In March, the Holy See announced its plan to make available to researchers the archives of the papacy of Pius XII, which lasted from 1939 to 1958. These documents may provide answers to many questions about the Church’s conduct during World War II; Toni Kamins points to one in particular:
Foremost among the lingering questions that Jewish leaders hope will be resolved by the newly opened archives are the names and birthplaces of Jewish children placed for safekeeping with Catholic families or Catholic institutions (monasteries, convents, schools) during the war. Many of those children were converted to Catholicism, an act that may have helped save their lives. But prominent Jewish leaders like Abraham Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) [who was himself such a hidden child], believe that even after the war, when it was safe to come out of hiding, most were not told they were Jews. In many instances, the children were the only members of their families to survive—but there were other cases where surviving relatives did exist, and sought in vain for the remnants of their devastated families. . . .
By late 1945 and early 1946, Jewish organizations, largely led and funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), estimated that around 10,000 of those survivors were in Catholic institutions or with non-Jewish families, and set out to find as many of them as possible.
Among those who made it their personal mission to find these children was Rabbi Yitzḥak HaLevi Herzog, Israel’s first chief rabbi, father of Israel’s late President Chaim Herzog, and grandfather of Isaac Herzog, the current chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. . . . Rabbi Herzog met with Pius XII in early 1946 and demanded that he cooperate in finding the children and returning them to the Jewish community. Although the pope did not issue a bull—as a public decree from the papacy is known—his cooperation in the transfer of some children from monasteries and Catholic families to the care of assistants for Rabbi Herzog is documented in Rabbi Herzog’s papers. . . .
A number of attempts by surviving family to recover children, [however] ended up in court and were well publicized at the time. . . .