Defending Pius XII
Foundation Paves the Way for Better Catholic-Jewish Relations
BY The Editors
October 5-11, 2008 Issue | Posted 9/30/08 at 12:20 PM
Gary Krupp is a Jewish-American entrepreneur on a mission: to clear the name of Pius XII.
As founding head of the Pave the Way Foundation, an organization helping to promote religious tolerance and cooperation, he wants to debunk the myths that accuse Eugenio Pacelli of not doing enough to save Jewish lives during World War II. So Krupp brought his campaign to Rome in mid-September and held a three-day symposium, made up of first-class historians, both Jewish and Catholic.
Krupp says it’s time to clear up this major obstacle that has seriously hindered Jewish-Catholic relations for too long. He spoke with Register correspondent Edward Pentin.
What were the most important things to come out of this symposium?
The most important thing is that we’ve brought these issues to the front burner. We’re going to be criticized for it. I expect that. But it’s too important an issue to leave to historians to deal with. We’ve come to the conclusion that the opposition will never go away.
We can anticipate that the Vatican archives will be open and everyone will then claim that the documents were destroyed — that’s just going to continue. We said, “Here is a major issue, separating probably 2 or 3 billion people, and Pave the Way is about overcoming these obstacles between the faiths.”
So we needed to push this to the front burner, and we’re hoping this will pave the way to a little more meaningful cooperation between these two religions.
On a scale of one to 10, how serious would you say this issue is in Catholic-Jewish relations?
Ten. It’s very high. Growing up, we thought Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope.”
It’s like a wound that won’t heal. So we need to bring it forward, to understand the truth of what happened, and we’ve discovered enormous amounts of information which is available to everybody.
For the interviews [used in the symposium], I had to go to France and London and meet with people in order to find this stuff out, but it’s absolutely essential [to improved relations].
So what more needs to be done to clear Pius XII’s name?
Well now, hopefully, the media will pick this up, and the Holocaust museums, memorials and scholars will be pushed towards bringing this to light. Let them come to Rome. I invite them to come here and meet the world’s experts and challenge them one by one. Ask them the question: “Well, what about this document?” We need to do that next. That needs to happen. We need them to come and go to the Vatican archives.
Someone said at the end of the symposium that debate was hampered because there wasn’t a strong enough case made for the prosecution …
Of course not, but it’s not for lack of trying. I can show the receipts and copies of the letters we sent out. I am going to be delivering all of these symposium documents to these people, including all the pontifical institutions.
Will you be naming those scholars who didn’t come, to perhaps show that their nonappearance indicates they are unsure of their own positions?
I’d rather not name them, just that we invited them, those principal people who, at least, would be recognized as legitimate historians, but not those who have been discredited and institutions involved.
Because I know that as far as Yad Vashem [Israel’s official Holocaust memorial] is concerned — they’ve told us, and I’ve had meetings with them — that they desperately want information we can gather. So they are trying to discover the truth, built around accuracy and integrity, and they want this information. Everybody was sort of afraid to get involved. This was the first entrée into this area. And I’m a big guy; I can take it.
At least we’re opening the door and paving the way. But certainly I encourage everybody to go to our website (PTWF.org) and look at all the original DVDs and videos that are on that site, most of the important ones. And look at the book of documents. It’s free to everybody to see. Let them start learning about this; let the institutions see it.
Would you say this symposium has shown there’s nothing to fear from investigating further into this history?
There’s nothing to fear. What we’ve really done is debunked this impression. And I can guarantee that if you also asked the Holocaust museums, “Do you think he was anti-Semitic or a Holocaust collaborator?”, they would say No. But the Jewish world does think this, without question; and as far as I’m concerned, it’s up to historians now to at least change this part of history.
Let them understand that this man is not who they accuse him of being.
Regarding the controversial Yad Vashem caption, which falsely accuses Pius XII of not intervening to save Jews, how confident are you that it will be removed as a consequence of this symposium?
I think that not only will it be removed, they’re going to have to remove it — because they’re going to look like fools if they don’t. What we’ve discovered plainly disproves this [the caption’s contents].
It’s going to have to be removed and rewritten. And I asked them to call Sir Martin Gilbert in London and ask his advice on how to write this properly, because it’s clearly written incorrectly historically, and in a practical sense, it clearly doesn’t make any sense. So it does need to be adjusted.
It is an interesting coincidence that the 50th anniversary of the death of Pius XII and the Jewish Day of Atonement are taking place the same day this year, Oct. 9. Do you think that is providential?
Absolutely. That’s why I did this.
And do you think it will mark a time to draw a line under this controversy?
Yes, and I think we’ve done that. I certainly think so if we get all the information out to the public. That’s a providential day: both the Jewish Day of Atonement and the 50th anniversary of Pius XII’s death are happening on the same day. It’s a very, very unusual thing.
What are your own personal motivations for this campaign?
I love Israel. I love the Jewish people. I love the Vatican. I love the Catholic Church, the Catholic people, the Protestants, Anglicans. I love Muslims, the Armenians; I love the Greeks. I love all of the Orthodox. I love everybody. And when I see two people whom I love fight, just like a brother and a sister, I have to step in and say, “Wait a minute, let’s get this thing settled.” And it saddens me very deeply.
Also, it’s true that many Jewish people don’t know the true sentiment of the Catholic Church, because they go by what they perceive is history. This is incorrect history. So we want to show that we have to come together, all the good people of all faiths — which is the essence of Pave the Way — to stop the illegal use of religion by private agendas, of making wars on one another and using the tools in God’s name. This has to stop.
writes from Rome.
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