John Cornwell’s 1999 smear of Pius XII, Hitler’s Pope, became a best-seller, lauded by reviewers and excerpted in major magazines. Cornwell portrayed Pope Pius as an anti-Semite, a supporter of Hitler, and an enabler of the Holocaust.
None of this is true, of course. Eugenio Pacelli despised Hitler, denounced Nazi ideology on numerous occasions, and – according to historian Martin Gilbert – was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews. During the German occupation of Rome, hundreds of Jews were housed within the Vatican, 3,000 found sanctuary in Castel Gandolfo, and at Pius’s request, Roman convents and monasteries hid 5,000 Jews.
The book’s calumny was captured in the cover photo, which shows Cardinal Pacelli leaving a government building and being saluted by two German soldiers. All meant to insinuate that Pope Pius XII has just emerged from an important meeting with Hitler. But the picture was taken in 1927, long before Hitler came to power. Nuncio Pacelli was leaving a reception for German president, Paul von Hindenburg, and the soldiers were members of the Weimar Republic, not the Third Reich. Pacelli never met Hitler. Indeed, when Hitler visited Rome in 1938, Pacelli, along with Pope Pius XI, publicly snubbed him by leaving town. No photo of Pope Pius XII with Hitler exists. If it did, the world press would probably feature it on a regular basis along with stories condemning Pius for anti-Semitism. ….