War Pope knew about Holocaust early on in the war


Southern Europe


A view of the archive section of the Holy See for the papacy of Pius XII, at the Vatican. Photo EPA, Fabio Frustaci

Pope Pius XII already knew in 1942 that the Nazis murdered the Jews en masse. That is shown by an old letter found in the archives of the Vatican.

The letter contradicts the official stance of the Holy See, the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad writes. At the time, the Vatican officially announced that information was vague and unverified.

Pope Pius XII working in his office in the Vatican. Photo EPA

The yellowed typed letter was recently discovered by an archivist of the Vatican, Giovanni Coco. Last Sunday, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera broke the news with permission of the Holy See.


The letter dates from December 14, 1942. It is written by a Jesuit Father, Lothar König, who was part of the German resistance movement. He addressed the letter to the secretary of the Pope, a German national also.

The Vatican archivist stresses the relevance of the letter because it shows that the Vatican had information that the work camps were actually extermination camps. The Father writes, for example, that sources told him that about 6,000 Jews and Poles were killed in the “SS-ovens” of extermination camp Belzec.

“Now we have certainty that the Roman Catholic Church in Germany distributed detailed news about the crimes committed against the Jews”, the archivist said in an interview with Corriere della Sera. The letter also mentions Auschwitz and Dachau.



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