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PIUS XII/ Jewish Researcher Welcomes Softening of Yad Vashem Text on Pius XII

EDWARD PENTIN presents the decision by the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, to change the wording of the caption on the picture of Pope Pius XII, taking into account the latest research.

Hall of Names in the Yad Vashem Museum  (photo by David Shankbone) Hall of Names in the Yad Vashem Museum (photo by David Shankbone)

A Jewish-American researcher at the forefront of efforts to clear Pope Pius XII’s name in defending Jews during the Holocaust, has praised a decision by Yad Vashem Holocaust museum to soften its position on Pius but said the development is only a “temporary sign.” Gary Krupp, founder of the Pave the Way Foundation, a non-profit group seeking to bridge the gap between world religions, told Terrasanta.net: “Although this is wonderful news of the softening position of Yad Vashem, the sign should be a very temporary one.

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum announced July 1st that it had altered the wording on a display dealing with the controversial role of the Vatican and Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust (see full texts of before and after versions below). The caption has been a contentious issue between Yad Vashem and the Vatican for years, with former papal nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, threatening to boycott a Holocaust commemoration in 2007 over the wording.

The earlier version said Pius XII was "active" in obtaining a treaty with Germany to protect the Church's rights "even if this meant recognising the Nazi racist regime." However, the new version makes clear that it took place under Pius XI’s pontificate, of which he was representative as Vatican Secretary of State. The  new caption also clarifies that the 1933 concordat was signed to preserve the rights of Catholics in the country, but makes no mention of “recognising the Nazi racist regime.

The new text also presents arguments by both critics and defenders of the actions of the wartime pontiff. At the same time, it maintains the reaction of Pius XII continues to be a “matter of controversy among scholars” and argues that until “relevant material is available to scholars, this topic will remain open to further inquiry.

In a statement, Yad Vashem denied earlier reports saying it had taken the decision to alter the caption because of Vatican pressure. It also said it made changes “throughout the museum.” However, it conceded “this is an update to reflect research that has been done in the recent years, and presents a more complex picture than previously presented.” It said it made the decision “following the recommendation of the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust Research.

Over the past few years,” the statement continued, “new research, in part based on the opening of archival collections such as the Pius XI archive (up until 1939) and on other information, including that which was presented at an international academic workshop ‘Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust - Current State of Research’ held at Yad Vashem in 2009, has clarified certain issues, while still leaving many questions open.” It added :”Only when all material is available, will a clearer picture emerge.