NY Times Wrong: Pius XII Saved Jews
As hard as it may be to believe, it appears that the New York Times actually got a story wrong. This one happens to be about Pope Pius XII, and in their story the Times claims that he ordered that Jewish children that were sheltered by Catholic charities during World War II, and who had been baptized, were not to be returned to their Jewish parents, should they seek to claim them. Too bad the story is a fabrication, and one that was easily exposed by leading Italian experts on Pius XII. A full exposure of this fraud can be found here in an article by P. Thierry. The article is quite lengthy, and devestating to the credibility of the source used by the Times, as well as the methods they used (assuming they used any) in checking it before they ran the story.
Thierry begins with some of the simple errors:
"In fact, in its (January 9, 2005) article the New York Times was echoing similar accusations based on the same document made by Alberto Melloni in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera on December 28, 2004.
Melloni's sensationalism, repeated by the New York Times, has already been exposed by two of Italy's top Pius XII experts, Andrea Tornielli and Prof. Matteo L. Napolitano (co-authors of the book, Il Papa che salvo gli Ebrei (Piemme, 2004)."
So the Times was going with a story that had already been exposed as bogus. But it gets much, much worse as Thierry continues his expose:
"In a front page article entitled, "Ecco il vero documento su Pio XII e i bimbi ebrei," [The real/true document of Pius XII and the Jewish children, pp. 1 and 29] for the Jan. 11, 2005 edition of Il Giornale , a leading Italian paper, Tornielli examines the whole controversy by comparing the actual text of the original Vatican document, to Melloni's claims about a dubious French memo based upon it, giving the true facts, revealing the sharp differences between the two, exposing Melloni's claims and insinuations against Pius XII as false.
Similiarly, in a separate article entitled, "Il frettoloso scoop del professor Melloni,"[The Hasty Scoop of Professor Melloni, same edition, Jan. 11, 2005, Il Giornale, p. 29 ] Napolitano, one of the world's great archival/diplomatic experts, weighs in and severely chastises Melloni for rushing to judgment, and for rushing to publish an incomplete, totally misleading story, based upon a dubious memo unrelated to Pius XII – something that no serious historian should ever do."
Why might one become suspicious of the authenticity of this document?
"The incriminating document was finally brought to light by journalist Andrea Tornielli and published on Jan. 11 in the Milan newspaper Il Giornale.
Tornielli revealed that the document was kept at the Centre National des archives de L'Eglise de France, archive of the secretariat of the French Episcopate, position "7 CE 131"...
"Also, he revealed that the document was written in French, on a sheet of paper on which at been typed in the upper left corner "Apostolic Nuntiature of France," a reference number 4516, the date Oct. 23 1946. Tornielli also reveals that the document is unsigned, and thus its author unknown...
It immediately appears, even to the uninitiated, that the document is not from the Vatican as it is addressed in French from the Apostolic Nuntiature in France. Furthermore, the Vatican was corresponding in Italian, not in French, with Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who was then Nuntio, in France.
Thus, these two clues, plus the fact that the author of the document was unknown and the document unsigned, should have given the New York Times and any other serious journalist some pause before announcing the document as "a letter from the Vatican."
It is worth noting that Vatican documents are not released unsigned, especially when they contain instructions directly from the Pope. But there is more, and this gets especially troubling for a newspaper that prides itself in its ability to check the facts of its story before it goes to press:
"Also, Tornielli further reports that it is not a "one-page" document as reported by the New York Times but a three-page document. Two pages went mysteriously missing during the investigation of the New York Times and magically reappeared when Tornielli found the document in the archives. It is to be noted that the 3 pages were attached to each other.
The original three-page document can be viewed on the Internet on Prof. Napolitano's website at http://www.vaticanfiles.net/intelligence2.htm"
The two "missing" pages state expressly:
"...Furthermore, also those children who were not baptized and who no longer have living relatives, having been entrusted to the Church who received them, as long as they are not able to decide for themselves, they cannot be abandoned by the Church or delivered to parties who have no right to them. It would be something else if the children were requested by their relatives."
So the memo says that children who have not been claimed by anyone are not to be abandoned, but those who are claimed by relatives, even if baptized by the Church, are to be returned. It should be noted as well that both of the "missing" pages were signed (by His Excellency Mgr. Tardini), and were written in Italian, a language that is far more probable coming from an Italian Pope, than would be the French found on page one of this memo (the one that the New York Times relied upon exclusively for its story). Finally, these "missing" pages were actually attached to the first page!
Thierry tries to be charitable at this point in saying:
"The incriminating document cited by the New York Times is at best, if authentic, a well-intentioned translation, written by God-knows-who, which summarizes the decision for anyone who would not understand the Italian original, which had been given in its entirety."
But the qualifier of what is found on the attached pages is vital to understanding the full context of the memo:
"However point 5 of the French text declaring that children can be returned to their families provided they are not baptized is nowhere to be found in the Italian original, which had been approved by the Pope and which states the exact contrary.
The decision that had the approval of the Holy Father was that the Jewish children had to be returned to their Jewish families."
As if the story could not get any worse for the Times' fact checkers, the "missing" pages of the memo were physically attached to the first page, making it difficult to understand how only these last two pages could be missing, when the Times was busy quoting from the first.
Finally, the Times used this document to make a larger claim against Pope Pius XII and the Vatican during the war:
"Quoting a French historian, Etienne Fouilloux the New York Times writes "This document is indicative of a mind-set at the Vatican that dealt with problems in a legal framework without worrying that there were human beings involved. It shows that the massacre of the Jews was not seen by the Holy See as something of importance." (It is noted that Etienne Fouilloux is a collaborator of Alberto Melloni who originally published these allegations in Italy and has now been fully discredited)"
But a letter from the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Isaak Herzog, dated March 1946 exposes this as yet another falsehood:
"Indeed this was the letter of Rabbi Herzog in which he expressed the desire to Pius XII that Jewish children saved by the Church be given back to Jewish institutions and which triggered the decision of the Holy Office. The full text of Rabbi Herzog's letter is available at http://www.vaticanfiles.net/intelligence3.htm."
Thierry is especially ironic in further exposing the lie put forward by the New York Times:
"Leokadia Jaromirska, a Polish-Catholic rescuer, wanted to retain a Jewish girl she had protected during the Holocaust. Her custody struggle is told in the important book by Peter Hellman Avenue of the Righteous (New York: Atheneum, 2004). Describing her efforts to keep the female child, Bogusia, even after her father, Jonisz, had survived and come back to retrieve her, the author writes: "In a last ditch effort at getting authoritative backing on her side, Leokadia wrote a letter to Pius XII asking for his wisdom on the subject of Bogusia. In less than a month came an answer that struck down all hope. She was instructed by the Pope to return the child to its father. If she were to keep the child by force or stealth, in the end she would regret it, since, at school or elsewhere, the child would eventually learn the truth. It was her duty as a Catholic not only to give back the child, but to do it with good will and in friendship." (p.237)
In the New York Times Book Review, the book was described as worth reading just for the compelling story of Leokadia Jaromirska and the Jewish baby she named Bogusia. Apparently, the Times editors and writers who wrote the attack piece against Pius XII do not read their own Book Review."
Other stories of the Pope's personal intervention in the return of Jewish children to their relatives are also given by Thierry, each documented in books that have been out at least since 2004.
So the New York Times ran a story that was:
1. already under attack in Italy by Pius XII experts as factually incorrect
2. based on the first page of a three page memo in which only that first page was unsigned, and in French, rather than the signed, and in Italian second and third pages, all of which were attached to one another, and only the last two of which offer the full context of what the actual instructions happened to be
3. directly contradicts known stories about the Pope using his power to reunite Jewish children with their parents after the war
To date I am unaware of whether or not the New York Times has published a retraction or an apology for this story.
I must say, however, that my confidence in the objectivity, and the competence, of the Times, has been shaken.