Hitler’s Pope, Nazi Crimes, and The New York Times


By November 28, 2012 17 Comments

New evidence unmasks a myth that Pope Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope:’ and a shocking failure of The New York Times to tell the world of the Holocaust.

These Stone Walls might seem a strange place to be reading this story, but in a way it might make sense. Too many Catholic writers today seem to fear The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream news media. It’s a subtle fear that I laid out in “The Catholic Press Needs to Get Over Its Father Maciel Syndrome.” There are courageous exceptions, of course, and notable among them are Bill Donohue of The Catholic League and David F. Pierre of The Media Report. Both have repeatedly and forcefully called The New York Times to task for its distortions of news pertaining to the Catholic Church. Nowhere have these distortions been more evident than in the Catholic sex abuse scandal, a drama I have lived every day for the last 18 years. It’s also a drama that leads the late 20th Century litany of anti-Catholic agendas in the news. I gave several examples in a post entitled “Catholic Scandal and the News Media.”

Running a close second in that litany is the story of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust. You have all read or heard the claims that Pope Pius XII was silent, at best, during the Holocaust, and at worst secured an accommodation with the Third Reich that saved the Catholic Church at the expense of the Jews. It’s not at all true, but the truth has had an uphill climb against the pervasive story, told again and again, that Pope Pius XII failed to confront Hitler during his systematic genocide of over six million European Jews and millions of others. You’ve heard the story of this supposed silence in a slanderous media sound bite that Pope Pius XII was “Hitler’s Pope.” Next to the “pedophile priest” propaganda, it is probably the most often used and abused modern anti-Catholic slur. But simply put, it is a lie.

Newly emerging evidence reveals that the entire story was the result of an organized propaganda effort sponsored by the Soviet KGB to discredit Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church. It’s a shocking story, the stuff of Tom Clancy novels and wild conspiracy theories, but it’s also true, and I’ll unravel that truth in a few moments. It is truly bizarre, but not nearly as bizarre as another anti-Catholic Nazi plot I described in “Catholic Scandal and the Third Reich: The Rise and Fall of a Moral Panic.” It’s a very good background to this post.


Though falling at the end of my title, my story begins in the pages of The New York Times, and a context for the “Hitler’s Pope” story. I have long wondered what the Times and the rest of the American mainstream news media did to confront Hitler and the Holocaust. The American press was at its peak of global influence during World War II. Many U.S. newspapers, and most notably The New York Times, had foreign correspondents and news bureaus at their command. The Pope did not command a global news outlet with anything close to the power and impact of The New York Times.

So what exactly was the Times’ role in uncovering and reporting on the Third Reich’s extermination of twelve million people including over six million Jews? I found the answer in a 1999 book by Susan E. Tifft & Alex S. Jones entitled, “The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times (Little, Brown). Susan E. Tifft is a former associate editor of Time Magazine. Her co-author (and husband), Alex S. Jones, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning media reporter for The New York Times from 1983 to 1992. At the time they published The Trust, they shared a chair in communications and journalism at Duke University.

The story of The New York Times‘ reporting on news of the Holocaust begins with ad revenue. According to Tifft and Jones, the Times slashed its space devoted to news far more severely than its space devoted to advertising during World War II:

“In 1939, 60 percent of the paper had been taken up by news; in 1944 the figure had fallen to below 50 percent. That, coupled with an advertising rate hike . . . sent the Times ad revenue soaring to its highest level since 1931″ (p. 207).

During that period, the Times’ ad revenue had increased from $13 million to $15 million while what it spent on gathering and reporting news decreased from $3.9 million to $3.7 million. Still, at the height of World War II, The New York Times had 55 overseas correspondents, more than any other American newspaper. Owner, Arthur Sulzberger determined that these foreign ambassadors of the Times “should be ‘well-educated attractive Protestants,’ not Jews” (p. 209). This had implications for how and where in the Times the dismal news of Nazi activities throughout Europe was presented, especially in regard to Hitler’s persecutions of the Jews:

“Like his late father-in-law, [Arthur Sulzberger] did not want the Times to be viewed as a ‘Jewish paper.’ But in his single-minded effort to achieve that end, he missed an opportunity to use the considerable power of the paper to focus a spotlight on one of the greatest crimes the world has ever known.” (p. 215)

“These personal and professional strains converged with increasing power during the Holocaust . . . [C]rucial news stories were frequently buried inside the paper rather than highlighted on page one. A July 2, 1944 dispatch citing ‘authoritative information’ that 400,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to their deaths and an additional 350,000 were to be killed in the next three weeks received only four column inches on page twelve, while that same day a story about Fourth of July holiday crowds ran on the front page.” (p. 217).

The criticisms of Pope Pius XII and his supposed inaction have been widely exposed in the American news media among newspapers that had scores of correspondents reporting from Europe during World War II. And yet, most of their editors at home simply did not believe the accounts of atrocities coming out of Europe. News of Hitler’s Final Solution was downplayed in the American news media, and the reason for it was utterly scandalous. Susan Tifft and Alex Jones explained why:

“The Times was hardly alone in downplaying news of the Final Solution. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, other major dailies, including the New York Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, like the public at large, disbelieved reports of Jewish genocide in Europe or suspected they were exaggerated in order to attract relief funds.” (p. 218)

During World War II, The New York Times was considered a media flagship. It enjoyed unprecedented power on the global news stage as the preeminent American newspaper. The Times’ superior foreign reporting capabilities gave it the power to set the agenda for other newspapers, many of which took their cue from the Times’ front page. In a post entitled “Saints and Sacrifices: Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein at Auschwitz,” I described what happened in Europe when the bishops of Holland, under the authority of Pope Pius XII, publicly challenged the Third Reich’s deportation of Jews to the death camps. This information was right at the fingertips of The New York Times and its teams reporting from Europe. The Times was in a unique position to inform the world of the horrors of the Holocaust, but it held back. Susan Tifft and Alex Jones concluded:

“Had the Times highlighted Nazi atrocities against Jews, or simply not buried certain stories, the nation might have awakened to the horror far sooner than it did.” (p. 218)

In the Spring of 1945, just before Germany’s surrender, General Dwight Eisenhower assembled an l8-member press delegation to inspect Dachau and Buchenwald. It included the owners of The New York Times with this result reported by Tifft and Jones:

“Despite the powerful effect of such experiences by the owners of The New York Times. readers detected no change in the coverage of Nazi barbarism. The front-page story on the liberation of Dachau never mentioned the word. ‘Jew.’ A week later, Cy Sulzberger’s story about Russian estimates of the death toll at Auschwitz appeared on page twelve, with no indication that most of the victims were Jews.” (p. 237)


In “The Beatification of Pope John Paul II: When the Wall Fell,” I wrote of a fictional story about the late great Pope from a terrific novel by Tom Clancy entitled Red Rabbit (G.P. Putnam, 2002). In typical Tom Clancy fashion, he told a riveting but wild tale of how the Soviet Union saw Pope John Paul II as an ominous threat to its leadership and legitimacy in the early 1980s. In Clancy’s tale, the Soviet Politburo gave a secret nod to a KGB plot to eliminate the Pope.

In the convoluted story – which defied rational belief – the KGB feared that the administration of President Ronald Reagan would not look kindly on their assassination of a Pope, so some plausible denial was needed. The KGB engaged the Bulgarian secret police to hire a Turkish mercenary to assassinate the Pope right before the world’s eyes in Saint Peter’s Square. The techno-thriller that emerged from this frame of a plot was Tom Clancy at his very best. Reviewers liked the book, but some dismissed its plot as revisionist history and Catholic paranoia.

It turned out that the story wasn’t fiction at all. In 2010, files released by the East German secret service confirmed that the KGB ordered the attack on the Pope and carried out the plot just as Tom Clancy described it. Though much of the mainstream media downplayed the story, the KGB recruited the Bulgarian secret police who in turn hired a Turkish mercenary, Mehmet Ali Agca, to shoot Pope John Paul, hitting him four times at point blank range. This Pope, however, was made of some tough material, and he survived, thwarting the KGB plan.

It turns out that this wasn’t the first time the KGB targeted a Pope for assassination, though in the first instance it was character assassination. All is not what it seems to be in the scandalous charge that Pope Pius XII was silent about the wartime atrocities of Adolf Hitler, The Third Reich, and the Holocaust. Edward Pentin, Rome Correspondent for the National Catholic Register had a fascinating two-part series in September revealing new evidence about how the myth of “Hitler’s Pope” actually began with Joseph Stalin. Part 1 and Part 2

In Part 1 of the series, “Ex-KGB Chief: Pius XII Was Framed” (NC Register, Aug. 26 – Sept. 8, 2012), Edward Pentin reported that Rolf Hochhuth’s famous 1963 play, “The Deputy” was used by Soviet intelligence as part of a wider plot to frame the Pope. In 1968, the play was described as the “slander of the century” by famed British reporter, David Frost.

Part 1 of Pentin’s story begins with Ion Mihai Pacepa, former head of the Romanian intelligence service who described in detail how the Soviets framed Pope Pius XII as an anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizer in a propaganda campaign known as “Operation Seat 12.” The story is revealed in an upcoming book with famed Holocaust author, Ronald Rychlak entitled Disinformation. In his introduction to the book, former CIA director, James Woolsey wrote that the book, “will change forever the way you look at intelligence, foreign affairs, the press and much else.”

If Edward Pentin’s articles are accurate, it will also change forever the way you look at the mythical and scandalous accounts of Pope Pius XII during World War II. According to Part 2 of Edward Pentin’s series, entitled “Pope Pius and the Myth of ‘Hitler’s Pope”’:

“The Kremlin’s attempt to frame Pius XII as Hitler’s Pope was rejected by that contemporary generation that bad lived through the real history and knew who Pope Pius XII really was. The Kremlin tried again in the 1960s, with the next generation.”

The irony of the KGB propaganda war waged to assassinate the character of Pope Pius XII is this: If all contemporary agendas were put aside, and the verdict of Jews in the generation during and after the War ruled the day, then the true picture of Pope Pius XII emerges from the rubble of war. It is the picture of a courageous hero whose stand against Hitler directly saved the lives of 860,000 Jews, more than any other figure – religious or otherwise – in World War II Europe. Not least among many tributes to Pope Pius and his wartime advocacy for the Jews of Europe was this one by Rabbi Israel Zolli, Rome’s Chief Rabbi during World War II:

“There is no place of sorrow where the spirit of love of Pius XII has not reached . . . There are no barriers, no distinctions. All sufferers are children of God in the eyes of the Church . . . No hero in history has commanded such an army; none is more heroic than that conducted by Pius XII in the name of Christian charity.”


It is no longer a mystery to me why The New York Times and other news media spread far and wide the myth of “Hitler’s Pope.” They eagerly embraced without question a Kremlin propaganda campaign to frame Pius XII as a scapegoat for silence in the face of the Holocaust. The Times had an opportunity during Hitler’s reign that the Pope never had – an opportunity to expose a horrible truth to the world. According to Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones, other agendas – self-serving political agendas – controlled the news and buried that truth. If the Kremlin had its “Operation Seat 12″ to defame the Pope, “Operation Page 12″ seemed to be a parallel plan at The New York Times. It’s a moral legacy that cannot ever be erased as long as the Times and other news media scapegoat someone else for that silence.

Media slurs against priests and popes have helped to derail a Catholic moral voice in this increasingly secularized public square, but it’s time to stand against the lies. If you like this post, then send it to others. E-mail it, post it to your social networks, ping it, tweet it, and help further this truth – because it IS the truth.

And if you are feeling simply defeated from the electoral voice of America, that’s a luxury we may not have. Western Culture stands at a precipice, and will continue its descent until its imminent fall becomes clearer to all – perhaps in four more years or so. There remains future hope, so declaring defeat is not an option. Truth must always be cultivated in the face of lies, and no election results can stifle it. The truth belongs front and center, and has no “Operation Page 12.”

About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae
The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE


  1. Anthony Wheeler says:

    The incredible irony of this story is that you have engaged in a level of reporting, investigating and truth telling that the New York Times seems incapable of. This was a great piece of journalism.

  2. Dorothy R. Stein says:

    A part of me should be shocked at what you have written here, though I know in my heart that it is the absolute truth. I have long believed that it was self-serving or the NY Times to launch an attack on Pope Pius XII for something that the Times itself treated with great negligence. However, as you write so well, if the opinions of Jews and their families had prevailed at the time the horrors of the Holocaust took place, there would be no questions today about this Pope’s sanctity and courage. The Jews of World War II Europe revered him for the great man he was. What the detraction today is really about is not the disdain of Jews, but rather the attacks of disgruntled Catholics hellbent on keeping this Pope’s name out of the Communion of Saint. You have once again written with truth and honor.

  3. Pierre Matthews says:

    Honor to you, Fr.Gordon, for showing us the double perfidy of the NYT’s publisher, the Sulzberger family, hiding the atrocious truth and being a silent witness to a genocide, selling his own people for 30 silverlings.
    It takes unselfish courage to lift the veil covering putrefaction and rotting
    flesh of the world’s self proclaimed best informed (and objective) paper.
    Yesterday, the Jews; today, Jesus’s priests and Church.

    Thank you, Fr.Gordon, for your courage.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Thank you, Father Gordon.
    I have to admit to being even more shocked by something else. I was not hunting for this information on this topic, but I learned of the shocking misconceptions almost 3 years ago. I was an average ignoramus about this and yet the news was broadly available once I looked.
    Three YEARS later I am seeing it STARTING to come to the general Catholic sites and there is the merest whisper of defense in COMMENTS in mainstream articles that still propose the lies.
    I’m in the pro life movement and of course now can fully recognize all of the horrendous misconceptions and deceptions that are presently spread about the ‘help’ that contraception and abortion do, as opposed to the now mammoth evidence that we have that this is gender suicide ANd family suicide.

    I believe that there is quite a bit of good news coming out of this. Hubris now is so global and there is not a young person whose future has not been consciously forfeited by the present day society of the last three generations.

    We are not just killing babies and the elderly now. We are killing future families. All in the name of two things: on the one hand, towards the newest GREAT EXPERIMENT that replaces America: atheist eugenics. Or, as it is known of old, The Evil One’s massive plan to block as many souls from returning to God as possible.

    On EWTN the special on Rwanda’s massive campaign to first desensitize and then isolate and then demonize and then massacre one tribe is being shown, If Only they Had Listened. The apparition of Our Lady of Kibelho was long and hours at a time. She said that her warning was not just for Rwanda but for the whole world. Say the rosary.

    Fatima. Say the Rosary.
    Lourdes. Say the Rosary.
    Guadalupe. Say the Rosary.

    Rwanda did not listen in 1982 and 10 years later the river was literally red with the blood of a million massacred.

    Pope Pius came before this revelation, but he was privy to the more recent apparitions and they all said the same thing: these need not happen, IF ONLY we say the rosary.

    Pope Pius did the very best he could and countless Jews literally lived because of this.
    Only a few decades later his assistant, Pope Paul VI, would write the Humane Vitae and be persecuted and villified AT THE TIME that he wrote it. Now, years later we see that a much greater holocaust did indeed happen.

    Since Abortion became a ‘health care’ event one BILLION babies have indeed died. One seventh of the present population is gone due to The Dame of Perpetual Orgasm and her pursuit of forever destroying the role of the woman’s sacred womb.

    Pope Pius and Pope Paul VI are coming to be known by our youngest. We pray to God that their generation is not wiped out despite having survived the global genocide of one billion citizens of the womb.

  5. Bea says:

    This well researched post has drastically changed my view of Pope Pius XII. Thanks for revealing the truth about this brave man, Father Gordon.

  6. Mary Elizabeth says:

    Dear Fr. MacRae,
    I have not been around these parts for awhile and I have missed your writing. I am so glad I checked in today.

    I dearly love our faith which includes our Popes, our priests, and our Bishops. Satan is ever on the prowl to destroy our Church, and sadly, too many are willing to cooperate.

    I have now for a number of years been aware of the slanderous things written and believed about this holy man, Pope Pius XII. I have heard a number of good people, on EWTN, who work hard to share the truth about all he did to save Jews. He was never complacent. The truth has been maligned, covered up, hidden from the public by such as you have revealed in your above post. There are so many who follow like sheep the false god of mainstream news, and who never dream of delving into Catholic news media to find out what the other half has to say. This is a sad truth of our times.

    I will have to read some more of your fairly recent posts in order to revel in the truth that there is hope, in spite of all this. Jesus Christ is alive and He is in control. There is nothing to fear as long as we stay close to Him.

    Thanks for your very compelling post Fr.
    As always, I keep you in prayer, although I have not visited much lately. May God continue to bless and keep you and protect you from all that is evil.

  7. Fr Gordon , I will remember you during the Adoration Today at st wilfreds.

  8. Judy Stefencavage says:

    Dear Father Gordon:
    Thank you for exposing the NY Times and the family who owns it; it is a disgusting story of a disgusting hatred of Jews perpetuated by each person who took the position of ownership. I am deeply disturbed at this revelation. I am appalled at the lack of respect for humanity this shows.
    Thank you so much dear Father, for being who you are, I have no doubt that our Blessed Mother is protecting you. I also feel you are fulfilling the work that God has given you. Many many blessings to you, you are in my daily prayers.

  9. NBW says:

    Thank you for an excellent post, Father. God Bless you.

  10. Lionel (Paris) says:

    Anyway, we all know already that Pius XII was an enemy of the Nazis and denounced their crimes as much and as many times and tried to rescue as many people as he could…
    All the rest is only slander.

  11. mark says:

    Thank you, Father Gordon, for this excellent expose. I thought the Truth Abuse Scandal was a phenomenon of the last decade. Little did I know that this was only the latest chapter. I have to admit, I always chuckle on the plane when I’m asked if I would like a newspaper, and somebody holds the New York Times before me.

  12. Ellen says:

    Thank you so much, Father! I am sharing your post on Facebook and through my email contacts. Everyone should know how foul the media was even then and how heroic Pope Pius XII was. Truth will out is what my mother has always said. It is the same for you. Truth will out for you. Faith. Hope. Love. We are praying for you always. May God bless you.

    • Spark says:

      I would think that Lewy’s statements would iended be unusual among Jewish historians but would they be so unusual among Israeli diplomats? I think you would be hard-pressed to find a historian (Jewish or otherwise) who could find fault with Lewy\’s statement. The Church saved large numbers of Jews, in Rome and throughout Europe. Pius XII was certainly aware of this, and there is reason to believe that he actively encouraged it. He was certainly given credit by Jewish leaders, after the war (I have personally seen evidence of this in the Israel State Archives), for the heroic efforts of members of the Church to save Jews. The position of the Church (as represented e.g. by Fr. Peter Gumpel) is that things began to go sour (unjustly in their opinion) following the staging of Hochhuth\’s The Deputy, in the early \’60s. Historians such as Robert Wistrich, representing the Jewish side in the dispute, have never claimed that Pius XII did not save Jews, but that he failed to take a clear, public, moral stand against the persecution and genocide of European Jews.Diplomats are another matter however. The looming beatification of Pius XII has been a thorn in the side of Israel-Vatican relations, which the Church would sincerely like to see resolved, but on which it cannot possibly compromise. I just wonder what quid Israel got for the quo of having its ambassador make a historically uncontroversial, but diplomatically significant statement in Pacelli\’s favour.

      • Dorothy R. Stein says:

        I am most impressed to see this accurate historical analysis of the Jewish view of Pope Pius in the years following the Holocaust. The point of Fr. MacRae’s article is not to refute any of those perceptions, but rather I think to point out that one of the strongest voices in detraction of this good Pope has been The New York Times, and he has not only debunked such detraction but also revealed quite well and powerfully the sheer hypocrisy of the Times’ management and editorial voice. It’s a great story about removing the plank in one’s own eye before pointing to the splinter in another’s.

  13. Gina Nakagawa says:

    A beautiful and poignant piece, Father. Pius XII is my hero. I remember him very well and with great reverence and affection. The book “The Myth of Hitler’s Pope” is a wonderful expose of the lies that have been told about Eugenio Pacelli. God will vindicate him, just as I pray God will vindicate you. May our Lady wrap you in the warmth of her mantle.

  14. Liz says:

    Thank you, Father Gordon, for always shining the light of truth. These things need to be exposed.

    God bless you and Pornchai.

  15. Father Gordon,

    Thank you so much for this incisive article.

    Inspired by your article, I’ve just now written a critique of a NY Times book review, which presents a stunningly disingenuous defense of the adamant complicity The NY Times with the Holocaust: HERE. From this, you can guess what the reaction of The NY Times will be to your article. Yikes!

    I would think that the leadership of The NY Times would be arrested in Germany today, since it is a crime to deny that the Holocaust of the Jews took place. And that’s what The NY Times effectively did and still does to this day, as I show in that review.

    I predict their demise sooner than later. Advertizers will continue to run away in droves. They’re going bankrupt. As it should be. They are morally bankrupt.

    Thanks again for bringing this to our attention.

    Prayers and blessings. I beg yours.

    Father George David Byers

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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