Vatican confirms Hitler ordered attempt to kidnap Pope Pius XII
BERLIN: Dramatic details of a plot by Adolf Hitler to kidnap the wartime pope and bring him to Germany have been revealed by the Vatican.
The Nazi leader planned for an SS commando squad to seize Pius XII – only for him to be moved to an impregnable tower to keep him safe, according to previously secret documents.
After decades of rumour, new details support claims by the most senior SS officer in Nazi-occupied Italy that the Fuhrer himself commanded him to abduct the pope.
Hitler had ordered his forces into Italy in 1943 after the Allied invasion led to Benito Mussolini’s downfall, with the Germans marching into Rome in September of that year.
The Vatican City had remained neutral and the Swiss Guards, though heavily armed, were likely to have been no match for SS troops.
Historians have long argued over claims Hitler wanted to seize Pius during the Nazis’ occupation.
But only now has evidence come to light. According to Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Antonio Nogara, son of former Vatican museums director Bartolomeo Nogara, described how priest Giovanni Battista Montini – later Pope Paul VI – visited his father one night in late January or early February 1944.
Montini told him that US and British intelligence had revealed an “advanced plan” by the Nazis for the “arrest and removal of the Holy Father”.
The Nazis were going to pretend that they were taking Pius in order to protect him, he added.
The pair picked the “Tower of the Winds” which rises above a wing of the Vatican Library as a hiding place for the pontiff, the report says. Montini said the pope would have to be hidden for “two to three days” in the highly-defensible tower until a special Allied commando squad could parachute into the countryside near Rome to rescue him.
In the event, the kidnap plot was never put into action and the secret plans took on mythical status.
Antonio Nogara died in 2014.
His report about the plot divulged to his father was found after his death and has only now been published.
Previously published documents from the Vatican archive reveal Pius XII told bishops that, should he be seized, his resignation would be effective immediately.
They were expected to flee to a safe country and re-establish leadership of the Roman Catholic Church under a new pontiff. Some commentators suspect the Vatican has peri- odically released documents which portray Pius as an opponent of the Nazis in a bid to boost his reputation.
In the 1970s, General Karl Wolff – supreme commander for the SS in Italy – testified he had been ordered to kidnap the pope in 1944.
He claimed Hitler told him: “I have a special mission for you, Wolff. It will be your duty not to discuss it with anyone before I give you permission to do so. I want you and your troops to occupy Vatican City as soon as possible, secure its files and art treasures, and take the pope and Curia to the north.
“I do not want him to fall into the hands of the Allies or to be under their political pressure.”
Wolff claimed instead of carrying out his orders, he visited the Vatican in May 1944 in civilian clothes and assured the pope he would not take part in any kidnapping. Pius asked, as a token of his goodwill, the general save the lives of two condemned prisoners, and this was arranged. But the Germans evacuated Rome weeks later. – Daily Mail