Chronology of Rescue by Monsignor Angelo Rotta and Father Gennaro Verolino, Vatican
Monsignor Angelo Rotta,* Italy, Vatican diplomat in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Papal Nuncio (Ambassador) in Budapest, 1944-45
Monsignor Angelo Rotta was a major rescuer of Jews and was one of the few Papal nuncios to take direct action to save Jews. At the time of his assignment in Budapest, he was 72 years old. As a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps in Sofia, Bulgaria, he took measures to save Bulgarian Jews by issuing false baptismal certificates and visas for Jews to travel to Palestine. Later, Rotta was the Dean of the diplomatic corps in Budapest. He actively protested the deportation and murder of Hungarian Jews. He eventually issued more than 15,000 safe conduct certificates to Jews who were protected by the Vatican neutrality. Rotta also issued hundreds of safe conducts and baptismal certificates to Jews in labor camps, at deportation centers and on the death marches. He set up and personally protected numerous safe houses throughout Budapest. Rotta was aided by his assistant, Father Gennaro Verolino. The Vatican utilized numerous Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers in its rescue efforts. Angelo Rotta received the title Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel in 1997.
Father Gennaro Verolino, * Deputy to the Papal Nuncio in Budapest, Hungary, 1944-45
Father Gennaro Verolino (b. 1906) was the deputy to Monsignor Angelo Rotta at the office of the Papal Nuncio in Budapest, Hungary. Father Verolino went on numerous rescue missions in the field in support of Monsignor Rotta. Verolino was instrumental in the establishment of the Vatican protected houses in Budapest. Verolino supervised the many Vatican volunteers active in the rescue operations. Verolino received the Per Anger Humanitarian Award in 2004. Verolino was also awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 2007 for his outstanding efforts to save the Jews of Budapest.
György (George) Adam, “Third Secretary,” Vatican Embassy, Budapest, Hungary, 1944-1945
György Adam was a Jewish refugee who sought refuge in the Vatican embassy in Budapest. The Papal Nuncio, Angelo Rotta, agreed to let Adam represent the Vatican office. While there, Adam volunteered to go on missions to the Obuda brickyards to release Jews from custody. In doing so, he was able to prevent Jews from being deported to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Armed with Vatican protective documents, Adam was able to release hundreds of Jews from the Obuda brickyards transit camp. He worked with Father Gennaro Verolino, the assistant to Angelo Rotta, in rescuing Jews from death marches to the Austrian border. On one occasion, he prevented the arrest of Admiral Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, and his family, by Nazi occupying forces. At that time, he announced that he was the Second Secretary to the Nunciatura. This title stuck with him throughout the war. Adam provided testimony to Yad Vashem on behalf of Father Gennaro Verolino that enabled Father Verolino to be recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Angelo Rotta is appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Budapest, Hungary.
November 20-24, 1940
Hungary, Romania and Slovakia join the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis.
Pope Pius XII receives repeated reports through diplomatic and private channels concerning the mass killing of Jews in Poland and the deportations to the murder camps in other parts of Nazi occupied Europe.
The Pope receives continued, detailed reports about anti-Jewish pogroms, and that deportees are destined for death. Various cardinals, bishops and papal nuncios stationed in Eastern Europe confirm reports. Vatican does not respond.
March 13, 1942
Vatican Nuncio in Budapest, Angelo Rotta, forwards an appeal from the World Jewish Congress requesting the Pope to persuade Slovakian leader and Catholic Monsignor Tiso to cancel the deportation of Slovakian Jews. A subsequent note of protest to the Slovak government from the Vatican Secretary of State is ignored.
March 21, 1942
Rotta sends a second appeal to Tiso. The chief rabbi of Budapest asks Rotta to petition the Pope to intervene on behalf of Jews with the Slovakian government: “at least to alleviate as much as possible the sad lot of these unfortunate people, among whom there are many women and children, destined in large part to a certain death.”
April 17, 1942
Rotta sends a note to the Vatican. The note is from a woman expressing gratitude for the Vatican’s intervention in Slovakia.
The Vatican is reminded that its silence is “endangering its moral prestige and is undermining faith both in the church and in the Holy Father himself.”
Reports about the gassings at Belzec, near Lublin, are relayed to the Vatican. Jewish agencies send memoranda outlining the murder in Poland.
The Papal Secretary of State receives numerous memoranda regarding the execution of Jews in Poland.
February 26, 1943
Papal Nuncio Angelo Rotta in Budapest reports to the Vatican that there are 27,000 Jews remaining in Slovakia. Many of them are converts who are in danger of being deported.
March 6, 1943
Vatican Secretary of State Maglione orders Monsignor Burzio to check Rotta’s report and to make every effort to prevent the deportations of Jews.
April 17, 1943
Hitler summons Hungarian Regent Admiral Horthy to Salzburg, Austria, to urge him to allow the Jews of Hungary to be ‘resettled.’ Horthy refuses: “The Jews cannot be exterminated or beaten to death.”
April 19-30, 1943
Bermuda Conference: British and American representatives meet in Bermuda to discuss rescue options, but fail to come up with any significant possibilities.
July 8, 1943
Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Apostolic delegate in Istanbul, later to become Pope John XXIII, reports that millions of Jews are being killed in Poland. Roncalli reveals information about the exterminations to the German Ambassador in Turkey. Roncalli receives additional information from the Jewish Agency for Palestine. The Pope consistently refuses to denounce or condemn the Nazi genocide. Appeals to the Pope are to no avail.
October 16-17, 1943
The Jews of Rome are rounded up and deported. The Pope refuses to speak out. He says he does not want “to say anything that the German people might consider an act of hostility during a terrible war.” The standard reply to Jewish appeals is, “The Holy See will do what it can.”
January 22, 1944
President Roosevelt establishes the War Refugee Board (WRB) in response to the failure of the Allies to protect Jews from extermination. The WRB is charged with “taking all measures within its power to rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death.” Raoul Wallenberg is later selected for a mission to protect Hungarian Jews from deportation.
February 14, 1944
Josef Winniger, an officer in the German intelligence, tells Jewish leaders in Budapest of a plan for German occupation of Hungary.
March 19, 1944
Germany occupies Hungary and immediately implements anti-Jewish decrees; places the Hungarian government at the disposal of Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final Solution.
March 20, 1944
Eichmann orders the establishment of Judenrat (councils) for Hungarian Jews.
March 23-May 15, 1944
Monsignor Angelo Rotta, the Apostolic delegate of the Vatican (Dean of the diplomatic corps in Budapest) takes the leadership among the diplomatic corps in protesting the deportation and murders of the Jews to the newly established Sztójay government. Rotta urges the churches of Hungary to protest and intervene on behalf of Jews.
March 24, 1944
US War Refugee Board urges the Pope to use influence to protect Hungarian Jews.
April 5, 1944
Jews of Hungary forced to wear the star; Jewish businesses and bank accounts confiscated; Jews placed in ghettoes.
The Vatican receives a verified copy of the Auschwitz Protocols. The Vatican fails to react until late June.
May 15-July 9, 1944
More than 438,000 Hungarian Jews from the countryside are deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most of them are gassed. It takes 148 trains to carry them there.
May 15, 1944
Rotta sends note condemning actions of the Sztójay government. This note is the first note by the Vatican to officially protest the deportation of Jews presented by a representative of the Pope. In addition, Rotta sends a personal note to Sztójay, pleading on behalf of the Jews of Budapest.
May 27, 1944
Rotta receives responses from Nazi puppet government that deportations were “humane and for labor abroad.”
Early summer 1944
The Pope refuses to intervene on behalf of the surviving Jews of Hungary.
June 6, 1944
D-Day: Allied invasion at Normandy.
June 19, 1944
The contents of the Auschwitz Protocols is widely publicized, revealing the murder of Jews in Auschwitz.
Late June 1944
In response to the release of the Auschwitz Protocols, President Roosevelt, the King of Sweden, the Pope and the ICRC decide to take an active role in saving the lives of Jews in Hungary.
June 24, 1944
Jews in Budapest ordered to wear the yellow Star of David.
June 25, 1944
After widespread publicity about the murder of Hungarian Jewry, the Pope sends a weak note of protest to Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy.
June 27, 1944
US government issues warning to Hungarian government and people regarding treatment of Hungarian Jews.
The Pope refuses to intervene on behalf of the surviving Jews of Hungary.
The Archbishop of Canterbury in England appeals to Hungarian government to stop deportation of Jews.
July 6, 1944
Angelo Rotta confronts Sztojay regarding the treatment of Jews, which he calls “abominable.”
July 7, 1944
Horthy reassumes power, temporarily halts deportation of Jews; there are 200,000 Jews left in Budapest; they are concentrated into two ghettoes; Nazi and Arrow Cross gangs continue to raid and murder in these areas.
July 13, 1944
Rotta intercedes on behalf of those interned for political, religious or racial reasons and demands that they be treated in accord with the Geneva conventions and have relief supplies sent through the Red Cross.
July 18, 1944
Horthy announces deportation of Jews will be halted in Hungary.
July 19, 1944
Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, Vatican Nuncio in Turkey, future Pope John XXIII, appeals to Hungarian Regent Horthy on behalf of 5,000 Hungarian Jews with Palestine visas. Roncalli provides Vatican certificates for Jews in hiding.
July 20, 1944
Attempted assassination of Hitler by opposition forces in Germany fails.
July 28, 1944
Rotta sends a protest to Prime Minister Sztójay in which he questions the “good faith” of the Hungarian government in allowing “viciousness” toward the Jews.
August 21, 1944
Rotta, along with the neutral representatives of Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, protests continued deportations. Neutral diplomats begin issuing thousands of additional safe passes.
August 22, 1944
Horthy tells Lajos Reményi-Schneller there will be no more deportations and if this is opposed, the Hungarian government will be in conflict with Germany.
August 23, 1944
Horthy informs Eichmann that he will not cooperate with the deportation of Hungarian Jews.
August 24, 1944
Eichmann forced to leave Budapest, takes refuge with Laszlo Endre at Velem.
October 6, 1944
Soviet Army enters Hungary.
October 15, 1944
Hungarian Arrow Cross and Nazis introduce new reign of terror and murder tens of thousands of Budapest Jews; death marches to Austria instituted. Rotta expands his operations on behalf of the Budapest Jews and works closely with Friedrich Born, the Red Cross delegation, and the legations of Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Portugal. Rotta’s interventions continue as the Arrow Cross actions worsen.
Rotta is authorized to issue 2,500 safe passes, but quickly issues more than 15,000. During this period, Rotta establishes Vatican-protected safe houses for Jews holding his safe pass in the international ghetto.
October 17, 1944
Eichmann returns to Budapest. His second deportation action from Budapest begins.
Mid October, 1944
Tibor Baranski, a 22-year old theology student, volunteers to operate under the Vatican to protect Jews. Baranski is named Executive Director of the Jewish Protection Movement under Rotta and Verolino’s supervision. He distributes hundreds of Vatican protective papers and is tireless in protecting Jews in the Vatican apartments. He is successful in saving hundreds of Jews. His work ends on December 30, 1944, when the Russians capture him. (He is later honored with the title Righteous Among the Nations.)
October 20, 1944
SS troops under Eichmann round up 22,000 Jews in Hungary for deportation.
October 21, 1944
Rotta meets separately with Szálasi. Szálasi promises that Jews will not be deported or murdered. Rotta also demands that forced labor for Jews should be only under the most humane conditions, and that Vatican protective papers should continue to be honored.
October 27, 1944
Hungarian Regent Horthy resigns.
October 30, 1944
Because of the continued protests of Rotta and Born, the Vatican and the other foreign legations’ protective passes are honored by the Hungarian government, and the safe houses are relatively protected.
November 8, 1944
Eichmann institutes death marches of more than 40,000 Jews from Budapest to Austria.
Rotta authorizes pre-signed blank safe conduct passes, used for rescuing Jews bound for deportation and death marches. Thousands of Jews are saved by the Vatican safe passes. Rotta extends Vatican protection to the Jewish children in the ghettoes.
Rotta supplies Jews with baptismal certificates and hides them in convents, monasteries and church buildings.
November 13, 1944
In Budapest, a ghetto is set up for Jews without international protection.
November 17, 1944
Rotta and Swedish Minister Danielsson, on behalf of the neutral states, request the Szalasi government cease the deportations and death marches and observe the neutral status of protected Jews and their safe houses.
November 26-29, 1944
Pest ghetto, with 63,000 Jews, is established. The ghetto contains 293 houses and apartments, with up to 14 persons per room.
The Nazis and the Arrow Cross violate the Vatican safe houses eight times.
December 23, 1944
Eichmann flees Budapest.
January 5, 1945
Last deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
January 16, 1945
Soviets liberate Budapest. 124,000 Jews of Budapest survive the war as a result of the actions of Monsignor Rotta and the neutral diplomats. Rotta is responsible for saving thousands of Jews.
November 16, 1945
Hungarian Prime Minister Zoltán Tildy asks for the resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican and the return of Angelo Rotta. Rotta never returns.
Tibor Báránszky says of Rotta: “The Nuncio performed with extraordinary dedication to the saving of Jews. He was not a young man [Rotta was past seventy] and he was not a healthy individual; yet, he never stopped working until late in the night.”
Angelo Rotta dies in retirement in Rome, Italy, at age 92.
Angelo Rotta, the Vatican Nuncio in Budapest, is awarded Righteous Among the Nations medal.
Ambassador Per Anger tells the Visas for Life staff of the heroic efforts of Father Gennaro Verolino, assistant to Angelo Rotta.
Archbishop Gennaro Verolino celebrates his 98th birthday. He is the last living diplomat who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
He is nominated for Righteous Among the Nations by the Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project.
Archbishop Verolino receives the Per Anger Award. The award is given by Elena Anger, wife of Per Anger.
Updated October 29, 2017