An American Jewish expert on Pope Pius XII, knighted to the Order of St. Gregory the Great under Pope John Paul II, considers the wartime Pope a hero, despite those who accuse him of failing to help the Jews.
But Gary Krupp didn’t always hold Pius XII in high regard. In fact, he grew up “hating” him.
In an interview with ZENIT last week in Rome, Krupp, who founded the Pave the Way Foundation along with his wife, Merry, explains and defends the misunderstood Pope Pius XII and his actions during the Holocaust.
Moreover, Krupp speaks to ZENIT on the status of the archives from the years of Pius XII’s reign.
Pius XII served as Pope from 1939 to 1958 during WWII and the Occupation of Rome. He has been subjected to criticism by those who claim he and the Vatican didn’t do enough to confront the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
ZENIT: As a Jewish man, could you explain how your relationship with the Catholic Church first came to be?
Krupp: It started when a delegation from Rome came to Long Island. I met the Superior of Padre Pio’s hospital …Bishop Riccardo Ruotolo. He was accompanied by Bishop Luigi Sposito and Bishop Domenico D’Ambrosio. I built medical facilities and one of our friends asked if I would meet them, to see if I could be of help to the hospital.
So we had lunch and so on and I said, “It would be my pleasure to assist the hospital,” which I probably did for more than 25 years, help them get all their medical equipment. We renegotiated their medical acquisition projects through our US connections. This, of course, we did as a gift at no charge…We saved them almost 20 million dollars and probably made them one of the best-equipped hospitals in all of Europe.
For this work, Bishop Ruotolo had recommended me to be knighted to the Order of St. Gregory the Great.
ZENIT: Yes, you were honored with knighthood by Pope John Paul II. Could you speak more about that honor?
Krupp: Yes, it’s a really rare honor for a Jewish person, but it is also an obligation. Because once that happened, I realized I am now bridging two religions. And I felt it was extremely important that we follow that line. I now have an obligation to bring the Jewish people closer to Catholics, and the state of Israel closer to the Holy See.
What we initiate is historic gestures. One gesture, which was very, very important, is that we gave the Catholic Church one of the most important Christian manuscripts in their entire collection, the Bodmer Papyrus, the Gospels of St. John and Luke written in 175 AD. We were able to identify that this was being sold privately through Christies, by the Bodmer Library in Switzerland and then were able to locate a donor… a very close friend of our family, Frank Hanna III… In January 2007, we presented it to Pope Benedict who then raised me in rank to Commendatore Con Placca.
ZENIT: How was that experience for you, to be not only knighted but then raised in rank by Pope Benedict?
Krupp: It was incredible because we adamantly never expected that to happen. We had a private lunch with then Cardinal Bertone at the Paul VI residence, in the rooftop garden there…When he [Benedict] raised me in rank, it was fantastic because what that does…These honors are more important for people of other faiths because they find it so unusual. I get their attention and enable us to initiate our projects. In 2006 I was invested into the Anglican order of St. John of Jerusalem. So that’s very, very rare as well. So the idea is that these wonderful honors do have a serious obligation. Our ultimate goal is to remove or lessen the use of God’s holy name for private agendas. That’s what we do. That’s how all this got started
The Muslims especially find it absolutely fascinating, which has given us the ability to help the Greek Orthodox Church. We eliminated the Muslim objection to open the Halki Seminary in Turkey through the Covenants of Protection ordered by the Prophet Muhammad.
Currently, we especially see this through what are called the Covenants of Protection ordered by the Prophet Muhammad in 628 AD to protect the people of the book (Jews and Christians) their churches, synagogues and holy shrines until the end of days. We have images of the original covenants on our Web sites (www.ptwf.org). Since our friends in media do not seem to think this is religious news, Pave the Way is about to pay for an international advertising campaign in the international New York Times. Only a handful of Muslim scholars know of these covenants, which carry the same legal authority as the Quran. We’re dealing with Islamic Extremism against Christians which, according to the covenants, are insulting the prophet Muhammad and insulting Islam. This has all been researched by Dr. John Andrew Morrow, such as Imam Ilyas Islam. There have been hundreds of Islamic scholars and leaders who have signed on to this.
ZENIT: In terms of the Pave the Way Foundation, could you speak about it?
Krupp: We deal with interreligious action not dialogue. We initiate huge historic gestures between religions. Then we use our earned foundation of trust to identify non-theological obstacles between the faiths, and work to resolve them. We’ve been hugely successful with these projects.
We initiated the first loan in history from the Vatican library to the State of Israel — of the most important manuscripts of Maimonides — then the Israelis loaned back to the Vatican a Rembrandt and a Botticelli for the Vatican Basilica. We open these cultural exchanges and doors that have never been opened before. This is real action, not words.
Moses Maimonides is one of the most important scholars in Judaism and we actually brought a group of rabbis here in 2002 to see rare illuminated manuscripts in the Vatican Library. And they were so gracious and wonderful. When I saw a Hasidic rabbi embrace then prefect Fr. Raffaele Farina and librarian Cardinal Jorge Mejia at that time, that sowing of genuine affection between religious leaders spawned Pave the Way.
ZENIT: Other than your personal knighthood by Pope John Paul II, does Pave the Way have any other “memories” of the recently canonized Polish Pope?
Krupp: We had the last major private audience with John Paul II, January 18, 2005. We had 168 Jewish leaders, six Israeli Ambassadors to come to say thank you to His Holiness. The Catholic Church gives relics back to religious leaders and does all kinds of fantastic gestures, and very rarely do I ever hear thank you. And so we said, well you know what, let us do a thank you for what he had done for certainly the state of Israel, he established normalized relations. All his gestures were so fantastic… And we want to thank him for this and this was his last audience. We had three rabbis bless Pope John Paul II in Sala Clementina and he started to cry. So these are the images that further encourage our work to deal with problems.
Pave the Way has a close relationship with the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Churches in Jerusalem. We were responsible for getting the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III his affirmation from the Israeli government, PTWF even weighed in with the status quo problem of replacing the bathrooms in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and things like that. We support the Palestinians Wasatia forum, which seeks to create third party choice for the Palestinians who renounce the Hamas charter to destroy Israel and wish to build a real self-sufficient and transparent government to benefit the Palestinian people to live in peace with Israel… We work with many Israeli entities all using our good relations for our projects. We’ve dealt with these really big issues, and we’ve succeeded with them. That’s the key. Work behind the scenes. Not many people know who we are or what we do, but we succeed with this stuff because we just don’t stop until the job is done.
And Pius XII is the best example of a success.
ZENIT: Yes, speaking of Pius XII, could you first elaborate on the ways he helped the Jewish people, particularly during the Holocaust?
Krupp: Yes, starting from the beginning, when I grew up hating him … Then, all of a sudden discovering we were really lied to, and we are still continuing to be lied to by people who continue to lie to us, under the guise of being historians. They’re not just being historians, they have a private agenda, and so they’ve destroyed this man’s reputation; he was universally beloved up until 1963, [then] without a shred of evidence, the world thinks this way though there’s not a shred of proof. The thing is we have documented proof. Thanks to Michael Hesemann, William Doino, Fr Peter Gumpel, Dimitri Cavalli, Ron Rychlak and many others who contribute to this efforts.
We have many letters of the Pope sending money for the Jews being protected in Vienna, in Toulouse, France, Campagna in Slovenia, all over Europe. We have testimony from people brought into the Vatican. There was sort of an underground railroad. They stayed in the Vatican State for a few weeks and went into Portugal, and then into the Dominican Republic when transportation could be arranged, all coordinated by Pius XII, by this Pope.
In Judaism, the worst character flaw we can have is ingratitude. Where do we get this: the Bible. When Moses was bringing the plagues upon Egypt, he had to hand his staff to Aaron to turn the Nile into blood because if he did it, that would have showed he saw ingratitude to the Nile which gave him life.
So this is a very, very important principle.
The Jewish people deserve this redemption, to understand that this man was one of the only heroes during World War II. I’m telling you that unfortunately, Roosevelt, Churchill, many of the Jews of the United States did not do enough. They could have done more. But this man, he acted. We can prove he acted. And everyone alive during the period knew it.
So, all of a sudden at the very time of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration Nostre Aetate, [his public image] changed. And that’s a big problem, because it shows how disinformation and the media can — when it’s manipulated — we see lies and false stories become the truth. When the Premier of China Mao Tse Tung said a lie told 1,000 times becomes a truth, it’s the truth… as we are like little sheep.
Merry Krupp: [Interjects] I think you should explain, We started out hating, we really didn’t want to take this on, but …
Gary Krupp: [Resumes] It was actually Archbishop Franco who is the nuncio to Israel, and Merry and I were having lunch with him. And he said the Yad Vashem [Holocaust Memorial of Jerusalem] had put up this very terrible sign, this plaque about him [Pope Pius XII]. Would we help? We said we would look into it. I walked out of that lunch thinking “Why would I want to do something for Pius XII?” [laughs]. Then circumstances. God stepped in. Because God does run everything. Let us be absolutely certain of this. Everything that’s happened to us has been because it’s been determined…this is divine intervention all the time.
The point is…I get a call from the head of the New York Board of Rabbis. Right after this meeting, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik who was with us by the way in 2005. And he said, you know, there’s a Jewish journalist who wants to write a book on Pius XII. Can you get him with access in Rome?
I said, “Look, I don’t like Pius XII, but I am not going to contribute to another negative book about this. It just causes more separation between Jews and Catholics.” He said, “No, no. Just meet him.” So, I did. I met him. And he said, “I interviewed General Karl Wolff [Himmler’s deputy and commandant to Italy] before he died. And my book is on that Hitler ordered a plan to invade the Vatican, kidnap the Pope, and take him to Lichtenstein by where he would be killed. He would kill the entire Roman curia, and have seized the Vatican.”
I said, “What are you talking about? Wasn’t he [the Pope] a collaborator?” Absolutely not. Exactly the opposite … That’s where it started.
Now I get a call, from who is now the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Celestino Migliore. He called me and said, “Gary, I think you should go and try to find Sister Dr. Margherita Marchione.” So I went out to New Jersey, Morristown, NJ. I had a special visa to let me go out to New Jersey [laughs]. And we went out to Sister, and she started showing us documents, letters, and testimonies. Things from people where the Pope interceded to save the Jews.
She, this sister, is really the one who started this. Sister Margherita is the one who really, really started this. She’s this little nun, about 92 now, and she’s very feisty, and doesn’t take crap from anybody [laughs]. She had opened an exhibition on Pius XII.
Yea, before Merry and I started this, anyone who reads this, I tell them: they can do this themselves. I tell every critic: Go onto the net, and go to the archives of the New York Times, Palestine Post, I went to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, which is the Jewish news service worldwide for 100 years. [Go to] all of the archives and search: Jews, Pius XII, 1939-1958, you will not find one negative article.
Now how is that possible about this person who was a demon, that everybody hates? So what they do, is you’ll have these people who have prostituted themselves. There are historians, PhDs in history, who teach in Columbia University and Harvard University, who have prostituted themselves, because they’ve made statements about this man, and have never actually done original research. They’ve never set foot in the Vatican Secret Archives — which Merry and I were there the day with Michael, and we found a document where the Vatican was protecting Jews, and this was 1932 […]
ZENIT: Could you speak on the evidence or documentation that surfaced?
Krupp: We actually found a document from the German Catholic Priest association, where they are inquiring about the fact that they had read in the Nazi paper that there was a Jewish librarian at the Vatican library, or there was a Jewish man working at the library. And they wanted information about this to sort of spread the good word, because the Vatican hired Jews. The most amazing thing, just to give you an example: the B’Nai Brith, which is the anti defamation league then, who hates him today for reasons unknown, in May of 1940, the B’nai Brith magazine, on the front cover, has Pius XII’s picture right on the front, and what does it say: The Pope has been hiring the Jews who have been fired by the Italian government for 1938 racial laws. And this is the sort of thing we’ve found. The idea is that I have begged these historians, show me one document. Show me anything. Nothing. […]
Our book that we have has … Really, we have a Harvard professor of history on the Holocaust who said this is the best book he has ever seen on this. Why, because it’s not made for scholars. It’s made for the everyday person. It’s made for the person who wants to understand it. So we show an image of a document. You can’t read it because first of all they’re often in German, Latin, or Italian, but there’s the document. So go to our Web site, download it. To date, we have 76,000 pages of documentation. We have multiple eyewitness interviews with some very prominent historians. Sir Martin Gilbert, and so on. Fr. Peter Gumpel and so on. But you know it’s irrelevant. And I can tell you that none of the historians have ever come to our Web site, as you need to register, as it’s copyrighted material belonging to the Holy See, to the Vatican libraries. So none of them have come to that. None of them have come to the Vatican Archives because we’ve checked the register, or the Secretary of State Archives.
So where are they getting their material from? It’s smoke and mirrors that they’ve developed in the 1960s … Show me anything, they can’t. I challenge anyone to do that. I even said you could put every single one of these brilliant historians on a table. I will go on the other side and I will beat them at a debate. I am sorry.
ZENIT: There have been many suggestions saying Pius XII was too neutral and didn’t do enough, in terms of responding to what was going on. What’s your response to this?
Krupp: He was neutral. The Vatican had to retain its neutrality. Consequently the Catholic Church under Pius XII may have saved what was estimated at about 800,000 Jews and Jewish lives … But it’s the actions of the Roman Catholic Church under the papacy of Pope Pius XII that did this! And, it’s interesting because people will just credit individual bishops or priests who did things to help, but then think it just stops there and doesn’t come to, from the Vatican. How naïve can someone be to think the bishops are doing the same thing all over the place and think there’s no direction, there’s no request. It doesn’t make any sense.
ZENIT: In terms of the Pius XII archives, can you give a little background on their status? Is there a date on which they are expected to open?
Krupp: Well, they are not open as of yet. We’re hoping that they will be open soon. We know the Secretary of State Archives are ready to be opened, but they are also held back until the Pope decides they should be opened. But this is a critical thing. Because even to announce that it’s going to open, lets off a good load of steam and pressure.
ZENIT: What will the archives allow scholars to do?
Krupp: Well assuming they’ll come, and that’s a big assumption because when the archives were opened up in 2006 — Pope Benedict had opened all of the archives up until 1939 — no one came. So people say, we’ll see when the archives open. But once they do, let’s see if they’ll actually come.
ZENIT: And when will they open?
Krupp: We have no idea. Everyone guesses. I could have sworn they would have opened two years ago. It’s up to Pope Francis… But everything is ready. We need him to focus on that issue now [laughs].
ZENIT: How is Pope Francis promoting this cause?
Krupp: Well, I know he’s interested because all of his statements, all his public statements have been very favorable and positive about Pius XII. And, which, it’s surprising but there are a lot of people who attack the Church through his papacy. So it has nothing to do with him as an individual, or what he did. But that’s their ability to attack the Catholic Church, you know. But this sort of garbage that goes on. People take sentences from here and there. And they come up with these theories.
We had a symposium at the Sorbonne, co-sponsored by Professor Edouard Husson Vice Chancellor and Pave the Way Foundation, in which those on the side of the debate defending Pius XII won, based on their evidence and argument being far stronger than those opposed.
There was a very distinguished so-called church historian in from Canada, who will remain nameless, who actually said, after Michael Hesemann showed document after document after document, “We can’t let a few scraps of documents determine history or be any form of evidence.” To date, we have over 76,000 thousands of pages of resource material, they’re not scraps. And you have nothing to determine history.
ZENIT: From your point of view, how do you believe Pope Francis is pursuing relationships with the Jewish world?
Krupp: Yes, well I had the pleasure of having dinner with his rabbi friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka in New York. He was emphasizing “the silence of Pius XII” and I said, Pius XII wasn’t silent. He spoke out through the L’Osservatore Romano or the Vatican Radio pieces even according to the Jewish Telegraph agency reports; they were constantly speaking out against persecution of the Jews. So he’s never been silent.
The rabbi said he knows the archives need to be opened. I only hope that the critics who have made millions of dollars selling their attacking false and negative books will actually come to visit the archives. We know none of them came when the archives where opened up to 1939 in 2006. But I did have a very nice evening with him. You know, it’s too important of an issue.
This is a very special time because people use Pius XII to attack the Catholic Church and for that reason alone they should be able to make a special accommodation to open these archives, even in part, if they can’t be completely opened. It takes generations to sift through archival material and certainly a partial opening will not be impacted by research. But it makes absolute sense. And it relieves the pressure in order to begin to heal this rift.
An announcement of the opening will silence all of those who say the reason the Church won’t open the archives is because they are hiding negative documents. That’s why it’s that critically important.
ZENIT: How will the archives help the Catholic Church?
Krupp: Well, they’re going to prove because through our research we discovered war time documents from all over Europe. We know there is a huge amount of information about this Pope and how Pius the XII saved Jewish lives.
And he didn’t have to. He’s not the head of the Jewish world. Sadly, we saw how in the US in New York, just as an example, the Jewish editor of the New York Times, Arthur Hays Sulzberger [the publisher of The New York Times from 1935 to 1961] had intentionally hid all the atrocities of the Holocaust on page 16, page 8, and buried them in little articles for some bizarre reason. So we have that on one end here.
But here’s the head of the Roman Catholic Church who risked his life and knew he was going to be killed. And most important [for this history] are the Roman Jews. They are the ones that need the most redemption. Because this community is literally alive today due to the direct actions of Pope Pius XII.
Michael Hesemann found documents, where Pacelli sent his nephew, Carlo Pacelli, to meet with an Austrian Bishop Alois Hudaland demanding that he write a letter to General Reiner Stahel who was the Rome city commander to end the arrest of the Jews or the Pope would vehemently condemn the action of the Nazis. This public condemnation would enrage Hitler which might trigger the invasion of the Vatican. The letter was prepared (this is on our Web site) and was hand delivered by Salvadorian priest Pancratius Pfeiffer to Stahel and then Stahel immediately called Himmler [Heinrich Himmler – Reichsfuhrer of the Schutzstaffel (SS)], who based on a military reason, ordered the arrest stopped at 2 p.m. the day they started. This telephone conversation was confirmed to Fr. Gumpel by General Dietrich Beelitz who was ordered to listen to all command telephone conversations. Pave the Way also obtained the original telegram from Berlin ordering the arrest of the 8,000 Jews of Rome where they were supposed to be sent to Mauthausen, a work camp, to be held as hostages. The Jews who were arrested were sent, but it was assumed that it was Adolf Eichmann who overruled the telegram and sent them to the death camp of Auschwitz.
The German military command knew that if Hitler had ordered the arrest of the Pope, there would be riots all over Catholic Europe. They had enough trouble just trying to fight the war. They knew it would have been a military disaster and they did everything possible to avoid upsetting Hitler, which would have his ordering the invasion of the Vatican. And that’s why it’s remarkable. We have proof…It was Pius XII, who acted directly to stop the arrest of all the Jews and acted to lift cloister to hide them in convents and monasteries, Catholic homes, churches, all over Italy.
Eighty percent of the Jews of Italy survived, 80 percent of the Jews outside of Italy were killed. So it’s very important, and very critical, that needs to be told: This man was a hero. Period! There’s nothing mysterious about it.
Disinformation lies and media manipulation, which has hidden the truth from the everyday person, is doing the same thing today, in the Middle East. The same thing is happening. Israel has been victimized continuously, with tens of thousands of rocket attacks. There are only protests in all the major cities about the “Palestinian Genocide” and yet not one word of protest about the hundreds of thousands of atrocities committed against Christians and Muslims through sectarian violence in many Muslim countries. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Jews, Christians and Muslims have full and equal rights and are free to worship without fear of violent actions. It’s just crazy, but it shows you how this media-manipulation causes death and destruction. All of this is done in God’s Holy name and this is something we actively oppose.
On the NET:
Pave the Way Foundation: www.ptwf.org