Available References Regarding the Actions Undertaken by Monsignor Guiseppe Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) in favor of Jews Persecuted by the Nazi Regime.
Possible interventions of Monsignor Roncalli in favor of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust:
1) Issuance of ”Immigration Certificates” for Palestine through the Vatican’s Diplomatic Postal Service
Various sources reveal that Monsignor Roncalli issued ”Immigration Certificates” for Palestine to Archbishop Angelo Rotta in Budapest. Haim Barlas, the Jewish Agency’s delegate in Istanbul, handed over these documents to Nuncio Rncalli.
a) Haim Barlas, ”Rescues During the Holocaust” (Salvamentos en el Holocausto), pg. 349
b) Monsignor Roncalli, ”Remembering American Ambassador Ira Hirschman” (Memorando al Embajador Americano Ira Hirschman), 8-1-44, cited in a compilation of Vatican documents ”The Saint Siege and the Victims of the War” January 1940-July 1945, pg. 390 (Le Saint Siège et les victimes de la guerre, janvier 1940-juillet 1945)
c) Arthur Morse, ”While Six Million Died”. References are made to the issuance of ”Baptismal Certificates”. Possibly following after the erroneous reference of American Ambassador Hirschman in his book titled, ”Caution to the Winds”. Hirschman apparently confused the immigration certificates with baptismal certificates.
d) On April 4, 1944, Monsignor Roncalli writes to Archbishop Rotta, ”Considering that the immigration certificates which I have sent to you helped save the lives of those who received them, I have accepted three more packages from the Jewish Agency in Palestine. I would appreciate it if Your Excellency would give the abovementioned certificates to Mr. Miklos Krausz”. (Cited in the record of Vatican documents, Le Saint Siège et les victimes de la Guerre, volume 10, pg. 195)
2) The Saving of Jews Through Baptismal Certificates
According to historian, Peter Hebblethwaite, author of the book, ”John XXIII, Pope of the Council”, 1985, the idea of trying to save Jews through baptismal certificates was conceived by Nuncio Roncalli and it was Archbishop Rotta who applied it.
a) Ted Szulc, in ”The Secret Alliance: The Extraordinary Story of the Rescue of the Jews Since World War II”, Pan, London 1991, pg. 54, affirms that ”in the few months since Hirschman’s meeting with the Apostolic Delegate, thousands of Jews were baptized in the anti-aerial shelters of Budapest and therefore saved from death.”
b) Arthur Morse in ”While Six Million Died” makes a reference to the issuance of thousands of baptismal certificates that helped save the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
c) Historian, Giancarlo Zizola, author of ”L’utopia di Papa Giovanni”, Cittadella, Assissi, 1973, pg. 109, estimates that the baptismal certificates saved the lives of some 24,000 Jews. The information is attributed to Monsignor Loris F. Capovilla, Monsignor Roncalli’s Secretary in Venice and later in Rome.
3) Assistance given to a group of Jewish refugees from Wladislaw, Poland upon their arrival in the Holy Land.
Historian Hebblethwaite alludes to an interview conducted on September 5, 1940 between Monsignor Roncalli and a group of Polish-Jewish refugees whom he helped transport to the Holy Land. During the interview he informed them of the situation in occupied Poland (”An Exchange of Blessings, Pope John XXIII and the Jews”, Common Ground, 1993).
4) Personal Disposition Towards Assisting Jewish Refugees
Ira Hirschman, American Ambassador in Turkey, reveals in his book, ”Caution to the Winds”, 1962, that Monsignor Roncalli wrote to him opportunistically, ”I am always available to help you in your humanitarian undertakings so long as it is within my reach, my faculties and circumstances permit me to do so.
5) Interventions Reiterated Before German Ambassador, Von Pappen in favor of Jewish Refugees.
Historian Stefano Trinchesse in, ”Roncalli, Diplomat in Greece and Turkey”, ed. Audren Ricardi, laterza 1984, pg. 261, cites Monsignor Loris F. Capovilla, Pope John’s XXIII Secretary, ”During the war Roncalli intervened frequently before Von Pappen on behalf of Jewish Refugees. Upon arriving in Istanbul (the refugees) would always request an interview with the Apostolic Delegate.”
6) Presentation before Pope Pius XII calling for intervention on behalf of the Hungarian Jewish Community
Historian and Priest, Randolph Braham, in his work, ”The Politics of Genocide- The Holocaust in Hungary” (pg. 240) refers to a note sent on March 24, 1944 by Nuncio Roncalli to Pope Pius XII- via the Nuncio in Washington- asking the Pontiff to use his influence in order to protect Hungarian Jewry. Allusions are made to the successive appellations from Nuncio Roncalli before the deportations commenced on May 15, 1944.
7) Move before the Romanian government via the Nuncio of Bucharest in order to authorize the Jews’ departure.
References are made to this subject only indirectly through the memorandum written by Haim Barlas, the Jewish Agency’s delegate in Istanbul, regarding a conversation had with Nuncio Roncalli. According to Barlas, during that meeting he solicited the assistance of Nuncio Roncalli in asking the Romanian government, through the Nuncio of Bucarest, assistance with the departure of 1,500 Jews in a ship that the Turkish government would provide in order to transport the refugees to the Holy Land. We do not have information or additional confirmation regarding this event and it is unbeknownst to us whether the Nuncio acted on this matter.
8) The Recommendation of Special Cases before the Vatican Nuncio in Budapest- The Case of Rabbi Salomon Halberstan.
In a note sent to American Ambassador Hirschman on August 8, 1944, Nuncio Roncalli affirms his willingness in recommending special Jewish refugee cases before Nuncio Rotta and points out the case of Rabbi Salomon Halberstan (Reports of the Vatican Documents, vol. 10, pg. 391
9) Presentation before the Secretary of the Vatican State on behalf of Hungarian Jewry
Nuncio Roncalli indicates in his letter to the American Ambassador (Reports of the Vatican Documents, vol. 10, pg. 390) the presentation given before the Secretary of the Vatican State at the request of Grand Rabbi of Palestine, Rabbi Herzog, on behalf of Hungarian Jewry.
10) Action on behalf of Jewish children on a refugee ship.
This reference appears in vague terminology in a letter sent by Sam Wargenaar on June 12, 1973 to Yad Vashem. According to Wargenaar, Nuncio Roncalli acted on behalf of Jewish children on board a refugee ship on the Turkish or Romanian coast. We have not been able to locate any additional resources on the matter. According to the petitioner, a certain Monsignor Cairoli would have access to the above-mentioned documents.
11) Baptismal Certificates sent for the Jews of Bulgaria
This event was revealed by the Portuguese Consul in Istanbul, Jacques Abravanel in a letter dated February 9, 1987 to Yad Vashem. This could be a different event than the one Barlas referenced (he referred to Hungarian Jews, not Bulgarian Jews).
12) Rescuing Actions on behalf of Bulgarian Jews.
Mr. Benjamin Samuel generically alludes in a letter to Yad Vashem dated December 16, 1979 to the eventual actions undertaken by Nuncio Roncalli on behalf of Bulgarian Jewry. A person named Meir Tuval-Weltman would be well informed as to the details surrounding these actions.
This reference to the possible actions undertaken by Nuncio Roncalli on behalf of the Bulgarian Jewish Community is also mentioned by Tuval-Weltman in an article dated June 26, 1973 titled, ”How Pope John Helped Rescue European Jews”.
13) Help transferring Croatian Jews to Hungary.
Meir-Tuval Weltman alludes to this deed in the aforementioned article.
14) Rescue of a group of Croatian children who arrived in the Holy Land with the help of Nuncio Roncalli.
Meir-Tuval Weltman alludes to this deed in the aforementioned article.
The biographical and/or personal references included in this report have been taken from quotations from various texts consulted as well as from documentation included in proceedings in regards to Monsignor Rotta and Monsignor Roncalli at Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum, Israel). They have not been directly examined within the context of the respective sources.