Vatican Lifts Secrecy From WWII Documents

NEW YORK - The Vatican decided on Tuesday to release from its secret archives documents from the period of World War II, which are expected to include information about the policy of Pope Pius XII toward the Nazi regime but not pertaining to the Holocaust.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League who is now in Rome, told Haaretz Wednesday that "one cannot ignore the importance of the Vatican's decision to release further documents from the World War II period."

Foxman noted however that "the newly released documents are not especially significant to the problematic issues in Pius XII's controversial behavior vis-a-vis the Holocaust, which the Jews wish to look into."

Foxman said the documents deal with the Vatican's activity on behalf of war prisoners and missing persons in the WW II era. Among the documents is a letter written by a bishop from Romania to the Vatican on July 21, 1943, complaining that the Vatican is too concerned over the fate of the Jews. The bishop informs the Vatican that many of his flock members "are angry and complaining openly that the Holy See is cultivating good relations with the Jews, who are the enemies of the Nazis."

The files regarding Pius XII's term, and especially the documents which detail his relation with the Nazi regime in Berlin, may feed the deep controversy between leaders of Jewish organizations and senior Vatican officials.

Most Jewish researchers believe that Pius XII ignored the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust, and refused to intervene in their favor and prevent their deportation. In recent years heads of Jewish organizations in the United States have endeavored to persuade the Vatican to make these documents available.

Two years ago the Vatican released 11 volumes consisting of documents from Pius XII's era, as a gesture of compromise, but since then it has rejected all requests by Jews to release additional files.

Tuesday's decision was interpreted by senior Jewish figures in New York as an effort by the Vatican to create a comfortable atmosphere for a dialogue between Jewish and Catholic scholars scheduled in Buenos Aires next week.