Chronology of Rescue by Vatican Diplomats (Nuncios)
Two Vatican diplomats have been honored by Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. They are Angelo Rotta, the Papal Nuncio in Budapest, Hungary, and his assistant, Monsignior Genarro Verolino. There were a number of other Vatican diplomats who were highly active in aiding and rescuing Jews. Many Vatican diplomats issued protective papers, such as baptismal certificates, to Jews, which shielded them from arrest.
One of the most prominent Vatican rescuers is Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who was the Papal Nuncio in Ankara, Turkey, in 1944-1945. He worked with the Jewish Agency for Palestine (Yishuv), the American Ambassador to Turkey, Laurence Steinhardt, and Ira Hirschmann, the U.S. representative of the War Relocation Authority.
Many Catholic priests and nuns were active all over Nazi-occupied Europe rescuing Jews. Jews were transported to safe areas and hidden in churches, monasteries, schools, etc. A number of these courageous clerics have been honored by the State of Israel for rescuing Jews.
Cardinal Roncalli was elected Pope John XIII on October 28, 1958. He served as Pope from 1958-1963. He was responsible for implementing the Vatican II reforms to the Catholic Church. Roncalli was canonized a saint in the church, along with Pope John Paul II, on April 27, 2014. He has yet to be honored by Yad Vashem for his rescue activities.
Eugenio Pacelli is appointed Acting Secretary of the Vatican Foreign Office.
February 24, 1920
The Nazi Party platform is written.
January 22, 1922
Pope Benedict XV dies.
February 6, 1922
Cardinal Achille Ratti of Milan is elected Pope, takes the name Pius XI. He serves until 1939.
October 31, 1922
Italian Fascist party, under Benito Mussolini, takes control of the Italian government.
November 9, 1923
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis fail in their attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government in Munich.
February 11, 1929
The Vatican and Italy sign the Lateran Pact. It gives the Pope sovereignty over Vatican City in Rome.
Angelo Rotta is appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Budapest, Hungary.
February 7, 1930
Cardinal Pacelli is appointed Vatican Secretary of State by Pius XI.
Encyclical Non Abbiamo Biscogno [We Have No Need] is published by Pius XI. The encyclical denounces Mussolini and the Fascist government.
Pope Pius XI launches Angelo Roncalli on a Vatican diplomatic career as a Nuncio. Roncalli is appointed Archbishop of Areopolis and Apostolic Visitor. Archbishop Roncalli appointed Apostolic Delegate (nuncio) to Bulgaria. He serves until 1934.
July 31, 1932
The Nazis win over 37% of the vote in a Reichstag election.
January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany.
February 27, 1933
Nazis set fire to the German Reichstag [Parliament]. Nazis terrorize German citizens to ensure their victory in the election.
March 20, 1933
Dachau concentration camp opens.
March 27, 1933
Passage of the Enabling Act by the Nazi-controlled Reichstag suspends and thereby destroys all civil liberties in Germany. It establishes a completely totalitarian system with only one leader and one political party, which controls all communication.
April 1, 1933
German boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.
April 26, 1933
The establishment of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) under Nazi party.
May 10, 1933
Nazis begin public burning of books by Jewish and other authors opposed to Nazism.
July 14, 1933
Nazi party becomes the only legal party in Germany.
July 20, 1933
The Vatican signs Reich Concordat with Nazi Germany, which gives the new regime legitimacy. This concordat will supposedly protect church rights and property, however, it closes Germany’s center party and withdraws the Catholic church from German political organizations.
January 1, 1934
All Jewish holidays are removed from the official German calendar.
August 2, 1934
Hitler proclaims himself Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor). Armed forces must now swear allegiance to him.
Angelo Roncalli appointed Apostolic Delegate (nuncio) to Turkey and Greece (1934-1944). He establishes friendly relations with the governments and Eastern Orthodox clergy.
January 5, 1935
Bishop Roncalli is officially promoted and transferred to Ankara, Turkey.
September 15, 1935
“Nuremberg Laws”: anti-Jewish racial laws enacted; Jews no longer considered German citizens.
November 14, 1935
The First Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law institutes a system to categorize and define degrees of Jewishness. It specifies that “a Jew cannot be a Reich citizen.”
March 7, 1936
Germans march into the Rhineland, previously demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.
April 19, 1936
Outbreak of an Arab revolt (1936-1939) in Palestine leads to substantial cuts in Jewish immigration by the British.
May 5, 1936
Ethiopia falls to Italy.
June 14, 1936
Archbishop Andrea Cassulo is appointed Papal Nuncio in Bucharest, Romania. He serves there until 1947, when he is forced out by the Communists.
June 17, 1936
Heinrich Himmler, SS Chief, appointed to head all German police.
July 16, 1936
Outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens.
Germany and Italy intervene on behalf of Franco’s fascist forces.
October 25, 1936
Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis.
March 14, 1937
Pope Pius XI issues a Papal encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge [With Burning Anxiety]. Although it does not mention Hitler or Nazism, it comes out strongly against racism and extreme nationalism. The encyclical is smuggled into Germany and read on Palm Sunday in all Catholic churches.
March 13, 1938
Anschluss (annexation of Austria): all anti-Semitic decrees immediately applied in Austria.
April 10, 1938
Austrians vote in favor of annexation to Germany.
May 29, 1938
Anti-Jewish laws are enacted in Hungary.
June 22, 1938
Pope Pius XI orders the drafting of an encyclical letter denouncing racism and anti-Semitism, entitled Humani Generis Unitas [The Unity of the Human Race]. It is never published.
July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 34 countries meet at Evian, France, to discuss refugee policies. All of the countries refuse to help or let in more Jewish refugees. Australia’s response to accepting Jewish refugees states: “As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one.” The lack of support for Jewish refugees signals to Hitler that the world is unconcerned with Jewish refugees.
September 1-3, 1938
The Italian government enacts a law that foreign Jews can no longer reside in Italy. Jews who are naturalized after January 1, 1919, lose their citizenship and are treated as foreigners.
September 30, 1938
Great Britain, France and Italy agree to allow the Nazis to annex the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.
October 5, 1938
Following request by Swiss authorities, Germans mark all Jewish passports with a large letter “J” to restrict Jews from crossing the border into Switzerland.
November 9-10, 1938
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland; thousands of Jews are beaten, hundreds killed; 200 synagogues destroyed; 7,500 Jewish shops looted; 30,000 German, Austrian and Sudeten Jews sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen).
The Mossad for Aliyah Bet is established to smuggle Jews illegally into Palestine.
The British cabinet allows 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia into Britain. This is later known as the Kindertransport. Ninety percent of these children never see their parents again.
Beginning of illegal immigration to British-controlled Palestine from Germany. 27,000 German Jews immigrate by the end of 1940.
The Nazi Foreign Office states that “the ultimate aim of Germany’s Jewish policy [is] the immigration of all Jews living on German territory.”
January 10, 1939
Hitler announces to the German Reichstag [Parliament] that a world war will result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”
February 10, 1939
Pope Pius XI dies in Rome.
Andrea Cassulo petitions the Vatican Secretary of State with a proposal to let 150,000 converted Jews be allowed to immigrate from Romania to relocate to Spain. Nothing comes of this project.
Representatives of the German Roman Catholic hierarchy write to Pope Pius XII asking him to request the Brazilian government to give 3,000 visas for German Catholic Jews to settle in Brazil. Nothing comes of this project.
March 2, 1939
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII.
Pope Pius XII appoints Cardinal Luigi Maglione to be Vatican Secretary of State shortly thereafter.
March 15, 1939
German troops invade Czechoslovakia and occupy Prague.
April 7, 1939
Italy invades Albania.
May 17, 1939
White Paper of 1939: The British government restricts Jewish immigration to Palestine.
August 23, 1939
Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
September 1, 1939
Beginning of World War II: Germany invades Poland.
A euthanasia program to kill physically and mentally handicapped people in Germany begins. It is called Operation T-4.
Aktion [operation] Tannenberg is started. Einsatzgruppen [special troops] are sent to murder Jews, Polish soldiers, political leaders and intellectuals in Poland. According to some records, nearly 500,000 Polish Jews and other civilians are killed.
September 21, 1939
Chiefs of Einsatzgruppen, in cooperation with German civil and military leaders, are ordered to establish Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Poland. The aim of the ghettos is to segregate Jews from Polish society. The plan is to murder Jews slowly by starvation and disease, to kill them by shooting them on the spot, and eventually to depart them to the death camps.
September 28, 1939
Germany and the Soviet Union divide up Poland; German forces occupy Warsaw.
Hitler extends power of doctors to kill mentally and physically disabled persons.
November 23, 1939
The Nazis order Polish Jews to wear the Star of David.
Andrea Cassulo petitions the Romanian government to protect the rights of baptized Jews. Legislation is passed in August 1940 stating that Jews who convert to Christianity would still be considered Jews. These laws stated that a Jew is defined not by his religion but by his birth. Throughout 1940-41, Cassulo maintains that baptized Jews should be protected against anti-Jewish legislation.
First gassing of handicapped and mental patients in German asylums. More than 70,000 people are murdered before protests by church leaders bring about an end to the euthanasia program. However, this operation continues secretly until the end of the war.
April 9, 1940
Germans invades Denmark and Norway.
May 10, 1940
Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.
Neville Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister of Great Britain. Winston Churchill becomes new Prime Minister.
May 15, 1940
The Netherlands surrender to Germany.
May 20, 1940
Concentration camp established at Auschwitz. It will become the largest death camp in the Nazi system.
May 28, 1940
Belgium surrenders to Germany.
June 9, 1940
Norway surrenders to Germany.
June 10, 1940
German army invades France.
Italy enters the war as a German ally, declares war on Great Britain and France, and invades France.
June 15, 1940
Paris falls and the French government transferred to Bordeaux; more than 1 million refugees pour into Bordeaux; Soviets invade and occupy Lithuania.
June 22, 1940
France surrenders; the French sign an armistice with Germany; in Article 19 of this document, the French agree to “surrender on demand all Germans named by the German government in France.”
Italy and France sign a peace agreement.
July 14, 1940
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio, appointed Chargé d’Affaires to Bratislavia, Slovakia, arrives. He is 39 years old.
September 5, 1940
Vatican nuncio in Slovakia, Msgr. Giuseppe Burzio, writes an official dispatch to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Maglione informing him of anti-Jewish regulations and persecutions in Slovakia.
Cardinal Roncalli of Turkey is told of the fate of Jews in Nazi occupied Poland.
September 27, 1940
Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis alliance is signed.
The German government in Poland abolishes exit visas for Jews.
Jews of Warsaw are ordered into a ghetto. In mid-November, the ghetto is sealed.
October 28, 1940
Italy invades Greece.
November 20-24, 1940
Hungary, Romania and Slovakia join the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis.
Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, as Papal Nuncio to Greece and Turkey, participates in the aid and rescue of thousands of Jews in Eastern Europe. He works with other Nuncios, including Monsignor Angelo Rotta in Hungary. He also works with US Ambassador in Turkey Laurence A. Steinhardt and Raymond Courvoiser, International Red Cross Director in Turkey. Among the Jews saved by Roncalli are Slovakian Jews caught in Hungary and Slovakia, Jews trapped in Transnistra, a Romanian-administered territory, and Jews in Budapest. He distributes, by diplomatic pouch to Vatican representatives, various Vatican documents that place Jews under the protection of the Holy See. He also works with the Agency for Palestine and distributes their immigration certificates. After the war, Roncalli makes a statement that he was in part able to help 24,000 Jews.
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.
February 4, 1941
Theodore Cardinal Innitzer, the Archbishop of Vienna, writes to Pope Pius XII asking for aid in granting of visas to Viennese Jews. There are 60,000 Jews in the process of being deported; 11,000 have been baptized. The Vatican does nothing.
March 1, 1941
Bulgaria joins the Tripartite Pact.
March 2, 1941
German troops enter Bulgaria.
March 18, 1941
Romanian government forbids conversion of Jews to Christianity, for reasons of racial purity. Jews who attempt to convert and clerics who convert them are threatened with severe punishment.
March 25, 1941
Yugoslavia joins the Tripartite Pact.
March 30, 1941
Hitler informs German military leaders that the upcoming war against the Soviet Union will be a war of “extermination.”
April 6, 1941
German forces invade Greece and Yugoslavia.
April 9, 1941
German forces occupy Salonica (Thessaloníki). Fifty thousand Jews reside there.
May 15, 1941
Vichy France declares policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany.
May 20, 1941
Gestapo issues circular prohibiting Jewish emigration from Germany and Austria.
Defeated Greece is divided into three occupation zones. Italy occupies most of the Greek peninsula, including Athens, Epirus and the Ionic Islands. The zone is controlled by the Italian army and the Italian Foreign Ministry. This zone has approximately 13,000 Jews.
June 18, 1941
Turkey and Germany sign a friendship treaty.
June 22, 1941
German army invades Soviet Union, called “Operation Barbarossa;” Nazi Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) begin mass murder of Jews, civilian and Communist leaders. More than one and a half million people are murdered by the Einsatzgruppen.
July 31, 1941
Heydrich appointed by Göring to implement the “final solution of the Jewish question.”
Nazi troops occupy Croatia, part of Yugoslavia, and begin deporting Jews.
August 3, 1941
Count Clemens August Graf von Galen, the Catholic Bishop of Münster, protests Nazi euthanasia.
September 17, 1941
The beginning of the general deportation of German Jews to the death camps.
German and Austrian Jews are deported to ghettoes in Eastern Europe.
Archbishop of Lyons, Cardinal Gerlier, protests anti-Jewish decrees and instructs French Catholics to help Jews.
Msgr. Burzio, Nuncio in Slovakia, reports to the Vatican about Jews being murdered by the Germans.
Deportations from the Romanian occupied territories of Bukovina and Bessarabia to Transnistria begin.
October 7, 1941
A conference of Slovak church leaders takes place in Bratislava. Burzio attends this conference and helps draft a statement to repudiate the Jewish Code, which is racist and is totally inconsistent with Catholic teaching. Further, Burzio seeks to protect baptized Jews who have converted in order to be protected against deportation.
October 10, 1941
Cardinal Roncalli, Nuncio to Turkey, has an audience with Pope Pius XII. Roncalli writes in his private diary, “He [the Pope] asked me if his silence regarding Nazism was not judged badly.”
Roncalli arranges for shiploads of wheat and other food for the starving Greek people.
October 15, 1941
Nazi authorities pass a law imposing the death penalty for all Jews who leave the ghettoes without permission or for “persons who knowingly provide hiding places for Jews.”
October 27, 1941
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio reports to the Vatican about the murder of Jews in Russia. This report may be the first time that information about the systematic murder of Jews reaches the Vatican from one of its diplomats. The Vatican’s reaction to Burzio’s report is a complete lack of meaningful response.
René de Weck contacts Red Cross urging them to protect Jews being murdered in Bucharest.
December 4, 1941
Andrea Cassulo intervenes to protect baptized Jews with Romanian dictator Mihai Antonescu. Cassulo also intervenes on behalf of non-baptized Jews. He asks the Queen Mother of Romania, Helena, to intervene on behalf of Jews. As a result, she helps and assures that aid will be sent to Jews deported to Transnistria.
December 7, 1941
Japanese attacks Pearl Harbor. America declares war on Japan and, the next day, on Germany.
Night and Fog Decree: Hitler orders the suppression of anti-Nazi resistance in occupied Western Europe.
December 8, 1941
Gassing of Jews begins at Chelmno extermination camp in Poland.
By the end of December 1941, the Nazis have murdered more than one million Jews.
December 9, 1941
The Jewish Code is enacted in Slovakia. It defines the status of a Jew as racial, not religious. It forbids marriages between Jews and non-Jews, and between Jews and half-Jews.
December 23, 1941
Andrea Cassulo sends a report to Vatican Secretary of State Maglione describing the number of Jews who are threatened with loss of property and deportation. The Vatican replies that they do not believe that these Jews’ conversion to Catholicism is sincere and only is a means of protecting themselves. In Bessarabia, 40,000 Jews are baptized to prevent their deportation.
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.
January 20, 1942
Wannsee Conference in Berlin: Heydrich outlines plan to murder Europe’s Jews.
January 27, 1942
President Roosevelt, in a private conversation with Leo Crowley, Wartime Alien Property Custodian, states: “Leo, you know this is a Protestant country, and the Catholics and the Jews are here on sufferanceIt is up to both of you [Crowley and Henry Morganthau, a Jew and Secretary of the Treasury] to go along with anything that I want at this time.”
February 15, 1942
First transport of Jews murdered at Auschwitz using Zyklon B gas.
Vatican Nuncio in Slovakia, Giuseppe Burzio, informs Cardinal Maglione that 80,000 Jews will be deported from Slovakia to certain death. In May 1942, the Jews are in fact deported.
March 11, 1942
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio, the Papal representative in Slovakia, sends an explicit report to the Vatican Secretary of State on the Einsatzgruppen murder actions against Jews.
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.”
March 27, 1942
First deportation of Jews from France to Auschwitz.
March 31, 1942
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio sends an extensive report to the Vatican detailing the persecution of Jews in Slovakia. He reports on the deportation of Slovakian Jews to Germany.
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.
June 1, 1942
Treblinka death camp begins operation. More than 700,000 Jews are murdered there by mid-1943.
Deportation of Jews to killing centers from Belgium, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Poland.
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.
Following the mass deportations of Jews from the occupied and unoccupied zones of France, Spain’s border becomes a vital escape route for Jewish refugees. By October, several hundred Jewish refugees have escaped across the border.
The Papal Nuncio in Bucharest, Romania, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, along with Swiss diplomat René de Weck, protests the Romanian government’s announcement that they would deport Jews.
August 30, 1942
Pierre-Marie Théas, a French Catholic bishop, tells his parishioners that “all men, regardless of race or religion, deserve respect from individuals and governments.”
Summer 1942-September 1943 - Italian Diplomatic Rescue in Croatia
With German cooperation, the anti-Semitic Ustasha party in Croatia destroys entire villages and murders thousands of Jews and Serbs. Italian soldiers and diplomats refuse to look the other way. Without instructions, they rescue thousands of Jews by allowing them into protected areas. Word spreads in Croatia and thousands of other Jews and Serbs flee from German to Italian zones. Germans protest these rescue activities.
Three thousand Jews under the protection of the Italian occupation forces in Yugoslavia are transferred to the Island of Arbe, off the coast of Yugoslavia, where most survive the war. All told, nearly 80% of the Yugoslavian Jews who fled to the Italian-occupied zone were saved.
The following Italian diplomats were involved in the rescue of Jews in Croatia: Vittorio Castellani, Liaison Officer, Foreign Ministry; Ambassador Roberto Ducci, Head of the Croatian Department of the Italian Foreign Ministry; and Gastone Guidotti, Secretary at the Italian Legation in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Mussolini resists Hitler’s order to deport Jews to concentration camps; he continues to let Jewish relief groups operate throughout Italy.
Several Vatican diplomats request that Pope Pius XII end his public silence on Nazi atrocities against Jews. The Pope declines to take direct action to help Jews who are being murdered. He states: “The Holy See has done, is doing, and will do all in its power to help.”
September 6, 1942
Catholic Cardinal Pierre Gerlier, Archbishop of Lyons, protests deportation of Jews from France.
September 26, 1942
Kazimierz Papée, the Polish Ambassador to the Vatican, and American envoy Myron C. Taylor prepare memos to Vatican Secretary of State reporting on the mass murder of Jews at killing centers.
September 30, 1942
The Romanian Foreign Minister informs Andrea Cassulo that the government would not recognize the baptism of Jews of northern Bukovina and Bessarabia. This is a repudiation of the nuncio’s policy of Jewish baptisms being recognized by the Catholic Church.
Cassulo meets with Ion and Mihai Antonescu and questions them about their persecution of Jews.
October 2, 1942
Andrea Cassulo writes to Vatican Secretary of State Maglione about the continuing persecution of Jews. He blames the worsening situation on an “Orthodox nationalist spirit.”
October 9, 1942
Cassulo goes to Rome to discuss the persecution of Jews with Pope Pius XII, Maglione and others.
October 29, 1942
Andrea Cassulo intervenes on behalf of the rights of baptized Jews.
An American consul in Geneva, Paul Squire, attempts to disseminate information on the Holocaust. He is unsuccessful.
November 11, 1942
Germans and Italians occupy southern France.
November 24, 1942
Andrea Cassulo sends memorandum to the Romanian minister of foreign affairs regarding the rights of baptized Jews.
Deportation of Jews from Germany, Greece and Norway to killing centers; Jewish partisan movement organized in forests near Lublin.
November 1942-September 1943 - France
Beginning in November of 1942, the Italian Army and Foreign Ministry officials occupy and administer eight French departments east of the Rhône River, in southern France. A French government remains in place, but the Italians control the area. In these zones, French Jews and other refugees are protected until the Italians surrender and leave southern France in September 1943.
Italian forces and diplomats refuse to enforce anti-Semitic measures in their zones. They refuse to allow any forced labor camps in their occupation zones. Further, the Italian occupying Army prevent any arrests or deportations of Jews in their area. By 1943, more than 50,000 Jews flee to the Italian zone. Twenty to thirty thousand of these are non-French Jews. Many gravitate to the area around Nice.
For nearly 10 months, Italian diplomats and the occupying military forces thwart the Nazis' "final solution" in southern France.
December 12, 1942
Archbishop Anthony Springovics of Riga, Latvia, reports to the Vatican that most of the Jews of Riga have been murdered.
December 24, 1942
Pope Pius XII, in his Christmas message, in a thinly veiled reference to Jews, states “hundreds of thousands who, through no fault of their own, and sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or slow decline.”
Andrea Cassulo meets with Romanian leader Antonescu and gives him a report to the Vatican from the Swiss Jewish community. Antonescu tells the nuncio that he has been considering aid for Jews in Transnistria and does not want to continue persecutions.
February 4, 1943
Archbishop of Canterbury, in England, condemns murder of Jews in Europe.
February 22, 1943
Bulgaria and Germany sign an agreement stipulating the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to Poland. Bulgaria agrees to deliver 20,000 Jews to the Germans. This is the only time that a formal contract for the murder of Jews is written.
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.
King Boris X and the Bulgarian parliament defy the Nazis by rescinding the order to deport Bulgarian Jews. Although the Bulgarians have previously allowed the deportation of thousands of Jews to Treblinka from Thrace, Macedonia and Serbia, they stop the deportation of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews, who survive the war. This amounts to 100% of the Bulgarian Jews.
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.
March 25, 1943
Von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, complains to Mussolini regarding lack of cooperation by the Italian diplomatic corps and Army in the Italian occupied zone of southern France.
April 2, 1943
Bulgarian church leader Metropolitan Stephan, in meeting Holy Synod, warns of the imminent danger of deportation of Bulgarian Jews.
April 7, 1943
Papal nuncio in Slovakia Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio protests deportation of Slovakian Jews in a meeting with Prime Minister Tuka. Tuka accuses Burzio of meddling in the internal affairs of Slovakia. Tuka states that it is his task to rid Slovakia of its Jews, whom he describes as criminals. Burzio says that thousands of women and children cannot be considered criminals. Later in the month, Burzio receives more proof of the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and he passes this information to the Vatican Secretary of State.
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.
Spring 1943 - Greece
After the German occupation of Greece, the Nazis begin rounding up the Jews of Salonica for deportation to Auschwitz. The Italian consulates in Salonica refuse to participate in the roundup of Jews. Italian consulates impede the deportations be engaging in lengthy discussion on defining what a Jew is. Italian consulates also issue naturalization papers to Jews. This action protects many Jews from deportation.
Pellegrino Ghigi, Italian Minister Plenipotentiary in Athens, with the help of General Carlo Geloso, Italian Commander of the 11th Army in Greece, protects Jews in the Italian zone and rescues as many as possible from the German occupied areas such as Salonica.
Giuseppe Castruccio, Italian Consul in Salonica, Greece, plays a key role in saving 350 Salonica Jews by placing them on an Italian military train that takes them out of Salonica into the Italian neutral zone. He does this on his own authority.
Guelfo Zomboni, Italian Councillor in Salonica, Greece, on his own authority and without permission from the Italian Foreign Ministry, provides hundreds of Greek Jews Italian birth certificates and certificates of citizenship, which protect Greek Jews from deportation to Auschwitz. He is challenged by the German authorities, but is able to pretend he has authority from the Italian government.
Italian soldiers are sent to German detention camps in Salonica on a mission to save Jewish women. They falsely claim they are their wives. The Germans release the women to their "husbands."
Italian military trains carry protected Jews from the German occupied zone to Athens, where they remain temporarily under the protection of the Italian army. As long as the Italian army remains as an occupying force, these Jews are fed, housed and remain under Italian protection. After the Italian surrender and withdrawal, many of the Jews are deported and murdered.
May 18, 1943
Andrea Cassulo writes a letter to Mihai Antonescu asking that the government allow the emigration of 8,000 orphans located in the provinces. He asks that the children be returned to Romania and taken to be cared for by Jewish families.
May 20, 1943
The Italian Army establishes an internment camp as a safe haven for Yugoslavian and Slovakian Jews on the island of Rab (Arbe).
Members of the Bulgarian Parliament, Bulgarian Orthodox church leaders, and the Bulgarian population protest plans to deport Bulgarian Jews. Jews are dispersed to the Bulgarian countryside. Fifty thousands Bulgarian Jews survive the war.
May 23, 1943
Maglione encourages Burzio to try to prevent further deportations of Slovakian Jews.
Himmler orders the liquidation of all ghettos in Poland and the Soviet Union.
The 25,000 Jews of Sofia, Bulgaria, are given three days notice to pack their bags, abandon their homes, property and jobs, and are resettled in the provinces under degrading and impoverished conditions. Food and housing are given by the local Bulgarian population, in defiance of regulations.
June 6, 1943
Andrea Cassulo reports to Vatican Secretary of State Maglione that he has negotiated an agreement with Romanian minister Lecca to protect Jews. These protections are: the limitation of deportations; the transfer of Jews from German-controlled areas to Romanian-controlled territories; protection of the lives of Jewish deportees; protection of the ghettoes; sending of medicine and clothing from the Red Cross; shipping of food and other supplies to Jewish refugees; allowing Jews to be paid for their labor; allowing Jews to correspond with their relatives; and allowing some Jewish orphans to be sent to Palestine.
René de Weck saves more than 2,000 Jewish orphans in Moldavia from deportation. He also manages to protect Hungarian Jews in Romania.
July 9-10, 1943
Allied forces invade Sicily.
July 16, 1943
British government tells Jewish Agency for Palestine that Jewish refugees who escape to Turkey will be given permission to enter Palestine.
Catholic priest Father Marie-Benoit has audience with Pope Pius XII. He presents the Pope with documents regarding the persecution of Jews in France. He asks for assistance in rescuing Jews in the Italian occupied zone in France.
July 25, 1943
Benito Mussolini is overthrown; Pietro Badoglio sets up a new government in Italy.
Italian Foreign Ministry orders the Defense Ministry not to release Jews on the island of Rab into German custody.
King Boris X of Bulgaria, whose country was officially aligned with Germany, refuses Hitler’s orders to deport Bulgaria’s Jews to Germany for extermination. Jews hide in the countryside. Two weeks later, on August 28, the king dies under mysterious circumstances. Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who later became Pope John XXIII, intercedes on behalf of Bulgarian Jews with King Boris.
September 3-8, 1943
The Allies invade southern Italy. Italy surrenders. An armistice is signed with the Allies, with Italian Marshal Badoglio. The German Army and SS units move into Italy.
September 9, 1943
Nazis occupy former Italian zone in southern France. Thousands of Jews are trapped around Nice.
September 10, 1943
Germany Army occupies Rome.
Pope Pius XII opens Vatican properties, including churches, monasteries, convents, and schools, to house Jewish refugees who are seeking protection. Some Jews are even hidden in Vatican City.
October 13, 1943
Italy declares war on Germany.
October 16, 1943
SS troops begin “Black Sabbath” raid on the Jews of Rome. 1,127 Jews are rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. Thousands of Jews go into hiding. The German ambassador warns the Pope about the imminent deportation. The Pope subsequently instructs priests to give the Jews sanctuary. The Vatican hides 477 Jews and 4,238 Jews are hidden in convents and monasteries in Rome. In all, 5,615 Jews of Rome could not be found by the Nazis.
November 30, 1943
The Nazis order all Italian Jews into concentration camps.
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.
Romanian leader Ion Antonescu agrees to return Jewish deportees to Romania from Transnistria.
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. Consul Lutz challenges Eichmann and begins to issue thousands of additional Schutzpässe. Lutz appeals to the neutral legations of Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the Vatican for a united front against the deportations of the Hungarian Jews.
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
Roosevelt sends warning to Hungarian officials against mistreating the Jews.
April 5, 1944
Jews of Hungary forced to wear the star; Jewish businesses and bank accounts confiscated; Jews placed in ghettoes.
April 7, 1944
The Auschwitz Protocols: Two Jewish prisoners, Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba, escape Auschwitz and reach Slovakia with detailed information about the mass murder of Jews in the camp. Their report (supplemented by information brought by two more escapees) reaches the free world in June.
April 28, 1944
Deportations of Hungarian Jews from the ghettoes in the countryside to Auschwitz begin.
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
Dean of the diplomatic corps in Budapest and Papal Nuncio Angelo 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.”
June 3, 1944
German troops withdraw from Rome, declaring it an open city.
June 4, 1944
The 5th US Army, commanded by General Mark Clark, liberates Rome.
June 6, 1944
D-Day: Allied invasion at Normandy, France, opens second front.
June 24, 1944
Jews in Budapest ordered to wear the yellow Star of David.
June 25, 1944
Pope Pius XII sends telegram to Hungarian Regent Horthy to stop persecution of “a large segment of the Hungarian people because of their race.” The Pope does not specifically mention Jews.
June 27, 1944
US government issues warning to Hungarian government and people regarding treatment of Hungarian Jews.
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
Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy reassumes power, temporarily halts deportation of Jews; there are 200,000 Jews left in Budapest; they are concentrated into two ghettoes; Lutz and other neutral diplomats place Jews under their diplomatic protection in over 100 safe houses; Nazi and Arrow Cross gangs continue to raid and murder in these areas.
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 Stojay in which he questions the “good faith” of the Hungarian government in allowing “viciousness” toward the Jews.
August 21, 1944
Neutral diplomatic legations of the Vatican, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland in Budapest protest the resumption of deportations of Jews to Auschwitz. These legations begin to issue thousands of protective passes to Jews in danger of deportation.
Rotta and Verolino present a note to Lajos Reményi-Schneller, the deputy prime minister, stating: “It is the human duty of the representatives of the neutral countries to protest against these actions, which are opposed to all Christian and humane feelings. The representatives of the neutral powers herewith request the Hungarian Government to forbid these cruelties, which ought never to have started.”
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.
August 25, 1944
Paris is liberated by Allied forces.
September 8, 1944
Bulgaria changes sides and declares war on Germany.
October 5, 1944
The British Colonial Office allows only 10,300 Jews to immigrate to Palestine. This will be at the rate of only 1,500 per month. This order rescinds an original offer made to the Jewish Agency of Palestine, which would originally allow all Jews reaching Turkey to enter Palestine.
October 6, 1944
Soviet Army enters Hungary.
October 14, 1944
British Army liberates Athens.
October 15, 1944
Admiral Horthy tries to sue for peace with Soviet Union. Horthy is soon arrested by Nazi puppet government. Hungarian Arrow Cross and Nazis introduce new reign of terror and murder tens of thousands of Budapest Jews.
Death marches to Austria are instituted. Lutz, Wallenberg, Perlasca, Born and Rotta are largely successful in stopping death marches and protecting their safe houses.
Rotta and Verolino give permission to Sandor Ujváry, a volunteer with the International Red Cross, to distribute hundreds of blank Vatican protective papers and baptismal certificates to Jewish refugees. Ujváry is successful in helping hundreds of Jews escape from death marches. Rotta congratulates him, saying: “My son, your action pleases God…as you are rescuing innocent people. I grant you absolution n advance. Continue your work to the glory of God!”
The Vatican office works with young Budapest Zionists who disguise themselves as “envoys from the Vatican.” They dress up as clerics and nuns, giving food and medicine to the Jewish marchers.
A Lazarist priest, Father Köhler, distributes Vatican protective passes authorized by Rotta. Köhler demands that the Arrow Cross free Jewish marchers who are in bad condition. Father Köhler helps free 4,700 marchers, who return to Budapest. The Arrow Cross attacks and threatens Father Köhler for his efforts on behalf of Jews. He tells the Arrow Cross, “I am not afraid of you. Shoot if you dare!”
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 23, 1944
Adolf Eichmann leaves Budapest along with his SS troops.
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
Beginning of death marches of approximately 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. House to house fighting and artillery severely damage Budapest. It takes nearly a month to fully liberate Budapest.
January 17, 1945
Auschwitz is closed and evacuated, 66,000 prisoners are taken away on a death march.
January 27, 1945
Soviet troops enter and liberate Auschwitz concentration camp. Seven thousand prisoners are free. Only a handful of them are Jewish.
February 23, 1945
Turkey declares war on Germany.
April 28, 1945
Italian partisans shoot Mussolini as he tries to escape to Switzerland.
April 29, 1945
The German Army unconditionally surrenders in Italy.
April 30, 1945
Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin.
May 2, 1945
German forces in Italy surrender to the Allies.
May 8, 1945
V-E Day: Germany surrenders; end of Third Reich.
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.”
Thousands of survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps emigrate to the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Australia and Israel. A very few return to Europe.
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio serves as Papal Nuncio to Bolivia, 1946-1950.
Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, who had served in Bucharest, Romania, for 11 years, is forced out by the Communist regime. He is then assigned to be Apostolic delegate to Turkey.
Pope Pius XII requests mercy for Nazi war criminals condemned to death. This appeal is turned down.
May 14, 1948
Britain’s mandate to govern Palestine officially expires. The state of Israel is established. Palestine is divided between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan.
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio serves as Papal Nuncio to Cuba, 1950-1954. He leaves Vatican diplomatic service and becomes a canon of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.
Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, the Apostolic delegate to Turkey, dies. He is 83 years old.
October 9, 1958
Pope Pius XII dies.
October 28, 1958
Archbishop Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Papal nuncio in Ankara, Turkey, during World War II, becomes Pope John XXIII.
January 25, 1959
Pope John XXIII announces his intention to convene an Ecumenical Council. It becomes known as Vatican II.
The Jewish community of Italy gives gold medals to Christians who played important roles in rescuing Jews. Monsignor Montini (later Pope Paul VI), head of the Holy See’s Aid Service to Refugees during the war, declines to accept a medal. He states: “I acted in the line of duty and for that I am not entitled to a medal.”
Pope John XXIII calls for a change in the Catholic church’s relationship with Jews. He eliminates the phrase “perfidious Jews” from the Good Friday liturgy.
October 11, 1962
Pope John XXIII opens Vatican II. Jewish and Protestant clergy, as well as scholars, are invited as observers.
February 20, 1963
A play by Rolf Hochhuth entitled Der Stellvertreter [The Deputy] opens in Berlin. The play is critical of Pope Pius XXII’s silence during the Holocaust.
June 3, 1963
Pope John XXIII dies.
Israel honors first of the Righteous Among the Nations. Every person honored for saving Jews receives a tree planted in his or her name and is awarded a certificate and medal. German businessman Oskar Schindler was the third person so honored.
Angelo Rotta dies in retirement in Rome, Italy, at age 92.
Nostra Aetate [In Our Time] is approved as part of the final session of Vatican II. It includes key statements pertaining to Jewish-Catholic relations. The document deplores anti-Semitism and rejects the idea that Jews be charged and implicated in the death of Jesus.
The Vatican Secretary of State publishes an 11-volume series pertaining to the actions of Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church in World War II. These volumes are entitled Actes et Documents du Saint Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (ADDSS).
Monsignor Giuseppe Burzio passes away in Rome at age 65.
Vatican issues Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing “Nostra Aetate.”
Samuel and Pearl Oliner publish their landmark study of rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Vatican diplomatically and officially recognizes the State of Israel. It exchanges ambassadors with Israel.
April 7, 1994
The Vatican organizes its first memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. More than 200 Jewish Holocaust survivors are asked to participate in the commemoration.
Angelo Rotta, the Vatican Nuncio in Budapest, is awarded Righteous Among the Nations medal.
“We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah” is issued by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
Visas for Life: The Righteous Diplomats exhibit opens at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, with tour of diplomats’ families. Israel issues commemorative stamp in honor of Righteous Diplomats.
Ambassador Per Anger tells the Visas for Life staff of the heroic efforts of Father Gennaro Verolino, assistant to Angelo Rotta.
March 12, 2000
Pope John Paul II, along with Cardinals and officials, officiates at a special service at St. Peter’s asking God’s forgiveness for the church’s sins against the Jewish people.
March 20-26, 2000
Pope John Paul II visits the memorial hall at Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, Israel. He gives a speech and greets Holocaust survivors.
September 3, 2000
Pope John Paul II beatifies (declares “blessed”) Pope John XXIII. This is the last step before sainthood or canonization. This raises an individual who is so honored as a public model of heroic sanctity. Pope John XXIII was formerly Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, the Papal Nuncio in Turkey who saved 24,000 Jews. The Visas for Life Project supports the beatification.
The remains of Pope John Paul XXIII are moved to the main floor of St. Peter’s Basilica to accommodate the many pilgrims who flock to his sarcophagus. This Pope has been called the most beloved Pope of all time.
Pope John XXIII, written by Thomas Cahill, is published. Extensive references about his rescue of Eastern European Jews are presented in the book.
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. Yad Vashem agrees to give Verolino a letter of commendation for his actions to save Jews.
Archbishop Verolino receives the Per Anger Award. The award is given by Elena Anger, wife of Per Anger.
Verolino is given award in his hometown and recognized by Vatican officials.
Verolino is awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
April 27, 2014
Pope John XIII and Pope John Paul II are canonized as saints by the Catholic Church.
Updated October 15, 2017