New York, March 4, 2019 … The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) today welcomed the announcement by Pope Francis that he plans to authorize the opening of the Vatican’s World War II archives so that scholars and historians have an opportunity to fully study the history of that time and the Church’s actions during the Holocaust. The archive will be open to researchers starting March 2, 2020.
“The opening of the Vatican’s archives is an extraordinarily important announcement and a welcome moment in the history of Catholic-Jewish relations,” said Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, ADL Director of Interreligious Engagement. “The inaccessibility of the archives has been a continued source of tension in Jewish-Catholic relations and a frustration for historians. Assuming all of the documents will be made available to researchers, then this is precisely what historians and those of us concerned about an accurate account of the actions of the pope and the Vatican during the war have been asking for. What transpired during those years cannot be known and assessed until researchers have complete access to the archives.”
The question of what role Pope Pius II played during the war and the Holocaust has been a point of tension between Catholics and Jews for decades. The opening of the archives could help to resolve many questions about the history of that era and the role of the church in helping to protect Jews from the Nazis.
ADL has been calling for the archives to be fully opened to scholars and historians for decades, as the Vatican usually waits 70 years after the end of a pontificate to open up relevant archives. At an international conference of Vatican and Jewish interfaith leaders in Paris in 2011, ADL requested a special conference to discuss opening the Vatican's secret World War II archives for humanitarian purposes: for the sake of aging Holocaust survivors and their families. The issue was raised again during the first official meeting between Pope Francis and Jewish leaders on June 24, 2013 in Rome.
“The issue of what Pius XII did or did not do to help save Jews during the Holocaust is a profound question that must be resolved, especially as efforts are underway to declare him a saint,” said Rabbi Sandmel. “To proceed on the process toward sainthood without having all of the facts would be premature when so much is not known about the historical truth.”
ADL has consistently stated that no conclusions should be made about Pius XII's actions during the Holocaust until all relevant archives are opened and studied by independent historians.