Yad Vashem Stands by Pius Text

Holocaust Museum responds to criticism from Vatican regarding the way Holocaust-era Pope is described in its exhibit.

Gil Ronen,

Pius XII
Pius XII

Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Sunday stood by the description that appears next to the photograph of Pope Pius XII in the museum exhibit, which notes that he "abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews" and "maintained his neutral position throughout the war."

It also asked to be left out of the controversy regarding the possibility that a visit by the current Pope would be cancelled because of the museum text. A claim to this effect by a bishop has been denied by the Vatican.

"Any visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Israel would be a political matter, and therefore Yad Vashem is not a part of this matter, as has been clarified by the Vatican's spokesperson," Yad Vashem stated.

"The study of the Holocaust period in general, including the role of Pope Pius XII, is ongoing and dynamic," the museum added. "Pope Pius XII's activity during the Holocaust is an issue debated among historians around the world. The presentation of the subject in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem is based on the best research regarding this topic."

"Yad Vashem's historians are attentive to any research developments and new relevant documentation, and continue to delve into every aspect of the period. Yad Vashem is certain that the opening of Vatican Archives on the relevant period would help further research on the subject, which would clarify this historical issue." 

From All Peoples
Above the text next to Pius XII's picture is a quotation from a poem written by Israeli poet Nathan Alterman:

While the ovens were fed by day and by night,
The Most Holy Father who dwells in Rome
Did not leave his palace, with crucifix high,
To witness one day of pogrom.

Just to stand there, one day,
Where the child-lamb is standing, each day anew
The anonymous Child of a Jew.

The poem, From All Peoples, was published in November 1942, after the Jewish Agency published a report regarding the systematic liquidation of European Jews. Its name partially quotes a phrase from the Jewish prayer book: "You chose us from all the peoples."