Secret Archives to Publish Files on Wartime Prisoners

Collected by Vatican Office From 1939 to 1947

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican Secret Archives will soon publish the record-cards of millions of prisoners on whom the Holy See sought information during World War II, to help families and loved ones searching for them.

The documents, collected in two volumes numbering 1,511 pages, are entitled “‘Inter Arma Caritas’: The Vatican Office of Information for Prisoners of War, Instituted by Pius XII (1939-1947),” as reported in a statement today by the Vatican press. The volumes will be published later this month.

In addition, eight DVDs have been prepared which reproduce a faithful image of the original record-cards, a total of more than 2.1 million names of prisoners.

John Paul II in February 2002 decided to make the information of the Vatican office available to researchers. Historians will have access to the original documents in the Vatican beginning this Sept. 15, the Holy See announced.

Pope Pius XII instituted the Vatican Office of Information for Prisoners of War, in September 1939.

The office aimed “to put in contact families separated by the conflict and to respond to the innumerable requests on the refugees and the missing, military men and civilians, the victims of war, and to ensure their spiritual and material assistance,” the Vatican statement explained.

It was “a gigantic work of seeking news on persons who were separated by the war and were in anguish,” the text adds.

The office was coordinated by the substitute of the Secretariat of State, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI. The director was Archbishop Alexander Evreinoff, a native of Russia, assisted by Monsignor Emilio Rossi. The office was shut down on Oct. 31, 1947.

Among the documents preserved on prisoners and victims of the war are letters, telegrams, reports of the apostolic delegates who visited prisoner camps spread around the world, and relations with embassies.

Also preserved were lists of prisoners offered by the Red Cross, lists of information transmitted by Vatican Radio, and correspondence of private individuals and prisoners.

The two volumes cost 75 euros (about $92). The eight DVDs are sold separately and cost 400 euros (about $492). They may be purchased at the Vatican Publishing House, in St. Peter’s Square, or ordered at:

Postal address:

Archivio Secreto Vaticano
00120 Vatican City

E-mail address: asv@asv.va

Fax: 00 39 06 698 85 574

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