Project of the State Secretariat
Among the documents of the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State of Pius XII’s pontificate, opened to the public on March 2, 2020, are installments in electronic format on the “Jews” with 4,000 names, including the Liebman story, the role of novelist Waugh, and Ottaviani, who gave false certificates to the persecuted.
In view of the opening of the Vatican Apostolic Archive and other files of Pius XII’s pontificate (1939-1958), the Superiors of the Vatican Secretariat of State initiated a project of digitalization of all the documentation related to Pacelli’s papacy, reported Vatican News.
The endeavor was “a great technological challenge for the Historical Archive,” which had to envision growth and adaptation scenarios long-distance, identifying hardware and software able to cope with the quantity of documents.
In this connection, software was designed and developed with the digitalized installment, as a smaller archive unit, interconnected with an inventory. There are 1,300.000 digital documents, which will be gradually completed with over 700,000 additional documents, for a total of some 323 lineal meters.
Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Subjects
The Historical Archive of the State Secretariat’s Section for Relations with States (ASRS) keeps the documents of the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Subjects (AA.EE.SS.) fund) and of the Church’s Council for Public Affairs.
What attracts interest and curiosity in the panorama of the Holy See’s archives — in virtue of their “political” nature, in direct contact with Nunciatures, Governments and International Institutions, — are questions that can be described as “burning.”
Pius XII’s pontificate marked a decisive period in the history of the 20th century, from World War II to the Cold War, “ a 20-year period characterized also by the multiplication of relations and links, not only from the bilateral but also from the multilateral point of view, with the advent of international realities increasingly conspicuous, points out the Vatican’s informative portal.
The official correspondence of the War period, which is kept in the Historical Archive, was already published in the past in volumes of the Acts and Documents of World War II, prepared at the request of Paul VI by four Jesuits: Graham, Schneider, Martini, and Blet.
4,000 Names of “Jews”
Outstanding among the series of traditional archives, with the name of the Nation to which the documents contained in them refer, is a very surprising detail: the series of archives entitled “Jews,” 170 installments containing the history of some 4,000 names, reports Vatican News.
Among these, there is a majority of requests for help of Catholics of Jewish ancestry, but not lacking either are Jewish names. There are some unexpected personalities: world-renown young researcher Paul Oskar Kristeller for his humanistic studies, who appealed to the Holy See, although the commitment given for his flight from Europe to the U.S.A. remains hidden/unknown in his investigation file. There is also Tullio Liebman, considered the Founder of the ”Processional School of Sao Paulo” and, after the War, world-famous Professor in the Universities of Pavia, Turin, and Milan, who was helped and founded the route of escape to South America, thanks to the commitment of close collaborators of Pius XII.
It will take time to reconstruct the atmosphere and surroundings in which these actions took place, but at least scholars will be able to open other series, such as Italy 1352b, where they will find the investigation file “Accusations against Monsignor Ottaviani” for having granted false documents to Jews and for having them hospitalized in extra-territorial buildings.”
Preservation and Consultation
The digitalization project makes possible two imperatives: the preservation and consultation of the archives.
There is a twofold advantage from the point of view of preservation. On one hand, the preservation of historical maps, precious and unique in the world, from the inevitable deterioration and the risk of dispersion due to paper consultation. In the second place, it makes preservation possible in two means – paper and virtual, which, due to their different nature, overcome the problems of preservation intrinsic to both means, offering much more solid guarantees long term.
From the point of view of consultation by the scientific community, a great advantage exists, in the first place, by the fact that every scholar admitted to the consultation (a limit of 20 people is foreseen) can access through computer stations the totality of the documents that can be consulted: every scholar admitted on a given day can consult all the documents at the same time as others do. Obviously, this couldn’t happen if the consultation was on paper. Moreover, research activity will be faster and more efficient, as there will no longer be waiting times or quantitative limits in the request for documents to be consulted, given the 360-degree free navigation of the archive’s documents.
Another advantage offered by the digitalization is the possibility that scholars can request documents directly and in real-time, through the computer program of consultation of photocopies. Thus, the latter also avoids the photo-mechanical stress (harmful for conservation) due to the process of classic photocopies.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester