Research Finds Catholic Convents Sheltered Jews During WWII

New evidence has emerged that corroborates claims of Catholic convents and monasteries in Rome providing refuge to Jews during the second world war, listing at least 3,200 Jews who were sheltered. These details have been verified by the representatives of the Jewish community in Rome, the announcement came on Thursday.

A collaborative effort between the scholars from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust research institute, and the Jewish community in Rome brought this information to light. They disclosed their findings during an academic gathering on Thursday at the Museum of the Shoah, a section of the primary synagogue in Rome.

The latest findings don’t seem to offer fresh insights into Pope Pius XII’s actions or stance during the Nazi occupation in Rome. The role played by Pius during that period remains a topic of contention among historians. While some assert that he employed subtle diplomacy to save Jewish lives, others argue that he was conspicuously silent while Jews in Rome were being arrested and expelled, a stone’s throw away from the Vatican.

The freshly unearthed documents contain detailed information, including names and addresses, of individuals who found sanctuary in Catholic establishments during the wartime. These details were hinted at, but never fully disclosed, by the foremost historian of that era, Renzo de Felice, in his 1961 publication. This was confirmed through a collective declaration by the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Yad Vashem, and the Jewish community in Rome.

This newfound data, found in the repository of the Biblical Institute which is under the auspices of the Jesuit-managed Pontifical Gregorian University, enumerates over 4,300 individuals who were harboured in 155 religious communities – comprising 100 women’s and 55 men’s orders. Out of these, 3,600 have been named, with subsequent investigations in the records of the Jewish community in Rome confirming that “at least 3,200 were unmistakably Jews,” according to the proclamation.

The documents further divulge the locations where these individuals were concealed, and in some instances, their residences prior to the onset of persecution. “This additional data markedly enhances our understanding of the history pertaining to the rescue efforts for Jews in connection with the Catholic establishments in Rome,” the declaration remarked.

To safeguard the privacy of these individuals and their families, the names will remain confidential.

At this juncture, it is yet undetermined if any of those listed underwent baptism. Recent insights from the opened Vatican archives from Pius’s reign insinuate that efforts were primarily concentrated on saving Jews who had embraced Catholicism or were offspring of interfaith marriages between Catholics and Jews, as delineated in the book “The Pope at War” authored by American anthropologist David Kertzer.