Research in the archive of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome has uncovered a list of the names of thousands of Jewish people who found shelter from Nazi persecution in Catholic religious congregations in Rome from 1943-1944.
While some of the information was first published in 1961, the full documentation, particularly the lists of people hidden in the Catholic institutions, had been considered lost, a Sept. 7 press release explained.
The Nazis occupied Rome from Sept. 10, 1943, until June 4, 1944, when the city was liberated by the Allied forces. During that nine-month period, approximately 10,000-15,000 Jews faced persecution, and almost 2,000 Jews, including children and adolescents, were deported and murdered.
The newly rediscovered documentation references more than 4,300 people hidden by 100 women’s religious congregations and 55 men’s religious congregations during the persecution.
Of the 4,300 people referenced, 3,600 people are identified by name. A comparison with documents in the archive of the Jewish Community of Rome indicates that 3,200 of these were Jews.
The list of Catholic institutions and the number of people they had sheltered was published by a historian in 1961, but the list of names is newly recovered.
The New York Times adds:
Experts say that although the discovery adds to scholarship of the period, it does not fundamentally change the historical understanding of the actions of the church and of Pius XII, the pope at the time.
Nearly 2,000 Jews, about a sixth of Rome’s Jewish population, were deported from Rome and murdered during the Nazi occupation, from September 1943 to June 1944, while Pius remained publicly silent.
“Now we have specific names and numbers, so, from the historiographical point of view, it’s clearly a great satisfaction,” said Liliana Picciotto, a historian at the CDEC Foundation, a Jewish research institute in Milan, referring to the documents, which were in fact discovered 15 years ago but studied only recently.
“But it doesn’t change the historical judgment” of Pius, “which remains harsh,” she said.
The church’s history of involvement in the persecution of Jews long predates Pius and the massacres of the last century. For well over a millennium, Jews were subjected to forced conversion, expulsion, censorship, mass murder by roving Christian mobs and life in ghettos. And that was all before the Inquisition got going.
In 1964, Pope Paul VI became the first pope to visit Israel, and in 1965, the church issued the Latin document “Nostra Aetate,” or “In Our Times,” which deplored antisemitism and said Jews could not collectively be blamed for the death of Jesus. In 2000, Pope John Paul II offered a sweeping apology for the mistreatment of Jews by Catholics, though he did not specifically apologize for the role of the church leadership in the gravest crimes, including the Holocaust.