December 16, 2016

Letter to the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU)


New York, 16 December 2016

Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU)

Dear Sirs,

We send this letter in connection to the recent Finding by the Editorial Complaints Unit of the BBC as regards to a joint complaint which was lodged by Lord Alton and Fr. Leo Chamberlain of Ampleforth, in reaction to a BBC report on the Pope’s visit to Auschwitz.

The BBC reporter said: “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonized Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe”. In the judgement of the ECU, this did not give due weight to public statements by successive Popes or the effort made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence”.

In this respect, we would like to inform you that our NGO has launched some two years ago a program entitled “Houses of Life”. The underlying idea was to identify and mark physical sites throughout Europe which served as shelter to victims of the Nazi persecution and extermination machinery. Many of those victims were children, left by their parents in those sanctuaries before they faced deportation and eventual death in the Nazi concentration camps.

What started-out as a modest project has become a gigantic undertaking. So far, we have identified well over 500 Houses of Life in various European countries who suffered the Nazi occupation, such as Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary and Greece, and the numbers are growing by the day. Due to our limited manpower and financial resources, we have managed to date to affix House of Life commemorative plaques in a fraction of those sites, so that a monumental task is yet ahead of us. As an annex, we are enclosing examples of proclaimed Houses of Life, for your perusal.

To our surprise, we have learned that the overwhelming majority of Houses of Life were institutions related to the Catholic Church, including convents, monasteries, boarding schools, hospitals, etc.  This is especially visible in Italy and France, but also in other countries.

According to Sister Grazia Loparco, an Italian historian specialized in the role played by Catholic institutions during WWII, in Rome alone, some 4,500 people found refuge in the Italian capital’s churches, convents, monasteries and boarding schools.

With these findings in mind, and taking into consideration the vertical hierarchy of the Church, one may reasonably assume that Pope Pius XII was at least aware of this orchestrated life-saving operation, if not fully involved.  Of course, this hypothesis should be supported by objective historical evidences, and in that respect, the IRWF look forwards to the opening of the relevant wartime Vatican archives, as promised by Pope Francis, as this would certainly shed light into this important chapter of history.

In the meantime, we believe that the Houses of Life Programme is a major educational undertaking that will raise awareness to the courageous feats of the rescuers.

We are availing this information to the BBC ECU, as we think it is germane to the complaint submitted by Lord Alton and Fr. Leo Chamberlain.

We would be happy to provide you with any further updates on the House of Life programme and we remain at your disposal should you require any additional information on our end.

Yours sincerely,

Eduardo Eurnekian

Baruch Tenembaum

Perla Graisman
Global Development Director