How the Vatican and its leader at the time, Pope Pius XII, handled the Holocaust has remained contentious since the days of World War II. In the early 1960s, German playwright Rolf Hochhuth crafted the production, as translated into English, The Deputy. The play argued that Pius viewed the Nazis as "an acceptable barrier between the atheist communist world and the Christian world," and that, had he wanted to directly condemn them, his word would have been the most influential in ending Hitler's atrocities. Time addressed the controversy at the time.
[The] legitimate attacks on Hochhuth’s portrayal of the Pope sidestep the key question raised by his play: Why did Pius XII, who condemned the aerial bombing of civilian centers and the postwar aggressions of Communism, not explicitly attack the liquidation of Europe’s Jews? The issue has intrigued many modern historians, since Pius clearly detested Hitler’s totalitarianism as much as he loved the German people. He helped draft Pius XI’s encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Sorrow), which condemned Nazi racism in 1937. When the Germans organized a roundup of Roman Jews in 1943 and 1944, the Pope made no formal protest, but allowed convents and monasteries to take in refugees, and offered 50 kilograms of gold to ransom the lives of 200 Jewish leaders. In Hungary and Slovakia, both predominantly Catholic countries governed by Catholic Nazi puppets, his papal nuncios had some success in halting the deportation of Jews to Polish death camps.
Jesuit Leiber admits that Pius ‘found it difficult’ to speak out clearly against the murders, but adds, ‘This was providential. Otherwise, I fear greater harm would have been the result.’ Catholics point out that after the Dutch bishops issued a joint pastoral letter attacking the deportation of Jews, the Nazis retaliated by arresting Catholic converts from Judaism. In 1942 Cracow’s Archbishop Adam Sapieha pleaded with the Vatican not to broadcast accounts of German atrocities since it would only make things harder for his people.
Head over to Time to read the full article and let us know where you side in the debate in the comments.