Interview with Robert S. Wistrich

  • Pope Pius XII was the most controversial pope in modern times. Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 visit to the Middle East raised new interest in the attitude of the wartime pope toward the Jews. This becomes even more important in light of the possible advancement of his beatification. The issue remains highly problematic, the more so as the Vatican has not yet opened all its archives on Pius XII.
  • A major reassessment of Pius XII’s attitude toward the Shoah took place after his death in 1958. Initially various tributes had flowed to the Vatican, including from some Jews. Perhaps the most important event that damaged his image was the tendentious play The Deputy (Der Stellvertreter). It was written by the German Protestant playwright Rolf Hochhuth and staged – from 1963 onwards – all over the world.
  • A judgment on Pius XII’s attitude during and after the war should not be limited to his silence on the genocide of the Jews. The pope remained largely neutral about the German atrocities against the Polish people. Nor did he condemn the genocidal Catholic Croatian fascist state and its leader Ante Paveli?. This state massacred 350,000 non-Catholics, including thirty thousand Croatian Jews. There is compelling evidence that the Vatican was instrumental in permitting Paveli? to escape from Italy to Argentina in 1947.