December 21, 2009
At this time, as the possible canonization of Pope Pius XII moves forward, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum repeats its call for the opening of all wartime material from the Vatican archives, so that scholars can finally begin the important work of examining and evaluating this crucial aspect of history.
The response of Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) to the policies of the National Socialist regime - notably his failure to condemn publicly the genocide of the European Jews - has long been the topic of debate and controversy. At the time of the Holocaust, questions about Pius XII’s public silence were raised by Myron Taylor, the U.S. representative to the Vatican, and Taylor’s assistant Harold Tittmann, who requested that the Holy See speak out on the issue.
The debate about Pius XII concerns both historical facts and larger moral questions. An understanding of his response to the murder of Europe’s Jews and the moral evaluation of his actions depend upon solid historical research. Such research will be possible only when all Vatican archival material from 1933 - 1945 is completely open and available to scholars of all disciplines. While the Museum has copies of some Vatican records prior to 1939 and there are other relevant archives, the opening of the post-1939 archival material is essential to a proper assessment of Pius XII. Only then will a sound and accurate portrait of his moral leadership during the Holocaust be possible.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was created to inspire leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanence, and donors nationwide make possible its educational activities and global outreach. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.