Italian historian Giovanni Coco, who served in the Vatican archives, discovered a document that proves that the Vatican knew about the extermination of Jews in gas chambers.
He told an Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera about a letter from the German Jesuit Lothar Koenig to his friend Robert Leiber, a Jesuit who served as secretary to Pope Pius XII.
In December 1942, Koenig wrote to a Roman Jesuit friend about the extermination of 6,000 Jews from Rava Ruska in one day in the Belzec camp in the Lublin district. 500,000 Jews were killed in this camp during the war. According to the memorial opened in Belzec in 2004, during the liquidation of the ghetto in Rava-Ruska, about 5,000 Jews were killed on the spot and approximately the same number were sent to the death camp in Belzec.
The dating of the German Jesuit’s letter is of great importance, since it was in December 1942 that Pope Pius XII received through diplomatic channels from the British and Poles messages about the extermination of a million Jews on the territory of Poland.
It is not known whether Leiber showed this letter to Pius XII, but the historian adds that there was a very close friendship between the pope and the secretary, as he had been Pius’ secretary back in the 1920s, when the future pope served as the Vatican’s ambassador to Germany.
Vatican officials have said in the past that Pope Pius XII did not respond to reports from diplomatic sources because he could not verify the information. The letter received by his secretary could certainly have been such confirmation from a reliable source.
“This letter is important because it can now be said with certainty: the Pope received from the Catholic Church in Germany accurate and detailed information about the crimes committed against the Jews,” sums up Giovanni Coco in an interview with an Italian newspaper.