Toni L. Kamins
Independent journalist

Vatican must also release wartime baptism records

We still don't know what happened to the many Jewish children left for safekeeping in Catholic homes and institutions

The conduct of the Pope during the Shoah is not the only reason the Vatican must open Its archives now.

The rumors that Pope Francis may open the highly-secretive Vatican archives and reveal the role that Pope Pius XII played in the Shoah, (Pope Francis Vows to Open Vatican Wartime Archive), is late, but nonetheless welcome news, but it’s not the only cache of documents that needs to be made public: we still don’t know what happened to hundreds, maybe thousands of Jewish children left for safekeeping in monasteries, convents, and Catholic homes during that period.  For that the Church must open its baptism records.

At war’s end with nearly six-million Jews murdered, many of those children had neither parents nor relatives who could look for them.  Oblivious to their Jewish heritage or too afraid to ask questions, they continued to become assimilated into local Christian society.  Even if some had had surviving relatives, without documents to prove identity or kinship they would have had a hard time getting through a Church bureaucracy unwilling to part with what had become theirs through baptism. It’s not as though the Church doesn’t have a long history of baptizing and keeping Jewish children, and documents have come to light in recent years indicating that this practice continued through, during, and after the Shoah.

There is ample evidence even without opening the archives that the Vatican was complicit in the mass murder of European Jews; what is less evident and less frequently discussed is that the Church also kept their World War II-era baptism records secret.  By not making those records available, and by making sure at least some of those hidden children became and remained Catholic, the Church assured that the number of Jews wiped out by the Nazis and their collaborators would be increased by assuring fewer Jews in post Shoah generations.

Regardless of what any post-Shoah pope has done to better Catholic-Jewish relations, there are still critical unanswered questions.

We must demand that our leaders address this with Pope Francis and we must not take no for an answer.  The names and birthplaces of children given to Catholic institutions and families must be made known. It’s possible that they have living relatives and all these people deserve the comfort of closure in their remaining years.  Time is running out.

About the Author
Toni Kamins is an American writer who lives in Paris, France. Her work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the NY Daily News, City Limits, the Los Angeles Times, the Forward, the Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz. She is the author of the Complete Jewish Guide to France and the Complete Jewish Guide to Britain and Ireland. She is also the creator and publisher of the Medicare Reporter, which she launched in June 2021.
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