A group of German historians uncovered a document confirming how much Pope Pius XII knew about what was happening during the Holocaust, proving that he failed to share this information with US authorities following their direct inquiry.Years after the inquiry, the aforementioned document was buried by Jesuit historians instructed to collect papers about the controversial papacy. The Vatican Archives on Pius XII were opened to scholars at the beginning of March after years of requests and disputes. Only a few days later, the facility was forced to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that limited amount of time was enough for a group of researchers from the University of Münster to bring to light some important findings, as Prof. Hubert Wolf told The Jerusalem Post via email.“First of all, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation financially supports our research,” Wolf explained. “Moreover, you must keep in mind that my staff and I have been working in the Vatican Archives for over 20 years. We are therefore acquainted with the archival filing practice and knew which relevant series we had to look in. Furthermore, we, a team of seven researchers, had prepared our stay in the archives in a very differentiated manner and proceeded according to precise plans.”After only two days, Dr. Sascha Hinkel identified a previously unknown internal memo, or “Appunto” redacted by Angelo Dell’Acqua, a close collaborator of Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione in the Roman Secretariat of State, an organ that was responsible for politics.A series of documents known as the “Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale,” commissioned by Pope Paul VI to four Jesuit historians and published in the 1960s and 1970s, had already revealed that Maglione prepared a response to an inquiry in 1942 by the American authorities, and specifically by US envoy Myron Taylor, about whether the pope had information regarding the fact that hundreds of thousands of Jews were being murdered in Poland and Ukraine.The information had been conveyed to the US by the Jewish Agency for Palestine and Taylor wanted to know if the Vatican could confirm it.“The Vatican had already been informed about this by two separate and independent sources: on the one hand, by the Italian Count Malvezzi, and on the other by the Ruthenian Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, Andrej Szeptyzkyj,” Wolf pointed out. “In the newly discovered Appunto, Dell’Acqua principally questioned the credibility of Jews and Oriental Catholics alike by resorting to a well-known antisemitic stereotype. He attested Jews a penchant for exaggeration and Eastern Catholics a lack of sincerity. Thereby, he also intended to devalue their concurring statements about the Holocaust. With this assessment Dell’Acqua also influenced the pope’s decision to give an evasive answer to the American inquiry.”The document not only sheds light on the behavior maintained by Pius XII and his collaborators, but also on that of Vatican officials later on.“What makes this Appunto particularly charged is that the editors of the ‘Actes et Documents’ clearly had it in their hands, for on the lower side of the sheet there is a handwritten note which they included in their edition, while they deliberately withheld the upper three quarters of the sheet with the typewritten Appunto by Dell’Acqua,” the professor told the Post.Pius XII, whose civil name was Eugenio Pacelli, served as pope from 1939 to 1958. His attitude and role vis-à-vis the Nazi and fascist regimes, and the murder of Jews, has been at the center of many controversies over the years, also in light of the strenuous defense of Pius XII by the Church itself, with a canonization process that has been initiated and advanced throughout the decades. His defenders state that the pope did his best to silently help Jews escaping persecutions.Wolf, who, besides being a respected Church historian is also an ordained priest, highlighted that the decision to open the archives concerning Pius XII’s papacy is a positive step that will ultimately lead to clearer answers.“It is indeed a very good thing. Finally, we can try to answer all the open questions about Pius XII’s stance towards the Holocaust based on the sources,” he said. “The time of apologetics and polemics should at last be over. It will, however, take years to evaluate the vast number of documents contained in about 400,000 archival units. Afterwards, we will be able to say whether the Jewish religious philosopher Pinchas Lapide was right when he called Pius XII the ‘greatest benefactor of the Jewish people,’ or whether it was John Cornwall, who simply called Pius XII ‘Hitler’s pope’ – or whether the historical truth is much more differentiated.”Asked about the canonization process, the historian said it would probably be better to put it on hold it until more light is shed on the issue.“Pope Francis finally made these sources accessible, saying the Church does not fear the truth coming from history. Therefore, the Vatican should await the results of the elaborate historical work before handing down a final verdict on Pius XII. Therefore, in my opinion, the beatification process should be suspended for the time being,” Wolf concluded.