A Cross Too Heavy – Pope Pius XII and the Jews of Europe

A Cross Too Heavy –
Pope Pius XII and the Jews of Europe
By Paul O’Shea
Palgrave Macmillan – £23.99

‘’For Christianity to succeed, Judaism must be seen to have failed.’’

Many might view this brave and indispensable book as contentious and controversial; but for the untarnished individual with a quest for knowledge and the truth, A Cross Too Heavy – Pope Pius XII and the Jews of Europe, is an altogether considered assessment of one of the world’s most deplorable of denials. Namely that of the Vatican turning a blind eye with regards German National Socialism and Hitler’s prosecution of European Jewry.

As Pope Pius XII stood at the alter of the Vatican and bequeathed the chosen few with such words as ‘’slay them not,’’ the ovens of Auschwitz were already operating twenty-four hours a day. For this reason alone, Paul O’Shea’s more than meticulous work needs to be embraced by anyone and everyone who cares about humanity – for the sake of humanity.

Reason being, these nine chapters will probably re-ignite the incendiary debate over what Pius XII did, and did not do, to help save Jews during the Holocaust.
And this can only be a good thing; for the mere fact that the Vatican is yet to release all relative World War II documentation, suggests some sort of cover up.

By default, that said documentation is considered ‘’secret,’’ substantiates the embarrassing fact that the Papacy had, and perhaps still has, something to hide.

As with Catholicism in general, conjecture herein reigns supreme. No one really knows what did, and what did not take place behind closed, Vatican doors. Yet we do know what did and what didn’t take place outside them – this undoubtedly includes Pius XII.

For it was his job to know.
He was after all, God’s representative on earth.

So why didn’t he speak out?

Said silence, (still) unbelievable as it is; is cohenrently addressed by O’Shea in the chapter ‘Problems With Pacelli,’ when he writes: ‘’Here was the last absolute monarch – a man who held complete executive authority and power over the lives of hundreds of millions of believers. Outside of ecclesiastical arenas, Western politicians saw Pius as the greatest anticommunist crusader of the day. He could say what they could only often dream of saying; he was, after all, answerable only to God. Herein lay one of the first moral questions. If the pope could say what others could not, why did he not speak out clearly during the Holocaust? It would appear that even to think of asking probing questions of Pius was akin to blasphemy.’’

Surely blasphemy resides amid the holistic halls of total insignificance when compared to that of Hitler’s Final Solution? Actions after all, do speak so much louder than words. Although in this instance, it’s more a case of actions screaming so much louder than Vatican silence: ‘’The violence of words often became the violence of deeds directed not against abstract ‘’Jews’’ but flesh-and-blood people. And while there was nothing overt that directed Christians to inflict harm upon Jews, it is not difficult to see how fine the line was between officially sanctioned anti-Judaism, which found its strength in theological argument and liturgy, and the actions of the mob, which inflicted real and murderous harm on the ‘’Christ-killers.’’’’

Like the opening quote of this review, the above words are to be found in the chapter ‘Contempt As Virtue,’ the title of which – much like the rest of this sterling book – speaks volumes.

As Deborah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History and Director at the Strassler Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Clark University) has confirmed: ‘’Laying bare Pius XII’s logic and the basic moral flaws of his reasoning, O’Shea’s work is as intrepid as it is troubling.’’

I couldn’t agree more.

David Marx

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