Guilt and complexity

The Holocaust’s lessons for the church

Controversy about the role of the Vatican and Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust has raged ever since Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy was first performed in 1965, but the debate has intensified in recent years. Since 1965 the Vatican has published 11 volumes of selected archival material from the Nazi era—but these volumes omitted some relevant documents. Last fall, a commission of six historians (three Catholics and three Jews) concluded their examination of these books with a detailed and well-grounded plea for scholarly access to the rest of the Vatican archives. That access has not been granted and, in July, the commission announced that it could not continue its research until the archives were opened. In August, Peter Gumpel, a prominent German Jesuit at the forefront of the efforts to beatify Pius XII, accused some of the Jewish historians on the panel of “a clear propagandistic goal to damage the Holy See.”


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