Pope Pius XII reportedly knew about the daily killings of up to 6,000 Poles and Jews at the Belzec death camp
Pope Pius XII raises his right hand in a papal blessing at the Vatican, September 1945 © AP
Pope Pius XII was told about the murders of thousands of Jews at the Belzec extermination camp in Nazi occupied Poland, according to a letter published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday. The Vatican has long maintained that it was unaware of the true scale of the Holocaust.
Addressed to Pius’ secretary, the letter was written by German Jesuit priest Lothar Koenig in December 1942 and recently discovered by a Vatican archivist.
In the missive, the priest reportedly mentions an SS-operated gas chamber at the Belzec death camp in Poland, while also referring to the extermination camp at Auschwitz.
Koenig reportedly describes how “up to 6,000 men die every day, especially Poles and Jews” in the “blast furnaces” at Belzec.
It is unclear whether Pius ever read Koenig’s letter. However, the Pontiff began receiving correspondence from British and Polish envoys in the same month of 1942, informing him that up to a million Jews had already been murdered by that point in Poland by the Nazi regime.