Vat­i­can con­firms Hitler or­dered at­tempt to kid­nap Pope Pius XII

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ALLAN HALL and JAMES TOZER

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.