Daily Israel Report

'One Word by Pope Means 1,000s of Jews'

Anti-assimilation org says Pope’s consent to “consider” revealing names of hidden Holocaust Jewish children has led to “flood” of requests.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/1/2009, 9:22 AM

A top anti-assimilation organization says the Pope’s recent consent to “consider” revealing the names of hidden Holocaust Jewish children has led to a “flood” of requests on the topic.

Two weeks after a Papal representative agreed in principle to consider asking Catholic Church members to “reveal to Holocaust orphans their Jewish past,” many Jews are anxious to “keep up the momentum” and ensure that this actually happens.

Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, chairman of the Yad L’Achim anti-assimilation and anti-missionary organization, says emotional letters and reactions to the idea continue to “flood our offices.” Many of the letters contain details of children given up for protection to church orphanages during the Holocaust.

“Just one word from the Pope,” Rabbi Lifschitz told members of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) this week, “could reveal, all at once, thousands of names hidden away in the monasteries.” The RCE is actively involved in the attempt to locate the currently-lost Jews, and has dispatched a special envoy to Italy to coordinate the activities among the relevant bodies.

Yad L’Achim wrote to Pope Benedict shortly before his visit to Israel three months ago, asking the pontiff to take action to reveal the “hidden Jewish children” of the Holocaust. Specifically, the request was to ask Church members to “reveal to Holocaust orphans their Jewish past and provide them with accurate information concerning their families.”

Earlier this month, an official response was received from Archbishop Antonio Franco, of the high Vatican rank of Apostolic Nuncio. Franco wrote, “I know that there has been action taken by the Holy See, but at this moment I cannot be accurate in my information. I assure you that I will try to provide more precise information and see if an appeal like the one you propose could be made.”

"Your Response Made Waves"
“Your response made tremendous waves throughout the Jewish world,” Rabbi Lifschitz wrote back to Archbishop Franco, “which now waits breathlessly for you to in fact quickly take practical steps towards this end, so that the children of the holy Holocaust victims be able to return to the Jewish People.”

“We will be obliged if you would keep us updated on the implementation of your willingness and on any progress in receiving information on this so-painful and humanitarian matter.”

"A Fitting Response to Ban on Returning Baptized Babies"
Rabbi Lifschitz has explained that a call by the Pope to reveal the “hidden children” would be a fitting response to the ban issued by Pope Pius XII, in a letter written to his representative in Paris on November 20, 1946, against returning baptized Jewish babies to their parents. The recipient of the letter, Angelo Roncalli, who was later to become Pope John XXIII, often disobeyed these instructions.

Where are They Now? Far-Off Countries
Yad L’Achim says that every monastery in France, Poland, Italy and Holland in which were hidden children still has a precise listing of each hidden Jewish child.

“To the best of our knowledge,” Rabbi Lifschitz told the ERC, “many of those children became in the course of the years monks and nuns, may G-d save us, and were sent to far-off countries, in a cynical abuse of the fact that they do not have relatives. This is the chance to reach them, and their children, most of whom know nothing about their Judaism…”