(CNSNews.com) - A Jewish rabbi has told the annual meeting of an international Catholic organization that "[Pope] Pius XII saved more Jewish lives than any other person, including Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler," contrary to press accounts over the last several years that claimed Pius XII did little or nothing to prevent the holocaust. Several Jewish organizations
have also criticized Pius XII for his alleged failure to act.
Rabbi Dr. David Dalin, a Jewish historian and former professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, made the comments August 23rd while speaking to the international lay Catholic organization Communion and Liberation,
"The Jewish people had no greater friend in the 20th Century [than Pope Pius XII]," he said.
Dalin's opinion contradicts those expressed by other Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which condemn Pope Pius XII as having being silent in the face of the slaughter of millions of European Jews by the Nazis.
The 2000 ADL annual report claimed that there was "a failure of the Vatican to come to grips with the conduct of Pius XII during the holocaust."
In 1999, the ADL said, "... Questions about the fast-tracking of efforts to beatify Pope Pius XII continued to be raised following the publication of a controversial book on his role during the Holocaust." The group also listed the controversy surrounding Pius XII as one of the top ten issues affecting Jews in 1999.
The Anti-Defamation League also stood behind its conclusions of the 1999 book "Hitler's Pope," written by John Cornwell, "[which] reaffirmed Jewish arguments that saving Jews was never a central part of the thinking, the strategy or the theology of Pius XII."
Cornwell charged in his book, "Pacelli (Pius XII) was convinced that the Jews had brought misfortune on their own heads; intervention on their behalf could only draw the Church into alliances with forces inimical to Catholicism,"
Cornwell went on to allege that Pius XII "was an anti-Semitic pope, a pro-German pope; he didn't take a single risk, and when they say that the pope is like Jesus Christ, it is not true. He did not save a single child."
Dalin's research sharply contradicts the allegations made by the ADL and Cornwell about how Pope Pius XII handled the issues of Jews in the holocaust.
He complained that the establishment media handle complaints about Pius XII from groups such as the ADL in too uncritical a manner.
"Today there is a new generation of journalists and experts determined to discredit the documented efforts of Pope Pius XII to save the Jews during the Holocaust," Dalin told the conference, according to the Catholic news service Zenit. "This generation is inspired by Rolf Hochhuth's play 'The Vicar,' which has no historical value, but levels controversial accusations against this pope."
He considers the history presented by Cornwell and the ADL revisionist because noted Jewish politicians and intellectuals such as Albert Einstein, Chief Rabbi Herzog of Israel, and Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett lauded Pope Pius XII for his efforts to save Jews.
Dalin also cited a study that was conducted by former Israeli consul general Pinchas Lapide during the 1960s, as proof that the claims of both the ADL and Cornwell are false.
"In his work, Lapide documents how Pius XII worked for the salvation of at least 700,000 [Jews] from the hands of the Nazis. However, according to another estimate, this figure rises to 860,000," Dalin told the conference.
"While 80 percent of European Jews died during those years, 80 percent of Italian Jews were saved. In Rome alone, 155 convents and monasteries gave refuge to some 5,000 Jews. At any given moment, at least 3,000 were saved in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo."
Dalin said the pope's public silence about the holocaust was due to practical considerations instead of a deliberate complicity with the Nazis. Among those considerations, according to Dalin, was the rumor that Hitler planned to destroy the Vatican and kidnap the pope if Pius XII spoke out against the Nazis.
"An explicit and severe denunciation of the Nazis by the pope would have been an invitation to reprisals and would have worsened attitudes toward Jews throughout Europe," Dalin claimed. "We have evidence that the bishop of Munster, [Germany] wished to pronounce himself against the persecution of the Jews in Germany, [and] the leaders of the Jewish communities of his diocese begged him not to do so, as it would have caused a harsher repression against them."
Hollywood even portrayed efforts described by Rabbi Dalin in a 1983 movie entitled, "The Scarlet and the Black", in which Gregory Peck portrayed a real life Irish monsignor who worked with Pope Pius XII during the war to establish safe havens for Jews to protect them from Hitler's SS.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was pleased by Rabbi Dalin's comments to Communion and Liberation.
"Rabbi Dalin is well very known to us. He is a person that comes to this debate with no agenda. He is a scholar and historian, and I think what he has to say is no different than what was being said at the close of the war, and years after that," Catholic League Spokesman Patrick Scully said. "The reason we have seen a proliferation of attacks against Pope Pius XII is because the
people doing this have a distinct agenda.
"These people all have a bone to pick with the Church, and people should take them with a grain of salt at best," Scully said. "People who are dedicated to the truth owe a debt of gratitude to Rabbi Dalin for having the courage to speak to historical fact, instead of getting caught up in revisionist history."
ADL President Abraham Foxman questioned the integrity of Rabbi Dalin's scholarship and conclusions.
"I question his conclusions, and I question his judgments," Foxman said.
"What did he do, what could he have done, did he do it?" Foxman asked in reference to Pius XII. "It is not enough for the Vatican to say he did, and so I don't know where he (Dalin) gets his data because the six scholars that have been trying for two years haven't been able to come to any decision because questions they have submitted [and] requests for documents have not been made available.
"We do not have sufficient evidence that the Vatican has made available to scholars of all kinds and, including, I assume, Rabbi David Dalin, to make this kind of a judgment," Foxman said. "The question about Pope Pius is still an open question."
Toward Tradition President and Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin disagrees with Foxman's assessment of Dalin's conclusions and scholarship.
"I respect Rabbi Dalin as a scholar of great integrity, and I am confident he has researched conclusions on Pope Pius XII, [and that they are] completely accurate," Lapin said. "Prior to history having been revised by contemporary liberalism, back at the time of Pope Pius XII ['s funeral], world Jewry was united in acknowledging him as a hero, and a worthy recipient of international Jewish gratitude."