Posts Tagged ‘Pope Pius XII’

* 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


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.


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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* Lew’s review (and quotes from) HITLER’S POPE … and the relevance to my novel-in-progress

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 30, 2014


Hitler's Pope & An Untitled Novel

Cornwell has written a devastating condemnation of Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII). So far, I have read the chapters describing Pacelli’s role in bringing Hitler to a position of dictatorial power by passage of the Enabling Act in 1933.

To summarize Cornwell’s argument …

Pacelli was fixated on reaching a Concordat with Hitler that would implement the 1917 Code of Canon Law he had been instrumental in drafting … He was totally unconcerned with Hitler’s destruction of human rights, social ethics and Jews … He was determined to destroy the power of the Catholic Center Party and the German bishops, who had vehemently opposed Hitler … His primary objective seems to have been to establish conditions under which he could rule imperiously from Rome without opposition … and to have Hitler in power in Germany as a bulwark against Communist expansion

Hitler knew exactly what he was gaining from Pacelli’s ambition *** nearing completion of the Concordat, Hitler wrote: the treaty shows the whole world that the assertion the NS is hostile to religion is a lie *** and then Hitler reported to his cabinet: a sphere of confidence has been created that will be especially significant in the urgent struggle against international Jewry

This is Pacelli’s record until 1933. Then, of course, there was his reprehensible silence during the Holocaust.

Here are a few more of the many points Cornwell makes to support his conclusions …

*** Hitler was wary of Catholic resistance to National Socialism … in Mein Kampf he wrote that a confrontation with the Catholic Church in Germany would be disastrous

*** Catholic criticism of National Socialism was vehement and sustained … open warfare … a parish priest at Kirschhausen gave guidance to his parishioners: no Catholic may be a Nazi, no Nazi may participate in parish activities, no Nazi may receive sacraments … promptly confirmed by the vicar-general of Mainz that the priest was speaking in accordance with diocesan thinking

*** the Bavarian bishops (Faulhaber) directed their clergy to warn against National Socialism … incompatible with Catholicism

*** a Catholic Reichstag representative – Karl Trossman … published “Hitler and Rome” … described Nazis as a “brutal party that would do away with the rights of the people” … would drag Germany into a new war which would end even more disastrously than the last 

*** Catholic author Alfons Wild: Hitler’s view of the world is not Christianity but a message of race that proclaims violence and hate … Catholic journalists: NS means hatred, fratricide and unbounded misery … Hitler preaches the law of lies

*** Pacelli was not inclined to take the least notice of advice from German Catholic leaders … maintained that satisfactory relations between Germany and the Church (by which he meant the Vatican) could only be achieved with a new concordat

*** as 1932 proceeded … decisions about the fate of the Catholic Church in Germany were being made entirely by Pacelli in the Vatican

*** in order to achieve the Reich Concordat … Pacelli needed the German bishops to reverse their denunciations of NS … and have the Center Party give legal force to the passage of the Enabling Act to grant Hitler dictatorial powers



The role of the Catholic Church (among and in conjunction with other actors) in enabling Hitler’s rise to power and his later annihilation of the Jews is a central element in my novel-in-progress, set in Germany and Poland in the Nazi years.

Although this is only a thought for now, I have in mind contrasting Pacelli/Pius XII with Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich …

  • Faulhaber was one of the leaders of a Catholic organization called Friends of Israel, devoted to better relations between Catholics and Jews, until the group was ordered to dissolve in 1928 by the Vatican Holy Order of which Pacelli was an important member. The group was dissolved because it had recommended eliminating the phrase “perfidious Jews” from the Easter liturgy.

  • Faulhaber was among the many German bishops and lay Catholics who were vehemently and vocally opposed to Hitler before 1933 until Pacelli effectively squashed all opposition by demanding in the Reich Concordat he negotiated with Hitler that German Catholics must support their Fuhrer.

Pacelli and Faulhaber both came to Munich in 1917. Pacelli of course moved on, but Faulhaber remained in Munich through the war and after. I am picking up hints that they did not like each other, personally or professionally.

I am also thinking about possible scenes where Berthold Becker, my main fictional German character, could interact with Faulhaber.

Cornwell’s is one of many sources that will guide this part of my writing.


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