New research has found that Pope Pius XII may have arranged the exodus of about 200,000 Jews from Germany just three weeks after Kristallnacht, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
The research is being carried out by Dr. Michael Hesemann, a German historian who is combing through the Vatican archives for the Pave the Way Foundation, a U.S.-based interfaith group.
Pope Pius XII has been widely criticized for his silence during the Holocaust and his failure to explicitly denounce the Holocaust, the Nazi regime or to excommunicate Hitler.
The new research, however, shows that the perception of Pius XII as "Hitler's Pope" may be historically incorrect.
Kristallnacht, known as "The Night of Broken Glass", took place on November 9-10, 1938. Ninety-one Jews in Germany and Austria were killed in anti-Jewish pogroms and tens of thousands were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Thousands of homes, buildings and synagogues were destroyed.
Hesemann said that Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli – the future Pius XII – wrote a letter on November 30, 1938, urging Catholic archbishops throughout the world to apply for visas for "non-Aryan Catholics" and Jewish converts to Christianity who wanted to flee Germany.
According to Hesemann, there is evidence that the visas would have been given to ordinary Jews and that the terms "converted Jews" and "non-Aryan Catholics" were a cover to prevent the Nazis from discovering the true purpose of the visas.
Elliot Hershberg, the chairman of the Pave the Way Foundation, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph report saying: We believe that many Jews who were successful in leaving Europe may not have had any idea that their visas and travel documents were obtained through these Vatican efforts. Everything we have found thus far seems to indicate the known negative perception of Pope Pius XII is wrong.