THE COLD WAR: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
How Moscow framed Pope Pius XII as pro-Nazi
, April 28, 2007
Last year an Italian parliamentary commission concluded “beyond any reasonable doubt” that Moscow was behind the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Now, according to Joseph Poprzeczny, evidence has surfaced exposing Moscow as being the instigator of the character assassination of the wartime Pope Pius XII.
A wit observed once that Austria should be credited with an astounding double historical achievement - managing to convince the world that Beethoven was an Austrian and that Hitler was a German.
|Pope Pius XII (left),|
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
and German playwright Rolf Hochhuth.
However, the former Soviet Union perpetrated possibly an even more blatant example of perception management. This was when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, attempted simultaneously to whitewash Stalin's duplicitous wartime pact with Hitler and to blacken Pope Pius XII as a Hitler sympathiser.
Stalin of course was Hitler's ally for the first part of World War II. On August 23, 1939, the world learned of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (named after the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and the Third Reich), under which central and eastern Europe was to be divided into Soviet and German spheres of influence.
The pact cleared the way for Hitler to invade Poland on September 1, 1939, with Stalin following suit on September 17. World War II had begun.
From September 1, 1939, until June 22, 1941 - that is, not less than 21 months of this global conflict's 67-month duration - Stalin supplied Hitler's war machine with grain, fuel, strategic minerals, valuable intelligence and other crucial aid for Hitler's bid to enslave central and western Europe.
Only during the war's latter 46-months - the period that Russians refer to as their Great Patriotic War - were Stalin and Hitler enemies.
From late 1944, however, Stalin moved to erase any memory of those crucial opening 21 months that included his collaboration with Hitlerism.
Another major component of Moscow's re-writing of the history of wartime Europe was to fabricate evidence suggesting the existence of a secret pact between Pope Pius XII and Hitler.
That the Kremlin was behind this concerted attempt to smear the Vatican as being pro-Nazi has recently been revealed by historians and confirmed by the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the former communist Eastern bloc.
English historian Michael Burleigh has reviewed two recent books on Eugenio Pacelli, the wartime pope - The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis
(2005), by Rabbi David G. Dalin, and Righteous Gentiles: How Pius XII and the Catholic Church Saved Half a Million Jews from the Nazis
(2005) by Ronald J. Rychlak.
Burleigh has concluded from these studies that the portrayal of Hitler and Pius XII as allies was a deliberate Kremlin disinformation campaign launched even before the war ended.
“Soviet attempts to smear Pius had actually commenced as soon as the Red Army crossed into Catholic Poland,” says Burleigh.
“To be precise, they hired a militantly anti-religious propagandist, Mikhail Markovich Sheinmann, to write a series of tracts claiming there had been a 'secret' pact between Hitler and the Vatican to enable 'Jesuits' to proselytise in the wake of Operation Barbarossa
“Apart from the inherent improbability of this claim, Soviet attempts to frame Pius for a 'pact' were ironic, in a guilty sort of way, in view of the August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, replete with its secret clauses carving up Poland and the Baltic states, which had precipitated the outbreak of war.”
So Stalin, a party to a pact with Hitler, initiated the propaganda campaign claiming that the Vatican had done so. And to further embellish this canard, the oft-used ploy of maligning the the Jesuits was revived.
However, any serious historians of Hitler's Lebensraum
- Hitler's plan to expand the Third Reich eastward and to kill, deport or enslave the subject populations of the conquered countries in order to create “living space” for the Aryan people - know that neither Catholicism nor the Jesuits had any place in a Germanised east (any more than religion of any sort was allowed any place under communism).
After the war, the Kremlin's smear campaign was taken up by Holocaust-denier David Irving's “soul mate”, the left-wing German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, author of the 1963 Schillerian drama, The Deputy
, with its fictitious claims about Pius XII.
Burleigh says: “Hochhuth's play, which drew heavily upon Sheinmann's lies and falsehoods, inspired two scholarly critiques of Pius and the Catholic Church by, respectively, Guenter Lewy (1964) and Saul Friedländer (1966).
“Neither availed himself of the thirteen volumes of published wartime Vatican documents, and both relied heavily on German records, which are hardly an unimpeachable source on the Pope.
“These were followed by the works of Robert Katz, who was successfully sued for defamation by Pius's niece, and John Morley, a Catholic priest. These personages were harbingers of future trends.”
Burleigh says Rabbi Dalin “explains in his powerful and closely-argued polemic against the Pope's detractors, the most recent assault on Pius's reputation came from liberal, secular Jews, whose anti-Catholicism is as pathological as the anti-Semitism they see lurking around every corner, and from dissident or renegade Catholics, who use the Holocaust as the biggest available moral stick with which to assault the conservative turn within their own Church.”
Some gullible people all too readily swallowed the early lying Stalin-Scheinmann campaign.
Burleigh says of Rychlak: “He patiently goes through every shifting charge and smear against Pius, highlighting his consistency in condemning Nazism as a form of neo-pagan state worship, and the terrible dilemmas he faced during the war.
“The Pope did not have the luxury of being some grandstanding US politician or rent-a-moralist; what he said had real consequences for real people, and it was not his job to thrust martyrdom upon them.
“When the Church did speak out, as it did, without circumspection, through Vatican Radio broadcasts about the plight of Jews and Christians in Poland, or when the Dutch Catholic bishops protested during round-ups of Jews in Amsterdam, the Nazis carried out terrible reprisals against Catholic priests, or, in the Dutch case, maliciously deported Jewish converts to Catholicism, who had hitherto been exempted, while leaving converts to Protestantism alone.”
But anti-Pius campaigning didn't end with Stalin.
This year, Ion Pacepa, a two-star Romanian Securitate
general and the highest-ranking intelligence official to defect from the Eastern bloc, unexpectedly re-surfaced to provide the true background to the revived anti-Pius campaign in an article, “Moscow's Assault on the Vatican: The KGB made corrupting the Church a priority”, in National Review
(January 25, 2007).
Pacepa, who defected in 1978 and published several important exposés including his memoirs Red Horizons
(1988), was prompted to write about this because of two recent developments.
The first came in March 2006 with an Italian parliamentary commission concluding “beyond any reasonable doubt that the leaders of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate the pope, Karol Wojtyla”, due to of his backing for Poland's anti-communist Solidarity movement.
The second came in January this year when documents showed Warsaw's just-appointed Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus had collaborated with Polish communist secret police as a student.
“The Soviet Union was never comfortable living in the same world with the Vatican,” said Pacepa.
“The most recent disclosures document that the Kremlin was prepared to go to any lengths to counter the Catholic Church's strong anti-communism.
“In my other life, when I was at the centre of Moscow's foreign-intelligence wars, I myself was caught up in a deliberate Kremlin effort to smear the Vatican, by portraying Pius XII as a cold-hearted Nazi sympathiser.
“Ultimately, the operation did not cause any lasting damage, but it left a residual bad taste that is hard to rinse away. The story has never before been told.”
He said that in February 1960 Khrushchev approved a top-secret KGB plan to help destroy the Vatican's moral authority across Western Europe.
Until then the KGB had combated Christianity across Eastern Europe, “where the Holy See had been crudely attacked as a cesspool of espionage in the pay of American imperialism”.
Now the Kremlin set out to discredit the Vatican by using its own priests and to smear Pius as a Nazi collaborator, especially after his death in 1958.
“Dead men cannot defend themselves” was the KGB's slogan, according to Pacepa.
Because Pius served as Papal Nuncio (ambassador for the Holy See) in Germany when Nazism was gaining power, the KGB set about depicting him as an anti-Semite who encouraged Hitler's Holocaust.
“The hitch was that the operation was not to give the least hint of Soviet bloc involvement,” says Pacepa.
What followed was a convoluted plot called “Seat 12” that even Ian Fleming couldn't match.
Pacepa was to be the contact man with the Vatican. “To facilitate my job, [Soviet intelligence chief] Sakharovsky authorised me to (falsely) inform the Vatican that [communist] Romania was ready to restore its broken relations with the Holy See, in exchange for access to its archives and a one-billion-dollar, interest-free loan for 25-years,” writes Pacepa.
Access to Papal archives, the Vatican was told, was needed to find historical roots to help Romania's government to publicly justify its change of heart toward the Holy See over the break-off of diplomatic relations in 1951.
Some documents, though in no way incriminating, were thereby deviously obtained and handed to the KGB.
The next step came in 1963 when KGB disinformation chief, General Ivan Agayants, told Pacepa that operation Seat 12 “had materialised into a powerful play attacking Pope Pius XII, entitled The Deputy
, an oblique reference to the Pope as Christ's representative on earth.”
“Agayants took credit for the outline of the play,
and he told us that it had voluminous appendices of background documents put together by his experts with help from the documents we had purloined from the Vatican.
“Agayants also told us that The Deputy's
Erwin Piscator, was a devoted communist who had a longstanding relationship with Moscow.
“In 1929 he had founded the Proletarian Theatre in Berlin, then sought political asylum in the Soviet Union when Hitler came to power, and a few years later had 'emigrated' to the US.
“In 1962 Piscator had returned to West Berlin to produce The Deputy
saw the light in 1963 as the work of an unknown West German named Rolf Hochhuth, under the title Der Stellvertreter. Ein christliches Trauerspiel
(The Deputy, a Christian Tragedy).”- Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based freelance journalist and historical researcher. He is author of Odilo Globocnik, Hitler's Man in the East, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2004). Softcover: 447 pages. Rec. price: US$45.00.