Pope Pius XII's alleged silence in the face of the destruction of the European Jews during World War II has been the subject of a fierce controversy that has continued unabated ever since Rolf Hochhuth's The Deputy made the charge in 1963. Numerous critics have accused Pius of everything from deliberate anti-Semitism to collusion with the Nazi regime, while equally partisan defenders have argued that his silent diplomacy saved hundreds of thousands of Jews and other incent victims from Nazi terror. So contentious has Pius' role become that the phrase the silence of Pius XII has taken on a life of its own, beyond the facts. In this accessible work, Jose M. Sanchez offers a new approach to the controversy. He discusses the reasons given for Pius' behaviour by the significant authors who have contributed to the dispute and evaluates their findings in the light of the published documents. He studies the controversial events that critics have cited to prove their contentions about the Pope, from his role in the negotiation of the German concordat of 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945. Sanchez provides a full examination of Pius' public and private comments on the war and the destruction of the European Jews. This analysis moves outside the traditional views to rephrase the issues. It summarizes the basic charges and defenses and also presents a full treatment of Pius' personality in the context of the institutional framework within which he operated. With a conclusion that summarizes the findings and offers the author's judgment on the issues, this study should enable readers to evaluate and understand one of the most heated controversies of modern times.
Jose M. Sanchez is professor of history at Saint Louis University. He is the author of several works, including The Spanish Civil War as a Religious Tragedy.