Pave the Way Foundation President Gary Krupp, a prominent Jewish defender of Pope Pius XII, said his inter-religious group was “very pleased” with Yad Vashem's change of position, which “should show the world that it is truly an institution based on facts and truth.”
“The black legend against Pope Pius XII is being bleached white by the stark light of truth,” Krupp told CNA on July 5. Further research, he said, will show that the Pope, born Eugenio Pacelli, “was indeed a great hero to the Jewish people during our darkest years of the Shoah.”
Yad Vashem's new wall panel on Pius XII and the Vatican “presents a more complex picture than previously presented,” the museum said in a July 1 announcement, citing “research that has been done in the recent years” on the wartime Pope.
The panel's revised text states that “reaction of Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli, to the murder of the Jews during the Holocaust is a matter of controversy among scholars.” It acknowledges the Pope's condemnation of ethnic persecutions, as well as the Holy See's efforts to save Jews.
While the exhibit criticizes the Vatican for instances of silence and a “lack of clear guidance” during the Nazi era, it also acknowledges the perspective of those who say the Pope acted prudently under the circumstances.
“His defenders maintain that this neutrality prevented harsher measures against the Vatican and the Church's institutions throughout Europe, thus enabling a considerable number of secret rescue activities to take place at different levels of the Church,” Yad Vashem's revised exhibit reads.
“Moreover,” it states, “they point to cases in which the pontiff offered encouragement to activities in which Jews were rescued.”
Regarding the 1943 deportation of 1,000 Jews from Rome to Auschwitz, the new display says that the Pope “did not publicly protest.” The previous version of the panel made the accusation that the Pope “did not intervene.”
Yad Vashem's new exhibit also quotes the Pope's 1942 Christmas Eve radio address, in which he spoke out for “the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or ethnic origin, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline.”
The new text suggests that the controversy over the Pope will continue “until all relevant material is available to scholars.”
Krupp said he believed full access to the Vatican archives would vindicate Pope Pius XII's true legacy as wartime hero. In the meantime, he urged scholars to study the 76,000 pages of documentation and study material made available by the Pave the Way Foundation.
The group's chairman Elliot Hershberg said in a July 3 statement that its research on Pope Pius XII, undertaken for the purpose of “setting the record straight,” has shown “that his work to mitigate the suffering of the Jews during World War II was monumental.”
“I’m certain that through our work and with the opening of the Vatican Archives, the controversy will be ended and Eugenio Pacelli will be recognized for his extraordinary efforts and for saving possibly hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives,” Hershberg said in response to Yad Vashem’s announcement.