Continuing on with our examination of the La Vanguardia interview, we look at the words of Pope Francis in defense of Pius XII.
What worries me regarding this subject is the figure of Pius XII, the Pope that led the Church during World War II. They have said all sorts of things about poor Pius XII. But we need to remember that before he was seen as the great defender of the Jews. He hid many in convents in Rome and in other Italian cities, and also in the residence of Castel Gandolfo. Forty-two babies, children of Jews and other persecuted who sought refuge there were born there, in the Pope’s room, in his own bed. I don’t want to say that Pius XII did not make any mistakes – I myself make many – but one needs to see his role in the context of the time. For example, was it better for him not to speak so that more Jews would not be killed or for him to speak? I also want to say that sometimes I get “existential hives” when I see that everyone takes it out against the Church and Pius XII, and they forget the great powers. Did you know that they knew the rail network of the Nazis perfectly well to take the Jews to concentration camps? They had the pictures. But they did not bomb those railroad tracks. Why? It would be best if we spoke a bit about everything.
While it is good to read these words in defense of Pius XII, and the record of Pius XII compares quite favorably to the actions of the major powers in regard to the Holocaust while it was going on, Pope Francis ends on a false note with the bombing of the train tracks to the death camps. Such requests were rejected for fairly sound reasons. First, targeting was so primitive for aerial bombardments in those days that destruction of the rail lines would have been difficult to accomplish without massive collateral damage. Second, the Nazis could have merely brought in their victims by truck at the end of the undamaged rail line. Third, the Nazis had the capability of repairing destroyed rail lines swiftly as they demonstrated time and again during the War. Fourth, the extermination camps, but for one in the Ukraine, were all located in Poland, which was the extreme operating range of British and American bombers and would have meant for most of the war that the missions would have been flown without fighter escort. Fifth, futility. The Nazi regime was committed to exterminating Jews and others they deemed untermensch. Bombing raids would not have been a silver bullet to stop them and would merely have caused the killing to be done elsewhere. As Allied commanders indicated at the time, only the overthrow of the Nazi regime by a massive ground invasion was going to stop the crimes of Hitler and his gangsters.