Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Re: Tony D’Amato’s Views On Hitler’s Plot To Kidnap The Pope And On Pius XII’s Silence On The Destruction Of The Jews

January 18, 2005

Re: Tony D’Amato’s Views On Hitler’s Plot To Kidnap The Pope And On Pius XII’s Silence On The Destruction Of The Jews.
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

Over the weekend I received an email from Tony D’Amato, a brilliant Northwestern University professor of international law who has multiple interests and talents. (E.g., he is a fine pianist, and he discovered Grease when it was in a small Chicago theater and helped bring it to Broadway.) Tony’s email related to the question of whether Hitler hatched and tried to carry out a plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII, and to the conduct of the Pope.

One of the points Tony makes is that, had Pius publicly denounced the destruction of the Jews that was occurring before his eyes, instead of remaining silent, this "might have triggered a revolutionary change in the war," and in allied war aims, by deeply affecting public opinion in the United States and Britain. The question Tony is raising is, as he points out, deeply pertinent to the current drive to canonize Pius XII, who, of course, did not denounce the Nazis’ actions.
Tony’s views are attached. I would add one fillip. Just as the Pope did not speak out because he hoped his silence would help Catholics (or at least such is my understanding), so too The New York Times, owned by a Jewish family, did not speak out, and buried pertinent news in small articles in the inside of the paper, because it did not want to be perceived as a Jewish newspaper in a society where there was a lot of antisemitism. So the Pope was silent, The Times was silent, and many others were silent too. One is moved to say that, as life has so often taught me (and as has therefore been said in recent books), you can depend upon most people to do the wrong thing most of the time.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at velvel@mslaw.edu. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.

By the end of 1942, it was clear to any rational observer that Hitler had lost the war. His attack on Russia failed to secure the oil fields, and his strategically absurd battle for Stalingrad ended in stalemate and chaos. Among the rational observers I refer to were most of the German generals. For example, when leading German generals in 1943 and 1944 approached Churchill through their intermediaries for assistance in assassinating Hitler, Churchill hemmed and hawed and ended up giving them no help, money, or support. Churchill knew that, by then, Hitler had become the Allies' secret weapon for defeating Germany. For the same reason that the German generals wanted to get rid of Hitler, Churchill wanted to keep him in power. Thus it is not surprising that Hitler's plan to kidnap the pope fell on deaf ears. A great many of his orders were falling on deaf ears in the last two or three years of the war.

*I'm not even sure I believe the stories below about the plans to kidnap the pope. To do so might be to turn a third of the German populace against Hitler. And even an increasingly insane Hitler would certainly not have wanted to risk such a thing. (His biggest fear, arising out of his "study" and experiences of World War I, was to lose the homeland support of the German citizenry.) Skeptic as I am, I wonder whether General Wolff wasn't just making up all of this pope kidnapping stuff to position himself better at the end of a losing cause. There is no doubt in my mind, after reading several recent books on the subject, that Pius XII was indifferent to the fate of the Jews. It is not that he was pro-Nazi, he was pro-Catholics in Germany, and he believed that the German Catholics would be relatively well off under Hitler. While it is true that the Italian people took greater risks than any other people in Europe in harboring Jews in their homes during the war years (the Danes were also admirable in doing the same thing, but the personal risk to the Italians was greater due to Mussolini), I haven't seen any evidence that the Pope or his priests encouraged Italian citizens in their humanitarian efforts.

My own conclusion is that the pope's silence on the holocaust question was not the slightest bit compensated by the "private" efforts the Vatican took to help Jews during the war. I do not mean to denigrate the latter; they were helpful. But Pius XII was sitting silently with huge moral authority. If he had called attention to the "final solution"as it unfolded before his eyes, he might have triggered a revolutionary change in the war. At the time, neither Roosevelt, Churchill, nor Stalin had any real interest in human rights; they were only interested in winning militarily.

The one thing that could have turned Roosevelt and Churchill around would have been a public denunciation by the Pope of the murder of Jews in Europe, because speaking out would have reverberated among the American and British populace. Both FDR and Winnie were ultra-sensitive about carrying along their domestic public opinion, and I'm sure they would have re-defined their war aims if the "final solution" had made headlines in the domestic press. What would have happened if the pope had spoken out is, as FDR himself characterized counterfactual conjectures, an "iffy" question. But that doesn't mean we are not entitled to speculate about it. In my judgment, the pope's failure to speak out during World War II ranks right up there with the Inquisition and the False Popes in the history of Catholicism. To make a saint of this character is just another attempt by the Vatican to prettify the ugly facts of the world.

Tony D'Amato

*I can't resist passing this story on to you--apologies if you've heard it. It is the last week of April 1945, and Hitler is shivering in his bunker. The walls are reverberating with the incessant bombardment above ground. An adjutant bursts into Hitler's study and says, "Mein Fuehrer! The Americans are invading Berlin from the south, the French from the north, the British from the west, and the Russians from the east. What shall we do?" Hitler says, "That tears it! From now on, no more 'Mister nice guy'."

At 10:21 PM 1/15/2005, you wrote: Mr. Britt would seem to have an expansive definition of religion.

Ewen Allison: "Hitler 'ordered pope kidnapped' But leading German general refused to obey order, newspaper says."

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -- Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler gave one of his generals a direct order to kidnap Pope Pius XII during World War II but the officer did not obey, Italy's leading Roman Catholic newspaper reported. Avvenire, which is owned by the Italian Conference of Roman Catholic bishops, said new details of the plot had emerged in documents presented to the Vatican in favor of putting the controversial wartime Pontiff on the road to sainthood. Elements of alleged plots to abduct the pope during Germany's occupation of Italy have already emerged in the past from some historians, but Avvenire's full-page report said its details were new. Avvenire said Hitler feared the pope would be an obstacle to his plans for global domination and because the dictator wanted to eventually abolish Christianity and impose National Socialism as a sort of new global religion.

The newspaper said a plot that was code named Operation Rabat had originally been planned for 1943 but was not carried out that year for unspecified reasons. It said that in 1944, shortly before the Germans retreated from Rome, SS General Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff, a senior occupation officer in Italy, had been ordered by Hitler to kidnap the pope. According to the newspaper, Wolff returned to Rome from his meeting with Hitler in Germany and arranged for a secret meeting with the pope. Wolff went to the Vatican in civilian clothes at night with the help of a priest. The newspaper said Wolff told the pope of Hitler's orders and assured him he had no intention of carrying them out himself, but warned the pontiff to be careful "because the situation (in Rome) was confused and full of risks." Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had already fallen and set up a German-backed puppet regime in northern Italy. The German occupation of Rome was in its dying days. Allied forces were advancing on the capital, which they liberated on June 5, 1944.

As a test of Wolff's good faith, Pope Pius asked for him to free two Italian resistance leaders who had been condemned to death. Wolff arranged for them to be released, the paper said. Road to sainthood--Avvenire said the details of the plot are in testimony Wolff gave before he died in Germany to Church officials accumulating evidence to back efforts to have Pius eventually made a saint. But the reports of Hitler's contempt for Pius have contrasted with other versions by historians and authors who have depicted Pius as being pro-German and have accused him of intentionally turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.

The Vatican's procedures to put Pius on the road to sainthood have not been slowed or shelved despite concerns from Jews, and they will enter a new phase in March when Vatican historians will begin discussing many volumes of documentation. The Vatican maintains that Pius did not speak out more strongly because he feared it would worsen the fate of Catholics and Jews, and that he worked behind the scenes to save Jews. Pius's pontificate has been one of the trickiest problems in post-war Catholic-Jewish relations. In 1998, there was widespread Jewish discontent with a Vatican document called "We Remember, a Reflection on the Shoah," which effectively absolved Pius of accusations that he facilitated the Holocaust by remaining silent. But the current pontiff, Pope John Paul, has strongly defended Pius and once called him "a great pope."

January 18, 2005
Re: Alan Dershowitz and Computers
From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel

Dear Colleagues:

If they were to know (and now they may), some people might find it odd that a blog is written by someone who does not even know how to turn on a computer, by someone who has successfully resisted such knowledge. In fact colleagues and family members are constantly urging me to learn to use a computer. Inability to operate the technology, however, does not stop one from recognizing that the Internet is a huge advance in human communication, or from using the technology via others who do know how to operate it.

Last Sunday a special education edition of The Times carried three interviews on what the paper thought the oddball phenomenon of people on campus who do not use a computer. One of the interviews was with Alan Dershowitz, who says he does not even know how to type but has just finished his 23rd book. The interview is attached because much of what Dershowitz says is true of this blogger as well, particularly his points about lack of time, lack of need, inputting by others, and never having learned to type. (He and I, being almost the same age, are part of what must be the last generation of men who did not learn this now invaluable skill.)

To be in company with Dershowitz regarding inability to use a computer is to be in not bad company. I also notice, incidentally, that every so often the papers will carry a story about some leader of business or industry, usually about our age, who likewise hasn’t learned to use a computer -- like Dershowitz or myself, those men too are among the last of the dodo birds.

Dershowitz did not mention two additional reasons I hold for not using a computer. One is this: I fear the truth of something my friends and family say to me as a reason for learning to use "the machine" (as my immigrant relatives used to call automobiles). One is told that the Internet will grip his attention endlessly because it is filled with fascinating information which is either linked or easily locatable. Exactly. It will seize one and take up too much time, a phenomenon which, one reads, afflicts untold numbers of people who spend (endless) hours every day in front of computers.

One can’t do everything -- what we have here is a mundane example, but an example nevertheless, of the need to make choices. It is that need which caused one to stop reading dictionaries when young to avoid being sucked in endlessly, and, when older, to stop watching almost all television (except Michigan football games, Patriot championship games, and some BookTV) in order, Gerschenkron-like, to have time to read books. It may sound bizarre to say so, but such choices are, in a way, akin to some people’s choice to stop drinking because drinking is ruining their ability to do other things.

The other reason is perhaps a little oddball, and is nonutilitarian too. It is the sheer physical/aesthetic pleasure of watching handwritten words appear on a page. The same pleasure has never arisen from, say, watching words appear on a screen as one dictates to a secretary who is using a computer -- excuse me, is using a word processor. Nor do I remember reading or hearing someone say the opposite, albeit perhaps people do feel the opposite but don’t speak or write about it very much.

For those of you who are good enough to send messages to this blogger now and then, let me say that you need have no fear. Those messages are all read by one of two means. They are all printed out in hard copy for me, so many are read that way. And, to lessen my technological out-of-itness just a little bit by participating to some extent in email, this writer has obtained, and reads lots of email messages on, a Blackberry. But, not knowing how to type, nothing is transmitted on the Blackberry. Things come in on it, but nothing goes out on it. What the blogger needs, I guess, is half a blackberry.

(That things come in but nothing goes out reminds me of a completely unrelated story about Oak Ridge, the major built-from-scratch facility in Tennessee where work was done on uranium during World War II. After the bomb was dropped, people who lived in the Oak Ridge area were asked whether they ever wondered what was going on there. One answer was, well, yes, it did seem kind of odd that stuff constantly was being taken into Oak Ridge but nothing ever seemed to come out of there.)

In any event, one is grateful to Dershowitz for sticking up for us Luddites, retrograde dodos that we may be. One is also grateful to him for explaining to the technologically sophisticated -- who simply cannot believe, credit or sympathize with our backwardness, who revile it and try to get us to change -- some of the reasons why we resolutely set our face against progress and continue to do things the old way.*

*This posting represents the personal views of Lawrence R. Velvel. If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at velvel@mslaw.edu. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.

New York Times (NY)Copyright ©) 2005 The New York Times. All rights reserved.

January 16, 2005 Section: 4ABLACKBOARD: TECHNOLOGY;

Profs Who Don't (Won't) E-Mail

Abby Ellin--
COLLEGES have long been a hotbed of computer activity. After all, the first general-purpose computer, Eniac, was invented on a campus (University ofPennsylvania, 1946). Today, if you want to talk to your professors, e-mail them. Yet even on campus there are some who shun technology. We asked for an explanation. ALAN DERSHOWITZ, professor of law, Harvard (below): "I love innovation, and I'm even writing something about the way in which the Internet affects First Amendment law. But I can't even turn on a computer. A Luddite is the term. I'm a klutz. I went on eBay. I was trying to buy some old-fashioned Jewish postcards and bought a book by mistake. My wife banned me; she was afraid I'd lose all our money. Partly it's a question of not having the time to learn something new, and I don't need it. I just finished my 23rd book. I write everything by hand and somebody inputs it. I grew up in a Jewish sexist family where only the girls learned to type. My mother typed all my homework assigments."

January 18, 2005

Dear Colleagues:

The attached essay on the meaning and misuse of words like "war" and "force" has been received from Professor Daniel C. Maguire of Marquette University.

Lawrence R. Velvel

WAR Daniel C. Maguire, Marquette University, 414 961 0139

When a single word becomes a lie....Words are like people: marry one and you get all the relatives in the bargain. The problem is words are promiscuous and also polygamous, and so you get more and more relatives and in-laws to deal with. What this means is that words are mutants. They can take on new meanings. Eventually they can become so loaded with deception that they can no longer be used innocently. To say the word is to be so steeped in lies that to use the word makes you a liar.

Take "war" for example. Since ancient times the word has been spotted as a mischievous misnomer: Desertum faciunt et bellum appellant ...they create a wasteland, but they call it "war." In modern times Peter Ustinov put it this way: "Terrorism is the war of the poor; war is the terrorism of the rich." Putting the violence of war and violence of terrorism together represents a candor that is not welcome.

The word war in modern times has become a lie. It says something that is not true. It can't be used truthfully. "War" has been made to seem rational, productive, noble, inevitable, the path of honor, "an extension of statecraft by other means." War is now so transformed into respectability that we use it in all sorts of innocent and lovely contexts: "the war on poverty," "the war on cancer," "the war on illiteracy," etc.

War is good and reasonable and we need lots of it. What really helped all this to happen was the venerable "just war theory." Putting the word "war" alongside the word "just" helped to baptize war, making it seem rational and good. There are some words that have finally become accepted as denoting an evil: torture, slavery, rape. War is not in their company. The reality it covers is sneakily hidden from view since "war" is no longer descriptive of the mayhem and slaughter we are wreaking when we "go to war." If the "just war theory" were called the "justifiable slaughter theory" or "the justifiable violence theory," it would at least be honest. Maybe the slaughter and the human and ecological destruction and violence we are contemplating are justifiable, but at least we would be honest in admitting what it is we are justifying.

Military strategists, and ethicists embedded with them, drape an even thicker tissue of lies around military violence. They like to call it "the use of force." That sugar-coats it handsomely. "Force," after all is nice. A forceful personality, a forceful argument--these can be quite non-violent. But an atomic bomb hitting Hiroshima or Nagasaki or the leveling of Fallujah in Iraq or of settlements in Palestine needs a more honest word than "force." "Force" is a malicious euphemism, as is war. Maybe the horror that "war" fails to honestly describe can be justified. Or, more likely, maybe the horror it euphemizes is simply the pit we fall into by avoiding the tedious unglamourous work of peace-making and justice-building.

Maybe some slaughter to prevent greater slaughter might have been necessary in 1994 in Rwanda because there was no international interest in supporting the peace and reform efforts in Rwanda in the years preceding that. But don't bring on deceits like "use of force"or "meeting the just war criteria" to dignify an unconscionable failure to do the advance work of peace and to disguise the total embarrassment of statecraft that state-sponsored violence is.

Professor Daniel C. Maguire (Marquette University)
2823 N. Summit Avenue
Milwaukee WI 53211
tel. 414 961 0139fax 414 961 2150

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home