German researchers found a document to facilitate the recognition of Andrey Sheptytsky as Righteous Among the Nations
Just before the coronavirus quarantine, the Vatican opened the archives of Pius XII, the Pope, for the period from March 2, 1939, to October 9, 1958, that is, during the WWII and the Holocaust. German researchers took advantage of a moment opportunity and, as it now turned out, found a letter from Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky dated August 1942 describing the German regime as "overtly diabolical", which in the conditions of the Nazi occupation was a serious crime — such overt wording exposed Metropolitan Andrey to mortal danger. This is reported by the media outlet Zbruch.
In a letter to the Pope, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky informed the Vatican about the terrible crimes of the Nazis, in particular the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Jews. A month later, American diplomats transferred to the Pope a secret report on the mass murder of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto. It stated that about 100,000 people were killed in and around Warsaw, and added that another 50,000 people were killed in Lviv in German-occupied Ukraine. The report was based on information received from the Geneva office of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Washington wanted to know if the Vatican could confirm this from its sources. But the Vatican told Washington that it could not confirm. The reason for this negative response, as German researcher Hubert Wolf, told Hamburg weekly "Die Zeit", was a Memorandum by an employee of the State Secretariat, Angelo Dell'Aqua, where he warned against believing the Jewish report, because Jews "easily exaggerate", while "easterners" - he referred to Metropolitan Sheptytsky — "aren't a model of honesty.”
The influential Israeli newspaper "The Jerusalem Post" suggests that the new materials may curb the resistance of Yad Vashem, who considers Sheptytsky a collaborator, and recognize him as a Righteous Among the Nations, as well as contribute to his beatification by the Catholic Church.
Zbruch published a translation of this article by Tsnaan Lifshits in The Jerusalem Post (May 2, 2020, under the heading "Diaspora").
New information has emerged about a Ukrainian priest who saved Jews during the Holocaust
At that time, Andriy Sheptytskyi was the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. New information about Sheptytsky gives his devotees a new chance to honor his historical achievements.
Pope Pius XII, who led the Catholic Church during WWII, has not the best reputation in the Jewish community.
Although he sheltered some Jews in churches during the Holocaust, a large body of historical evidence, including certain research by John Cornwell, indicates that Pius XII "helped Hitler come to power" and "caused the Holocaust, even though he was reliably aware of its true extent". In 1999, Cornwall wrote a book called Hitler's Pope, and the nickname has stuck ever since.
Pius XII archives in the Vatican were opened last month for a short time, just before the coronavirus outbreak became a serious pandemic. Religious News Service reported in detail this week that German researchers have found even more evidence that Pius XII was well aware of the Jewish genocide and did little to counter it.
But the archives also shed new light on a lesser-known but important figure in the story: Andrey Sheptytsky, who was the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
There have long been calls to confer on Sheptytsky the title of the Righteous Among the Nations - an Israeli title for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust. But Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial, was opposed. New information about Sheptytsky gives his devotees a new chance to honor his historical achievements.
According to many historians, including Yale University historian Timothy Snyder, Sheptytsky and his brother Klymentiy, who is already recognized as a Righteous, hid more than a hundred Jews in monasteries and organized groups that helped them hide. Andrey Sheptytsky also publicly protested against the murder of Jews and condemned his parishioners for participating in violence.
Born into a noble Polish family in Ukraine in 1865, Andrey Sheptytsky took the gown, despite the resistance of his father. Clement, who was four years younger than Andrew, followed the path of his elder brother. Andrey spoke fluent Hebrew and was a regular donor to the Jewish cause in Lviv, where he lived.
At the same time, Andrey Sheptytsky welcomed the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and sent chaplains to Ukrainian soldiers who fought with the Nazis as part of the Waffen-SS "Halychina" division.
Strongly opposed to the anti-religious Soviet Union – which was an enemy of Germany when the Nazis occupied Ukraine-Sheptytsky saw, as Snyder wrote in 2009 in defense of Sheptytsky, the Germans "as liberators" for a moment.
This, according to Snyder, "this disappointing decision" became an obstacle to recognition of Sheptytsky [as a righteous] and his Catholic beatification, which is also blocked through the resistance of Polish clergy, although for the reasons related to the complex history between the two nations.
Since the 1960s, Yad Vashem has rejected at least a dozen requests to recognize Sheptytsky, although in the past the Museum has honored Nazi activists and loyalists, including Oskar Schindler and Hans Kalmaier.
In 2013, the Antidefamation League honored Sheptytsky with the Jan Karski "Courage to Rescue" award.
In the Vatican's archives, researchers from the University of Munster found that Sheptytsky wrote a letter to the Pope, which spoke of 200 thousand Jews killed in Ukraine during the "frankly diabolical" German occupation.
To write such a letter, the full contents of which have not yet been published was a grave crime under the Nazi occupation — and therefore can be seen as new evidence that Sheptytsky risked his life to save Jews.
"It could also have a big impact on whether the Yad Vashem case is reopened," said Berel Rodal, founder of the Ukrainian Jewish organization Encounter, which promotes dialogue between Jews and non-Jewish Ukrainians.
German research has revealed that an employee of the Vatican State Secretariat under Pius XII, Angelo Dell'Aqua, who later became a cardinal, warned in a memo that it was not worth believing the Jewish Agency's report about the Holocaust because Jews "easily exaggerate." He also rejected Sheptytsky's assessment, saying that " Easterners are not a model of honesty."
Rodal noted that in this case, Yad Vashem has resisted pressure for too long, including from Snyder and the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine.
"Pressure won't help. So that Yad Vashem change their mind and does not look inconsistent, we need to get new material. Perhaps this letter will become such material," Rodal said.
A representative of Yad Vashem noted that experts " follow the news that comes from the Vatican."
"We hope that after the health crisis passes away, we will be able to restore regular work and study these documents first-hand," said this representative. "Then historians will better understand all their consequences.”