cohen followed through with the (unscripted) repeat of his wire comments:
"We cannot forget the sad and painful fact of how many, including great religious leaders, didn’t raise a voice in the effort to save our brethren, but chose to keep silent and help secretly," said Cohen.

"We cannot forgive and forget, and we hope you understand our pain, our sorrow," Cohen said, speaking to an audience of some 253 cardinals, archbishops and bishops, as well as Benedict XVI.

Cohen never mentioned Pius XII by name, though in context the reference was obvious....

Cohen also issued a biting, though once again indirect, swipe at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Cohen referred to the "terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East" in a recent speech at the United Nations. Cohen said these "false and malicious accusations, the threats and anti-Semitic incitement" cannot help but remind Jews of the Holocaust....

Cohen called upon Catholic leaders to "raise your voice, so together with the help of free world defend, we can protect and save Israel from the hands of our enemies."

"What happened once should not happen again," Cohen said. "My being here makes me feel that we can expect your help, and I am sure your message will be listened to by influential people all over the world."


Anonymous said...

Yet Rabbi David Dalin, who is a serious historian, in "The Myth of Hitler's Pope" defends Pius XII. Pius' detractors were mainly ex-Catholics and Communists. Other serious historians such as Martin Gilbert, of Jewish extraction, also take a fvourable view of the Pope as did the State of Israel in its early days. Effective action rather than ineffective words seems to have been the Papal strategy.

More effective criticism might be levelled at the German Church which halted the murder of the unfit but took no similar action in the case of the Jews. Gunter Lewy, "The Catholic Church and the Third Reich" documents the Church's failure to do anything.

The Pope has a much better record then the German Church. He at least issued an encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge which implicitly condemned the Nazis and also the Communists.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The above reference is to a dissident Catholic Bishop, repudiated by the papacy.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Cohen's words on Pope Pius XII would be much more potent if he were to condemn Israel's injustice against Palestinians -- collective punishment, land theft, illegal occupation, the Wall etc.

I don't remember Rabbi Cohen or his colleagues speaking out loudly against apartheid or the Israeli govenment's cosying up to the apartheid regime.

Rabbi Cohen just can't have it both ways. If he wants to condemn Pope Pius XII then he cannot at the same time display the same behaviour -- silence in the face of injustice -- which he is condemning.

Anonymous said...

"Land theft, illegal occupation, the Wall " - please explainn what you mean. Whose land has been stolen? What law has been infrnged by the Israelis in Judea and Samaria? What Arab State does not have restrictions on entry? A little fact rather than the usual anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish diatribe would be useful. The discussion is about Pius XII and the Jews.

Anonymous said...

If you go to the Certosa in Lucca you will find the names of some catholic monks that, under the obedience to Pius XII, opened their monastery to some hebrews. The nazis discovered that in the monastery were some hebrews, the nazis killed the monks and take the hebrews away.... Pius XII save also through martyrs like these 700000 hebrews . J would like to know what is the moral theology which is in the mind of Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen: the nazis knew very good that Pius XII was against them, everybody in the world knew the action of the Church against the nazis, action that was made also through the encyclical letter "Mit brennender sorge", Hitler used to punish more severly innocent persons when someon attacked him (dear reader think what he made in the Netherland after the declaration of the bishops against him), so Pius XII make a prudential choice: save innocent people and work strongly against nazis but be almost directly silent on the tragedy of the hebrews so that they could be saved in a great number. Rabbi Cohen must show us his moral theology ...after it would be possible to speak in the right way.
Fr. Tullio Rotondo.