Vatican thanked by Jewish leaders for opening Shoah-era archives

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Vatican thanked by Jewish leaders for opening Shoah-era archives

Catholic figures said vault would be opened to allay suspicion that Pius XII - dubbed ‘Hitler’s Pope’ - turned a blind eye to persecution of Jews

Pope Pius XII is accused of turning a blind eye to genocide.
Pope Pius XII is accused of turning a blind eye to genocide.

Jewish representatives have thanked the Vatican for opening its archives of wartime Pope Pius XII to allay suspicions that he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust.

Catholic leaders said they would open the vault to scrutiny on Monday but suggested this week that the paperwork would show that the controversial pontiff – dubbed ‘Hitler’s Pope’ – actually worked to save Jews behind the scenes.

Pius headed the Catholic Church for two decades beginning in 1939, and Jewish leaders have long accused him of staying quiet as millions of Jews were killed, but this week Vatican officials said there was “no smoking gun” to be found.

In 2010, Pope Francis co-authored a book with his friend, an Argentinian rabbi, in which they said it was “reasonable” that the Vatican should open its archives to let Holocaust researchers pore over thousands of closed files.

In 2016 Francis defended Pius as a “great defender of Jews” and the late British Holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert also defended the wartime pontiff for saving 4,700 Jews in Rome and giving 477 refuge in the Vatican. Gilbert even argued that Pius should be included in Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations.

This week the World Jewish Congress (WJC) said that opening the archives was the Vatican “demonstrating a commitment to learning and airing the truth, as well as to the significance of Holocaust memory”.

On 17 March 1942, the WJC says it gave the Vatican a detailed memo describing “brutal evidence of the Nazis’ plan to liquidate the Jews,” after the papal representative in Switzerland had asked for it.

“We never heard what happened to this,” said WJC president Ronald Lauder. “But we do know what happened to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. With the opening of the archives, we may finally learn the truth about what the Vatican knew.”

He added that years of interfaith work meant that the Vatican “has become a friend and ally to the Jewish people,” describing the opening of the archives as “a pivotal moment in the history of Catholic-Jewish relations”.

Bishop Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican’s Apostolic Archives, said paperwork from the Second World War period stretched to millions of pages divided into 121 sections listed by topic.

The archival research area can host a maximum of 60 scholars at a time and viewing dates are booked up until the end of the year, he said, adding that among them were researchers from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

“We will not pass judgment for now,” he said. “We will leave that to scholars. The material is there. It is diversified. We will leave each person to draw their own conclusions but we have no fear. The good (that Pius did) was so great that it will dwarf the few shadows.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: