Yad Vashem updates text on World War II-era pope

By Ruth Ellen Gruber, JTA

Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum, has changed the wording of an exhibit panel that describes then-Pope Pius XII’s reaction to the Holocaust.

The original panel largely criticized Pius, who became pope in 1939, for inaction during World War II. The new panel gives a broader representation of Vatican policy and explains why Pius remains a controversial figure. It suggests that Pius’s “lack of clear guidance” may have been a “moral failure,” but also notes his efforts on behalf of Europe’s Jews.

A Yad Vashem statement said that the new wording reflects “research that has been done in the recent years,” and that it has not come as “a result of Vatican pressure.” But Yad Vashem also called on the Vatican to open its secret archives relating to Pius and the World War II period. “Only when all material is available, will a clearer picture emerge,” the statement said.