18 June 2009

Photographic Evidence of the Pope Meeting Hitler

In an e-mail discussion with someone, I was told, "Just do a google and you will see many pictures of the Pope and Hitler together." The implication is that if they were photographed together, they must be collaborators, or the very least, on friendly terms. This, of course, is a faulty argument because before Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, he was papal nuncio to Germany. This meant that it was his job to represent the Vatican to whatever German government was in power.

Expecting to find something vaguely incriminating I'd have to explain, I did a Google search of images with the query «Hitler pope» and got a lot of hits. I went through the first 32 pages of images, and didn't find a single picture of the pope and Hitler together. What I did find was this photograph, along with a number of copies of a doctored version:

pope-pius-xii-460_980938c

According to some sources, this is a photograph of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, leaving the presidential palace in Berlin in March 1939. He is supposed to be leaving a meeting with Hitler. You can't miss the profile of Pacelli, but the date must be wrong because Pacelli was elected pope on March 2, 1939. He would have been in the conclave the day before, so it would have been impossible for him to be in Berlin in March of 1939.

It is obvious that the two soldiers on either side of the staircase are Weimar soldiers and not Nazi soldiers, so the photograph must have been taken before 1933. The doctored version of this photograph fixes this discrepancy by cropping the nearest soldier out of the picture, and blurring the rest of the photograph so that one can't tell if the other soldier is a Weimar soldier or a Nazi. The helmets are similar, so once the farther soldier is blurred, it's easy to mistaken him as a Nazi.

Another mistake that is easy to make when the photograph is blurred is to think that the chauffeur saluting Pacelli is an SS officer. To help this deception, the open car door is also cropped out.

The car door itself is also a hint to the actual date of the photograph because it has square corners. This is typical of the 1920s. By the 1930s they were rounded. In addition to making the chauffeur look like a saluting SS officer by cropping out the car door, it hides the fact that that car pre-dates the Third Reich. It would be very unusual for a diplomat, such as a papal nuncio like Pacelli, to be chauffeured around in an old car.

It is very revealing that although the doctored version of this photograph is blurred, Pacelli's unmistakable face is not blurred in the least. In the original, you can make out all the faces, but in the doctored version, only Pacelli's face is clear. This could not be an accident. Whoever doctored this photograph wanted to deceive people.

This photograph was actually taken in October of 1927. Pacelli, as papal nuncio to Germany, was leaving a birthday reception for Paul von Hindenburg, president of the Weimar Republic. This is twelve years before Pacelli became pope, and six years before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

Another interesting fact is that Pacelli never actually met Hitler, even though Pacelli was the first papal nuncio in Berlin and was in Munich at the same time as Hitler. Pacelli was appointed nuncio to Bavaria in 1917, and since there was no nuncio to Prussia or Germany, he was the Vatican representative to the entire German Empire. After World War I, Pacelli was one of the few foreign diplomats to remain in Munich. The night of the Hitler-Ludendorff-Putsch in 1923, the only member of the Bavaria cabinet that was not at the Bürgerbräu Keller was Franz Matt, who was having dinner with Munich Archbishop Michael von Faulhaber and Papal Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli. In 1925,  the German nunciature was moved to Berline, and in 1929 Pacelli left Germany never to return. This was four years before Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. When Pacelli signed the  Reichskonkordat for the Vatican in 1933, Hitler didn't sign it, but sent his vice chancellor, Franz von Papen, to Rome to sign for Germany. This is why there are no photographs of Pacelli and Hitler together. Due to the timing of diplomatic appointments, they never had a chance to meet.

The doctoring of this photograph, and the incorrect historical information that sometimes accompanies it only demonstrates the lengths that some hateful men will go to discredit a very good man.