Thumbs Down on the New Film About Pius XII

Full of “Rubbish,” Says Historian Father Peter Gumpel

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2002 ( A leading expert on Pius XII says that Constantin Costa Gavras´ film “Amen” collects all the “rubbish” piled up over the years against that Pope and the Church.

Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, whose family was persecuted by Hitler, and who is now the relator of the cause of beatification of Pius XII, talked about the film which was presented at the Berlin Festival last week.

Q: What do you think of the film?

Father Gumpel: Costa Gavras´ film collects all the rubbish spread in recent years against the Church and against Pope Pius XII. How is it possible that in the name of artistic freedom so many calumnies based on false arguments can be spread?

Without any kind of historical documentation, Costa Gavras tries to give an interpretation of reality that is diametrically opposed to the truth. There are hundreds of Jewish testimonies that prove how Pope Pius XII did everything possible to save the Jews.

In a letter sent to the Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery, who was hiding some of them in the convent, Pius XII speaks of the Jews as “beloved children.”

Q: But, like others, what Costa Gavras criticizes is the Pontiff´s “silence” in denouncing the Holocaust.

Father Gumpel: It is not true that he remained silent, as they say. He protested against the Nazi regime, and intervened every time the people were persecuted. He even used his personal funds to help save Jews.

Suffice it to read the Nazi press to discover that Pius XII was the man most hated by Hitler. Suffice it to read the Jewish press of those years to see the gratitude the Jews felt for the way in which he acted.

Q: But Costa Gavras maintains that in his denunciations, the Pope never said the word “Jews.”

Father Gumpel: This affirmation is also false. Suffice it to read Pius XII´s first encyclical, “Summi Pontificatus,” to realize that Pope Pacelli spoke clearly of “the Jews” as part of the human family. This encyclical was banned in Germany. The French distributed 88,000 copies in the German territory. Hitler youth were charged with the task of confiscating the copies and destroying them.

Q: What do you think of the characters of Costa Gavras´ film?

Father Gumpel: The history of SS captain Kurt Gerstein is very ambiguous and contradictory. Opponent of Nazism at the time of his youth, he then became an SS volunteer. He was an officer in charge of finding and distributing the lethal gas Zyklon-B.

It is supposed that he repented and that he wanted to help the persecuted, but his story is full of mysteries. From the statements he made at the Nuremberg trial, one learns that part of the story he told was false. He tried to get in touch with the Holy See´s nunciature in Berlin, but the nuncio, thinking it might be a trap, did not wish to receive him. He either committed suicide or was killed in a French prison.

As regards the other character, Riccardo Fontana, the alleged Jesuit who was in the Berlin nunciature, I can say nothing, because he is a personage who never existed; he is totally invented.

If Costa Gavras had wished to recount the example of priests who lost their lives to save Jews, he would have found very many cases. However, he invented a character who, when not receiving the support of the Church, pretended he was a Jew to die in a concentration camp.

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