Will the Opening of Sealed Vatican Archives Shed Light on the Fate of Hidden Children?

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. . . .

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Holocaust, Jewish-Catholic relations, Pius XII, Vatican

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy