Pius´ role in the Holocaust deserves more scrutiny (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Tom Segev 07/02/12)
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The new captions at Yad Vashem send a clear message to the incumbent
pope: Do not glamorize Pius XII before the Vatican reviews and
publishes all documents concerning his activities during the
From the beginning, the Yad Vashem Museum was created to reflect
Israel´s official concept regarding the Holocaust, and obviously it
serves as a justification of Zionist ideology and of the need to
establish the State of Israel and guarantee its security. Almost
sixty years later, the new museum, which opened in 2005 and was
inspired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in
Washington, presents the original political foundations in a new
style: less indoctrination and more room for various points of view
regarding numerous subjects, some of them sensitive and controversial.
At the entrance the visitor is greeted by an old clip of Jewish
children in the Ukraine singing "Hatikva," the national anthem. The
visit ends with the establishment of the State of Israel. Still, one
notable difference is that the Arabs are no longer presented as
Nazis: the placing of the 1941 photo of Hitler meeting the Grand
Mufti of Jerusalem is no longer as accentuated as before. The museum
has also adopted a neutral stance concerning the Nazi-
established "Jewish Councils," otherwise known as Judenrat. The
visitors can now draw up their judgment of the councils based on
their activities in both the Warsaw and Lodz ghettos. The impression
now is that the Judenrat leaders too, were victims of the Holocaust.
Formerly, they were all considered villains.
One of the striking differences concerns the museum´s depiction of
Rejso, Israel Kestner, one the leaders of Hungarian Jewry. In 1955,
an Israeli court ruled that Kestner had "sold his soul to the devil"
after he was accused of being a Nazi collaborator. He was murdered
two years later in Tel Aviv. Now, Kestner´s contacts with the Nazis
are depicted as praiseworthy actions that saved Jews. The change is
due, partially, to the fact that Kestner´s friend, Yosef "Tommy"
Lapid, served as Yad Vashem´s chairman. The wording under Kestner´s
photograph – as in all other captions in the museum – is formulated
in an extremely cautious manner, weighing the meaning of every single
word. The English version is slightly more positive than the Hebrew.
Many captions were dictated by diplomatic sensitivity, so as not to
cause tension with foreign states. The lines dealing with the
question of why the allies didn´t bomb Auschwitz are more restrained
than the more explicit criticism of the same issue in the United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The new captions dealing with Pope Pius XII, are ´cleaner,´ and
reflect a measure of openness and recognition of different opinions.
Pius XII now receives a parcel of textual ´discounts´: the new
wording stresses the fact that the Reichskonkordat with Germany was
signed before he was appointed, and deletes the former declaration
that the accord was signed "even at the price of recognizing the Nazi
regime." It does not mention that Pius XII shelved the prepared draft
of an encyclical condemning racism, colonialism and anti-Semitism,
drafted for Pius XI. If the Pope actually shelved such an encyclical,
there´s no reason to ignore it. The mention of his 1942 Christmas
address and his appeals to the leaders of Hungary and Slovakia are
relevant. Pius XII actually gains some points due to the detailed
controversy surrounding his term.
Still, he isn´t portrayed as a righteous man, but the issue calls for
more study. Politically, the new captions send a clear Jewish and
Israeli message to the incumbent pope, German-born Benedict XVI: Do
not glamorize Pius XII before the Vatican reviews and publishes all
documents concerning his activities during the Holocaust. (©
Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 07/02/12)
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