JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s national Holocaust memorial has amended its account of Pope Pius XII’s actions during World War Two, after the original text upset the Vatican by implying he did too little to try to rescue Jews from the Nazis.
Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial in Jerusalem, said on Sunday its new display acknowledged that the pope’s defenders say his neutrality in the war gave church members more freedom and allowed them to carry out some secret rescue activities.
But it said the text mentioned that critics still saw Pius as guilty of doing too little, calling it a “moral failure”.
The panel in the museum now also quotes from the pope’s Christmas radio address in 1942 in which he refers to “hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or ethnic origin” were killed. But it notes he did not explicitly name the Jews.
A Yad Vashem spokeswoman said the display was amended due to new research findings and that it now “better shows the complexity of the issue”.
The original text at Yad Vashem was a terse chronicle of the opportunities Pius missed to confront or speak out against the Nazis and mentioned his role before becoming pope in 1939 in the church reaching an agreement with the German government. These elements remain in the new text.
The history of the wartime pontiff has long been a point of contention between Catholics and Jews. Defenders of the pope have said he did everything possible to help Jews, while critics have portrayed him as being indifferent and even complicit in the deaths of six million Jews across Europe.
Yad Vashem, which contains the largest archive of data on the Holocaust, also urged the Vatican to open its archives “so that a clearer understanding of the events can be arrived at”.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Pravin Char