Pope Pius XII during World War II may have had detailed information about the persecution of Jews and Poles in German-occupied Poland. This undermines the Vatican’s argument that the Catholic Church could not verify diplomatic reports of Nazi atrocities.
The letter was discovered by Vatican archivist Giovanni Coco. The correspondence of Pius XII’s secretary Robert Leiber with the trusted German Jesuit Lothar Koenig is published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
In a letter dated December 14, 1942, Koenig addresses Leiber as a friend and reports that the Nazis kill up to six thousand people every day in the Belzec death camp – Poles and Jews from the city of Rawa Ruska. Before the war, the city was located on the territory of Poland, now it is the Lviv region of Ukraine.
In the letter, Koenig, out of fear for his life and the lives of the resistance members, also asks the Holy See not to make his message public.
Corriere della Sera writes that the document from the archive is likely to further intensify the debate about Pius and his stalled campaign for beatification – to beatify the deceased in the Catholic Church. There is no doubt that the Vatican received numerous reports of Nazi atrocities, but the Pope preferred to remain silent or limited himself to general words, the newspaper writes.
However, supporters of Pius XII believe that he could not decisively oppose the Nazis for fear of reprisals.
Pius XII led the Catholic Church from March 1939 to October 1958.