February 25, 02
Vol. 17 , No. 08
View Entire Issue (Vol. 17 , No. 08)
Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 2002
Pope Pius XII has often been criticized for his silence about the extermination of European Jewry during World War II. In his defense, some have alleged that the Pope was doing a great deal to help the Jews but that his efforts necessarily occurred behind the scenes. However, in the meticulously researched book Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy (2000), Susan Zucotti maintains that both the Pope and his assistants at the Vatican Secretariat of State did very little to help Jews in Italy.
Throughout the book, Zucotti demonstrates with new clarity the degree to which the pope himself took action, the extent to which he encouraged others to act, and the magnitude of the Vatican's failure to assist Italy's Jews. She finds that the most significant gestures of help offered by the Church to Jews in Italy were made by clerics and believers - mostly nuns, monks, and priests-uninvolved in top-level Vatican discussions, By 1942, the pope "knew and believed a great deal about the exterminations." In 1943 when Germans took control of northern and central Italy and attempted to exterminate the region's Jewish population, the Vatican knew very clearly the magnitude of the genocide, and to Zucotti, the notion that Pius XII was benevolent and helpful to the Jews behind the scenes proves to be a myth. The Vatican's silence, Zucotti argues, still resonates in the Church's statements about the Holocaust today.
Susan Zucotti won the National Jewish Book Award for Holocaust Studies for her first book, The Italians and the Holocaust: Persecution, Rescue, and Survival (1987). She is also the author of The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews (1993). Zucotti's essay "Pope Pius XII and the Rescue of Jews During the Holocaust: Examining Commonly Accepted Assertions" will appear in Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, a forthcoming book edited by CMC professor John K. Roth. The book will be published by Continuum Books.
Zucotti received a Ph.D. in modern European history from Columbia University and has taught Holocaust history at Barnard College in New York and Trinity College in Hartford.
Susan Zucotti's Athenaeum lecture is jointly sponsored by the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies and is part of the series Researching the Holocaust.