In July 1943, Italian partisans toppled Fascist leader Benito Mussolini and threatened the German-Italian alliance. Hitler, on learning of Mussolini's ouster, concluded that "Jew-loving" Pope Pius XII was involved. The Führer wasted no time in sending his troops into northern Italy and occupying an allied nation, including its capital, Rome.
Israel Zolli, the chief Rabbi of Rome (later a convert to Catholicism) wrote about the terror felt by his community as the Nazis took control of the city. Zolli personally snuck past German patrols to enter neutral Vatican City and request a loan to pay a ransom so that the Nazis would not deport his people. The pope agreed to provide as much gold as was needed for as long as was necessary. The Jews gave their gold to the Nazis, but it did not prevent the deportations. Roman Jews went into hiding or they were deported.
As the persecution of the Jews intensified, Pius was widely recognized as a "lonely voice" out of the silence enveloping the continent. Victims thanked him, rescuers cited him as their inspiration, and the Nazis despised him. In retrospect, however, many modern critics blame Pius for being too quiet during the occupation. . . . (continue reading)