Honors College
 

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

5-2014

Abstract

Scholars have debated Pope Pius XII’s role in the Holocaust since the 1960s. Did he do everything he could and should have done to save Jews? His critics say no because of antisemitism rooted in the traditional Catholic views. His defenders say yes and deny that he was an antisemite. In my thesis, I shall assess the arguments on both sides in terms of the available evidence. I shall focus both on what Pius XII did do and what he did not do and on the degree to which he can be held responsible for the actions of low-level clergy. Some Catholic clergy helped Jews survive the Holocaust while others helped Nazis escape to South America after the defeat of the Third Reich. The very notion of “evidence” will be of central importance in my thesis. To what extent can we compare the use of evidence by scholars (especially historians) to the use of evidence by lawyers in a courtroom. Bearing in mind important differences, including higher burden of proof for court conviction, I shall construct my thesis in a trial format with arguments by the defense and prosecution. I shall show how facts can be interpreted very differently depending upon their context. That said, I will argue that the evidence suggests that Pope Pius XII, while not “Hitler’s Pope” as John Cornwell alleged, did not do all he could have to save Jews and that antisemitism does appear to have been among the reasons for this.

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