Documents: Pius XII Helped Win WW II

Friday, 01 Feb 2013 10:35 AM

By Edward Pentin

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Image: Documents: Pius XII Helped Win WW II
The Vatican under Pope Pius XII now appears to have been instrumental in helping fund the Allied war effort. (Getty Images)
Newly discovered wartime British intelligence documents appear to show that the Vatican under Pope Pius XII was instrumental in helping fund the Allied war effort that ended the Holocaust and won victory over the Nazis.

The findings, based on systematic British secret service interceptions of financial transactions of the main financial agencies of Vatican City from 1941 to 1943, reveal that at the onset of the Second World War, the Vatican rapidly moved its securities and gold reserves from areas under threat of Nazi occupation to the United States and thereafter used them to help the Allies combat Nazism and provide aid to the worldwide Church suffering from war.

It was a strategy that was fundamentally important to victory over the Nazis, claims Patricia M. McGoldrick of London's Middlesex University, who published her findings in a December 2012 article entitled “New Perspectives on Pius XII and Vatican Financial Transactions during the Second World War.”

The article appeared in the December edition of “The Historical Journal”, a quarterly of the University of Cambridge.

The protagonist of the story is Bernardino Nogara, an astute financial advisor and networker extraordinaire, who established close ties with large U.S. and British banks. A member of the board of directors of the Banca Commerciale Italiana and a friend of the Ratti family to which Pope Pius XI (Achille Ratti) belonged, Pius XI appointed Nogara as financial advisor to the Holy See in 1929.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported Jan. 30th that Nogara’s financial planning was “fundamentally important to the Allies' victory over the Nazis and Fascists in World War II.” His strategy, it added, “concerns millions of dollars invested in the largest banks of the U.S. and Great Britain, by which persecuted churches and exhausted peoples were given aid.” Those banks included JP Morgan, National City Bank of New York, Morgan Grenfell and Barclays.

The documents, preserved in the British National Archives, concern intercepts of the activities of the Vatican's main financial institutions: the Special Administration of the Holy See (A.S.S.S.) and the Institute for Works of Religion (I.O.R.), or Vatican Bank.

McGoldrick explains that what is learned from these accounts is that at the onset of the Second World War the Vatican “rapidly moved its securities and gold reserves from areas under threat of Nazi occupation to the United States, made the United States the financial hub from which it funded and administered its global church, and had, at any one time, over $10,000,000 invested in the US economy.”

She poses the question that if, as Pius XII’s detractors argue, the Pope and the Vatican were sympathetic to Nazi Germany as a bulwark against Bolshevism, then why did they allow the Vatican’s assets to be transferred to the banks of the democracies, and why did they do so in the early years of the war when it seemed certain, as they themselves believed, that Germany would win? “Would it not have made more sense, and been more commensurate with their alleged political leanings, to have invested these resources instead in the then growing and profitable German economy?,” McGoldrick asks.

She further reveals documented evidence that shows British unwillingness to provide humanitarian aid to suffering Jews. When Pius XII tried to organize large shipments of flour to Rome, where the Pope was already providing over 100,000 hot meals a day, many to Rome’s Jewish community, and even attempting to import food from Argentina and Spain through Italy and Greece, the British blocked the initiatives on cost grounds.

It led the Vatican Secretary of State to send a comment to the British ambassador to the Holy See saying: “The Holy See always replies in the affirmative; it is the British Government who reply in the negative.” In the end, a way was found to funnel assistance to Rome’s Jewish community through the Vatican, McGoldrick adds.

Much of the Vatican’s money was intended to support the Churches in difficulty — missions, nunciatures, seminaries and dioceses on all continents. There was also a privileged channel for Europe — to bring relief to the persecuted churches during the Nazi occupation, where Catholic schools, monasteries and churches were closed or confiscated, youth organizations and Catholic publications suppressed, and many priests and religious arrested and interned in concentration camps. For them, the IOR maintained a separate account at the Chase National Bank of New York, the findings show.

The documents also reveal that after 1939, through Nogara and his contacts in Washington and elsewhere, the Vatican invested heavily in U.S. Treasury Bills, in large manufacturing companies and technology, companies such as Rolls Royce, United Steel Corporation, Dow Chemical, Westinghouse Electric, Union Carbide and General Electric.

McGoldrick says Pius XII was well aware of these investments and goes so far as to speak of "a torrent of Vatican money" flowing directly into “Sherman tanks, B52 bombers, and well equipped GIs who defeated the Nazi regime and ended the bestial murders of the Holocaust forever.”

If the “weight of investment counts,” the author says, “Vatican money was clearly behind the Allies.”

L’Osservatore Romano cautioned that it is “too early” to make precise budgetary analyses of the documents. “The financial history of the Second World War is a ‘terra incognita’,” it said, that “few have begun to explore [and] much of the material has yet to be discovered and studied.”

But it added that it’s already possible to see enough “to make us abandon hasty judgments and ideologized visions in the reconstruction of the facts.”

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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