on August 20, 2009
There are essantially two main points which people should be cautioned about in advance with regards to this book. They are:
1) The book was written as a rebuttal to John Cornwell's HITLER'S POPE. If the book sometimes seems incomplete to you, then perhaps you should go back and read Cornwell if you haven't already. This book was not written as a comprehensive monolithic analysis of the whole range of Papal documents. It was a rebuttal against a specific author, and people who find the book incomplete will probably benefit from going back to that specific author and learning what was said by Cornwell. Some reviewers here have castigated the author for not going deeper into documentary archives of the Vatican. But none that I've seen so far have been able to couple this type of argument against Dalin with an actual defense of Cornwell. They've simply evaded the context of the Cornwell-Dalin debate and have placed stronger demands on Dalin than anything which they demand of Cornwell. If the book strikes you as incomplete on certain issues, then go back and first evaluate the completeness of Cornwell's book before you go on further with Dalin.
2) It was noted by some other reviewers that the back of the book cover carries some review comments by Michael Novak, William Kristol and, yes, there are a few spots on the edges of this book which smell like they were written as a PR release by the Bush administration. Dalin has some general remarks about how wonderful the Catholic Church has been with Jews, and he makes some points which are always worth recalling. On the other hand, someone might wish to respond with a list of occasions when the Catholic Church supported the ghettoization of European Jews, pushed for the Inquisition, and whatever else. It's also clear that Dalin supports some form of Catholic-Jewish alliance against the Muslim world, and anyone who has been turned off by the lies used to engineer the occupation of Iraq may also be turned off by Dalin comments with regards to this. The most important thing to note for purposes of a book review, however, is simply that these aspects of Dalin's text do not form the central core of the book. They are part of the periphery of the text, but the core of the text is the rebuttal to Cornwell. That's really what this book should be graded on, in the main, if it is going to be graded at all.
With those two points clear, I think it's easy to say that this basically is a well-written book for its essential purpose and anyone who is clear on that intended function, and doesn't pick the book up with unwarranted expectations of something which the book is not, should be more or less satisfied.
on January 13, 2013
Although the title of Rabbi David Dalin's book refers to attacks on Pius XII, he writes 160 pages of evidence citing Popes' writings and teachings against anti-Semitism beginning with the edict of Pope Gregory the Great in the Sixth Century. In Chapter One, Dalin puts the attacks against Pius XII in the context of the culture wars against Catholic traditionalism by "...increasingly left-wing intellectual class..." and by "...an intra-Catholic argument about the direction of the Church..." The attack against Pius XII began with the 1963 play The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth followed by the writings of James Carroll, Garry Wills, Daniel Goldhagen and others.
He writes that Pope Gregory I issued at the time a historic edict defending the Jews. Subsequent Popes restated and expanded these through the centuries. They included Calixtus II, Gregory X, Clement VI, Boniface IX, Martin V and Sixtus IV among many others. Rabbi Dalin quotes their writings and teachings and cites many examples of how each of the anti-Papcy writers have ignored evidence. He attributes the critics' motives to a cultural agenda rather than an honest discussion.
Almost every page of this book contains examples of steps Popes have taken in their fight against anti-semitism. In some cases through the centuries local bishops have acted in an anti-Semitic manner and in each instance Dalin details how the Pope of the period acted to end it. He includes esamples from Germany, Austria, Italy, France. In the United States while still a Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli-the future Pius XII-ended the anti-Semitic laced radio broadcasts of Father Charles Coughlin. Popes have written in defense of the Jews when such pernicious tales arose such as the alleged custom of Jews drinking the blood of a murdered Christian child and the charge that Jews were responsible for spreading the Black Death plague. In the modern era, Dalin includes the writings of Leo XIII, Pius XI and cites Pius XII's first encyclical which expressly rejected Nazism and mentioned the Jews.
Dalin quotes interviews with Angelo Roncalli(the future Pope John XXIII)and Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II) who actively saved Jews at the direction of Pius XII. He cites examples of monasteries and seminaries which hide Jews at the direction of Pius XII.
Other themes of the book include a biography of Pius XII and a critique of the Islamic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who Dalin accuses of extensive anti-Semitsm, and proponent of Hitler's final solution. He tells us that the Mufti was the mentor of Yasser Arafat who served the Mufti as an assistant.
This book is written in easy to understand language and is recommended for Catholics and Jews alike.
on August 14, 2005
This book is the most careful assessment yet of Pope Pius XII and his role in saving thousands of Jews in Italy and tens of thousands more in countries such as Belgium and Hungary. Much of the campaign against Pope Pius was generated by the play The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth, who is an admirer of Holocaust-denier David Irving (page 120 and note 48 for chapter 5). Many of the other critics of Pius are either biased against Catholicism and Judaism or are unfamiliar with the actual source literature from the World War II period, which Rabbi Dalin quotes extensively.
Dalin corrects many mistakes by other authors. For example, Pius never met Hitler, not as Pope nor prior to becoming Pope. The book "Hitler's Pope" shows a picture of Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII) being saluted by German soldiers, but that was after a visit with the German President in 1927! (page 62).
A major criticism of Pius and other Catholic leaders is that they did not speak out against the Nazi treatment of Jews. But Rabbi Dalin points out, as have other scholars of the period, that speaking out backfired. This happened for example in The Netherlands, where a pastoral letter against the Nazis read in every Catholic church led to the deportation of the highest percentage (79%) of the Jewish population of any Nazi-occupied country in Western Europe (pp 79 ff.). Instead, without saying anything in public, Pius issued orders to protect Jews in Rome, saving 80% of the Jewish population from Nazi deportation (pp 81 ff).
Finally, Rabbi Dalin repeats the praise of Pius XII by numerous Jewish leaders during and after World War II (pp 99 ff).
on August 14, 2012
Rabbi David G. Dalin presents a sustained, well-documented argument, buttressed by testimonies that seem never-ending by Catholics and Jews who were there, that Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) directed and oversaw a sweeping and massively successful effort to save European Jewry from Adolph Hitler's Final Solution.
Pius XII spent his wartime pontificate aiding the Jews in every way conceivable.
Page after page, Dalin presents the plain facts and the misrepresentations of those facts by authors who have tried to paint Pius XII in the worst possible light through their deliberately deceitful disinformation and misrepresentations. Trying to answer cui bono, Rabbi Dalin concludes the attacks on Pius XII are politically/culturally motivated by people who wish to attack the traditional values the Roman Catholic Church embodies. It's a reasonable guess of motive. (What other motive would there be, if not Holocaust denial?)
I enjoyed this well-written, well-edited book immensely. The style is light. The facts are clear. I would have preferred closer analysis of the arguments contra the facts presented. But perhaps after the twentieth or so refutation you consider the case has been made.
Pope Pius XII was praised by Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, Isaac Herzog, Pinchas Lapide, and Albert Einstein (p. 103). That's the tip of the iceberg. "No other Pope in history has been so universally praised by the Jews" (p. 105). "Pope Pius XII's critics sweep aside the reports of Jewish chaplains, of Holocaust survivors, and Catholic rescuers. They prefer their own ideological prejudices to testimony of those who were there. They would deprive future generations of an accurate historical memory of the Holocaust" (p. 108).
From the Jewish Virtual Library: "The vindication of Pius XII has been established principally by Jewish writers and from Israeli archives. It is now established that the Pope supervised a rescue network which saved 860,000 Jewish lives - MORE THAN ALL THE INTERNATIONAL AGENCIES PUT TOGETHER [emphasis mine]. After the war the Chief Rabbi of Israel thanked Pius XII for what he had done. The Chief Rabbi of Rome [Rabbi Israel Anton Zolli] went one step further. He became a Catholic [and] took the name Eugenio."
From Rabbi Zolli: "Volumes could be written on the multiform works of Pius XII, and the countless priests, religious and laity who stood with him throughout the world during the war. No hero in all of history was more militant, more fought against, none more heroic, than Pius XII in pursuing the works of true charity...on behalf of all the suffering children of God. What the Vatican did will be indelibly and eternally engraved in our hearts.... Priests and even high prelates did things that will forever be an honor to Catholicism."
on July 21, 2009
"The Myth of Hitler's Pope" is a brief, easy-to-read, fact-based, extensively annotated refutation of recent attacks on Pope Pius XII, and an analysis of the true roots of those attacks. This isn't a lengthy, scholarly tome, and it isn't trying to be. Rather, author Rabbi David G. Dalin directs the interested reader to longer, heavier works like Ronald J. Rychlak's "Hitler, the War, and the Pope" (7).
In 1999, John Cornwell published "Hitler's Pope," a maliciously gossipy takedown of Pope Pius XII. Cornwell included such frivolous but nasty details as the decomposition of Pope Pius XII's corpse. "Hitler's Pope"'s cover is a shamelessly misleading photograph; for a breakdown of the ways in which this sensational photo has been doctored, please visit Ronald Rychlak's website. In any case, Cornwell has since gone public to announce that, had he known then what he knows now, he would not have written about Pope Pius XII as he had, and that he now finds it "impossible to judge" Pius. So much for "Hitler's Pope."
It's important to note that Pope Pius XII's attackers and defenders often cite the exact same facts. Attackers like Cornwell, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, and Susan Zuccotti insist that Pope Pius XII never condemned Nazism or anti-Semitism, and never helped Jews. Defenders like Dalin and Rychlak will often cite the same material and events to insist that Pius did condemn Nazism and anti-Semitism and did help Jews. Given that both sides in this contentious debate often cite the exact same facts to prove their point of view true, what is the reader to conclude? A couple of things. One, the gulf is one of interpretation of facts, rather than the facts themselves. Two, the defenders have key points in their favor.
Key points in Pope Pius XII's defenders' favor: During Pope Pius XII's lifetime, and immediately after his death, secular publications like the New York Times, Jewish groups and luminaries from Golda Meir to Albert Einstein, and the Nazis themselves, all assessed Pius as an enemy of Nazism and a friend to Jews. No mud that Pius's attackers have flung can change that historical fact. When the best and the brightest American scholars and journalists were embracing Scientific Racism, the Catholic Church stood against it; in this stand it was accused of primitivism and backwardness, of being "anti-Science." Again and again, in "The Myth of Hitler's Pope," Dalin cites Nazi communications that identify Pius as an identified and important enemy of Nazism (e.g. 73).
Why the disconnect between how attackers assess Pius and how defenders assess him? Several factors are at work. Pius was a pope, not a general. Popes, of necessity, follow a different code than the average man. Some have asked why Pius did not excommunicate Hitler. Dalin counters with several historical examples of popes excommunicating politicians and those actions backfiring (77-80). Too, every assessment of Pius' decisions is hindsight. Historians still debate whether the Allies should have bombed the railroads running to the concentration camps. No one can say whether such an action would have done any good or not. Pius could not foresee Nazi policy, nor how his actions would play out. He worked behind the scenes, measuring his every word and act against Nazi retaliations. Today it is estimated that Pius' diplomatic efforts saved the lives of approximately 800,000 Jews (11).
In the chapter entitled "Popes in Defense of the Jews," Dalin goes back centuries - to 590 and Pope Gregory the Great, and to subsequent popes throughout the Middle Ages and up to popes in modern times and their stands against popular violence against Jews, and folklore like the blood libel. Dalin points out that the papal critic David Kertzer, in his book "Popes against Jews," while devoting three chapters to blood libel, never bothers to mention long-rooted, repeated, emphatic, and activist papal stands against it. Ironically, materials by the self-declared atheist, Richard Burton, and by Sir James Frazer, who rejected Christianity as "utterly false," and who has been embraced by young atheists as their eminence grise, were used at the Beilis trial to prove blood libel true. At that same trial, papal materials were used to prove blood libel false (35). Papal critics never get around to mentioning this.
Why should a rabbi care about the calumny of a pope? Three reasons. Dalin, as a Jew, is disgusted by Cornwell, et. al.'s, exploitation of the Holocaust as a chip in their own political game (3). Dalin points out that for every Jewish detractor (Goldhagen, for example) Pius has a Jewish defender (Pinchas Lapide, etc 10, 12-13). Two, Dalin sees attacks on Pius as part of a broader attack on the West and the Judeo-Christian tradition (2). The same people who go after Pius are often opposed to religious Judaism and the existence of the state of Israel. Finally, Dalin insists, attacks on Pius are red herrings, deflecting attention from the West and the Judeo-Christian tradition's formidable, common enemy: radical Islam.
Dalin devotes an entire chapter to discussion of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, an open ally of Hitler. Dalin points out that in the same rigidly Politically Correct academic and media environments that cherish and nurture Christophobic and anti-Catholic hate speech, any criticism of any Muslim or Islam is taboo. Similarly, Dalin is disgusted by Pius' attackers' refusal to acknowledge the left itself - significantly including the Soviet Union - as a source of anti-Semitism (5).