The Myth of Hitler's Pope

Article excerpt

The Myth of Hitler's Pope. By Rabbi David G. Dalin. (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing Co. 2005. Pp. ix, 209. $27.95.)

This book had its genesis in an article by Rabbi Dalin in the Weekly Standard of February 26, 2001, entitled "Pius XII and the Jews." There Dalin showed that as Nuncio in Germany in the 1920's, as Papal Secretary of State from 1930, and as Pope from 1939, Eugenio Pacelli was a consistent and outspoken opponent of the Nazis."People at the time," Dalin wrote,"Nazis and Jews alike, understood the pope to be the world's most prominent opponent of the Nazi ideology." Hitler's propaganda machine branded him "the Jew-loving cardinal." During World War II Pius XII inspired and directed rescue efforts which saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from destruction. For this he received many expressions of thanks from the survivors, both during the war and thereafter.

With few exceptions, Dalin charged, those who today criticize Pius XII for silence and inaction in the face of the Holocaust are angry or lapsed Catholics seeking to discredit papal authority. Their polemic would have shocked Jews of an earlier generation. By overlooking contemporary Jewish tributes to the pontiff, his present-day critics are hijacking the Holocaust in the interest of an innerCatholic debate. Jews, whatever their view of the Catholic Church, have a duty to condemn those who disparage the testimony of Holocaust survivors, especially when it transfers to others the condemnation that belongs properly to Hitler and the Nazis. Pius XII deserves not condemnation, Dalin concluded, but inclusion in Yad Vashem's still lengthening list of "righteous gentiles."

The Myth of Hitler's Pope expands this argument with additional supporting evidence. Like the works of the pope's critics, it is not really history but advocacy. This is a lawyer's brief for the defense, and it is brilliantly argued. For the pope's critics it is devastating.

Dalin bolsters his case by a chapter on "Hitler's Mufti," an Arab cleric who publicly supported Hitler's program of Jewish extermination, both during the war in Berlin and thereafter in the Middle East. Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a virulent and active anti-Semite born in Jerusalem in 1893, was appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by the British in 1922. The instigator of numerous terrorist attacks on Jews before and after the creation of the state of Israel, Husseini died in exile in 1974. Among his disciples were the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser and Yasser Arafat, who in an interview as late as August, 2002, called Husseini "our hero."

Dalin asks why Pius XII's critics are so silent about the virulent hatred of Jews in the Arab world today. "It is particularly irresponsible and outrageous," Dalin writes, for these critics "to blame the Catholic Church for anti-Semitism, to falsify the Church's efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust, and to ignore the fact that popes since the twelfth century have rejected the blood libel [that Jews use the blood of Christian children for ritual purposes]. …