After guarding Adolf Eichmann’s diaries for almost 40 years, the Israeli Government made them public early in March. Eichmann, a Nazi SS lieutenant colonel, was executed in 1962 in Israel for ”crimes against the Jewish people and against humanity.”
Eichmann wrote these diaries during the months following the passing of his death sentence. They are especially chilling in their description of the way the Nazi regime came to the ”Final Solution” against the Jews, and the way the extermination was implemented.
The pages are also very interesting in studying the Vatican’s position on the persecution of Jews. Some people accuse the Church of having done nothing in October 1943, when the Nazis began to deport Jews from their ”ghetto” in Rome. However, Eichmann wrote that the Vatican ”vigorously protested the arrest of Jews, requesting the interruption of such action; to the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly.”
This is a confirmation of the thesis of those historians who have collected documents on the action undertaken by the Vatican to defend Jews during those dark years. It must be kept in mind that Rome was occupied, and that the Church was the only institution that had the courage to denounce the Nazi action.
In a chapter dedicated to Italy, Eichmann explains that ”on October 6, 1943, Ambassador Moelhausen sent a telegraphic message to Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in which he said that General Keppler, SS commander in Rome, had received a special order from Berlin: he had to arrest 8,000 Jews who were living in Rome to deport them to northern Italy, where they would be exterminated. General Stahel, commander of the German forces in Rome, explained to Ambassador Moelhausen that, from his point of view, it would be better to use the Jews for fortification works. On October 9, however, Ribbentrop answered that the 8,000 Jews of Rome had to be deported to the Mathausen concentration camp. He emphasised that, in giving evidence under oath in the military prison of Gaeta on June 27, 1961, Keppler said that it was with that order that for the first time he heard the term ‘Final Solution’.”
”At that time, my office received the copy of a letter, that I immediately gave to my direct superiors, sent by the Catholic Church in Rome, in the person of Bishop Hudal, to the commander of the German forces in Rome, General Stahel. The Church was vigorously protesting the arrest of Jews of Italian citizenship, requesting that such actions be interrupted immediately throughout Rome and its surroundings. To the contrary, the Pope would denounce it publicly.
”The Curia was especially angry because these incidents were taking place practically under Vatican windows. But, precisely at that time, without paying any attention to the Church’s position, the Italian Fascist Government passed a law ordering the deportation of all Italian Jews to concentration camps,” Eichmann wrote in his diary.
”The objections given and the excessive delay in the steps necessary to complete the implementation of the operation, resulted in a great part of Italian Jews being able to hide and escape capture,” Eichmann wrote. A good number of them hid in convents or were helped by men and women of the Church.