CONTRASTING IMAGES OF PIUS XII
In the 1960s, these contrasting images turned into bitter polemics, between apology and condemnation, in the context of the Second Vatican Council and the Eichmann trial.
In 1963, German author Rolf Hochhuth sparked outrage with his play The Deputy, which accused Pius XII of silent complicity in the Holocaust.
With historians unable to access the archives, the controversy dragged on until the 2000s, in particular with the screen adaptation of The Deputy.
The opening of the Vatican archives in 2020 offers a more nuanced view while recalling that the Church is by no means a monolith: the issue of its position during the Holocaust cannot be summed up by the pope’s attitude alone.
Le Nouveau Candide (The NewCandide) n°214. France, May 31-June 6, 1965. Coll. Mémorial de la Shoah.
MEMORY AND REPENTANCE
Pope John Paul II praying in front of the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism in Auschwitz, Poland, 1979. © Forum / Bridgeman Images.
Declaration of Repentance of the Bishops of France. Drancy, France, September 30, 1997. © Mario Dondero / Bridgeman Images.
The 1970s and “8os marked a turning point. Christians were encouraged to deeply reassess their attitudes towards the Holocaust.
Iin the late 19905, the Catholic Church participated in a more general movement of repentance. Under the pontificate of John-Paul Il, on March 12, 1998, the Vatican published the declaration We Remember: A Reflection on the Holocaust calling for the “duty to remember”.
In France, the September 30, 1997 Drancy bishop’s conference acknowledged the hierarchy’s “silence” and “withdrawal into a narrow vision of the Church’s mission” during the Holocaust.
“Today, we confess that this silence was a fault. We also recognize that the Church in France failed in its mission to educate people’s consciences and that it bears, along with the Christian people, the responsibility for not having come to the aid of the people from the very first moments, when protest and protection were possible and necessary, even if, afterwards, there were countless acts of courage. This is a fact that we recognize today. For this failure of the Church of France and its responsibility towards the Jewish people are part of its history. We confess this fault. We implore God’s forgiveness and ask the Jewish people to hear this word of repentance. This act of remembrance calls us to greater vigilance on behalf of mankind in the present and for the future.”
Declaration of Repentance of the Bishops of France. Drancy, France, September 30, 1997.