Lew's AUTHOR BLOG

* Lew’s review of SOLDIER OF CHRIST in which Robert Ventresca presents Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII), in part knowingly and in part naively, playing a major role in Hitler’s coming to power.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 12, 2014

soldier of christ & untitled novel

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NOTE: This review deals only with the first 86 pages of Ventresca’s biography including the events of 1932-33 which are the background to the next section of my novel-in-progress which I hope to write this summer.

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In his Prologue, Ventresca states “Pius XII has become an intensely polarizing figure … to some he is a venerable saint … to others he is a damnable silent witness to unimaginable atrocities.” Ventresca chooses to focus on what Pacelli/Pius XII did or did not do, and why, rather than what he could have or should have done. This is a very useful focus.

As the quotes below indicate, there was much to damn in Pacelli’s behavior long before the Holocaust became a reality.

Ventresca presents Pacelli’s underlying FEELINGS ABOUT JEWS in his own words, beginning with Pacelli’s time in Munich during the communist uprisings of 1918-19 … *** in his reports to the Vatican … Pacelli often referred to the Jewish origins of the revolutionary leaders … many in Munich viewed Bolsheviks and Jews as indistinguishable … described Max Levien, leader of the Munich communists, as Russian and Jewish, pale, dirty, repugnant, yet intelligent and sly … the new government’s offices are overrun by young women of dubious character – Jews with provocative airs and shady smiles … the leader was Levien’s lover, a young divorced Russian Jewess (Roza) who acts like the boss … Pacelli had clearly adopted the cultural biases of his Munich circles who saw the revolutionary period as a scourge brought on by foreign Jews.

Ventresca clearly reports Pacelli’s DECISION TO SUPPORT HITLER and the Nazis rather than the democratic process favored by the German Catholic Center Party and the German bishops *** Pacelli had reservations about the Center Party’s propensity to collaborate with the moderate parties of the left … even when the resulting coalition government was headed by a Catholic (Bruning) *** Pacelli realized he and the Vatican needed to come to terms with the newfound prominence of Hitler’s National Socialists *** Pacelli started to talk about the possibility (previously unthinkable) of a coalition government between the Catholic parties and the Nazis *** correspondence between papal representatives in Munich and Berlin with Pacelli in Rome reflect these thoughts *** Pacelli’s expectations were hopelessly naive *** Pacelli: Hitler is the first statesman to speak publicly against the Bolsheviks. Up until now, the pope has been alone in this *** former Chancellor Bruning, a Catholic, accused Pacelli of betraying the German Catholic political tradition at a decisive point in the life of the fragile Weimar system *** Bruning (in his memoirs): Pacelli and Kaas were so eager to finalize a treaty (Concordat) that they muted what should have been a moral caution to German Catholics about the true nature of Hitler and the Nazis *** Bruning: Pacelli would sacrifice everything for the sake of a Concordat *** Bruning: Pacelli and the pope despise democracy and the parliamentary system

Ventresca reports HITLER’S GLOATING REACTION TO PACELLI and the Concordat which Pacelli forced through at the expense of the German Catholic Center Party *** Papen’s communication to Hitler on the Vatican concession (regarding political activity of the clergy) … suggests that Hitler had exceeded his expectations *** Hitler urged his cabinet to see the great success the Concordat would give the Reich … an area of confidence … particularly significant in the urgent fight against international Jews

Ventresca also clearly presents PACELLI’S UNTRUTHFUL RESPONSE TO CRITICISM after the Enabling Act had been passed and the Concordat had been signed … *** Pacelli reacted defensively [LMW: and lied!] when word spread in Catholic circles in Holland that the Vatican had sacrificed the German Catholic parties for the sake of reaching a deal with the Nazi state *** Pacelli wrote to the papal nuncio at The Hague: “the Center party and the Bavarian People’s Party dissolved themselves “entirely of their own accord and completely independently of the Holy See” *** Pacelli rejected the charge that the parties were dissolved at the Vatican’s instigation as a precondition for successful ratification of the Reichsconcordat *** Pacelli added that the Vatican had taken its lead from the German bishops [LMW: another lie], who agreed that the Concordat was the “last hope” for the church in Germany

Ventresca reports what I regard as PACELLI’S SELF-CONDEMNATION *** Pacelli knew exactly what he was dealing with in Hitler *** in the weeks immediately after concluding the Concordat, he told British representative Robert Clive that he “deplored the antisemitism of the German government, their treatment of political opponents, and the reign of terror to which they have subjected the whole nation” *** “the Vatican,” Pacelli said, “had agreed to the treaty as a lesser evil to the virtual elimination of the Catholic Church in the Reich”

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